Monday, December 8, 2008
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Big 10 Basketball. What? Did you think you’d be talking about the Big 10 as one of the better conferences in the land this season? It’s looking that way right now. The teams went 5-6 in the ACC/Big 10 challenge, as well as they have ever done. Other than Indiana, almost every time has had some good success this season. Illinois almost beat Clemson and followed it up by beating Georgia by almost 30. Iowa has a win over K State and almost beat BC at BC. Northwestern has wins over Florida State and DePaul, and even lowly Penn State has a win at Georgia Tech. The top three teams heading into the season are the ones who are struggling to win marquee games, with a Badger win over Virginia Tech, a Purdue victory vs. BC, and a Spartan win over Oklahoma State their only good wins, with big whiffs in other major matchups. The two teams who are really helping to elevate the national profile for the conference are Ohio State and Michigan. The Wolverines beat #4 Duke 81-73 on Saturday, making the Blue Devils the second #4 ranked team they’ve knocked off this year after beating UCLA earlier in the season. They managed to hold Duke to 7-33 shooting from three, and this shows the UCLA win was no fluke. Michigan has put themselves in great shape to get to the tournament, with just four cupcakes remaining on the non-conference schedule before Big Ten play begins (they will also play UCONN in Feb), if they can manage to go 9-9, they’ll be in. That leaves…..
2. Ohio State Hoops. The Buckeyes had a HUGE week, beating two ranked teams on the road. They won at Miami in the Big 10/ACC Challenge 73-68, and followed it up by beating the #7 ranked Irish of Notre Dame in South Bend 67-62 on Saturday. Swingman Evan Turner is turning into the sort of all-around player they need, averaging 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 3 steals and a block per game while shooting 56% from the floor, 50% from three, and 90% from the line. Wow. These are numbers I always expected from Lighty, not Turner, but I’m sure the Buckeyes will take it either way. The scary thing is that they aren’t getting a major contribution from either of their stud freshmen, BJ Mullens or William Buford. If either fo those two really get it going this season, they’re going to be quite dangerous.
3. Baylor Hoops. Remember last week how I said Baylor was looking quite good this year, but I was interested to see how they played against Washington State and their size since the Bears are so guard oriented? Well, the answered the question – their guards are good enough so that it doesn’t matter. The Bears waltzed into Pullman, WA and walked out with a 58-52 victory, showing they can handle a slow pace as well as their quicker one. The Cougars bigger guys (Klay Thompson, Aron Baynes, Daven Harmeling) all played well and also held the two big guys for Baylor, Kevin Rogers and Quincy Acy to 2 total points, but the Baylor guards were good enough to pull out the win, and the team outrebounded Washington State. Good win, especially on the road. I’m mentioned it before, but I’m officially announcing Baylor as a sleeper final four candidate.
4. Gopher Hoops. They played awfully sloppy at times in both games this week, but wins against Virginia by ten and Cornell by seventeen makes for an excellent week, no matter how you slice it. My thoughts on the Virginia game are elsewhere, so I won’t spend a lot of time on that, but the Cornell game was certainly interesting. A very sloppy first half that led to a 40-28 Big Red lead mainly behind Ryan Wittman was erased in a hurry in the second half, where the Gophers end up outscoring Cornell 43-14. What really helped Minnesota was the Big Reds complete contentment with hoisting threes all second half, and completely ignoring both anyone posting up and dribble penetration in general. The ended up shooting just 6-28 for the game, and that, along with a massive rebounding advantage (35-24) helped lead the Gophers to a big win. Such a big win, Ralph Sampson actually showed some emotion after dunking on some big white doofus’s head. Next up is a mostly useless tune-up at Williams against waste of time South Dakota State (2 of their 4 wins are against non D-I teams) before heading to Arizona to end their unbeaten streak and get stomped by Louisville. I also want to mention that the student section did an outstanding job with their chants with Wittman on the line, particularly “Fire Wittman” and “Where’s your daddy” when Randy had already left. Excellent work.
5. Miami Dolphins. Miami's 16-3 win at Buffalo, the second straight game the Bills could only muster 3 points, brings them to 8-5 and in a three way tie for the division lead with the Jets and Patriots. A huge change from last season, when they finished 1-15, and somehow someway just managed to luck into an OT against the Ravens to avoid going 0-16. Now they may have the inside track to the division crown. With their three remaining games against crappy San Francisco and on the road at crappy Kansas City before closing out against the Jets, they have the easiest schedule of the three contenders. It's hard to believe that noodle-armed Chad Pennington is the one leading them to this success, but he's getting it done. He's not throwing for a ton of yards, but is fifth in both completion percentage and QB rating, and has a 2-1 TD/INT ratio. Give Parcells credit, the man builds winners wherever he goes.
1. Ball State football. After going undefeated throughout the regular season, the Cardinals dropped the ball in the MAC title game, falling to Buffalo 42-24 and dropping their record to 12-1. They weren’t headed to a BCS game, since their schedule was pretty ridiculously easy with no ranked teams in sight, but this kills quite a few interesting things. They no longer are on of only three undefeated teams in college football, so that cute little story is killed. There were two possibilities for their bowl destination, either the Motor City, and having an undefeated team involved would have made that an interesting bowl for the first time ever, or a slim possibility that they could make it to the Humanitarian Bowl to play Boise State – another undefeated team that won’t be in the BCS. Whether or not they could figure a way to swing that matchup or not is now irrelevant thanks to the Cardinals five turnovers, including two fumbles that Bulls’ defenders returned for TDs.
2. Missouri football. What the hell happened here exactly? When I saw Mizzou was +18.5 to Oklahoma I had to take it. Too bad I turned out to be better on the ghost of a memory of history, as the Tigers got trounced by the Sooners 62-21 in the Big 12 Championship, ending what had to be a very disappointing season for fans at 9-4. Sure, they’ll end up playing in the Alamo Bowl and probably dismantling Northwestern, but this is a team that had National Championship aspirations and fell way, way short. Remember this team was 11-1 last year with a shot at the BCS championship game before losing to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship, and had its stud, Chase Daniel, back for another year. The started this season ranked 6th and had a handful of first place votes, climbing all the way to #3 before starting their free fall. Now Daniel is graduating, and Missouri will likely plummet back into the depths of mediocrity from whence it came.
3. Kentucky Hoops. Wow, talk about a program completely falling apart, the Wildcats are really struggling and the same group of fans who essentially ran Tubby “The Black Jesus” Smith out-of-town would probably commit several violations to get him back at this point. Even Rivals.com writers are calling out Gillespie for the way the team is falling apart after losing once again at home, this time to the U of Miami 73-67 on Saturday. It wasn’t so much that they lost - Miami is at least ranked - it’s that they fell behind by 21 points right out of the shoot. This gives the Cats their second home loss this year, joining their loss to VMI in the season opener. Couple those with the home loss to Gardner-Webb last year, and things are shaky in Lexington. A few decent wins in a Vegas tourney over West Virginia and Kansas State made it look like they might have gotten things straightened out, but now more questions abound. Is Kentucky just “another program” and no longer should be considered one of the national powers? Has this already happened?
4. Green Bay Packers. Oh uh, faggy Packer fans, looks like your squad is pretty much dead and buried after losing, at home no less, to the Texans 24-21. This drops the team to 5-8, three games behind the suddenly better than mediocre Vikings - although it remains to be seen what happens with the QB and DT positions - and effectively kills any playoff dreams, other than those that come in an alcoholic stupor. The Pack would need to win out and have the Vikes lose out just to tie, not even going into what they would need from the Bears. Would they have been better off with Favre this year? No, no they wouldn't. Favre had a better completion percentage and that's about it, Rodgers outperformed him in every other measure. This, of course, is where morons come in and say, "No he didn't, Favre outperformed in the wins column and that's all that matters. Also Bert Blyleven should never make the Hall because he didn't win three hundred games and Bartolo Colon completely deserved the 2005 AL Cy Young award for winning 20 games even though Johan Santana's WHIP was under 1 and his ERA was almost a full run better." I love you guys, keep up the good work.
5. Fouling up by three. Disturbing trend alert. You know how some people believe that if you are up by 3 with less than 10 seconds left and the other team has the ball you should foul to put them on the line instead of giving them a chance to shoot a game tying three pointer? And even though it may actually be the right choice (it's certainly debatable) it's incredibly, soul crushingly boring as a viewer and removes the excitement of the last second shot? Well, I've now watched two games (Florida/FSU and one I can't remember) where this situation arose, and they both fouled, and they both ended up winning. In a copy cat world, this frightens and confuses me. Last season, if you'd care to recall, NFL coaches all started calling timeouts right before last second field goal attempts, effectively making the kicker do it twice. One coach did it (shananahan?) and then everyone started doing it. If this "fouling" thing actually catches on, I'm afraid we're in for a lot of boring endings to games that could be much more fun. Not to mention that it kind of seems like a cheap way to win. Legal and all, but kind of girly. I don't like it one bit.