Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marquette vs. Chicago State: The Perils of Satellite TV

Early season Marquette games are a bit more difficult for me to see this year, due to the fact that I’m no longer a season ticket holder. It’s tougher to talk someone into going to see the Golden Eagles play Chicago State when it’s just a random mid-week game, and not an obligation that you and your friends signed up for when you bought season tickets. And as I’ve documented almost an annoying amount, my DirecTV enabled home does not have access to Time Warner Sports, which shows Marquette’s early season games. So there’s no way for me to watch bad Marquette non-conference games from the comfort of my own home.

As luck would have it, though, my gym does have Time Warner, and has an abundance of TVs. So last night I reverted to a trick that I picked up last year–heading to the gym for the second half to watch the game. It’s not the whole game, but hey, I’d die if I ran for two hours, so the second half will do just fine. After all, it was my first real opportunity to get a look at Marquette this year, so even if the circumstances were unpleasant, I was going to check out the game. And people wonder why I’m thinking about heading back to Time Warner...

Last night’s second-half-only notes below:

1) Last night Milwaukee got maybe a quarter inch of snow, which promptly froze to the ground and caused havoc with traffic. For some reason, people who drive the entire winter in snow always seem to forget how icy roads work, and thus, the first day of even the most miniscule amount of snow is hell to drive through. This is one of the times when I don’t mind not having season tickets. If I had tickets, last night would have resulted in a slow, nerve-racking drive downtown as I struggled to get to my seats in time for tip-off. I know this, because radio host Steve "Homer" True started his drive downtown right around when I leave work, and last night started from a location only blocks away from my office. True struggled to get downtown in time for the game (he eventually made it, though he missed a good chunk of the pre-game show) and based on his phone call back to his show during the drive, he took the same route as I would have. I, on the other hand, listened to Homer’s ordeal as I made a stress-free trip home.

2) Apparently the roads didn't just keep the radio host away last night, as the stands looked shockingly sparsely populated last night, even for an early-season Marquette non-conference game.

3) I've never liked the look of those long tights that a handful NBA players started wearing a couple of years ago under their game shorts to keep their legs warm. That said, I didn't mind seeing them on Dominic James last night. Yes, basically everyone who wears tights while playing basketball looks like an idiot. But James cramps up more than any human being alive, and seeing as they've tried everything else by this point, I'm totally on board with the Marquette training staff having him wear long pants in an attempt to help out his leg muscles.

4) There are different types of teams that you'll see major conference teams play when they're just trying to rack up victories and build chemistry during the early non-conference schedule. There are teams that constantly toss up three-pointers and make the score look closer than it should logically be, given the talent gap between them and their host (much like the old haphazardly thrown together Marathon Oil and Athletes in Actions teams of the past). There are good mid-major teams that aren't known to the general public, but play well enough together to give the major conference team a bit of a challenge (Marquette lost to one in the Blue & Gold Classic a year or two ago, and received far too much grief for it). And then there is the ultra-fun, fast paced team that might not be great, but puts on a really exciting show. That's would be Chicago State. I'm not going to go so far as to say that the Cougars are good, but they are definitely entertaining to watch, and nearly completed some insane plays last night.

5) I didn't totally catch who the TV announcers were saying this about, but I think it was David Holston that they noted was high school buddies with another player (John Cantrell, I believe) and came to Chicago State as a walk-on largely just because he knew someone there. Four years later, he's about to become Chicago State's all-time leading scorer at the division one level. Pretty amazing story if it's true (whoever it was about).

6) I've heard in the past that Chicago State lacked the resources to field a decent basketball team, and that's why they were so bad in the earlier part to the decade (I want to say it was the 2001 Cougar squad that was the worst division one basketball team that I’ve ever seen, but I may have the year wrong). I can believe that excuse, since in looking for the Chicago State athletics website to check out a player profile or two, I found the main Chicago State site to look like one of those screens that you get when you type in a mis-spelled address and find someone trying to sell a domain name.

7) It might have just been because Chicago State wasn't particularly big, but Lazar Hayward did a nice job of filling the role of the big guy that Dominic James drops passes in the lane to after penetrating. On nights when he's not pretending to be Marquette's big man, Hayward's also got the skills to step outside. After seeing his improvement last year, and his success in the first few games this year, I have to think that there's a good chance Hayward's improved

8) I was sort of surprised when I got home and looked up Chicago State in the Blue Ribbon Yearbook and learned that Chicago State’s John Cantrell is only 6'2". He looked a lot bigger on TV. I’m attributing this to two things. First, you’re going to look bigger when the opposing team only has one player over 6'8". Second, Cantrell nearly completed the most insane reverse alley-oop dunk that I’ve ever seen, a move that you wouldn’t expect a 6'2" guy to even attempt.

9) It’s more comfortable in a lot of ways to watch a Marquette game than a Wisconsin game right now. I know who all the players are, the same guards that were starting four years ago are still there, and while the new coach throws a wrinkle into things, I generally know what these guys are capable of. With Wisconsin, I’m looking to see if the new starting center can replace the old guy’s big numbers. With Marquette, I’m just looking to see if the fifth guard on the depth chart has healthy shoulders yet.

10) I was a bit disappointed that Chicago State's Pawel Kielbasa didn't get more time, simply because any broadcast is made more fun when the announcers need to talk about a guy named "Kielbasa."

11) Opting to only watch the second half made me miss Wesley Matthews’ 17-point first half explosion. He was fine in the second half, but so far I’ve missed out on three halves of my favorite MU player apparently scoring at will.

12) While it’s nice that Marquette scored 106 points, the most that they’ve scored in quite awhile, it does have to be cause for concern that they gave up 87 points. Although if Buzz Williams is planning on going up-tempo this year, he could pick a worse group of talent to do it with.

All in all, I guess it was worth going to see the Golden Eagles on TV, even if I added to my ever-growing pile of laundry. Tonight should be a bit more pleasant, as I return to the comfort of my own living room to watch ESPN unofficially start the college basketball season with North Carolina vs. Kentucky, and enjoy Wisconsin vanquishing another hapless non-conference opponent. Thoughts to follow tomorrow...


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