Saturday, November 18, 2006


I'm not sure if that's the right word, but so be it. Anyway, Wedding Crashers has been on HBO about a million times in the last couple of months, and after watching bits and pieces of it over and over and over again, I have a couple of questions:
  1. The day of the Cleary wedding, the schedule apparently includes: The wedding, the reception (including pictures), a boat trip to their home on the coast, a football game, so hangin' around time, then dinner. My question is, what time was this wedding, 8:30 in the morning? Weddings rarely start before noon, and the reception was off-site, which means it probably didn't start until 1:00 or so (at the very earliest). You gotta figure that went at least four hours, so now, if everything is breaking their way, it's 5:00. I gotta figure that rounding everyone up and sending them home, then getting on the boat and cruising to their pad after everyone has left is at least another hour. So now it's 6:00, they've probably been up since 6:00 am for an early wedding, and they're still going to play football before cleaning up for dinner? Without even questioning whether they'd even eat dinner on a night like that (I mean, if you have an afternoon reception, chances are you aren't having a big sit-down dinner that night). I find that all highly improbable. Also, no one was drunk, which makes it probably the lamest wedding reception I've ever seen.
  2. After the falling out, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan don't talk to each other for weeks/months. Umm, aren't these guys business partners? How can you just not talk to your business partner for that long and still have a business?
  3. After Vince Vaughan marries Isla Fisher, the four main characters drive away, impliedly to crash another wedding. Wouldn't you think they'd have, ya know, a reception of their own to attend? (and they were definitely leaving the wedding, because it was only like 2:00 pm).
  4. Why wasn't the chick who played their secretary at the beginning in the movie more? She was the hottest one! Bastards.
Otherwise, pretty funny movie.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Tomorrow is one of football's traditional "rivalry weeks" in which many of the top rivalries will play out in college football stadiums across the country. Michigan v. Ohio State is obviously getting the lion's share of hype, but we shouldn't forget tomorrow's other traditional rivalries, like the Iron Bowl (Auburn v. Alabama), the Land Grant Trophy (MSU v. PSU), and other traditional rivalries like Purdue v. Indiana, Illinois v. Northwestern, Montana v. Montana State (I'm serious - you might not think it's a big deal, but that game is HUGE in Montana, and I have a lot of family there, mostly Montana grads).

But the thing I like most about this week is that every year it reminds why I love the Pac 10. There is no other conference in America with such natural rivalries, all within the same conference. Every Pac 10 team has a natural rival that trumps all other rivals, and all of those are conference games, making the game that much more important (don't kid yourself into thinking U$C v. ND is bigger than U$C v. UCLA). Here's my own "pulled from ass" rivalry criteria:
  1. Teams should both be in-state, or at the very least, from bordering states. Even better if they're in the same metropolitan area.
  2. Teams should be in the same conference. For years, the Rose Bowl almost always came down to the UCLA v. U$C game, and it always elevated the rivalry.
  3. Teams should both be competitive, as in, they should both make appearances in the top 25 at least every other year or so (for example, this sort of eliminates Indiana v. Purdue and Illinois v. Northwestern).
  4. Most importantly, the two teams' biggest rivals should be one another. For example, Michigan v. Michigan State is a good rivalry, but Michigan has a bigger rivalry with Ohio State, which means it's not a great rivalry. Hell, people at Illinois thought of Michigan as one of our big rivals. Geez, it's not a rivalry if your "rival" doesn't really care about you.

So let's break down the Pac 10 rivalries:
  1. U$C v. UCLA - The only negative might be that people on the back East may think that the ND v. U$C rivalry is more important than U$C v. UCLA. People back East are stupid.
  2. Arizona v. Arizona State - No question on 1, 2, and 4. Arizona has been down recently, but they had a good run in the '90s. ASU has played for the national championship within the last ten years, and they seem to make people think they're good before just about every season. Their recent tank jobs have diminished this one a bit. Still, it's better than most Big 10 rivalries.
  3. The Civil War - Oregon v. Oregon State - Both schools have been in BCS bowls in this decade, and while Oregon is usually better, they've both been not-awful for a while now. 20 years ago, no one would have cared, but nowadays, it's a big game. And it's got a cool name.
  4. The Big Game - Cal v. Stanford - Not quite as good as U$C v. UCLA, but Cal has been very good lately, and Stanford has been to a relatively recent Rose Bowl. It's got some damn fine history as well.
  5. The Apple Cup - Washington v. Wazzu - Washington has been down recently, but the rivalry has been buoyed by a surprisingly competitive Washington State team.
The Pac 10 is the only conference which brings all my "pulled from my ass" criteria together for every single team. No other conference can claim that. That's why I love the Pac 10, and that's why, when people mention a possible expansion to 12 teams, I would only like to see them add Colorado and Colorado State (or maybe the New Mexico schools).

Illinois Basketball

To this point, I've more or less neglected the 2006-2007 Fighting Illini, for no reason other than I've been busy with a bunch of other stuff lately. Also, for the first time in a few years, I expect the Illini to simply be good rather than very good, or flat out fantastic. While I would have been thrilled with this lineup coming off the '98-'99 season, it's not exactly marquee material just two seasons removed from '04-'05. That's not their fault, or course.

For the first time in a few years, I don't really think the Illini have anyone that's truly reliable heading into the season. For example, last year we all knew that at the very least, Dee and Augustine could win the Illini a fair number of games even without much help. There is no one like that on this team, and as such, predicting their finish is pretty much a crap-shoot. They're young, with only two seniors expected to get significant playing time, and neither among their most important players (Warren Carter and Marcus Arnold). This team has a lot of question marks.

The biggest questions, in my mind, are:
  1. How much has Sean Pruitt improved, and with Augustine gone, can he become a reliable low post scorer and rebounder? I think he has to average about 14 and 8 for the Illini to be successful.
  2. Can Chester Frazier become a legitimate threat to score? He doesn't need to replace Dee's scoring, but he at least needs to be able to draw a defender to free up someone inside or Jamar Smith.
  3. Can Jamar Smith (when he returns from injury) be a more consistent scorer. Last year Jamar was a dead eye shooter who could put together a big game under the right circumstances. He needs to be able to put up big games under the wrong circumstances if the Illini are going to be successful.
  4. Can Brian Randle get healthy, and if he can, will he be able to shoot? For much of the off-season, the non-recruiting discussion centered around how Randle had improved his jumper. We know he can defend. We know he can fly. What he needs to do is consistently hit 17-18 footers to pull his defenders out the perimeter before he puts the ball on the floor.
Those are my big questions for the Illini this season. Prediction? 19 wins, second round of the NCAA tournament, and that's probably it. Add a win or two if Smith and Randle get healthy sooner rather than later.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

BYU 69; UCLA 82

I don't know about you, but that seemed like kind of a strange game to me. UCLA dominated early, then BYU just went freaking nuts, hitting seven of their eight three point attempts in the first half, and it's not like they were all open looks, on their way to opening up a nine point lead. I'd like to say UCLA made a methodical comeback, but it didn't really feel like that watching the game. But when you look at the game flow chart, their scoring line is almost dead straight. No real big runs, or real big lulls offensively. They scored at a very consistent pace, while BYU made a couple of big runs, but didn't really do much once they got to about 60 points. Technically, the Bruins went on an 11-0 run which started with about seven minutes to go in the game, but they did it with defense, and that run took five minutes to complete, at which the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.

I thought they looked a little nervous at first. Both Afflalo and Shipp jacked up some pretty questionable shots, and Mike Roll followed suit when he entered the game. BYU took advantage of those poor posessions to build their lead. But UCLA settled down, started to run their offense, and got a fair amount easy baskets.

The stars of the game for the Bruins were clearly Darren Collison and LRMAM. Collison went for 16 and ten assists, including a couple of second half three pointers, and a terrific drive at the end of the first half on a screen and roll. The defender turned his back, and Collison was a blur on the way to the basket.

LRMAM notched the first of what will likely be many double doubles this season (mmmm....double doubles) with 24 and 10 rebounds. He mixed in solid defense as well. Highlights included a flying dunk to finish a break, and a great second half baseline move that ended with him reaching from behind the backboard to lay it in, pushing the lead to nine with just over three minutes to play.

BYU is no pushover, and the Bruins overcame some early adversity to really put them away in the second half. And let's not forget, the early scoop was that they would have trouble with BYU center Trent Plaisted with his size and skill inside compared to the lack of same for the Bruins. He went 3-7 from the field, scored only seven points, and was in foul trouble much of the night. I think that's a good sign that they'll be able to guard the interior. Not a bad start against a team that many are picking in their field of 65. Make no mistake, I think this Bruins team can play MUCH MUCH better than they did last night. But still, it's a nice way to kick off the season.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thank God it's basketball season

It's finally here. With the Kings having a less than successful year, and UCLA football being UCLA football, the wait for basketball season has been particularly excruciating.

My gut feeling is that this team is going to be just as good as last year's team. I think they'll be more consistent. Last year's team at their best would probably beat this year's team at their best, but I think this year's team will play at a higher level more often than they did last year. A lot of that inconsistency was due to the fact that so many minutes went to freshmen, and a fair amount was to due to Ryan Hollins, the poster child for inconsistency (who took that title from Michael Fey, finally found a way to be consistently bad). But athletic seven footers don't grow on trees, and when Hollins was on his game, he really made a big impact. They'll miss that this year.

I'm especially curious to see how how much Ryan Wright, LRMAM, and Alfred Aboya have improved over the summer. One benefit to playing college basketball in Los Angeles is that if you hang around during the summer, there are a lot of opportunities to play pick-up games and test yourself against NBA level competition. I thought last season that these three especially, with a lot of raw ability, would really benefit from those opportunities (as it appeared Mata had last year before his injuries). If they all have made some big strides, the UCLA front line could be fantastic. I don't need to say anything about LRMAM, but Aboya showed flashes last year where he could blow by the occasional defender from the perimeter. Physically, Ryan Wright has the type of body that should allow him to be a force in the paint. If those two step up, and if Mata can return from his knee surgery, the Bruins are going to be very solid inside.

The return of Josh Shipp is also another key. Word is that before last year, he was outplaying Farmar and Afflalo, but obviously the injury to his hip took him out for most of the season. He's healthy, and his scoring ability is something that the Bruins really lacked last year. I'm really looking forward to seeing him on the floor.

Looking forward to seeing Keefe and Westbrook as well, but frankly, I don't expect major impacts from the freshmen this year, save for a game or two when they really step up, as seems to happen to every freshman at some point. The top 8 are pretty solid, and should dominate the minutes. Anything they get from the freshmen should be gravy.

UCLA basketball is finally back where it belongs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Angels going after Soriano

Not surprising. Rotoworld is reporting that the Angels have offered $80MM over six years, consistent with their strategy of making a big offer early in an attempt to avoid a bidding war. As the Times pointed out the other day, sometimes this nets you a Cy Young winner, and sometimes it nets you Mo Vaughn (allow me to digress for a moment, but I had nothing personal against Vaughn until the Percival comments. The one season where he was remotely healthy, he was a great hitter for the Angels. I can't blame a guy for getting hurt, so I don't think that was an awful move for the Angels, but it certainly ended unfortunately).

I'm not exactly a big Soriano booster, so if they were to sign him, I'd learn to live with it, and probably come to like it, but it's not going to kill me if he turns them down. I've been over this again and again, but the reason the Angels lost the AL West last year was not because of a lack of offense. They lost the AL West because they could not consistently catch and throw the baseball. That isn't to say that they had a good offense. They didn't. But the defense is what did them in. Why do I bring that up? Because according to the Times, the Angels may be considering playing him at second base and moving Kendrick to first. If the Angels sign Soriano, they have two legitimate options*:
  1. Kotchman or Morales at first, Kendrick at second, Soriano in center, Rivera in left, GA at DH; or
  2. Kendrick at first; Soriano at second; Rivera in center; Anderson in left; and Kotchman or Morales at DH (or another bat, should they sign one).
Under option two, the Angels are worse defensively at every position compared to option one (although I think that if Kendrick played a full season, spring training included, at first base, he'd be a very good first baseman, so there me no real drop off there). It would also make them worse at second base and left field than they were last year, when they were probably the worst defensive team in the AL. That's not a recipe for success.

Ya know, I've been pretty hard on John Lackey and Ervin Santana for nibbling around the strike zone and trying to strike everyone out instead of getting early count outs. If the Angels put out the defense laid out in option one, I'd understand why they may not want to let opposing hitters put the ball in play. And to be fair, if Soriano goes somewhere else, none of this matters. If the Angels make a move for a center fielder in addition to Soriano, the analysis changes. If someone gets hurt in spring training, the analysis changes. What concerns me is that the Angels might even consider option one. It simply makes no sense.

*Note, options subject to change based on subsequent free agent signings.