Monday, March 30, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

The Final Four is set, minus Missouri, Pittsburgh and Louisville as it should have been. Or at least according to my bracket. Instead of me winning money, Connecticut, Villanova and Michigan State will join North Carolina in the Final Four. I’m not terribly upset (other than I will receive no money in yet another Tournament pool) that Villanova and Michigan State made it in because both teams are well coached and play extremely hard. Yes, Michigan State is hard to watch at times and they play in the Big Ten, which means I should hate them (apparently, it’s a rule written down somewhere), but it was enjoyable to watch them from a basketball standpoint as they dismantled Louisville in the second half of Sunday’s game.

But as for UConn, seeing them in the Final Four (or in general) makes me want to vomit. On my desk. On my computer screen. On my shirt. Everywhere. And not the liquidy, mush stuff, but those big, beefy chunks of vomit. The Huskies have always struck me as one of the shadiest teams in college basketball, which is already a terribly shady business. Plus, watching them play is incredibly painful. They’re great on defense when they want to be, but offensively they’re sloppy, undisciplined and often rely on one player to bail them out. I know there’s nothing wrong with having the most talent possible on a basketball team, but to me there’s nothing like a well-coached team playing well with each other and to the best of their abilities. The constant one-on-one breakdown plays often work, but that doesn’t always constitute a good basketball team.

And let’s throw in that on this year’s team a convicted felon, A.J. Price, is not only still on the team, but is arguably its best player. And of the number one seeds (Louisville, Pittsburgh and North Carolina), UConn has the worst graduation rate. Sure, that’s just a small sample of schools, but the U of L and Pitt aren’t what I would call bastions of academia. Oh, and finally, the whole business of the possible rules violations that were discovered last week, which I can assure you is not an isolated incident in the UConn men’s program.

Nate Miles, the recruit at the center of the violations, was dismissed from UConn after violating a restraining order 16 MINUTES AFTER IT WAS ISSUED. But here’s the real kicker: Calhoun and company continued to recruit him after he was expelled UConn and enrolled at the College of Southern Idaho. A first rate program in Storrs.

Ole Miss baseball takes the lead in the SEC West, then promptly washes its hands of the responsibility of leading. After winning two of three games in their first two SEC series, the Rebels lost two of three to LSU in Baton Rouge over the weekend. In some Ole Miss circles, this would mean the shit is hitting the fan in the young conference schedule. However, this is not one of those circles. When these collapses become a habit, I’ll start to care.

For more coverage of Ole Miss baseball (as in coverage that tells you more than who won or lost), I refer you to the Red Cup Rebellion link on the side of the page. They follow it much closer than I do and often know our entire starting lineup. When baseball starts to make large chunks of money, I will learn more than five players’ names. Or if they ever win a damn Super Regional.

Grown men begin taking half-days at work to watch non-contact drills between 18-22 year olds. That’s right, spring practice is in full-force in Oxford and across the SEC. In fairness to those grown men, the drills will soon become contact drills and actual scrimmaging will begin taking place.

My only hope for spring practice is that no one gets hurt and guys who have never started and will probably play this year get as much experience as possible. And by experience, I mean getting cursed at and berated as much as a starter would when they screw up something that should be really simple. That’s about it for me.

One good story that has come out of practice so far is this alleged Bobby Massie story involving a conversation he had with Nick Saban. I have no idea if this is true (but hey, there’s no accountability here, it’s a blog!), so judge for yourselves:

“He (Massie) was asked to give a good Nick Saban recruiting story, and he had a pretty good one to say the least. Bobby said he called Coach Saban the night before signing day to let him know that he was going to sign with Ole Miss. Bobby did not even inform the Ole Miss staff that he was going to be a Rebel until the night before signing day, per Bobby, but he did say, "I had a pretty good idea where I was going in December."

Anyway, Bobby calls Nick and Coach Saban stops him before he tells where he is going and said this, "Bobby, do not even tell me where you are going, because if you are not going to Alabama I am turning you into the NCAA. You know you have a chance to start at Alabama at right tackle as a sophomore, and nobody would turn that down unless they did something illegal."

Bobby was stunned. He said he just listened to Coach Saban rant and never said another word about it. He was offended to say the least. That is why he made such a scene at the press conference when he threw the Alabama hat on the ground and put on an Ole Miss hat.”

Let me also refer you to the Red Cup Rebellion again for spring practice reports if you want to know who’s really excelling in seven-on-seven drills or running through the square of cones the fastest. They have someone or someones in attendance for every practice and for the most part it’s not sunshine pumping, unlike some other Ole Miss sites.

Tyson Lee remains the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. Lee will most likely be Mississippi State’s starter at quarterback heading into next season unless Tyler Russell is the next…well, he doesn’t have to be the next anybody. He just has to be average. State fans, you can thank Sylvester Croom at:

Sylvester Croom
c/o St. Louis Rams
1 Rams Way
Earth City, MO 63045

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Best, Worst and In Between of the Week

That’s right, yet another gimmick coming your way. I know I didn’t bring another “Looking for a Midweek Pulse,” but that was the result of having too much going on. When faced with any sort of adversity or mildly hectic days, I fold like a wet sack because I’m lazy and not exactly highly motivated. You should know this by now. Anyway, in an effort to crank out 3 posts a week (I know, it’s a high bar I set for myself), I’m trying to add something at the end of the week. We’ll see how this goes and if it works, it will be around for a few weeks until I come up with some excuse as to why I didn’t do it. And if someone out there has done this before, I apologize for not being more well-read or watching enough TV.

Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy wants the entire defensive line to get “Landshark” tattoos. A more fantastic idea I cannot recall. And to sweeten the deal, Hardy, allegedly skilled in art and graphic design, said he will design the tattoos. With the mind of Greg Hardy spinning away, there is literally no ceiling to the awesomeness/unintentional comedy of the design. I picture a group of hater fire-breathing dragons attacking a country farmhouse with a giant Landshark swooping in poised to eat them all. And the Landshark has the Prince-like hair Hardy was rocking earlier last year. Sign me up.

Dan Mullen is bringing a new attitude, new direction and hot pants to Mississippi State football.

Stolen from the Washington Redskin’s Chris Cooley, who declared that every Wednesday practice was “Hot Pants Wednesday,” State players now wear the pants worn by dance teams across the country. No word on the song selection for their highly anticipated dance at the end of spring practice.

Jim Calhoun and UConn will soon feel the not-so-swift and not-so-severe hammer of the NCAA’s discipline. Why are these allegations of major violations for UConn listed as part of the best news of the week? A couple of reasons. One, I always thought there was something odd on how Calhoun could convince mainly black athletes to come to Storrs, Connecticut, a town that’s 81% white and just under 6% black, to play basketball. I’m sure a free ride and the idea of being a part of major college basketball are pretty strong pulls, but if I’m going to freeze my ass off for however long I’d stay before jumping to the NBA, I need a little more than that.

And two, we all know Calhoun can be a little cranky, as his postgame press conference a few weeks ago showed when he blew up at an antagonizing reporter. Throw in this career-ending story and the pressure of getting ready for a Sweet 16 game, and a perfect storm is brewing. And the longer UConn stays in the Tournament, the larger the storm will get. Eventually, it will explode and television history will be made as Calhoun tries to take on a room filled with reporters. We might see TV’s first dive off a stage at a reporter from a basketball coach. I’m excited.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hates fantasy football. Goodell believes the NFL should expand its regular season from 16 games to 17 or 18, which would generate more money for the league (I don’t care about this), but would lead to more injuries (this is what I care about) and create playoff teams that would have to play playoff games with a large number of backups starting. And who doesn’t want to watch a second string offensive line try to block its way to the Super Bowl without getting its quarterback killed?


Tim Tebow becomes a god walking among mere mortals. I know this is over a week old, but the story of Tebow’s speech after losing to Ole Miss 31-30 being engraved and put outside Florida’s football facility kept popping up this week. Urban Meyer, who would do something like this, had the speech placed there so that all of Gator Nation could feel inspired or something. Or they could remember the sensations of nausea and suicidal thoughts when they remember losing to Ole Miss.

Of course this is completely absurd behavior. Tebow isn’t even finished with school yet. But Urban Meyer, the master motivator and coach of a team that lost 31-30 at home to a team that won ZERO SEC games the year before, wanted it done now. After all, this is the man who is credited by the media with having the revolutionary idea of wanting the fastest team in America. So we probably shouldn’t question anything he does. Someone this smart and innovative couldn’t be wrong.

The return of Michael Herrick to Oxford is official. Herrick, and his sized 14 feet that were the hot topic of many a thread on the Ole Miss Spirit message board, will return with his new team, Northern Arizona, for a revenge game against Ole Miss in November. Listed at six-foot one, which means he’s shot up to 5’11” in reality, Herrick is still far short of the 6’5” many Spirit posters assumed he’d reach in college. Who knows if he’ll actually play, but take a minute to let the reality of Ole Miss playing Northern Arizona on the tail end of 11 straight weeks of football sink in. The Pete Boone era, everyone!

Monday, March 23, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

From a weekend full of sloth, disgust, 35-second-profanity-laced rants aimed at teams to which I previously had no emotional attachments, and general wailing and gnashing of teeth…

The top four seeds advanced; some more easily than others. UCONN destroyed Texas A&M, while Louisville, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina all found themselves in the midst of some good old-fashioned, scrappy street fighting (there’s a joke to be made here involving the movie Dirty Work and the Chris Farley line, “Rolling Stones, Street Fighting Man! G-7!,” but I don’t want to take the time to figure it out. And yes, this site is free.).

The Tar Heels put LSU through one last pawn shop window late in the second half, which finally broke the Tigers’ will to keep fighting, while Pittsburgh and Louisville weren’t so lucky. Oklahoma State and Siena brought just about every kind of conceivable street weapon to their respective fights. Tire irons, hubcaps, trash cans, a ball and chain, nunchucks, tridents, and grenades they found on the way to the pants store. Unfortunately for both, they did not play near-perfect games and were put away in the final minute. Most likely it was for the best, because had they won, they’d need to lay low for a while because they’d probably be wanted for murder.

Washington and Arizona State: BURN IN A FIRE. The following is for all those who stupidly selected Washington and Arizona State to advance (like me). First, Washington. You’re practically playing a home game against a team that has to travel over 2,000 miles to get there and that displays the quickness of the computer on which I currently type. You were aware the game actually starts in the first half and not the second half, right? Way to show up ready to play. And why don’t you miss a few more free throws in the last three minutes? That’s always a good idea. I hope you join Clemson for eternity in the NIT.

And Arizona State. Why the hell did you even bother to show up? I would rather you forfeited that drop that stinkbomb on my television and giving me hope for an upset (all 11 seconds of hope). Really, thanks for caring. Your emotional fire was really something special. Yet another team that deserves eternity in the NIT.

And on a relatively related note, I will take this time to stop complaining and make note of my one successful upset pick: Cleveland State. So to all of you who picked Wake Forest, I am smarter than you.

The World Baseball Classic can’t hurt Americans anymore. Team USA was eliminated last night in the semifinals against Japan, setting off sighs of relief and drunken revelry at MLB teams’ front offices across the country. No more oblique strains, twisted ankles or arm ailments for athletes, errr, baseball players playing for an independent team even though they’re each contractually obligated to be in the best baseball condition possible for entirely different teams. However, in Chipper Jones’ case, he is contractually obligated to suffer no fewer than seven oblique strains a season.

The Ole Miss baseball team is allergic to sweeps. I know it’s disgustingly early to be talking about college baseball, but I thought I’d mention that the Ole Miss baseball team is carrying on the Ole Miss sports tradition of putting itself in position for a kill shot and folding miserably while attempting said shot. This week, the Rebels took the first two games from Alabama and while going for the sweep on Sunday, were promptly thumped 19-6. And just one weekend ago, they took the first two from Vanderbilt only to lose, although not as badly, on Sunday.

I’m not upset with the past two weekends (that would mean I have to care about baseball at this point) because whenever you can take two of three in consecutive weekends, it’s a good sign of what the team is capable of doing. Just remember this when the next opportunity arises for this team to land a knockout blow that would ensure its advancement in the postseason (i.e. pressure situations).

That was pretty much all I took out of the weekend. If I missed anything of note, let me know.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What We Learned From Thursday

Unless you were an extremely lucky bastard and didn’t have to be at work yesterday, then most likely you missed a big chunk of yesterday’s round one games. Luckily, I have an amazing ability to gleam all sorts of information by “watching” ESPN’s GameCast (Yes, I am aware you can watch moving pictures of the games online, but my computer doesn’t enjoy activities that require a high rate of processing. Flip books show better moving pictures than the dinosaur I’m on.) and, combined with what I was able to watch last night, can discuss what was learned from each game yesterday.

LSU 75, Butler 71
Even if you are well-coached (and better coached), have basketball-smart players and play really well together it’s not enough to overcome superior athleticism and Marcus Thornton, who broke the 30-point barrier for the seventh time this year. That has to be a little depressing.

Memphis 81, CS Northridge 70
ATTENTION FUTURE MEMPHIS OPPONENTS WITH MORE TALENT THAN CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE: You have been given a blueprint on how to beat Memphis. Do not ignore this as UCLA’s Ben Howland did in last year’s Final Four. That is all.

Texas A&M 79, BYU 66
The Second Annual First Round Aggie-Cougar Classic ended the same way last year’s version did. Here’s to hoping this matchup becomes a new Tournament tradition.

Purdue 61, Northern Iowa 56
I emailed one of my friends yesterday to inform him that I didn’t know it was possible a team could make “watching” a GameCast game more boring than it already was. Congratulations, Purdue. You achieved what was thought to be unachievable. Now go die a slow, painful death in the second round.

Connecticut 103, Chattanooga 47
Even without their coach, the Huskies managed to destroy Terrell Owens’ alma mater. I think this score will also accurately describe the final score of Owens’ cancerous acts versus the number of defenses of said acts from Bills' fans.

Maryland 84, California 71
I don’t even remember this game happening.

North Carolina 101, Radford 58
The Highlander(s), unlike the movie, were not the greatest basketball team ever made.

Washington 71, Mississippi State 58
So, apparently playing four games in four days and flying across the country just four days after that does hurt your chances of winning a game. Another factor that hurts your chances of winning a game is if you play in the SEC.

Texas 76, Minnesota 62
This score will be the favorite topic of discussion among Kentucky fans before their second round NIT game.

Michigan 62, Clemson 59
What I personally learned from this is that picking Clemson to win anything is literally the dumbest idea a human being can conceive. Seriously Clemson, would it kill you to win one FREAKING GAME IN YOUR MISERABLE LIFE? I hope you win the NIT for the next 10 years.

Villanova 80, American 67
I’ve never had a panic attack so I can’t say what they feel like, but when I saw American had a 14-point lead, I thought I learned what a panic attack felt like. If I had lost an Elite Eight team from my bracket on opening night, my panic attack would have been followed by blind rage.

Gonzaga 77, Akron 64
Duke 86, Binghamton 62
Still looking for this Tournament’s most annoying commercial. Right now, the onslaught of Cingular spots is the early leader in the clubhouse, but I don’t think Chili’s or Applebee’s has gotten cranked up yet. If they show up to play, America will hate them more than ever by Sunday.

Oklahoma 82, Morgan State 54

The video of Blake Griffin getting flipped by Ammer Ali (which is a fantastic name) reminded me of one of those weird games they play at the Scottish Highland Games. Something about seeing how far you can throw someone. In fact, wasn’t this one of the games that adult William Wallace and his friend played in Braveheart? If not, it should have been.

UCLA 65, VCU 64
A Ben Howland coached team can’t put away a team with two players capable of consistent offense? Surely you jest. I said it last year after he refused to play zone against a Memphis team that simply isolated its best players (Derrick Rose and Chris Douglass-Roberts) and sent them one-on-one at the Bruins (and destroyed them). And I said it this year after watching an undermanned Michigan team bewilder Howland with that 1-3-1-ish thing they do. Howland may be a good recruiter, but he stinks as a game coach.

Western Kentucky 76, Illinois 72
I could not be more pleased with myself after I changed this game minutes before the first game yesterday. This type of Thursday big headedness usually results in a Friday debacle.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Looking for a Midweek Pulse

Back again, but this time by popular demand. Well, if you count one out of one person who wanted to see it again, then it’s back by popular demand. Whatever. I’ll take it. Though this week, I’m adding a little wrinkle in which I will determine if, in fact, there is an actual sporting pulse on this non-football Wednesday. Again, this is not a knock on ESPN. These stories are literally the most exciting or interesting things going on in the world of sport as I write this.

Brodeur sets NHL wins mark. Wow. We’re off to a good start. I think this story was placed here not necessarily to point out Martin Brodeur’s achievement, but just to let everyone know the NHL is still in operation. Have you seen any hockey highlights lately? I know I haven’t. But in hockey’s defense, NHL ’94 for Sega Genesis and NHL Hitz for Nintendo GameCube were awesome video games.

Astros’ Boone to undergo open heart surgery. Remember that guy who once hit a home run in Game 7 of the ALCS that sent Red Sox fans into a state of belief that God truly did hate them and later tore his ACL playing basketball and was replaced at third base in New York by Alex Rodriguez? Well, this is the guy. Our number two story of the morning!

U.S. in WBC semis after rally in 9th. MLB front offices and managers crapped out a collective brick last night after this rally extended the WBC for the United States. They’ve been playing this thing for like two weeks and already the U.S. team has lost Dustin Pedroia, Chipper Jones (a total shock to me) and Matt Lindstrom for the remainder of the tournament. The longer this thing lasts, the greater the chances for some quality baseball injuries to occur. Things like a stiff pinkie, a tweaked back from a hard sneeze, an irritated left butt cheek and that dizzy feeling you get when you stay in a hot tub too long. Those are known as season killers.

Report: Pats, Cowboys on Peppers’ trade list. I think Julius Peppers asked Jake Delhomme where he was least likely to ever play once the Panthers get rid of him. Of that list, these were his favorites.

Say it ain’t toe: Lawson to miss tourney opener? Surely this is just a test run headline for ESPNKids (along with last week’s ESPNWomen, I’m practically giving ESPN free ideas for their quest to dominate everyone’s life). Otherwise, why would this even be allowed on this site?

Lance said ‘surprised’ doping test collected hair. Holy crap. FOOTBALL, DO YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS WITHOUT YOU? WE HAVE TO HEAR ABOUT HAIR SAMPLES GIVEN TO FRENCHMEN! And to make this story even worse, Armstrong let the world know about the test through his Twitter feed. If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, just imagine someone you don’t really care about sending you a text message every time they change sitting positions or when a thought pops in their head. That’s what Twitter is like. Except it’s worse than that. Like eleventy billion times worse. I can’t wait to hear that Lance “found out he really likes vanilla ice cream more than chocolate.” Burn in a fire, Twitter.

Morehead State wins NCAA opener. I talked about the absurdity of this last week so I’ll avoid pummeling the dead horse. However, is the “dead horse” phrase a “dead horse” itself? I’m not even sure that makes sense, but I feel like we should come up with another phrase that means, “dead horse.” Of course, then that phrase is technically still a “dead horse,” but just has another name. Hmmm. Well whatever, this just won the dumbest paragraph ever award. Moving on.

LeBron’s clutch play propels Cavs by Magic. Yes, but if Zydrunas Ilgauskas hadn’t made an 18-foot jumper to start the game, would LeBron even had that opportunity? Holy crap, please let this post be over soon.

President fills out NCAA bracket for It’s only a matter of time before Obama has his own Twitter feed. “During this morning’s Cabinet meeting, I mentioned the BCS!”

Giant Killers: The best upset picks are… You’ll have to wait for my completed bracket to be released to find out.


Monday, March 16, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

The NCAA Tournament and its plagues of workplace non-productivity, laziness, sloth, couch-sitting and general lack of contact with the outside world are upon us. If you’re lucky enough to be sitting at home on Thursday and Friday, then let me go ahead and say I hate you. Easily the best two afternoons of the entire year. However, like many Americans, I’ll be doing my best to slow down the Internet speed for everyone else at the office as I watch streaming video of the games. But if that fails, I’ll at least get my low-level fix of basketball by constantly refreshing ESPN’s scoreboard or gamecast features.

As for the Tournament itself, like every year, some teams got in that probably shouldn’t have and some teams were stupidly left out. At this point, I’m sure you’ve heard exhaustive arguments for and against all teams, so discuss the merits (or lack thereof) of Arizona or St. Mary’s amongst yourselves. And while you’re there, feel free to discuss whether the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

A few thoughts I do have on the Tournament:
-I think we’ll find out that the Big Ten stinks in more than just football. Seven teams? Do we really need a field containing seven of the exact same teams? If I wanted to watch slow, plodding, poor-shooting offenses that make defenses seem better than they are, I’d re-watch the 2008-2009 SEC basketball season.

-I know this isn’t a new argument, but why would the NCAA not want to make the “play-in” game as interesting as possible? An Alabama State/Morehead State game is about as unappealing a game as you’ll find. Why not make this game between the two teams up for the last at-large bid? An Arizona/St. Mary’s matchup would not only be a much better game, but hype, television ratings and ticket sales would be higher, which is all the NCAA really cares about anyway.

I have a problem with either Alabama State or Morehead State not getting into the field of 64 when they won their conference tournaments, which allegedly means they’ve earned the right to play in the round of 64. The Arizonas of college basketball did no such thing. Yes, they did play a tougher schedule and are most likely a better basketball team than ASU or Morehead State, but they should be made to earn their way into the tournament as ASU and Morehead State have already done.

-I know John Feinstein is like the early 2000s Ryan Adams of authors because he pumps out like eight books a year (which hurts the overall quality of each book), but I just finished reading his profile of the 2005 Final Four called Last Dance. Really interesting book in that it gives a pretty good history of the Final Four and what it meant and still means to the coaches and players who experience it. If you find it somewhere for under ten dollars like I did, I recommend picking it up.

Mississippi State produces one less turd than Tennessee. It wasn’t pretty, but the Bulldogs managed to win their fourth game in as many days to become SEC Tournament Champions. It was without a doubt, in terms of quality basketball played, one of the most painful games I’ve ever watched. And to compound that, the last minute was one of the most poorly officiated I’ve ever seen. That’s not to take anything away from State because they deserved to win, but those were the best basketball officials the SEC had to offer? I should think of a game in terms of great plays made at crucial moments, not for officiating tomfoolery.

And I hope everyone appreciated the delicious irony of Rick Stansbury coaching his team to a championship in Tampa, a place that he denounced earlier in the week as having nothing positive to offer. I’m sure his comments, then winning the tournament, ruffled some starched shirts at the SEC offices, an act of which I can never get enough. You know, fight the establishment and shit.

Ole Miss, with help from Kentucky, ends its season. After losing in the first round of the SEC Tournament, all Ole Miss could hope for in terms of postseason play was an invitation to the NIT or the CBI. I don’t have any clue what the CBI is, but it sounds suspiciously like it’s played somewhere like Grand Rapids or Sioux Falls over the course of a weekend. Whatever the CBI is, they extended an invitation to Ole Miss, who, mercifully, declined. Thankfully, the NIT saved us the formality of declining their invitation by not inviting us at all. It was much more efficient that way.

After all the injuries before Christmas and players starting to break down at the end of the year, it was for the best this season got shut down. While it was a pretty painful year as far as records go, it was nice to see this team not roll over and die, while dramatically improving from the first few games without Chris Warren to the end of the season. That act alone should give you an idea of what type of coach Andy Kennedy and his assistants are. They were going to get a free pass for this year because of the players lost, so their final record really didn’t matter to fans and the administration, but they didn’t quit and convinced the players not to do so either.

Next year should be Kennedy’s first year to really take off with his (healthy) players, meaning he’ll be on the hook for next season’s results (no more Rod Barnes’ players). He’ll have a young team that has shown they can play with just about anyone, plus two key members in Warren and Polynice will be coming back (if Gaskins is an emotional leader, that’s fine, but I’ve never seen him do consecutive positive things in his career). Let’s not forget, this team pre-Chris Warren injury was tied with Louisville at 67 with five and a half minutes to go, and that was before we discovered Terrico White was capable of being an all-SEC player. If we can find one more forward that can contribute in even the smallest positive fashion, I really, really, really like next year’s team.

So how will the three SEC teams do in the NCAA Tournament? I’m so glad you asked. First, let’s start with Tennessee. At best, I see the Vols losing in round two to Pittsburgh. But I don’t think they’ll make it out of round one. They’re too inconsistent on offense and teams that are patient on offense against them can score. Not necessarily a lot of points, but they don’t have to when Tennessee isn’t going to score much. Other than their ability to play defense when severely prodded, there’s not much to like about this team.

Next, LSU. I really thought this LSU team had the potential to make a run in the Tournament. That was until they dropped a stinkbomb against Mississippi State in the SEC semi-finals. However, I think they’ll overwhelm Butler in round one because they’re so much more athletic and have two really good scoring options in Tasmin Mitchell and Marcus Thornton. I’m really interested in their game against North Carolina because Carolina has gone through massive defensive lapses throughout the year, causing them to lose to teams they should never lose to. LSU can certainly match Carolina’s athletic ability, but they’re not the better basketball team, which means they’ll need tremendous games from Mitchell and Thornton. I think both of those guys can score and lockdown the Tar Heel guards, but down low LSU is overmatched. I see a tight, Duke/Miss. State game from a few years back where North Carolina holds on to win.

And finally, Mississippi State. The Bulldogs played outstanding defense in the SEC Tournament, allowing 60, 68, 57 and 61 points. To have a chance against the Huskies, they’ll need to keep that up because while Jarvis Varnado is a great defensive player, he isn’t a dominant force on offense (note: this does not mean he’s not good on offense. He is good, not great) and State has to get scoring from its guards, who can best be described as streaky.

The good news for State is that the Huskies aren’t very big up front, which means Varnado, barring foul trouble, should be able to limit their ability to score. And when the perimeter defenders know they don’t have to worry about giving up drives, a defense can be very good. Plus, State’s guard-oriented offense could force Washington to go small, which gives State another advantage.

While I lean toward picking State here, I am reminded of two things: One, the SEC isn’t very good. And two, just nine days ago, this State team needed David Huertas to miss most of the second half in order to pull out an 82-80 win over Ole Miss. I like Washington to move into round two.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Looking for a Midweek Pulse

It started out as a gimmick (and could still be one), made its triumphant return recently and now it’s back for a third appearance. So maybe it could actually stick around. It’s the screen shot of ESPN’s top stories followed by my comments, which may or may not contain saltiness. As I mentioned before, this is not a knock on ESPN, these stories are literally the most exciting or interesting things going on in the world of sport as I write this.

LT back with the Chargers for 2009. Saints fans who wanted to have another oft-injured running back replace the oft-injured one who was just released have to be crushed at this news (Note: I love Deuce McAllister. Watching him play when I was at Ole Miss was one of my highlights of college. But when a guy spends much of his time injured, as he was at Ole Miss, you can’t ignore it. So I will not apologize for besmirching Dulymus.). Not to worry Saints fans, the duo of Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush should do wonders this year. With that tandem, plus whatever aging veteran they sign as a “power” back type, I set the Saints’ third and less than three conversion percentage for next year at 17%.

Source: Cutler ordeal ‘bad to worse.’ I actually covered this the last time I did this gimmick. Again, the following quarterbacks have a higher winning percentage than Jay Cutler:

Marc Bulger
Derek Anderson
Kyle Boler

What has the backward-hat-wearer done to get this pissy about potentially being traded? If anything, he and his 17-20 career record should be kissing as much Bronco coach and front office ass in order to keep his job secure. Only teenage girls have this type of reaction to something like this. I think it’s safe to assume that Cutler and Josh McDaniels (and members of the front office) won’t sit by each other in the cafeteria, acknowledge each other in the bathroom and do their best to ignore each other by the lockers after school. The only things that will make Cutler feel better are an “I’m sorry,” some chocolate, flowers and maybe a balloon or two.

Dutch KO D.R. in 11th in WBC. Lol! 2 many abbvs n 1 sent. I hate myself for writing that because you know what grinds my gears? People who send emails and text messages (mainly these) where they abbreviate words like “you,” “to,” “too” and “you’re.” Seriously, we’re not 14. By now, you should know how to freaking spell even really simple words. And don’t give me the “it saves time” argument. How much time do you save? Six seconds? Ten? Write like an adult. Me wanting to read text messages from 14-year olds is like saying I’d want to appear on To Catch a Predator.

Oh, and about that World Baseball Classic, I’m not sure I can name one city in which a game has been played. I like baseball (the people that run it are fools), but this whole thing could not be more uninteresting to me. These teams spend about a week “practicing” together then start playing games. There’s no buildup at all like say basketball for the Olympics or for the World Cup. Teams in those events spend three years playing with one another off and on before exclusively playing together about a month before the real competition starts. They get to become, you know, like teammates all the while building some interest in what they’re trying to accomplish. The WBC throws these guys together and tries to get the games cranked out before the MLB season starts. Not exactly great way to create buzz or create a team environment.

I’m not exactly sure how to fix this problem other than shortening the baseball season, which needs to be done anyway (March to November is a long damn time for one sport to maintain interest). I say start the season in mid or late April, have the World Series end in the first week of October and start up the practice for the WBC in February. Then the games can start in early March and wrap up by the end of the month. This gives even those that played in the World Series four months off before a new season starts.

Rest assured though, whatever is the most logical way to improve the WBC, baseball will do the exact opposite.

Lakers’ Odom suspended one game after scrum. Unless “scrum” means acting tough and talking big while gently shoving someone, this headline is inaccurate.

Vonn 1st U.S. woman to win 2 overall Cup titles. Here’s how irrelevant women’s sports are. On every single one of the other headlines listed, I know what sport is being mentioned and either the team or athlete involved. For this headline, I have no idea who Vonn is nor do I have a clue what Cup she just won. ESPN needs to create ESPNWomen so women’s sports has a home and it never has to get mixed in with actual sports.

Rams release 7-time Pro Bowler Pace. The good news for the rest of America is that if Pace doesn’t get picked up by anyone, although he most likely will, that’s one less player intro we have to hear where a guy says “The Ohio State University.” Assuming the Rams are ever good enough to play on Sunday nights again.

LeBron’s triple-double seals win. Well, that and the fact they were playing the Clippers.

Spartans RB pleads guilty in assault, suspended. Shouldn’t it read “pleads guilty to assault”? The way it reads it sounds like assault is a class, which in East Lansing could very well be a real class. So I could be wrong here.

Cleveland St. tops Butler for Horizon crown. Now there’s one less at-large bid for big conference teams hoping to get in. And even though his team lost, I hope Matt Howard wasn’t disappointed in the size of the booger he removed from his nose.

Kiper: Cutler “reminds me of Jeff George." In other words, a guy who is hated by his teammates, clashes with his coaches and for the most part is a whiny bitch.

Monday, March 09, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

Seven days removed from a snowstorm that dropped six inches of snow on Memphis, I found myself staring at a pleasant, albeit windy, 75 degree Saturday (ah, the joys of living in the South as winter and spring do battle for a month). So how did I spend such a nice day? By sitting in an old, sad excuse for a basketball arena and experiencing its air conditioner that could best be described as jank to quite jank, while watching Ole Miss and Mississippi State battle it out for the rights to third place in the SEC West.

After Freshman of the Year Terrico White’s 35-foot heave at the buzzer hit the front rim, Mississippi State emerged victorious 82-80 and won the right to play Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Tampa (more on the Tampa ordeal in a minute). Even though Ole Miss lost, it was still a highly entertaining game. Ole Miss had chances to run away with it, only to have State come back, and at the end State did their best to let Ole Miss come back and win it. So in honor of Peter King, who gives me 15 minutes of decent reading material each Monday morning during football season, I’ll give you 10 things I thought about the game…

1. Dee Bost, one of State’s guards, really gave Freshman of the Year Terrico White trouble. Bost is just as, if not slightly more, quick as White, which really hurt White’s ability to drive. Of all the games I’ve seen this year, he’s easily the best defender White has faced. And Bost is a freshman too, so hopefully we’ll see this matchup for another two seasons before both leave school early so they can be drafted in the second round.

2. In my best Bill Walton voice: “Riley Benock what where you thinking? You pass up an open lay-up so you can turn the ball over? Just terrible. You just can’t do that. He’s got to play smarter basketball.”

Seriously, what the hell was Benock thinking? Ole Miss, down four, turns it over right to him with 18 seconds left, and he’s got a wide-open lay-up (or can dribble around until he gets fouled) yet somehow managed to turn the ball over. Ole Miss gets the ball back and hits a three to cut it to one. If I were a State fan at that moment, I would have blacked out from rage.

3. Hey, you know why Will Bogan had such a good game against Arkansas last Wednesday? Because Arkansas stinks. That’s why they’ve won two conference games. Let’s hope his performance on Saturday will effectively murder any talk about him turning the corner.

4. And Bogan’s partner in crime in terms of a truly horrible game played: Terrance Henry. Words cannot describe his suckitude on Saturday.

5. The difference in the game to me was that Ole Miss could not expand its lead when Jarvis Vernado picked up his fourth foul with about 15 minutes left. And when he eventually came back in with about five minutes left, State was actually leading. Granted he wasn’t playing that well, but when a defensive presence like that goes out, you have to take advantage.

6. Zach Graham is one of the most underrated players in the SEC. He’s strong, quick and can create his own shot, which includes a sweet mid-range jumper. Oh, and he’s playing with a PARTIALLY TORN PATELLA TENDON. With his one good leg, he managed to score 16 points on Saturday, including several strong takes to the basket. I can think of about one thing I could do on a partially torn patella tendon: lie on my back and gently weep because it would hurt too much to get up to go to the bathroom.

7. I thoroughly enjoyed my very first first-hand experience of David Huertas and Andy Kennedy mixing it up. During one stretch, Kennedy was giving him the business (with Huertas going right back at him) about two or three straight defensive breakdowns, and Huertas promptly went down on the other end and hit back-to-back threes. I hope Kennedy orders a copy of the Rosetta Stone Spanish version in the offseason so they can yell at each other entirely in Spanish next year.

8. I’d like to pass out a hearty “go to hell” to Barry Stewart. I did not care about Barry Stewart at all until last March when State played Memphis in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. I picked State to pull the upset, which would have set me up nicely in our pool, but Barry responded to the challenge of defeating #1 Memphis by going 1 for 12 from the floor. If he makes two more shots, State probably wins and I would have looked really smart. And then this weekend, Barry decides to go 4 of 6 and score 17 points. So again, go to hell Barry Stewart.

9. Andy Kennedy is one hell of a coach. He had a team that started two guys from its original starting lineup, played with only one of them in the second half and was without the top three scorers from last season for the second half. And they had a chance to win. If he can stay away from cab drivers, jail and out-of-town college bars, he could be setting Ole Miss up for a really good year next year.

10. A hearty “thank you” goes out to the Ole Miss male cheerleader, who, while being introduced as a senior cheerleader before the start of the game, emerged onto the floor with his index finger pointing to the roof. That kind of unintentional comedy is hard to come by. I’m still laughing about that two days later.

From whatever else happened…

The SEC basketball tournament heads to Tampa; general confusion and disdain abounds. In what has to be one of the dumbest decisions in the history of the conference, all twelve schools will head to Tampa to play in front of mostly empty seats. Mainly because the economy sucks and, other than Florida, the nearest SEC school is Auburn, which is about 7 ½ hours away, meaning travel there is also going suck.

Kudos to Rick Stansbury for saying pretty much what everyone is thinking:

“It's probably the worst venue we can have, as far as attendance.” But he’s not done, tell us how you really feel Rick: “It was very obvious for us there's nothing positive about Tampa. Number one, it's so difficult for your fans to get to.”

While Stansbury’s comments are just about as perfect as they can be, this quote from Andy Kennedy makes me hope the league never goes to Tampa again:

“I'm sure (Tampa is) great. Who doesn't want to go to South Florida in March? I think we all are looking forward to that."

Gulp. Pete Boone needs to have Kennedy under house arrest when the team gets there later this week. The last thing we need is punched cab drivers in two cities in the United States.

It would suck to live in Buffalo right now. Well, even more so than it already does. Snow, lake effect snow, more snow, seven months of freezing temperatures, a professional football team that lost four straight Super Bowls and now can’t make the playoffs, and now Terrell Owens is in town. I don’t pretend to have my fingers on the pulse of Buffalo, but I have the sense that Bills’ fans won’t put up with much crap from him. They put up with too much (see: weather) to have more misery added to their lives.

While I think this is not a bad move by the Bills, because they’re already not going anywhere and this could send them into the playoffs, it could destroy what little shred of confidence Trent Edwards has left. If you thought Owens made trouble for Tony Romo, just wait until he watches Trent Edwards try to throw the ball. It might even cause him to speak fondly of Jeff Garcia (but not in the gay rat kind of way).

Monday, March 02, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

Jay Cutler and his career 87.1 quarterback rating are upset. Cutler, a notorious backward-hat-wearer even though he’s 25, was slightly ticked off over the weekend when he found out the Broncos were allegedly shopping him in trade talks with the Patriots and Bucs. I’m not really sure why he’s so angry (other than the thought of moving, which we all know is a bitch). His career record as a starter in Denver is 17-20, which gives him little to no credibility as “the man” for the Broncos. I’m thinking he may have an inflated opinion of himself. So let’s knock him off that pedestal he’s placed himself on. Here is Cutler’s winning percentage along with some similar winning percentages from other active quarterbacks.

Jay Cutler .459
Marc Bulger .460
Charlie Batch .440
Jason Campbell .444
Derek Anderson .481
Kyle Boller .476

Shut your pie hole Jay Cutler. Kyle freaking Boller.

The state of Alabama invaded Mississippi and burned it to the ground. Well, not really. But Alabama’s two basketball teams, Auburn and the University of, soundly thumped Mississippi State and Ole Miss 76-58 and 90-69, respectively. The loss all but eliminated State from the NCAA Tournament and sent Ole Miss dangerously close to losing out on any opportunity to make the NIT. And as the great philosopher Cousin Eddie once said, “I haven’t seen a beatin’ like that since somebody stuck a banana in my pants and turned a monkey loose.” Oh, as I wrote a few weeks ago, let’s go ahead and give Terrico White the Freshman of the Year.

After carrying the Sixers all those years, Allen Iverson’s back is finally giving out. The Answer will miss his third straight game on Tuesday night as he will be visiting a back specialist. No word on whether Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, Matt Geiger, Tyrone Hill, Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed, Raja Bell, Rodney Buford, Jumaine Jones, George Lynch, Todd MacCulloch, Vernon Maxwell, Roshown McLeod, Kevin Ollie, Theo Ratliff and Pepe Sanchez will be footing the bill.

Kurt Warner flirts with 49ers; Matt Leinart plans another hot tub party. Warner, a free agent, visited with the 49ers today after speaking with them since Friday about possibly ending the illustrious Shaun Hill era. Upon hearing the news back in Phoenix, Leinart leapt off the couch and immediately began texting every 21 and under girl from USC in his phone (which has to be in the mid 300s).

“Starter Matt is back! Be at the ha-tub in 20. No dudes.”

Finally, no attempt at a clever headline, just a couple of links. First, it’s Bill Simmons’ column on the financial state of the NBA, how those financial problems affected the recent trade deadline and what the future may hold for the NBA. If you missed it on Friday, it’s one of his strongest efforts. If the NBA is in trouble, baseball is going to really get kicked in the teeth.

And second, it’s a Rick Reilly piece without using his formula of corny, unfunny analogies (“About as real as Joan Rivers’ cheekbones.” He actually wrote that). No, really, I’m not making it up. While it’s a good column but not great, I included it to show what Reilly is capable of when he puts some time and effort into writing. Actually, I just wanted everyone to look at the picture of Elway and whatever the hell kind of shirt he’s wearing.