Saturday, March 03, 2007

UCLA 51; Washinton 61 - Also, Illinois lost


I may get around to doing a full post on this game, but right now I'm still trying to find the foul on LRMAM against Brockman in the final minute. If anyone can find it, let me know.

Actualy, I missed most of this one. Forest Park, IL held its St. Patrick's Day/Casimir Pulaski day parade today (yes, they hold parades when it's 28 degrees outside). I only caught bits and pieces.

First instincts: Meaningless game for the Bruins. Senior day for the Huskies. Not sure if they rushed the floor, but hey, good luck in the NIT.


Between missing free throws, and Rich McBride jacking up 30 footers, this was no surprise. Winning gave the Illini a bid. Losing means they need at least one, if not two, conference tourney wins to be safe, and even then I have a feeling the committee is going to screw them.

As for the ILL-DUI chant, I'd expect nothing less from Sex Offender University. Iowa sucks, and their fans are a bunch of cocksuckers. Sorry, but I call 'em like I see 'em.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Couple of Points About Last Night's UCLA Game

I didn't mention these in yesterday's post, but here's a couple of adenda:

  1. As stifling as both defenses were, there were surprisingly few fouls. Neither team was in the bonus in the second half until the final few minutes when Wazzu had to foul on purpose just to put UCLA into the bonus. And it wasn't as if there were a ton of plays that made you think 'boy, I can't believe they didn't call a foul right there.' I've watched a lot of Big 10 basketball, so I've seen a lot of games where refs let guys get away with everything. Last night wasn't one of those games. It was good, hard, aggressive, in-your-face defense, and neither team needed to clutch and grab to play it well.
  2. Good column today from Pat Forde of ESPN, calling UCLA the "most mature team in the nation." It's hard to argue with that. These guys don't just play one style and hope they do it well enough to win. They're driven, and they find ways to win when they have to, with a couple of exceptions. The funny thing is, the "most mature team in the nation" has absolutely no seniors. Not even a walk on. I'd be surprised if everyone came back, but damn, they'll be incredible next year if everyone comes back.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

UCLA 53; Washington State 45 -- Bruins Clinch Second Straight Outright Pac 10 Championship

In 1994, the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup. I watched every game of their seven game series with New Jersey in the Wales Conference Finals, and every game of their seven game series against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Finals. That Rangers team had a knack for absolutely blowing their opponents doors off in the first 10 minutes of the game. Didn't matter who they played, they dominated from the opening face off. If you could weather that storm and hang in, you could beat them, but a lot of teams just wilted from the beginning, and that's why the Rangers were the best team in the regular season, and the best team in the playoffs.

This UCLA team has a similar trait. They come out and simply dominate teams in the first five minutes of the second half. They did it against Arizona a couple of weeks ago. They did it to Berkeley last week. They did it to Stanford on Saturday. And they did it again tonight. I said it before, and I'll say it again: UCLA lost to Stanford last month at Maples because they didn't compete in the first five minutes of the second half, and by the time they got it together, Stanford was rolling. They learned their lesson. Since then, they've dominated that five minute stretch, and it's been the key factor in their conference win streak.

Tonight, after trailing by one at the half, the Bruins came out and scored the first nine points of the second half, and they did so convincingly, on two layups, a dunk, and three pointer. The built an eight point lead that they would never relinquish. And they didn't just do it with offense. Their defense has an extra gear in the second half, and they found it tonight, ultimately holding the Cougars to 37.5% shooting. Derek Low especially had an off night. He is a difference maker, and tonight he simply couldn't find his range.

Aaron Afflalo led the way on the scoresheet with 14 points on 5-11 shooting. Darren Collison, in a bit of a shooting slump (for him) over the last few games added seven to go along with eight assists, many coming on pinpoint passes into the post. He's a big reason that Alfred Aboya chimed in with eight points of 4-5 shooting. Aboya gives me the impression that he's going to absolutely bust out next year. Don't ask my why. He's shown flashes of greatness this year, and it's just a matter of him putting it all together. If he takes that step, their front line next year is going to be absolutely sick with LRMAM, Aboya, Mata, and Love. That's assuming they get nothing from Keefe and Wright (and I think those two will contribute). That frontcourt will be dominant.

Give a ton of credit to Washington State. They have an excellent team, and for a defensive powerhouse, they don't play a boring style. Their low points-against isn't built on a boring zone and 35 second possessions on both ends. They play hard and really get after it. I think they're going to do some damage in the tournament, and until UCLA took them out of it, they really had a great crowd tonight. And yes, that paragraph was a lot easier to type considering the outcome.

Barring some catastrophic injury (which the selection committee will take into account), UCLA probably locked up a #1 seed tonight, and they're probably going to stay out west for the second year in a row. Now it's off to Seattle to finish the season and get ready for the Pac 10 tournament. Congratulations to the Bruins on their second straight outright conference championship.

Day Two of Not Caring

Honestly, I've tried, and I just can't bring myself to care about this whole Gary Matthews thing. Quite honestly, I'm much more concerned about UCLA vs. Wazzu, and Anze Kopitar missing the game against the Ducks tonight, because really, if he's not playing, what point is there in watching?

Why don't I care? Let's break it down.

Assume he's innocent:
  1. Last year, though a fluke, wasn't chemically enhanced;
  2. There's a chance he could work out OK this year, maybe next;
  3. It's still an awful contract, and it will be brutal in two years.
Assume he's guilty:
  1. Last year was a fluke AND chemically enhanced;
  2. There's a smaller chance he could work out OK this year;
  3. It goes from being an awful contract to a REALLY awful contract that's already brutal.
Honestly, I don't see much difference between guilt and innocence at this point. Either way, the deal sucks, and this is a distraction. The bright side, of course, is that he could get suspended for a while. The really bright side would be a situation in which the Angels could void his contract, but I don't see that happening.

Basically, I think this was such a bad deal at the time that I don't think anything could make it much worse. It's about as bad as it gets. I'll gladly eat crow if I'm wrong, but I have such little affection for Matthews to begin with that this whole situation doesn't make me like the move any less.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Big ticket centerfielder Gary Matthews Jr. (affectionately known as Garbarge Matthews Jr. to Angels fans) has been linked to a ring of steroid distributors who operated an online distribution business. The owners of Applied Pharmacy Series have been indicted in Buffalo.

So right now, that's looking like $50MM well spent.

On the bright side, this deal was pretty much as bad as it gets to begin with, so it's not as if it could have gotten much worse. I suppose the hope would lie in finding a way to void this contract and cut ties with Matthews, but I think that's pretty far fetched. Hell, I don't think the Angels can even make a case for being duped. Any judge with half a brain would look at the case and say "You signed a guy who had been released five times, and had one good season in his entire career." Even if that's not circumstantial evidence for juicing (and honestly, I don't think it's particularly good evidence), it certainly evidence that Stoneman got himself into an incredibly bad deal, steroids or not.

Fortunately, the Angels probably won't be in a lot of trouble if Matthews gets into a lot of trouble. Figgins could easily move back to center, with Izturis or Hillenbrand going to third. Quite frankly, I expect Matthews to suck this year, so replacing him with another guy who sucks probably isn't a big hit. I'm much more concerned about young Weaver at this point, but that will probably sort itself out.

Still, it's a distraction, and one that the team would likely be better without at this point.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The News Keeps Coming


It'd deadline day in the NHL, and the Kings just made their big splash getting Johann Fransson, Jaroslav Modry, a 2008 first round pick, and 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2007. In exchange, they send the captain, Mattias Norstrom, empty headed prospect Konstantin Pushkarev, and 3rd and 4th round picks to Dallas.

I have mixed emotions about this trade. I like the return, though I have to think that Slowdry is in there solely for salary considerations. On the one hand, I hate to see Matty go. He's been the very definition of a warrior for basically the last decade in Los Angeles. Not necessarily the face of the franchise, but an incredibly solid performer who always displayed the utmost in professionalism. On the other hand, he's exactly the type of guy who deserves a legitimate chance at a Stanley Cup, and now he's going to get one alongside Phillipe Boucher. Pushkarev was someone for whom I had high hopes, but Lombardi was never a fan, and whatever magic Hextall was trying to work, well apparently he didn't think he could get it done. The best thing about Pushkarev in this deal is that he's not O'Sullivan or Tukonen.


Rumor is getting out now that for a number of reasons, the deal between Major League Baseball and DirecTV may be slowly sliding off the table. In other words, there's a good chance that Extra Innings will still be available on cable this season.

The whole thing has essentially hinged on where the Baseball Network will be slated when it starts up in 2009. MLB wants in on the basic tier. Cable doesn't want it on the basic tier. DirecTV was willing to put it on the basic tier in exchange for exclusivity for Extra Innings. The combination of a better offer from cable, a promise to put the Baseball Network somewhere, and pressure from Congress (specifically Senator Kerry) seems to have put the whole thing on hold. Depending on who you listen to, either the deal will still get done, may not get done, or won't get done.
One source familiar with negotiations said he now believes that the Extra Innings package will remain available to all three services."I'd be surprised if the DirecTV deal goes through," he said.


"There will be a commitment to carry the Baseball Network (on cable)," said the industry official. "Where it will be placed, that still needs to be sorted out."

Another source with the league said he was not aware of any shift away from plans to go with an exclusive deal for DirecTV. But talks have lingered for months without an official announcement even as baseball's opening day draws near
Stay tuned.

Breaking News

UC Riverside in the top 25!

Go Highlanders.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Saturday Roundup

It's a little late, but I was at the Blackhawks game today, so I have an excuse.


It's amazing what a team can do when it gets away from the distractions. Penn State was the right opponent, in the right place, at the right time, and Illinois responded by playing what may have been it's best game of the season. They relentlessly attacked Penn State's zone defense, and they dominated PSU on the other end of the floor, holding the Lions to 38% shooting. But the big advantage came on the glass, as Illinois enjoyed a 33-22 rebounding advantage.

On offense, the Illini found holes all over the PSU zone, and the beneficiary was Sean Pruitt, who finished with 20 points. Warren Carter added 17 of his own, six of those coming from long range, while Brian Randle tossed in 10, rounding out a starting front line that finished the game with each in double digits. Chester Frazier, who'd been 0 for everything lately, added a couple of three pointers, which paced a low scoring effort from the back court. Rich McBride had a tough time getting good looks, and he finished with just one field goal, although he did contribute six assists.

I still think it's going to take one win to get Illinois into the NCAA Tournament. Either a win at Iowa, or one in the Big 10 tourney ought to be enough, and neither is a sure thing. They'll probably have the fourth seed in the BTT, which means they could end up turning right around and playing Iowa again. At this point of the season, nothing would make Iowa fans happier than keeping Illinois out of the dance. And the Illini better show up in Iowa City with plenty of mental toughness, because Iowa's fans are really going to let them have it.


There are those who will argue that UCLA's loss at Maples Pavilion last month was the moment that really brought the team together. Not me. I think they've been together all season. I think that loss taught them a very valuable lesson: The most important part of the game is the first five minutes of the second half.

Time and time again the Bruins have gotten off to slow starts (and indeed, it was a much talked about issue going into that first Stanford game), only to come out in the second half and put the game away. At Stanford, the Bruins came out on fire and got up big early. After an ill advised shot at the end of the half, which led to a Stanford three pointer, the Bruins took a 12 point lead into the break. Stanford came out firing on all cylinders at the beginning of the second half, got and suddenly everything looked uphill for the Bruins. They couldn't recover, and Stanford put the Bruins away.

Cut to yesterday. UCLA didn't quite start the game like it did last month. Their lead generally hovered around two or three points for much of the first frame, and they took a three point advantage into the break. But that's when they put they lesson they learned in the first game into practice. 5:30 into the second half, UCLA had pushed a three point lead to thirteen, and pretty much held it there until the final horn.

Aaron Afflalo, in what may have been his last game at Pauley Pavilion, had a typically tremendous AA game with 20 points and six rebounds, while going 4-7 from beyond the arc. Beyond him, the Bruins were remarkably balanced offensively. Seven players (besides Afflalo) finished with five or more points, and no one else had more than 11 (LRMAM, who also added seven rebounds). Darren Collison keyed the defense with five steals, and for the second straight game, let others grab the accolades, finishing with ten points and six assists. The bench chipped in an extremely efficient 18 (Aboya - 7, Roll - 6, Westbrook - 5), on 6-9 shooting.

In another solid team effort, the Bruins forced twice as many turnovers as they committed (16-8), and they out rebounded the taller Cardinal 31-27, and in doing so, took away one of Stanford's biggest advantages.

It's been a season of solid team efforts, and that has them on the brink of their second straight conference championship, which they'll clinch with either one win in Washington, or a Wazzu loss. On the Pacific Northwest.