Saturday, March 24, 2007

UCLA 68; Kansas 55 - Bruins Off to the Land of Many Peachtree Streets

Seriously, I've been to Atlanta, and there are like 18 streets all called Peachtree. It's very confusing. But I digress...

Look, this isn't gonna be an easy post for me to write without going into how much I hate Kansas. It started with Roy Williams poaching SoCal's best players, and the hatred intensified when that cocksucker Bail $elfish left Illinois to take the Kansas job. Let's get one thing straight, $elfish is a great recruiter, but he is a flat out AWFUL game coach (with an exception or two, which I'll get into later). Ask any Illinois fan who witnessed the 2003 debacle against Notre Dame where he suddenly decided that guarding the perimeter was not a priority, and when ND hit a ton of first half threes, he still thought it wasn't a priority. Result? Predictable.

Let me go ahead and write out the quotes from Kansas players right now:
  • We missed a lot of easy shots.
  • We missed a bunch of shots that we usually make.
  • We picked a bad time to miss a bunch of layups.
  • Yada...Yada...Yada....
Pyrrhus wrote a great diary about this the other day at Bruins Nation. It seems that every team who plays against UCLA in the tournament miraculously suffers through a bad shooting game. Like it's magic or something. Note to Bruins opponents: Their defense is very good. Those shots you missed, they weren't easy. You were rushing, because you knew if you'd taken another half second, you would have been stuffed or stripped. At least in missing, you had a shot at the offensive rebound.

On to the the game itself, I'll be honest. I was not happy with the first half. Too many turnovers. Too many bad decisions. At about the 15 minute mark, I thought 'just get it to three by halftime'. But a nice run over the last five minutes, and a great play at the end of the half (which failed later in the game) gave the Bruins a four point cushion. At that point of the game, I called my dad and said the first five minutes of the half were of utmost importance. This has been kind of a theme of mine this season. Ever since they lost the Stanford game, I've been all over the importance of the first five minutes of the second half. Well, tonight, after the first five and half minutes of the second half, UCLA pushed a four point lead out to nine, and would make it 11 just a minute later. Kansas never returned to that four point deficit.

So many heroes tonight. Josh Shipp's three pointers, including the three at the end of the first half. He finished with 9 points, 5 assists, and 6 boards. Darren Collison handled the Kansas pressure for the most part and tossed in 14 points. Don't look at the assist to turnover ratio. It's meaningless tonight. The defense of Aboya, Mata, and LRMAM, once again forcing a ton of misses on "easy" shots. Russel Westbrook, 2-2 on a dunk and a layup. Instant offense. And I'll say it right now, I hope Collison doesn't leave, but if he does, I could see Russel making the same type of transition that Collison has made in Jordan Farmar's absence.

But the hero, UCLA's best player, was UCLA's best player, Arron Afflalo. What. A. Game. He poured in 24 points. 10-15 from the field, most of those in the second half (he started off poorly). 3-7 from beyond the arc. And he showed the country once again that you should never feel comfortable in the final second of the shot clock. He nailed one. Collison nailed one. They were back breakers for Kansas. There's just something about giving up those types of shots late. You think you're about to get the ball back. You think you have a chance to cut a six point deficit to three or four, and all of the sudden your down by nine. This kid is a winner, and the only bad news from tonight is that he probably cemented his status as an NBA first rounder.

Ben Howland. Talk about a class act, and a hell of a game coach. He stayed with the game plan, and knew his players could execute. And you had to love the respect he showed former UCLA PBP announcer Dick Enberg. And I will give credit to $elfish for his strategy with about 3 minutes left. Kansas had not committed many fouls, and they knew they would need to probably put UCLA on the line at the end. But he didn't wait until a minute remained to foul on purpose. He got his team to really start ball hawking with about three minutes left. Go for the foul, and if you foul, who cares? It was a good strategy and it led to a couple of turnovers.

But despite the turnovers, despite some poor decision making, UCLA is heading to it's second straight final four. Ben Howland has returned this team to the top of college basketball's elite. And these kids, who have worked so hard all year, are headed back to college basketball's biggest stage. Congratulations, Bruins.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pitt 55; UCLA 64 - Bruins Dance Into the Elite 8

Not quite so much drama as the last time the Bruins were the Sweet 16, but a win is a win, and the Bruins are still playing. They'll face Kansas on Saturday.

In a bit of a change of pace, UCLA won this game at the free throw line. That's right, I said they *won* it at the line, making 23 of their 26 free throws. And quite frankly, if you watched the game, you shouldn't have been surprised. Why? Look at the free throw distribution. Of their 26 free throws, 22 were shot by Arron Afflalo (10/10), Darren Collison (6/6), and Josh Shipp (5/6). If those three had shot 86% of UCLA's free throws all season, they wouldn't have been at the bottom of the Pac 10.

The defense was stifling yet again. The press will write about how UCLA was lucky that Pitt missed so many easy shots. My response: What easy shots? Not only did the Bruins play their typical ball hawking defense on the perimeter, but they brought quick double teams on Aaron Gray (who had all of one assist to show for his great passing out of double teams), and they routinely made life miserable for Pitt in the paint. Lorenzo Mata may only be somewhere between 6'8" and 6'10", but the guy probably has the strongest lower body in the country. You simply don't back him down. Other than the misadventures of Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright (note to Dick Enberg: They aren't the same guy - Wright wears a head band), the Bruin defense was very stingy inside.

Unsung hero of the game? He was 2-2 with five points, no assists, no rebounds, no steals. But Michael Roll knocked down both of his open shots. With the Bruins leading by five, and under a minute to play, Darren Collison drove the lane, kicked it out to Roll, and his two point jumper made it a three possession game, essentially icing the victory. He didn't force it. He didn't try to do things he couldn't do in the first half. He waited for the game to come to him, and hit a huge shot.

Arron Afflalo shot the ball poorly, but did his damage at the free throw line and finished with 17 points. Josh Shipp shot it a little better, hit a couple of big threes, and finished with 16 of his. And Darren Collison didn't put up great numbers across the board, but he still finished with 12 points on 3-5 shooting, though I would like to see a little better assist/turnover ratio (4/3 may not cut it against Kansas).

Again, I don't know a ton about the Jayhawks, other than I hate their coach, and I don't think he's all that good. From what I saw tonight, they look long and athletic. No huge force on the inside, but they may create matchup problems in the backcourt. I like the fact that Collison has the experience edge over Sherron Collins. That could be a difference maker. And the best news of all, there won't be any other games on at the same time, so I'll actually get to see the whole game in HD.

Final notes: It's hard not to like Aaron Gray. Dude looks like the Michelin Man when he comes out the game, bouncing from side to side with a dumb guy grin on his face. Good luck to him in the NBA. Also, Satan lost tonight. Sure, it was against OhowIhateOhioState, but Satan is dead nonetheless. Bruce Pearl, quite possibly the biggest piece of shit in college basketball, is done, and that makes me happy.

Texas A&M Got Screwed....Kinda

Background: 3.1 seconds on the clock as the ball went out of bounds, with A&M down by one. But the refs had to take some time off. They took 1.1 seconds off.

What you'll hear in defense of the refs: The ball was touched by Memphis, then bounced in bounds before landing out of bounds. That probably was at least one second, so the refs got it right. But....

Here's why they still got it wrong: If you watch the replay in real time, the ref under the basket at which Memphis was shooting blew his whistle as soon as the ball hit the floor. The clock should have been dead right at that point. I do not believe the refs are allowed to change the time left on the clock when the whistle blows. They can review it on made baskets and such, or they can put time on the clock if the whistle comes late, but they are not allowed to add "in play" time when the whistle is blown early.

The refs screwed that one up. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered, but trying telling Texas A&M that they didn't need an extra eight or nine tenths of a second.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

UCLA v. Pitt

There's been a lot of silence from me leading up to this game. That's due to a couple of things. Between traveling home for work, going to client sites, and general business, I haven't had a ton of time.

But mostly, I don't really know what to say. I haven't seen Pitt play all year. Between watching a lot of Big Ten and Pac Ten games, I don't have a lot of time for or interest in Big East basketball. I know they have a talented big man in Aaron Gray. For much better insight than I can provide, visit these guys. They do a lot better job of previewing these things. I can only comment on what I've seen, and like I said, I haven't seen Pitt.

I'll try and have more on Friday. Of course, I'm destined to either watch this game on a computer scree (again), or without sound. Ohio State plays at the same time, and this is Big Ten country. That means no Bruins on local TV. No Bruins in High Def. Sometimes I really hate living in Chicago.

InDemand Matches DirecTV...

...Or at least they did for a minute. But it looks like MLB is still intent on giving fans the finger.

Didn't want it to end like this, but there's a good chance that this is going to be my second to last baseball post for a long, long time. I've decided I'm not going to DirecTV. And unless I change my mind, or Comcast goes the Cox route and offers me MLBTV for free, it's looking like Cubs and White Sox only, which is to say, I won't be watching much baseball this year. If, when all is said and done, MLB insists on screwing over its most loyal fans, I'll probably do one more post about it, and that will be it.

On the plus side, I may actually start getting some sleep when the Angels are on the West Coast.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Listen to this song

Then listen to it again. And when you're done, listen to it one more time. If by then, you aren't hooked, you have no soul. Either that, or your taste in music just sucks.

That's Viva Voce, and they opened for the Shins on the recent tour. I missed most of their opening set, because unless I know a lot about the band, I hate seeing opening acts at big shows. 50% of the audience isn't there, and of those who are, 90% of them aren't paying attention. It makes for a shitty atmosphere. But it was my mistake this time (note: I also screwed up by missing most of the High Dials set the first time I saw them when they opened for the Brian Jonestown Massacre). But this song is brilliant. And the video is good too.

And just in case you thought those were actors, and that Anita can't really shred like than on actual guitar, here's a live version:

Hat tip to the Uncanny Canuck over at Song of the Day.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Excuse the light posting

I'm in L.A. at the moment, and will be traveling back to Chicago tomorrow. Between travel, golf, In-N-Out, Mexican food, training, and more travel, I haven't had a whole lot of time to write.

But dang, those DirecTV screens on JetBlue are really, really nice.