Back From the Dead...
So I'm back. Thanks to those of you who inquired as to whether or not I had been fatally injured in a bizarre accident of some sort (I was not). And big thanks to the Big Ten Wonk for putting out word about the real reason behind my absence, at a time when I had no viable way of doing so myself. For those of you who didn't see the explanation for my absence via the Wonk, or hear about it personally from me, I've been locked out from posting by the Blogger website since last Sunday. Their automatic system flagged me as a "spam blog," and they needed time to review my content to ensure that I was not, in fact, solely in existence to peddle penis enlargement techniques to the public. While a layoff during the height of conference season has been something of an annoyance, I can't be too angry at Blogger. After all, they're just fighting spam, which everyone hates, and frankly, the break in writing gave me a fun week where I could just watch games like an average fan, without having to think of ways to dissect the absurdities occurring on the court.
But of course, there’s a lot to catch up on, and no way that I’ll cover everthing. Off the top of my head, though, here's a few thoughts:
1) In Marquette's last two victories, I've seen two key things that have elevated them beyond their struggles in their first two games of the year. First, Dominic James has been shooting very well from long range. Second, Ousmane Barro is playing really, really well. I think the James thing is something of an aberration and that he'll be back to normal pretty soon, but I think Barro's improvement is real. And that's a good thing, because the Golden Eagles haven't had a reliable big man since Marcus Jackson. And Jackson, though reliable in most areas, couldn't score like Barro.
2) As I've said before, I don't think there's a more entertaining conference to watch this year than the Pac-10. Entertaining, however, doesn't always mean good. Case in point--if you were to ask me who my favorite Pac-10 teams to watch are, I'd tell you that Washington and Arizona are the most fun to observe. But they're both losing at record pace of late (with Washington dropping a particularly painful one to WSU this past weekend). Be that as it may, I can't take my eyes off the Huskies or Wildcats (though I often have to, since Fox Sports really seems to have a thing for USC).
3) A belated thanks to my friend Boo-Yah for providing me with some of the best seats in the house for last week’s Wisconsin-Purdue game. Long before the week of the game, when the Marcus Landry vs. Carl Landry talk really heated up, I had been anticipating this matchup. Marcus’s block on his older brother was truly an electric moment. And the icing on the cake was getting to see Jonathan Overby decked out in his signature white tuxedo singing the national anthem. That took me back to my early student days at the Fieldhouse, when it was sort of jarring to just see a random guy in a white tuxedo standing in the corridors 15 minutes before gametime when I was heading to my seat.
4) Do you have any idea how annoying it is to not be able to be able to post my thoughts when I see something as bizarre on TV as a filler segment during a game about how Bo Ryan knows how to hambone? I'm still wondering how that came up in conversation? Did the TV crew just walk up to him before practice and ask "Hey coach, do you have any completely random skills, like juggling fire, or beat-boxing that you could do for us? Oh, you can hambone? Wait a second--we're going to fire up the camera."
5) Frustrating as not being able to talk about the Bo Ryan hambone thing was, maybe the most painful thing to miss commenting on was Bruce Pearl painting his torso orange and hanging with the student section for a Tennessee women's game. Was the universe just taunting me with that missed opportunity? There's no middle ground on how you feel about this action--you either think Pearl's an idiot, or he's a creative genius. For the record, put me down as thinking he's a genius. I love his bizarre enthusiasm. Tennessee, with it's prominent football and women's basketball teams, needed a guy like Pearl, who would be a tireless promoter for his team, and whose ego (though I’m sure healthy) would be willing to deal with starting out as third-fiddle. His experience at UWM, a third-fiddle program to which he brought more attention than it had ever received, was perfect preparation for such a task. Are there things that I don’t like about Bruce Pearl? Sure, but you have to admire his work ethic.
6) I believe someone said during UWM’s early season losing streak that they’d settle down and be fine during conference season. Any idea who that might have been? Yep, this is one of my rare opportunities to pat myself on the back.
7) Had I been posting last week, I'd have predicted that Wisconsin would lose at Illinois, due to Champaign being a tough place to play, and Wisconsin generally having a history of being shaky on the road. And I'd have been wrong. I'd still like to predict a loss to a weird team, but Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota all just seem too far out there to me. (Which, of course, means that I've just jinxed the Badgers).
8) I don’t believe that I’ve seen any reports that Illinois football coach Ron Zook is dead, so I’ll assume that he was just napping when the camera captured him attending the Wisconsin-Illinois game on Saturday. Either way, Zook didn’t exactly look like the biggest basketball fan in the world at that moment.
9) After catching the first half of the Duke-N.C. State game this past weekend, I couldn't help noticing that Sidney Lowe is performing just as I suspected he would as coach of the Wolfpack--badly. Part of me wondered if Lowe's game plan was to simply let Duke's guards penetrate into the lane for some incomprehensible reason. Maybe I just caught a bad half of basketball from the Wolfpack, but I doubt it. It seldom works when you hire a) a guy with no college coaching experience (the NBA is so different that I can't even watch it) and b) the sentimental choice of a well-liked alum. With rare exceptions, that's a recipe for disaster.
10) Don’t worry–you’re not going insane. I saw it too, and it was mind-boggling. Yes, the president of the United States did reference Dikembe Mutombo during the of the State of the Union Speech last night.
It’s good to be back. Tomorrow I should be back with a more normal update, after I check out tonight’s Marquette-Seton Hall game downtown. I’m woefully under-prepared in terms of my Seton Hall knowledge (Shaheen Holloway and Andrew Gaze aren’t still playing there, right?), but the way Marquette’s been playing lately, I’m bound to have fun anyway. And if my stamina allows, it might be time for a late-night DVR session with Wisconsin and Michigan.
Back to normal tomorrow! (In the meantime, see my lost post from last Monday, before I actually believed that I was locked out of the system.)