Thursday, March 02, 2006

Marquette vs. Louisville: The Overtime Game That Got No Respect

Last night I plunked myself down for a restful night of watching Marquette on TV. I nearly passed out in shock upon finding out that the game was televised. It made a little more sense, though, when I found out that despite the recent fierce rivalry between Louisville and Marquette, a local TV crew was covering the game and offering the requisite low-production values that local TV offers. I guess the Golden Eagles can’t catch a break. On to my game notes:

1) I had to catch the early part of the game while on my way home from my office, so I got the chance to hear the radio crew that replaced Steve "The Homer" True and Jim McIlvaine, who were doing the television call on the evening. "Awful" is the first word that comes to mind when I think about the replacements, particularly the guy doing color. I recognize that it’s tough to step in on a one-time basis like that, but the color commentary involved lots of single word comments, and very little of any thought value. (Since I heard the color guy referred to as "Earl," I’m assuming that it was Marquette legend Earl Tatum, though I apologize to Mr. Tatum if I’m wrongly getting his name near this disaster.) It sounded almost as if they had just put a microphone on a guy in the crowd who was talking to a buddy. I can’t say that I’ve heard something this bad since the painful few days of Magic Johnson’s broadcast career, where his most analytical comment ever may have been "Oh, man!" after a big play. If you ever heard Magic do color work, or heard last night’s radio broadcast, you know what I mean.

2) I heard at one point during the game that Joe Chapman only has seven turnovers in Big East play. Sure, Chapman’s not the primary ball handler, and it’s not like he has people slapping at him on the blocks, either, but seven turnovers in Big East play for a guy that plays regularly and hasn’t been hurt? That’s remarkable.

3) As rough as the radio broadcast was, the television broadcast was perhaps worse. The first indication of how poor things were going to be came as the first half neared an end and Steve "The Homer" True noted that the on-screen shot clock and game clock were inaccurate, and that he had no idea where the clocks were coming from. On one of them, it became apparent that one of the numbers was out of frame, but I’m not sure what was wrong with the other clock. Nonetheless, no one made any attempt to fix this shortcoming over the course of the rest of the broadcast, which had upwards of an hour to go. Add in some shoddy camera work that featured both bizarre camera movements to get away from the action on the floor, and jarring zooms, and you’ve got a WMLW Classic.

4) Much as I may complain about WMLW’s poor broadcasts, I’m still glad that it exists. Basketball’s pretty much the only reason that the channel exists, given that a few years ago it was the only reason that people actively sought out the channel. That’s probably true now, as well, though at least it’s not relegated to channel 441 on the digital cable lineup. A cursory review of the next 24 hours didn’t reveal much of excitement beyond re-runs of Green Acres. Although, I did set my DVR to record today’s installment of Moral Court, since I have to find out what that is.

5) The halftime feature (which included graphics that I probably could have produced in my high school media class, by the way) was about Marquette’s three seniors (Steve Novak, Joe Chapman and Chris Grimm) as they near the end of their careers. Novak and Chapman each made reference to how they used to play one-on-one against each other quite a bit when they were freshmen. It didn’t seem like the greatest match-up to me, given that Novak was probably always able to shoot over Chapman, and Chapman was probably able to drive right past the freshman Novak, who was even slower of foot than the current Novak. I assume it was pretty similar to the games of on-on-one backyard football between my neighbor and I when I was 10, where my quick neighbor would run past me to return every kickoff, and an oversized 10-year-old version of me would return every kickoff with my neighbor on my back, unable to take me down. The game always ended in a tie, yet somehow we were always entertained.

6) The other moment of note in the halftime feature was the three seniors recounting on a dunk by a wide-open Grimm against Notre Dame in Marquette’s most recent contest against the fighting Irish. It was a hilarious reflection by all three players, since all of them generally took the tone of "How the hell did that happen?" Special points to Novak for noting that it was him being double or triple teamed that got Grimm open, and to Grimm for noting that he nearly screwed the dunk up while thinking of something fancy to do. Grimm can do fancy things with the ball?

7) Of late, the combo of Chris Grimm and Ousmane Barro in the frontcourt has been pretty effective. Barro was pretty rough to watch last night, though. Nonetheless, I’m still glad to see line-up consistency, and I hope that this carries over to the next game. Because as bad as Barro looked last night, he’s had a string of pretty good ones. Let’s not relegate him to the bench after one bad outing.

8) Last night Steve Novak missed a foul shot, which was pretty astounding, given that he was shooting 98% coming into the game. I was thinking about the 98% number a few weeks ago and it was really bothering me. That’s an astounding figure. Think about things that you do every day and whether or not you do them at a 98% rate. I’m pretty sure that before last night’s miss by Novak, he was hitting foul shots with greater consistency than I hit the bowl of my toilet when I relieve myself in the morning. (Don’t worry–I think I pulled ahead last night.)

9) Simply stunning three-pointer by Dominic James to send the game to overtime. This guy never seems to let me down. Thank goodness he’s under 6-feet tall, because that will quell talk about him jumping to the NBA for awhile.

10) On the play prior to the overtime-forcing three-pointer, the refs, in keeping in line with an evening of missed calls, missed a pretty clear take-down by Steve Novak, who basically grabbed the shoulder of the jersey of the Louisville player who had position in front of him on a rebound, and pulled him down. Bad miss by the refs, who awarded Marquette the ball as it went out of bounds, but credit goes to Novak who pulled out a risky desperation move that ended up working.

11) Steve True’s nickname "The Homer" is undoubtedly appropriate. I could sort of let it slide that he was unsure of what Rick Pitino was upset about on the Novak take-down, since it is possible that he was not at an angle to see what happened. After all, Jim McIlvaine also indicated that he was unaware of what Pitino was arguing with the refs about. But as the game went into overtime and McIlvaine started to breach the subject of which Marquette players were in foul trouble, Homer cut him off and said "I don’t want to talk about it." Openly as impartial as he may be, I still generally like listening to Homer, but even I must admit that his routine works a lot better on radio broadcasts.

12) I like McIlvaine as an announcer, but his exclamation of "No mercy in this dojo!" was downright laughable. First off, I think I’ve heard him use it before, and it smacks of trying way too hard to be cool by turning a great Karate Kid line into a Sportscenter-esque exclamation. Secondly, it was an inappropriate exclamation for the game situation. Marquette was down three and hit an improbable shot to tie the game against a team that was a split second from beating them. I don’t think that they were exactly in a position to be able to show Louisville mercy. You typically need to be in a dominant position in order to show mercy, you know...

13) At the end of an overtime dominated by Taquan Dean, Terrence Williams threw down a windmill dunk to put the exclamation point on the victory to wrap up senior night at Louisville. While seeing Louisville score a couple more points wasn’t exactly exciting to me as a Marquette fan, I did find one silver-lining in the act. The moment it happened, I looked over at my friend Gus (who had dropped over to catch the tail-end of the game) and said "Well, at least I’ll get to watch grown men bicker over Louisville’s class, or lack thereof on internet message boards tomorrow." For some reason, there’s nothing funnier to me than watching uber-fans get upset over what they perceive to be a lack of class by opposing teams.

After the gutty road performance (if our state’s teams have proved anything this year, it’s that road games are tough) by the Golden Eagles, I turned to my recording of the Florida State-Duke game. In one of my signature moves, however, I forgot to record the program that followed the game, and missed the final three minutes, which ran into the next program. Leave it to me to miss a cool, controversial ending because I’m too stupid to set my DVR box correctly. Needless to say, I was a bit peeved when I flipped on Sportscenter.

Tonight, as usual, is my bowling night. And as a warning to anyone at the alley, I will break the legs of anyone who gives me a score of the Michigan State-Wisconsin game before I get home to watch it.


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