Thursday, October 26, 2006

An Honest Question

In the Marquette-UWM saga, that has taken far too long and made both parties appear childish, there is only one thing left to finalize the deal: Marquette needs to sign the contract. My question today, though, is why this hasn’t been done yet. Marquette proposed the contract. UWM made it obnoxiously clear that it had signed the contract, doing so at a press conference shown on live TV. Marquette has received the contract. Head coach Tom Crean has openly recognized that it’s a reasonable contract from his perspective, having been quoted as saying about the UWM signing "We’re pleased they finally recognized the appropriateness of the contract."

So why, three days later, isn’t this thing signed? The picture in the Journal Sentinel indicates that it’s a pretty simple contract, so it’s not as if Marquette’s been reviewing the content again for the last three days. There may be a plausible reason why Marquette’s line still doesn’t have a signature on it, but I can’t think of what it would be. And given the number of times this agreement has gone from "done deal" to "no deal" and back, I refuse to believe that the Marquette-UWM game will happen until a second name is signed to the contract.

So step up and sign the paperwork already, Marquette. If you don’t sign a contract that you proposed, and that you’ve continually recognized as appropriate, you look pretty disingenuous. And in a process where both parties have mostly let me down so far, I’d like to avoid losing any more respect for anyone. Oh yeah, and that game would be nice to see, too.

(A final aside–I did not see the UWM press conference signing, as I was out of town on a basketball fact-finding mission, but doesn’t the act of calling a press conference to sign a contract in this situation smack of something that you’d see pro wrestlers do? Calling out another party by shoving a contract back in their face and agreeing to play on the other guy's terms seems less like something that UWM should be doing to Marquette, and more like something that Rowdy Roddy Piper would have done to Ric Flair.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Majerus Chimes In...

Per my normal routine, I pulled out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel over my lunch break today. With regard to the proposed UWM-Marquette series, Rick Majerus, as usual, is dead on:

Majerus Sorts Out UWM-MU Dispute

The harsh reality, as Majerus points out, is that Marquette is in a position of power and has very little incentive to play UWM. If this series is ever to take place, it's going to require UWM bending a bit and taking a deal that isn't particularly palatable to them. As Majerus accurately notes:

"If UWM ever beats Marquette, trust me, they will storm the court. It will be unbelievable. If Marquette wins, it will be a nice handshake and Marquette is off to the Big East and UWM is on its way to play in the league where UW-Green Bay is a big game."

Not a fun comment to read if you're a UWM fan, but it does sum up the core of the issue.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Weekend Hodgepodge

Didn’t make it down to any madness events this past weekend, as I was derailed by work, a visit from an old friend, and my trip to Wisconsin’s homecoming football game. But things are going on in the basketball world, so I feel compelled to toss a few quick comments out there.

1) People that I talked to who went to Marquette and UWM opening weekend events were universally underwhelmed. I actually don’t blame the respective teams for this problem. I think people build up these events way too much in their heads. It’s not every year that you’re going to get a landmark moment like last year’s Marquette event provided when Dominic James threw down his first reverse dunk and effectively served notice that he was the team’s new star. Most of the time it’s a bunch of guys having some fun and doing a second-rate scrimmage, and perhaps some cheesy fan games for prizes. I’m not sure if the general public has caught on to how non-informative these things are yet. They're still fun, but you have to temper your expectations going in.

2) On Friday night, as I was going to bed, I noticed that ESPNU was showing a "madness" event, so I flipped over to check it out. The team it was showing? George Mason. Three comments on this one. First, George Mason really does seem to have done a lot for mid-majors if their first "practice" is being shown on ESPNU. Even if part of the channel’s mission is to cover less well known teams and sports, covering a "practice" of a mid-major seems above and beyond. Second, George Mason’s Final Four run notwithstanding, is there really anyone out there who’s not affiliated with the university who wants to see their opening practice? Particularly now that Jai Lewis, who was undoubtedly the most entertaining George Mason player last year, is gone? Granted, the ESPNU 11:30pm-12:30am slot isn’t the most coveted time period around, but is this choice of programming really that much of a step up from the early 1980s when ESPN was in its inifancy and showing Australian rules football?

3) Got my Blue Ribbon Yearbook this weekend. I think my neighbors thought I was weird when I ran from my mailbox to my front door skipping with joy after I discovered the package. I immediately went inside and checked out the profiles of the state teams. Nothing earth shattering was reported with regard to UWM or UWGB. Wisconsin was ranked #13 in the country, which is about right, and comes as no surprise. And the big surprise of the day? Marquette is ranked #12. To the people that know basketball, I guess the secret is out: Marquette’s guards are about as good as you’re going to see this year. Assuming that both Wisconsin and Marquette live up to their lofty rankings, their December 9 meeting is going to be even better than usual.

4) I don’t begin to understand all of the issues involved, and I haven’t read enough about the situation yet to place blame (I suspect both parties bear at least some of the guilt), but count me as one of the legions of basketball fans in Southeastern Wisconsin who is disappointed that the deal for Marquette and UWM to play each other fell through. UWM’s success may be recent, but it is still annoying that the city has two good division one teams that play their games literally across the street from one another, and there’s no chance of them playing in the foreseeable future.

5) Glad to see that Torre Johnson’s transfer to UWM from Oklahoma State is official. While it was disappointing to see Johnson dismissed from the Oklahoma State squad, I can think of few players that it will be more fun to watch in a UWM uniform. In the Journal Sentinel article regarding Johnson’s transfer back home, his high school coach notes "When Torre was in high school, he was the most dominating player in the entire state of Wisconsin." That’s a high compliment, considering that Johnson was in the same class as McDonald’s All-American, Brian Butch. Obviously Johnson’s old coach is a bit biased, but I don’t think he’s entirely off base. I had the chance to see Johnson play one time in high school and he was completely dominant. The opposing team’s fast breaks typically ended with either Johnson beating them down court and blocking a layup, or the player with the ball nervously slowing down to look for Johnson and Johnson catching up to block a layup. Granted, the opposing team’s starting center vaguely resembled Jack Black, but Johnson was still like a basketball version of Forest Whitaker's character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He was essentially a fail-safe insurance policy if his team ever screwed something up. Sure, he won’t be eligible until next year, but with Johnson aboard, and assuming that Ricky Franklin is the player that everyone is expecting, UWM could be back on top of the Horizon League much sooner than everyone expects.

6) Kudos to the WIAA’s actions regarding private schools in the state basketball tournament (and for for reporting on those actions). For the press release, look here. The main part of the plan that I love is the first of the three components, which allows private schools to apply by a set deadline to play up a division. I suspect that the top-level division three and four teams, whose success has brought about the outcry against private schools, have wanted to have an option like this for some time, and will take advantage of the application process. It remains to be seen if this will alleviate some of issues facing the WIAA since adding public schools to the mix, but for now it looks like a good plan to me.

Ah, it felt good to get that out. I’m going to have to spewing thoughts more often...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's Coming...

With the season fast approaching, I thought it might be time for a few brief basketball-related notes. I’m still a good month away from that time of year when my diet begins to consist primarily of high school booster club popcorn, and I don’t have enough time to sleep, but all the signs are in the air that those days will come soon:

1) Last Wednesday afternoon, I ordered my 2006-7 copies of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearkbook and the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook. While I love all college basketball guides, these are the only two that I get openly giddy about receiving. My love for both publications is well documented here, but to review, Blue Ribbon’s coverage is roughly 7.3 times more thorough than any other preseason college basketball guide out there, and the Wisconsin Basketball Journal will tell you things that you won’t learn anywhere else. I believe we’re still a few weeks from either publication’s shipping date, but the days can’t move fast enough for me.

2) Speaking of Blue Ribbon, I was happy to see their announcement of the return of their NCAA Tournament guide that was last produced in 2001. Even better, it’s going to be an online publication (as opposed to the book form that it formerly came in), so the information should be out to the masses much more quickly. That’s a sigh of relief, after a shipping glitch in 2000 kept me from getting my book in time to do the proper research to fill out my tourney brackets in an informed manner. But however the info’s arriving, more Blue Ribbon is always a good thing.

3) In order to tide me over during the time between now and my receipt of my aforementioned two favorite basketball publications, I went out on Monday night to stock up on 2006-07 college basketball preview guides (okay, I generally buy all of them, anyway). Right now on my night stand, I have copies of publications put out by Lindy’s, Athlon, The Sporting News, Street & Smith, and CBS Sportsline, as well as the ACC Handbook. Let’s just say that when you take that many basketball guides to the counter at Barnes & Noble, you get a look from the clerk behind the counter that very clearly says “Six sports magazines? Does this meathead even know how to read?” Next year I’m adding a collection of Hemingway short stories or something to my purchase in order to build up my bookstore credibility in that situation.

4) Not-at-midnight madness events are going down this upcoming weekend (A big thumbs-down to Wisconsin, the only state team to not partake in this celebration this year). I’m pretty sure I’ll be making my way down to Marquette’s event on Friday night (as I said last year, Tom Crean knows how to throw a party), and I have some hopes for a stop in at the UWM's "Panther Madness" on Saturday, if my busy schedule allows. Sunday is when UW-Green Bay’s holding open practice, so it would be theoretically possible for an obsessed fan to make all three. I’d like to be that guy, but I’ve already got Sunday afternoon blocked off for taking care of some things at work, and then coming home to paint racing stripes on the hallway leading to my basement. (Side note–buying a house as a single guy might be the greatest decision that I have ever made.)

Back in a few days once I’ve either been to an opening weekend event or had the opportunity to peruse my basketball guides...

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