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Super, Scintillating and Sarcastic

College basketball commentary that won't make your ears bleed.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thursday's Picks


Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce The Picks. Every weekday, Monday-Thursday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I'll also be occasionally picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.


Last night: An apparently banged up Sean Singletary still almost carried UVA to a cover at Maryland (-7). If I had known he was hurt, I would've picked the Terps and would've won but it would've had nothing to do with Singletary. I was that close to looking unjustly intelligent. Damn. The Dragonslayer That Is Now Again Cincinnati won the Huggy Bowl at WVU (-14) last night... by 23. 60-39. Seriously, that was the score. I've been saying this for years now, but West Virginia plays much better when they go to the strip club before a game. Well, you live and you learn. And A & M (-3), despite previously appearing to be a bad team, destroyed Texas last night as Josh Carter remembered how to shoot. They will now enjoy another week of being overrated. Good for them.

Boston College at North Carolina (-19)- Two huge lines for Duke and UNC tonight, the way it should be when they play almost ANY other team in the ACC. The road team has actually won three of the last four in this series but no one is confusing this sorry-ass BC team with those of the last couple years. The Eagles actually won at Maryland this year which is (suddenly) kinda impressive and they do have some decent inside defenders to stop Hansbrough a bit, but besides Tyrese Rice, I'm not really sure BC has the shotmakers to take advantage of UNC's porous defense and I certainly don't see them slowing down UNC enough to not get destroyed.
The Pick: North Carolina

Craig's Pick- Last time UNC was a 19 point favorite at home against an ACC team in which games had been tight in the past, they lost outright. I’m not too familiar with this BC team, other than that they are not that good. Still, I think 19 is doable.
The Pick: BC

Providence at Notre Dame (-8.5)- Notre Dame has been a weird team this year - in the Big East?! No way!; swear to God. They are 4-2 in conference but have played just one game decided by single digits. Providence is equally as confusing, a staple of the Clusterfuck That Is The Big East, having somehow killed UConn in Storrs but looking awful against any other team of significance. So even though Notre Dame is a great home team and Providence has no chance of being able to guard the Irish, I'm still bracing myself for something unexpected.
The Pick: Notre Dame

Craig's Pick- Providence has no chance of winning this game.
The Pick: Notre Dame

NC State at Duke (-18)- I'm not going to act like NC State doesn't suck a lot, but they do actually match-up pretty well with Duke. The Pack's big weakness is at point guard and the last time I checked Greg Paulus wasn't Gary Payton. Their "strength" is the front line and no matter how good a defensive team Duke is, they still don't have the size to match up with Hickson and others. Plus NC State's bigs are athletic enough to not get killed against Duke's quicker forwards. NC State also has a strong three-point defense and if the Dukies can't get the ball inside, they will surely hoist from all angles. NC State WILL NOT WIN THIS GAME, but they can cover 18.
The Pick: NC State

Craig's Pick- There is no way in hell NC State should be losing by 20 points to most teams in the country with the frontcourt they have. Duke doesn’t even come close to covering this spread – put some real money on this, I am (Ed Note: Since it involves betting on NC State on the road, I am not).
The Pick: NC State

Indiana at Wisconsin (-4)- With the other three games looking like blowouts, this is the one I'm interested in. Both teams had long winning streaks snapped Saturday and both teams are probably ranked higher than they should be (then again, who isn't?). The Badgers have the bodies to keep DJ White from getting too much and I think Michael Flowers and Trevon Hughes can do a decent enough job on Eric Gordon. If neither of those two go off, you are in pretty good shape against Indiana. As a matter of fact, short of Gordon or White getting 30+, I don't see how the Hoosiers can win this game, which probably means this one is too obvious and my mind will be caught in some kind of torturous spiral of logic.
The Pick: Wisconsin

Craig's Pick-Pretty big game in the Big Ten. This is a very tough line because I think it will be a one or two possession game, but I don’t think Indiana will win. The crowd will be up for this game big time.
The Pick: Wisconsin

Last night's record: 2-1
Overall record: 15-14-3

ACC: 2-3
Big 12: 2-3-2
Big East: 4-2-1
Big Ten: 3-1
SEC: 2-2
Missouri Valley: 1-0
West Coast: 1-1
Big West: 0-1
CAA: 0-1

Craig's record: 7-8-2

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bloggers Can Vote Too!: Blogpoll Jan. 29

The outstanding March to Madness, the Susan B. Anthony of bloggers, has gathered the finest minds on these here Interwebs for a weekly top 25 college hoops poll. The votes consider games played on or before Monday, January 28. My entry and the consensus poll after the jump.
Continue...

Super, Scintillating and Sarcastic Top 25- Jan. 29
1) Memphis (11)
2) Kansas (4)
3) Duke
4) North Carolina
5) UCLA
6) Michigan St.
7) Georgetown
8) Tennessee
9) Washington St.
10) Butler
11) Texas
12) Stanford
13) Drake
14) Xavier
15) Indiana
16) Wisconsin
17) Marquette
18) Florida
19) USC
20) Arizona
21) Pittsburgh
22) Mississippi State
23) Connecticut
24) Vanderbilt
25) Ole Miss

Consensus Blogpoll Top 25- Jan. 29
1) Memphis
2) Kansas
3) Duke
4) North Carolina
5) UCLA
6) Tennessee
7) Georgetown
8) Washington St.
9) Michigan St.
10) Texas
11) Indiana
12) Butler
13) Wisconsin
14) Drake
15) Xavier
16) Stanford
17) Marquette
18) Arizona
19) Ole Miss
20) Florida
21) Pittsburgh
22) Kansas State
23) Vanderbilt
24) USC
25) UConn

This Blogpoll consists of: NCAA Hoops Today, March To Madness, SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad and The Dirty, March Madness All Season, Rush the Court, Plissken at the Buzzer, A Sea of Blue, Storming the Floor, Vegas Watch, Super Scintillating and Sarcastic, College Hoops Journal, Longhorn Road Trip, Gopher Nation, Bryce's Brackets, Making the Dance and George Mason Basketball.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wednesday's Picks


Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce The Picks. Every weekday, Monday-Thursday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I'll also be occasionally picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.


Last Night: The CAA battle between VCU and Mason (-3.5) I was all excited about lived up to expectations in energy, but I was wrong on the pick with the Colonials winning by 12. I've seen a lot of VCU and Mason the past few years and the last 12 minutes or so of the second half was about as bad as VCU (especially Maynor) can play. Not to take anything away from Mason, they looked like a Tournament team last night, but the Rams just looked complacent. No movement on offense, no penetration and, sadly, no Paulus-esque ankle breaks. Ohio State (-7.5) beat Penn State pretty handily even though no one in the entire world cared (except maybe these guys). I'll take the win and move along quietly. Tennessee (-4) v. Alabama was another entertaining game (the second half dunk by the six-foot-one Senario Hillman was one of the sicker of the year... alas, not a TeaBag though), albeit a sloppy one. The Vols were playing recklessly (23 turnovers), jacking up threes and hoping for a make or an offensive rebound (both of which they often received) and the Tide had around 65 turnovers (OK, 20). But the barrage of three-point missiles from Chris Lofton (five) and The Smith Named JaJuan (four) earned the Vols a seven-point win.

Craig got them all correct last night. Good for him (cringe). We are both right at .500 for the year, the perfect level of mediocrity for this glorious season of hoops.

Virginia at Maryland (-7)- A ton of good games tonight (KSU-KU, Nova-Pitt, Creighton-The Drake, Vandy-Ole Miss) and we get this one. Great. This line is a bit high for two teams this craptastic. Yes, Maryland has a win at UNC but less than a month before it lost at home to American. The Terps also happen to be 5-10 ATS this season so I'm not necessarily buying into this whole Terp resurgence thing. Their strength is the athletic forwards Gist and Osby and Vazquez' ability in the open floor, right? Well what are Virginia's strengths? Their athletic forwards Diane and Joseph and Sean Singletary's ability in the open court. It's going to be a high scoring, fast-paced game and given the similarities between the two teams, it will probably come down to shotmaking and turnovers. Both teams turnover the shit out of the ball (or is it "turn the shit over the ball? They both suck is what I'm trying to say) but Virginia is a much better outside shooting team. See how easy these picks are when you break it down scientifically?! (I'm doomed).
The Pick: Virginia

Craig's Pick- Good night last night (Ed. Note: Yeah no shit). Anyways, on to tonight. While I don’t think Maryland’s ATS record is relevant due to their apparent ‘resurgence’ (Ed. Note: yeah, you're probably right), I do think everything else JTom mentioned above makes sense (including the doomed comment).
The Pick: Virginia

Cincinnati at West Virginia (-14)- How quickly the tide has turned for The Dragonslayer That Was Cincinnati. The team that vanquished Louisville, Syracuse, Villanova and Pitt is now coming off two tough losses to Seton Hall and Connecticut and is a massive underdog in the Huggy Bowl (although not a very volatile Huggy Bowl in Morgantown - the Mountaineers don't travel to the Nati this year - but that doesn't mean you won't hear some visiting DUI jeers... followed quickly by a drunken, toothless brawl). I was pretty shocked by this line, enough to check on the Bearcats for injury. Apparently John Williamson is hobbled, but will probably play. And the Cats are 11-2 ATS in their last 13. Obviously they have to come back to Earth at some point but I don't see why I should suddenly believe they will get blown out, even if WVU is a very good home team. Plus, the Mountaineers probably won't have the opportunity to infiltrate any strip clubs before the game, and we know how much a lap dance from Rusty calms their nerves.
The Pick: Cincinnati

Craig's Pick- West Virginia puts it in cruise control halfway through the second half and Cincinnati pulls out the backdoor cover.
The Pick: Cincinnati

Texas at Texas A & M (-3)- The home team has won the last eight meetings between these teams, including last year's OT win by Texas where Kevin Durant stole the hearts of millions. So that is the sole reason why a completely fraudulent Aggies team is favored over a seemingly legitimate Texas team. A & M's best win is a home victory over Alabama. Texas has won at UCLA. This should be a freaking no-brainer but the home dominance in the series and Texas' recent sluggishness (a loss to Mizzou and two ugly two-point wins before eviscerating Texas Tech Saturday) has me thinking twice. I can't take three road teams two nights in a row, I'll go with the Aggies even though they suck ass. They have a, uh, size advantage or something. Yeah, that's it.
The Pick: Texas A & M

Craig's Pick- Let’s give this three road underdogs in one night a try. Two home picks for tonight though – Depaul and Pitt.
The Pick: Texas

Last night's record: 2-1
Overall record: 13-13-3

ACC: 2-2
Big 12: 1-3-2
Big East: 3-2-1
Big Ten: 3-1
SEC: 2-2
Missouri Valley: 1-0
West Coast: 1-1
Big West: 0-1
CAA: 0-1

Craig's record: 6-6-2

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The Teams That Shouldn't Quit Playing This Season


I've talked a lot about the parity/mediocrity (depending how you look at it) of this college hoops season and how the majority of the top 25 is wallowing in inconsistency. But there actually are good teams this season, teams that are not only rising above the level of mediocrity across the country, but compare favorably to some of the best teams in recent years. And while there's still a lot of basketball to be played, it's pretty obvious which teams fit that bill.

The excellent Grant Wahl at Sports Illustrated already did his "Magic 8" thing, picking the eight teams he feels can win a title (with a great critique from Rush the Court). He boasts that the national title winner has come out of that group all but once (2003) since 2000, but with eight teams, I'm not all that impressed. Instead, I'm going to lay out a formula that I have long equated with NCAA success and see which teams fit that mold. This is all based on who is best equipped to win six NCAA Tournament games in row. Nothing else.

And it's not really going to get into all the advanced stats stuff, because there are enough places to go for that (what I do use will be from KenPom.com; Ken Pomeroy is absolutely indispensable to the college hoops community, I don't know what I'd do without him).

First, for reference, here are the past seven winners
2007- Florida
2006- Florida
2005- North Carolina
2004- Connecticut
2003- Syracuse
2002- Maryland
2001- Duke

And, based on those champs, here are the ingredients for a title winner:
Capable, Go-to Perimeter Scorer: Corey Brewer, Rashad McCants, Ben Gordon, Carmelo Anthony, Juan Dixon, Jason Williams. Obviously, having one of these guys is very crucial. To win a title, a team needs someone who can take the ball at the end of the shot clock (and game clock), or just in the halfcourt setting in general, and get a basket when needed. This is also a player who can carry a team through an offensive slump use penetration to rack up fouls on opponents (and presumably make foul shots). As you can see, it doesn't necessarily have to be a guard, but a player that can shoot from the outside and use that jump shot to set up the drive.

Capable, Go-to Post Player: Al Horford, Sean May, Emeka Okafor, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Wilcox, Carlos Boozer. This one's pretty important too. If you have a post player that commands double teams, it does so much to open up the rest of the offense. And when your perimeter scorer inevitably hits a cold streak or goes up against a stifling defender, scoring needs to come from other places. One of the best ways to get knocked out of an NCAA tournament is a prolonged scoreless streak. Over the course of a season you can survive such droughts, but not in a single game setting on the second or third weekend of March Madness. So you need a variety of ways to score. This guy can also rack up fouls (and again, make the foul shots), and more importantly, do so against the opponents' rim protector. As important as making foul shots are in the NCAAs, taking them is more important because it means you are the aggressor and that you are getting an opponent out of their regular rotation.

Spot Up Three-Point Shooters: Lee Humphrey, McCants, Rashad Anderson, Gerry McNamara, Drew Nicholas, Mike Dunleavy. Most teams will have more than one three-point specialist but you get the idea. Obviously if you have a post player and perimeter scorer taking most of your shots, they are going to get a lot of attention. And with double teams comes open threes. I'm not going to go all crazy on how the three pointer has changed college basketball, everyone knows that already. But in a tournament setting it's so important to keep opposing defenses honest, especially if they play a zone. Knocking down open shots means more freedom for your go to guys and limits double teams. It's pretty simple stuff but very important. We saw how big Humphrey was in the Final Four last year and how abysmal shooting did in UCLA.

Ability to Change Tempo: The reason your draw is so important in the NCAA Tournament is because every team has a distinct style and thus, opposing styles that give it problems. Obviously you want to avoid those styles, but being able to handle whatever is thrown at you, especially in a setting where you generally face an unfamiliar opponent, is crucial. Florida played up tempo with Oregon and Ohio State last year, and slowed it down against UCLA. They could execute in the halfcourt and push when necessary. Generally this ability is obtained through a solid, facilitating, surehanded point guard. Doesn't have to be someone spectacular but a guy that knows how to run an offense, knows when to slow down or speed up and, most importantly, doesn't turn the ball over. Guys like Taurean Green and Steve Blake were great examples.

Shut Down Defenders: Generally referring to a perimeter guy who can lock down the opponent's best guard (Corey Brewer, Jackie Manuel, Ben Gordon, Josh Pace, Byron Mouton, Shane Battier) and a shot blocker that protects the rim (Noah/Horford, May/J. Williams/M. Williams, Okafor et al., Hakim Warrick, Wilcox, Battier/Boozer). You can survive with a mix and match of interior and perimeter defenders, but it's important to have game-changers on that end. Team defense is important, but the tournament magnifies individual match-ups, because in the NCAA setting, one mismatch can cost a team the game.

* * *

There are other factors that are important but from a personnel standpoint, this is what I've noticed. I'm not reinventing the wheel here or anything but certainly these are patterns worth noting. So, after jump, the teams that can win a national championship this year, based on these findings.
Continue...

Kansas
Why?: Pretty obvious. They are really freaking good. But most important is their ability to play different tempos. We've seen them run a team like Oklahoma off the court and we've seen them grind out a win against Arizona. They are 89th in possessions per game, which is right around the 75 percent mark for the country. The efficiency is what matters and they are 3rd in overall efficiency and in effective FG%. They have the perimeter scorers (Chalmers, Robinson, Rush, Collins), the post players (Arthur, Jackson, even Kaun) and the shooters (all of their guards). Chalmers and Robinson are two of the better on ball defenders in the country and Arthur and Kaun are developing shot blockers. They are third in block percentage and first in steal percentage. In the country. That is nuts.

Why Not?: The first thing I can think of is who takes the shot in a close game? They have a number of capable perimeter scorers but who is the guy who is option No. 1? I personally think Rush will be that guy come March, but as of now it's uncertain. They are in a fortunate position where it'll be probably just be whoever is hot that game and if there happens to be more than one player who fits that description, the other team is screwed. The one stat that sticks out to me is free throw rate. Are the scorers mature enough to not only score often, but get to the line often as well? And can they make them if the get there? The Jayhawks are only shooting 65.5 percent from the line this year and have just one 75 percent shooter (Rush).

Watch Out For: A deliberate team with a good post player that plays a good zone defense. Kansas thrives off turnovers, penetration and contesting shots in the paint. Also, goblins. Gotta watch out for them.

UCLA
Why?: Kevin Love is an almost perfect NCAA Tournament big man with his only flaw being his poor shot-blocking. But his efficient shooting (including the occasional three), his ability to pass out of the double-team, his ability to get to the line and make free throws and, most importantly, his one-man rebounding show (fourth in offensive and defensive rebounding rate) make him ideal for this setting. And unlike Greg Oden and Roy Hibbert last year, Love is rarely in foul trouble (he's never had more than three in a game). Josh Shipp has turned into a very effective wing scorer and we've all seen what Russell Westbrook can do one-on-one. Collison is almost the ideal, careful-with-the-ball, tempo-controlling facilitator at the point and can also lock down defensively, heading a first-rate perimeter defensive unit. As for tempo, they prefer a slow game but we have seen them play fast with Oregon and actually speed it up to disrupt Washington State. The Bruins don't have the pace versatility (made-up term) of Kansas but are better at imposing their own pace on an opponent.

Why Not?: They don't force a lot of turnovers and they don't protect the rim. The team defense is about as good as you'll ever see, but if my theory about needing individual defenders in the tournament holds true, it could cause problems. Right now they don't have very reliable three-point shooters besides Shipp so the emergence of a healthy Michael Roll and increased role for Nikola Dragovic could be a key factor.

Watch Out For: A team that forces jump shots and can defend Love one-on-one. They won't survive long if they rely on their guards to hit contested jumpers. Also a dominant post scorer would mean a constant double team, disrupting the Bruins team defense. We saw what skilled big men can do to UCLA the past two years in the tournament. And bears, as well... they'll get ya.

NOTE: In my mind, these two are head and shoulders above everyone else. I'd give both 5-1 odds or better at this point to win it all. But there are a few others that caught my eye.

North Carolina
Why?: Hansbrough is right up there with Love as an ideal tournament big man because he is efficient, rebounds very well (although not nearly as well as Love) and gets to the line like crazy (and makes them). But the reason he will be more effective this year than the past, is Wayne Ellington. He's emerged as a very good perimeter scorer, one that opponents have to pay extra attention to, rather than the previous philosophy of "Stop Hansbrough and Hope No One Else Gets Frisky." Throw in a big leap this year from Danny Green and the Heels can simply turn to whoever has the hot hand when they need scoring from the wing. Lawson, if he plays consistently, is a great tournament guard because he runs UNC's secondary break perfectly, doesn't need shots to be effective and can be a lockdown defender at times. And in a pinch, he can score even though he sometimes tries to score even when they aren't in a pinch. Offensively they are an absolute machine; high tempo, high efficiency. They shoot threes less than almost every team in the country, but when they are running their offense at its peak, it's impossible for opponents to force jumpers, even if they play a zone. They have also won a couple games at a slightly slower pace than usual, beating Davidson, Ohio State and BYU without scoring 80 points. I've got to think that efficiency can translate over different tempos.

Why Not?: Well, for the same reasons Grant Wahl didn't have him in his Magic 8. Defense. The UNC perimeter defenders are average, except for when Lawson occasionally steps up. Danny Green has shown flashes, but as a whole the team gets beat off the dribble too much and has no one, save an occasionally spry Deon Thompson, to protect the rim. When you rely on offense to win games, you are at the mercy of a cold shooting streak, an unavoidable formality of basketball that is known for derailing tournament runs. There are no cold streaks on defense. And while turnovers can lead to an opponent's offense, not forcing turnovers and missed shots can lead to a stagnant offense, especially one that thrives on speed like UNC. That being said, they are on this list because they have the personnel to be a decent defensive team. Lawson is insanely quick, Ellington and Green are great athletes with long arms, Hansbrough doesn't have the physical gifts but is tough enough to guard bigger players. I'd like to think that if it comes down to it and this team realizes they need to step up defensively to win a title, they will.

Watch Out For: A good rebounding team that can also play a zone to occasionally slow the game down. Not sure if any of these teams exist, however (2006 George Mason and 2007 Georgetown?). Also a team with athletic bigs to slow down Psycho T. From what I remember, and by looking at his gamelog, the best jobs containing him was done by Kentucky (Patrick Patterson), Clemson (Trevor Booker and James Mays) and Maryland (how could we forget James Gist?). If you can cover him one-on-one, you can stay closer to Lawson/Ellington/Green who will kill you if you give them any space. And if I were them I'd be wary of hobos as well. They are always unpredictable.

Louisville
Why?: They are almost a poor man's Kansas. Good depth, quick guards, good defense. Like the Jayhawks, they also have a number of capable ballhandlers and don't turn it over too much. Defensively, they don't have any standout, lockdown defenders (maybe Williams) but they have a ton of quick, athletic players at every position that can get into passing lanes and block shots. Unlike Kansas, they have a number of good three-point shooters; Terrence Williams, Jerry Smith, Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee can all knock down open shots. Speaking of Sosa, as we saw last March against Texas A & M, he is capable of being a go-to scorer that can get into the lane and to the foul line at will. For some reason, we haven't seen any of that this season. But we have to hold out hope.

Why Not?: Again, there is hope that Derrick Caracter will be a legitimate low-post threat, but who knows. That's the problem with this team. Is its inconsistency a product of the injuries or can these guys just not get it together as a unit? Good things happen when Padgett gets the ball in the post, but he's not someone to be double-teamed. And who the hell knows which Earl Clark will show up. At this point, I'm also not sure they can win a fast-paced game. The one game they played against a true up-tempo team, Seton Hall, they looked pretty bad. This is a team worth revisiting at the end of February but they make the list on incredible potential.

Watch Our For: Probably just themselves. That's not to say they are unbeatable when playing their best, but there isn't really one specific thing that could single-handedly beat Louisville. Obviously a fast-paced, efficient offensive team could be a potential nightmare but they could also get beaten by a plodding team that has a hot shooting night. Also lupus. You don't want that.

* * *

And that folks, is it. Yes, just four teams fit my criteria. This will probably freak some people out, so let me briefly mention why some other notables didn't make it.

Memphis- Shooting. I don't see them shooting well enough, especially given the zone defenses that will inevitably be thrown at them, to win six straight games. And the atrocious foul shooting is going to come back and bite them. Also, can they get interior scoring that doesn't come from offensive rebounds? I'd put good money on them making the Final Four, but can they beat an elite team - in a close game - with just defense and penetration?

Duke- In a year where nothing seems to be conventional, I strongly considered putting an unconventional, but extremely good, Blue Devil team on there. They have embraced the Phoenix Suns style about as well as a college team could hope for (and still playing solid defense in the process), but as we saw against Pitt, a team that controls the glass will control Duke. That was the blueprint and while there aren't a lot of teams in the ACC that will be able to duplicate that, there are certainly teams better than Pitt out there that will.

Indiana- Gordon and White are about as perfect for the outside-inside, go-to scorer tandem as you could ever want. Throw in the high free throw rate, the great rebounding and the ability to play at different speeds and I was all set to have the Hoosiers on here too. But the one thing that stuck out was turnovers. They don't force them and they commit too many of them. In fact, they don't really have a true point guard, and that's going to be their tragic flaw in March. Having Gordon and White is nice, but you need someone who can get them the ball in positions to score when the opponent is locking down.

Georgetown- Good post scorer, very good defenders, good outside shooting. But when Roy Hibbert inevitably gets into foul trouble, they don't have Jeff Green to pick up the scoring anymore. And worse, they are going to get killed on the glass, their most glaring weakness.

Arizona- Intriguing pick because of the scoring options of Bayless, Budinger and Hill. All can carry a team for a period of time, all offer different ways of scoring. Throw in a defensive game-changer like Nic Wise and a great defensive coach like Kevin O'Neill and there is definite potential. The problem is, even with Wise, O'Neill, a good shot blocker in Hill and a solid defender in Jawann McClellan, they don't play very good defense. And worse even, they don't have any kind of depth to stop the bleeding when the defense goes bad. Arizona's postseason fate probably can't be determined at this point.

Stanford- I think Brook Lopez has that "takeover an entire tournament" ability, like Horford and Noah did the last two seasons. He can control the rim and the glass on both ends... IF, he stays out of foul trouble. And nothing Brook Lopez has done this year has proven to me that he can do that. While Stanford has better size than most teams in the country, I don't see its guards creating enough on either end to win six in a row. This team seems like a lock to be derailed by some eight-minute drought without a field goal or like a 3-20 game from three.

So that's what I got. The four teams I think can win a title at this point in the season. I will probably revisit this in late February to see where everyone stands and then once the field is set, use the same criteria to pick the potential winners. But for now, this is an experiment in prognostication. In early April we can look back and see if everyone else really should have just quit.

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Tuesday's Picks


Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce The Picks. Every weekday, Monday-Thursday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I'll also be occasionally picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.


Last Night: I gave back all the momentum from last week. Louisville-UConn turned out to be a great game indeed, even though both teams looked a bit sluggish on one day of rest. I said the game would be in the hands of AJ Price and I was right. He decided to play out of his mind unfortunately, but the Cardinals managed to push. That's three pushes in the past week by the way. It's safe to say Vegas is considerably smarter than I and most of the folks out there probably don't have a formal education. The Bedlam Series was close as it always is, and yet I thought Oklahoma would cover eight points. Blake Griffin was a manbeast but he was also the figurehead of a poor foul shooting night for the Sooners that forced the margin of victory to three instead of, say, nine. And, as if I shouldn't have known this before, I now realize I should ALWAYS take 11.5 points in a Big West game I am forced to bet on for the sake of a blog gimmick. It's something we should all take time to learn, really. Cal Poly went to Pacific and beat them outright by six, winning ATS by 17.5. Please no more Big West ESPN, please.

Ohio State (-7.5) at Penn State- Yuck. This game may win Biggest Discrepancy In Excitement Between A Football and Basketball Match-Up. Thankfully that CAA battle is on the Deuce to distract you from the rock bottom level of basketball that will be played in State College this evening. The Lions have been unable to score any points since Geary Claxton's injury and were led in scoring last game by some man named Stanley Pringle. He took 17 shots and well, I'm just not going to make the obvious "once you pop, you can't stop" joke. I'm better than that. Barely. Ohio State responded to a three-game losing streak by beating other scoring-anemic teams, Illinois and Minnesota, albeit at home. This pick might look obvious by you're forgetting the Buckeyes are pretty terrible themselves (they have won nine straight vs. PSU but only covered three times). So tread lightly, but whatever you do, DO NOT watch this game.
The Pick: Ohio State

Craig's Pick- Just a note to start – two of my pushes would be wins if we went by the final line (Ed. note: Who gives a shit?). My heart is torn on this game being a PSU grad and all. While Penn State has been absolutely dismal since Claxton’s injury, Ohio State hasn’t been tearing it up, and in their visit to PSU last year they were lucky to escape with a win (PSU sharpshooter Mike Walker missed a WIDE OPEN 3 at the buzzer for the win (Ed. note: Mike Walker is not, in fact, a sharpshooter, he is awful). I’ll take a PSU loss in this game in exchange for a win in the football recruiting battle for Tyrelle Pryor.
The Pick: Ohio State

VCU at George Mason (-3.5)- Ah, I've been waiting for some CAA goodness on the WWL. This is a massive game for both teams. If VCU wins, they have a pretty solid at-large resume and basically clinch the regular season conference title. Mason, after a nice start in the non-conference, shat it all away with losses to East Carolina, Georgia State and, gasp, my Delaware Ravenous Sharks Fightin' Blue Hens. This is Mason's only shot at VCU and if it gets this and a win in the BracketBusters, could work their way back into NCAA consideration (it is the Year of Mediocrity, after all). Despite the high stakes usually accompanying this game, it hasn't been decided by less than six points in the last seven meetings. VCU is an outstanding defensive team but its lone weakness is on the glass, where Mason thrives. But the Rams have been great on the road lately, Maynor and crew should get it done in what should finally be a close game between the two.
The Pick: VCU

Craig's Pick- Not sure what has been going on with George Mason. On paper you would think that they should be tearing up the CAA this year. Eric Maynor captured my heart last year when he ripped the entire city of Durham’s heart out last year. I like Mason at home.
The Pick: George Mason

Tennessee (-4) at Alabama- Uh oh. That's two road picks already. Let's try to make a case for Alabama in this one. Amazingly, the Tide had won seven straight against the Vols before last year's OT loss in Knoxville. And... um... they have a good crowd?... Shit. Alright, Alabama has lost four of its last five games overall and three of its last four at home and the line is only low because Bama has owned Tennessee lately. This is a considerably better Tennessee team than in recent years (except last year I guess) and a pretty mediocre Alabama team. I don't see how Tennessee doesn't score 90 on this defense and Bama's inexperienced ballhandlers could be in for a long night. Three road picks it is. Shit.
The Pick: Tennessee

Craig's Pick- Tennessee F’d us against Kentucky, but Alabama is and never will be Kentucky.
The Pick: Tennessee

Last night's record: 0-2-1
Overall record: 11-12-3

ACC: 2-2
Big 12: 1-3-2
Big East: 3-2-1
Big Ten: 2-1
SEC: 1-2
Missouri Valley: 1-0
West Coast: 1-1
Big West: 0-1

Craig's record: 3-6-2

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Big East Blogpoll: January 28

The one-stop Big East shop, Big East Basketball Report has gathered hoops bloggers from across the tubes for a weekly Big East Power Poll. The consensus poll, with 23 entries this week, along with the league player and freshman of the week is linked here. It includes games on or before Sunday January 27.

Here is my entry.
1) Georgetown
2) Louisville
3) Notre Dame
4) West Virginia
5) Connecticut
6) Pittsburgh
7) Marquette
8) Seton Hall
9) DePaul
10) Cincinnati
11) Villanova
12) Syracuse
13) Rutgers
14) Providence
15) South Florida
16) St. John's

Player of the Week: Brian Laing, Seton Hall
Freshman of the Week: Corey Chandler, Rutgers

This Blogpoll Consists of: Big East Basketball Report Blog, I95 Ballerz.com, Troy Nunes is a Magician, Marquette Basketball Cracked Sidewalks, Card Chronicle, CuseAdelphia, The Big EZ Show, Black & Green ND Basketball Blog, HoyaSaxa.com, HoyaHoops.com, CourtVisions College Hoops Blog, March Madness All Season Blog, Black Padres, Villanova by the Numbers, The Bracket Blog @ Bracketography, RAC 'Em Up, East Coast Bias, PittBlather.com, Big East Country, Super, Scintillating & Sarcastic, Bryce's Brackets and Observations and two other contributors.

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The Week In Chaos: January 28


Introducing a new, recurring post here on SSS, The Week In Chaos. Following suit with the completely inane craziness that was the college football season, the year in college hoops has been a complete mess, with the turning point being the week before last, in which 15 of the AP top 25 lost (thankfully, when this happens to hoops, our season actually ends in excitement). I thought it might just be an anomaly, that better basketball was on the horizon, that parity didn't necessarily have to mean mediocrity. I was wrong. Seriously, there are about 20 teams that actually deserve one of the 34 at-large bids that will be given out and only about five teams with a legitimate shot of winning the title without receiving some kind of divine intervention. Barring some Cinderella runs, there are only two non-BCS leagues, the A-10 and West Coast, guaranteed to get multiple bids. It goes on and on.

While this weekend wasn't as bad, it still continued the disturbing trend in what I am now calling The Year Of Mediocrity, which I will now chronicle every Monday, not out of want, but out of necessity. Who else will tell the story of our hoops apocalypse?

Here's the rundown of the past week...

AP Top 25 teams going undefeated- 13
AP Top 25 teams going winless- 5. Vanderbilt, Dayton, Ole Miss, Villanova, Arizona State.

Most Ridiculous Displays of Mediocrity- Pitt, a team that has beaten Duke and destroyed Georgetown, got crushed by Rutgers at home. Rutgers, which beat two top 20 teams last week (Villanova), has lost to St. Peter's, which is, in fact, a real team; they are 4-16 overall, 1-9 in the powerhouse that is the MAAC and are called the Peacocks. They were taken to Red Lobster after the victory.

Elsewhere, Dayton, a team that devastated the aforementioned beacons of mediocrity Pitt and also won at Louisville, got manhandled by the Richmond Spiders. Richmond has lost to Maryland-Baltimore County (America East), Norfolk State (MEAC, 8-9), Marist (MAAC, no longer have Jared Jordan, that white guy everyone liked so much) and LaSalle (A-10, 7-11) this year. Dayton went from a potential No. 4 seed to squarely on the NCAA Bubble as they have now lost three straight and are below .500 in conference. They don't have freshman Chris Wright and Charles Little, two solid contributors, but seriously, you just can't give up 80 points to Richmond, (289th in possessions per game, 219th in offensive efficiency, never learned how to dribble).

Most Embarrassing Realization of Mediocrity- Vanderbilt, a team that was among the last of the unbeatens, a team that should have been in the Elite Eight last year and by all accounts improved, now sucks. Case in point, after 12 minutes of yesterday's "game" against Florida, a team that hasn't even hit puberty yet, the Dores were down 34-6 and lost by 22. Andrew Ogilvy has been doing his best Luc Longley lately, failing to reach his average in four straight games. After going 16-0, they are 2-3 in conference and are set up perfectly for one of those How In the Hell Did Vandy Get Into the Sweet 16 Again?-type performances.

Most Refreshing Exhibition of Expected Dominance- Kansas massacred Nebraska... again. The Jayhawks led by 29 at half and won by 35. You know, like they were supposed to. This appears to be the best team in the country, despite being coached by Bill Self, who has a clause in his contract to always underachieve come tournament time.

Most Refreshing Exhibition of Expected Dominance (Non Kansas/Memphis Division)- This could be filed under "Unexpected" but it's a top 10 preseason team that is finally healthy: Louisville. They have won six of seven and by simply crushing South Florida and St. John's, teams they were supposed to crush, have taken the Clusterfuck That Is The Big East by storm. That's all it takes. But seriously, doesn't this team remind you of Georgetown last year? Took about half a season to get healthy and in gear and the superior talent begins to shine through. Somehow they aren't ranked in either poll this week, but it appears Final Four aspirations aren't insane given the fews teams in the country that actually have a cohesive unit of good players and are well coached. (Now watch as they are destroyed by UConn tonight).

Most Unexpected Victory That Probably Should've Been Expected Anyway- THE DRAKE!!! Got to loooovvvvveeeeeThe Drake. And even though they were supposed to beat Northern Iowa at home Saturday and barely did, the simple fact that an overachieving team can actually sustain its level of success for a full week, is pretty darn impressive. If The Drake had been crushed by Northern Iowa no one would've blinked, especially after Tuesday's overtime victory at Creighton. In the Year Of Mediocrity, merely avoiding an upset counts as a huge step forward. This team, which was picked ninth in the preseason Valley poll, is now 9-0 in conference and probably a lock for an at-large even if they falter in the league tourney. Creighton gets another shot at The Drake Wednesday, and I think all The Drake needs to do to remain above Mediocrity is not get blown out. Yes it's that bad.

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Monday's Picks


Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce The Picks. Every weekday, Monday-Thursday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I'll also be occasionally picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.


Last Week: Closed it out on my first 3-0 night of the year Thursday when Duke, Michigan State and Seton Hall all rolled on its respective opponents, getting me back to .500 for the week. More importantly, Craig, my picking opponent, went 1-2, which means he was locked in the basement for the weekend.

Louisville at UConn (-2)- This is a match-up of two teams to really keep an eye on in The Clusterfuck That Is The Big East. If either can ride its recent, world-crushing 2+ game winning streaks - a level of consistency completely unheard of, and likely frowned upon in the Big East this season - to continued success, a whole lot of ground can be made up in the crowded standings and NCAA pecking order. The Huskies looked pretty damn good against Indiana but I wonder, with only one day of rest, if a letdown game is looming. The Cardinals, on the other hand, exerted very little energy is easily dispatching league doormat St. John's, the only team with no chance at winning the conference. This game will be in the steady, stolen laptop-wielding hands of AJ Price. If he can handle Louisville's pressure and keep the tempo where UConn wants it, the Huskies will be fine. But if it gets too fast-paced, Thabeet and Adrien are rendered useless. Should be a great game nonetheless, something ESPN is not accustomed to lately.
The Pick: Louisville

Craig's Pick- Really looking forward to this game, oh wait, I’ll be working. Anyways, I’ve been bullish on UCONN all year ever since their game against Memphis in the Garden. Price has turned into a heck of a player. UCONN will get every conceivable foul call in this game at home, and I look for them to win in ugly fashion.
The Pick: UCONN

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (-8)- The home team has won five of the last six in the Bedlam series but never by more than eight points. It's pretty obvious that Oklahoma is a much better team with freshman Blake Griffin healthy, judging by the tough win it got at Baylor Saturday. Meanwhile Oklahoma State, who does suck, has lost four straight, but all in respectable fashion. The question is, does the rivalry keep this game close or does the high intensity fluster the Cowboys into missing shots, turning the ball over and sending ghoulish coach Sean Sutton on a killing spree. I vote killing spree.
The Pick: Oklahoma

Craig's Pick- Ok State has to be deflated after its past couple home losses. While they should be able to get up for this rivalry game, I think they’ll get down double digits sometime early in the second half and never be able to recover.
The Pick: Oklahoma

Cal Poly at Pacific (-11.5)- Good for ESPN to start embracing some mid-major conferences besides the one involving Gonzaga. Unfortunately they decided to embrace some pretty shitty teams. Pacific is a usual Big West power but have no shot at an at-large as per usual. They have lost to Pepperdine and the ragingly conservative, offensively inept St. Louis Billikens. I'm not going to pretend to know anything about Cal Poly, but it appears they have no players averaging in double-figures, and it's not because they have balanced scoring. It's because they cannot make any shots that they attempt (41 percent from field, 29 from three). Pacific, if I remember correctly, plays some pretty solid defense so clang away Mustangs.
The Pick: Pacific

Craig's Pick- I refuse to pick three home favorites. Also, in other games tonight I like San Diego and San Francisco, mostly because they seem like cooler cities than the one in which I currently reside. Most successful team to be named strictly after a major city? Houston? This will require some thought and I’m sure the editor will think of a better one, or another one that isn’t good but try to form an argument in favor against me (Ed note: I will, Syracuse, and there is no argument. Also would have accepted Louisville).
The Pick: Cal Poly

Last week's record: 4-4-2
Overall record: 11-10-2

ACC: 2-2
Big 12: 1-2-2
Big East: 3-2
Big Ten: 2-1
SEC: 1-2
Missouri Valley: 1-0
West Coast: 1-1

Craig's record: 2-5-1

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday's Picks

Clearly this young woman didn't have money on the 2003 National Semifinal. Pic via Tar Heel Mania.

Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce The Picks. Every weekday, Monday-Thursday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I'll also be picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.


Last night: Another shitty one. Kansas and Iowa State somehow pushed a 24-point spread because Kansas' walk-ons decided to try and score in the last minute. I'm sure they got a great meal at Outback from their parents afterwards but come on, there's a lot more riding on this game than a Bloomin' Onion fellas. The dream's over. I said yesterday I refused to watch NC State-G Tech and I kept that promise. It was apparently a close game but Matt "The Animal" Causey (18 points), who seems a lot more satisfied with this photo than he should be, somehow proved to be too much for a Wolfpack team that is increasingly underwhelming.

Duke (-8) at Virginia Tech - Everyone knows how close Virginia Tech plays Duke and how the Hokies have defied the universe by actually winning two close games against Duke despite the will of the officials (they also lost one on that Sean Dockery half court shot that seemed to make all those white people so happy). Virginia Tech was a bigger underdog in those three close games than they are now, which is odd, because this is clearly a much better Duke team. So Vegas is playing the whole "this team has this team's number" thing. They did the same thing with the Duke-Florida State game last week and while it was relatively close throughout, the Devils covered a six-point spread. Plus Va Tech freshman Jeff Allen, its second leading scorer and leading rebounder is suspended for beating up an official or something.
The Pick: Duke

Craig's Pick- Embarrassing lineup of games tonight. I’m going to ride the Va. Tech wave with their recent success against Duke. Eight is a lot to cover on the road for a crowd that rises to the occasion for games against Duke.
The Pick: Virginia Tech

Seton Hall at Providence (-8.5) - I really shouldn't pick games in the Clusterfuck That Is The Big East, but I have no choice. Seton Hall, by winning two games in a row, is now taking the league by storm. Providence, on the other hand, has won three in a row which means they are playing under the wing of God. Honestly, I'm not even going to try and break this one down. With two teams like this, in a league that is a complete mess this season, just take the damn points.
The Pick: Seton Hall

Craig's Pick- The Big East is absolutely ridiculous this year (see Rutgers beating Nova last night which made me want to cry – glad I was working till 10 and didn’t get to see the game). (Ed. note: that was awesome.) Providence has come on as of late, which means they are due to crap the bed.
The Pick: Seton Hall

Michigan State at Northwestern (-10) - Man there have been some shitty games on ESPN this season. In the Year of Mediocrity, I suppose that should be expected, but they should know to never, EVER, schedule Northwestern. Here's the thing, the Spartans are much more than 10 points better than Northwestern, but this game is going to be really slow (seriously, DON'T watch this game) and we've seen Michigan State struggle in that style (see: Iowa, 36 freaking points). It will be hard to cover 10 but you have to remember this really isn't a home game for Northwestern because they have no fans.
The Pick: Michigan State

Craig's Pick- I’m assuming you are referring to ESPN scheduling Northwestern, and not Michigan State because you are aware that they both play in the Big Ten (Ed. note: yes, I am, I am not an idiot). Anyways, I have no faith in MSU and its road play.
The Pick: Northwestern

Last night's record: 0-1-1
Overall record: 8-10-2

ACC: 1-2
Big 12: 1-2-2
Big East: 2-2
Big Ten: 1-1
SEC: 1-2
Missouri Valley: 1-0
West Coast: 1-1

Craig's record: 1-3-1

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The TeaBagging Series: James Gist Attacks Tyler Hansbrough

I don't care who you are or who you claim to be, if you like basketball there is no finer play in the game than when one player unleashes savage dunk upon another. There are many ways to describe it: "posterizing," Marv Albert's "serves up a facial," "getting banged on" or, my personal preference, "getting pooped on" (because actually getting pooped upon is the only thing as equally degrading as having someone dunk on you). We shall use Teabagging for the namesake of this series, mainly because the pic below is my favorite TeaBagging of all time and it shall be honored thusly.

That symbolizes all that is right with the world.

But no matter what you call it, there is generally one reaction to watching this happen live. Extreme jubilation, inaudible screeches, not unlike the noise Gus Johnson frequently makes in moments of high intensity, and some kind of involuntary burst of aerobic exultation, similar to how Elaine dances in Seinfeld.

Feel free to link video of any TeaBaggings I might have missed in the comments.

Previously:
Russell Westbrook giving Jamal Boykin a groin sandwich.
Tyler Hansbrough giving Kenny George two Hs (= Gheorghe)
Deron Washington giving Mike Scott the Backwards Box Out

Today:

Tyler Hansbrough is an interesting fellow. He was a high school star but not one that the average fan recognized. He was No. 10 in that class on Rivals, but eight of the nine before him are already in the NBA. It appeared impossible Hansbrough would keep up with his peers once he entered college. He had some size but his success was built on fundamentals and hard work. He would be a four-year starter, but in a bad way.

But Psycho T had other ideas. His freshman season he exploded, taking the country by storm, dropping 40 points in a game, finishing second in the ACC to the painstakingly despised JJ Redick and had the whiteness innocence that made him tough to dislike, except in the leper colony that is Durham. Furthermore, his sophomore season was an improvement and he endeared himself to fans serving as the victim to a vicious cheap shot (the results of which can be seen in this blog's lovely banner) from Gerald Henderson, who might as well have dug up the corpse of Roy Williams' mother and offered it for crowd surfing to the Duke student section. Hansbrough once again had the support of a college hoops nation.

But then something strange happened. He stepped onto the court in 2007 and everyone hated him. I personally don't hate Hansbrough (despite the banner). I wish the media would realize it's obvious how good a player he is, instead of having to tell us every 10 seconds in loud, migraine-inducing, boner-laden exultations, but I think he's a great college player and a likable guy. But in a season where we lack an Adam Morrison-type whiteboy and Duke seems to be pretty tolerable (with the exception of Greg Paulus, who isn't good enough to truly hate), fans across the country want, nay, crave a good, white player - one that looks like the kid from middle school who peed himself, but will still make more money in the NBA than even the yacht-hoarding Dukies - upon which to take out their frustrations.

And so does James Gist.

Yes Gist, a player blessed with all of the insane athletic ability that Hansbrough never had. And yet for four years, James Gist has been a solid, but just above average college player. His impact is essentially reduced to highlight reel dunks and blocks. He had to sit and watch as Hansbrough, one year his junior, excelled based on sheer will and grit - luck, Gist thought. It was Hansbrough and not he that Dick Vitale raved about. Sure he was afraid of Vitale just like he was afraid of every other old, excitable, slimy white man he'd ever encountered - save Gary Williams of course - but that was besides the point. Tyler didn't deserve it. Didn't fans love dunks and blocks? Not foul shots? Worse, it was Hansbrough that fans seemed to lay off. Sure the Duke fans jeered Tyler more than him, but that's because Duke fans are afraid of black people.

But this year, with the sudden hatred laid upon Hansbrough early in the season, Gist breathed anew. Ol' Owl Eyes is finally getting what he deserved and Gist was ready to take over for an improved Terrapin squad. Surely the national eye would turn fondly toward him! But such things were not meant to be. Maryland lost to American and Ohio while UNC went undefeated. Gist wasn't really improving on his junior season while Tyler was the Player of the Year favorite. Then, the unthinkable happened. The advantage Gist had long held over Tyler, one that he cherished so, the ability to unleash savage dunks that shook opponents to their very soul and increased his sperm count threefold, disappeared. Tyler dunked on Kenny George, 7-7 monster, the holy grail of TeaBag objects. He had reached the pinnacle of Gist's world, besting him at a foreign craft that Gist knew so well. This destroyed him. This, my friends, was the final straw.

When that shot caromed off the rim to the weakside and Tyler looked at what he thought was an easy rebound, James Gist saw opportunity. Not the opportunity to be on Sportscenter's top 10; he had much more to offer than that. No, he saw the opportunity to make amends on a life gone awry. He saw an opportunity to escape all that was wrong with being James Gist. He saw an opportunity to shit all over Tyler Hansbrough. And shit he did.

Fly, James. Fly.

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Bloggers Can Vote Too!: Blogpoll Jan. 22

The outstanding March to Madness, the Susan B. Anthony of bloggers, has gathered the finest minds on these here Interwebs for a weekly top 25 college hoops poll. The votes consider games played on or before Monday, January 21. My entry and the consensus poll after the jump. For the record, after the week of carnage that defined this season as The Year of Mediocrity, this blogpoll was a complete mess.
Continue...
Super, Scintillating and Sarcastic Top 25- Jan. 22
1) Memphis (11)
2) Kansas (4)
3) Duke
4) Tennessee
5) North Carolina
6) UCLA
7) Washington St.
8) Indiana
9) Michigan St.
10) Georgetown
11) Butler
12) Wisconsin
13) Texas
14) Drake
15) Dayton
16) Ole Miss
17) Stanford
18) Vanderbilt
19) Villanova
20) Pittsburgh
21) Marquette
22) Arizona State
23) Xavier
24) West Virginia
25) USC

Consensus Blogpoll Top 25- Jan. 22
1) Memphis
2) Kansas
3) Tennessee
4) Duke
5) North Carolina
6) Washington St.
7) UCLA
8) Indiana
9) Michigan St.
10) Georgetown
11) Wisconsin
12) Texas
13) Butler
14) Dayton
15) Ole Miss
16) Vanderbilt
17) Pittsburgh
18) Drake
19) Texas A&M
20) Xavier
21) Marquette
22) Stanford
23) Villanova
24) St. Mary's
25) Arizona State

This Blogpoll consists of: NCAA Hoops Today, March To Madness, SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad and The Dirty, March Madness All Season, A Sea of Blue, Storming the Floor, Vegas Watch, WSU Hoops, Super Scintillating and Sarcastic, College Hoops Journal, Longhorn Road Trip, Gopher Nation, Bryce's Brackets, Making the Dance and George Mason Basketball.

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Tim Parmeter Story Takes Odd Turn


I don't post all that much on here, so when I do get a hold of a story, I feel obligated to follow it through with updates. It's kinda weird because I've found myself following these strange stories, while ignoring others for no good reason. But I suppose that's what blogs are for. Anyway, a couple weeks ago I told you about Gary Parrish's great story on Tim Parmeter, coach of Eastern Arizona junior college. He was using coaching to cope with a horrible family tragedy where his ex-wife killed herself and their son and blamed the whole thing on him. Then I told you about Parrish's update on the story that Paremeter had been fired on allegations he had a relationship with a student. Well, as a reader passed along, the Eastern Arizona Courier has some more details on the investigation into the ordeal and, well, they aren't pretty.

The alleged victim first met Parmeter at the EAC gym and was invited to Parmeter's office along with a friend, according to police reports. Parmeter said he was going to give them a T-shirt.

The friend eventually headed back to the gym, leaving Parmeter and the victim alone in his office.

He kissed the girl on the mouth before she left the office, and that incident quickly escalated into a sexual relationship which was frequent in nature.

The girl, now 18 years old and a full-time student at EAC, was 16 years old when the sexual relationship began.

Parmeter and the girl started meeting several times a week and had sexual intercourse at his house and in his office.

Parmeter has denied the allegations. There were explicit e-mails found that were sent from Parmeter to the girl but he claims she gained access to his e-mail and sent them herself.

Jesus. Obviously the guy must be going through hell after what happened to his family, but if this is true it's completely indefensible. Sad story all around and even though Parrish's original piece was outstanding, it is certainly marred by these events. I guess this means the Lute Olson method of taking time off to deal with your personal issues may be the right strategy. Hope Parmeter gets his life together.

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Wednesday's Picks


Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce The Picks. Every weekday, Monday-Thursday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I'll also be picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.


Last Night: First shutout of the year. In what I am now referring to as the Year of Mediocrity, Wisconsin, a top 15 team, struggled with a 5-13 Michigan team at home. I am pretty convinced there is no in-conference, BCS-league match-up in the country where the spread should be over 15 right now. And to just hammer home the theme of complete and utter lawlessness in college hoops right now, Tennessee, which was playing as well as any team in the damn country coming into last night's game, lost at 7-9 Kentucky by eight. The Cats somehow got the Vols to slow the tempo, even though no one else on Tennessee's incredibly tough schedule could. It's a complete apocalypse of reason in college basketball. And this is all without Vitale!

No picks from Craig today. We all suffer as a result.

Iowa State at Kansas (-24) - Yeah so about that whole not picking a team giving more than 15 points thing? The Jayhawks are obliterating folks lately and are probably the one BCS team most likely to cover a gigantic spread like this. They beat Oklahoma at home last week by 30 and beat Iowa State by 37 at home last season. If you do the math, they should beat the Clones by about 89 this year. But here's the thing. Iowa State isn't terrible. I know, it's blasphemous to say so, but the Cyclones have won nine of their last 11 with wins over a Missouri team Kansas just struggled with, an Oklahoma State team Texas just struggled with and, most importantly, at Purdue. They aren't going to win tonight, but there's precedent for them not to be embarassed. In the Year of Mediocrity, not even Kansas can cover 24. Anywhere. (I just bet against Kansas at home, I'm doomed.)
The Pick: Iowa State

Georgia Tech at North Carolina State (-2.5) - Man, this will be a boring fucking game. Seriously, there is no excuse to watch this game. Actually, the only reason to watch this game is if you need to use it as an excuse.

Chick: Honey, let's go ice skating and afterwards we can meet my parents at a coffee shop and talk for five hours.

You: Um, nah, I can't. Gotta watch the Georgia Tech-North Carolina State game. Mike Patrick's voice is the new preferred method of anger management. After listening to him, it's impossible to hate anything else.

Yeah, so Vegas is obviously scared of the Jackets after that UNC near-win, plus the Pack are 3-10-1 ATS this year. But NC State actually has some solid home wins (Miami, Davidson, gasp, the Dragonslayer That Is Cincinnati) and are 7-2 against G Tech in the last nine meetings. It should be close because both teams' strength is up front, but in The Year Of Mediocrity, I'll take the homecourt.
The Pick: NC State

Last night's record: 0-2
Overall record: 8-9-1

ACC: 1-1
Big 12: 1-2-1
Big East: 2-2
Big Ten: 1-1
SEC: 1-2
Missouri Valley: 1-0
West Coast: 1-1

Craig's record: 1-3-1

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Other Endeavors

In an effort to spread my potent seed of college hoops goodness, the 6th edition of the Freshman 10, my biweekly freshman ranking for College Hoops Net.

This week's ranking, minus elaboration:
1) Eric Gordon, Indiana
2) Michael Beasley, Kansas State
3) Kevin Love, UCLA
4) James Harden, Arizona State
5) Derrick Rose, Memphis
6) Chris Warren, Mississippi
7) Donte Greene, Syracuse
8) Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
9) Nick Calathes, Florida
10) Matt Howard, Butler

For previous editions:
SEC, Pac-10 and Mid-Major Conference Primer plus Regular Ranking (Jan. 8)
Big East and Big Ten Conference Primer
ACC and Big 12 Conference Primer
December 18
December 4
November 20
November 6
Freshmen All Americans
Mid Major Freshmen
Miscellaneous Awards

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The Mountaineers Take Advantage of Civilization, Attend Strip Club


I have to question the validity of a blog called Crooked Straight - On The Rocks (I am not one for oxymoronic silliness), but this is probably too good not to post. The account is from what appears to be some kind of blogging strip club frequenters (because if anyone should be blogging it should be them), claiming that four members of the West Virginia basketball team frequented a strip club the night before the Mountaineers' Saturday game at South Florida.

So the guys are fun, and apparently have money. This was confirmed for me when the cats lined up at the stage and started making it rain on the girls. Not Benjis or Jacksons or anything, but there were certainly laying more money out there than I ever had in college. Either they all have wealthy families or the fine taxpayers of West Virginia, who dole out the cash for these guys' per diem, were instead financing the careers of Brooklyn, Chloe and Sparkle.

Anyone who says college athletes need to be paid is an idiot.

So the party is jumping so much, and these guys are spending so much money, that Rusty jumps on stage for a rare set. Now, she doesn't need to remove clothing. Pants are unbuttoned and ride a little lower, and the top is unbuttoned to let the twins breathe much easier. But she's definitely sexy and knows how to move, and the guys are now in awe. Literally. Jaws hanging.


Oh, there's more. (Note: I'm not sure which is funnier, the players at the strip club or Crooked Straight's distinct prose).

The college kids are pretending they're Pacman Jones. Rusty's grinding on them in their seats. Good times for everyone.

After three songs, Rusty retires back behind the bar, but these guys have a curfew and have to get moving. Now, I don't know if a request or an offer was made, but the arrangement was made for Rusty to give each of these guys a private dance as well, whenever they weren't getting dances from one of the girls. So she's shuttling back and forth to the back for four more songs, grabbing the hand of a different kid each time. End of every song, some 6'6 20-year-old comes stumbling out of the back trying to play it off like he isn't in love.

Trust, Rusty can do the damn thang.


I trust you TJ from Crooked Straight and judging by your pic and personal quote, "I can drink a whole Hennessey fifth ... some call that a problem but I call it a gift," others should as well. Certainly a stripper named "Rusty" is quite appealing, especially to people living in West Virginia. He claims it was Big East All Ugly Team member Jamie Smalligan, along with Wellington Smith, John Flowers and Da'Sean Butler, but it "is not guaranteed info, because I was tipsy and it's a dark-ass club, so no libel suits please." For the record, according to this enterprising blogger, none of the players drank any alcohol as none were 21 and they left early to meet curfew, you know, after the lap dances.

All in all, I'm not sure what the big deal is. I'm sure the boys from West Virginia just wanted to see a stripper with teeth and no incestuous children living inside of her.

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Tuesday's Picks


Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce the Picks. Every weekday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I'll also be picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.


Last night: I said yesterday I wouldn't give a flying fuck about the Syracuse game because the Giants won Sunday and, well, that didn't really work out. Of course, when the referees completely screw your team out of getting an OT road win vs. a top 10 team, effectively ending any hopes of making the NCAAs, well it can be a bit irksome. That's all I'm going to say on it, I could bang out about 3,000 words if I got going, just thank God I picked Cuse ATS. The Texas-Oklahoma State game was a push after an OK St hit a Duhon-esque, meaningless 25-footer with one second left to hit the line (+2) on the number. Such plays are reason alone to never ever ever bet on basketball. If I had bet actual money on the game, I'd be in Mexico right now. And the Zags couldn't cover 19.5 late-night after realizing they were playing San Francisco and just wanted to chill before Saturday's game vs. Memphis. Actually, I'm pretty sure Josh Heyvelt thought he was riding an ostrich through a town made of spaghetti. He had six points and seven boards.

And in my first standoff with my roommate Craig, who will be picking against me all season, we managed to push even though we had the exact opposite picks. As a result, one of our other two roommates will be doing the dishes tonight. It's only fair.

Michigan at Wisconsin (-18) - Wow, that's a huge line for a Wisconsin team that doesn't score too much. On the other hand, Michigan is an atrocious 3-13-1 ATS this season and, get this, 8-22-1 ATS in its last 31. That is nauseating. Everyone knows about Wisconsin's great home record and betting on Michigan on the road is not a great way to go about living life but I look at Wisconsin's 22-point drubbing of even slothier Illinois last week and see a blowout capability they might not have had in past years. This is a tough one but I like the Badgers.
The Pick: Wisconsin

Craig's Pick: Wow that is a lot of points indeed for a typical Wisconsin team. I’m picking Wisconsin for two reasons: I hate Mike Hart more than any player in the history of college football. Way to go 1-7 in bowl games and against OSU in your career Mike, you bum. And second, Wisconsin single handedly led me to victory in my NCAA tourney pool when they made that run to the Final Four that one year as an 8 seed.
The Pick: Wisconsin

Tennessee (-4) at Kentucky - Obviously Kentucky is a better team now than they were losing to Gardner Webb, San Diego and probably the Appalachian State football team or something, but Tennessee is playing incredible basketball right now. The Vols have two tough road wins over the past month, albeit against teams that didn't have their entire season on the line, and that spread is low enough to where I'd only bet on Kentucky if I though they could win outright. I do not. I haven't seen anything from the Wildcat guards to make me think they can handle Tennessee's pressure or any semblance of a fast tempo. Plus, over at KenPom.com, they are 290th in turnover percentage, not a good formula against Pearl's bunch.
The Pick: Tennessee

Craig's Pick: I really like this Tennessee team. Tough environment, but they should be ready to play. Looks like we’re both going with the two favorites tonight. (Ed. note: Pussy)
The Pick: Tennessee

Last night's record: 1-1-1
Overall record: 8-7-1

ACC: 1-1
Big 12: 1-1-1
Big East: 2-2
Big Ten: 1-1
SEC: 1-1
Missouri Valley: 1-0
West Coast: 1-1

Craig's record: 1-1-1

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Big East Blogpoll: January 21

The one-stop Big East shop, Big East Basketball Report has gathered hoops bloggers from across the tubes for a weekly Big East Power Poll. The consensus poll, with 21 entries this week, along with the league player and freshman of the week is linked here. It includes games on or before Sunday January 20.

Here is my entry.
1) Georgetown
2) West Virginia
3) Villanova
4) Pittsburgh
5) Marquette
6) Notre Dame
7) Louisville
8) UConn
9) Cincinnati
10) Providence
11) DePaul
12) Seton Hall
13) Syracuse
14) St. John's
15) South Florida
16) Rutgers

Player of the Week: Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Freshman of the Week: Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall

This Blogpoll Consists of: Big East Basketball Report Blog, Troy Nunes is a Magician, Marquette Basketball Cracked Sidewalks, Card Chronicle, CuseAdelphia, Black & Green ND Basketball Blog, HoyaSaxa.com, HoyaHoops.com, CourtVisions College Hoops Blog, March Madness All Season Blog, Villanova by the Numbers, Let's Go Nova, The Bracket Blog @ Bracketography, PittBlather.com, Big East Country, Super, Scintillating & Sarcastic, Bryce's Brackets and Observations, WV Mountaineer Sports and two other contributors.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

The End Is Near: Everyone Loses


Well this certainly was an interesting weekend. Between a friend's purchase of RockBand, the ensuing four hours of bliss that accompanied said purchase and the Giants euphoric, soul-torturing victory yesterday, I didn't watch too much basketball. I saw my Syracuse squad indulge Villanova in a 40-minute practice against zone defenses (GUARD THE DAMN BASELINE), the end of Maryland's insanely improbable, tears-inducing victory over UNC (boo-hoo Heels fan, you're 18-1) and I seem to remember a bit of that Florida-Kentucky game. But otherwise that's it, and as I look back at the scores, I realize I missed on what turned out to be college hoops Armageddon, with upsets galore, a complete lack of consistency, a horrific display of parity and most importantly, a hell of a lot of excitement. Let's recap, shall we?

- Of the Top 25 teams in the AP poll, the following went undefeated last week: Memphis, Kansas, Duke, Tennessee, Washington State, Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Texas and Villanova. That's 10 out of 25 teams, the supposed "best" in the country. And the Longhorns only game last week was a two-point home win over lowly Colorado.

- North Carolina and UCLA both lost at home to unranked opponents. UNC lost to Maryland, which has lost to Ohio and American this season. UCLA lost to USC, which, despite its talent, has still lost to Mercer.

- The Big East is in complete shambles. Only Nova, Georgetown and Seton Hall went 2-0 last week. Cincinnati and DePaul, both of which have nine losses, are tied for second place in the league at 4-2. The Bearcats have lost to Belmont, Bowling Green and St. John's this season. The Blue Demons started 2-7 with losses to North Carolina A & T (7-9, MEAC, !) and Illinois-Chicago. They are ahead of NINE teams that have six losses or less.

- Looking at the RPI over at Kenpom.com, here are some completely flabbergasting sights. St. Mary's is No. 7. Six-loss Arizona is No. 9. The Drake is No. 14, one behind UCLA. South Alabama is No. 28

- All three ranked A-10 teams lost last week. Xavier got destroyed by Temple. Dayton lost big at home to UMass and Rhode Island lost to St. Louis, a team that scored 20 points in a game and has an oft-naked coach.

- Joe Lunardi's bracketology is a mess. He has NINE Big East teams, yes the same Big East which just had its mediocrity exposed two paragraphs ago, in the tournament. The SEC and A-10 both have four. The SEC, one of the greatest athletic conferences in sports history has the same amount of bids as the A-10, which just had a team score 20 freaking points in a game. Besides the A-10 he has only three non-BCS leagues with two bids and he's assuming Butler doesn't win the Horizon. And Illinois State, the non-Drake team in the Valley, is his 64th team.

Everyone's been talking about parity in college basketball for awhile now, but it's been completely insane this season, with Saturday's pandemonium capping it off. The result is lots of fun for us and not too much for the Selection Committee, which will have its toughest job ever this season. After the top 10 teams, there are about 40 with extremely similar resumes and judging by the early conference play carnage, the league tournaments will probably cloud the situation even further (Cincinnati or DePaul are going to win the Big East, I'm sure of it). Plus, with many of the usual mid-major mainstays (the Valley, CAA, Mountain West and WAC, specifically) having down seasons with their multi-bid chances looking increasingly weaker, the committee is probably going to have about 15 middle-of-the-pack, uninspiring BCS teams to fit into about five tournament spots.

And to think, all of this is going on without the most irrational force in college basketball, Dick Vitale, nowhere to be found, completely unable to audibly express his gibberish-laced surprise. But in a season that makes no sense it makes perfect sense for Vitale to be absent; Satan has had his minions carry out the apocalypse for him.

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The Drake Still Loved, Pope Plays, Parmeter Story Not As Good Feely As Before

There were some interesting developments in a few stories I recently posted on, so let's update.

First, I continue to Loooooveee The Drake as the Bulldogs won the Valley battle of the unbeatens Saturday, topping Illinois State 79-73 at home. The Drake has first place all to themselves now. They won this one without Valley leading score Josh Young again, and were led by Adam Emmenecker, he of the buzzer-beater against Bradley and mid-major poster boy story (former walk-on, white, named Emmenecker). The real test for The Drake comes tomorrow night though, as they travel to Creighton, a team I found to be mighty impressive when it won at Northern Iowa on ESPN last week.

Second, in a sign that the hoops gods are certainly looking down upon this humble, albeit shallow, sports blog, the day I posted the first Drake item (linked above), they actually played The Drake episode of Seinfeld on FOX that night. The Drake, team of destiny.

***
My boy Herb Pope finally played Saturday after being involved in all sorts of craziness. Haven't seen highlights because, you know, he plays for New Mexico State, but he had five points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes, getting off nine shots in the process. In a sign of just how versatile the 6-8 forward's floor game is, he also had four assists and six turnovers [REDACTED]. My obsession with Pope is well-documented and I suppose it has more to do with his flaws than his game, but in all seriousness, it's good to see this kid actually get on the court. There have been many players before him who have been through shit half as bad and screwed up half as much and let it completely derail their careers. Let's hope basketball will phase all the other crap out for Pope. And this weekend, hoops fan will get their first, and maybe only, look at Pope as the Aggies play Utah State Saturday, 6 p.m. on ESPN2. It will also be a battle of the top two teams in the WAC right now, for those of you more interested in that hotly-contested race.

***
And finally, a weird update to Gary Parrish's outstanding story on Eastern Arizona head coach Tim Parmeter, which I posted on last week. Parmeter was coaching through an awful tragedy where his ex-wife committed a murder-suicide with his infant child. Well, he's not coaching anymore and it has nothing to do with grief. Parrish posted an update this morning, writing that Parmeter had been fired after being accused of having a relationship with a student at the junior college and that she might not have been of consenting age when the relationship began. There's an investigation into the case and everyone, including Parmeter, did that thing where they say they want to comment, even though they don't, but they can't because of legal issues. Not sure what to make of this and it's obviously all accusations right now, but if you've read Parrish's original story, this is certainly tough to see.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Monday's Picks

Google Image search "gambling" and "basketball"? You get MJ, a true OG of wagering

Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce the Picks. Every weekday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I'll also be picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.

Last Thursday: Thursday was a very long time ago but for the sake of routine and, more importantly, symmetrical goodness, let's recap. Finished the week with a nice 2-1 night. Tennessee played outstanding for 30 minutes, sucked for five and then finished off Vandy for a 20-point win. Even though they might drop out of the top 25 (at least in the blogpoll) I'm still on the Vandy bandwagon. Like I've been saying, they just can't play against athletic bigs. Patrick Patterson? 23 and 12. The erotically named Wayne Chism? 18 and 18. And Ogilvy only averaging 14 and 5 in those games. Meanwhile, the Vols looked as good as anyone I've seen this year for a large part of that game. Will they make my upcoming list of potential title winners? The excitement is palpable... or something. Louisville crushed Marquette, which I picked even though I knew it sucked. I just wasn't sure about a suddenly healthy Louisville team yet. After losing to Seton Hall Saturday, I'm still not. The Big East is utter pandemonium. Indiana is an utterly confounding team. They played awful against Minnesota but managed a victory. More on them at some point this week.

Also, I'm going to start keeping track of my record within each conference. Why? I don't really know, just gonna do it...

Syracuse at Georgetown (-12)- I am a Giants fan and a Syracuse fan. After the Orange lost to Villanova Saturday, I basically expected a 72 hour period of sports devastation. Surely the Giants would lose to the Packers and the Orange would get crushed by Georgetown. Then the Giants won. As a result I don't give a flying fuck if Syracuse wins this game. The emotional torture of the Giants' game has left me in a gleeful state of sickness and to invest any type of energy in the Syracuse game tomorrow, one that they surely will not win, would be incredibly hazardous. Syracuse has somehow won 7 of the last 8 in this series and with the Hoyas rolling and the Orange looking awful over the weekend, it was a perfect storm for a ridiculous spread. With the exception of Saturday, we have seen the plodding Hoyas struggle to blow teams out. Regardless of what happens, I'm not letting this one get to me. Seriously. Promise. (I'm doomed).
The Pick: Syracuse

Craig's Pick: I can attest to Jtom’s emotional state after the Giants game. After Tynes hit the game winner, he proceeded to tell me he loved me three, maybe four times. I am not a Giants fan I should mention (Ed. note: we're not gay... not that there's anything wrong with that). Back to the game – Syracuse will not score more than 50 points, and Georgetown will score a lot due to Syracuse’s lack of defensive intensity/unwillingness to play man (enter Boeheim is a terrible coach joke here).
The Pick: Georgetown

Texas (-2) at Oklahoma State- While this game last year was one of the best regular season games I've ever seen, propelling Kevin Durant into the majority of my fantasies, I'm not really sure what I'm missing here. Oklahoma State sucks right? I guess Texas wasn't all too impressive in beating Colorado by just two at home Saturday but seriously, Oklahoma State sucks right? The lost to Oral Roberts and North Texas, right? Texas won at UCLA right? I'm pretty scared of games that look this obvious, but... seriously Oklahoma State sucks.
The Pick: Texas

Craig's Pick: ”I'm pretty scared of games that look this obvious, but... seriously Oklahoma State sucks.” This tells me something.
Pick: Oklahoma State

San Francisco at Gonzaga(-19.5)- After watching the Zags dismantle Pepperdine in Malibu last week, it seemed wise to ride them in all these midnight ESPN West Coast games. But this line is pretty high and San Francisco played the Zags to OT last season, keeping most of the past meetings pretty close. Plus they are coached by Eddie Sutton, and I am told that is important and stuff. This is a tough one and while I shouldn't have to advise people to not bet on a West Coast Conference game that involves San Francisco, probably want to stay away from this one.
The Pick: Gonzaga

Craig's Pick: I know absolutely nothing about San Francisco, and I’d be very surprised if you did either.
Pick: San Francisco.

Last week's record: 7-6
Overall record: 7-6

ACC: 1-1
Big 12: 1-1
Big East: 1-2
Big Ten: 1-1
SEC: 1-1
Missouri Valley: 1-0
West Coast: 1-0

Craig's record: 0-0

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The TeaBagging Series: Deron Washington Sits Atop Mike Scott



I don't care who you are or who you claim to be, if you like basketball there is no finer play in the game than when one player unleashes savage dunk upon another. There are many ways to describe it: "posterizing," Marv Albert's "serves up a facial," "getting banged on" or, my personal preference, "getting pooped on" (because actually getting pooped upon is the only thing as equally degrading as having someone dunk on you). We shall use Teabagging for the namesake of this series, mainly because the pic below is my favorite TeaBagging of all time and it shall be honored thusly.

That symbolizes all that is right with the world.

But no matter what you call it, there is generally one reaction to watching this happen live. Extreme jubilation, inaudible screeches, not unlike the noise Gus Johnson frequently makes in moments of high intensity, and some kind of involuntary burst of aerobic exultation, similar to how Elaine dances in Seinfeld.

You would think with the athleticism in the NBA, it would produce far more feces platters than the college ranks but I think the numbers are probably similar. After all, there are far more games per night and far more pipsqueaks, walk-ons and stiffs for which to be helmetized. Plus with the arcane charging rules in college, you have a lot of players trying to take an offensive foul right under the basket and end up losing their girlfriends.

Feel free to link video of any TeaBaggings I might have missed in the comments.

Previously: Russell Westbrook giving Jamal Boykin a groin sandwich.
Tyler Hansbrough giving Kenny George two Hs (= Gheorghe)

Today we honor a man to which enough honor cannot be bestowed. Deron Washington, the Original TeaBagger, has struck again. Washington is indeed a Chosen One. Spawned from the absence of previous messiahs, Ism'ail Muhammad, James White and David Noel, Washington has the divine power to frequently poop upon people while holding no regard for any other aspects of the game. Dribbling? Unimportant. Shooting? For peasants. Passing? What's the bother when mere mortals are the recipient? These noble men thrive in the face of practical basketball skills. The NBA is no promiseland. Playing exhibition games on the And1 Tour in front of white teenagers in Montana. That, my friends, is their destiny.

While Washington hit the game winner against Virginia Wednesday, it was but a mere footnote in his legend. Another notch was added to his belt with that disgusting display of forced piggybacking. Not only did he inflict such destruction upon Mike Scott of Virginia, but Sir Deron also made it clear that the art of TeaBagging knows no color, no sides, no unworthy form of opposition. Yes, Virginia Tech forward Jeff Allen, not even a shared jersey can save you from joining vanquished foes such as Scott, Tyrelle Blair of Boston College, and, lest we forget, the moment which started a revolution of TeaBagging, a movement so strong that it ignited the passion of millions against a single adversary; Greg Paulus of Duke, apprentice of Krzyzewski, King of the Rats, from the Land of Fortunate Calls. Gather round as I recite a tale of unprecedented testicular will, of flawless groin maneuvering, of good over evil, scrote over, well... this. A tale that inspired a people.



Deron Washington I bow down before thee.

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Got To Loooooove The Drake

I assure you, that is The Drake

Yes, a headline that is surely being reproduced throughout the tubes today, in honor of the Drake Bulldogs, Kings of the Valley, who beat Bradley last night to improve to 6-0 in conference and 15-1 on the season. They unseat Dayton, which was cannibalized by UMass last night, as the mid-major du jour, following in the footsteps of Gardner Webb, Southern Illinois and Davidson. Hopefully it works out better for Drake.

The win last night was a big one, despite Bradley's 8-9 record (1-4 conf.) heading in. The Braves were without their best player Daniel Ruffin for the sixth straight game (1-5 over that stretch) but were still picked to finish second in the conference preseason poll. Drake was down seven with 3:46 left, took a late two-point lead, suffered a bomb from Sam Maniscalco from Bradley to trail by one with 17 seconds left and got a timeout. Guard Adam Emmenecker drove to the hoop, shot with four seconds, missed, got his own rebound, missed and somehow got the rebound again, all in four seconds mind you, and scored the game-winner at the buzzer. You cannot stop Adam Emmenecker when he hits the glass. You can't and you won't.

Anyway, let's take a look at Drake's resume this year and see if the team picked 9th in the league in the preseason could possibly get the topsy-turvy Valley two bids again. For a nice feature on The Drake, check out Gary Parrish's story from a couple days ago.

- Their one loss was to a respectable St. Mary's team in the second game of the season, back when the Gaels were beating Oregon and all that. It was a six-point road loss, not too bad.

- Their "notable" non-conference wins include Iowa, Iowa State and Duquesne. In conference they won at Wichita State and beat Southern Illinois, Indiana State and Missouri State at home.

- The numbers over at basketball Bible KenPom aren't too bad. The RPI is 19th, SOS is middle-of-the-pack at 130th, the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (much-needed explanation here) is not much lower at 24th in the country. And their luck rating, contrary to popular belief I'm sure, is only 61st in the country.

- Offensive efficiency is solid, ranked 42nd in the nation and the defense is even better at 22nd. They are ranked No. 266 in tempo, which means they play slow (brilliant, I know). And the most telling number is Drake's Turnover Pct. (turnovers/possessions) which ranks 6th in the country. Their steal pct. is high too. Without having seen Drake play this year, I already know they take care of the ball, play tough defense and get high percentage shots. Sounds like a radical idea for a successful mid-major to me.

- Still at KenPom, they are projected to go 25-3, 16-2 in conference, which would surprise every person in the world, but would certainly be enough for an at-large if they fail to win the Valley. tournament.

- Taking a look at Drake's players, it has been without leading scorer Josh Young for the past two and a half games. But luckily they are a deep team, with ten players getting at least ten minutes. Like any Valley team from Iowa that's existed over the past 30 years, they have a Korver - Klayton (the K is for Kool!), a senior forward, who just so happens to shoot a ton of threes. Besides Emmenecker and Korver, they have some other last names found only in mid-major basketball: Heemskerk and Baryenbruch. They do lack size however, with only two true big men, both of which are only 6-8. Although one of those guys, Johnathan Cox, a junior, averages 8.5 rebounds (20th in the country in defensive rebound rate) and 1.3 blocks.

- Now of course, ALL of this is temporarily moot because Saturday, in a most surprising Game of the Year in the Valley, 6-0 (14-3 overall) Illinois State goes to Drake to play for the conference lead. If the Redbirds pull off the victory, the nation will Hate the Drake (and the Drakette) as if they donated the big screen you gave them to charity after the loss.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thursday's Picks


Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce the Picks. Every weekday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

Last Night: After looking at Texas A & M's resume again, I'm really glad I picked against them. The Aggies best win, I guess, is home against Alabama or a destruction of Ohio State at MSG. Last night was their second true road game and they lost by 15. The next blogpoll, I am dropping them faster than Rick Majerus' pants. In the ACC, Duke got one of those "Ugh I Can't Believe They Won That Game I Fucking Hate Duke" wins, using some favorable calls and the general punchability of Greg Paulus to escape Florida State by 11. And I avoided a perfect night because UNC showed some serious flaws in nearly blowing an undefeated season by turning into VMI once the ball entered the paint. The usually outstanding Grant Wahl went trolling for attention yesterday by leaving UNC off his 8 Title Contenders Column (I will try this later today or early next week... probably), but that may be justified. That was an awful defensive performance and if it weren't for Psycho T's uncanny ability to not be affected by concussions, they would've lost to a sub-.500 team. Sucks I picked them.

Marquette at Louisville (-2.5)- Pitino's bunch are finally healthy... for now. They are 3-1 since getting everyone back with their only loss to the unstoppable dragonslayer that is Cincinnati. The road team has won three of the last four in this series, with the only home win being an OT snag by Louisville in '06. This is tough because while I find the Eagles to be pretty fraudulent, they do have some nice road performances and Louisville hasn't been properly repre... oh, shit, Juan Palacios broke his nose picking it, he's out 6-8 months. Alright I'll take the points.
The Pick: Marquette

Vanderbilt at Tennessee (-10.5)- I've been on the Vandy bandwagon all season (disregard NC State) and wasn't all that deterred by its loss to Kentucky, but it seems Vegas (as well as the great blog, Vegas Watch) has deemed the Dores early success a hoax. I've also said they would struggle against athletic teams because their bigs (specifically star frosh Andrew Ogilvy) won't be able to keep up. Patrick Patterson killed them on both ends and while Tennessee doesn't have a Patterson type, they aren't going to play a halfcourt game like the Cats either. So it'll be a matter of the Vols beating Vandy's bigs up and down the court to negate their size disadvantage. Plus they can run a bunch of dudes at Shan Foster, which helps. ALL that being said, 10.5 is a lot for two one-loss teams and Tennessee hasn't beaten any good teams by over 10. This feels like a three-point shooting contest, so stay away if possible. But alas, I have no choice.
The Pick: Tennessee

Indiana (-1.5) at Minnesota- I'm not going to pretend to know much about Minnesota except they have good size, good depth and a breed of white jump shooter indigenous to the state. But Indiana, my friends, has Eric Gordon, the appointed king of the land by... well, me. That place is going to be rather loud and there is nothing more terrifying than rowdy, frost-bitten white people, but I fail to see how the Gophers are ready for a primetime game against a top opponent or able to defend guys like Gordon and DJ White.
The Pick: Indiana

Yesterday's Record: 2-1
Overall Record: 5-5

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Rick Majerus Is Comfortable With His Body, Others Are Not


Sports Illustrated has countered its slow death march to irrelevancy with some pretty solid issues to ring in the New Year. I already mentioned Gary Smith's outstanding piece on San Diego freshman Rob Jones. They profiled Michael Beasley last week. But this week it was Rick Majerus that caught the eye of SI, in a long piece from SL Price. And let's just say the Billikens recent struggles were not of interest to Price.

Instead it was Majerus' bizarre personality, which includes both admirable tales of generosity and consideration for his players, and well, things that could be considered the exact opposite. I've always liked Majerus as an analyst; he knows the game incredibly well and is a fun, positive guy, but some of his strange comments (and the Ashley Judd-porn remark) kinda make more sense after reading this piece. As Price says, he's a passionate guy who doesn't always choose the best ways to express it.

Anyway, here's some highlights taken directly from the article, after the jump (Warning: Do not read during breakfast, around small children or if pregnant).
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- Regularly called his players a vile word for the female sexual organ" (rhymes with bunt)

- During the 2001-02 season Majerus reportedly called Lance Allred, a backup center who was 75% deaf, "a disgrace to cripples" who had "weaseled [his] way through life using [his poor] hearing as an excuse." In response, Majerus said, "I honest to God don't remember. I'm not even going to address it." Two players confirmed the report to Price.

- During a game in 1999 Majerus gathered his team around him during a timeout and zeroed in on struggling center Nate Althoff. "You've got none of these," Majerus growled, and then reached over and lightly backhanded Althoff's groin. "You've got no nuts!"

- Majerus to some St. Louis boosters in October: "You always coach based on your personnel," Majerus begins, but he veers off again. "You know, at Utah I had five, six, seven teams [with hardly] a brother on them. It's hard to live without brothers. But if I took a black kid at Utah.... It's very difficult...."

Read with caution...
- Jeff Johnsen: "The first time, [Utah was] recruiting me, and after the game I went down to the [Utes'] locker room," says Jeff Johnsen, who signed with Utah in 1996. "His hair's everywhere and his sweater's off and he's just drenched, and he's eating a whole pizza in front of me and he's like, 'You want any?' I grab a piece, and then he starts undressing and gets in the shower and is still talking to me. It was funny. It was weird. How many grown, fat, naked men do you see when you're a high school kid?"

- "He'd answer the door in his towel and I'd come in and the towel would fall off and it was like nothing had happened. He'd just be standing there buck naked. One year he had this lower-back injury, and he would have the trainer massage it with ultrasound. But instead of just lowering his pants a little bit, Majerus would pull his pants down to his ankles and sit in a chair and coach us. Sometimes he'd be like, 'Guys, bring it in, take a knee.' We'd come in, and we're just like, No way this is happening."

- Once during the 1995-96 season Majerus got so desperate -- to make a point, to lighten the mood -- that he flashed his team. It was during a morning shootaround. Majerus kept telling Doleac that he needed to keep six inches between himself and his opponent in the post. When Doleac was caught shortly after leaning on his man, the coach erupted. " 'Jesus f------ Christ, Doleac! When a guy catches the ball in the post, you gap him six inches!' " Doleac recalls Majerus yelling. "Then he turns to the guys sitting on the baseline and says, 'Six f------ inches,' and he says, 'the size of the average white d---!' and pulls it out. That story spread like wildfire, but at the time it's not funny. At the time you're terrified."

- Doleac describes the huddle during a Sweet 16 struggle with Stanford in the 1997 NCAA tournament in which Majerus grabbed Mottola's testicles and said, "Have some f------ balls, Hanno!"

- Majerus says that all players, particularly disgruntled ones like McTavish, embellish their war stories.

And, now I know what Tommy Liddell's dad was talking about.
- Today it's easy to identify his prime target. "He's been hell for me," says Billikens junior guard Tommie Liddell III. "But I look at it as a positive thing." Sleepy-eyed and talented, with a meddlesome father and tardiness issues to boot, Liddell is almost custom-made to drive Majerus mad. Three times the coach lights into Liddell for middling effort. When Majerus sees who's just blown past his prodigy to score an easy layup, it's too perfect. Today's winner? Mike the Walk-On. Majerus says these words once, twice, and suddenly he's addicted to them; Mike the Walk-On becomes an honorific, like Peter the Great, for sophomore guard Mike Jones. Dribble, shuffle -- stop! "Mike the Walk-On would give his right nut to have your ability," Majerus tells Liddell. Dribble, shuffle -- stop! "How does a 5' 9" walk-on knock you out of the play?"

***

Now, these are all, admittedly, taken a bit out of context. Some of the incidents were relayed by former players who loved Majerus, but the anecdotes were a way to illustrate his peculiar personality. There are plenty of stories about how good of a man Majerus is too, like consoling Van Horn after his father died, taking in an abandoned baby left on his doorstep in Utah, crying when he talks about Andre Miller's graduation. Read the whole story because there's more to Majerus than these brash acts. He's a divisive guy, love him, hate him or both.

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Bloggers Can Vote Too!: Blogpoll Jan. 15

The outstanding March to Madness, the Susan B. Anthony of bloggers, has gathered the finest minds on these here Interwebs for a weekly top 25 college hoops poll. The votes consider games played on or before Monday, January 14. My entry and the consensus poll after the jump.
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Super, Scintillating and Sarcastic Top 25- Jan. 15
1) Memphis
2) North Carolina
3) Kansas
4) UCLA
5) Duke
6) Washington St.
7) Tennessee
8) Indiana
9) Texas A&M
10) Georgetown
11) Butler
12) Dayton
13) Ole Miss
14) Marquette
15) Michigan St.
16) Vanderbilt
17) Pittsburgh
18) Wisconsin
19) Arizona State
20) Xavier
21) Texas
22) Rhode Island
23) Miami (FL)
24) Drake
25) Florida

Consensus Blogpoll Top 25- Jan. 15
1) Memphis
2) North Carolina
3) Kansas
4) UCLA
5) Tennessee
6) Duke
7) Washington St.
8) Indiana
9) Texas A&M
10) Michigan St.
11) Butler
12) Marquette
13) Georgetown
14) Dayton
15) Ole Miss
16) Wisconsin
17) Pittsburgh
18) Xavier
19) Vanderbilt
20) Texas
21) Rhode Island
22) Arizona State
23) Drake
24) Miami (FL)
25) Clemson

This Blogpoll consists of: NCAA Hoops Today, March To Madness, SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad and The Dirty, March Madness All Season, Plissken At The Buzzer, A Sea of Blue, Tar Heel Mania, A Pudge Is A Sandwich, Storming the Floor, Vegas Watch, WSU Hoops, Storming the Court, Super Scintillating and Sarcastic, College Hoops Journal and George Mason Basketball.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rock Bottom: Wednesday's Picks


Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce the Picks. Every weekday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I did decent enough last night, although I had a good chance at all four games. Michigan State came out as I suspected, determined and hardpressed to eclipse the lofty 36-point mark so Izzo wouldn't take away their Vitamin Water or something. They were up 32-11 in the first half, then sucked for awhile, and suddenly were up just three midway through the second half. They still had a good chance at covering but missed foul shots down the stretch (they were 8-17 for the game) and won by six instead of eight. Shit. Mississippi State did the exact same thing (17-32 from the FT line) and blew an 11-point lead with eight minutes left to almost lose. If I had bet actual money on either game, there would be a murder investigation in the Philadelphia area right now. it's hard to imagine but foul shots are probably responsible for 35 percent of the alcoholism in the United States. But thanks to a surprisingly impressive Creighton team (gotta be the Valley favorites with Drake) winning at Northern Iowa and Notre Dame dropping 64 in the second half to keep Cincinnati from making the Big East look completely illegitimate, I managed an indifferent 2-2 record.

Duke (-6) at Florida State- Three road favorites on the Worldwide Leader tonight, I promise to only pick two. The Devils always seem to struggle with Florida State, four of the last five meetings have been decided by five or less. But as I've said before, this isn't your standard Duke team. Will Florida State fans still voice their unspeakable sexual intentions for the Duke players' sisters? Yes, it's a tradition. But Duke has blown everyone out this year besides Pitt, Davidson and Marquette and the Noles do not resemble any of those teams. Dukies will handle their first real road test and Mike Patrick will sleep comfortably (and by sleep, I mean sit in his bed bouncing up and down, clapping about how Coach K complimented his tie as Mrs. Patrick heads for the couch).
The Pick: Duke

North Carolina (-11) at Georgia Tech- The Jackets are 4-3 against UNC in the last seven meetings but that was before the Heels decided to harness the power of God and smite teams like they have this year. The 32-2 run they went on against North Carolina State was like watching the naked wrestling scene in Borat. Completely horrifying, incredibly funny and impossible to look away (I have the same thoughts on watching Patrick talk about it during timeouts). Carolina is also 12-2 against the spread this season. This game might be somewhat close for 30 minutes but I think UNC makes the surge to cover late in the game as G Tech wears down.
The Pick: UNC

Texas A & M (-4) at Texas Tech- I promised I'd take a home dog so let me talk myself into Texas Tech. Um, the Raiders have won the last two meetings and they are uh... 10-4-1 against the spread in the last 15 meetings and (gulp) covered in all but one home game this year. Hmm, still not sold. Well the real reason to bet against the Aggies is this is their second true road game, the other being an 11-point loss at Arizona. I still have no idea how Bob Knight's minuscule bunch is going to defend A & M's big men, but judging by my early win/loss record, it really doesn't matter who I pick.
The Pick: Texas Tech

Yesterday's Record: 2-2
Overall Record: 3-4

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Where In The World Is Herb Pope? Coming To A Court Near You


A little while back I took a look at the situation of New Mexico State freshman forward Herb Pope, a kid with a terrible past but unbelievable talent. I've been especially interested in Pope because he is the exact type of player I love to watch, a versatile forward with a smooth, inside-outside game and great athleticism. But it's that past and the struggle to overcome it that provides an added element. There are certainly talented players from bad neighborhoods, but the extremes of Pope's story and his talent made him stick out.

Anyway, in that piece I said that Pope would get his act together in Cruces, far away from his hometown of Alquippia, PA, and even though he wasn't cleared by the NCAA to play yet, that simply being in college could be a life-changing experience. Well, I may have misspoken. Pope headed back home for Christmas and got a DUI. He is 19, don't forget, so that is a bit of a problem. Apparently he passed out in a traffic lane with the car running, a fairly impressive DUI indeed.
Officers found the 19-year-old Pope unresponsive in the driver's seat with the engine running in the Pittsburgh suburb of Moon Township on Dec. 28.

According to the criminal complaint, police had to pound on the driver's side window with a flashlight and turn on a cruiser's siren to awaken Pope. The car then lurched forward, bumping into the police cruiser, and an officer then smashed the driver's side window with a flashlight and turned off the ignition.

And while that seemed to mark the end of Pope's season, miraculously he was cleared by the NCAA and (holds breath), after serving a one-game suspension for the DUI (served Saturday's game I believe), could play this weekend against Louisiana Tech.

Clearly Pope's troubled past is more influential now than I had expected. It's worth noting that the DUI happened back in his hometown, a place that obviously has a negative effect on Pope, so his decision to go to New Mexico State is still an honorable one. But at some point a kid has to realize the amazing opportunity he has been given and do everything in his power to take full advantage of it. Maybe the fact that, as he was waiting for eligibility, he didn't have basketball to serve as a distraction and couldn't fully appreciate the chance he was getting, but now that the game is back in his life, there aren't going to be second chances. Yes, in the twisted world of college basketball, talent can grant immunity in the face of the law, the education system and the judicial system, but at some point that talent will run out. So it's on Pope, and certainly on the Aggies' coaching staff which is supposed to be molding these young men, to use that talent to become a better person first, and a better player second.

His lone TV game is January 26, 6 p.m., home against Utah State on ESPN2 and I am excited to watch because, even though he's been shot and hasn't played a game in nine months, Herb Pope is an absolutely sick player. Now whether he can get to Jan. 26 without screwing up is another story.

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Nostradamus: Tuesday's Picks


Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce the Picks. Every weekday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

Hmmm, last night didn't go so well. I mean, Stacey Dales may be an idiot, but I am a goddamn moron. I picked Georgetown, despite playing at Pitt, where the Panthers never lose and in a perfect spot for a let-down game with just 48 hours since Hibbert's bomb. Plus they refused to embrace Sharp Shootin' Roy's new role, allowing his pathetic understudies to go 3-20 from 3-point range. I'm convinced he was just teaching them a lesson. When Big Boy Roy shoots threes we win, when you nitwits do, we lose. Then in the Oklahoma-Kansas game, I picked against the most impressive team in the country (albeit -16.5), at home, and then the Sooners' best player, Blake Griffin, leaves after five minutes, becoming the envy of all his teammates. At least Gonzaga destroyed Pepperdine (they go to school in Malibu, they'll get over it).

Ohio State at Michigan State (-8)- After the affront to basketball history that was Michigan State's 36-point, Majerus-like crapfest in a loss to Iowa Saturday, it's tempting to take the points, because the Spartans sure as hell won't. But nothing cures what ails you like a home game at the Breslin Center. Tom Izzo probably whipped his team's nuts with a car antenna after Saturday and they should get 36 by half.
The Pick: Michigan State

Cincinnati at Notre Dame (-12.5)- I can't figure out if this game is on ESPN2 in select areas or just ESPNU. Either way there's no chance in hell I will watch it. Cincinnati has beaten Villanova, Syracuse and Louisville in conference play. At home. The Bearcats' lone road league game? A loss at St. John's. I'm fairly convinced all Big East teams will go 9-9 in league play this season, 9-0 at home, 9-0 on the road (Notre Dame is 11-0 at home this year, 0-2 in true road games). Take a kid away from his XBox and he loses all control over his body, I guess. Vegas knows this, so the line is pretty high. I still think the Cats are due for a stinker and the Irish, if they have a damn heart, will respond to being slain by 26 at Marquette Saturday.
The Pick: Notre Dame

Creighton at Northern Iowa (-1)- Good to see ESPN finally lock up a deal with the Missouri Valley, especially as it's having a down year. Way to strike while the iron is hot. Creighton has won the last seven in this series (5-2 ATS) and has a three-game winning streak to UNI's three-game losing streak. It's tough to win on the road in the Valley, but Creighton has two road league wins already. I'll go with the Jays because it makes so much sense, but will lose because one of those stats probably has to give. I hate my life.
The Pick: Creighton

Kentucky at Mississippi State (-9.5)- It wouldn't be an SEC match-up without two underachieving teams. Even though Mississippi State has won six straight and Kentucky knocked off unbeaten Vandy, don't get your panties in a bunch. The Cats are still 3-7-1 ATS and Mississippi State's only decent win in that streak was home vs. Missouri. Kentucky has only played two road games this season, both blowout losses, and while Ashley Judd and Co. are as, um, perky as it gets right now, actually beating someone decent at home isn't going to turn Kentucky into a road warrior.
The Pick: Mississippi State

Yesterday's Record: 1-2
Overall Record: 1-2

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Stacey Dales Has Questionable Depth Perception

Stacey Dales just called Michael Beasley a guard during the halftime show of G'Town-Pitt, claiming it's amazing for a guard to lead the country in rebounds. At 6-9, he is the tallest player in the Wildcats' regular rotation. Do we really need to keep Bilas or Hubert Davis in the studio at all times just to keep things above a third-grade level? What a fucking idiot.

I'd still hit it though.

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Big East Blogpoll: January 14

The one-stop Big East shop, Big East Basketball Report has gathered hoops bloggers from across the tubes for a weekly Big East Power Poll. The consensus poll, with 21 entries this week, along with the league player and freshman of the week is linked here. It includes games on or before Sunday January 13.

Here is my entry.
1) Georgetown
2) Pittsburgh
3) Marquette
4) Notre Dame
5) Connecticut
6) West Virginia
7) Villanova
8) Louisville
9) Syracuse
10) DePaul
11) Providence
12) Cincinnati
13) Seton Hall
14) South Florida
15) St. John's
16) Rutgers

Player of the Week- Deonta Vaughn Cincinnati
Freshman of the Week- DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh

This Blogpoll Consists of: Big East Basketball Report Blog, Troy Nunes is a Magician, Marquette Basketball Cracked Sidewalks, Card Chronicle, CuseAdelphia, Black & Green ND Basketball Blog, HoyaSaxa.com, CourtVisions College Hoops Blog, March Madness All Season Blog, Black Padres.com, Villanova by the Numbers, Let's Go Nova, The Bracket Blog @ Bracketography, East Coast Bias, PittBlather.com, Super, Scintillating & Sarcastic, Bryce's Brackets and Observations, WV Mountaineer Sports and three other contributors.

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Blind Prognostication: Monday's Picks

Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce the Picks. Every weekday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

Georgetown (-1.5) at Pittsburgh- The Hoyas are only 5-6 against the spread this season, which shouldn't surprise anyone. They simply don't score enough and play at too slow a tempo to blow teams out and cover the spread. But that was before Roy Hibbert, the premier marksman of our generation, decided to shake loose from the robotic android programming that doomed him to a life of emotion-less paint-dwelling and roam free along the perimeter, uninhibited, to be the ball-chucking, sharp-shooting Roy Hibbert he was born to be. After the game Saturday he was seen roaming the Georgetown campus in a silk suit and a fedora, supporting Dennis Kucinich and escorting four co-eds to Planned Parenthood for some safe, mid-afternoon fun.
The Pick: Georgetown

Oklahoma at Kansas (-16.5)- I'm always skeptical of Kansas teams, I've been lured by their promising March Madness siren song one too many times. But what this year's team has that others have lacked is a swagger, an expectation that they will vanquish all foes and shall perform no less than four alley-oops in doing so. Not that they will lose to Bucknell. That being said, this line is pretty high. Oklahoma is coming off a home loss to Kansas State and its woefully thin bench should suffer at the hands of Kansas' interchangeable band of ballers, but they have played Memphis pretty close, won a very tough road game at West Virginia and has the athletes (namely Blake Griffin) to cause some match-up problems. They are probably going to lose the second half by about 10, so they need the first half to be close, and I think it will be.
The Pick: Oklahoma

Gonzaga (-13) at Pepperdine- As much as Pepperdine blows, this was once a heated West Coast Conference rivalry, which generally means you throw the records out. But recently, the Zags have been blowing out the Waves, winning four of their last five at Pepperdine by 10 or more. I'm still not sold on Gonzaga, they have begun to resemble a major conference team, which is fine, but it has stripped them of all the qualities (veteran leadership, willing role players, superior chemistry) that made them so dangerous as an underdog in past years. Seeing all these All-Americans makes me yearn for the days of Matt Santangelo, Casey Calvary and Richie Fraham. If I were betting actual money, I'd stay away from this one.
The Pick: Gonzaga

Yesterday's record: 0-0
Overall record: 0-0

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

St. Louis Decides To Slow It Down... Considerably

This just ended, and a mere glance at the final score had me racing to my computer.

George Washington 49, St. Louis 20 FINAL

Yes, that is real. If you remember earlier in the week, everyone laid into Savannah State for only scoring four points in the second half against Kansas State on 1-23 shooting, both record lows for a half in the shot clock era. Well, they scored five points more than Rick Majerus' Billikens did tonight. To make up for the unfair treatment of the Tigers, let's take a painfully close look at some fun stats from the game.

First, GW was 4-6 going into the game, St. Louis was 9-5 and was also picked to finish third in the preseason in the Atlantic 10. In their last game, the Colonials gave up 93 points to Alabama. They lost by 12 to 5-10 Binghamton. OK, so GW sucks, we know that. On to the carnage.

St. Louis scored seven points in the first half. They shot 7-48 from the field for the game for 14.6 percent. They had two less foul shots made (5) than field goals (7). Their leading scorer was 7-foot backup center Bryce Husak... with five points, two BELOW his average. They were 1-19 from three-point range. On the bright side, they had an assist on over half their field goals. They also had a balanced scoring attack, with seven different players scoring and only one making more than one field goal (Luke Meyer's two). St. Louis was also MORE aggressive than GW, shooting 10 foul shots to the Colonials' three. Oh, and just for good measure: Rick Majerus is fat. Might as well kick them while their down.

UPDATE: Here's some more. They missed 23 consecutive shots at one point. Kevin Lisch scored the 1,000 career point of his career. Must be a proud evening in the Lisch household. St. Louis how a drought of 18 minutes without a field goal. They were 3-25 from the field in the first half, which would've shot Savannah State out of the gym the other night.

All told, it's the lowest point total for one team in a game in the shot clock era. Yes, in all the lopsided match-ups in Division I since 1985, St. Louis scored less points than everyone. In a CONFERENCE GAME NO LESS! And they were only 1.5 point underdogs! GW scored 49 points and beat the spread by 27.5! Speaking of lines, the over/under was 119.5, which for those of you who can't divide, is UNDER 60 points per team. They still missed it by 50.5. I'm watching Illinois play Wisconsin right now and I want to stab my eyes out. It's a shame it wasn't Noose Night at the Smith Center, it would've been like Heaven's Gate over there.

Now the Billikens aren't a high-powered team by any means. Over at KenPom.com they average just 58.7 possessions per game, which is 336th out of 341 in the country, but taking a quick glance at the 48 shots, 14 turnovers and 10 offensive rebounds, I would guess they are right around their average in possessions. GW averages 68.1 possessions per game, which is right at average. You can crunch all the advanced stats you want, St. Louis just flat out sucked, probably more than any other team ever. They play Dayton on Saturday and will be roughly a 50-point underdog.

Something tells me there won't be too many players' parents defending their kids on the Billikens' message boards tomorrow.

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Three College Hoops Stories That Everyone Should Read

Rarely do I do link dumps but this past week I've read three of the better college basketball stories that I ever had and felt the need to pass them along. One is from Gary Parrish at CBS Sportsline, one from Wright Thompson at ESPN.com and the other from Gary Smith at Sports Illustrated, who is, for my money the best sports writer in the world. Thompson and Smith's are really long just so you know that going in.

* * *
First, outstanding piece from the venerable Gary Parrish, who seems to "get" college basketball and its many untold stories better than anyone else out there, on Eastern Arizona JuCo coach Tim Parmeter, who is coaching through an unbelievably awful tragedy. In late December '06, in the midst of an ugly divorce from his estranged wife and after a particularly vicious argument, he came home to find her and their two-year-old son Ryan dead in his in the garage of a murder-suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Later, suicide notes were found and in one addressed to Parmeter, he was blamed for the entire ordeal:
Don't ever try to convince yourself otherwise -- this event is absolutely, completely your fault. You created it. You could have prevented it. You encouraged it. You found our pain funny. ... If I have the opportunity to haunt you, I will. ... I pray you will see our faces in your mind's eye and wonder what Ryan could have been and what we could have had if you had only chosen love.
I won't go into much further detail, I highly suggest reading the whole thing for yourself. Very well written, very well told and very powerful. Back when Lute Olson took a leave of absence to deal with his divorce I said the story put the game in a proper perspective. Not to trivialize Olson's situation, but this blows that out of the water. Although for Parmeter, who only took a week off in '06 after the events, coaching the game was therapeutic. He even held practice this year at the exact same time he found his dead ex-wife and child, 11:12 AM December 30, so he'd have something to distract him.

* * *
Next up, I came across ESPN.com's story of former Washington State star Tony Harris' November death in Brazil. It's written by Wright Thompson, one of the better feature writers in the US, in my opinion, and while it's long, it's well worth it (the lengthiness might explain why it was only ESPN.com's lead story for a few hours yesterday, despite nothing newsworthy happening, I guess articles about the NBA All Star Game, a mere six weeks away, are more interesting).

Anyway, it's an amazingly written narrative, which is fitting because it reads more like fiction than fact. Harris, who led Kelvin Sampson's 1994 Washington State Cougars to the NCAA Tournament and was playing professionally in Brazil was experiencing some serious mental problems, specifically paranoia, resulting from a troubled adult life. The story profiles his madness, with a Heart of Darkness metaphor that is harrowing, Harris' plan to escape some unknown danger, his disappearance and the subsequent investigation by an international detective. It's a real life mystery and it's reality makes it all the more powerful. The death still hasn't yet been deemed a suicide or homicide. Like with Parrish's story on Parmeter, I'll leave it at that, but if you can handle some sadness today, it's an unbelievable read.

* * *
Finally, Gary Smith's story on San Diego freshman Rob Jones. This story was done a month or so ago by Connelly at ESPN as a TV piece and was very well done but this article is just incredible. Jones, who is a starter and third leading scorer for San Diego, is also the grandson of notorious cult leader Jim Jones, who led the People's Temple and was responsible for a mass suicide of over 900 people. Jones' adopted son, Jim Jr. is Rob's father and avoided the mass suicide that occurred in the cult's plantation in Jonestown, Guyana because he and some other members of the Temple were playing basketball in a nearby city. Jim Jr. went through serious depression and guilt, which is ultimately being erased by Rob's interest in basketball, the game that, as Smith puts it, both ruined and saved Jim Jr.'s life.

Smith is known for his long narratives and rarely fails to deliver the goods. Even though I knew this story beforehand, to read it in his words adds a whole other dimension.

So if you've got a half hour to kill, instead of playing Solitaire, do yourself a favor and add some culture to your college hoops fandom. There will be plenty of Duke-hating, face-painting and AP poll-bashing to come.

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TheTeaBagging Series: Tyler Hansbrough Summits Kenny George



I don't care who you are or who you claim to be, if you like basketball there is no finer play in the game than when one player unleashes savage dunk upon another. There are many ways to describe it: "posterizing," Marv Albert's "serves up a facial," "getting banged on" or, my personal preference, "getting pooped on" (because actually getting pooped upon is the only thing as equally degrading as having someone dunk on you). We shall use Teabagging for the namesake of this series, mainly because the pic below is my favorite dunk of all time and it shall be honored thusly.

That symbolizes all that is right with the world.

But no matter what you call it, there is generally one reaction to watching this happen live. Extreme jubilation, inaudible screeches, not unlike the noise Gus Johnson frequently makes in moments of high intensity, and some kind of involuntary burst of aerobic exultation, similar to how Elaine dances in Seinfeld.

You would think with the athleticism in the NBA, it would produce far more feces platters than the college ranks but I think the numbers are probably similar. After all, there are far more games per night and far more pipsqueaks, walk-ons and stiffs for which to be helmetized. Plus with the arcane charging rules in college, you have a lot of players trying to take an offensive foul right under the basket and end up losing their girlfriends.

Previously: Russell Westbrook giving Jamal Boykin a groin sandwich.

The Westbrook dunk was just a couple days ago and now this? The teabagging is coming hot and heavy! ...Hmmm, OK, let me start over.

Man! That was some kind of dunk by Tyler Hansbrough last night!

Seriously, Hansbrough is a nice player and all, but to see him jump over a stapler is pretty surprising, let alone dunking on a 7-7 dude, even if said 7-7 dude is essentially a lamppost. As for George (which is eerily close to Gheorghe), who was the definition of a project center when he came to college, he has improved mightily in three years (12 points, 9.4 rebs and 5.4 near goaltends, er, blocks per game) for an Asheville team that is a Big South contender, enough to warrant a nice little New York Times feature yesterday. It's a well-done feature, focusing a lot on the ridiculous, at times frustrating, life of a 7-7 college student (kegstands an impossible dream, sorority threesomes a risk of homicide).

But, unfortunately for George, this dunk may just be a sign of things to come. Someone is going to draft this monster in the second round of the draft and be convinced they can turn him into a serviceable player. And like Shawn Bradley, Rik Smits and Muresan before him, he's going to find that players in the NBA are much more athletic and willing to climb him as a means to attacking the rim than even Psycho T. Plus in the NBA, when you play 82 games, get paid millions and many of the teams have no chance of winning, there is a point in the season where all you have left to play for is adding names to the Who I've Dunked On List (I'm looking at you Josh Smith). George will be like an ancient talisman that players around the league will search for far and wide and those who missed out on the Poster ATM that was Shawn Bradley, will find a newfound enthusiasm with the introduction of a fresh target. Dunking on him will be like entering a secret society, of which Tyler Hansbrough is the inexplicable leader.

Because SportsCenter sucks and many dunks go unnoticed by the masses, please feel free to link any YouTube clips I might have missed in the comments section.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bloggers Can Vote Too!: Blogpoll Jan. 8

The outstanding March to Madness, the Susan B. Anthony of bloggers, has gathered the finest minds on these here Interwebs for a weekly top 25 college hoops poll. This week the poll is being handled over at Vegas Watch. The votes consider games played on or before Monday, January 7. My entry and the consensus poll after the jump.
Continue...

Super, Scintillating and Sarcastic Top 25- Jan. 7
1) Memphis
2)North Carolina
3) Kansas
4) Washington State
5) UCLA
6) Michigan State
7) Duke
8) Tennessee
9) Georgetown
10) Vanderbilt
11) Indiana
12) Texas A & M
13) Texas
14) Butler
15) Mississippi
16) Clemson
17) Dayton
18) Rhode Island
19) Villanova
20) Marquette
21) Pittsburgh
22) Wisconsin
23) Notre Dame
24) Arizona State
25) Xavier

Consensus Blogpoll Top 25- Jan. 7
1) Memphis (9)
2) North Carolina (5)
3) Kansas
4) Washington St.
5) UCLA
6) Michigan St.
7) Tennessee
8) Duke
9) Indiana
10) Georgetown
11) Texas A&M
12) Butler
13) Ole Miss
14) Dayton
15) Marquette
16) Texas
17) Vanderbilt
18) Rhode Island
19) Wisconsin
20) Clemson
21) Villanova
22) Xavier
23) Oklahoma
24) Pittsburgh
25) West Virginia


This Blogpoll consists of: NCAA Hoops Today, SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad and The Dirty, March Madness All Season, Rush the Court, A Sea of Blue, Tar Heel Mania, A Pudge Is A Sandwich, Storming the Floor, Vegas Watch, WSU Hoops, Storming the Court, Super Scintillating and Sarcastic, College Hoops Journal and George Mason Basketball.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The NBA Comparison Series: DeVon Hardin


NBADraft.net is a great Web site. They do a ton of really detailed scouting, compile all the best NBA news and prospect reports and are generally the best resource for the NBA Draft. But there is a catch. Those NBA Comparisons given for each prospect. Some of them are completely ridiculous. I've spent a lot of time reviewing them, not to learn more about potential draftees, but to laugh hysterically for hours and hours. By my count, the greatest comparison ever is Josh McRoberts, whose NBA Comparison is...

Chris Webber (less athletic)... yes, less athletic than Chris Webber. Last time I checked Josh was not in a wheelchair.

Anyway, I loathe comparing players to each other when it comes to style of play. I'd like to think basketball, in all its glory, is a free-moving game where in the infinite combinations of movement, athletic ability and skill sets that the sport allows to be expressed, no two players can be all that similar. Like snowflakes... or some crap. There are too many factors in this game and too much freedom to define a player by anything but his own unique ability. Ken Pomeroy wrote a great piece on this over at Basketball Prospectus, mocking the way most people only compare white players to other white players, or lefties to other lefties or how any factor unrelated to style of play seems to creep into most people's assessment of a player. So allow me to introduce a new series here at SSS where I handpick some of the more ridiculous comparisons over there and offer some thrilling analysis. Enjoy!

Previously: Roy Hibbert (Joel Pryzbilla); Brook Lopez (Rasho Nesterovic)

Today: DeVon Hardin, California

Strengths: Athletic, good body for a pro 4, good shot blocker, patient in the paint, destroying his own bones.

Weaknesses: Outside shot, unpolished post game, average passer out of post, calcium.

NBA Comparison: Darryl Dawkins

Continue...

Why would I profile a player that few people get to see and was injured for most of last season? Because he is, for some completely inexplicable reason, being compared to Chocolate Thunder himself, the alien from Lovetron, expert in interplanetary funkmanship, Darryl freaking Dawkins. Dawkins' entire legacy was based on the fact that he not only defied comparison to any other player, but any other human, except maybe George Clinton or Darren Daulton. So why is this low-profile, seemingly non-crazy (4.0 GPA in high school, major in social welfare) player, Hardin, compared to him? Well, I doubt the young scouting prodigies at NBADraft.net have even seen Dawkins play (he retired in 1984, neither have I) and while they say Hardin "Loves to dunk the ball over guys," I'm not sure what footage they have been watching. So I can only assume it's to amuse me. I mean, look at this animal.



As far as I know, Hardin has not shattered any backboards and if he has, he certainly didn't name the damn thing the "Chocolate Thunder Flying, Robinzine Crying, Teeth Shaking, Glass Breaking, Rump Roasting, Bun Toasting, Wham, Bam, Glass Breaker I Am Jam." Although I've heard Hardin does use that exact line to pick up some of the more promiscuous campus co-eds. But don't we all? According to Wikipedia, Dawkins also named dunks: Rim Wrecker, Go-Rilla, Look Out Below, In-Your-Face Disgrace, Cover Your Head, Yo-Mama, and Spine-Chiller Supreme, all of which are also the titles of 70s porn films.

Upon even further review, the comparison makes even less sense. Dawkins entered the draft as a raw high school player, albeit one of the most dominating ever by some accounts and is recognized as a guy who never reached his potential. Hardin is a tested senior who will take little time to reach his potential. Dawkins was the 5th pick, Hardin is slated at No. 21 by NBADraft.net. Dawkins claimed to have a space girlfriend named Juicy Lucy. Alas, Hardin can only manage Sandy Mandy.

More Appropriate Comparison, If Such Things Were Productive: Hilton Armstrong

Less Appropriate Comparison, Because Such Things Are Humorous: Mr. Glass

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Other Endeavors

In an effort to spread my potent seed of college hoops goodness, the 5th edition of the Freshman 10, my biweekly freshman ranking for College Hoops Net. This edition will be broken down into a few parts because it's a super-duper special Conference Freshman Primer to kick off league play. That link is to the ACC and Big 12, check back for other conferences later in the week.

I still did a top 10 ranking though, here it is, minus elaboration:
1) Eric Gordon, Indiana
2) Kevin Love, UCLA
3) Michael Beasley, Kansas State
4) Andrew Ogilvy, Vanderbilt
5) Derrick Rose, Memphis
6) Donte Greene, Syracuse
7) James Harden, Arizona State
8) Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
9) OJ Mayo, USC
10) Chris Warren, Mississippi

For previous editions:
December 18
December 4
November 20
November 6
Freshmen All Americans
Mid Major Freshmen
Miscellaneous Awards

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Big East Blogpoll

The one-stop Big East shop, Big East Basketball Report has gathered hoops bloggers from across the tubes for a weekly Big East Power Poll. The consensus poll, with 19 entries this week, along with the league player and freshman of the week is linked here.

Here is my entry.
1) Georgetown
2) Notre Dame
3) West Virginia
4) Pittsburgh
5) Marquette
6) Villanova
7) Syracuse
8) Connecticut
9) Louisville
10) Providence
11) Seton Hall
12) DePaul
13) South Florida
14) St. John's
15) Cincinatti
16) Rutgers

Player of the Week- Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Freshman of the Week- Donte Greene, Syracuse

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Monday, January 7, 2008

The TeaBagging Series: Russell Westbrook meets Jamal Boykin



I don't care who you are or who you claim to be, if you like basketball there is no finer play in the game than when one player unleashes savage dunk upon another. There are many ways to describe it: "posterizing," Marv Albert's "serves up a facial," "getting banged on" or, my personal preference, "getting pooped on" (because actually getting pooped upon is the only thing as equally degrading as having someone dunk on you). We shall use Teabagging for the namesake of this series, mainly because the pic below is my favorite dunk of all time and it shall be honored thusly.


That symbolizes all that is right with the world.

But no matter what you call it, there is generally one reaction to watching this happen live. Extreme jubilation, inaudible screeches, not unlike the noise Gus Johnson frequently makes in moments of high intensity, and some kind of involuntary burst of aerobic exultation, similar to how Elaine dances in Seinfeld.

You would think with the athleticism in the NBA, it would produce far more feces platters than the college ranks but I think the numbers are probably similar. After all, there are far more games per night and far more pipsqueaks, walk-ons and stiffs for which to be helmetized. Plus with the arcane charging rules in college, you have a lot of players trying to take an offensive foul right under the basket and end up losing their girlfriends.

We will start the series off with a monstrous display from the walking hair mural that is UCLA's Russell Westbrook, who took advantage of Cal's Jamal Boykin's attempt at drawing a charge to introduce him to the skin lotion he uses on his upper thigh. After the game, Boykin said the scent was peach apricot and by golly, he was correct. Although he was devastatingly embarrassed, he can now go from ashy to classy.

Because SportsCenter sucks and many dunks go unnoticed by the masses, please feel free to link any YouTube clips I might have missed in the comments section.

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