Saturday, March 25, 2006

Final Four!

Wow. Ugly game. But they give the trophies to the teams with more points.

Four down, two to go.

Friday, March 24, 2006

UCLA 73; Gonzaga 71

Almost one year ago today (just 3 days short), I gave up on a basketball game that I never should have given up on. Thank the Lord that the Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head, Roger Powell, and Jack Ingram didn't give up. They came back from a 15 point deficit with 4:00 minutes to play and completed one of the greatest comebacks in college basketball history.

Tonight, the UCLA Bruins came as close as they possibly could to equaling that stunning feat. Unable to find the basket all night, and with their stifling defense failing them for much of the game, the Bruins found another gear, and found a way to pull out a win against a team that had dominated them all night, scoring the last 11 points of the game to once again survive and advance. There's so much to talk about in this game that I can't possibly cover it all. But one of the major themes of this game for the Bruins was senior leadership. This team has had its minutes dominated by freshmen and sophomores all season long, but tonight, the seniors simply refused to let their careers end. Hollins threw in 12 points and grabbed 8 rebounds while going 6 for 6 from the line, none more important than the last two coming with 19 seconds left, cutting the lead to one point. Ced contributed 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, but played lock down defense on Adam Morrison after Aaron Afflalo picked up his fourth foul. You could just sense in him a desire to continue playing, which is rare, because Ced doesn't show much emotion out there.

Not to be outdone, the freshmen made their presence felt. Darren Collison didn't contribute much to the scoreboard, but provided excellent defense at the point, and suffered the worst call maybe in the history of college basketball. It wouldn't be a Bruin game without LRMAM leading the way on the boards, and tonight was no exception. He grabbed 10, tossed in 14 points, and for my money, he made the play of the game. Not the game winning shot, although he showed tremendous poise and hands while hauling in the pass from Jordan Farmar and laying it in the hoop. But in a very unfreshmanlike play, he proceeded to run down the court and steal the ball from Derek Raivio, giving the Bruins posession, and ending the game for all intents and purposes.

Farmar and Afflalo? They struggled. They were a combined 10-26, 5-15 from three, and Aaron missed some big free throws. But when the game was on the line, they stepped up. Farmar hit an amazing runner in from just outside the lane in the waning moments to bring the Bruins to within three points with under a minute to play. He grabbed the loose ball and made a great pass to LRMAM under the basket for the winning score.

Congratulations to the Bulldogs on another great season. I'll admit, I hated Adam Morrison during this game. I think he fouls pretty much every time he has the ball. But he's got great touch. He looks like he has a great feel for the game. He was pretty gracious during the post-game interview, and I wish him well at the next level. JP Batista, on the other hand, whined about a foul that simply didn't exist, and anyone who saw the game knows that. Tough way for them to lose, and if Mark Few head to Indiana, their window may be shut.

Congrats to Coach Howland. Once again, he's worked the third season magic. For the first time, he's heading to the Elite 8. Fitting, because he's truly an elite coach, and he's rebuilding an elite program.

The Bruins played arguably their worst offensive game of the season. They were outshot. They were outrebounded. Yet they still found a way to get the job done. They found the will to win and showed the heart of a champion. They may not advance on Saturday, but they've anounced their presence. The program is back on the national stage, and let's not forget, this is a learning year. Next year was supposed to be the year that UCLA anounced that they were back. Looks like the precocious kids didn't want to wait that long.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I mean,! That's two years in a row for me, folks. I'll have more later. I need to watch the end 2 or 3 or 27 more times, but man, what a finish.

Initial thoughts, though:
  • If I had a vote for player of the year, after what I saw tonight, it would go to......JJ Redick. I'm a slow white guy. If I were a 6'8" slow white guy AND ALLOWED TO FOUL ON EVERY SINGLE OFFENSIVE POSESSION, I'm pretty sure I could get 30 points a night, too.
  • The "on the floor" call on the foul on Darren Collison in the final minutes may be the worst call in the history of organized basketball.
  • Ced Bozeman, you could tell, simply decided that his career was not going to end tonight. hey need more of that on Saturday.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A new direction for the Kings

This is the post I was hoping I wouldn't have to write. The Kings fired the winningest coach in team history after almost six seasons, despite being nine games over .500. And quite honestly, Dave Taylor pretty much had to do it. There's an old adage that says you can't fire all the players, and in this case, although they deserved it more than Murray, he took the fall. The team simply stopped competing. They've looked awful in their last five games, and other than a five game winning streak that straddled the Olympic break, they've been awful for months. Some of that is due to injuries, of course. Two players were unable to play in the Olympics because of injuries, and two returned from the Games unable to continue playing. Frolov will probably be back on Saturday, and Demitra is still a question mark.

Murray's career, which started with a playoff sweep in 2000, and included a promising dash to the post-season in 2001 culminating in a first round upset of the Red Wings. In the 2001-2002 season, the Kings were very good most of the year, though they lost to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Avalanche in seven games in the first round. That loss was due in part to a charlie horse suffered by Jason Allison, and it started a trend that eventually cost Murray his job. Beset by injuries for the next few seasons, the Kings have failed to reach the playoffs since. The nadir was in the 2003-2004 season, missed entirely by Adam Deadmarsh and Jason Allison, and half missed by Ziggy Palffy. The Kings set an unofficial record for man games lost to injury that season. And it's not a lack of depth that was exposed. We're talking about the entire top line going down. No team recovers from that. For the last three seasons, its invariably the stars who have been missing time due to injury for an assortment of unfortunate incidents.

But after a terrific start to this season, things went dead south. The low point was a 10-1 loss to Buffalo, and things never really got better. They've been outworked, outhustled, and outplayed. Their specialty teams have been atrocious most of the season (a positive aspect of the firing is that John Van Boxmeer was caught in the crossfire), and their goaltending has been inconsistent. They've failed to play with passion in desperate situations, save for one terrific third period against Dallas last month. How much of that can be blamed on the coach it's impossible to know for sure. But the Kings are in the midst of a 4 day rest before their final push for a playoff spot, and if they were going to make a move to jumpstart the team, now was the time to do it. John Torchetti, who is turning into a Mr. Fixit type of interim coach takes over for the balance of the season, and will be evaluated at the end.

The elephant in the room is the status of Dave Taylor. There's almost no one more respected by long time Kings fans in the organization, with the exception of Bob Miller. But facts are facts, and since Dave Taylor took over the GM position, the Kings have won exactly one playoff series. At some point, you have to ask whether that's good enough. On the positive side, he has overseen a rebuilding of the farm system. Lubo Visnovsky, Alexander Frolov, Joe Corvo, Dustin Brown, and Michael Cammalleri have all begun to blossom under his watch. He made the deal that brought Matty Norstrom over. He acquired Tim Gleason, who is quickly becoming a fan favorite. The Rob Blake deal looked like a winner after a half season until injuries derailed Deadmarsh and weakened Aaron Miller. The signings of Conroy and Demitra appeared astute before Demitra's freak injuries. There's a fair amount of talent in Manchester right now, and the team, with better luck on the health front, is really only a few moves away from competing for the top of the division. But you can't ignore the fact that he turned the goaltending over to two untested netminders, and the results have been mixed. He traded for Jeremy Roenick, who has been invisible in all aspects other than his drain on the payroll. And who can forget deadline disasters like the trades for Cliff Ronning and Anson Carter. He gave up Kimo Timonen pretty much for nothing other than an agreement not to draft one of their goalies, neither of whom were particularly franchise players. Taylor won't be fired. He'd be moved upstairs, but the buzzards are definitely circling.

And blame certainly goes to AEG as well. They've said for years that they were preparing financially for this season and this collective bargaining agreement. Well, it's here, and the results don't speak well for their long term planning. All things considered, the franchise is much better off than when they took over, but the fact is they're real estate developers. Their sports franchises are a means to that end. That's not to say the Kings can't be successful under their ownership, but we aren't talking about an ownership that's 100% committed to winning. What the Kings truly need is their own Arte Moreno. I'm not holding my breath.

What will the future hold? Fuck if I know. There's 12 games left. They'll likely be out of a playoff spot by Saturday, and they'll have to re-earn it. But now is as good a time as any to show that they still have some life.

Thank you, Andy. Thanks for the hard work over the years. Thanks for the dedication. Thanks for that tremendous series in 2001. Not many people dislike Andy Murray the individual. I'll definitely miss him.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Kings. They still suck.

Way to ruin Adam Deadmarsh night. I wore my Deadmarsh jersey and everything. Another year without playoffs.


So there's this search engine out there that basically only searches blogs. It's called Technorati. You may have seen the little Technorati button on other peoples' blogs which will take you to a page that shows you what is linking to that particular blog. Here's the Technorati search for this place. It's fun to do once or twice, but it's essentially a useless tool in my opinion. Generally, if you've had a blog for a while, you have a pretty good idea of who's linking to you by just checking your site meter (assuming you have that, of course, but it's free, so I don't know why you wouldn't). Sitemeter will tell you where your traffic is coming from, so if you get here by clicking a link on another page, it tells me where you came from.

Not long after firing this blog up again after a few earlier attempts, I posted an item asking (or blegging, if you will) about a number of hits I'd get every few days or so. Some quirk of the Blogger system would make this blog (and presumably other blogs at other times) next "in line" so to speak, and clicking the little button at the top right of the page that takes you to the next blog in line would take you here. In that post, I mentioned a number of the blogs from whom traffic had been directed here. Mind you, I didn't, and don't read any of those blogs. I have no idea who updates them, or what they write about. But I did provide handy links so that you, the 12 or so people other than me that read this site, could see for yourselves.

Turns out the proprietor of a blog called Wordonthestreetis was doing a Technorati check, found the link from this site, and came over to check it out. Problem is that in a lame attempt to be funny, I said her blog sucked. Now, granted, I hadn't actually read her blog, I have no idea who she is, and honestly, it was a one off comment using the title of her blog in what I thought was a slightly humurous fashion. Here's the paragraph in question:
In the past hour, I've supposedly received hits from USAMediablog, Fallbrookinstsyle, Vishu8, depression1resources (I know I just turned 32, but I'm not that depressed. yet.), compteachis10, maristarrynight, dermatiteatopica (I thought no one knew about that rash), wordonthestreetis (word on the street is your blog sucks - j/k), omdatikvanmeou (I don't even know what language that is), and lordofthedamned (this one could actually be a real referral). Thanks to each and every one of you. However, I'm guessing these aren't actual people, but rather some random glitch in blogger software that occurs every few days.
Yesterday, the writer of the aforementioned blog visited that post and left a nasty little note in the comments:
thanks. your blog sucks, too.
I certainly can't deny that, but really, that was uncalled for. Most people spend a little time here before deciding that this blog sucks. And besides, I didn't really think her blog sucked. In fact, I even wrote j/k, as in "just kidding" next to my little joke, which I hadn't realized I'd done the first time. Boy, now that I see that qualifier, I'm not really sure why I'm apologizing, as I was clearly kidding, and not just impliedly, but expressly. But anyway, Meridith, you have my deepest apologies. I didn't get into blogging to make enemies. I have plenty of those already just from being a typical everday asshole. Just ask anyone who has ever played hockey with me. Or co-ed basketball (that one's for you, Po). Or gone drinking.

Anyway, that comment stung. Seriously. And so I'd just like to say I'm sorry.

Of course, I should also apologize to most of you who actually spend valuble time reading the endless nothingness that I post, but hey, you get what you pay for.

Meridith responds. Unfortunately, she may have taken me a little too seriously (or she's being funny and I'm a moron). Honestly, this was all meant as one big joke. I didn't mean to make anyone feel bad. Although, I probably should have tried to parlay this into some big Brian Jonestown Massacre vs. Dandy Warhols thing, which itself was just a poor attempt at imitating Blur and Oasis.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Weekend Post-Mortem

First off, I don't think there's really much else to say about the Illinois debacle. The game was taken from them. It's really that simple.

As for the Bruins, well, survive and advance, I guess. They didn't really impress on either end of the floor. They allowed their opponent to shoot almost 50%, although they turned up the pressure in the second half. And although the Bruins shot over 50% themselves, they still look like they've never ever seen a zone defense before in their entire lives. Something has to be done about that. They're going to face a team that will go to a zone at some point, and the game will be low scoring, and they'll let the opponent hang around (hitting a free throw every now and then would be nice), but this time, that late three pointer isn't going to fall for them, and it is going to fall for their opponent. They've got the shooters to shoot their way out of a zone, but they don't run any plays to free them up. They stand there and pass the ball around. Fer chrissakes, set a damn screen for someone.

The Bruins were getting it done on the inside. Hollins and LRMAM combined to go 9 for 9 from the field, but that's when Alabama went to the zone that thwarted the men in middle for a while. I just think it's nuts that in a game where the opponent is in a zone for much of the game, Michael Roll only takes two shots.

On now to Oakland to face Gonzaga. This game scares me because of what I saw in the box score from their last game. Indiana shot five free throws, Gonzaga shot 42. Granted, the Hoosiers were jacking up all kinds of threes, but good lord, 42 free throws for Gonzaga? That's nuts, and if the game is called that tight again, it's going to be a long night and a short trip for the Bruins. LRMAM probably matches up the best with Adam Morrison, but expect to see Afflalo and Bozeman get their share of time guarding him as well. Hollins has a height advantage over Batista that Marco Killingsworth lacked, and the Bruins have the bodies to run out there in case of foul trouble. But foul trouble means a lot of free throws. Even if they call this one both ways, a tightly officiated game plays into Gonzaga's hands, as the Bruins do not shoot free throws well. Once again, I think the Bruins are a better team overall, but this one is impossible to call without knowing how it's going to be officiated.

As for the rest of the weekend....

What went right (original loser in parantheses):
  • Duke over George Washington
  • LSU over Texas A&M (Syracuse)
  • Memphis over Bucknell
  • UCLA over Alabama (Marquette)
  • Gonzaga over Indiana (SDSU)
  • UConn over Kentucky (UAB)
  • Villanova over Arizona
  • Florida over Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Oklahoma)
  • Georgetown over Ohio State: Honestly, this was probably the only real upset I called correctly. Ouch.
What went wrong (hope you've got a while):
  • Iowa over WVU: Oops.
  • Cal over Texas: Double oops.
  • Pitt over Bradley (Kansas): I'm not weeping over this, although it pretty much means a walk to the elite 8 for Memphis.
  • Illinois over Washington
  • MSU over UNC: I had the "over UNC" part right. I just had the MSU part wrong.
  • Tennessee over Wichita State: You don't know how close I came to actually getting this one right.
  • Nevada over Boston College
Only nine sweet sixteen teams left. Only 3 final four teams left, and none of them are really longshots except UCLA, who were a sexy pick for the final four anyway, so my chances of making up ground on anyone in my pools is pretty much zero.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Quick Reminder

Earlier today:
On tap today, the Illini meet Washington in what should be the day's most anticipated matchups. Said it before, but I'll say it again. It's all going to come down to officiating. Let them play, and the Illini advance. Call it tight and Washington wins it at the line, while Brian Randle spends a lot of time in his warmups.
I've already opined on this before, but I think this game is going to come down to officiating. Not only do the differences in style of play push me in that direction, but the differences in the ability to make free throws scare the hell of me. I think the Illini are a better team, but I just can't pick this one without knowing how tight it's going to be called.
Last Wednesday:
Illinois over Washington: This game will be determined almost completely by officials. Let them play and Illinois rolls. Call it tight and Washington wins a free throw shooting contest, with Brandon Roy putting up big numbers against whoever is forced to replace Brian Randle.
Final numbers:
Washington - 39 Free throw attempts - 11 converted by Brandon Roy
Illinois - 11 free throw attempts. That's right. They shot as many as Brandon Roy made. Apparently a hand check is a foul if you do it to a guy wearing a purple jersey, but it's not a foul when a guy in purple jersey does it to you. Also, when a ref starts a five count on an inbound play, you actually have about 7-8 seconds to get the ball in. You can take a few seconds, put the ball down for someone else to pick up, then he can take a few seconds, then a few seconds later you can call a timeout. Honestly, if I'd known that they were going to determine the officials based on a pregame raffle, I would have made the trip to San Diego.