Friday, February 29, 2008

Perhaps The Greatest Night of Basketball Ever

There are good nights. There are great nights. And then there are nights like last night. Let's briefly recap the games that I saw last evening:

Milwaukee Washington vs. Milwaukee King: The undefeated, top-ranked high school team in the state loses by one point to a conference arch rival, who took the lead by hitting a well-contested three-pointer with 13 seconds left, and secured the win by deflecting the ball on Washington's final possession. Not to mention, like lots of other people, I never get to see regular season City Conference games in person, so this was a rare treat.

Milwaukee Custer vs. Tosa East: Two solid teams battle back and forth in last four minutes, go to overtime in dramatic fashion, and my alma mater comes out on top. Was arguably better than the first game of the night, and the first game of the night was one of the best I’ve seen all year.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State: Wisconsin soundly beats the team that it’s most fun to watch them play against in the Big Ten, and by far the biggest roadblock in their quest for the conference championship.

That’s three games that could easily carry an entire evening (I didn’t even give thought to watching Louisville vs. Notre Dame, which I’d normally block off my night for), and all of them were crammed into one night. I only wish that the night hadn’t taken so long, since sleep has to take priority over passing along my oodles of thoughts on the games. On the bright side, the fact that I was up so late alerted me to the fact that in the wee hours of the night ESPN Classic is now showing AWA wrestling from 20 years ago. A Badger win and finding out that 1980s pro wrestling is on at midnight every night nowadays–is there any better way to cap an evening?

Back tonight or tomorrow morning with a rare weekend update. It’s just about March now, so I’ve got to get back on my game.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why the Powerade Jamfest Is Better Than the McDonald's Game

If you haven’t seen the barrage of advertisements lately, the McDonald’s All-American game is coming to Milwaukee next month. I’ve been a fan of the McDonald’s game for ages, and it’s exciting to have it come to my fair city. However, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to go to the game. I am sure, though, that I’m going to see the accompanying Powerade Jamfest (I’m ordering my tickets today), where the players from the game get together for a dunk competition and shooting competitions. Here’s four reasons why the Jamfest is sure to be the superior event, as it has been since its inception:

1) Price. After those ridiculous fees from Ticketmaster, a ticket to the Jamfest is roughly $24. And that goes for all seats. That same $24 will get you into the McDonald’s game, but seeing as it’s the lowest priced ticket for the game, you’d better be ready to sit behind a basket and bump your head into the concrete wall behind you, because you’ll be in the worst seats in the Bradley Center. You know, the ones that only fill up those 2-3 times each year when Marquette announces that they’ve got the largest crowd ever to watch a live basketball game in the state of Wisconsin.

2) Venue. The Jamfest is at the U.S. Cellular Arena, while the McDonald’s game is at the Bradley Center. I’ll grant you that the Bradley Center is more comfortable, has vastly superior concessions and bathrooms, and is the only venue in Milwaukee appropriate for an event the size of the McDonald’s game. But the U.S. Cellular Arena is more intimate, offers a pretty good view of the action even from the cheap seats, and assuming you’re not a UWM fan, it’s quite possible that you’ve not been there to see basketball since 1987. And if the disappointing move of the high school boys’ state tournament from the Wisconsin Fieldhouse to the Kohl Center shows, it’s always more fun to watch high school kids in the old, more charming venue.

3) It’s More Honest. It bothers me at times to listen to those people out there who talk about how they’d never watch the McDonald’s game because it’s not real basketball. After all, who said that every second of hoops that you watch has to be played by a bunch of guys who look like John Wooden is coaching their every move? Sometimes it’s fun to relax and enjoy a crazy exhibition. All that said, if everyone’s being honest with themselves, we all know that players in the McDonald’s game are basically just there to dunk a lot and show off their skills. And while doing that in the structure of a game is still cool, that game structure can be limiting. That’s where the Jamfest comes in. Want to do a dunk that would normally get you called for traveling, or perhaps jump over a ball rack? Feel free at the Jamfest. Want to hoist 25 consecutive three pointers? Go right ahead–your teammates can’t get mad at you in this setting.

4) Amazing Dunks. This one doesn’t really deal with why the Jamfest is better than the game, but I’m including it anyway because I feel it’s the greatest strength of the event. With rare exceptions, I typically find the high school dunk contest to be much more entertaining than the NBA contest. With NBA superstars largely unwilling to participate these days, we get unknown guys like some character named “Jamario Moon” throwing down on NBA all-star weekend. I’ll take hungry high school superstars over NBA leftovers any day. You’re guaranteed to see some elaborately crafted dunks at the Jamfest. NBA players may be more athletic, but I ask you–who’s more creative than 17-year-olds? When the mental energy usually spent on unique ways to toilet paper friends’ lawns and sneaking contraband past parents is harnessed and used simply to come up with dunks, we see amazing things.

So in a nutshell, that’s why I’m so much higher on the Jamfest than the actual game.

As for tonight, it might be the most jam-packed basketball night of the year so far. I’ll be starting things off with a trip down to the McGuire Center for the start of high school sectionals. Tonight features three of the top ten teams in the state (or if you believe the Journal Sentinel Rankings, which I don’t, four of the top six teams in the state), and the rare chance to see Milwaukee King and Milwaukee Washington square off without jumping through the usual hoops to gain clearance to see a City Conference game. My night will close out with me cursing myself for not going to bed as I return home to take in the Wisconsin-Michigan State game that my DVR is nice enough to be recording for me tonight. That assumes, of course, that I can avoid hearing a Badger score amongst an arena of a couple thousand basketball fans, which is always a shaky proposition. Either way, it is readily apparent to me that March is almost here!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thank You, Tom

If you’ve not read them yet, check out Tom Izzo’s comments on the Big Ten Network. I think people are making his thoughts out to be more severe than they really are. But it’s still nice to hear an acknowledgment from someone of importance that the Big Ten Network may bear some fault for its inability to find its way into most homes in the Big Ten’s most important markets. I already liked Izzo a lot before (which makes me something of an oddball amongst Wisconsin fans), and this does nothing to hurt my opinion of him. Maybe that's not the best thing to admit the day before the big Wisconsin-Michigan State game.

Izzo's comments also serve as a good reminder that there are only 16 more days until the Big Ten Network shows its last basketball game of the season and ceases to be relevant for the next 5 months. I’m thinking of holding a ceremony that day where I have friends over to watch me remove it from my on-screen channel guide.

Back tomorrow with more significant thoughts, as my eyes seem to be back on track now....

Friday, February 22, 2008

I Swear, I Will Be Back At Some Point

A pro-basketball player hopes that he never injures his foot. And a major league pitcher hopes to never injure his arm. The guy that watches lots and lots of basketball? He hopes to never injure his eyes. Unfortunately, my absence over this past week has been caused by a scratched cornea. It's sort of a triple-whammy--I can't see well enough to drive to games, it hurts my eyes to watch televised basketball for any significant amount of time, and I can't type up thoughts on basketball because my computer screen is even more annoying than the TV. On the bright side, vast amounts of free time combined with my inability to read or watch television has resulted in my re-introduction to sports radio, and the cleanest closets that my home has ever seen.

Hopefully I'll be healed and back in action sometime next week. In the meantime, I'm going to get the heck away from the death rays coming at me from this computer screen. Enjoy your weekend of basketball. I'll probably be getting acquainted with Matt Lepay, Steve "The Homer" True and Bill Johnson on Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wisconsin vs. Indiana: The Ultimate Insult

To say that my last two nights have been fun would be an understatement. On Monday, I sat at the MECCA and watched a UWM team that back in December I was just hoping wouldn't finish last in the Horizon League take the number 10 team in the country to overtime by hitting a semi-ridiculous three-pointer at the end of regulation. Then last night, I saw an even more exciting game on TV, where Wisconsin banked in a three-pointer to beat Indiana after a long, hard-fought game. The way things are going, I’m going to be disappointed if the game I’m going to tonight doesn’t end with someone drop-kicking in a shot from half-court at the buzzer. Thoughts on Wisconsin-Indiana below:

1) I can't really imagine what it feels like to be an Indiana fan right now. My best guess is that it must feel like the exact opposite of the euphoria that I felt watching Wisconsin hit their final shot, but multiplied by about 20. The day starts off with the news that your program's likely going to face sanctions next year, your current coach probably isn’t going to last through the week (not to mention that your athletic director is also now on shaky ground), your team gets screwed when referees miss an obvious travel by your opponent in the final minute of your game, and to top it off, a pale, goofy-looking 7-foot guy hits a bank shot to steal a win from you at home. Has a fan base ever had a more upsetting day? And has there ever been a fan base that deserved this less? I mean, at least half of Indiana’s fans were upset when Kelvin Sampson was hired, since they knew he was trouble.

2) Though it was nice to see Jason Bohannon and Michael Flowers hitting their three-point attempts, there are few things that scare me more than watching Wisconsin depending heavily on the three-point shot. There are some teams that are built to be able to routinely score the bulk of their points from long range (Duke often falls into this category), but as Bo Ryan alluded to in his interview while leaving the floor at halftime, layups are more Wisconsin's style. So while it's nice to know that Wisconsin can hang in a game where they don't score a two-point field goal until ten and a half minutes, I don't exactly find myself hoping that they'll be forced to play like that again.

3) I've not seen a performance as dominant as D.J. White in the first four minutes of last night’s game since Charles Jefferson took the field for the 1982 Ridgemont High football team.

4) There are few things more pathetic to watch in a division one basketball than Brian Butch taking DeAndre Thomas off the dribble.

5) Over the last five games or so, Brian Butch's legs have officially been replaced by Marcus Landry's goggles as the thing most likely to get slightly dinged up and cause a stoppage in the game. I'm not sure how the durability of Landry's spectacles had dipped so quickly, but lately it seems that every time he hits the deck he comes up looking for someone to fix a problem with his glasses.

6) Memo to Eric Gordon’s dad: If you’re wearing a jersey at a basketball game (one of the few places that it’s at all acceptable as a fan to wear a sports jersey), nine times out of ten it’s a good idea to wear the jersey of the team that you’re supporting. You know, they might even make one with your son’s number…

7) It would appear that Kyle Taber is Indiana's version of Joe Krabbenhoft, in that he's a guy that looks utterly unwilling to shoot the ball 90% of the time that it comes to him.

8) Speaking of Krabbenhoft, it seems that a not-so-clever trend is beginning whereby announcers attempt name him to their all-something team. Against Purdue, it was the all-tough guy team, since he's tough. Last night, Shon Morris put Krabbenhoft on his all-duct tape team, because like duct tape, Krabbenhoft can do everything (thanks for letting us know that you can hem pants with duct tape, Shon). I like that Krabbenhoft is getting the recognition that he deserves for doing the little things, but I wish there was a less cheesy way of that happening. I blame Dick Vitale for his all-Marco Polo (I can't remember if that referred to transfers or foreigners, or perhaps just guys good at playing Marco Polo) teams of the early 1990s.

9) Nice to see the Big Ten Network up its ratio of actual advertisements to promos for the Big Ten Network and Conference last night. I'd venture to guess that with two top-15 teams on the floor, nearly 40% of the space filled during gaps in the game went to actual advertisers, a much higher percentage than usual. What's that the Big Ten Network was saying about cable companies being able to make up the cost of the Big Ten Network from local advertising revenue?

10) It’s pretty obvious that Eric Gordon is a tremendous talent, and I want to be totally clear that I’d take him on my favorite team in a second. That said, down the stretch I felt like he was trying too hard. There were times that Indiana came down the floor and you could just see that Gordon wanted to take the big shot. It wasn’t in that “Michael Jordan is great because he takes the big shots” way, though. It was more like he figured he was the best option (which to be fair, he usually was), so he was just going to get whatever shot he could, rather than giving someone else a chance at a better look at the basket.

11) Looked like freshman Tim Jarmusz was in street clothes last night. Not a major issue if he's not available this year, but nonetheless, let's hope his lack of uniform indicates just a minor injury or illness.

12) The Brian Butch three to win it? Yeah, that made me sick to my stomach for half a second. The thing that’s so unique about Butch is that while he has an unbelievable touch with his shot, he’s also not the most accurate guy in the world. Consequently, you typically know the moment a ball comes off his hand whether it’s going to bounce around on the rim for awhile and have a chance, or if it’s going to go three feet to the left of the hoop and entirely miss the apparatus. Butch’s winning shot appeared to be the latter. But for once in his life, his inaccuracy was a benefit, bailing him out, and giving Indiana its final insult of the day.

Yep, that was a classic. The Big Ten may not be a great conference this year (they both played well last night, but I still contend that Wisconsin and Indiana are both over-ranked), but even so, it’s still fun to see Wisconsin chalking up wins. As for Indiana, I only hope they can pull through the larger mess. Their fans and their players don’t deserve any of what they’re about to start dealing with.

Back tomorrow (hopefully) with some thoughts on yet another game. Can you tell that this has been an excellent week for me?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Links and Stuff

I’m feeling remarkably lazy (I’ve also been terrible about responding to emails, and hope to start doing so again by the end of the week), but it’s still been too long since I’ve updated the blog. So today I’m going for an all links and resources entry. Check out the useful and entertaining things below:

1) March is coming up, and that can only mean one thing–our nation’s employees will be trying to covertly keep track of basketball scores when they should be working. CBS is again offering March Madness On Demand for free, and pumping games directly into your office while you should be going over those expense reports. Seriously though, this is one of the greatest things out there. Sign up for the VIP pass ahead of time and reduce your wait time to access games. This isn't one of those things that someone bugged me to tell you about--it's just a good thing that's out there for you to use.

2) I’m a little late in getting this up, but you know that mock NCAA tournament selection done last week? A great exercise, and Josh Centor, Coordinator of Media Relations for the NCAA wrote about it as it was going on. It's fascinating stuff, and a great look inside the process. Check out day one and day two here.

3) For some unknown reason, I’ve never added a permanent link to it off to the side (I need to fix that one of these days), but I absolutely love the blog of former Marquette star and current Marquette radio color commentator Jim McIlvaine. Obviously the man knows his basketball, but he loves to talk about all of the inane stuff surrounding the games that really make things interesting. He just seems like the kind of guy you’d enjoy having a beer with. If you’re looking for a good place to start reading, I’ll suggest his December 5,2007 entry following the murder of NFL player Sean Taylor, in which McIlvaine remains entertaining and makes some very interesting points about being a pro athlete.

4) From the “I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried” file, former UNLV and Homestead High School star Kaspars Kambala, when faced with a 14-month by FIBA for testing positive for cocaine, decided to give up hoops and become a boxer. When I see stories like this about a guy who went to high school in the area right around the same time as me, I can’t help but recognize that my life is intensely boring. That also might not be a bad thing.

5) The McDonald’s All-American game is in Milwaukee this year, and I may or may not make it down to the game. But what I will definitely make it to is the accompanying Powerade Jam Fest two days before, where the high schoolers will engage in shooting and dunk competitions. Tickets are available here, and they’re a much better value than the game itself. Later this week or next, I’ll explain why the Jam Fest is much more worthwhile than the actual game, but for now, just rest assured that it is.

6) WIAA seedings for the boys’ basketball tournament are out, and in case you care to break them down, here are the brackets. Eventually, I’ll get around to pointing out interesting things that I see, but again, I’m being lazy today, so for the time being, just look for your own interesting storylines:

Division 1
Division 2
Division 3
Division 4

That’s all for today. I’m heading down to see UWM take on Butler tonight (it’s on ESPNU if you can’t make it) as the Panthers attempt to take back a little bit of pride from the state of Indiana after what Notre Dame and Purdue did to Marquette and Wisconsin, respectively, this weekend. A UWM win would be a nice jump start heading into the Wisconsin-Indiana game tomorrow night...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Inadvertent Game of the Night

I’ve been a bit relaxed about writing up games lately, having seen 4-5 contests in the past few weeks that I just never got around to recapping. No excuses here–sometimes it’s just more fun to relax and watch a game without looking for all of the subtle entertaining things. It did pain me, however, to skip over talking about Wednesday night’s announcers for the Wisconsin-Iowa game. The call of “Landy stuff’s the popcorn popper!” on an early Marcus Landry dunk was one of the most inexplicable things I’ve ever heard. What does that even mean? I own a popcorn popper, and have never stuffed it full of anything. Anyway, enough about my laziness and the Big Ten announcers stopping just short of exclaiming “Boom goes the dynamite!” On to last night’s basketball viewing.

Yesterday I was all excited to see the Washington State-UCLA game. Kevin Love, Tony Bennett, a shot for the Cougars to break out of their recent losing ways against the toughest team in the league–this one had everything. So when I got home from an appointment around 8:45ish last night, I thought I’d kill some time before the big game by watching the Illinois-Indiana game until the 9:30 tip out west. So much for that plan. I’ve told anyone that would listen that I think Indiana’s somewhat over-rated (name a signature win that the Hoosiers can hang their hats on this year), and that Illinois’ record boggles my mind (the few times I’ve seen them, this has not looked like a team that’s 2-9 in the Big Ten), but even I didn’t expect a double-overtime thriller. So I never saw Washington State-UCLA (well, I flipped on the end when it was nearly over). You simply can’t switch away from a game that’s that close down the stretch, particularly when the Eric Gordon situation caused a tension in Assembly Hall that made it seem like an all-out brawl could break out at any moment.

Three quick thoughts on the game before I talk about how borderline-implausible this one seemed down the stretch:

1) Maybe the call of the night was when one of the announcers, I believe Rece Davis, was talking about Indiana guard Armon Bassett guarding Illinois’ Chester Frazier on the perimeter and noting “Bassett is just hounding him defensively.” What made this comment great is that Davis didn’t even seem aware of the incredible pun that he had just touched on, which either makes this one of the best inadvertent comments of all time, or makes Rece Davis incredibly cool for slipping something in and letting it fall so far under the radar.

2) I commented after the Illinois-Duke game at the beginning of the year that after seeing Chester Frazier’s death stare at Kyle Singler that he’s one guy I’d never want to get into any sort of disagreement with. He upped his badass factor with me last night after they showed him throwing his shoulder into Illinois’ mortal enemy, Eric Gordon, during what was supposed to be their halfcourt handshake during introductions. Was this an unsportsmanlike move? Without a doubt. But the thing that was interesting about watching Frazier make the bump is that most guys doing such a thing wouldn’t even look remotely tough. Rather, they’d look like a pathetic cheap shot artist who you could just smack down when you went toe to toe with him. But Frazier’s not a bully just trying to get his one shot in before things get crazy–you know he’s tough, and a pre-game bump from him is actually intimidating.

3) It actually physically pained me watching Shaun Pruitt big shooting foul shots down the stretch. I’d seen him shoot before, and it’s never pretty, but after he went 0-6, I just felt bad for the guy. Jay Bilas commented during that 6th shot that Pruitt looked to be guiding the ball and getting away from his mechanics. As Bilas would probably concede, however, Pruitt’s normal mechanics are akin to those in a 1985 Yugo, so not much was lost there. Still, you never want to see a guy totally lose confidence like that, and you could just see on Pruitt’s face as they went to the second overtime that he felt like he had lost the game for them (and he undoubtedly would have if the refs had called the obvious foul that he committed on D.J. White during White’s desparation 3/4 court shot at the buzzer).

4) What stuck me most about this game, as it went into double overtime, is how much of the action teetered just on the edge of implausibility, as if a skilled writer had scripted things. Fortunately, things didn’t become totally implausible, as an injured Chester Frazier didn’t toss in a game-winning three pointer with Eric Gordon in his face at the buzzer, but consider the following amusing elements in the game:

–On one play, the Illini lost arguably two of their three most important players when Brian Randle fouled out and Chester Frazier turned his ankle. When does something so devastating ever happen? Had Shaun Pruitt fallen to the floor with appendicitis during the play, I would have called shenanigans.

–Despite looking like he was unable to walk, let along guard anyone, Frazier came back into the game a few minutes after turning his ankle and actually gave his team a few good minutes before the pain became too much.

–Illinois freshman Demetri McCamey had a career night, pumping in 31 points, and outscoring that other freshman that went to Indiana instead.

–The hated Eric Gordon’s two most positive plays down the stretch (other than foul shots) were both basically errors: his banked in three pointer with a hand in his face from about 25-feet out and his assist that came by mis-dribbling and essentially kicking the ball to teammate Jordan Crawford. So even when he screws up, he still burns Illinois fans. Heck, even his inexcusable 10-second violation in the second overtime when he walked the ball up the court too slowly didn’t cost Indiana, due to the Illini committing a turnover on the next play (though to his credit, Gordon was instrumental I creating the turnover).

–With the fallen Frazier out of the game, Illinois inserted Jeff Jordan, walk-on guard and son of the best player in the world, who promptly grabbed two rebounds and hit the first field goal of overtime.

So basically, had you scripted this one, it couldn’t have come out much better. I suppose that Illinois could have won, but sometimes the bad guys need to win in order to keep things interesting. And I suppose having a villainous Indiana team in the mix for the conference championship with a fresh-faced Purdue team, and my Wisconsin Badgers keeps things interesting for me.

Back next week with some thoughts on what’s sure to be a huge basketball weekend. Aside from Wisconsin hosting Purdue (battle of the Big Ten frontrunners) and Marquette heading to Notre Dame (historical rivals, lots of recent bad blood), I may have an extra event up my sleeve tonight. Should be fun...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Marquette vs. Louisville: I Left Work Early for This?

Going to 6pm Marquette games is a pain. I have to leave work early to get to them, traffic on the way to them stinks because of rush hour, and because everyone is on the exact same timetable as me, getting into a reasonably priced parking garage downtown takes massive patience (which is why I ended up in an unreasonably priced parking garage last night). But when there’s a game like Marquette vs. Louisville going on, you just have to suck it up and go. When you’ve got two programs that always seem to give you an entertaining game and two coaches that appear to hate one another, it doesn’t get much better than that. Things weren’t as entertaining as anticipated last night, but I still would have been nervous about missing a classic game if I hadn’t made the effort to get to the Bradley Center. A few thoughts below:

1) During introductions last night it was clear that Louisville was all business. No running onto the floor–everyone just huddled up while the announcer ticked off the names.

2) I may have mentioned it before, but Marquette player introductions are totally anticlimactic, since there’s usually only one spot in the lineup that’s up for grabs, and they always announce that guy first. Last night it was Dwight Burke. Apparently Ousmane Barro didn’t put out enough in the last game to take the spot back. (I kid here, but I’m actually done for the year with slamming Tom Crean for his ever-changing rotation of big men. Who do you go with when you legitimately have no idea what any of your guys are going to give you on a given night?)

3) Dominic James missed his first start ever last night because he apparently had a pretty nasty flu. From everything I’ve heard, his flu was completely legit, and very severe, but with the way he’s been playing of late, it frankly wouldn’t have been all that confusing to see him sitting down due to contracting poor-play-itis. It was particularly unnerving last night to see him fire up a three-pointer where he drifted about 2 feet to his right after he jumped to take the shot. Watching him dominate the ball like he often does was no treat either. When James is good, he’s really good, but when he’s bad, he’s completely detrimental to the flow of his team’s offense. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a guy who’s so extreme both ways.

4) It’s tough to watch a Louisville game at the Bradley Center because after seeing Louisville guard Jerry Smith play so many high school games around here, it’s sort of tough for me to turn off my cheering reflex with regard to him. I caught myself twice pumping my fist after big shots of his last night. I’m thankful that I was out of town for last year’s game, because I’m pretty sure I would have totally lost it and gotten my ass kicked after he hit his game-winning three-pointer.

5) While it was great to see David Padgett get into early foul trouble, and Derrick Caracter get into even quicker foul trouble, the fact that Louisville has four good big men to Marquette’s zero somewhat mitigated my excitement about this circumstance.

6) The gigantic t-shirt cannon which the Marquette cheerleaders have taken to using during timeouts this year was particularly amusing last night. In the past, it has shown the power to get t-shirts to the upper deck of the arena. But last night, its power fell just short, and numerous t-shirts bounced off the lighted ring separating the two levels of the arena. It almost felt like the t-shirt gun was taunting the people in the upper deck.

7) I think it’s only been a few weeks since they’ve been using them for anything, but in the couple of times that I’ve heard them introduced this year, the Marquette dance team has not been using the name “Intensity” as they had in the past. What happened there? I’m speculating that an official from the school caught them doing a really half-assed practice session and stripped them of the name until they could live up to it.

8) Highlight of the game had to be when super-fan Richard Smith was named, along with his wife, as season ticket holder of the game. Smith is better known as the guy who’s always wearing a suit during weekday games, and who loves to jump up and down when “Jump Around” gets played on the arena sound system. Last night he did some jumping at halfcourt, before leading the student section in some jumping, while a montage of him during past games was played on the scoreboard. Smith’s enthusiasm is infectious, and you can’t help but love him, proving that sometimes being nerdy can be totally cool.

9) Edgar Sosa had a 14-point first half last night, and my friend Dez and I were talking about how Sosa’s a guy that can get really hot, but also had the potential to completely disappear at any point. With Sosa having just four points in the second half, I’m glad to report that occasionally Dez and I are right about something.

10) Seventy-five percent of the time, I feel like the people sitting around me are either idiots, or are taking things way too seriously (conversely, people in front of me and whoever I’m sitting with probably think that I’m an idiot who doesn’t take anything seriously). But the guys behind me last night were great. They knew their basketball and knew when to just give up and laugh at something. It was re-affirming to sit in front of someone who was intelligent, and wasn’t looking to jump off a building after a hard loss. Frankly, I wasn’t sure anyone like that existed anymore. So guys in the row behind me, I salute you!

11) Finally we have a shooting contest winner. Last night a student won the Camping World contest. No, he didn’t sink the halfcourt shot and win a camper (which I still maintain would be maybe the greatest prize, other than the deed to a bar, that you could give to a college student), but he did knock down the three-pointer for a semester of free tuition. The guy next to me leaned over and noted “How happy do you think his dad is right now?” Meanwhile, I’d been thinking that the student in question basically just won the prize of getting to make the greatest call home from college ever. “Hey mom and dad–this spring’s on me.” So that was nice to see. Marquette’s time-out shooting contests sure have come a long way from a couple years back when one needed to make two of three shots from halfcourt for the tuition prize. Making the prize winnable makes things so much more exciting.

12) I’ve got a lot of problems with the announcer at Marquette games. He generally sounds like he’s announcing a pro-wrestling event, and his propensity to note Marquette obtaining possession of the ball by screaming “The rock belongs to Marquette!!!” has never sat well last with me. But last night I think I decided that my biggest pet peeve is the manner in which he calls out assists by using just the first name of the player who dished out the assist. When Marice Acker gives a particularly sweet feed to Ousmane Barro, I don’t want to hear “Barro for two, from Maurice!” Maybe I’m just becoming a grumpy old man, but I don’t want to hear calls that make it sound like the PA announcer is buddies with the team. It is possible to act excited about the home team without being completely over the top.

13) Rough defensive night for Marquette, as Louisville got lots of easy layups and dunks last night. Not to mention that I’d be scared to see the number of deflections (maybe the most important stat that Tom Crean pays attention to) that the MU staff charted last night. I’ll speculate that I think Jerel McNeal may have had more deflections by himself in a previous game than the entire team had last night.

As I left the arena following the particularly hard-to-swallow defeat, I found myself wondering what has happened to Marquette. I still stand by my assertion that at the start of conference season they were playing some of the best basketball that I’d ever seen. At that point, I’d have put them up against the 2003 Final Four team without hesitation (despite the 2003 team having far more talent). Yet here we are now, with the Golden Eagles getting off to slow starts, giving up easy baskets, and generally looking like a completely different team. Who knows where we go from here, but one thing’s for certain–there’s not much that’s going to come easy when you’re playing a Big East schedule, so if the Golden Eagles are going to get back on track, they’d better do it soon.

Back tomorrow with an array of random thoughts that have been swimming around my head for a bit.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Five Things I Learned Tonight

1) D.J. White will have plenty of money to build a trophy case for his Big Ten Player of the Year award when he signs his NBA contract this summer.

2) My old roommate Nick is a remarkably awesome guy (thanks for the ticket!).

3) Wisconsin has a pretty good shot at winning the Big Ten. (I should shut up--this is exactly how I jinxed Marquette).

4) Yes, Erin Andrews does look that good in person (and certainly does nothing to downplay that fact).

5) The drive from Madison to Milwaukee doubles when you're doing it in a snowstorm, but still isn't that bad on a good night.

Okay, I actually already knew most of those, but it was a good night. Time to get some sleep. Enjoy the weekend!

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