Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Still attempting the march to Motown...

Was advised by coworker NOT to take Craigslist tickets. Told there would be much better offers out there as we get closer to game time. Decide to follow his advice.

Leaving for Auburn Hills on a work trip tomorrow morning. Must pack for the next 7 days....

A quest...

My search for Final Four tickets has begun. After scoping out a variety of brokerage websites, I'm coming to a conclusion about how much good tickets may cost. For now, they are WAY too expensive. The first step is deciding where to sit in relation to how much I'm willing to spend. My general philosophy is that I'm willing to pay more for good seats. So far, good seats are not in the foreseeable future.

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.


I never thought this would happen.

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

Get comfortable kids....This is going to be a long one...

Michigan State in the Elite Eight.....It feels good saying it.

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

I think the argument is over....

So I haven't written anything about the tournament, which is pretty lame considering this is a college basketball blog. But I was very busy going to the bar and watching games all day...which is not conducive to having a computer by your side to update your blog. Oh well. I won't attempt to make up for it by writing thoughts about every game, but here are some thoughts....

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

Want some help filling out your bracket?

Go here...


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

Season Honors

I know you've all been waiting with bated breath, so here it is...the OFFICIAL unveiling of the 2008-2009 All-WIGS Team. Before I reveal my choices, I want to explain the criteria. These are not necessarily the BEST players in the league, but my favorites for one reason or another. There are a lot of big men because I was a post player in my day and I love the guys that can bang around and grab rebounds. Since I believe basketball is and should be a physical game, I also like the players that aren't afraid to give and get hits (not dirty play of course, just not delicate little flowers).

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


This will NOT be a quasi-angry post. I am quite pleased.

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! :)