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).