Friday, February 27, 2009

This is going to be a quasi-angry post....

So, my Spartans played on Wednesday night. They beat Iowa, maintained their Big Ten lead, etc., etc. These are all things I have no issue with. Here is my problem: TURNOVERS.

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

I miss Blake Griffin

I have to say, I was REALLY disappointed Blake Griffin got hurt on Saturday night and couldn't play tonight against Kansas. Everyone in the media is pretty enamored of him and I don't disagree in the slightest. He is not only a beast in the post, he's a great passer and creates a lot of offense for his teammates just by his presence. He's one of those players that completely changes the game just by being on the floor--it's pretty awesome. That being said, I'm a HUGE fan of Oklahoma as a whole this season. I am putting them in my Final Four and I don't care who knows it.

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

Back by popular demand...

So the two people that actually read this were both wondering why I didn't blog about the Purdue/Michigan State game on Tuesday. And if you watched that game, you know how ugly and disappointing it was to be a State fan that yes, I took some time off to lick my wounds, mostly because I knew that writing it after the game could be a bad move. I'm still not sure making any commentary is a good idea. I'm already bitter when playing Purdue anyway, for my own personal reasons that needn't be shared here. Suffice it to say, I really REALLY want to beat them....a lot.

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

UNC is really, really good....apparently, this is news?

North Carolina 101, Duke 87

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

Um, Draymond Green? We don't pull on people's jerseys....

Michigan State 54, Michigan 42

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!

Random thoughts:
*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.


Great Article!

Jay Bilas is by far one of my favorite analysts. I think his knowledge of the game and his perspective as both a former player and coach bring so much to the table. No matter what, I always LEARN something when I listen to him. One of my coworkers alerted me to a two part interview with him and I've posted the link here. He mainly talks about the ACC, but also a little about the way he approaches his job as a broadcaster. This is part 2, but there's a link to part one at the top of the page. Enjoy!

Monday, February 9, 2009


WHEW!! I am still catching my breath after that THAT is the kind of game I like to see...not the PRETTIEST of games, but still--frenetic pace, physical play, bodies flying, everyone diving for loose balls, winner and loser decided by the last second...I would say the only thing missing was Gus Johnson (yes, he's out of his mind, but damn it, he makes every game feel like it's life or death. Don't tell me you don't secretly enjoy his ridiculousness).

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 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

Jonny Flynn is a badass

So this is where I admit it....Jonny Flynn is probably my favorite player in the entire NCAA right now. Actually "Jonny Flynn is a badass" is usually how I describe it. I think he is absolutely one of the most underrated and overlooked players in college basketball. He does still have some more developing to do, but in general, what he brings to the table is pretty awesome. As a player, the kid brings it all: speed, strength, great passing, outside shooting, etc. He isn't the tallest guy on the floor, but that never stops him from aggressively penetrating to the basket and jumping over just about anyone to dunk the ball. Not only does he give you direct offensive production, he creates more offense through his ability to pass and see the open floor. So that's my pitch....I'm driving the Jonny Flynn bandwagon and there's plenty of room for you to hop on. :)

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


You may be reading this and thinking, "It's February...why start a college basketball blog NOW?"

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

Contenders and Pretenders...

Is anyone else thankful that the obsession with Notre Dame basketball seems to have calmed down? I admit, I'm KIND of surprised they've fallen as far as losing to Cincinnati (not a bad team, but not particularly great either) but I'm surprised it's taken that long before they really started to raise some eyebrows...and not in a good way.

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 THAT'S hardcore dedication.

In Izzo We Trust

February 4, 2009

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.