Monday, January 5, 2009

Weekend Review

Can't really put Gopher hoops in either category this week. A win over Michigan State to go along with the Ohio State win would have put them in the Awesome column, but they certainly didn't suck. My thoughts on the games are in previous posts, but I'm very wary of this game at Iowa this week. I think this game will go a long way towards telling us what kind of team the Gophers are this year. If they can't win at Iowa, you might as well mark down all road games not against Indiana or Penn State as a loss. More on that later in the week.


1. Arkansas Hoops. Maybe the most surprising team this season, the Razorbacks are 11-1 with a win over #4 Oklahoma this week and heading into SEC play as a suddenly interesting team. Sure, none of their other 10 wins are against anybody good, but that sounds an awful lot like the Gophers. And why not? Maybe the biggest reason for their fast start (they were picked last in the SEC) is one-time Gopher target point guard Courtney Fortson. If you recall, Fortson was ranked #60 on the Rivals 150, and was their 9th ranked point guard, and chose Arkansas over the Gophers, Tennesse, Florida State, and Missouri. He’s certainly lived up to his high billing, teaming with vastly improved big man Michael Washington (from 4.3 points and 3.9 rebs per game to 15.9 and 10.4) to revitalize the Razorbacks, leading the only Arkansas fan I know to say, “Hawgball is back.” Um, ok. But I do know Fortson is the real deal, as he’s averaging 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game (third in the nation) and nearly put up a triple double in the big win over the Sooners, going for 12 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds. His turnovers are a little high at 4 per game, but hell, he’s a freshman whose only 5-11 and he’s putting up those numbers? I’d take it.

2. Utah Football. Well I’m going to go ahead and say that was a pretty big win, stomping all over former #1 team in the country Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl to finish up as the only undefeated D-I team in the country. The Utes used their underrated and underappreciated speed to jump out to a 21-0 nothing lead right out of the gate, and to harass Bama QB John Parker Wilson (dude, just go by J.P.) all night, picking him off twice and sacking him 8 times despite the supposed stronger, faster, and more powerful Crimson Tide offensive line. What I thought was even more impressive was that after falling behind 21-0, Bama scored the next 17 to cut the lead to four. Just when it looked like Utah’s fast start might be wiped out, they shut ‘em down, scoring the next 10 points to get to the final margin. My favorite part was the radio guy whose name I didn’t get I heard ranting the next day about how this was the one time in 100 games where Utah would beat Alabama, how they wouldn’t beat USC in 100 tries, and how the only reason they won was because Bama didn’t care, and he “guaranteed” the Crimson Tide spent their month of practice before the game “working on other things” and “didn’t even prepare for this game.” What? First of all, you’re an idiot. Secondly, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. And lastly, Utah stomped the shit out of Alabama; that’s a very good team right there in Mormonsylvania.

3. Michigan State Hoops. Yep, they get this spot again after a couple of very nice road wins to start the Big Ten season, following up the whoopin’ they gave your beloved Gophers by beating a much improved Northwestern team in Evanston 77-66 on Saturday to move to 2-0 in conference played, tied with Wisconsin at the top. Kalin Lucas, Chris Allen, and Raymar Morgan were once again the catalyst, leading the team with a pair of excellent games a piece. Lucas followed up his 24 point destruction of the Gophers with 17 points and 9 assists, making sure the Wildcats’ Michael Thompson knew he didn’t belong anywhere near the best PG in the Big Ten list. Chris Allen stayed hotter than Valerie Malone, going for four more three pointers and 17 points, and Raymar Morgan’s under the radar double/double against the Gophers (10 & 10) was much more obvious, this time going for 22 & 13. After the first weekend of Big Ten play, it’s very much looking like it’s the Spartans and everyone else. I still think Purdue has a chance to compete with them, but they looked very shaky in their loss to Illinois.

4. Pitt Hoops. I’ve hated the stupid Pitt Panthers every since the Brandin Knight and Carl Krauser days, mostly because those two were queers, but also because they were overrated every year. Every year they would play an essentially worthless non-conference schedule, get ranked in the top 10, play ok in conference, and then get bounced in an upset in the NCAA tournament, but things might be changing. The team is still a bunch of queers, especially Levance Fields, but this might actually be a complete team this season. They made a major statement this week winning both Big East conference games on the road to go to 2-0. First with a win at Rutgers, not a very good team but the RAC is always a tough place to play, and then with a monster win at #11 Georgetown in convincing fashion 70-54, led by monster DeJuan Blair’s 20 points and 17 rebounds. Blair leads the Big East in rebounding at 12.5 per game, and along with forwards Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs gives the Panthers not only a big team but an extremely talented team this year. Pitt has the talent to make a deep run this year, but I’m almost certain Fields will continue the tradition of crappy Pitt point guards and screw it up somehow.

5. Boston College Hoops. This spot was going to go to Wake Forest for their impressive win over BYU in Provo, ending the Cougars 53-game home winning streak, but it’s impossible to ignore BC’s huge win over North Carolina last night, especially because it happened in Chapel Hill in their ACC opener. Naturally, Tyrese Rice led the way for the Eagles with 25 points on 7-13 shooting with 8 assists and five rebounds, and got help from swingman Rakim Sanders who chipped in with 22. BC was able to hold the Tar Heels to just 38% shooting and turned them over 15 times in the win. Ty Lawson (3-13) and Tyler Hansbrough (6-15) both really struggled with their shot, in Hansbrough’s case frequent double teams slowed him down, as well as BC center Josh Southern who did a hell of a job. At least that’s what I read, I really wish I had seen this game so I could form an opinion on just how fluky this result was. Obviously defeating the Heels at home is a huge occurrence, especially for a team who has a loss to St. Louis on their record and whose best win was over Providence before last night. Was this a case of BC turning the corner? Are the Heels vulnerable? Was a UNC weakness uncovered or was this just a weird night? I’LL NEVER KNOW!!!!!!!!!


1. Big Ten Football. God dammit, every year it’s the same “The Big Ten sucks” talk and every year the conference as a whole goes out and proves everybody right, and this year is again no exception. The conference is 1-5 after another embarrassing Rose Bowl loss to USC, this time by Penn State 38-24 in a game that wasn’t nearly that close until the Nittany Lions went on a last quarter rampage and outscored the Trojans 17-7 after USC had given up and put the water boys and cheerleaders in the game. Thankfully Iowa salvaged a modicum of pride by whomping on a horrible South Carolina team 31-10 behind Shonn Greene who it turns out is kind of a pretty big stud. The rest of the conference was pukey. Michigan State lost by 12 to Georgia, Wisconsin got rolled by Florida State by 29, and Kansas thumped our very own Golden Gophers by 21 (btw, you’re kind of an idiot if you didn’t see that coming). Hard to believe Northwestern’s loss was the best non-Iowan result from the bowls, as they lost in OT to Mizzou. Tonight’s game is going to be ugly. I think the spread could be pretty much anything and I’d take Texas over Ohio State. Only the biggest Big Ten homer in the world (Hi Dad) could find anything positive to take out of this bowl season.

2. Gonzaga. Ok, I’ll be honest: I have no idea what is happening here. Going into the season I thought this would legitimately be the Bulldogs best team ever. With Pargo back at the point, Pothead Heytvelt in the post, and Bouldin and Daye on the wing I actually thought this team might be a legit Final Four contender. Instead they’ve lost three straight after losing 66-65 to Utah on Wednesday, and really look more like a bubble team right now. Their only signature win right now is against Tennessee, and with the WCC looking down as St Mary’s and San Diego disappoint, they have two more chances: this week at Tennessee (again, for some reason) and against Memphis mid-season. They should be ok, with a strength of schedule ranked 12th right now, an easy conference, and wins over Oklahoma State and Maryland on the books, an NCAA berth shouldn’t be an issue. Then again, with four losses in the last five games, including against Portland State and Utah, maybe they need to be worried.

3. Minnesota Vikings. I don’t even know what to write, this was incredibly disappointing. Not necessarily because they lost, since it should have been obvious to all that this wasn’t a very good team that basically had no chance to win a Super Bowl or anything, but because it really felt like with a better QB and/or a better coach this game was there for the taking. The defense must be really frustrated right now, since they played an awesome game and were completely undercut by a bad gameplan, poor QB play, and atrocious special teams – all of which can be traced directly back to coaching and Mr. Brad Childress, not to mention the bizarre decision to give the Eagles a field goal by declining a penalty that would have backed them up 10 yards. Of the 26 points the Eagles scored, only the long screen pass to Brian Westbrook TD was really their fault, every other point came about as a result of either an offensive turnover or a long punt return by notorious bonehead DeSean Jackson. Speaking of Jacksons, Tarvaris had a really poor game, even by his standards completing just 15 of 35 passes for 164 yards and one interception, but actually played much worse than that, with several of his incompletions hitting Eagle DBs in the hands and dropping to the ground. Jackson fooled me like many others into thinking he might have figured the game out with a few good outings recently, but I was strongly reminded otherwise by the countless poor throws, bad decisions, and Adam Weber-like staredowns of his #1 options. I’ve never really been a “fire the coach” kind of guy, even giving Mike Tice the benefit of the doubt throughout his tenure, but I’m starting to get on board with the fire Childress brigade, even after a division title (won mostly by default). And they really need to figure out a new solution at QB, whether Cassel, McNabb, or Warner become available or through a trade for Rosenfels or someone. I don't know the answer, but there are a lot of questions.

4. Georgia Tech football. Ok, so I kind of realize that a lot of bowl games are mainly won by the team who is happier to be there or who has more to play for, but some times one team has EVERYTHING going it’s way and they still get rolled, and that’s pretty much what happened with the Yellow Jackets. Playing in the prestigious Chick-Fil-A Bowl essentially in their own backyard in Atlanta against an LSU team that couldn’t have been too excited to be there after a disappointing season where they were ranked #7 to start the year (with a #1 vote) before going 3-5 in the SEC, Georgia Tech got completely whooped on 38-3 by the Tigers, in a game that was 35-3 and basically over by halftime. Tech QB Josh Nesbitt was particularly awesome, completing just 8 of his 24 pass attempts. Seriously, this was a pretty embarrassing performance. I’d rather be a Gopher fan than a Yellow Jacket fan.

5. Notre Dame basketball. If you're a top ten team, you don't lose to St. John's, even on the road. In a very good Big East, wins like that are key and you can't afford to drop that game. And Harangody is overrated.