Saturday, March 22, 2008

UCLA over Texas A&M - Quick Thoughts

Instead of an extended post, I'm going on about five or six beers right now, so I'll do a quick one and bullet point it.
  • I'm not going to second guess Ben Howland. I've wondered about his time out strategy, his scheduling, and a bunch of other things since he came to UCLA, but I've gotta wonder if he wishes he had gotten LRMAM into the game for a five or ten minutes the other night, just to get some timing down. He looked very out of sorts tonight. He didn't look like he had ankle problems, but he struggled with decision making, and that led directly to a couple of charges.
  • UCLA beat A&M with arguably two and a half players. Offensively, they got nothing from LRMAM or Shipp, and Westbrook didn't show up until the second half. A full Bruins team is unbeatable. We learned tonight that half a Bruins team is still damn good if it's the right half.
  • If I had to guess, based on tonight's game alone, I would guess that Kevin Love is gone after this season. And I say that solely because of the way he played down the stretch. He simply refused to allow this to be his last college basketball game. He hit two shots in the waning minutes that he normally wouldn't take. But ask yourself, would you have rather had him taking a bad shot than Shipp taking a good shot? He was not going to miss.
  • He's got two more final fours than the other two, but Darren Collison has finally been admitted to the fraternity of Bruin guards that include, from my own personal era, Tyus Edney and Cameron Dollar. Admission requires a game deciding basket for a high seeded team in the final ten seconds. And honestly, the shot was almost identical to Dollar's, plus about seven seconds.
  • I just saw the commercial for the new movie 21. For those wondering, the song in the commercial is Spoon's "My Mathematical Mind", which I suppose is somewhat appropriate.
  • If the Bruins go on to win the championship, Lorenzo Mata-Real can forever tell people that he hit a 17 foot jumper that was, mathematically, the difference in them moving on.
  • Did Kevin Love have seven blocks all season going into this game?
  • I run hot and cold on Jay Bilas. I like him as a color guy, not as much as an analyst. He's incredibly misguided on the subjects of Tommy Amaker and Eric Gordon, but I like what he brings to the sideline, and he works well with Enberg. And his "OH!!" on Collison's game winner was eerily similar to his "OH!!" on Deron Williams' game tying three against Arizona in 2005.
  • UCLA has a reputation, as we all know, for being a boring team to watch, because of their great defense. But had I not just checked, I would never have known that TAM went over eight and half minutes near the end of the game (for 10:09 to 1:19) with one point. For some reason, I thought the game was still pretty exciting.
  • A friend of mine texted me to tell me that the next game should be easy. That's what Drake and UConn thought. But as long as we're talking about USD, remember when the Bruins had a coach that would lose to USD? I credit their success to the $150 dollars I gave to them in exchange for nothing more than another two months to decide where to go to law school.
  • Call them the cardiac kids if you must, and no one wants to see the Bruins get behind and be forced to come back, but you have to think that the comebacks over the last three weeks helped the Bruins remain calm in the second half. Of course, they didn't help ME remain calm, but I'm not out there playing, which is good, because I suck.
  • Digger Phelps just talked about Jordan Hill playing for Stanford. Digger Phelps is an idiot.
  • With the upsets in the bracket, there's no reason the Bruins shouldn't get to at least the final four again. It's all on them now.
  • Three Pac 10 teams in the sweet 16 is good, but not great. Not like 1997. We need all three to get to the next round. Let's get it done, Wazzu. Should be an interesting game. UNC's high powered offense against Wazzu's defense.
  • On to Phoenix. It's only five hours away, folks. If you can get out there, go make the place feel like Pauley.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

X at the Metro - A Quick Recap

So it's the 31st anniversary of the formation of one of the most influential punk bands ever, L.A.'s seminal X. I saw them a few years ago when they played the House of Blues. It was the first time I'd seen the original lineup, though I've seen John Doe play solo a few times and he usually throws a couple of X songs into his solo sets.

This was the fourth or fifth show of their current tour. They took the stage a little after 10:30 and played for about an hour and 15 minutes. I'll cop to never having seen their shows when they were actually producing new music (I was just a little kid), but the amount of energy they bring to their live shows can't have been much greater back then. They were a little sloppy at times, probably because they had such a long set list. It's easy to lose your place on the page when you've got 20 songs listed. Exene Cervenka chalked it up to being "new at this". But there's nothing more fun that watching Billy Zoom, wide stanced and almost motionless, standing there with a huge grin on his face while delivering some of the most complex guitar work found on any punk record. From Buddy Siegal in the OC Weekly:
Dave Alvin, the former Blasters' axe man who ultimately replaced Zoom, is a renowned guitar hotshot in his own right, but he soon learned that stepping into Zoom's cowboy boots was no easy task. "I was amazed when I had to actually sit down and learn 32 songs in two weeks," says Alvin. "How Billy Zoom put his parts together was amazing. For a three-piece band, his orchestration on guitar was really tremendous. They were almost mathematically perfect arrangements. Billy likes tinkering with machines and electronics, and in some ways, his guitar parts are put together like schematics. I'm more of a primitive. I lack that kind of technique, and Billy was very, very advanced. I learned a lot; my guitar playing improved a lot after I had to sit down and learn all of his parts. There's a part of me that's forever in his debt, from having my Billy Zoom guitar lessons. A lot of punk bands-a lot of any bands-don't have these kind of intelligent guitar parts. That guy is really good."
Decide for yourself in the samples below. Here's the incomplete and out of order setlist (they played at least six or seven more songs than this - probably closer to ten):
  • Once Over Twice
  • We're Desperate
  • In This House That I Call Home
  • White Girl
  • Back to the Base
  • Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not
  • Johnny Hit and Run Paulene
  • Soul Kitchen
  • Nausea
  • Los Angeles
  • The New World
  • True Love
  • Hungry Wolf
  • Motel Room in my Bed
  • Because I Do
  • Riding With Mary
  • Blue Spark
  • The Unheard Music
I was pretty stoked that they played Blue Spark. That's one of my favorite X songs, and they didn't play it the last time I saw them. Aside from that, you always expect to hear Hungry Wolf, Los Angeles, and White Girl, and they didn't disappoint last night. Here are those three (though the Hungry Wolf video is missing the beginning for some reason - also, give White Girl about a minute twenty before the song actually starts):

Sun Times Review

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tournament Picks

Upsets in red

Round One

East Region:

North Carolina over Mt. St. Mary's
Indiana over Arkansas
Notre Dame over George Mason
Wazzu over Winthrop
St. Joe's over Oklahoma
Louisville over Boise State
Butler over South Alabama
Tennessee over America

Midwest Region

Kansas over Portland State
UNLV over Kent State
Clemson over Villanova
Vandy over Sienna
U$C over Kansas State
Wisconsin over Fullteron
Davidson over Gonzaga
Georgetown over Maryland-Baltimore County

I know that Davidson is a popular upset, and that almost makes me want to pick Gonzaga, just because there's always a "lock" upset that doesn't come through, but Davidson is pretty good. They almost beat UCLA.

South Region

Memphis over UTA
Oregon over Mississippi State
State over Temple
Pitt over Oral Roberts
Kentucky over Marquette
Stanford over Cornell
St. Mary's over Miami
Texas over Austin Peay

West Region

UCLA over Miss. Valley State
BYU over Texas A&M
Drake over Western Kentucky
Purdue over Baylor
Xavier over Georgia
Arizona over West Virginia
Duke over Belmont

Round Two

East Region

UNC over Indiana
Wazzu over Notre Dame
Louisville over St. Joe's
Tennessee over Butler

No surprises here. The WSU-ND game should be good. The last time Notre Dame was a five seed, they made it to the sweet sixteen, but Tony Bennet isn't as dumb as Bill Self, so I think the Cougs will pull it out.

Midwest Region

Kansas over UNLV
Clemson over Vandy
U$C over Wiscy
Davidson over Georgetown

This bracket starts to get torn up. I like the athleticism of the women of troy, and if they can stay out of foul trouble, they'll handle Wisconsin. Davidson becomes my first major upset of the tournament.

South Region

Memphis over Oregon
MSU over Pitt
Stanford over Kentucky
Texas over St. Mary's

Again, no real surprises, other than perhaps MSU, but I'll give Izzo the benefit of the doubt come tourney time, especially with a senior point guard.

West Region

Drake over UConn
Purdue over Xavier
Arizona over Duke

I love Arizona's talent if everyone is healthy. I think Jordan Hill can do some damage against an undersized middle. I look at Xavier and I still see the team that lost to ASU. I haven't seen Drake or UConn, but everyone's on Drake's jock, so why not?

Sweet 16

East Region

UNC over Wazzu
Tennessee over Louisville

Nothing to see here.

Midwest Region

KU over Clemson
U$C over Davidson

Troy gets a break after Davidson's upset of Georgetown.

South Region

Michigan State over Memphis
Texas over Stanford

Interior defense and rebounding are MSU staples, and Memphis will be doing a lot of "kicking out" when their drives end up in the trees. They start missing threes, go one and done, and they won't help themselves at the free throw line. In the other matchup, I like Stanford a lot, but I think Darren Collison exposed Mitch Johnson's defense. DJ Augustin will get to the middle and create havoc, and if he can kick it out to open Damion James, Stanford is in for a long night, especially in what will be a home game for Texas.

West Region

UCLA over Drake
Arizona over Purdue

Like U$C, Arizona gets a big of a break by missing Xavier. I really don't like Arizona. I especially don't like Arizona fans. But I think they have the type of talent that can take them on a run.

Elite Eight

East Region

Tennessee over North Carolina

A running, pressing, shooting team, not unlike Clemson who coincidentally gave UNC a lot of problems in their three matchups this year. The difference is that Tennessee does all those things better than Clemson. The Vols move on to San Antonio.

Midwest Region

Kansas over U$C

In a battle of two teams that I hate, it's unfortunate that both can't lose. But Kansas' depth will be too much for the latex-thin Trojans.

South Region

Texas over Michigan State

Texas has too much, and playing in Houston, they'll ride the home court to San Antonio.

West Region

UCLA over Arizona

Scary game for UCLA, and I'm really tempted to pick against them here. The Cats scare me almost more than any team in this bracket because of the location of the game. But the Bruins have already beat Arizona in Tucson, and things won't get any easier for the Cats in Phoenix. The streak goes to eight.

Final Four

Tennessee over Kansas

Again, I can't think of two coaches I'd like to see lose more than these two. But unfortunately, the rules say someone has to win. Depth and balance should do the trick for Kansas. But as much I hate lying scumbag Bruce Pearl, he's a better coach than Bill Self. Self will somehow find a way to lose.

UCLA over Texas

Darren Collison is healthy. He wasn't back in December. And he's on a mission. Since that Texas game, only his second game back, after missing the first six, he's hit 53% of his three pointers. He will not let UCLA lose.

Championship Game

UCLA over Tennessee.

The Bruins ability to control the tempo will frustrate Tennessee, and their relentless ball pressure on the defensive end will lead to some easy baskets for the Bruins. It will be an interesting contrast in styles, but Kevin Love is going to be too much for Tennessee inside, and that will be the difference.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

NCAA Tourney First Thoughts

  • UCLA has a nice path to the championship, and based on that, they should be the favorite. None of the teams in their bracket scare me.
  • ASU got dicked. This is what happens when the committee places too much emphasis on schedule and not enough on results. They are simply a better team than Arizona. They proved it over the course of the Pac 10 season, and twice on the court.
  • Part of the problem for ASU was, as always, conference tournaments, which I hate. Why play a regular season if you're just going to award the automatic bid to someone who has a hot weekend? Illinois had no business playing for a shot at the tourney. Neither did Georgia, who probably kept ASU out.
  • No quarrel with the number one seeds.
  • Picks will come later this week, but right now I don't like the draw for Stanford, and I like the draw for Tennessee. I think they'll beat North Carolina. They're like Clemson, who UNC struggled with, but better.