Thursday, December 10, 2009
This kid is incredible. He's fast, he plays hard, he has some great moves around the basket--I could go on and on. The other thing that strikes me is that in addition to his talent, he seems to be pretty unselfish as well. He has no problem drawing the defense and dishing at the last second and he always looks up the court to see who's there. Most likely he'll only be around for one year, which is too bad, but I personally am going to enjoy it while it lasts.
2.) One thing I did notice about Wall (and Kentucky in general) is that for as talented as they are, their youth has a tendency to show through. In both the UNC and UConn games, I've noticed that they come out swinging, grab a big lead and then seem to flip on the cruise control. They get really sloppy, make bad passes, throw the ball away and have poor shot selection, allowing teams to turn it on and close the gap. Granted, the fact that UNC and UConn have extremely talented and experienced teams and coaches probably contributes to that fact the Kentucky didn't win going away, but regardless of those facts, controlling lazy play is in their hands. If they have an Achilles' heel, it appears that their inexperience is it. That will most likely change as the season goes on, but it may also cost them in close games or come tournament time.
3.) Sorry to be offensive, but I am pretty sick and tired of hearing about how amazing Kansas is. There. I said it. I'm not saying they aren't talented--they are. I'm not saying they don't deserve to be #1--I don't necessarily think they do, but they have provided no reason not to be. But you know what? They have one of the softest schedules EVER. Look at it. Ok, they played Memphis. Wow...a club that is somewhat rebuilding and adjusting to a new coach...not the Memphis of old. Yeah, they played UCLA....a GUTTED UCLA team who is struggling more than they have in years. Their first RANKED OPPONENT isn't until mid-January, when they take on Tennessee. Thus far? Their schedule boasts such powerhouses as Radford, Alcorn State and LaSalle. There are a few decent teams in there, like Michigan, Belmont and Temple--but where is the challenge? Where are the multiple ranked opponents? I mean, I get that these schedules are often made years in advance and you can't always tell who will be strong or not, but come on. PLAY SOMEONE. GO SOMEWHERE. Everyone has their cupcakes and it IS possible (though unlikely) that those so-called "cupcakes" can take out the giants. But frankly, Kansas' schedule is full of baked goods. Say what you will about other schools, but even places like North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State, Texas, Syracuse, etc. take on some tough competition (usually each other) in the preseason.
So you know what? Kansas may be a great team--but they won't have my respect until they play with the big boys.
Friday, December 4, 2009
"Thoughts on UNC-MSU"
by Sarah G., guest blogger
~UNC was scoring lights out ridiculous, so that sucked a lot. It was like they had Hansbrough pixie dust on them and could not be stopped, so that was a rather large factor.
~MSU did battle back from a 19-point deficit, so I was proud that they didn't just roll over. But it was just really not their night--or it was just really UNC's night, like they made a ridiculous 3 pointer at the first half buzzer and EVERYTHING was falling in.
~In the 2nd half, Morgan got an awesome steal....and then ran into Lucas...wah wah...and then both Roe and Green fouled out.
~Draymond Green was amazing. I love him. He is just such a good all-around player. Making great passes, grabbing rebounds, totally tough and committed to the game. And at the end, after he fouled out, he gathered everyone up and gave them a mini-pep talk or something. SO CUTE. And he made all his free throws.
~Chris Allen started off well. He was actually playing defense and grabbing rebounds and then he did his weird Allen disappearing act.
~Raymar Morgan had a great game and Durrell Summers remembered how to score 3s again.
~Sherman seemed to be trying his best, but....he's got a ways to go to be a true defensive threat.
So that's it!! Please feel free to share your thoughts on the game!!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
As I sat and watched, I wasn't super-pleased with the opening effort. Down as many as 13 points in the first half, the Spartans were out-rebounded, out-hustled and out-manned down low. It seemed like they really struggled to find any kind of offensive rhythm--on the other side, Gonzaga came ready to play and went at MSU hard. To be frank, I didn't pay much attention to Gonzaga this preseason. I always kind of assume they are going to be good and felt as though this would be a tough game regardless. Based on those assumptions, I figured I would just watch the game and see what they looked like...and had several observations...
1.) Gonzaga has SIZE. I didn't realize how large these guys actually are. They have a 7 footer and a kid that is SEVEN FOOT FIVE. I mean, seriously!?!? SEVEN FOOT FIVE!?!?!? How do you even GET to be that big? They also have 2 freshmen that are 6'10 and 6'11. Their best shooter, Matt Bouldin, stands at 6'5. Freshman 7'0 Robert Sacre had a great game, especially dominanting in the first half--he showed some great potential for his future with the Bulldogs.
2.) The Zags are CLEARLY underrated and will be in the top 25 very shortly. People questioned whether Mark Few was rebuilding or reloading. I think last night gave us our answer.
3.) Delvon Roe had a BAD game. Fouling out with about 9:30 left in the game, no points, very little contribution. It's still early in the season and he's definitely not 100% from his concussion, so I'm not TOO worried, but he HAS to contribute in order for the Spartans to do well. It is a must.
4.) Freshman Derrick Nix missed FOUR consecutive free throws. FOUR. Unacceptable. He's young and new and adjusting to being a college player in a high-pressure atmosphere, so I'm willing to cut him a LITTLE slack, but let's not make that a habit, okay?
5.) Durrell Summers is incredible--what else can I say!??! He got his first career double-double, hitting shots from all over the floor (including an off-balance, fadeaway while falling down...AMAZING) and basically carried the Spartans on his back, stepping up when others struggled.
6.) Other props go to Raymar Morgan, who despite a lackluster first half and minor ankle injury, came out strong in the second half and helped lift the Spartans back into the game before fouling out. During his time on the bench, he transistioned into a role as cheerleader and the alternating looks of concern and excitement on his face were just so endearing. He just CARES so much.
I had several non-MSU fans make comments during the game that I must be freaking out or that MSU can't win a national championship playing like this...to which I replied, CALM DOWN! IT IS NOVEMBER. Yes, there were multiple things that they need to work on...but every team has multiple things to work on...Kansas, Kentucky, etc. etc. There is sloppiness and some questionable shooting on every team...that's okay. Typically, how it works is that teams GET BETTER as the year goes by. RELAX. If I can watch a game like last night without completely freaking out, I think everyone can.
HAPPY BASKETBALL SEASON!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Why do I write this you ask? Because it's only November and I'm currently reading an article about how one writer is backing off his earlier prediction of how good UNC is (I'm talking about Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports--who ranked the Heels at #5 in his poll). I enjoy Goodman's writing--he writes about a lot of different teams and seems to know his stuff. I don't have any argument with his writing, it's more his topic choice that struck a chord...it reminds me how silly all of us who have opinions about sports can often be.
Remember last year at this time? Everyone was singing UNC's praises. They were the team to beat. They alone had the national championships in their sights--everyone else was just a speedbump to run over along the way. Then *gasp* the Tar Heels LOST. Suddenly, no one had any confidence in them any more. They would crumble. We were duped--maybe they weren't REALLY that good. But as the season progressed, things changed and by April 6th, there they were holding up a trophy.
Perhaps UNC isn't as good as they were last year--they lost a LOT of talent and it remains to be seen how some of their relatively unknown players will fare, how the team will gel. But to write them off this early in the year? It seems a little extreme.
There is a long way to go from now until March. There are dozens of games to be played, thousands of headlines to be written, predictions to be made, analysis to share. Maybe UNC WON'T get back to the Final Four. Maybe they will. Who knows? I do know this: wherever they are now, they will get better. They will grow. Roy Williams is too good of a coach and the caliber of athletes at North Carolina is too high to suggest otherwise.
But we have a lot of time to see what happens. Let's just sit back and watch for awhile.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I love it when athletes aren't afraid to be goofy, let their personalities show and make fools of themselves....great!
Friday, November 6, 2009
Katz: Izzo, Spartans want to take one more step in
Posted using ShareThis
Thursday, November 5, 2009
You know I love you. Every day since April 6th, I've counted down the days until Oct. 16, when Midnight Madness hits and you can once again unleash your basketball greatness to the world.
That time is now upon us. I can't pretend I don't have high expectations for you this season. You made it all the way to the championship last year and while I was proud, I think this is your time to take it all. I know you can do it. No matter what, I will always expect you to play hard. You may lose a game or two this season and that will be okay--which I am putting in writing because I'm sure I might have some anger about it later. I know it's early and there's a long way to go, but I'd like to take this time to address a few concerns.
Every November, the season starts and the injuries begin. This year is no different. It appears that several of you are having some issues. Delvon Roe: Concussion. Korie Lucious: Sprained Ankle. Chris Allen: Groin. Raymar Morgan: Sprained Ankle. Here is my plea: Get it all out now. Take the bumps and bruises, come down with swine flu, roll an ankle, whatever. Do it early and then STOP. Stay healthy. Be strong. In order to make it all the way, WE NEED ALL OF YOU AT 100% and not on the surgery table or sitting on the bench with a fever. I'm sure you will all be fine, but I'm just feeling some stress.
I would like to specifically address you, Raymar Morgan. You are an incredible asset to the team. We all love you. When you're on, you're unstoppable. You showed us in the UConn game and we were all so proud. This season, with Suton gone, we need that Raymar EVERY GAME. We need your leadership, strength, rebounding and most importantly, your offense. Please step it up and deliver. I know you can.
Here's to a great season, Spartans...I'll be watching!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
First, we have the Pitino situation and his extortion trial (he has a right not to be extorted, but the circumstances which led to the lawsuit are less than admirable), then we have Bingampton players selling drugs, Purdue, Kansas and Louisville players being arrested--I mean, really?
I understand that no one is perfect. People make mistakes, poor choices, let their temper get the better of them, whatever. At the end of the day, all these players are kids, trying to figure out who they are and what they want out of life. Everyone wants a piece of these coaches and athletes and often times, college students think it's funny to pick fights or bait high-profile athletes simply to satisify their own egos. I get that. But the DUIs? The drugs? I mean, are they so unaware that their actions are monitored more closely than an average college student? I would imagine that the coaching staffs and media relations people hammer that home time and time again. What doesn't sink in?
Maybe it's unfair. You can argue that these athletes shouldn't be held to a higher standard, that all they're doing is playing sports and society exerts all these pressures they didn't ask for. And in some ways, maybe that's true. But I don't buy it.
College basketball is and will continue to be a high-profile sport. This information isn't a shocker.
It is a privilege to receive a free education, regardless of whether or not you choose to take advantage of it. It is a privilege to play sports at the collegiate level. Those privileges, as with any privilege in life, come with responsibility. When you sign that letter of intent, it becomes your responsibility to recognize that you now serve as a representative of your school. Yes, there ARE added pressures. Yes, you ARE held to a higher standard. You now have expectations that perhaps an "anonymous" student doesn't have. It comes with the territory. Deal with it. Act appropriately. Be the bigger man (or woman).
Here's hoping the headlines slow down after Friday....
Ok, I'm not TRYING to be a conference homer here and if you want to discuss Big Ten FOOTBALL, you'll see that I'm telling the truth. But I do get feisty about the Big Ten basketball argument because I don't think the conference gets as much respect as it deserves. I'm not saying they are always the best conference--the Big East was by far the strongest college basketball conference last season. But I AM saying that 90% of the time, most of the teams are tough to beat and very competitive across the league and it seems like in the past couple of years, all we hear about is the lack of talent in the Big Ten. I disagree. Every conference goes through ups and downs and cycles of talent. Last year was a bit more of a rebuilding year in the Big Ten, yet teams like Michigan State, Purdue and even Illinois did a lot better than people expected. And do I need to mention Michigan's big wins over Duke and UCLA? I think not.
I'm going off on a tangent...but since I'm talking about Big Ten, let's start there.
~ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI
Lost: Guard Chester Frazier
Returning: Guards Demitri McCamey and Alex Legion, Forwards Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis
Bruce Weber's club surprised a lot of people in 2008-2009, but there was still some work to do after a first round NCAA tournament loss to Western Kentucky. This season appears to be another step in the right direction for Illinois. They will certainly miss the leadership and defense of Chester Frazier, and McCamey and Legion will need to step up on both ends of the floor. Additionally, Weber (and fans alike) expect big things from freshman guard D.J. Richardson. And don't be too concerned about that horrible 38-33 game against Penn State last season. It became the poster child for why the Big Ten supposedly sucks, but it isn't something that was repeated and definitely won't be an issue this year.
Lost: No one really
Returning: Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims
Michigan made a huge splash early in 2008-2009 by defeating not one, but TWO of the most dominant college basketball programs ever: UCLA and Duke. Many were quick to write them off, saying it was too early to worry about those wins and waiting to see how they did in conference play....and at times it seemed those big wins were a fluke. Michigan had a mediocre season in the Big Ten, but those two early victories helped push them out of the bubble and into NCAA tournament play for the first time in a decade. To silence any remaining doubts, they captured a decisive victory against Clemson in the first round. It was almost as if they had to prove they belonged and frankly, I think they did.
The two brightest stars of the season, Harris and Sims, are one of the strongest inside-outside combinations in the Big Ten and seemed to flourish under John Beilein's tutelage. One key will be for both of these guys to stay out of foul trouble--without Sims' explosive power down low, teams will be able to key on Harris or vice versa. Now, with 7 of the top 8 players returning and a group of freshman ready to make an impact, Michigan looks to be a top finisher in the conference. The Big Ten race will be a fight, but Michigan will be right in the thick of it.
Lost: Guard Jodie Meeks
Returning: Forward Patrick Patterson
Key Additions: Guard John Wall, head coach John Calipari
This one is pretty much a no-brainer. With All-American candidate Patrick Patterson down low, the coaching of John Calipari and a strong corps of talented newcomers, most preseason polls already have the Wildcats in the Final Four. I'm not ready for that yet. I'm not saying they can't or won't get there, but before they've even played a game? No thanks. I'm not ready to base a decision like that on pre-season potential. The other teams: strong corps of vets, lots of success last year, improved skills, etc. etc. But these guys don't have my respect quite yet--and no offense to Calipari fans out there, but if there is one coach who gives me that uneasy feeling, Cal would be that guy. I think there's something suspicious about a coach who convienently changed coaching jobs (at two different schools) only to have Final Four appearances vacated almost immediately upon his departure. It just seems fishy...
But I digress. Whatever Cal allegedly does or doesn't do, he can get his players to play. He gets the fans on his side. He brings in recruits. He charms you with his media savvy and his ability to get it done. And he better get it down in Lexington or they will be quick to show him the door. He certainly has the talent and potential in his players.
Patrick Patterson struggled with injuries and sharing the spotlight with sharp-shooter Jodie Meeks, and seemed to be a little overlooked, despite reaching the 1,000 point mark in just 2 years. This season should be his time to shine. Patterson will have a host of highly-heralded recruits to back him up, but as the leading veteran on the team, now is the time to be the face of Kentucky basketball. Freshman John Wall--the #1 recruit in the nation--and DeMarcus Cousins should find plenty of room on the starting roster. After debuting at Big Blue Madness, their presence electrified the crowd and only increased excitement for how far this team will go. In addition, it will be interesting to see how returnees DeAndre Liggins and Perry Stevenson do with their games under a new coach.
I'm not entirely sold yet. Check back with me in February and see if I've changed my mind.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
~NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
Lost: Forward Tyler Hansbrough, guards Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green
Returning: Forwards Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis, Deon Thompson and guard/forward Marcus Ginyard
It's no secret the Tar Heels line-up was gutted post-championship, but Roy Williams still has enough talent and experience to make this team a constant contender. No doubt Williams will be looking to senior Marcus Ginyard to lead this group after sitting out last season with a stress fracture in his left foot. Ginyard's offensive numbers during his first 3 years were nothing special (between 4 and 7 ppg) but he really shines on the defensive end of the floor, garnering All-ACC and individual team honors. Voted a co-captain as a junior, Ginyard should have plenty of leadership to go around. Seven-footer Tyler Zeller should also be back at full strength after missing most of last year with a broken hand (Zeller orginally took a medical redshirt, but gave it up toward the end of last season and played in a few games). I won't guarentee UNC anything yet, but chances are this group will land (as always) in one of the top spots in the ACC.
Lost: Center Hasheem Thabeet, guard A.J. Price, forward Jeff Adrien
Returning: Guard Jerome Dyson, guard Kemba Walker, forward Stanley Robinson
After being run out of the gym by Michigan State in the Final Four (I know, I know, not very objective but I had to throw it in just for grins) Jim Calhoun lost significant size, shot-blocking and rebounding with the departures of Thabeet and Adrien, but don't let that fool you. Long before those two showed up in Storrs, Calhoun's Huskies planted themselves firmly in front of their opponents' hoops, leading the league in shot-blocking for 8 consecutive seasons. With Stanley Robinson as the key returning player in the post, all signs point toward a continuation of that trend. Robinson was somewhat overshadowed by his two teammates last year, but maintained a solid role, particularly at season's end (earning 3 double-doubles in the last 6 games). He should see an increase in both minutes and statistics this season. And although UConn won't have A.J. Price to run the ball, Kemba Walker's flashes of brilliance combined with Jerome Dyson's experience should alleviate any concerns about the Huskies' abilities in the backcourt.
Lost: Guard (and resident bad ass) Jonny Flynn
Returning: Guard Andy Rautins and Forward/Center Arinze Onuaku
I realize it's difficult to be intimidated by a school who's mascot is a large piece of immune system-boosting fruit, but bear with me. Let's be honest--did you REALLY think you would get through a season preview without me finding a way to work in Jonny Flynn? It was a sad day to be an Orange fan when he declared for the draft. I don't begrudge anyone the chance to take their game to the next level, but selfishly I was hoping he would stay one more year. Alas, it was not meant to be. And despite what Jim Boeheim lost along with that 6'0 wonder (6.7 assists per game, leadership, explosiveness, strength and a pure will to win, among other things--Did I mention I like him?) he still has a strong core of vets returning in 2009-2010. Harris and Onuaku give some strength inside, while Rautins will help in pushing the ball up the court. It remains to be seen whether any of them can take over in the same way Flynn did, especially in terms of distributing the ball, but this is another Big East group that should benefit from having most of their key players return.
One area that really needs help? Free throw shooting. I know some people or coaches think it isn't important--I'm NOT one of them. I've given this diatribe before, so I'll spare the repetition, but suffice it to say that when a team like Syracuse finishes 13th out of 16 Big East teams in FT percentage (64.5% to be exact) there is PLENTY of room for improvement.
Lost: Forward Terrence Williams, Guard/Forward Earl Clark
Returning: Sophomore forward Samardo Samuels, guards Edgar Sosa and Preston Knowles
This is another team that can always rely on great coaching to keep them in the hunt year after year. Losing Williams (the Cards' top scorer) will obviously hurt, but like any team, there is always be someone to take his place. What will really be key for Rick Pitino's club will be dominance from Samardo Samuels and consistency from Edgar Sosa. Samuels flourished in his one year with Pitino and his international experience this summer playing with Team Jamaica should definitely improve his skills and stats this season. The biggest question mark is Edgar Sosa--known for as much for his flashes of brilliance (hitting the game-winning 3 against rival Kentucky) as he is for his epic choke jobs (going 15 for 15 on free throws against Texas A&M before missing the final 2 that cost Louisville the game in the 2007 NCAA tourney). Louisville will be solid, but Sosa MUST deliver in order for the Cardinals to stand more of a chance.
Unfortunately, the big news about Louisville basketball this summer has nothing to do with what's happening on the court. Rick Pitino's dirty laundry and poor choices are being aired out for all to see and only time will tell if any of this will distract his ball club. One point to consider in this whole mess is the timing. Since the story broke in early August, chances are it may "blow over" after everyone finds a new scandal to latch on to. At the very least, by the time January rolls around and basketball REALLY begins, Pitino's indiscretions may be all but forgotten.
Lost: Forward Jon Brockman, guard Justin Dentmon
Returning: Guards Isiah Thomas and Venoy Overton, forward Quincy Pondexter
Lorenzo Romar's club surprised a lot of people last year by grabbing the Pac-10 crown from its place atop the collective head of the UCLA Bruins. The Huskies may not have that same element of surprise this year, but they have the talent to defend their title, thanks in large part to the return of their leading scorer, Isiah Thomas. Jon Brockman's double-double average certainly be missed (14.9 ppg and 11.5 rpg) but Romar should expect solid contributions from both Venoy Overton and forward Quincy Pondexter, who's numbers will most likely rise now that he's not competing with the voracious Brockman on the boards. The Pac-10 gets overlooked quite a bit by a lot of basketball fans--they're farther away on the West Coast, the games are later, they don't play very much on the major networks, but trust me--don't ignore this team! Lorenzo Romar is one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball and I hope he won't stay that way for long. This man is a class-act who knows how to coach. Watch and learn!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Category 1: Teams that were great last year and will be again
Lost: Pretty much no one.
Returning: Basically everyone, including guard Sherron Collins (Sr. G) and junior center Cole Aldrich. Bill Self will also get a little more inside presence from twins Markieff and Marcus Morris and Collins will get backcourt help from Tyshawn Taylor. Throw in role players like Brady Morningstar and Quintrell Thomas and it's no wonder most preseason polls are listing KU as the team to beat. There are also high expectations for newcomer Xavier Henry, a highly ranked shooting guard (#3 in the ESPNU 100) who originally committed to John Calipari at Memphis. Once the coaching carousel began to turn and Cal jetted off to Kentucky, Henry backed out and pledged his loyalty to Lawrence.
The Jayhawks finished last season with a loss to Michigan State in the Sweet 16 and now that everyone is older, wiser, faster and stronger, this is definitely a group to be reckoned with. Collins shows strong leadership and experience to go along with his quickness and offensive production both in and outside the arc. He's also one of those guys you look at and think, "Didn't he graduate yet?!?! Or leave for the NBA?!?! Hasn't he been there for like, 6 years?" He's one of those rare 4 year players that is so good, opposing fans pray he takes a hike and each year he stays in school seems like 2. Aldrich, who is listed at 6'11 but seems closer to 7'2 by the way he plays, is a dangerous shot blocker and a real defensive threat to anyone who tries to get into the lane. Last season, teams were successful when Aldrich could be drawn away from the basket, but it remains to be seen whether or not that strategy will work this time around.
That said, at the very least Kansas should be able to defend their Big 12 title and make a deep run in March.
~MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (once you've recovered from the shock of me not listing them first, read on)
Lost: Center Goran Suton, guard (and defensive stud) Travis Walton
Returning: Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas, sophomore forward Delvon Roe, senior forward Raymar Morgan
The Spartans' road to Ford Field was well-documented last season and although the 15 point loss to North Carolina (*sigh* It still stings four months later...CURSE YOU TARHEELS!) wasn't QUITE the ending they had in mind, Tom Izzo and company should have every reason to believe they can climb the ladder one more time. Unfortunately, their road to the top won't be easy. MSU lost a LOT of firepower in Suton and Walton--Suton's rebounding and scoring ability (8.4 rpg and 10.4 ppg) and Walton's leadership and ability to shut down every opponent's best players with his defense will most definitely be missed. Kalin Lucas will need to step up and take over where Walton left off and continue to lead his team on the offensive end of the floor. More importantly, senior Raymar Morgan needs to stay healthy and stay relevant--If Morgan struggles with his consistency the way he did last year, the Spartans are going to be in some trouble. Sophomores Delvon Roe and Draymond Green had promising seasons last year and should be strong in the post to deliver much-needed scoring and rebounding on the inside. With the speed of Durrell Summers and the shooting touch of Chris Allen, Michigan State should have plenty of weapons to defend their Big Ten title against a field of much-improved conference opponents.
Lost: Reserve and role player Nemanja Calasan
Returning: Everyone else, including forward Robbie Hummel (aka the Bane of My Existence OR The Kid Who Always Seems to Have the Game of His Life Against Michigan State and Makes Them Look Like Chumps) and defensive specialist Chris Kramer.
Coach Matt Painter has his entire starting lineup heading back to West Lafayette this season, much to the chagrin of their Big Ten opponents. The Boilermakers ended last year with a Big Ten tournament championship and a Sweet 16 loss to Connecticut and are no doubt hungry for more. I'm a big believer in the idea that teams that have the advantage of playing together, getting a taste of success and falling just short of where they want to be are the most dangerous and Purdue is a perfect example. Hummel will need to stay healthy (he battled back spasms and a stress fracture last year), guard E'Twan Moore should be able to run the ball consistently, JaJuan Johnson will give some size down low. A full season of experience should make this group a top challenger for the Big Ten regular season title.
Lost: Forward Dante Cunningham
Returning: Guards Scottie Reynolds, Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher
After dismantling opponents on the way to the Final Four last year, Jay Wright and his crew surprised a lot of people with their dominance. Clearly, their rugged Big East schedule toughened them up for what was ahead, but this year it may not be so easy to sneak up on people. The Wildcats will have speed, great range and solid ball-handling from Reynolds and the Coreys. Their experience and leadership should come in handy when guiding the newest recruiting class, which includes 2 McDonald's All-Americans (Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns) and is considered to be among the tops in the nation. The real question mark comes in the form of big men (as most of them are freshmen), but if Antonio Pena can provide some offense and one of the youngens is willing to step up, Nova should be okay. The Big East lost a LOT of talent to both graduation and the NBA draft, so this group should have a leg up on their opponents.
~DUKE BLUE DEVILS
Lost: Guard/Forward Gerald Henderson, guard Greg Paulus (who didn't have another year for basketball, but decided to use a 5th year of eligibility to fling footballs around at Syracuse...THAT should be interesting...)
Returning: Junior forward Kyle Singler, senior guard Jon Scheyer, junior guard Nolan Smith
After being bested (and overshadowed) by National Champion North Carolina, the ACC-runners up may not have to suffer the same fate this season. Although Coach K will definitely miss the presence of Gerald Henderson, Scheyer, Singler and Smith have plenty of experience and talent to shoulder that burden. The Blue Devils also have a little bit of size on their side, and frankly, the guys that head to Duke to play ball are USUALLY pretty good (please note the sarcasm in that sentence). They may have a bit to prove, but it's a pretty safe bet Duke with be competing with the best of the best.
One other general observation--If last year was the year of the Big Man (think Blake Griffin, Luke Harangody, DaJuan Blair, Hasheem Thabeet and Tyler Hansbrough), 2009-2010 just might be the guards' turn...
P.S. Props to anyone reading this before November. I salute your dedication. :)
Check back soon for Part Two!!!!!!!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
It’s a long season, November through March. Over five months of preparation, hype, expectation and often disappointment culminate game after game, complete with skyrocketing highs and debilitating lows. It’s easy for us. You lose and we go home and yeah, we’re disappointed…but after a few hours or a good night’s sleep it doesn’t seem so important. We lick our wounds and shrug our shoulders, but ultimately we’re no worse for the wear. You have to relive it, over and over again. You head into the locker room and listen to the coaches, see your record change, watch it on SportsCenter, in the paper, in practice, on film—hours upon hours of watching and wondering what you could have done better, how YOU could have made things turn out differently. And sometimes, you deserve it. But sometimes you just don’t. Sometimes, you play with all you have and your shot just won’t fall. Sometimes, even when you’ve made 99 free throws before, the 100th won’t go through. It can’t be easy. There must have been times when you didn’t feel like playing—times when the last thing you wanted to do was step onto that court and face your opponent. But you did it anyway.
Above all else, realize that we, your fans, are still with you. Win or lose, we respect your effort. After getting knocked down time and time again, you came out and gave it your all. We’ve seen you crumble with injury and fight to get back up. We’ve watched you fly. And there have been times when we have cried with you—our hearts have broken when things just don’t go your way and you take the blame. Times when we feel pain and sadness not for our own dignity or pride, but for yours. Times when we wish we could be your wings, be more than just a face in the crowd and somehow will you with all our strength to keep going. We stay because we know deep in our hearts that you are a champion. Regardless of your record, we believe in your magic. We believe that you will get there. Keep fighting. Keep trying. Keep putting your heart on the line each time you play. Let that fire and that hunger consume your thoughts. Let it make you better. We will still be here. We always will be. Thank you for making us proud to wear the green and white.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
That. Was. AWESOME.
The last time I was at the Final Four in 2005, our hopes were dashed by North Carolina. It was sad. THIS time was different.
First of all, Ford Field was about 85% Michigan State fans. Green and white as far as the eye could see....it was beautiful. The energy was incredible. People were happy, smiling, excited...everyone was friends (and really, seeing people they knew every which way...or maybe that was just me and Leah).
Our section was interesting. It was a mix of Michigan State fans (of course) and random people who didn't seem to care one way or the other. Leah and I checked out our surroundings....
MSU fans in front of us...Check.
MSU fans next to Leah....Check.
MSU fans behind us...half a check.
People who didn't care but claimed they were cheering for MSU next to me and behind me...Check, check.
Random Villanova guys two rows down who were cheering for MSU...check.
No small children within earshot in case I swore...CHECK.
Then I had to give all the people around me the disclaimer...I'm VERY loud, I get VERY into and you may be sorry you got stuck next to me. SO, if at any point I'm too much, just let me know I need to dial it back. And it's at that point that whoever it is (usually a male) smiles and says something to the effect of "Oh don't worry honey. You just go ahead and cheer your little heart out." Whichever one of my girlfriends is with me usually leans over and says, "Um, no really. You have no idea what is about to happen." And then they laugh and smile indulgently at the cute young girls who like basketball. Then about two minutes into the game, they realize what they're in for.
There is nothing "cute" about the way I cheer. I am loud. I jump up and down. I yell at officials. I scream words of encouragement as if the players can actually hear me (which of course, THEY CAN). I know what a charge looks like, I can tell when someone travels. I get angry if the refs call ticky-tack fouls. There is never an excuse for missing a free throw. I know the players on the court, not just on my team, but on the other team as well. I know who the coach is. I can list their starters and their top 3-4 bench players (if they go that deep). I know their stats, the record, etc. Here's a newsflash: JUST BECAUSE I AM FEMALE, IT DOESN'T MEAN I CAN'T UNDERSTAND THE GAME. Maybe it's because the majority of my female friends and the women I work with are like me (if not about college bball, but about some other sport), but it still blows my mind that people are surprised when women know sports. I don't think it's THAT uncommon.
But I digress. At this point, the guys behind us have decided I am HILARIOUS because I'm angry at the fact that UConn is pushing MSU around and not getting called for fouls but MSU is getting called for touch fouls left, right and center. My mother is texting me random thoughts about how she and my father are jumping around the family room and how the UConn mascot annoys her. I tell her I need to watch the game and cannot keep up a stream of texts. It was a physical game and Michigan State stayed in control the whole time. It was beautiful. Kalin Lucas taking people off the dribble, Raymar Morgan having the game of his life....sigh. And best of all? Michigan State running Connecticut right out of the gym.
Which is funny, because all tournament long all the analysts made comments about how Michigan State "can't run" which left Michigan State fans (and Coach Izzo) dumbfounded. Have you WATCHED them play? This is where I need to give props to Mike DeCourcy, Senior Writer of the Sporting News. I spoke with him after the Louisville game and he expressed his outrage at the number of media personnel that claimed MSU can't run. "I don't know who they're watching," he said, "But Chris Allen and Durrell Summers could run with the U.S. track team." DAMN RIGHT!
The game was terrific...too close for comfort at some points, but interesting and it ended in my favor, so what's to complain about?
Oh, right.....now we have to deal with Carolina.....
Friday, April 3, 2009
Also found out two of our other good friends will be making special trips into town on Saturday as well. We won't be together, but we have plans to meet up, say hi and take pics (we ARE sorority girls after all).
BRING IT UCONN!!!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Called in a few more favors...nothing yet. Slightly ticked off, but there is NO WAY I'm not going to this game. No way.
5:00 PM: Abandoning Craigslist after multiple phone calls were answered with "It's a joke...we don't have tickets." Leah and I are at our wits end. Check ticket brokers....Prices starting to drop. Feeling more hopeful.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Leaving for Auburn Hills on a work trip tomorrow morning. Must pack for the next 7 days....
Step 2: Work my connections. I don't have many, but I'm doing it anyway. A coworker is working on tickets that will be in the 100 section and would cost $100 for Saturday only. I tell him if he gets them, I'm in. Won't know until Wednesday or Thursday if that comes through. Made a few other calls--I'm willing to pay, I just want good seats!
Step 3: Attempt Craigslist. I'm wary of this plan, as there are so many counterfeit tickets and scammers out there...but I find one that appears to be legit. Send an email. Seats in 200 section, $300 a piece. Willing to sell them to me.
Step 4: Find a partner in crime. Unfortunately, one of my close friends cannot afford a $300 ticket. She's out. Bummer! She is absolutely one of my favorite people to watch games with and I will be sad not to have her there. But thankfully, I have plenty of die-hard Spartan friends. I call my friend Leah, who I'll be staying with during this weekend. She says she needs to think about it. She texts me 10 minutes later: "Okay, I've thought about it. I'm IN!" SCORE!! This will be awesome....she and I went to the 2005 Final Four together....more good times are in store.
Okay, that is a lie. I THOUGHT it might happen, but was too afraid to say it out loud. But now I can. Michigan State. Final Four 2009. O. M. G.
Amazing. I cannot fully express to you the sheer joy and bliss I feel at this moment in time. It's not possible. But of course, this is a BLOG, so I am going to try. My attitude after the Kansas game that gave me a heart attack was this: Keep it in perspective. At the beginning of the season, I announced to anyone who pretended to listen that I wanted no less than a Big Ten regular season title and nothing short of an Elite Eight appearance. They gave me both, therefore, I had no reason to complain. Everything from here on out was icing on the cake. Not only that, but I actually REALLY like Louisville. I think they're a great team, I love the way they play, I think Pitino's coaching is out of this world, etc. I love how they're disruptive, they're fast, physical and play with emotion. In short, while I never want my team to lose, I respect Louisville and would not be crushed if MSU lost to them at this juncture.
Sitting at the State bar with my friends, I had an overwhelming sense of calm. Then once the game started, I watched Michigan State playing with the same calm I felt. It was like nothing could shake them, no one could get in their way. One of the things I've loved about this Michigan State team is that for 99% of their games, they've had a fire. A passion. A will to win that I haven't seen in MSU teams in a couple of years. And never did I see that more than in this game. A little past the midway point in the first half, it hit me. Michigan State was winning this game. It didn't matter what Louisville did or didn't do. It didn't matter if Louisville was the #1 seed or the #100 seed. Michigan State was cutting down that net. And it was funny, because you could ALSO see a point in the game when Louisville realized it too. It wasn't quite as early as the rest of us figured it out, but they got there. And that was sad too, to see such a talented team just quit. All their work, all their success and they were done. Just like that.
The bar went NUTS. Everyone kind of realized what was happening pretty early on, but the funny thing was, NO ONE wanted to say it or celebrate until that final buzzer. Even as fans, we didn't want to jinx ANYTHING. We took no chances. But once it was done, it was chaos. Jumping, hugging, screaming, singing the fight song--and that was just me. Kidding. That WAS me, but it was everyone else too.
Now I just need to find a ticket for the games.....
Saturday, March 28, 2009
It didn't feel so good watching it, but the end result was quite pleasurable, so it's okay. I literally think my heart wanted to stop working completely because it certainly got a workout Friday night. It was in my stomach, then in my throat, then racing, the stopping....yikes! I almost couldn't handle that game.
Honestly, I wish I could give some detailed, well-thought-out analysis of how they did this, that and the other to crawl back into the game and win.....but I can't. I was so immersed in that moment, I literally have no idea how it happened. All I remember is the following from the last few minutes:
1.) Kansas missed some shots and MSU got the rebounds, despite getting killed on the boards all game.
2.) Kalin Lucas is awesome
3.) They hit free throws
4.) Kalin Lucas is awesome
That's all I've got. Which brings me to another point....Here's the backstory. I'm on the CBS website, looking up the schedule for the games today and I see a link to an article about how "there's no I in the Michigan State team"....so I click on it...
And read that. Kind of the most back-handed compliment ever. Apparently Michigan State has no talent, they have NO chance against Louisville and the only reason they won was because Izzo has convinced them that it is possible. Right. Oh, and don't worry--the defense that they won the Big Ten and have the Big Ten Offensive AND Defensive Players of the Year doesn't work because the Big Ten is terrible. But here's the best part--"I've seen Michigan State twice this year." Really?!? As far as I'm concerned, it takes a LOT of audacity to call yourself a college basketball writer and then write a long article making massive generalizations about an entire team you've only watched twice. Because now not only am I fired up but I have no respect for you or anything you write from here on out. Nice work.
Friday, March 27, 2009
1.) After watching Western Kentucky play two excellent games that both came down to the wire, I began to wonder if Kevin Harlan was being paid each time he said the name "Mendez-Valdez." I understand that the kid had 2 INCREDIBLE games, hitting huge shots and making defensive plays whenever Western Kentucky needed it, but it was a LITTLE excessive...."Mendez-Valdez dribbling, Mendez-Valdez passes, Mendez-Valdez gets it back....Mendez-Valdez drives...Mendez-Valdez SCORES!!! TWENTY POINTS FOR MENDEZ-VALDEZ!!" I mean, seriously? Sometimes less is more buddy. Less is more.
2.) I'm sure despite the Big Ten getting 7 teams in the tournament, Digger Phelps will find a laundry list of reasons why the Big Ten is the worst conference in the world. Okay, listen. I'm not saying the Big Ten was the best conference this year. They weren't. I am not stupid enough to argue that. ALL I'm saying is that the Big Ten doesn't completely suck. Yes, it can get frustrating because it's a slow, grind-it-out style of play. I like offense too. But that doesn't mean these teams suck. The conference has wins over UCLA, Duke, Louisville, Texas, Kansas, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Davidson...and the list goes on. Of the 7 teams in the tournament, 3 lost in the first round (and you have to wonder if Chester Frazier was healthy if Illinois would have gone farther), 2 lost in the second and 2 made the Sweet 16. Not amazing, but not too bad. And everyone competed and gave the other team a solid run. Where's the SEC? Only 3 teams in, all out after the first weekend. And how about the Almighty ACC--only two of THEIR teams made the Sweet 16 too. And FURTHERMORE, for a conference that has trouble scoring against each other, they averaged as conference (from Michigan State all the way down to Indiana) 70.5 ppg against non-conference opponents during the regular season. No, they are not the best conference, but especially with all the coaches, give it 2 years and there will be the same discussions about the Big Ten that we're having about the Big East right now.
3.) Speaking of the Big East....How good are they?!?! So far 3 teams in the Elite 8 and possibly more after tonight. I think one of my favorite moments was watching Villanova completely dismantle Duke. Coach K gave that press conference earlier in the year about how the ACC was a superior conference...I realize you are going to be loyal to your conference and all, but....ouch. Must have burned a little bit to get your ass handed to you on a silver platter by an "inferior" Big East team. And the best part? It's wasn't even the BEST team in the conference! Villanova finished 4th or 5th this year, I think? Obviously, Villanova is still a great team, but if a team can punch you in the mouth that much and not win their conference, I think it's a testament to who the best conference really is.
4.) Villanova. Unreal. I picked them to get this far in my bracket, but then picked Pitt to beat them in the Elite 8. I kind of wish I could change my mind. Pitt has been winning, but struggling, and Villanova is making everyone they play look like chumps. Their game against American was scary for awhile, but they turned it on in that game and haven't turned it off. Talk about a team that's ready to play. Wow.
5.) You may be wondering why I haven't mentioned Michigan State. It's because I am too nervous to discuss it. Kansas is a tough match-up and yes, we beat them in January, but....they're a different team now. So are we...but I want them to win so badly. I can't take it.
That is all.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
John Calipari, Lorenzo Romar, Jeff Capel, Bruce Pearl and Rick Pitino break down match-ups, pick their upset specials and more!!
The ultimate guide for the ultimate fan....Enjoy!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
And don't worry--I will also have an All-WIGS TOURNAMENT team, so if I fall in love with someone from Your Mom State, I can celebrate their achievements as well. So without further adieu....
2008-2009 All-WIGS Team
Jonny Flynn, G, Syracuse: This should come as no surprise, given my previous posts. Flynn is a classic case of doing more with less. He's not the biggest guy on the floor, but he is STRONG and broad, a great passer, and is never afraid to drive aggressively to the basket or take the big shot. He's dunked over some pretty tall dudes and has an intensity that fires up his whole team. He's only a sophomore, but he's definitely established himself as a leader of the team. I love it!
Willie Warren, G, Oklahoma: This kid is probably my pick for Frosh of the Year. He was a solid scoring threat for the Sooners all season and stepped up in the absence of Blake Griffin to score some much needed points. He can drive, push the ball up the court and hit big 3s from all over the floor. I also think he's pretty funny--I've read some interviews with him and he definitely has a little bit of an attitude. Not in a bad way, but in the way of a freshman who is borderline cocky because he was the star in high school--but not SO much so that the other guys want to put him in his place. Yes, Blake Griffin is the star of that team, but Warren is an extremely valuable supporting actor. Which brings me to....
Blake Griffin, F/C, Oklahoma: Do I really need to explain this one? Obviously the best player in the entire country--strong, great range, ridiculous rebounder, fantastic passer, good teammate, etc. But the thing I respect most about him is his attitude. He's unpretenious, polite and never responds or retaliates when he gets hit with cheap shot after cheap shot. He lets his talent do the talking. He takes pride in his rebounding. He just gets it done. Period.
DaJuan Blair, F, Pitt: Say what you want about Harangody, Hansbrough and Thabeet. This kid is the best big man on the east coast. He's tall, but not the tallest, and makes up for it by using his big body to his advantage for rebounding and defense. Not only can he bang around, fight defenders and throw it up in the lane, he also has a nice soft touch to hit that baseline jumper. He has made every other "great" big man he's gone up against look like a CHUMP this season. Think: Harangody, Thabeet, etc. Didn't matter. Who else held Thabeet to 5 points and 4 boards (and also bodyslammed him...)?!?! What I want to see? Hansbrough vs. Blair. Tyler wouldn't know what to do with himself.
Delvon Roe, F, Michigan State: Yes, this is a little bit of a home call. But he's my favorite on that team, so of COURSE he makes the list. Some of the same things apply here, like rebounding and great moves in the post, but I also love him for all the little things he does. When he's on the court, he's all over the floor. He grabs loose balls, helps on defense, can jump up and swat the ball out of the air and acts as an overall intimidating presence--as a freshman. But perhaps the thing I like the best is the giant cartoon Sparty tattooed on his arm. To me, that shows he's proud to be at MSU and will remain committed for a long time. Here's hoping.
Honorable Mention: Jerel McNeal, G, Marquette: This was a tough one to leave out, so I had to give him a nod....McNeal is just so SMOOTH. Watching his quickness slashing to the basket or the way he can stroke a three....well, frankly, it's beyond words. He's great on defense (not called McNeal the Steal for nothing) and also a great, unselfish passer. Sometimes it's nice to just watch a "pretty" play....and McNeal provides plenty.
So that's that....The March to Madness has almost begun!!! Enjoy!
Monday, March 2, 2009
HUGE win over Illinois. And why? Lots of reasons, but the biggest one I would like to point out...THEY TOOK CARE OF THE BASKETBALL. As always, Coach Izzo had them focused and they came out ready to play. THEN came the game against Indiana...a little messy, too close for comfort, but they got it done, which is all that matters. I wouldn't be surprised if they were looking ahead to Purdue, which is understandable (I would rather that not happen but still, understandable). And finally, FINALLY there was celebration of the BIG TEN TITLE with a glorious win over Purdue. Surprisingly (and much to my excitement), Robbie Hummel did NOT have the game of his life as per usual. The game was pretty close, but I loved the effort, especially on the rebounding side of things. That is the one area that I think will really help them down the stretch--their ability to grab the basketball. The last 3 games of the season really made a statement to me: they needed to win and they got it done. It may not always be pretty, but at the end of the day, the W is all that matters.
My favorite part is always watching the seniors kiss the S as they come out of the game for the last time. I know the following statement makes me sound like a huge loser, but I don't care: Watching Goran Suton cry as he kissed the S and waved good-bye was by far my #1 moment of the day. As fans, we have so much passion and so much emotion invested in the teams we love. In a world of draft picks, shoe contracts, agents and NCAA violations, we've become so jaded that we convince ourselves that we're the only ones that really care--they're just in it for the money or themselves or whatever. THEY don't have an attachment to the school like we do. THEY don't care about the name on the front of that jersey.
Unfortunately, in some cases, I'm sure that's true. But moments like Suton's are a great reminder that really, the majority of athletes DON'T feel that way. Oftentimes, we get so entrenched in the moment that we forget that these players are still just KIDS--not professionals, not superhuman--just kids trying to get through school, make friends, have fun, and make their way to a better life whether it be on the court or off. These men (and women) DO have passion, DO have love and DO care about their teammates, their coaches and the name on the front of their jersey. They're making their own memories, just like we are.
So thank you, Suton, Walton and all the seniors of the NCAA for reminding us how special college basketball really is--for the fans and for yourselves. Thanks for the effort and the memories--past, present and future.
PS--Props to my girl Nichole for sending me photos from the banner raising ceremony. Good times! :)
Friday, February 27, 2009
It's been an issue all year and I'm pretty much over it. Michigan State is a great team. There are a lot of things about them I love--They always play hard, they rebound, they play physical basketball, they're unselfish, they play like a true team and they seem to really listen to Izzo. However, the excessive turnovers are KILLING me. We did a lot of great things against Iowa, yet they stayed in the game for way longer than they should have because of those TOs (well, and some lapses on D, but that's a smaller issue for me at the moment). And the thing is, the turnovers they are making are their own fault. Sloppy passes, ball-handling issues, things like that. And with some teams that aren't quite as good, we can get away with it. But don't TELL me turnovers were not as issue in the Purdue game and they weren't all forced. And don't TELL me that if they are throwing the ball away in the Illinois game this Sunday that Chester Frazier isn't going to take that ball and scamper down to the other end for a layup. BECAUSE HE WILL. That crap doesn't fly in the NCAA tournament. And the Big Ten regular season title has the potential to slip away if they don't tighten up.
I want a Big Ten title and I want it now. Take care of the basketball. Please and thank you. :)
Monday, February 23, 2009
Yes, they lost to Kansas tonight...they struggled to make free throws (a well-documented pet peeve of mine) and turned the ball over way too much...but that being said, I think what gets lost in "The Blake Griffin Show" is that even without him, this is a REALLY good team. Not AS good as with Blake of course, but definitely solid. They have great perimeter shooting, strong defense, and they put their noses to the grindstone tonight and crashed the boards like it was going out of style. They definitely need his talent to get them farther, but they also aren't used to being without him. I'm willing to bet that if they had to go Griffin-less for an extended period of time, they would still definitely win a lot of games. But hopefully he should be back and healthy and this isn't even an issue we will need to debate.
Kansas really tightened up their defense after going down by 14 and made a really impressive comeback. Right now, they are gunning for a pretty high seed, which is frankly, unexpected (at least to me, but hey, I'm no expert). Another reason why Kansas pulled out the win? Sherron Collins decided to go off in the second half and shoot the lights out of the gym. Ridic. Kansas really seems to be hitting their stride, but it will be interesting to see how they fair in the tournament. They are obviously a good team, but the Big 12 isn't the TOUGHEST of conferences...time will tell. But they definitely play hard.
PS--Props to Cade Davis of Oklahoma. The kid came off the bench and hit 3 consecutive three-pointers to keep Oklahoma in the game late in the 2nd half.
Friday, February 20, 2009
The day started off really well. I actually went down to Purdue with my coworkers to shoot an interview and got to stay for the game! I was pumped...and then game started.
First, it made me nervous that we were playing AT Mackey. For some reason unbeknownst to me, MSU has not played well there over the past few years. I don't know if it's the crowd or the rims or the court or what...but it's just not a good place for us to be. Second, I was REALLY nervous that Robbie Hummel was back. Again, for whatever reason, that kid always has the game of his LIFE when he plays us. He's a huge part of their offense anyway and a great player (read: the bane of my existence) and with him being out with that injury, he was raring to go with such huge stakes. Tip: Never underestimate the power of emotion in the college game. Just don't do it. It's the reason why a movie like HOOSIERS is so successful. But I digress.
The first half was alright...the turnovers were ridiculous, but somehow they managed to hang in there and stay down by three. But what really bothered me was that they looked so far out of their game. Purdue is known for their intense defensive pressure (FG percentage defense is #3 in DI)...but that wasn't any excuse for not getting rebounds and taking poor shots. The second half was probably best described as a complete disaster. Purdue came out swinging and went on a 10-0 run to open the half and we just never recovered, weren't rebounding and weren't hitting shots. BUT here's where I get really heated.
That was probably one of the worst officiated games I have ever seen. I'm a firm believer that really, you can never TRULY blame the referees for winning or losing a game. No matter what the calls, you should be able to play through it no matter what. If they make a call at the end of the game that puts someone on the line or doesn't put someone on the line, you can always argue that the team should have put it away before that, etc. etc. However...I am big proponent of letting teams play. I think basketball is and should be a physical game and I would much rather watch action instead of little ticky-tack fouls being called constantly--and that's what happened on Tuesday. It was like the refs couldn't decide if they wanted to call it tight or let them play. They would miss huge foul and then call three handchecks the next time down the floor...then they called a bunch of fouls on MSU until the discrepancy was pretty significant and started calling little cheap shots on Purdue to even things out. It was awful. I understand that Big Ten games have been an issue this year--there have been multiple elbows thrown (and discussed ad nauseum by the media), but calling a game that way makes it impossible for either team to get into a rhythm and almost ALWAYS (as in this case) favors the home team. In this case, both sets of fans were extremely angry about calls--which in a way was good, because at least it was balanced.
Bottom line--Purdue outplayed my Spartans in every way. Period. It is a sad truth to accept, but it must be done. This concerns me a bit, because it was a huge game and huge atmosphere and they couldn't get it done. BUT...we have been making good strides, so I'm cautiously optimistic that this was just a bad game and we'll be back on track for Sunday.
Also, Chris Kramer flops. A lot. I'm not saying he's not a good defender, but he flops. All over. Constantly. It's annoying.
PS--Props to the Purdue crowd. I've never seen a game at Mackey and they were definitely up and ready to go. It is definitely kind of cool when your team is the one with the target on their back and everyone wants to be the one to bring you down....
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I'll be honest. I am NOT a Duke fan. Frankly, I'm not that much of a UNC fan either, but really, they're kind of the lesser of two evils, so when forced to choose between the two, I'll stick with the Heels. I realize it's a cliche to make the previous statements, so I'll say this: They bother me because they're always so good. If neither team was worth it, I wouldn't care. That being said, that doesn't mean I don't think both teams have talent and great coaching. They do. I may not be a "fan" but I know good basketball when I see it.
So hopefully, if you enjoy college basketball enough to be reading this, you most likely watched the game last night. I won't bore you with a recap beyond this: the first half = all Duke; the second half = all UNC. You know the rest. It was a totally awesome game and I appreciate the fact that Duke continued to play like they were down 2 the whole game regardless of what the actual score was. Their sense of urgency and the desire to win made it much more interesting to watch even after UNC built such a lead. But on to other topics.
Based on the various reactions I've been hearing whether it be media, coworkers, or the "man on the street", I'm blown away by the apparent "revelation" that UNC is a good team. Um, really? You're that surprised? They're still ranked #3....right? This is the UNC that everyone had picked as their hands-down, no contest, absolute favorite to win the title and make every other team look like morons...remember? Yes, yes, I get it. They had injuries--they lost Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Zeller for the season. But Marcus Ginyard was out before and everyone was STILL ranting about how good they were. Tyler Hansbrough was the most amazing player ever. Ty Lawson was the greatest, fastest, most amazing point guard in the history of point guards. I'm exagerrating a bit, I know, but I'm making the point that from about October to December, more than a few people were making it clear that there was NO WAY anyone could beat these guys. And then someone did....Boston College and Wake Forest both defeated the mighty Tar Heels and suddenly, no one talked about them anymore.
This is one of the things I simulanteously love and hate about college basketball: the fact that most of the time, the only consistent is the inconsistent. I don't believe that just because a team loses a game that makes them an inferior team. Yes, they were an inferior team THAT DAY. Again, that's the beauty of the sport. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. Just because UNC lost some games, doesn't mean they aren't the best. Now, if they lose EVERY game, then probably (see: Notre Dame). But that's a different argument all together. With so many games and so many teams and the level of play across the board, every team and player is bound to have an off-night at least ONCE in awhile.
I'm not asking for a lack of common sense or vigorous support for a team that's 5-20 to win the national championship. I'm just asking for us to be a little more forgiving.
PS--Props to my coworker, Chris, for sending me pics from his courtside seat at the game. Yes, I was EXTREMELY jealous, but at least I got to live vicariously through someone else. :)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Yes, I will be gushing. No, I don't feel bad about it. Anytime we can beat a rival, it feels good. Football, basketball, water polo--I don't care. The thing that's kind of cool is, in both football and basketball, the rivalries have been pretty one-sided the last few years (UM in football, MSU in basketball), but with the improvements MSU is making on the football side and John Beilein at the helm of Michigan basketball, I think that's changing. A lot of people may say that isn't a good thing, but I disagree. A rivalry is only really fun if the other team is worth beating...even if that means we may lose to Michigan sometime down the road (but I hope not!).
Anyway, on to the game. I was really happy with several things I saw out of my team tonight. 1.) Getting a road win, especially in the Big Ten, is always great. It's a lot less intimidating going into the tournament and not having that home support when you can step up and win anyway.
2.) They did really well holding the lead. Michigan made a couple of runs, took advantage of some defensive breakdowns inside and hit some shots, but every time that happened, MSU calmly came down the floor and made a play. That kind of poise is SO important--not panicking, not forcing it, not turning it over (granted they turned it over some, but for the most part did really well).
3.) Getting some wins without their lead scorer on the floor. It's no secret Raymar Morgan has been out with some mystery illness (it might be mono, it might be puemonia, it changes a lot)
and that's a huge loss for our team. However, the guys are stepping up and finding some other answers, which is great. Morgan is expected to be back next week against Purdue, but won't be up to full strength for awhile. It's good the rest of the team knows how to help him out until he gets there.
4.) DELVON ROE! Every few years, I pick my favorite player. For the past 4 years, it was Drew Neitzel. I took a lot of heat for it at times, but I stand by my choice. It was solid. At the beginning of this season, I was quite unsure who it would be, but after a couple games, I decided Roe was my guy. After tonight, I'm patting myself on the back about what a good choice that was (so far...god forbid something terrible happens). He has played really well lately and tonight was no exception. 14 points, 10 boards...but in general, his presence was everywhere. It seemed like every time MSU made a great play, Roe had something to do with it. A loose ball, offensive rebounds, defending the post, etc. In the absence of Morgan, he stepped up to give us a go-to guy in the post. This kid doesn't play like a freshman and we haven't even seen all he can do yet. I can't wait.
5.) Travis Walton. The kid isn't the biggest offensive threat, but his leadership on the defensive end is ridiculous, in an amazing way. He guards every team's best player and tonight he was all over Manny Harris, holding him to just 7 points. Woo!
*Goran Suton frustrates me to no end. For the past 3 years, the kid has been ridiculously inconsistent. Half the time, he's the best player on the floor. The other half of the time, he looked like he'd never seen a basketball before. Then this year came. He had knee surgery and came back....with solid performances every game. Amazing, right? And then there was tonight. He, again, looked like he had never seen a basketball before. He got beat on defense, got caught with his back turned, couldn't grab a rebound, couldn't hit a shot...GRRR! I hope it was just an off game and not a return to the old ways...otherwise, I say he might have to go under the knife one more time.
*The Michigan crowd amused me. It seemed that every time MSU had the ball (according to them) we either committed an offensive foul, traveled, turned it over--in general, we did something wrong every time we had the ball. I agree that there were some questionable calls, but it definitely went both ways. I wasn't always happy either, but it evened out pretty well.
*It pains me to give Michigan credit for anything (kidding) but they did play great defense. The Spartans fought through it, but they really rotated well and suffocated our team without fouling. I was getting frustrated and I didn't even play. John Beilein is a really great coach and he is going to have a lot of success there (dang it).
*Why does Manny Harris always look like he's going to cry? I've watched a few Michigan games this year and the kid just has one of those facial expressions that makes him looks constantly depressed.
*Is the fact that Greg Paulus starting at point guard tomorrow really THAT big a deal? I can see when talking about the game in a preview or in the studio or something that it would be relevant, but when saying "This game is on tomorrow...AND GREG PAULUS IS STARTING AT POINT GUARD!!!"??? I don't think it's international news.
PS--Props to Delvon Roe. No explanation needed.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Mizzou I think is so unique to watch because they are so in-your-face and can take teams so out of their game. They forced Kansas into 27 (yes, TWENTY SEVEN) turnovers. They need to work a little bit on taking better advantage of them (they didn't always make Kansas pay for it) but on the plus side, it CLEARLY worked. And the leadership of DeMarre Carroll was outstanding--talk about stepping up and making big shots when needed. And the final shot...so awesome. Zaire Taylor (love that name so I had to find a way to work it in...thankfully he made the game-winner) made a great ball fake and got a lil shooter's bounce...I won't bore you with X's and O's, I'll just say: AWESOME.
I've actually been really impressed with Kansas this year as well...I know I'm not the only person who's a little surprised by how well they've done, but frankly I didn't expect them to be ranked this season. I believe in the beginning of the season I said "they'll be fine...they'll finish third or fourth in the Big 12, but not really a national power." Me = clearly wrong. They have some youth and inexperience still, but (unfortunately for the rest of us) will definitely continue to be a force in the college basketball world.
One thing that I was REALLY disappointed to see, however, was Sherron Collins stepping up to the line and missing 2 clutch free throws for the Jayhawks. As a veteran player who's had a pretty big role on a national championship team, missing those was pretty much unacceptable. I know, I get it--there's a lot of pressure, the crowd is loud blah blah blah. Here's where I get on my soapbox: Nothing ticks me off more than players and teams who can't make free throws. I'M not a Division I basketball player....I can make free throws. It is a basic fundamental of the game. Period. Get on the line and learn how to do it. It's FREE POINTS. That is all.
PS--Props to the entire Missouri crowd. Their team was down 14 points, yet at the end of the game, that place was still packed and loud as could be. Don't tell me those fans didn't have something to do with their team coming back and pulling out a huge victory.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
That being said, yesterday's game against Villanova was not exactly a great campaign message. From the opening tip, Syracuse just seemed to be having an off day. Villanova shot extremely well thanks to the strong play of Dante Cunningham and the Coreys (Fisher and Stokes) and Syracuse just couldn't get anything going. In the first half alone, the Orange scored only 9 field goals and it was only their free throw shooting that gave them any chance at all (which is interesting because Syracuse is normally a poor free throw shooting team). They had absolutely no rebounding, too many turnovers and their defense was best described as a " sieve." Yikes. Granted, a lot of it was because they're pretty banged up right now (one example: Onawaku is battling a knee injury and can barely jump off the floor) and they aren't actually a very deep team, so no doubt this intense Big East schedule is taking a toll. This is really a time when a lot of these Big East teams are going to have to start digging really deep to find some energy hidden somewhere, otherwise the tournament is going to be BORING...all these teams will be too exhausted to play anymore!
On the plus side, Syracuse was extremely aggressive driving to the basket and drew enough fouls to get Nova in trouble in the first half and as mentioned before, their free throw shooting was much better than normal...but that's about where it stopped. The second half was much of the same as the first. Their horrendous defense was really what hurt them...every time the Orange managed to generate some offense and get some good shots, Villanova ran right back down the court for what looked like a lot of easy scores. A lot of coaches will say that good defense leads to offense and apparently Syracuse missed that memo. Around the 7 minute mark, they went on kind of a mini-run and I thought "Hey, maybe this is where it turns around"...but I was wrong. They actually closed to within 11 at one point and I would LOVE to be able to say it was because they did A, B and C...but unfortunately ESPN cut out of the game for that stretch so I have no idea what happened. All I know is that it clearly didn't matter, because Villanova still blew them out in the end. The Cats lost some games early, but they seem to really be hitting their stride at the right time. It's so hard not to love Big East basketball this year.
P.S.--Props to Jay Wright for being the best-dressed coach in college basketball. I don't know what it is, but that man can work a suit like nothing I've ever seen. If I were his agent, I'd be on the phone with Armani trying to work out some kind of deal. I'm just sayin....
Friday, February 6, 2009
It's true, I'm pretty much hitting the ground running, but I've been thinking about doing something like this for awhile now and at the encouragement of my co-workers, I've decided to give it a try. I've loved basketball my whole life--played, gone to camps, taken classes, etc. Once I got to college and spent four years in the Izzone, I was hooked. Over the past several years it's been my goal to watch, read and absorb as much about college basketball as humanly possible. My line of work (sports television production) helps a lot too. Some of my favorite sports writers/analysts that help fuel my passion: Jay Bilas, Mike DeCourcy, Steve Lavin, Steve Smith and Pat Forde.
I'm one of the only girls I know who would rather go on a date to a sporting event then out to dinner and often plans her social calendar around whatever big games happen to be on that weekend. And no, I'm actually not a tomboy. I love make-up, fashion, cooking and pretty much anything girlie--I just love sports too. In my world, there's no reason why a person can't be both.
So hopefully you like what you read. I don't by any means know it all--and I'll only write about what games I watch or teams I've followed throughout the season (as in, seen more than 2 of their games). I'm just writing about my passion--and anyone who loves college basketball I'm sure can understand. :)
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Notre Dame is not a BAD team--how can you be when you boast a fantastic player like Luke Harangody and a kid like McAlarney who can hit from the parking lot? They certainly deserved the attention and expectations that came their way in the preseason. But their current resume leaves much to be desired and it's surprising that it's taken this long for people to figure out they might not be as powerful as everyone thought they were. Their losses before the Louisville game on Jan. 12 may have been overlooked, but the Cardinals exposed several weaknesses that have been plaguing the Irish throughout their Big East season. This is a team that only rotates 7 players, can't run and plays no transition defense--all it takes is a deep team with a little bit of speed to wear them out. Harangody, who gives a phenomenal effort night in and night out, simply can't do it all himself. To take that one further--it may better when he doesn't. In Saturday's loss to Pittsburgh, Harangody had a quiet first half: 8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 of 11 from the field and yet Notre Dame held the 45-39 lead at the break. Multiple teammates stepped up to the plate, including Luke Zeller (18 points in the first half), who seemingly couldn't miss a 3. In the second half, ND fed Harangody again and again...but essentially, he was the only one. Although he's the strongest player on the team, it makes you wonder if Mike Brey will work on coming up with a new strategy anytime soon to spread the love and perhaps a few more wins.
In ND's defense, the Big East IS the toughest league in the nation right now and most of those losses have come against extremely talented teams...but Notre Dame still needs to prove they're legit...and if the Irish don't pull some big victories out of their remaining schedule, they may be looking at an early exit come March.
On the flip side, HELLO XAVIER! I haven't had much of an opportunity to watch them this season, but they're using their game against Temple to announce their #9 ranking is not a fluke. Draining 3s, great defense and Derrick Brown and his sick dunks....this is a fun team to watch.
PS--Props the Xavier guys proudly standing head-to-toe in blue body paint...now THAT'S hardcore dedication.
Minnesota vs. Michigan State
I don't know what Tom Izzo is saying to his players these days, but whatever it is clearly worked. After two lackluster performances at home, his team FINALLY showed up to defend their homecourt. Tonight's game was absolutely incredible and it actually left me feeling--dare I say it--SORRY for the poor Golden Gophers. It seemed that no matter what they did, it just wasn't enough. The cameras cut to Tubby Smith on the sidelines and I laughed at how this man, a national championship coach with years of wins and wisdom behind him, looked completely bewildered (as did his team on the court). It's no secret the Spartans have had their ups and downs this year--injury upon injury, inability to close out a game, lapses on defense, losses at home--but last night sent a clear message that no matter what the future holds, MSU won't leave quietly.
From the opening tip, Durrell Summers and company were all over the floor, grabbing loose balls, banging for rebounds, knocking down shots and looking like a team that will have no problems reaching the Final Four. Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying that Michigan State is a shoo-in in ANY sense of the word. But with a few more performances like that, it's hard not to at least consider it when filling out the office bracket.
I think the truest mark of a team is not the total in your wins and losses column, but rather the way they respond when challenged and knocked down. Every team, no matter how talented, will always have their ups and downs on the court--it's part of the beauty of the sport: the idea that on any given night, at any moment, 5 on 5, anything can happen. But it amazes me at the ease with which so many fans, analysts and observers are so quick to write off one team or another based on just a few games, especially early in the season. A team looks fantastic in December and they're automatically our national champion. A team drops an early loss to say, Maryland, and they're overrated (not like THAT happened this season. Oh wait....) Now, in the month of February, is when teams should be hitting their stride. In the days and weeks ahead, we'll find out if this MSU team is the real deal or just a flash in the pan.