Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ohio State vs. North Carolina: The Game I Missed Clemson vs. Minnesota For

Wow. Yep, it’s official–Ohio State is better than I thought. Watching last night’s North Carolina-Ohio State game gave me an eerily similar feeling to watching the Michigan State-Gonzaga game that occurred around the start of last season. It seemed like every time down the floor someone was draining a big three-pointer, putting on a tough post move, or making a key block. It was two great teams giving one another everything that they had. You’re not going to get too many nights of more entertaining basketball this year. And let’s remember, as we’ve been reminded ad nauseam, the best player for either team wasn’t even on the floor last night.

1) First, a big thumbs down to my friend who lives down in the Research Triangle (and incidently, is probably more into basketball than I am) who left me a message last night noting that he was offered tickets to the game, and chose not to go. I’m assuming that there was probably a good reason that he didn’t make it out (I believe that he cited the perils of home ownership in his phone message). However, assuming that all of my limbs are attached, and my house isn’t on fire, I’m going to this game. Here’s hoping that my friend, who shall remain nameless in order to save him any further shame, has learned his lesson.

2) I’m going to get all of my Dick Vitale points out of the way in the next three points. Here’s my first comment. In the first few Vitale-called games that I’ve seen this year, I’ve wanted desperately to buy the guy a lozenge or something. Has anyone else noticed that Dick seems to be having some voice problems? He’s not fully lost his voice, but it sounds like he might have blown it out a bit in his first game or something. I hope he has time to heal up sometime. Otherwise, it’s going to be like that football season a few years back where Brett Favre screwed up his thumb early on, and ended up not being healthy all year. And I don’t want Dick’s voice still crackling during conference tournament time.

3) I appreciated the wisdom of Vitale while discussing players’ roles on a basketball team, as he noted that for every player, "your role is to win." Thanks, Dick, that doesn’t over-simplify the issue at all.

4) I’m normally not too offended by Vitale’s overzealous Duke love. I usually cut him some slack because I sort of enjoy his schtick, and I’m a guy who really enjoys watching Duke play, myself. Plus, Vitale’s defense that he gets excited about everything, and that there’s always lots to get excited about with Duke rings true to me. But did anyone catch his complete non-sequitur involving Duke last night? He was talking about the older players (i.e. sophomores) on North Carolina’s team, and how they would need to lead the freshmen this year. Then, right before a commercial, he noted that Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts (what, DeMarcus Nelson’s not in this discussion?) would need to do the same for Duke. No one was talking about Duke, there was no smooth way to bring Duke into the conversation, and Duke had basically nothing to do with the issue at hand. Usually, Dick at least has someone throw him a mechanism for bringing the Blue Devils into the conversation when he talks Duke, but this one just came out of nowhere. Not that this is an entirely new phenomenon, but that would really bug me if I was a Carolina fan.

5) Count me among those who thought that Wayne Ellington saying before the game that he would be scoring 19 points for his 19th birthday, and then going out and scoring exactly 19 points was actually pretty entertaining. I’m thinking that he must have missed that first free throw that he had when he was on the line for two with 18 points.

6) I was a bit taken aback when an ESPN graphic noted that Tyler Hansbrough had reached his career high for rebounds in a game when he got to 12 boards. This guy was an all-American who averaged 7.8 boards per game last year. You mean to tell me that he averaged 8 rebounds, but never got more than 11? That’s freakishly consistent.

7) There was a moment when the announcers were going through a montage of great Carolina big men over the years, listing names like Cunningham, Perkins, Daugherty, Reid, Montross, Wallace and May. Excusing for the moment the exclusion of Wisconsin’s own Joe Wolf, do you think that Brendan Haywood, who’s still in the NBA logging minutes for the Wizards, is at all offended by not making the cut for this gratuitous montage? Because if I was Haywood, I’d be sitting at my TV and yelling "C’mon, I’m at least better than Montross!" Recognizing, of course, that Montross had a better college career.

8) I’ve probably said it before, but Greg Oden doesn’t just look like he’s 38 years old, he looks like that crafty 38-year-old dude at the playground who looks washed up, bothers the heck out of you when he scores 40 on you, and who you later learn was a division three all-American back in the late 1980s.

9) Does anyone else think that if medical science invented some sort of height-increasing drug, and we gave that drug to Devin Harris, that he’d look exactly like Brandan Wright?



10) So wait, you’re telling me that Ron Lewis is a senior for Ohio State? Do I really waste so much time paying attention to crap like Digger Phelps’ awful shirts and ties (martian-green was not a good look last night) that I actually missed this guy last year? I really need to start watching these games more closely.

As expected, it was a great game, and a great night. Not sure how I’m going to follow that one up tonight, but I’m sure I’ll find something. In the meantime, I’m going to be sitting around wondering how in the world Wisconsin can find a way to beat a team as good as Ohio State if they haven’t even hit their peak yet.

Oh, and I’d just like to point out that I went 9-2 in my Big Ten/ACC Challenge predictions. This includes me picking Michigan over N.C. State after the game had occurred, and Miami over Northwestern, which doesn’t hurt much, since Northwestern pretty much exists just to screw with my mind. So not a bad year of picks, even if I wish the Big Ten had put up more of a fight.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wisconsin vs. Florida State: Salvaging Some Pride For the Big Ten

I got to watch the Wisconsin game on TV last night in two separate halves, since I had a non-basketball related appointment right in the middle of the game. I’d like to thank the Badgers for taking it to FSU good enough that my first Tivo error of the year, forgetting to record past the specified two hour game time, resulted in no harm, as the game was out of reach by the 3:37 mark when things cut out. Game thoughts below:

1) I’m torn as to whether I liked Bo Ryan’s red blazer last night. On one hand, I’ve always liked the school pride factor that has been advanced when other coaches like Bruce Weber and Bruce Pearl have gone with the ugly blazer in school colors. On the other hand, when it’s your own guy, you sort of realize how cheesy a gimmick the colorful blazer is. Ryan looked sort of like the mascot that I’ve been advocating my old high school should switch to as they shift away from Native American imagery. But as great a mascot idea as the "Red Corporate Raiders" is, I don’t know that I want someone who resembles the mascot coaching my team.

2) I had actually forgotten to include a point about Brian Butch’s first credited basket of the game, but as usual, my friend Dez saved me with this message before my morning edit:

Please tell me that any recap of the Badger game today will include the Butch fist-pumping / sneer when he was credited with the basket that the FSU guy tipped in. I think Butch even ran down court pointing at someone, as if he was recognizing an assist. Gotta love the polar bear.

3) Anyone else notice that on Kammron Taylor’s excellent steal coming out of the 16-minute timeout, as he streaked down the court and got his break away lay-up blocked, none of his teammates were trailing him? I don’t think anyone came back into frame on the TV coverage until after FSU brought the ball back over half court. Doesn’t that seem a tad lazy for a team that goes 10 deep?

4) I’m still trying to figure out when exactly I realized that Florida State was as super-athletic as advertised. I’ve narrowed it down to the moment when Al Thornton dunked in traffic after banging with Alando Tucker and Jason Bohannon, or the moment when Al Thornton actually jumped over Greg Stiemsma to dunk the ball. Wow.

5) Alando Tucker’s eye-poke was one of those rare moments when I wished I wasn’t watching a game in high definition. Tucker’s eye swelling was pretty apparent after the poke, and the bloody tear that fell out of his eye as he sat on the bench was pretty tough for me to look at. I’m abnormally squeamish to begin with (I blacked out momentarily in middle school when we had to watch a birthing video for health class), but the eyes are a particular area of fear for me. Good to see Tucker’s injury was only momentary. Now let’s never speak of that incident again.

6) Yep, it was a Wisconsin game, as Al Thornton was subject to an obscene cheer that was clearly audible on TV after he scored during Tucker’s injury. As usual with fan cheers, it was unfairly directed at him.

7) I love Rick Majerus. Normally I praise him because of his wit, or just because I relate to him, since we’re both fat guys from Milwaukee who grew up playing basketball at the same locales during different eras. But he also knows his stuff. Last night I was convinced by the end of the first half that Majerus knew more about the Wisconsin team than even I, a guy who devotes every moment of his free time to this stuff, does. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given that Majerus is an obsessive basketball mind, and makes his residence in the Milwaukee area, which would imply that he would know more of these tidbits than just about anyone else. Nonetheless, when he dropped in a comment about Jason Bohannon having younger brothers that were anticipated to be just as good as Jason, I found myself thinking "How the hell does Majerus know all of this stuff?" I still feel guilty that one of my earliest basketball memories was going to a Marquette game with my dad back when Majerus was coaching and thinking "Who’s that screaming idiot on the sidelines." Who knew that idiot was a genius?

8) Could the television camera have been any less flattering to governor Jim Doyle last night? First, ESPN caught him yawning and rubbing his entire face with his hand, looking generally exhausted. Then when they went back to him a second time, it got worse, as the governor smiled. Let’s just say that while I didn’t find the money to donate to the governor’s recent campaign, I’d be happy to donate to the "Jim Doyle Teeth Whitening Fund."

9) Did Brian Butch actually make a steal on the perimeter, in a guard-like fashion this game, or did someone just poke me in the eye rendering me blind?

10) Does someone have an official charge count last night? How did FSU not learn to stop running into guys. At the rate that the ‘Noles were going last night, I shudder at the thought of them playing against Duke. An NCAA charge record could be broken.

11) Was anyone else worried on FSU guard Jason Rich’s vicious dunk in the second half that he was going to break off the outstretched hands of Brian Butch? I was pretty happy when I saw that Butch’s hands got out of the way and that he wasn’t harmed.

12) My general game thoughts? I’m happy with the win, for Wisconsin, and because it means that Northwestern isn’t the only team keeping the Big Ten afloat in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. I’m still guarded in my optimism, since this was one of the hotter shooting nights that I’ve seen from the Badgers, and things won’t be falling like that every night. But in general, I’m happy that things are back on track, and happy that the boys are back to taking it to more athletic teams.

Back tomorrow after the marquee game of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, North Carolina vs. Ohio State.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Official BigTen/ACC Challenge Predictions

Last night was one of those nights when there were about 18 things that needed to happen in my life, and there was no way to get to all of them. One of the reasons that my updates have been sparse of late is that I’ve been in the process of painting the room that houses my home office, and I’ve been a bit displaced. After my third coat of "Lusty Red" tonight, things still aren’t looking right, and I’m considering trying to track down this "Sherwin Williams" character to give him a severe beating. Add to that fact that due to my status as a resident of Wisconsin, I am required by law to watch the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football, and it was a difficult night to take in any basketball. But I did my best, catching a few minutes of the Michigan-N.C. State game on ESPN2, and listening to the final 15 minutes of the Marquette-Valpo game on the radio as I tried to get my office walls to look right. Not much to say about either one, other than to say that of things that I wish I could have seen this season, Dominic James scoring Marquette’s final 18 points of the game to help the Golden Eagles eek out a tough victory in his home state of Indiana is on the top of the list. And it’s probably going to stay there for the rest of the season. That guy’s amazing.

All that being said, on to my annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge predictions. Just like the last two years, I have seen nearly none of the teams play a complete game yet, and I’m keeping with my tradition of predicting the first game after it has already been played. But these obstacles have never stopped me before:

Michigan over N.C. State: Let’s see, do I pick Michigan, a highly talented team that seems to consistently underachieve, or N.C. State, a team who hired a coach with no collegiate coaching experience after their solid coach bolted at the end of last season following years of overly harsh criticism. Even though they lost, I’m still taking Michigan, because I’ve got slightly more respect for them right now, and I’m easily seduced by their athletic upside. (Hey, I’m wrong, but at least you know I’m not going to lie to you about who I would have picked.)

Maryland over Illinois: I missed Maryland’s frightening assault on St. John’s, but the Terps looked surprisingly excellent to me against Michigan State. Then again, I expected Illinois to be better than Michigan State coming into this year, so it stand to reason that if Michigan State could push Maryland to its limits and lose by two, a superior Illinois team could push further and win the game. But real life doesn’t work in such a logical manner. And because Maryland’s wonderful, pressure-filled first half against Michigan State is still looping through my brain, I’m giving them the win.

Wisconsin over Florida State: I keep hearing about how Florida State’s recent recruiting classes have been as highly ranked as their usual football recruiting classes. I have yet to see similar success to the football team, though (yes, I know that this is an awkward statement to make with this year’s Seminole gridiron woes, but let’s look deeper into history than this past fall). More than anything, though, I have to pick Wisconsin over Florida State because my friend Greg is a huge FSU fan (more for football, really, but if basketball’s going to be good, he’ll jump on board) and hates Wisconsin. If the ‘Noles win this one, Greg will become insufferable, and I simply refuse to believe that my life could be that painful.

Georgia Tech over Penn State: I swear, I really do like Ed DeChellis, and think he’s done a decent enough job given his circumstance. But let’s get real–Penn State is Penn State and Georgia Tech is Georgia Tech. I’ll take the team that’s had success without the aid of anyone named "Crispin"

Duke over Indiana: Duke was probably slightly over-ranked to begin the year, and were appropriately cut down to size by Marquette. No one’s over-ranking Indiana this year, partially because it would be tough to find something that’s over-hyped to base an over-ranking on. Duke’s over-ranking was in recognition of its talent and its coach, though, and while they might not be a top-10 team just yet, they’re still better than what Indiana has.

Miami over Northwestern: This is a tough one, since I have never known much about either team. Miami’s basketball team is overshadowed by its football team. Northwestern’s basketball team is overshadowed by its journalism department. Northwestern sounds like it has gotten a nice start on its season, while Miami appears to have struggled a bit. At the end of the day, though, Tim Doyle is Northwestern’s key player, and while I appreciate his effort, I can’t pick a Doyle-led team to win anything.

Boston College over Michigan State: It’s tough for me to pick against Michigan State, since they’ve come out stronger than expected this year, and I’ve always had a healthy respect for Tom Izzo. But I’m taking Boston College here. Why? Well, Michigan State is one of those really good programs that everyone knows about. Boston College is one of those programs that’s been pretty good for the last few years, but still typically has a roster of guys that I can’t name. So, really I’m just picking Boston College to make up for my years of neglect during the Craig Smith era. So what if I’m jumping on a year too late?

Purdue over Virginia: Here’s the deal–I really like Purdue. Sure, there’s some questions about the backcourt, but two things really draw me to this team. One, I really think coach Matt Painter knows what he’s doing. A lesser man wouldn’t have been able to keep things cobbled together last year as he lost virtually all of his best players during the season. Two, I think everyone is forgetting how ridiculously good Carl Landry was before his ACL injury. I keep seeing people that didn’t pick him for first team all-conference, and I’m still wondering if we won’t be talking about him as Big Ten player of the year before all is said and done. Add to my love of Purdue that I know next to nothing about Virginia (though their upset of Arizona scares me) and I have to go with the Boilermakers.

North Carolina over Ohio State: I’ve seen North Carolina play, and I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen. Ohio State and its gaggle of freshmen still remains sort of mysterious to the nation, though, as I don’t believe they’ve been on national TV yet. And I’m sort of skeptical about how good the Buckeyes are going to be. To me, picking Ohio State to win this one would be the equivalent to being on Let’s Make a Deal and trading in a sparkling new refrigerator and range (UNC) for what’s in the box (OSU). And I never take what’s in the box, so North Carolina’s my pick.

Virginia Tech over Iowa: It’s not February yet, so Iowa’s not supposed to be dropping games yet, but they still seem to be doing so. I’m not going to lie, aside from the fact that Adam Haluska’s a fun player to watch, and won many, many high school track titles, I know very little of either of these teams. But Virginia Tech always seems to be a tougher out than expected, so I’ll take the Hokies.

Clemson over Minnesota: Clemson’s 7-0. Minnesota finished 8th out of eight teams in the Old Spice Classic. Need I go on?

So I’m calling another ACC rout. That’s okay, though–we Big Ten fans are used to it by now. At least they’re fun games to watch. Back with notes on Wisconsin vs. FSU (and whatever other snippets of games that I see) tomorrow. Enjoy the big two nights of games.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Vincent vs. Pius: The First High School Game of the Year, and Assorted Other Thoughts

Well, it was another Thanksgiving weekend of nearly non-stop basketball action. For some reason, I always seem to forget how much hoops gets played during the first major holiday weekend of the season. Way too much happened for me to recap everything that I saw, but I happened to catch most of a couple of games (Wisconsin-Missouri State, Louisville-Dayton, and Kansas-Florida), and snippets of numerous other games.

But the big event of the weekend was my first high school game of the year, the showdown at Wisconsin Lutheran College between Milwaukee Vincent and Milwaukee Pius. When a game between two top-5 teams, involving two of the best coaches in the state and numerous future division one players is taking place within a five minute drive from my home, you can pretty much bet I’m going to be there. So that’s what today’s recap will be, followed by a few short, random thoughts on all other games. Here’s the first high school game of the year:

1) At $7, the ticket to the Vincent-Pius game was $2 more than my ticket to the first UWM game of the year. It strikes me as odd that a high school game would cost more than a division one college game, but it was still $7 well spent.

2) Last year at the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook Shootout, some friends and I got our first 2005-6 look at Vincent. During the tournament, guard Diante Garrett put up some nice stats for Vincent, but one of my friends was very vocal in his dislike of Garrett. At the time, I essentially agreed with him, as Garrett seemed to be the type of guy that would take four dribbles when one would suffice. After seeing him on Saturday, though, he’s improved his ball handling economy, and I suspect that my friend might like his game a bit more. I certainly did.

3) You can easily tell that the guys on Vincent have been playing with one another for some time, as they looked a lot more in sync than any team should be in its first game of the year. I guess this is to be expected, since most of the key seniors have been integral players since their sophomore years. Since this is the second straight time that Vincent has had a core of talented players together for three straight years, can we be expecting an all-star cast of sophomores to be inhabiting the V-House next year?

4) One of the things that I enjoy about watching a Pius game is that you know a lot of guys are going to get playing time. From the little that I’ve seen of Coach Joel Claassen, it would seem that he likes to go deep into his bench, regularly rotating players in and out. You can’t help but like that plenty of high school players get a chance to play for a good team. And even better, several of the later substitutions on Saturday really contributed solid minutes, so you know that the 10th man isn’t just going in because the coach wants to make him feel good.

5) I was happy to see that Vincent had a mascot on the sidelines in a Viking costume, since in my mind, not nearly enough high schools have mascots roaming the sidelines. On the downside, the mascot wasn’t given much to do, save for a few hand-springs at halftime. Then again, I’m not sure that the layout of the gym lent itself to mascot antics. Maybe there will be more to do as the season goes on.

6) The much anticipated debut of Korie Lucious for Pius was fairly anti-climactic. While the box score will always reflect that Lucious had 21 points, nine of those points came in the last minute of the contest, when the game was basically out of reach. During the rest of the game there were plenty of turnovers and missed three-point shots. All that said, there were still flashes of brilliance, including a blocked shot, and that aforementioned nine points in the final minute of the game. As Lucious himself has admitted, it may take him some time to integrate himself into the Pius system. Opponents all around are hoping that he takes awhile to get used to Pius, though, since he’ll be just fine when he gets into the flow of things.

7) The Pius debut of 6'10" transfer Montrel Clark was delayed, as he found himself in street clothes on Saturday night. Curiously, my friend Gus spotted him walking around the court with the crowd during one point in the second half. Maybe I missed something, but it just seemed really odd to see a member of one of the participant teams walking amongst the general population during a time-out. In uniform or not, shouldn’t he have been in the huddle?

8) A special nod to Pius forward Matt Chrnelich, who did a nice job of picking up the trash, and tossing in a good number of putback layups. It’s not always the most exciting or skill-based way of getting points, but I’ll take a guy who can consistently get putbacks on my team any day.

9) With Pius having guards Korie Lucious and Tyrone Gordon transfer in, it seemed apparent that one of the two returning backcourt starters from last year, Willie Nellen and Jesse Jackson would have to come off the bench. Jackson ended up in the substitute role, and if it bothered him, he sure didn’t let it show. He was excellent over a couple of stretches in the first half, and it was very apparent that his new teammates have a lot of trust in him. So mark it down–Pius has a very deep backcourt.

10) While watching Milwaukee Vincent play, I couldn’t help but think that the team had a slightly different personality from past senior-laden Vincent teams. Vincent’s usual formula with its great teams involves hard-nosed, methodic, disciplined basketball. This year’s Vincent squad is still disciplined and tough, but they seem to have a bit more flow and excitement to their game. They’d be an exciting team to watch, even if you weren’t a hardcore basketball junkie. With Diante Garrett and Bryquis Perine running the show (just try and show me a better pair of starting guards), you’re almost always going to be in for a good time.

11) A mass exodus of the crowd began occurring after a Diante Garrett dunk with about two minutes to go, which emotionally sealed Vincent’s lead. It seemed a mildly premature exit time, but I’m not complaining, because with only one exit open at Wisconsin Lutheran’s gym, it would have taken most of the rest of the evening to get out of the gym if a quarter of the crowd hadn’t taken a five minute head start.

So Vincent won a huge game to start the year and predictably showed that it will be one of the toughest teams in the state this year. Pius will almost certainly improve as it continues to integrate its new talent with the holdovers from last year. And while a lot would need to occur to make it happen, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch in Madison in March.

And with that, thoughts on the other random things that I saw this weekend:

–I’m almost sure that Kansas is the most talented team that I’ve seen so far this year, and I’m also pretty positive that no one on their roster was born before 1987. And almost without exception, it appears that the entire roster is made up of freakishly athletic guys. I will officially be making a special effort to watch Kansas games this year, a step which I don’t often take for schools outside of my 5-7 usual favorites.

–It appears that my Dan Monson theorem is shot after this weekend. As longtime readers know, I have long believed that the success of Monson’s Minnesota teams is inversely proportional to the amount of talent on the roster. This results in teams that look very bad on paper actually faring better than expected, and talent-laden teams disappointing everyone. This year, however, Monson took a Golden Gopher squad that doesn’t look that great on paper and guided them over Thanksgiving weekend to an eighth place finish in the eight team Old Spice Classic. It could be a long year in the Twin Cities.

–I have to qualify my thoughts on the Wisconsin-Missouri State game very carefully, as not to be misunderstood. Luckily, I’ve done this roughly 800 times this weekend, so I’m prepared. Thus, I preface my comments by noting that Wisconsin shouldn’t lose to Missouri State. The Badgers, I believe, did deserve their top-10 ranking before the loss, and are good enough to climb back up to those heights again. And top-10 teams shouldn’t lose to Missouri State. All that said, I really thought Missouri State was a solid team. Their defensive pressure made the Badgers look flustered for the first time that I’ve seen this year. Their shooting in the first half was about as hot as I’ve ever seen (even if it was equally cold in the second half). Blake Ahearn is the rare mid-major player that I’d heard of prior to the game, and he won’t be a guy that I forget about all year. Again, if Wisconsin’s as good as I think, they still shouldn’t have lost this one, but that said, I’d keep Missouri State in the back of your head for when March comes around. They’ll be in the tournament, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them advancing.

–I got my first look at Jerry Smith in a Louisville uniform this weekend, as they played Dayton. I only saw the first half, where Smith struggled, turned the ball over quite a bit, and generally looked like a freshman. Looks like I should have stuck around for the second, as Smith’s stat line for the evening ended up being decent. Credit to Rick Pitino for letting Smith, as well as his other freshmen, play through these rough periods.

–The most epic battle of the weekend wasn’t Vincent vs. Pius, or Kansas vs. Florida. It was me against my couch on Saturday night. Following a late Friday night, and an early Saturday morning, I was pretty much exhausted by the time that I realized that ESPN would be offering access to a late night showdown between Kansas and Florida. Add to this fact that my new, intensely comfortable sofa had arrived at my house earlier in the day, and I was in for the struggle of my life trying to stay awake to watch Kansas-Florida. With the sofa repeatedly telling me "Come on, I’m so soft and supportive. Just fall asleep on me now," I missed much of the second half as I gave into its charms. I eventually beat the couch, though, as the game miraculously went to overtime, and I left the couch and climbed into my old, broken recliner. There were no problems staying up after that. I knew I kept that chair around for a reason.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Big Step Forward

Sometimes after a big win, getting home to type up a recap in a timely manner just isn't in the cards. And tonight is one of those nights. It's not often that the local boys take down Duke, and when that happens, you have to sit back and savor it a bit with your friends. Congrats to the Marquette Golden Eagles for taking down a giant. Duke's ranking to begin this year might be a bit high, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Marquette took down a very good team from arguably the top program in the country over the last 20 years. Simply outstanding.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some sleeping to do.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Marquette and Duke: I'm Talking About Them Today, and I'll Talk About Them Tomorrow

Last night I stayed in to catch most of the Duke-Air Force game, and all of the Marquette-Texas Tech game. Because I closely follow both Marquette (the team I loved while growing up) and Duke (yeah, I’ve always bought into the hype), it was a fun night for me. And it’s going to get even more fun tomorrow as Marquette and Duke square off. My notes from the night are below. They’re mainly geared toward Marquette’s performance, but I’ve sprinkled in a few Duke points, and a few comments looking forward to tonight at the end. Here we go:

1) Yesterday my friend Beau sent me his player efficiency ratings (which I should have time to post for you tomorrow) and a few extremely accurate notes to accompany his statistical analysis. One of those notes was that Ousmane Barro has been very solid for Marquette so far this year. I couldn’t agree more, and beyond my note yesterday about him being the last man standing from two recent recruiting classes, he’s actually thriving. Who’d have thought that a raw big man who’d played very little organized basketball would end up becoming a key cog for one of the most talented Marquette teams in recent memory.

2) Even if you leave Barro out of the equation, it was a great night for the Marquette big men. I found myself asking myself several times during the first ten minutes of the game "Is that really Dwight Burke?" Granted, Texas Tech’s frontcourt isn’t the scariest bunch of guys in the world, but if Marquette’s big men can contribute at all, look for more dominant team performances like last night’s.

3) I think Dick Vitale screaming that an opposing team "needs a TO, baby!!!" is probably the ultimate sign of respect for a team that’s forcing the timeout. I know I got a happy, tingly feeling when he was yelling that Bob Knight needed to "get a TO" last night.

4) I’ve said it before, but with the reckless abandon that Wesley Matthews attacks the hoop, I’ll be astounded if he makes it through the season in one piece. When he was fouled attempting his second dunk of the evening, he fell to the ground harder than anyone I’ve seen since Slamball was cancelled.

5) It’s the 2006-7 now, and my confusing crush on Doris Burke continues...

6) At one point during the game play-by-play man Dan Shulman (who I like, by the way) was tossing some banter back and forth with Vitale and referenced, I believe, the induction ceremony for the newly opened college basketball hall of fame. Did anyone else find it odd that Shulman seemed to express surprise that of the four living inductees, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Dean Smith and John Wooden, everyone was most excited to be around Wooden? I mean, normally it would be pretty exciting to be in a room with Robertson, Russell or Smith, but isn’t Wooden still on a totally separate plane? There’s no reason to be surprised when his presence upstages Robertson, Russell and Smith. Wooden’s the most god-like living sports figure we have, and he’s going to be a more compelling guy than just about anyone else out there.

7) During one of the time-outs, I had the pleasure of taking in a commercial for Sonic, the drive-in fast food chain. The product that they were advertising was something called the "Fritos Chili-Cheese Wrap." This sounds like perhaps the most unhealthy item ever created (particularly when you consider that they’re pushing it to be enjoyed with a side of tater tots). This also sounds like the type of low-brow fast food item that I absolutely need to try. Per the Sonic website, there’s no Sonic franchise within 150 miles of my home. However with a holiday weekend coming up, perhaps a road trip is in order...

8) Let’s revisit point #11 from a few days ago when I stated:

Oh yeah, mark it down–if Marquette happens to play Duke in the CBE Classic tournament that they’re both in later this month, Duke’s in for a world of hurt. I’ll explain further if this theoretical matchup ever comes to fruition, but let’s just say Duke’s Jon Scheyer doesn’t get out of that game without turning the ball over at least 6 times and shedding numerous tears.

Here’s the deal–I had the opportunity to glance at Duke before the season began. This was when Greg Paulus was out with his injury and looking to be out until December. When I saw them, Jon Scheyer was inexplicably running the point (perhaps the most inappropriate man to hold this role since Marquette assigned its point duties to Robb Logterman in 1991, before recruiting three point guards for the next season). Two things sort of take the edge off of this fact, now. First, obviously, Paulus is back (though he’s not anywhere near midseason form), and Duke actually has a guy that you would classify as a point guard. Second, in the times when Paulus was sitting down last, bringing the ball up the floor was a true team effort. Scheyer played a role, but Josh McRoberts was often right by his side, calming things down.

So yeah, I’m backing off of my earlier comments just a bit. I couldn’t have known that Paulus would be back in time for this game. Where I did error was thinking that someone like Mike Krzyzewski wouldn’t recognize a glaring weakness and plan for it. Am I still predicting a Marquette win? After the way they played last night (even though Texas Tech’s effort could have been far better), I’m sticking by the Golden Eagles to pull out the victory. Scheyer’s not going to cry, though. His friends will help him through this tough time.

9) Based on the little that I knew about Duke coming into the evening, two things surprised me about their linuep. First, Brian Zoubek is actually getting playing time. Aside from the fact that Zoubek looked a bit like a project the first time that I saw him, Duke’s past is littered with big men that don’t work out. I guess assistant coach Chris Collins wasn’t lying when he was quoted in the Blue Ribbon Yearbook saying "By no means is this a project." Second, I thought that Martynas Pocius would be playing a lot more. I loved the guy last year, and figured that the only reason that he wasn’t playing was that he was stuck behind lots of other talent. Then he logs light minutes.

10) Just a hunch, but I get the sense that Mike Krzyzewski likes Lance Thomas slightly more than the other guys on his roster. I’m still not sure why this would be (though he did have an excellent game last night), but I’m willing to defer to Coach K, since he probably know a little bit more about basketball than I do.

11) I had given some thought about drafting up a "Keys to the Game" posting for tonight, but when I got to thinking about what I would say, it would have ended up being the most cliched breakdown ever. Why? Because the keys to tonight’s Marquette-Duke game are going to be turnovers and rebounding, which you can say about pretty much every basketball game ever played. They’re actually going to be pretty interesting plots in this game, though. Marquette’s guards, in theory, should be Duke’s worst nightmare when it comes to creating turnovers. Duke, however, showed last night that while they lack a rock-solid ball handler when Greg Paulus is out, that they can scheme with multiple players to maximize ball security. Duke’s Josh McRoberts, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek should easily handle Marquette’s cavalcade of no-better-than adequate big men on the boards, but that conclusion is not certain if Marquette’s big guys can step up like they did against Texas Tech.

Beyond this game being great because it involves two of the teams that I follow most closely, it’s going to be great because each team is going to throw everything that they have into it. While Duke plays has played some solid teams thus far, this will be their first game against a power conference opponent this year, so you know that they’re going to want to look good. Marquette, quite simply, has the opportunity to beat Duke, which is one of the most consistently excellent programs in all of college basketball. One of Tom Crean’s greatest strengths is motivation, and if you don’t think that he’ll have his team coming out of the locker room convinced that the fate of the world depends on the outcome of this game, then you’re just not familiar with Tom Crean.

My pick? I’m still riding the wave of dominating Texas Tech last night, so I’ll take say Marquette wins this one 85-78. However it ends up, I’m preparing for a night of pure fun.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Weekend Hodgepodge

My brain was a bit scattered this weekend, as I attempted to catch as much basketball during a weekend featuring the most hyped football game of the new century, and my first trip to see the Brew City Bruisers, Milwaukee’s new roller derby club (every bit as oddly entertaining as you'd excpted, by the way). Fortunately, there was just enough time to see some basketball (including a trip to the Bradley Center for Marquette-Eastern Michigan, and viewing most of UWM-UNI on TV), and collect some random thoughts:

1) Another nice showing by Maryland on Friday night vs. Michigan State. Just what the ACC needed–another exciting, high energy team. (In other news, now that Drew Neitzel seems to actually be playing basketball at a level that is nearly proportional to his initial hype coming into college, I’m finding my hate for him to be subsiding.)

2) Congrats to former Wisconsin high school star Jerry Smith on his 24-point performance for Louisville on Saturday afternoon. I always enjoy seeing high school players from Wisconsin doing well, and it appears that Smith has a chance to do very well playing for the Cardinals. I still wish he had stuck around the state for college, but if he’s potentially working his way into Rick Pitino’s starting rotation, I can’t really argue with his decision.

3) It’s official--Mike Kinsella is the most unlucky man alive. Hindered over the last two years by a myriad of unrelated health issues (last year’s appendectomy was, until now, the most insulting thing keeping him out), he’s back on crutches with a stress fracture that’s going to keep him out several weeks. That’s three years in a row with significant time lost to injury. Kinsella wasn’t looking to be a major impact player this year, but I’m not sure anyone knows what he’s capable of, since he’s never been healthy for any long period of time. If there’s a bright side to this at all, it’s that when forced to wear street clothes, Kinsella has proved himself to be an excellent dresser. Nonetheless, here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for Kinsella. Though even if he does recover, you almost have to wonder what’s lurking around the corner for him.

4) With injuries taking most of Mike Kinsella’s Marquette career, it got me thinking about how remarkable Marquette’s current success is in light of its 2003-4 and 2004-5 recruiting classes. Not counting walk-ons, they had nine new guys come into the program. Of that group, four players transferred (Brandon Bell, Carlton Christian, Dameon Mason, and Ryan Amoroso), two barely ever saw the court before being kicked off the team and leaving due to homesickness, respectively (James Matthews and Niv Berkowitz), one was a juco transfer who had a solid career and used up his eligibility in 2004-5 (Marcus Jackson) and one has been so hindered by injuries that he’s never been able to show what he’s capable of (Kinsella). Because it looks like Kinsella may never truly be able to get up to speed, it would appear that Ousmane Barro, ironically the biggest project of any of the recruits, is the only man left standing from these two classes. Again, given that only one of nine guys is left standing, it is remarkable that Marquette is as good as they are, and it is remarkable that the Golden Eagles never fell on harder times than the end of their 2004-5 season.

5) After finally getting to see Lawrence "Trend" Blackledge unleash some of his athleticism against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, I’m preparing to have my mind blown by something that he does later this year. (No, I was not in attendance for his dunk against Detroit.)

6) Eastern Michigan reminded me of one of those old Athletes in Action teams that was hastily thrown together for exhibition seasons of yesteryear. Athletes in Action (or their Marathon Oil counterparts for that matter) used to stay in games and give their opponents scares not by playing good basketball, but by bombing in three pointers when all else was failing. While this would usually make the game closer than it should have been, it was never really what you’d see out of a regular basketball team. Give Eastern Michigan credit, though, because even though they lost pretty badly, they hung around longer than they should have, based almost entirely on their ability to calmly toss in long three-pointers.

7) I know the topic has been beaten to death, but how ridiculous a slip-up was the recent debacle where Marquette gave Lazar Hayward number 24, which had been hanging in the rafters with Marquette all-time leading scorer George Thompson’s name underneath? In fairness to Marquette, I don’t believe that this is the first time that I’ve heard their whole "we don’t retire numbers, we retire jerseys" statement. Nonetheless, I find that excuse a hard pill to swallow, since a) I never heard this line of logic until the last five years or so, and b) three "numbers" are retired for non-jersey wearing people (unless, of course, I missed something, and the Apollo 11 astronauts all wore #11 jerseys while taking on the cosmonauts in a game of space basketball). Sure, George Thompson could have been a bit more cordial and dealt with the issue in a way that didn’t involve slamming his alma mater in the media, but that’s not the issue in my mind. Ultimately this was a pretty basic error by Marquette that should have been prevented. Furthermore, they had to know from listening to Thompson’s color commentary over the past 25 years or so that if presented with a situation like this, he’d end up giving a comment like "That dog don’t hunt" to the local media. Thank goodness someone had the good sense to just back off and admit the error.

8) Congrats to former Milwaukee Brewers announcer Daron Sutton for finding a new job for next year. As I’ve said before, I know little about Mr. Sutton’s baseball broadcasting ability, but he’s not my favorite basketball announcer in the world. Though in fairness to him, during this weekend’s UWM-UNI game, he was much better than the color commentator with whom he was paired. I greatly enjoyed the color commentator repeatedly noting that Allan Hanson was virtually incapable of scoring from inside the three point line, and then slowly backpeddling as Hanson made a couple of strong drives to the hoop for layups. Let that be a lesson–never pigeon-hole a guy who’s started only 3 games in his career.

9) I totally missed Wisconsin dismantling Southern while I was at the roller derby on Sunday. Given the outcome, I can’t say I’m too heartbroken. I can’t say that I know where Southern is located, though I’d have to guess it’s somewhere to the south of Wisconsin.

With no pseudo sports to impede me tonight, and assuming that I get my one nagging chore done tonight, I should be able to take in most of the CBE classic, featuring Duke vs. Air Force and Marquette vs. Texas Tech. For the early season, I can’t think of too many better evenings to have. Back with thoughts tomorrow.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Nothing To Report

No new game notes today. I was going to watch Maryland-St. John's when I got home from work, but I tuned in 5 minutes late, and the game was already all but decided. I then got caught up in doing some chores around my house, and finished up just in time to catch the final half of the Michigan State-Texas game. Solid game (or rather, half thereof), but two things keep me from commenting extensively on it:

1) I knew next to nothing about Michigan State and Texas, due to their revamped lineups, and was struggling to get a read on either team.

2) My irrational dislike of Drew Neitzel prevents me from recognizing his heroic late-game layup to win the game. (I want the Big Ten to do well, but not if Neitzel's involved. Why couldn't Texas get help in the lane just a little bit quicker?)

Back on Monday with something of more subtance.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wisconsin vs. UW-Green Bay: ...And Now The Season May Begin

It was the first night of a full game of televised basketball for me at my home last night, as well as an always-exciting in-state rivalry game. No flowery introduction today–just game notes below:

1) Like any basketball junkie, I appreciate the play of fundamentally sound players who do things that don’t necessarily show up on a stat sheet. Of course, if you’ve seen the number game points that I’ve made over the past two seasons that dealt solely with things like attractiveness of uniforms and quality of mascots, you know that I sometimes overlook substance for style. That’s why I was leaping out of my chair in excitement and rewinding my DVR multiple times when Michael Flowers sank his second three-pointer of the game just minutes into the first half. Fouled on the shot (which he made), Flowers fell to the ground, and almost immediately did a kip up. While watching any player get that excited would be fun, it was even more awesome to see one of the most steady players around, whose game is almost all substance, show off a little style. I can’t believe that the announcers didn’t call attention to this.

2) When Brian Butch caught a sweet pass in the center of the lane right in front of the hoop with no one around here, here’s the exact thought process that went through my head "Brian Butch is gonna dunk the ball! Brian Butch is gonna dunk the ball! Brian Butch is gonna dunk the ball!...Oh wait, Brian Butch just missed a two-handed dunk, tipped the ball back in, and goaltended his own shot. Actually, I guess I should have seen that coming. Damn." Like I always say, I feel a lot better when Butch is shooting it from 15 feet than when he’s got a two-footer.

3) In an attempt to balance out the fact that basketball season is a time when I subsist mainly on beer and soft pretzels, I ended up watching the second half of the game while getting in a quick workout at my local gym. Wednesday night happens to be basketball league night. Ironically, I dislike basketball league night, since it tends to bring more meatheads into the locker room (although last night was surprisingly meathead-free) and constant whistling of fouls distracts from my being able to listen to the TV commentators during a televised game. So I guess we’ve finally found a league other than the NBA that I don’t like.

4) I’m not sure how many times last night I heard about how many facets Brian Butch has to his game. According to announcers Craig Coshun and Doug Altenberger, Butch isn’t much of a scorer, but is mainly known for his defense and rebounding. If I had a nickel for every announcing team that made note of the fact that Brian Butch is primarily valued for his defense I’d have...wait, let me add this up...yeah, I’d have five cents.

5) I hate to keep harping on the commentators, but one of the more subtle laughable moments came at about the 11 minute mark when Doug Altenberger noted, following a Mike Schachtner basket to give UWGB nine points, that Green Bay was going to the guy with the hot hand. Problem is, Schactner had only scored one prior basket, so really, how hot was his hand going into the play? In legendary video game NBA Jam, you had to make three consecutive baskets before being classified as "on fire." I think this should be the official standard for determining whether a guy has a hot hand. (Announcers would, however, be able to excitedly say "he’s heating up!" after the second consecutive basket.)

6) I guess I must be getting old, because I was astounded when the television cameras gave a tight shot of UWGB assistant Brian Wardle, and no one on the broadcast commented about his stellar playing career at Marquette. Assistant coaches who were local players of note are always good for inane banter on broadcasts, but apparently a Wardle reference is just going back too far these days.

7) During a commercial break on WMLW, which broadcasts all of the local basketball games, despite being one of the most low-rent Milwaukee stations around, there was a commercial for this weekend’s UWM game. Allan Hanson was featured talking about how he chose to come to UWM because as a Milwaukee kid, he felt it would be great to go to a program on the rise and contribute to his hometown. Now, by all accounts, Allan Hanson is a great guy, and all of these things may ultimately be true, but he also left out the part about how he came to UWM after the coach at Akron, the school which he originally signed with, was replaced before he got to campus. Maybe we could have found a more credible guy to talk about why he came to UWM?

8) I think everyone on UWGB’s roster is a sophomore. In two years, when these guys are seniors, it’s going to seem like they’ve been around since the mid-1990s. Already I’m feeling like Mike Schachtner has been playing since Dick Bennett was roaming the sidelines at UWGB, though in my head I still sort of remember him as the surprise breakout freshman on the team last year.

9) My favorite thing about Wisconsin in this game? They look totally calm and consistent. This is definitely a team that has been together for awhile, because they just look like they know what they’re doing. There’s not any hint of panic at any time, and there’s little to no drop-off when substitutions are made. As Marquette and UWM are teaching us on a daily basis, it’s way too early to know what a team is made of yet, but I’m very optimistic about Wisconsin after the two games that I’ve seen.

10) I always feel sort of bad that I don’t give more love to UWGB. Since I purport to be a fan of all Wisconsin basketball, they should get more of my attention. Unfortunately, since they’re never on TV in Milwaukee, and a 2-hour trip to the Resch Center isn’t one of the more convenient things for me to do, they’re sort of the forgotten Wisconsin basketball team for me. But really, I wish that I could see more of them.

11) Last night was fun for me, since it was the first night when I’ve really felt like the season was back in session. Sure, I’ve sat through a couple of lackluster opponents for Wisconsin, Marquette and UWM, and I’ve watched some snippets of games on TV, but last night things finally felt right. I recognized this feeling as I was watching Wisconsin play a mildly legitimate non-conference game while listening to the radio broadcast of UWM giving Michigan all that it could handle. Later that night, I saw my first HD feed of a game on ESPN2. Indeed, everything came together last night, and basketball season is officially back.

12) Late in the evening, I briefly flipped on Air Force absolutely blowing out Stanford. I was sort of surprised to see this because a) Stanford is a big-name Pac-10 school that shouldn’t be down by 30 to Air Force, and b) Air Force runs the Princeton offense, which isn’t exactly conducive to blowing teams out. Because of the first factor, I picked up my Blue Ribbon Yearbook and briefly reviewed both teams. I guess someone saw this coming, because Air Force’s prognosis for the year was much more optimistic.

And with part of me wanting to stay up and watch some more Gonzaga action, I finally went to bed. The season’s back, and I’m officially ready to enjoy it. I’m not even sure what I’ll be watching tonight, but odds are that it will be entertaining.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quick Wednesday Thoughts

A few quick thoughts from a night where I skipped over most things basketball-related:

–Nice recovery by Marquette last night (even if it makes my outrage over Monday’s game seem foolish). Before the game, I actually thought to myself "A 40-point win is about the only thing that could heal this team right now." I guess I’ll take a 42-point win, though. I now remain, like play-by-play man Steve "The Homer" True, cautiously optimistic.

–When did ESPNU start showing multiple interesting games? It wasn’t until I got home last night that I found out that both North Carolina (my pick to win it all this year) and Tennessee (with the always-entertaining Bruce Pearl) had games on ESPNU last night. I never liked the concept of ESPNU being forced down the throats of cable providers, but frankly, it looks like it may actually be turning into a viable channel this year. And well, now that I have ESPNU in my home (though in my defense, I wasn't actively seeking it out), I can’t really take a principled stance against it anymore.

–Well, Adam Morrison may be gone, but Gonzaga was on ESPN2 last night, continuing its role as what I like to call "Late Night, West Coast Duke." If history is any guide, I anticipate seeing roughly 57 Gonzaga games on ESPN at 11pm this year.

–Greg Paulus seems to be back early for Duke, so please disregard any earlier assertions by me that Marquette would wallop the Blue Devils and make Jon Scheyer cry.

Back tomorrow with thoughts on Wisconsin-UWGB.

Marquette vs. Idaho State: What the Heck Just Happened?

As I went through my day and headed down to the Bradley Center to the Marquette-Idaho State game last night, I joked to virtually anyone I talked to that I hoped things would go a bit more smoothly than they did in the Hilldale College game that I thankfully missed on Friday night. Obviously, they didn’t go any better, and may have gone even worse, as evidenced by the fact that the Idaho State Bengels took the Golden Eagles to overtime. It was truly a brutal night for Marquette, and for anyone rooting for them. On the upside, the drama-to-price ratio for my ticket was way higher than I had expected, making this game a nice early season value. In the future, though, I’d like my non-conference tickets to seem a bit more worthless. Game notes below:

1) I’m not digging the new video that plays during player introductions. This year, there’s a shot of each player showing his best game face, and then crossing his arms. The ball slaps of two seasons ago were, at least in my mind, much more effective. And I definitely miss last year’s cheesy video of giant, godzilla-like Marquette players wandering around Milwaukee and then heading to the Bradley Center (I was particularly fond of Steve Novak’s fake checking of his watch next to the Allen-Bradley Clock). This year’s video just lacks something.

2) As usual, going to the game with my friend Beau was pure fun. Beau likes to print off rosters and do some research on all opposing teams before going to a game, so it’s always enjoyable to make fun of him as he’s shuffling pieces of paper before the game. Even better than that, he’s gotten into stats this year and has created something called "Beau’s Player Efficiency Rating" from an amalgamation of stats. I don’t understand the Rating, and I don’t plan on making any effort to understand the rating. However, if Beau keeps doing this, and he’ll allow me to use them, I fully plan on making his ratings and every-other-week feature here.

3) I don’t want to sound like I’m jumping off any bandwagons here, so I’ll simply note that Marquette’s inability to come up with a viable play out of a time out at a key moment in a game has always been one of my pet peeves. They did nothing to change my view tonight, tossing passes passively around the perimeter coming out of most time-outs, and settling for long three-point shots (a type of shot that wasn’t exactly falling last night even when it wasn’t forced).

4) If I had any doubt about the role of Marquette’s big men in the offense, they were erased when Jamil Lott received a pass on the block with no one guarding him, and without even looking at the basket, kicked the ball back out to a guard.

5) No halftime games last night. That was definitely disappointing. If I’m going to sit through a game where Marquette struggles to beat Idaho State, I should at least be allowed to laugh as some hapless sophomore makes a futile attempt to win an RV.

6) At one point late in the game when things were frighteningly still in doubt, Ousmane Barro stepped to the foul line, much to the chagrin of all of my friends who I was attending the game with. Honestly, though, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more confident that a player would make his shots, and announced this fact to my friends. Aside from the fact that Barro was having a decent, workman-like game and seemed like he could be the right guy to give Marquette a pick-me-up, Barro’s usual lack of prowess at the line actually made him the perfect guy to take a pair of foul shots. When you’re watching what could only be termed a bizarro game, you’re going to want the most bizarre option heading to the line to shoot.

7) If one sequence of events summed up the night, it was Jerel McNeal’s trip to the foul line in the closing seconds of regulation. After some amped up defense had brought the Golden Eagles within one point of the Bengels, McNeal rebounded a putback, was fouled shooting, and headed to the line to shoot before being forced to leave the floor due to blood on his uniform. Marquette was then able to designate anyone from the bench to take the shots which could all but ice the game. Dan Fitzgerald was the choice, and promptly clanked his first foul shot off of the rim, before tying the game with his second shot. You know you’re having a bad night when a guy that you bring in specifically to shoot foul shots can only make one of two.

8) Weak call by the PA announcer on explaining the aforementioned Fitzgerald for McNeal substitution. When it became apparent that the substitution needed to take place, the announcer said something to the effect of "By rule, McNeal must return to the sidelines and a substitution must be made for him." Of course, the rule which required this was never announced, so the crowd received no real information about the issue. Granted, any reasonable basketball fan would be able to deduce what was going on, but as I’ve found over the past few years, not all attendees of these games are reasonable basketball fans.

9) Marquette’s problems last night boiled down to one thing–shooting. The were beating Idaho State in terms of rebounding, turnovers and fouls, but their shooting performance was among the worst I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t just the low percentage of shots that they connected on–it was the horrific manner in which they were missing. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a single game where so many shots totally failed to hit iron or glass. I know that the strong point of Marquette’s guards isn’t shooting, but I always thought them to be adequate from long range. It sure didn’t feel like that last night, though.

So I left the game about as concerned about a team as I’ve ever been. This one’s a bit more troubling than UWM’s struggles. UWM’s playing with all new guys. Marquette may be young in terms of age, but the core of their lineup has been through everything before. Here’s hoping that they remember how to get back on track. I’m not in total panic mode yet (though I’m close). After all, Marquette was out rebounded during both of its exhibition games last year, and eventually pulled through. But you’d be a fool if two games like Hillsdale and Idaho State didn’t scare you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Overtime Debacle

So I did make it down to the Marquette-Idaho State debacle last evening. However, after an overtime game, and a post-game meeting with friends for reflection on the game, it got to be a bit to late for me to finish my usual recap. So it will be up tonight. In the meantime, here are the basics that you need to know:

--After the Marquette-Idaho State game and the Wisconsin-Mercer game, it's official: no one in the state of Wisconsin knows how to shoot free throws.

--After Dominic James made an early three-pointer, I commented to one of my friends that if Marquette could keep making outside shots like that, they'd be killing people all year long. Then Marquette went on to one of the worst shooting spectacles that I've ever seen. So much for that theory.

--Marquette's rebounding and turnover numbers were fine throughout the game, but their shooting percentage was awful. Normally I forgive a team for having an off shooting night, but this was no normal bad night for Marquette. Lots of bad shots went up last night, but more troubling was the fact that very few players looked confident shooting the ball. This wasn't a matter of just having a few shots rim out--guys were tossing up long-range air balls and horrifically tentative layups.

Back tonight with more.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Closed For The Weekend

I’m heading down in Iowa City to take in the Wisconsin-Iowa football game with some friends, so I won’t be able to provide details on the ridiculous number of basketball games going on in my usual locales this weekend. Yeah, I know, I’m really dropping the ball by missing the opening weekend for all of the state's division one teams (not to mention the appearance of Tony Bennett and his Washington State team at the MECCA), but I was bound to slip up sometime. (This won’t be the last time that I miss a big event this year, either, since my holiday travel plans will severely limit my ability to get to holiday tournaments.).

Don’t worry, though–I’m not choosing football over basketball. This weekend I’m simply choosing Iowa City over basketball. If you don’t understand why, then you’ve obviously never been on the streets of Iowa City at 1:30am to enjoy a grilled cheese prepared by a street vendor. That town gets a big thumbs-up from me.

Back next week with more of my inane hoops banter.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wisconsin vs. Carroll College: My Return to the Kohl Center

Last night took me to Madison for my first Badger game of the year, an exhibition against Carroll College, a team who I fully expected to put up a more decent fight than most expected from an exhibition opponent. The game was exciting to me for two reasons–my opportunity to enjoy the ambience of the Kohl Center, and my opportunity to stop off at Woodman’s supermarket on my way back to Milwaukee after the game to purchase massive quantities of sparkling water and menthol shaving cream, the latter of which I was frighteningly low on and unable to find at any stores in Milwaukee. Following a traffic-delayed drive, I met up with my friend Greg at the always-entertaining Echo Tap for a quick beverage and headed over to the game.

1) Carroll forward Buck Colomy brought a lot to the table last evening. First, as I alluded to once last year while watching Carroll play, Buck Colomy is just about the coolest name that anyone could have. If there wasn’t already a guy with that name, I’d probably consider changing my own name to Buck Colomy. Second, Colomy seemed to be sporting a white-guy version of the high-top fade haircut. I’d make fun of Colomy’s haircut quite a bit more had I not recently requested a similar version of this cut from my stylist (note to my stylist, Lindsay–thanks for thwarting that idea and giving me a legitimately nice haircut). Third, Colomy’s aggressiveness on offense paid off, as he dropped (I believe) 24 points on the Badgers. For a guy who had a bit more support in the frontcourt last year, Colomy seems to be picking up the slack of his lost teammates.

2) Two years ago, I told anyone that would listen that all Badger fans would love Michael Flowers by his junior season. I don’t know if that’s true, but after last night, I love Michael Flowers. During last evening’s game he managed to knock down a couple of three-pointers, drive aggressively to the hoop, and lock up Nathan Drury, Carroll’s best player (and one of the better division three guards you’re going to see, I might add). The best thing about Flowers, though, is he’s going to give you a similar performance almost every night. His consistency will be a huge attribute this season for the Badgers, particularly given how his backcourt mate, Kammron Taylor tends to run hot and cold.

3) For totally random reasons, on Tuesday afternoon I ended up with a copy of the Waukesha County Freeman newspaper (which prior to Tuesday I had purchased maybe twice in my life), and had a chance to read their season preview for Carroll. I was disappointed that two players who had mad a good impression on me last season were not going to be with the team. Forward Paul Toshner, as the paper put it, "was ruled ineligible to play because of the number of semesters he’s been in college." Weird rule. I’ve also been unable to find, in the Freeman preview or otherwise, any record of the whereabouts of guard Trevor Stratton, who had a nice freshman campaign for the Pioneers last season. This leaves me somewhat disappointed, since I had been hyping a potential Drury-Stratton backcourt during the entire offseason. Well, I’d been hyping it to the two people that were actually polite enough not to walk out of the room when I decided to hype up division three hoops. All that said, Carroll’s going to be a very solid division three team this year even without those other two guys that could have helped out. If you’re a basketball junkie, I highly suggest attending a Carroll game this year for their more than fair admission price of zero dollars. You can’t beat that deal.

4) Not an exciting night to be a big man for Wisconsin, as there weren’t many minutes to be had. The logical assumption for this situation is that Bo Ryan didn’t see much point in trotting out his 6'10"+ guys against a team with no one over 6'7", since the experience wouldn’t help them much. Not that most of the big guys did much to help their cause, anyway (I’ve resigned myself to the fact that as much as he may want to, Brian Butch will never be able to finish two-footers in a crowd).

5) It was disappointing to me that J.P. Gavinski didn’t get off the bench last night, since I wanted to get a look at him one more time before the 2007-8 season, when he’ll be a redshirt freshman. I would think (and hope) that his failure to play last night seals the deal on his redshirting. I’m excited about the prospects of Gavinski with a year under his belt, though. His skills are apparent, but physically he needs some work. If the coaching staff can turn more of his body into muscle, and get him well conditioned, this could turn out to be one of the more important redshirt decisions in recent memory.

6) Marcus Landry confirmed for me tonight everything that I would have written about him had I done a player-by-player preview of the Badgers this year. He’s going to be the next Badger superstar. But here’s the best thing about Landry’s status–he’s not going to be forced into a superstar role too early. He can fly under the radar this year while Alando Tucker plays the superstar role and models how to behave as the team’s top dog. Then next year, after two years of getting great learning experience (and tossing down the occasional alley-oop dunk, as he did last evening), he can make this team his own.

7) I noticed that the Carroll College roster listed 19 players. How annoying must it be to be the 19th man on the depth chart?

8) Some quick comments on style from last night: Thumbs up on Marcus Landry’s goggles (even if they have an actual utilitarian purpose, they’re still retro-cool). Thumbs down on Tanner Bronson’s closely cropped haircut that removes some of his little-guy charm. Thumbs up to the guy two rows in front of me with the awesome Milwaukee Bucks warm-up jacket in the Bucks’ new colors. Thumbs down on Greg Stiemsma’s bizarre semi-mowhawk haircut. Thumbs down to Carroll College’s John Hoch for trimming the mini afro that he sported in high school last season.

9) Usually when I find myself complaining about crappy prizes for halftime fan games, I’m directing my anger towards Marquette, whose prizes are typically either remarkably cheap, or tougher to win than a rigged carnival game. But last night’s prize of a year’s supply of Peter Piper Pickles to the winner of a shooting contest didn’t seem to me to be the type of thing that would have a contestant pumping his or her fist as he or she left the court (maybe this sentiment is somewhat related to the fact that I don’t eat pickles). The prize did bring up a point that’s always intrigued me, though–what constitutes a year’s supply of something that you’ve won? If I won the shooting contest and decided to go on an all pickle diet for the next year, would Peter Piper be obligated to provide me with every meal for the next year? I assume "year’s supply" is a concept which the sponsor defines, so I’d probably get something like two jars a month, no matter how many pickles I could eat. At the end of the day, that’s fine with me, since at the rate I eat pickles, one jar would be about a century’s supply of pickles to me.

10) Well, the things that I’ve read about Alando Tucker having arc on his jump shot this year are true. He’s no longer firing flat missiles at the hoop. That said, he wasn’t what you’d call accurate from three point range. As usual, the more he gets in the lane and starts confusing guys with his athleticism, the happier I’ll be. Particularly impressive last night was the moment that he got fouled while attacking the rim and nearly got his head taken off by the backboard. Yep, I get excited when I can touch the backboard with my hand, and Tucker’s in danger of having the backboard cause a gash on his forehead whenever he steps on the court. Damn you, genetics!

11) Oh yeah, the freshmen for Wisconsin. I covered Gavinski already, and assume that he’ll wisely be wearing a red polo shirt for the rest of the year. Jason Bohannon’s the freshmen that got the most minutes last night, and seems the most ready to play significant minutes this year. His shooting skill brings something to the table that the team doesn’t necessarily have otherwise. Mickey Perry looks hungry after his redshirt year, and Trevon Hughes looks physically ready, but still had one possession where he dominated the ball a bit too much. If I’m ranking the guards right now, I’m going Bohannon, Perry, Hughes, but there’s certainly room for jockeying throughout the year (and the next week, for that matter–these guys can all help out).

And with the final buzzer, I headed out to score shaving cream and water at the supermarket. It was a good night, as I had seen a good division one team, a good division three team, and had ensured that my face would enjoy an artificial cooling feeling following my shaves for months to come. Who can ask for more than that?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Meet the 2006-07 Badgers

In preparation for my first Badger game of the year on Wednesday night, I'd like to revisit a favorite topic of mine from last year: Meet the Badgers. As I did before last season, I've reviewed the answers that the players on the roster gave to a variety of questions that they were asked for their media guide/internet profiles. (As an aside, I wish that Maruqette and UWM offered questions like these. I know that Marquette used to, as I have vivid memories of learning from the 1990-91 media guide that Jim McIlvaine loves sloppy joes). For each player, I've selected one answer to discuss, in an attempt to get inside each of their respective minds (or just to make fun of their weaker answers). If it's possible, I think that this year's bunch is even more interesting than last year's group of players. So without further adieu, meet your 2006-07 Wisconsin Badgers:

Jason Bohannon
Favorite NBA Players Growing Up: Michael Jordan and Kirk Hinrich
I’m not sure if Bohannon didn’t think about the question enough, has a different world view than me, or is just really philosophical in his approach to this question. I’m going to give him Michael Jordan–that’s not a tough answer, particularly given that Bohannon reveals in a later question that his favorite NBA team is the Bulls. But Kirk Hinrich? Hinrich came into the league in the 2003-2004 season. His first NBA game would have been played when Bohannon was nearly 16 years old. This would have been like me claiming when I was 18 years old that my favorite NBA player while growing up was Chris Webber (who entered the league just before I turned 16). At age 18, two years earlier would not be a time that I would have considered myself to be "growing up," and Webber would have seemed a ludicrous answer to this question for me. I’d have looked back to the years when I was riding my bicycle around the block with friends and stopping at the local Open Pantry to buy Big League Chew. Perhaps, as I alluded to earlier, Bohannon was taking the view that in the ultimate scheme of his life, the age of 16 would eventually be considered a time when he was growing up, or perhaps he’s taken the even more enlightened view that he is constantly growing as a person, no matter how old he is. My sense, though, is that he just really likes Kirk Hinrich and he was going to squeeze that name in there, intent of the question be damned.

Tanner Bronson:
Favorite Musical Artist: Talib Kweli
I’m going to play conspiracy theorist on this answer. While reading through Bronson’s answers to various questions, I found myself agreeing with lots of his answers (particularly his desire to have a Kopp’s Frozen Custard stand in Madison). So I was left thinking that young Tanner was one of the players who would probably be most like me. But he has this one divergent answer, where he lists noted hip-hop artist Talib Kweli as his favorite musician. Since I’m not much of a hip-hop connoisseur I know next to nothing about Talib Kweli. In fact, I know exactly two things about Kweli: 1) He’s supposedly very well respected in his field, and 2) he cut a new commercial for the Big Ten last year. Why would a guy like Bronson, who in almost all other respects reminds me of myself (other than the fact that I’m a giant compared to him) be such a fan of a musician who’s not even on my radar? My belief? This is part of Talib Kweli’s deal with the Big Ten. The Big Ten gets a hip commercial out of the deal, and in return, each school picks one of their more popular players (like Bronson) to talk about how much they like Kweli’s phat beats, thus promoting his music to the highly lucrative college market. And I think it’s working, since I’m thinking that I might check out some Kweli on iTunes tonight. Hey, if Tanner Bronson’s like me in so many other ways, maybe I’m the one missing the boat.

Joe Krabbenhoft
Restaurant That You’d Like to See Added To Madison: Waffle House
This answer is one of many that convinces me that I would really like Joe Krabbenhoft if I ever met him. When faced with the opportunity to choose an eatery that would enhance his life if it were to come to town, Krabbenhoft chooses the iconic, low-rent Waffle House franchise. While on my recent basketball fact-finding mission down south, I was personally very excited to make my first trip to the popular chain with my friend T.J. Ultimately T.J.’s wife thwarted this plan by making us a meal that was likely vastly superior (and healthier) to the offerings of the Waffle House, but the allure of the place is still strong. But I digress. Krabbenhoft’s Waffle House answer, combined with his assertion that if he could spend one week anywhere in the world, he’d go back home to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, tells me that Krabbenhoft is an unpretentious fellow who can appreciate the simple things in life. Were he of legal drinking age, he’d probably be the kind of guy that would forego $6 import beers at a club to go consume cans of Schlitz with his buddies at a corner tavern. I’ll always cheer for a guy that I can say that about.

J.P. Gavinski
Person You’d Most Like To Switch Places With For a Day: Joe
I hate calling guys out for answers that just seem foolish to me, but that’s what’s going to have to happen here. I’m assuming that by simply answering "Joe," Gavinski is referring to teammate Joe Krabbenhoft. If that’s the case, then it’s a pretty crappy choice. Now, I mean no offense to Joe Krabbenhoft, who may very well be a really fun guy to be, but if I’m choosing a person who I could switch places with for a day, I’m probably not picking a guy who lives in the same city as me, attends the same school as me, plays on the same team as me, and has a life the parallels mine in countless ways. If you’ve got the power to change places with someone for a day, you’ve simply got to shake things up a bit more (for a good response, see Morris Cain’s answer of "P. Diddy" to the same question). There’s only two ways that Gavinski’s answer is okay in my book: 1) If the "Joe" in question is not Krabbenhoft, and is someone with a decidedly different life, like Fat Joe, or Fear Factor’s Joe Rogan (admittedly, neither of these Joes is the best example, but off the top of my head, that’s all I’ve got), or 2) Krabbenhoft has an attractive girlfriend and Gavinski is covertly asserting that he’d like to spend a day making out with her.

Jason Chappell
If I Could Be On Any Reality TV Show, It Would Be: Paradise Island
You know, I don’t ever recall any reality show by the name of "Paradise Island," and after a cursory internet search, I couldn’t find any record of such a show. So I’m going to take extrapolate and assume that Chappell meant to reference "Paradise Hotel," which just happens to be my favorite bad reality show of all time. The premise? Eleven sexy singles share a luxury hotel in a gorgeous tropical location, and that hotel has only five beds. Each week, the person not sharing his or her bed with another of the sexy singles gets sent home, a member of the opposite sex replaces him or her, and the process starts over again. It’s a comically sleazy premise to begin with, but the true genius of Paradise Hotel lied in the fact that a) there were special twists each week that were obviously and painfully contrived so that the producers would get the exact changes to the cast that they were looking for (though this fact was never explicitly acknowledged) in order to create the most drama, and b) for almost the entire run of the show, there was no indication of how one would go about winning the show, or what prize that winner would receive. So as to Chappell’s answer, yeah, that would be a great show to be on. I’m just thankful that he gave me a paragraph’s worth of time to recall this legendary show. Credit Jason Chappell with the assist to me. I’m liking this guy more and more every day.

Greg Stiemsma
First Job: Working in the cabbage fields

It is answers like this that make me love living in Wisconsin. There are two things that make Stiemsma’s answer absolutely stellar. First, the obvious point is that he actually spent time working in a cabbage field. What’s the over-under on number of times that a television color commentator will mention that fact this year? It’s probably obscure enough to slip under the radar, but it’s just odd enough that I would think 2-3 guys will make note of it at some point. The second thing that makes this answer great is the wording of it. Stiemsma didn’t just work in cabbage fields, he worked in THE cabbage fields. It’s as if he’s expecting everyone to know that he worked in the famous cabbage fields of Randolph, Wisconsin (I actually have no idea if Randloph has vast cabbage fields, so don’t take that as fact). What cabbage fields did you work in, Greg? Oh, I see-- you worked in THE cabbage fields. Well that clears things right up.

Michael Flowers
Best Thing About Road Trips: Free Subs on the Airplanes
Maybe I just don’t understand this, since I was never a big-time college athlete who had to go on road trips, but a free sandwich would seem to be a pretty minimal benefit to rave about. I suspect that if I went on a road trip as a student athlete, I would be pretty jacked up to get glimpses (however limited) of places far away from my home, have new experiences, or even just to spend time on a bus or plane bonding with my teammates. I doubt that getting a $5 sandwich would really do that much to change my demeanor (particularly if I was a scholarship athlete who routinely had access to training table food). Given that airplane food is the pinnacle of Flowers’ experiences, though, I’d like to challenge him to take at least one evening during a post-game overnight stay and break a team rule or two. I’m not talking about heading down to the mean streets of Evanston, Illinois to score drugs, getting involved in an illegal gambling ring, or anything even close to that level. But he should at least sneak out of his hotel room at midnight against coaches orders for some reason (perhaps to buy a sub sandwich, as he seems to like those) to create some excitement. Heed my warning, Mr. Flowers–ten years from now you don’t want to be looking back at your college days and realizing that your best moment was cracking open a killer ham and cheese while flying to Penn State.

Brett Valentyn
Pregame Superstitions: Taking a nap and listening to my iPod
Let’s ignore the obvious fact that taking a nap prior to a game would seem to be a bad idea, as it would leave you sort of groggy. The bigger question in my mind is whether Valentyn understands what a superstition is. Just because you always do something before a game, it doesn’t mean it’s a superstition. I eat a bowl of cereal every morning before I go to work, but I wouldn’t call that a superstition. It’s just a routine, as is Valentyn’s act of taking a nap and listening to some tunes (or maybe some motivational speeches–I don’t purport to know what’s on Brett Valentyn’s iPod) on his iPod. Had he said that he engages in this nap and iPod session in order to ward off the evil spirits of a deceased former Wisconsin basketball player who haunts the team because he’s bitter about the fact that games are no longer played at the old Fieldhouse, then yeah, that would be a superstition. But as it stands, Valentyn could have just used J.P. Gavinski’s answer "I don’t believe in superstitions," since he seems to prepare himself in a decidedly normal manner.

Trevon Hughes
Favorite Thing About Madison: There’s always something to do

I’m not going to disagree with Hughes on this point. Madison has an incredibly diverse and exhaustive list of entertainment options, as I learned during the seven years that I lived there. All that said, is Hughes really qualified to make this assertion? Two things sort of shoot his credibility here. First, even assuming that he made an early arrival on campus to begin training over the summer, he’s been in Madison for maybe four months, tops. That hardly seems like enough time to take in all of the culture that Madison has to offer, particularly for an 18-year-old freshman who’s unlikely to venture beyond the State Street Q-Doba in search of entertainment. Secondly, let’s not forget that Hughes spent his high school years at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in a rigidly regulated military school environment. I’ve obviously never been through military school, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that once you leave military school, just about any locale that doesn’t involve attending a military school is going to seem like it offers a lot more entertainment options (particularly if your military school is located in scenic Delafield, Wisconsin). If Hughes was in a small town in North Dakota, I’d still assume his newfound free time due to not having to polish his shoes and scrub the latrines would result in him thinking that that small town offered an unbelievably entertaining social scene. Of course, I could be wrong on this one, and Hughes may just be really good at sniffing out awesome places to live. After all, he also gave strong consideration to attending the University of Iowa, which undoubtedly is house in one of the most entertaining college towns that I’ve ever been to.

Brian Butch
Person You’d Like To Switch Places With For a Day: G.W. Bush
Let’s put politics to the side for the moment. This is not a political forum, so I don’t care if you’re pro-Bush, anti-Bush or completely ambivalent about the current presidential administration. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, this is a horrible answer to the question. However, it’s a mistake that someone is almost always bound to make. When faced with a question of who you’d want to be for a day, most people’s minds turn to people with fame, money or power (unless, of course, you’re J.P. Gavinski and just want to switch places with a dude that you see every day). Since the president of the United States is arguably the most powerful man in the world, whoever happens to be president is going to pop into your mind. It’s an uncreative answer, but worse, it’s a foolish answer because if you’re the leader of the free world, you typically have a lot of stressful things burdening you. To illustrate, let’s contrast what a day for Butch as President Bush would be like with a day for Morris Cain as P.Diddy (again, Cain really nailed this question). Butch wakes up early, meets with advisors and foreign dignitaries, signs a bill or two into law, and spends the rest of the day worrying about the threat of terrorism, the status of the war in Iraq, and whether or not North Korea is looking into exploding the planet. Cain wakes up, goes to the studio to lay down some tracks with an up-and-coming performer that he’s working with, does a promotional appearance or two, and eventually spends his evening at a club sipping Cristal with beautiful women all around him. I don’t think I need to tell you what sounds like a better day to me.

Alando Tucker
Best Thing About Road Trips: The officials...syke
Wow, did Alando Tucker just use the term "syke?" Are people still saying that? I don’t think that word (which I would have spelled "psych," by the way) has left my mouth since 1993. I had thought that the term died a prompt and quiet death after I left middle school, but apparently not, since Tucker’s a bit younger than me and still seems to be using the term today. (This raises interesting questions of what other things from my middle school years are still lingering out there without my knowledge. Are there people out there still wearing Hypercolor shirts and pants like those worn by M.C. Hammer? But I digress...) It actually really disappoints me that the Big Ten’s best player is using what is effectively a bad joke that my vocabulary left behind when I finished eighth grade. However, I suppose none of us is perfect. Tucker’s an elite level athlete, a fierce competitor, and a superior leader. The fact that he talks like I did during my adolescence is something that I’m just going to have to forgive him for. After all, there are worse vices to have.

Mickey Perry
Favorite Sports: Baseball, Water Polo

This is a curious answer, and implies that Mickey Perry might be a more complex individual than we all know. This answer is interesting to me in that Perry’s hometown totally explains his choice of baseball as a favorite, but leaves water polo as a completely baffling choice. Perry is from the Chicago area. While baseball is a curious choice as a favorite sport for someone of his age (let’s face it–the pace of the game doesn’t exactly draw the young folks in), the rabidness of Cubs and White Sox fans could somewhat explain his attachment to the game, assuming that he’s been a fan of one of those teams. Water polo comes totally out of left field, though. Where does a kid who grew up in Chicago get exposed to water polo? As a midwesterner, my only experiences with water polo have come in the form of watching a match or two during the Olympics every four years, checking out 15 minutes of a game on CSTV when I can’t fall asleep at 3am, and playing a half-assed version of the game in high school gym class. Water polo, based on my understanding, is just something that people in California do. Thus, I tend to think that one of two things is true. Either Perry is a remarkable student of water polo, and is engaged in a long distance relationship with a sport that resides nowhere near where he lives, or he’s a guy that liked throwing a ball as hard as he could at some guy in his high school gym class, just like I did. If it’s the former, my respect for him just went up ten-fold. If it’s the latter, I just hope he never gets called out on his lack of knowledge of the game.

Marcus Landry
Next Generation Game Console You Will Buy/Own: XBox 360
I don’t point this answer by Marcus Landry out to say anything about him. Actually, all of Landry’s answers were pretty reasonable (aside from his assertion that he’s good at all sports). But I bring up this answer simply to point out the lack of creativity on the part of the person who drafted this question. Several players had their answers to this question listed. You want to guess what they all answered? That’s right–either XBox 360 or PS3. Big shock. High-tech game consoles aren’t exactly my thing (I still have an original Nintendo hooked up to my living room TV), but even I know that those are the only two answers you’re going to get to those questions, aside from the occasional aberrant guy who claims he wants a Nintendo Wii. Furthermore, the question reveals nothing about one’s character. When Landry tells us that he made up his own cell phone ring tone, I can extrapolate that he’s creative, enjoys music, and knows at least something about technology. When he tells me that he prefers an XBox 360 over the other choices out there, I don’t learn anything other than Landry’s brand loyalty in a market comprised of limited competitors. Ask him what his favorite video game is? Sure, that seems reasonable enough. But asking him a meaningless question that has just two (or three) reasonable answers? That’s just dumb.

Kevin Gullickson
Class You’d Recommend to a First-Year Student: Nutritional Science 132

I was ready to rip into Gullickson for this answer, because I thought I remembered this class from my undergrad days. I never took a nutritional science class, but during my sophomore year of college a bunch of my neighbors in my dorm took one where they could watch all of the lectures on a cable access channel. This led to mass laziness, and the occasional night-before-exams ritual of catching up on 6 hours of videotaped lectures. However, I can’t seem to confirm whether Gullickson’s beloved Nutritional Science 132 is the course in question. I’m inclined to think that it is not, based on the fact that the official department description of the course refers to a "Classroom Lecture" component. Frankly, though, it sounds like an interesting course to me. It’s undoubtedly a good idea for anyone to have some idea of how nutrition works. And it probably would have done me some good to have this information during my first year of school, given that my first thought upon entering the dorm cafeteria during my freshman year was "Wait, I can order fries every day? This place must be heaven." Had Kevin Gullickson been around to give me his sage advice, though, my arteries might be just in just a little bit better shape these days.

Morris Cain
First Job: Dietary Worker

I don’t know what this is, but it sounds like an odd first job to me. The only thing that I can think of when I hear the phrase "dietary worker" is a registered dietician. And Cain undoubtedly would have been severely under-qualified to act as a registered dietician at the age of 15, or whenever he got his first job. If I had to take a shot in the dark at figuring out what "dietary worker" means, my guess is that Cain’s phrasing is meant to be a creative way of telling everyone that he had the time-honored bad teenage job of working at a fast food restaurant (after all, dispersing McNuggets is a job that literally has a dietary function). And if that’s the case, then you can’t help but admire Morris Cain’s creativity, even if he’s a bit too vague for this to makes sense to anyone who doesn’t take 15 minutes to break down his answers.

Kammron Taylor
Favorite Food: Chicken, greens, yams, mac & cheese

Okay question–when Taylor says that "mac & cheese" is a favorite food of his, does he mean real, homemade mac & cheese, or that Kraft stuff out of a box? I’m going to guess real mac & cheese. I can see the arguments for Kraft: Taylor’s a college student and it’s cheap, Taylor doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare meals and it’s quick, despite its nuclear orange color Kraft mac & cheese is actually pretty tasty (given what you’re expecting), etc. However, I just don’t see a guy who lists greens and yams among his favorite foods accepting anything but the best mac & cheese on his plate. It’s pretty clear from this answer that someone in the Taylor household really knew how to cook, and taught Taylor the value of a well cooked meal. After all, if you were to give Mr. Taylor a glass of milk and a roll, he’d be able to make a reasonably balanced meal just by asking for his favorite foods. That’s more than you can say about most 21-year-old men, and it’s definitely better than former Badger DeAaron Williams’ assertion last year that he enjoyed eating McDonalds every day.

So there's your 2006-07 squad. I'm itching to see them for my first time on Wednesday night. Let's just hope that J.P. Gavinski doesn't think he's Joe Krabbenhoft, or that Jason Chappell misses the game because he's too busy watching reality TV.

UWM vs. Edgewood: I Wasn't There

For those of you looking for a UWM recap, I didn't make it down to the game last night, opting instead to take care of a few errands, and listen to the game on the radio. As UWM employs only a play-by-play man, and no color commentator, it's tough to get a vivid picture of the game, or to find interesting broadcast points to talk about. This is in no way a slam on play-by-play man Bill Johnson, who has grown on me a lot in the past few years. However, there's not much room for having fun when you're the only guy letting the world know what's going on in the game.

So, I've got nothing to discuss with regard to UWM vs. Madison Edgewood last evening. Sounds like they took a small step forward in the second half of the game, though. Here's hoping that as the season goes on, they take a lot more of those steps.

Listed on BlogShares