Monday, December 29, 2008
I'm giving Childress and Jackson a pass this week since they won and made the playoffs, even though it was against the Giants' backups in the second half, including David Carr, and they showed some of the worst clock management I've ever seen at the end of the game.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Ralph Sampson III and Devoe Joseph. Both guys played their best game as a Gopher, at least scoring-wise, last night in a 82-56 stomping of High Point, Sampson hitting his career high with 17 and Joseph also setting his career best with 11 off the bench. Devoe continues to be a steady back-up point guard, but last night showed the hot shooting touch that I've been waiting for, hitting 3-4 from three and hitting a nice pull-up with his foot on the line. He's not a true point, and I don't think anybody ever thought he was, and isn't much of a creator but does a nice job filling in for Nolen here and there. It will be interesting to see if Tubby finds ways to get him shots off the ball, but I suppose that's still Hoffarber's job for now - as it should be. Sampson was very impressive and continues to develop, although he can still be a little awkward at times. His hook shot isn't very polished, but it seems to work, and he's getting more aggressive on the block each and every game. He has a lot of confidence in his 12-15 foot jump shot, and he's starting to hit which gives an added dimension to his game. I was most impressed with his passing last night, as he hit a couple of nice cutters and seems to know what to do with the ball on the high post. This hi/lo Sampson/Iverson bit might end up being a pretty nice little duo. So now it's on to the Big Ten schedule and Michigan State and Ohio State this week. With both games at home, it's time to make a major statement. Ken Pomeroy gives the Gophers a 61% chance to beat Michigan State, with the Ohio State game being a 50/50 proposition. How awesome would 2-0 be?
2. Notre Dame Football. Look, I hate the Irish as much as you do. They’re basically the Duke basketball team with fewer rich boys and less success but the same amount of arrogance, so it pains me to praise them and their crazy-fat coach Charlie Weis, but it must be done here after they stomped Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl (sponsored by Sheraton Hotels and Resorts). Now, it was the Hawaii bowl, which isn’t exactly the standard bearer for awesome bowl games, but at least Hawaii had won the past three times it was eligible (vs. Ariz State, UAB, and Houston). Again, not a murder’s row of invitees here, and I’m not exactly praising Notre Dame, because I would never do that, but hey, it’s their first bowl win in 15 years and breaks their bowl-losing game streak at 9, so they deserve some kind words – even though Hawaii wasn’t very good at 7-6 and actually lost to Utah State who only had three wins. Much maligned, and rightly so, Irish QB Jimmy Clausen set a Notre Dame bowl game record by passing for 401 yards and 5 TDs against the terrible Warriors’ defense, with 177 yards and 3 TDs going to probably made up name guy and WR Golden Tate on their way to splitting the MVP – although it should probably go to the Hawaii OLine for giving up 8 sacks. In case you’re wondering, Minnesota High School wide receiving Jesus Michael Floyd had 2 catches for 17 yards. With most skill players back with the Irish for another season, you might think they could build on this and turn the program around; but you’d be wrong – Notre Dame is broken.
3. Minnesota T-Wolves. It’s not often I’ll get to write about these clowns here, so I might as well take advantage after they snapped their 13-game losing streak by beating the Knicks 120-107 Friday night. It took either a lot of luck or some hot shooting, depending on how positive or negative you want to be, but they won. They came into the game 28th in the league in three-point shooting percentage, but managed to make 13 of 24 in the big win over the Knicks, including 7-9 from Rashad McCants and 3-4 from Rodney Carney who I honestly had no idea was on the Wolves. Al Jefferson was big with 21 points and 15 rebounds, although the real hero was, of course, Brian Cardinal who played just 8 minutes and contributed 0 points and 2 rebounds, but put up a +/- of +15 which is apparently a basketball stat now to lead the team and will the Wolves to their fifth victory with his grit and hustle. Naturally, the lost the very next night at home to Orlando by twenty, continuing to put themselves in prime position to make a huge mistake by drafting Thabeet.
4. San Diego Chargers. 8-8 isn’t particularly impressive, but after starting the season 0-3 and then sitting at 4-8, making the playoffs is. The Chargers completed the Broncos’ collapse of a 3 game lead with three to play, destroying Denver and the overrated Jay Cutler 52-21 last night, led by LaDainian Tomlinson's three touchdowns. I'll say this, the Chargers have looked very hot the last few games, and Tomlinson is a big part of it. He looked bad at the beginning of the year, and a lot of people thought he was done, but maybe it really was the toe injury. He's looked incredible again the last few games, and came up with 96 yards rushing on just 14 carries last night, showing the speed, quickness, and strength that seemed to be missing most of the season. I'd say this could be a very dangerous team in the playoffs, but it turns out the get the Colts in round one, so they're pretty much done.
5. West Virginia Football. There's no doubt it was an overall disappointing season for the Mountaineers, who started the season ranked #8 with national champion aspirations and ended up unranked and playing in the Meineke Car Car Bowl, but it was a nice win over a pretty good North Carolina team to end the season. Additionally, it capped off a very good career for Major Harris 2, who won his fourth bowl game as a starter. White finished his career as the all-time leading rusher for a QB, but may have made a statement to NFL scouts by throwing for 332 yards and 3 TDs in the Bowl, an attempt to answer critics who don't believe he can play quarterback at the next level. I didn't watch the game, so I have no idea if he looked like a QB or if it was mainly dumpoffs, but I'm pretty sure he's got a future in the NFL as a receiver. But then again, Seneca Wallace has started to look pretty good for Seattle, so who knows.
1. Christmas sports. Woof. We have three days off plus the weekend, and all we get to watch is crap? I mean, I’m sitting around the house on Friday and there aren’t even any sports on all afternoon, and when they finally start it’s the crappy NBA. And that’s all it was for the first three days, stupid NBA crap and worthless bowl games. Thank god for gambling, at least I could make those bowl games semi-interesting. And when college hoops finally started back up, we got nothin’. Washington State vs. LSU, West Virginia vs. Ohio State, UAB vs. Louisville, Siena vs. St. Joes, and Texas Tech vs. Stanford, and those are the only games that are even remotely interesting. It’s so bad that Arkansas vs. Northwestern State was actually on TV on Saturday afternoon. Didn’t there used to be tournaments at this time of year? With actual good teams and good games? I thought so, but maybe I’m stupid, I don’t know. At least conference play is starting up soon, couldn’t be more fired up for that Gophers/Spartans tilt on New Year’s Eve day. It’s super awesome that it’s at 11am.
2. Gonzaga/Xavier Hoops. Remember how last week I called out both of these teams for wasting opportunities? Like they hadn’t necessarily done anything dreadfully bad, but had just missed out on chances for big time wins? Well, I’m guessing they both must have said, “How can we REALLY suck?” because both teams dropped games to unranked teams at home last week, Gonzaga to Portland State (awful) and Xavier to Butler (slightly more forgivable). The Musketeers are a little less sucky here, because Butler is actually a decent team and a decent program with only one loss on their record and already had a couple of good road wins, but that’s not to say this isn’t a killer. Xavier should expect to drop out of the top 25 after back-to-back poor showings, and with no ranked teams left on the schedule and a tough A-10, it will be a struggle to get back in. Gonzaga has no excuse for this loss against the Vikings, whose best win this season before this was over Montana, ranked 221st in the country. Portland State’s basketball program has only been around for 11 seasons, and had never beaten a Top 25 team. Add to that the Zags had only lost twice before at the MAC since it opened in 2004, and this is one of the biggest upsets I can remember. Don’t worry too much for either Gonzaga or Xavier, both will win enough conference games to get in the NCAA tournament without a worry, but both truly and epically sucked this week.
3. Ohio State Hoops. Well, the Buckeyes didn’t take long to basically erase most of the good feelings going their way after a great start to the year, getting absolutely blown out at home by West Virginia 76-48 in a laugher. The Suckeyes shot just 31%, including 2-18 from three, while allowing the Mountaineers to have their way with them, shooting 48% on the game and, despite being a much smaller team, held the rebounding edge on OSU. The Buckeyes also managed all of three assists for the entire game, which I assume is some sort of record but I’m not about to spend the time trying to look that up, and their two leading scorers, Evan Turner and Jon Diebler, combined to go 6-27, a typical Stephen Curry night, and with BJ Mullens in foul trouble all game and David Lighty injured, they were pretty much dead.
4. Boston Celtics. Are the Celtics crumbling like the broken down old men they mostly are? Probably not, if their 45 point win over Sacramento means anything on Sunday, but there may be a bit of a cause for concern here after they lost back-to-back games over the Holidays. They dropped the Christmas day rumble to the Lakers 92-83, and then dropped a game the next night to the 8-23 Warriors 99-89. They are still 28-4, but losing half of their total losses in back-to-back nights has to raise an eyebrow at least. Remember last year, when KG, Pierce, and Allen were playing heavy minutes all season and it was a concern that they wouldn't make it to the end of the season? After winning the championship and roaring to a 27-2 start nobody seemed to be paying attention anymore, but those guys are now a year older and still playing heavy minutes. If I'm a Celtic fan, and I'm not, I'd be just a wee bit concerned, despite the great start.
5. Dallas Cowboys. Teams lose all the time in win and you’re in, lose and go home situations; it happens every year. Rarely, however, is it as spectacular as the Cowboys losing to the Eagles 44-6, ending their season and sending Philly to the playoffs to take on the Vikings. Tony Romo, not exactly known as a PTPer already, helped cement his reputation as they guy you don’t want playing QB in a big game, putting up a stellar 55.8 QB rating for the game, completing just 53% of his passes for all of 183 yards and 0 TDs. He also managed to help the Eagles out quite a bit, throwing an INT and fumbling twice, both recovered by Philly, one of which was taken back for a score. Although he did manage to get Terrell Owens 106 of his 183 yards, so at least someone on the Cowboys is happy. ROMOLICIOUS!