Monday, February 8, 2010

Those backdoor cut warm my heart...

Another great Saturday of college basketball followed by an amazing week ahead!! There should be some fantastic games ahead as the pressure mounts toward March Madness. I decided that in addition to my usual comments about Michigan State, I would also feature the Villanova-Georgetown game...Enjoy!


I was really excited to watch this game, mostly because I haven't gotten a chance to see too much of Nova or Georgetown and really like both teams. I figured it would be a good one, with Villanova holding an undefeated Big East record and Georgetown fired up after an unexpected loss to South Florida. I didn't quite expect what the actual game entailed.

Georgetown came out swinging the first half and seemed to be clicking on all cylinders. They were hitting 3's left and right, their big guys made beautiful cuts down the lane for layups, their passes were crisp and they hit almost every free throw. They jumped out to an early 17 to 20 point lead and although Nova would make a run every once in awhile, it never got much below 14 or 15 points.

The fouls were very unbalanced--Nova got called for multiple offensive fouls and didn't even get to the free throw line until 6:25 left in the half. Jay Wright worked the refs the entire time and his hot temper eventually led to a techincal with about 8 minutes left in the first half. What's interesting about that technical though, was that it seemed sort of calculated. He got warned a couple of times and just kept going and going....he was pretty animated about it, more so than usual...then he got the T and his team suddenly played with a little more intensity, a little more aggression and the refs started calling a few more fouls on Georgetown. Even Doris Burke mentioned that it seemed like Wright was asking for it and hoping it would get his team fired up...I've often heard rumblings that coaches sometimes get T's on purpose for whatever reason, but this was the first time I've seen it so blatant. And maybe it wasn't, who knows....but either way, it definitely seemed to serve a purpose.

Nova struggled a bit in the half and despite shooting 50% from the field found themselves down by 21. Turnovers were a big problem and the Wildcats normally spectacular guards (Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes) had a pretty quiet showing. Reynolds alone only had 5 points. There were a few shining moments from Dominique Cheek on the defensive side of the ball, snagging two key steals that turned into Nova baskets. Beyond that, Nova's game wasn't on par with their usual production.

On the other side, Georgetown reserve Jason Clark had a career game, hitting 4 three-pointers in the that half alone. Incredible.

The second half got a little better for the Cats, but the lead was too large and Georgetown, to their credit, never let up. Nova banged the boards, got a few more offensive rebounds, tightened up defensively and cut the lead down, but the Hoyas had fantastic ball movement, unselfish play and an all-around team effort that was actually pretty cool to see. As a fan of the team it's happening to, watching your opponent mop the floor with your guys is pretty painful (trust me, I can relate), but as a neutral's awesome.

And frankly, I'm sure the emotional aspect played a role as well. Georgetown, it seemed, had more of a sense of urgency regarding this game. They were most likely frustrated and embarassed over losing to South Florida, sitting in the middle of the Big East conference, given a chance to redeem themselves by taking out a big opponent...and of course, while no team WANTS to lose or TRIES to lose, Georgetown needed and wanted this one just a little bit more. Villanova had one off game against a great team--they'll regroup and be just fine.


I think Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman are bad luck for MSU. No, really. They are. I'm not getting personal here, they are both very nice men and do a great job...but the odds are NOT in their favor. Think about it. The last FOUR BIG GAMES they've called, MSU has lost.

MSU vs. UNC in 2008....MSU loss.
MSU vs. UNC in 2009....MSU loss.
MSU vs. Purdue last season....MSU loss.
MSU vs. Illinois on Saturday night....MSU loss.

Yes, yes, I get it. MSU is in control of their own destiny and how they play. So true. I totally agree. But you are also talking to a girl who stops wearing a shirt/sweatshirt she was wearing after a loss....I am a little superstitious. So can we please eliminate anything that makes it harder to win? Please and thank you.

That said, I have mixed emotions about that game. I am obviously bummed they lost (especially since they totally could have won), but I would rather lose at the buzzer as opposed to the way we did at Wisconsin. Also, may I please point out what I wrote the other day? That if the Spartans couldn't close out opponents, their "squeaking out a win because the other team missed the game-winning shot" luck would run out?!!? Consider the well dry kids.

However, there were a lot of good things there. First off, Illinois played pretty much the best game of their entire season, so kudos to them. Secondly, MSU constantly fought back, right until the end. No matter what the score, they played hard and hit some really big shots. The big men produced REALLY well, especially Draymond Green. There were a lot of rebounds, strong moves inside and hustle. Awesome. Kalin Lucas showed some fantastic leadership from the bench...even MORE awesome. But really, I just can't take the turnovers. I mean, seriously. That and missed free throws are driving me CRAZY. There's another big one against Purdue on Tuesday night. Kalin or no Kalin, these guys need this one. Let's get it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

At the risk of sounding lame, WVU fans are being ridiculous

Some of you may or may not be aware of the recent events involving the West Virginia basketball student section. Here's the synopsis...The team is playing really well and the kids are excited...maybe a bit too much. The last few games have included incidents of profanity being chanted so loudly it was clearly heard across national television, personal attacks on coach Rick Pitino and items thrown at the Pittsburgh team during the game.

Both Coach Bob Huggins and the president of the university have taken steps to help solve the problem, including pleading, scolding, and threatening to prosecute offending parties. It is great to see them taking a stand and addressing the problem, but really, you would think the students would take it upon themselves to figure it out and shut their mouths.

Listen--I get it. I was a proud member of the Izzone for 4 years. I screamed, yelled, chanted, got rowdy, rushed the court, the whole nine yards. I made fun of players' haircuts, warm-ups, etc. etc. I once screamed at Tom Coverdale (who played for Indiana) during a silent free throw that "even my mom hates him." (Which was actually mom was NOT a Coverdale fan, mostly just because he was so good.) There is no question that I was one of the loudest fans there during my four years. But one of the things I was most proud of was the fact that I, along with hundreds of Izzone members, found classier and/or more humorous ways of heckling the other team.

Did I ever sit on my couch and let loose strings of 4-letter words? Sure! Do I still do it now? Of course! Do I get a little carried away while sitting in an MSU bar and let a few choice phrases fly every now and then? You bet!

In the privacy of my own home or in the loud confusion of a home-team bar, you can get away with those things. But when you are a member (or one of many members) of a student section, the rules change a bit. You're in public. You are representing your school. Everyone gets riled up and ticked off at what they thing is a bad call or a dirty play--God knows if you can lip-read some of the things coaches say when that happens, you know they aren't complimenting anyone's shoes. But the students need to remember that actions affect others--their behavior reflects postively or negatively on a LARGE contingent of people.

I would like to think that ANY student section prides themselves on being way more creative then chanting swears or making low personal blows on coaches and players. It's one thing to call Drew Neitzel "Britney Spears" after she shaved her head--it's quite another to make a comment about someone's mother or wife. And frankly, who thinks it is EVER okay to throw things at people?!?!?

WVU certainly isn't the only group to cross the line or chant swear words and unfortunately, they probably won't be the last. But the bigger point here is that these students understand exactly what they're there to do and how lucky they are.

Students sections exist to bring spirit and energy to their teams and other fans. They exist to give students an opportunity to have an amazing view of college basketball that they may never have again. It's all about fun and enjoying the unique and incredible atmosphere of this amazing sport. Maybe this is something you don't appreciate until you leave it behind, but trust me--the ability to go to every game and sit courtside is a true privilege. So enjoy it. Drink it in. Appreciate what it is. Represent with dignity. Be loud, be proud, be creative.

And of course, stay classy kids. Stay classy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Feeling Some Pain...MSU vs. Wisconsin

That was bad. Really bad. PAINFULLY bad. And I'm not just talking about the injury to Kalin Lucas.

The Spartan effort against the Badgers last night was nothing short of, well--lame. I spoke with a LOT of friends and fans before the game and everyone (including me) seemed to feel the same way--that the odds of MSU going undefeated in the Big Ten were slim, especially given that they never seem to play well at the Kohl Center or Mackey Arena and other venues, like Assembly Hall in Champaign, are always tough places to play. The vibe I got was that if a loss was going to happen, it was coming soon. And so it did.

As I said before, I'm cool with losing every once in awhile. I don't like it, but in a weird way it kind of takes the pressure off and can be a big wake-up call. What I don't like is losing the way they did--no energy, poor shot selection, what appeared to be a basic lack of effort. It didn't help that Wisconsin shot the lights out of the gym, but it was clear they wanted it more. Period. And it gets worse.

Reading some quotes from the game today, Korie Lucious (who my mother refers to as "a little fireball") talked about how the team "felt a loss coming." See below...

"I think we all did," guard Korie Lucious said. "In practice, we just haven't been bringing it like we should have and Coach has been telling us that for the last couple of days."

2 points for honesty, but...really!??! You are telling me that as a player, as a team, you walked into the Kohl Center thinking, "Well, we are probably going to lose anyway." ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!? I mean, as FANS we were trying to prepare for the worst to manage our own expectations, but not ONE SINGLE FAN I talked to said, "Oh they will lose." They said, "Oh they MIGHT lose, but they are good enough to win and they CAN win." Of COURSE you won't win with that attitude!!!!! How about saying, "Who cares what anyone thinks, we are winning this game." How about "We are going to focus on executing like we know we can." I am so disappointed by that attitude. That line of thinking doesn't get you to a Final Four. Did you say that last year when all the pundits picked you to lose to USC? Or Kansas? Or Louisville? Or UConn?? Something tells me that had they walked into those games with that attitude, they wouldn't have made it as far as they did.

It's bad enough that Kalin Lucas went down with a sprained ankle and we don't know how long he'll be down, but that mental mindset does not bode well. Here's hoping they can shake it off for Illinois.

And P.S.--For Steve Lavin (who I think is an awesome analyst), Brent Musberger and all the other media people out there...We get it. MSU never plays well at the Kohl Center. Bo Ryan owns Tom Izzo on his home court. We know. Trust us...we are WELL AWARE we haven't won there since 2001. It is not something we forget. You do not need to constantly remind us. Nor do you need to continue to pound it into our brain as MSU gets their tails handed to them. The memories come flooding back every time it happens. Thanks.