Sunday, February 15, 2009
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Hasheem Thabeet. Have you ever seen that movie called, “The Hot Chick” with the hilarious Rob Schneider, the super hot Rachel McAdams, and the even hotter Ana Faris? Well, in it, through the use of magical African Tribal earrings Schneider and McAdams switch bodies although keep their same minds. I think what happened one time was Dikembe Mutombo got a hold of these earrings, went and found some 16 year old kid named Hasheem Thabeet who had never played basketball, and took over his body. Seriously, exact same game – beast on defense, no real skill on offense other than brute force.
Thabeet joins Mutombo and Antoine Broxsie as the only guys I’ve seen be able to completely control a game with their defense alone, as he did in Wednesday’s 63-49 UCONN win over Syracuse, going for 16 rebounds and 7 blocks, while scoring just 8 points. But, just in case you wanted a little offense, he damn near got a triple double in the Huskies 62-54 win at the Hall, putting up 25 points (10-13), 20 rebounds, and 9 blocks and almost picking up his second triple double of the season after a 15/11/10 performance against Providence earlier. Even with Jerome Dyson out for the year, I still think UCONN is the favorite to win the whole thing, and Thabeet is a big part of that.
2. Blake Griffin. If you read this blog often, and god bless you, you may remember my earlier post from this year that mentioned Blake Griffin. In said post, I called him overrated and a “more talented Dusty Rychart.” Wow. Much like with JP Losman, I was WAY off. He now has something like 22 double-doubles out of the Sooners 26 games while leading Oklahoma to a 11-0 Big 12 record, the first team since Kansas in 2002 to start off that hot in the Big 12. Of course, he went and saved the best for this weekend, leading his team to a 95-74 victory over Texas Tech with a ridiculous 40 points on 23 rebounds, adding to his season averages of 23 points and 14 rebounds. Did you know his brother Taylor is actually the older one? And the crappy one too. He should probably grab Robin Lopez and they could go get a beer and drown their sorrows.
3. Devoe Joseph. Single handedly kept the Gophers in the game, although his one poor pass and poor decision on the foul helped lose it. I’m considering the incredible shooting display to be more impressive than an ill-timed pass, and one freshman (and plenty of sophomores – I’m looking at you Al Nolen), make all the time. He hit seven out of eight from beyond the arc, and his only miss was a fadeaway with a man in his face heat check – and I always support the heat check.
This isn’t the first glimpse we’ve seen, but certainly the most definitive look at why he was such a highly regarded recruit coming out of dirty Canada. Add in him being one of the few who played fairly well against Indiana, and he’s definitely this week’s most awesome Gopher, with apologies to Jesus Sampson.
4. Arizona. The Wildcats were a perfect bubble team going into this week, but after sweeping the LA schools at home they have moved themselves into pretty good position. First was an 83-76 win over USC on Thursday, a game they almost lost after coughing up an 18 point lead in the first half. They followed that up by knocking off the much better UCLA Bruins by the score of 84-72 on Saturday. The star for Arizona wasn’t inside terror Jordan Hill or silky smooth scorer Chase Budinger (although they both played well) but little 5-10 junior point guard Nic Wise.
Overlooked even last year (thanks to Jerryd Bayless), Wise was ranked #120 coming into Arizona and has played well this season despite struggling with his shot a bit. That was not a concern this week, with Wise scoring 27 on 8-11 shooting against the Trojans and 26 on 9-13 shooting against the Bruins. Arizona is certainly not off the bubble by any means, but they solidified there position in a big way, and Nic Wise might be the next Jerryd Bayless.
5. Daequan Cook. Cook won the NBAs three point contest, and that’s good enough for me since the dunk contest is for retards who like car crashes and hockey fights. I’ve always enjoyed the 3-point contest, and although Cook didn’t go out like Craig Hodges, he did outlast two time winner Jason Kapono and noted chucker Rashard Lewis for the title.
Him even being involved made me wonder what was up with Cook, since I figured by grower pro last year he had doomed himself to a few years on the bench, rather than being a star at OSU and becoming a lottery pick the next season. Well, after not doing much in his rookie year, he’s found himself a role for the Heat in year 2, playing 26 minutes a game and averaging 10 points and 3 rebounds per game, in a gunner’s role (60% of his attempts this year are from three). And winning the 3-point contest, you can’t forget that.
1. Gopher Basketball. It’s getting ugly folks. The team is now 1-3 in their last four, which includes an embarrassing blowout loss (Mich State), two other losses that were only close at all due to an incredible shooting percentage (Ohio State, Penn State), and a horribly played win by just 8 over the worst team in Big Ten history (Indiana). Still a quality defensive team, but it’s become clearer and clearer and the Gopher offense is just brutally bad. What had looked like a strength earlier in the season, the Gopher guards, has become a liability, as Nolen continues to surround his few moments of brilliance with a plethora of horrible decisions and Westbrook has seemingly disappeared and lost interest in playing at all, putting up 6, 4, 4, and 4 points during this slide. They’ve stopped with the ball movement (7 total assists against Penn State) and started turning it over like they were the Hoosiers (17 turnovers in each of the last three games).
They are still on track for a NCAA berth if they don’t trip over themselves, and that should still be considered a success this early in the Tubby era, but things are getting ugly. Something needs to change, and an easier schedule could be all that’s needed with four of the final five very winnable, but the Gophers need to be careful – there’s still time to play their way into the NIT.
2. Northwestern. Going into this week the Wildcats’ at large hopes might have already been dead, and if not they were certainly on life support, but after blowing two huge opportunities for big wins they can cross “2008-2009” off the list of potential first NW teams in the NCAA tournament. On Thursday they had Illinois on the ropes in Evanston, leading by 14 with five minutes before scoring just two points the rest of the way and pissed the lead away before falling by 2 after Demetri McCamey hit a jumper with 2 seconds left. They then completed their 0-2 week by losing to Michigan in overtime, again at home. After a reversal of fortune – NW erased a five point deficit late to push to overtime – the Wildcats ended up losing 70-67, due in part to coming out in a man defense to begin the OT despite forcing three late turnovers with that hellish 1-3-1 and also to getting the ball with five seconds left in regulation and being unable to get a shot off. Seriously, between the players and the coach this is the stupidest bunch of smart kids I’ve ever seen.
3. Florida. The Gators have a decent shot at still making the NCAA tournament, but this week won’t help after they let two winnable road games slip through their fingers at the last moment. First they lost to a reeling Kentucky Wildcat team 68-65 on a last second three pointer by Jodie Meeks, and then followed it up losing to a putrid Georgia team in the midst of an 11-game losing streak 88-86, despite both Walter Hodge and Erving Walker having makeable looks at the end that could have, at the very least, brought the game to overtime. The Kentucky game won’t make that big a mark, but the loss to Georgia will definitely hurt the profile (the Bulldogs are barely in the top 200 right now). Nick Calathes is a hell of a player and a great passer, but he’s not a point guard, yet is the only player on the roster averaging more than 2.5 assists per game (he’s at an SEC-leading 6.6). In fact, with both Hodge and Walker struggling and possibly not even being true points, the Gators have almost no hope of getting out of the first round of the tournament – if they even make it.
4. DePaul. Since there arena is without question the worst one I’ve ever seen, it gives me great pleasure to say that this team could give Indiana a run for their money as the worst major college team in the country, sitting at 8-18 overall and 0-13 in the Big East. The difference between DePaul and the Hoosiers is that DePaul actually has a couple of decent players. Dar Tucker is fifth in the Big East in scoring, Mac Koswal is fifth in rebounding, and Will Walker is a pretty decent all around player. So what’s wrong? Other than their stadium being a complete garbage dump, the suck on offense (202nd in offensive efficiency) and defense (210th), as well as not being able to shoot 27% from three (339th in the country) or defend shooting (243rd in defensive effective Field Goal percentage). Other than though, pretty good team. I hear their law school sucks though.
5. Minnesota Twins. Catchers and pitchers have reported, Spring Training officially starts tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited for all the changes the Twins have made to the roster this season in an attempt to keep up with Chicago and Cleveland. My favorite move so far has been how they haven’t even come close to addressing any of their holes from last season. Upgrade at third? Nope. Better shortstop? Nope. Sign a quality reliever? Nope. Nothing. Nada. Shortstop will be manned by Nick Punto, an excellent utility player and great fielder but not a hitter by any stretch. Third base is looking more and more like it will be manned by the same underwhelming platoon of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher. And the team’s answer to the bullpen issue was to sign the middle reliever versions of Adam Everett and Mike Lamb in R.A. Dickey and Luis Ayala – who will probably end up working out just as well.
Every other team in the division is making an effort to get better and/or younger, but the Twins just sit there with their finger up their ass, refusing to take a chance on Eric Gagne, Mark DeRosa, Juan Cruz, and, currently, Joe Crede. Hell, the Indians signed Tony Graffanino to a minor league deal and it’s basically meaningless to their offseason but would have been the highlight of the winter for the Twins, and even the Royals are more exciting, trading for Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp among others, and are currently supposedly considering signing Orlando Hudson.
Joe Crede is not only what the team needs from a talent and position stand point, but he’s what the fans need to cut the apathy that has settled over not only them, but seems to have settled over the front office as well. In the immortal words of Teddy KGB, “Pay that man. Pay that man his money.”