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.