Monday, March 9, 2009

Weekend Review



Since I can’t possibly write about the stupid Gophers stupid basketball team right now, I’m just going to skip it. I hope they lose in the first round and end up going to the NIT. A team that finished the season out the way they did not only doesn’t deserve to go to the NCAA tournament, but also would most likely get absolutely embarrassed. I would hate to lose Royce and/or Rodney after seeing the Gophers get beat by 40 against like, Boston College in the first round. Ugh. Let’s just move on before I jump out a window.

WHO WAS AWESOME

1. The Netherlands. I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be some fancy scientist who actually knows where the Netherlands are, but I know a pretty huge baseball win when I see one, and the they picked one up this weekend by beating the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. The Dutch, which is what you call people from the Netherlands, which is also called Holland (really, three names?), are not exactly a baseball powerhouse, with just Sidney Ponson as a recognizable name and just one other major league player (pitcher Rick VandenHurk, who didn’t even play in the game).

It didn’t matter on Saturday though, as Ponson started and pitched ok, giving up two runs in four innings, but then four relievers with zero big league experience – including Twins minor leaguer Alexander Smit who has pitched in 131 games and never risen above A ball and is the most experienced of the group in terms of the minors – shut down a lineup that included Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Miguel Tejada, Jose Reyes, and Willy Aybar amongst several other big leaguers. With The Netherlands able to scratch out three unearned runs off Edinson Volquez in the first thanks to Ramirez’s throwing error, they held on for an improbable 3-2 victory, the biggest in the country’s history.

Bert Blyleven was the team’s pitching coach, so I’m assuming this win was all about him, and it’s very likely we’ll be hearing him bring it up over and over and over again on Twins’ broadcasts this season. But that’s ok, because it’s a huge win for the country, and they should be ecstatic. Plus it gives me an excuse to post those broads up above.

2. USA. If I'm talking World Baseball Classic, I can't possibly not talk about the US in their quest to redeem themselves after their 8th place finish in 2006. They are sitting at 2-0 after squeaking by Canada 6-5 on Saturday and following it up with a 15-6 crushing of Venezuela yesterday. Considering Canada and Venezuela are two of the top contenders this year, this is a very good start. The hero so far has probably been Three-True-Outcomes all star Adam Dunn, who in the two games is 3-4 with 4 walks, 3 rbi, 5 runs scored, and 2 homeruns. The team also isn't missing Joe Mauer much, as catchers Brian McCann and my guy Chris Iannetta have combined to hit 3-5 with 3 walks, 2 runs scored and 7 rbi. USA has already guaranteed their advancement to the second round starting Saturday, but still plays the winner of Canada and Italy on Wednesday. As for bad news, Chipper Jones had to leave yesterday's game with strain in his side, although I don't know how bad of news that really is since he's 0-7 with five strikeouts so far.

3. Texas A&M. In a year when most bubble teams seem to be doing everything they can to NOT get into the tournament, Gophers included, it’s nice to see a team like the Aggies actually take care of business. They went 2-0 this week to push their Big 12 record to 9-7 and a fourth place finish, and set themselves up to get a nice conference tournament victory with a matchup against Texas Tech. A&M has now won six in a row, none more impressive than Saturday’s 96-86 thrashing of #15 Missouri in a game that wasn’t even that close.

The Aggies have a very nice balance, with five players scoring between 9 and 14 points per game and have experienced guards. With their resume they might already be in, and a win over Tex Tech in the conference tournament would all but guarantee it, and they could upset somebody once they get there.

4. Auburn. So here’s a team that is so far off the radar I don’t think anybody has noticed them, but suddenly they have played their way into the NCAA conversation. The Tigers won a good SEC road game over Alabama earlier in the week, and then followed it up with a win over SEC top dog LSU 69-53 on Saturday. Auburn has won 8 of its last 9 games, and finished SEC play with a record of 10-6, good enough for second place in the SEC West. The RPI is awful (#72), thanks to a horrendous strength of schedule (non-conf SOS #202), and there is a lack of quality wins (outside the LSU win and a win over Tennessee there’s nothing here) so the Tigers still have a lot of work to do. Auburn has a pretty potent offense, and as weak as the SEC is this year they could easily win a couple of games. With 20+ overall wins, a 10-6 SEC record, and an appearance in the SEC tourney semifinals they might be pretty tough to keep out.

5. Radford, Cornell, Morehead State, East Tennessee State, and Northern Iowa. Welcome to the dance boys, welcome to the dance. Most well known for Gopher fans is probably Cornell, who got here winning the Ivy League’s regular season championship by three games over Yale. Cornell tested themselves this year, playing not only the Gophers, but Syracuse, Siena, and St Joe’s as well. Just one problem – they didn’t beat anybody, and also lost to Indiana. The Big Red will probably be a fourteen or fifteen seed, and have little chance of scoring an upset.

The best chance to get an upset out of this group is from Northern Iowa, who will probably be in the 13 range. I thought the Panthers weren’t very good and wouldn’t get through the Missouri Valley tournament, but they surprised me and outlasted a very good Illinois State team in overtime in the championship – the same Illinois State team that beat Creighton in the quarterfinal. I still don’t think they can pull any kind of upset (they lost to Marquette by 30 and Iowa by 20) but they have a better chance than any of the other teams that have advanced, who will all be 15 seeds at best with a shot at a play-in game.


WHO SUCKED (other than the Gophers)

1. Penn State. As awesome as their win over Illinois was on Thursday, the Nittany Lions completely undid that by dropping a game to Iowa on Saturday. It took double overtime for the Hawkeyes to kill the Penn State dreams, which tells me it was a tough game but which also tells me Penn State had chances to win and couldn’t get the job done.

They allowed Iowa to shoot 47% while they shot just 38% themselves, and were outrebounded 39-25. Looking at those numbers, they were pretty lucky to even be close to winning this game. Pringle and Battle had their shooting touch desert them once again, going just a combined 3-16 from three point land in this one.

It seems unthinkable that a team could go 10-8 in the Big Ten and not get into the big dance, but that’s what happens when you have such a soft non-conference schedule – particularly when you lose to the only two things resembling real teams (Rhode Island and Temple) on it. PSU’s non-conference strength of schedule is #303, and the best NC win they picked up was #118 Mount St. Mary’s, one of only two RPI top 200 teams they beat in the NC. Read that again. Save the MSM’s game and Sacred Heart at #180, they didn’t beat another team in the top 200 until Big Ten play. All that results in an RPI of 59, and when your fellow conference bubble teams have RPIs of 30 (Wisconsin), 32 (Minnesota), and 45 (Michigan) and have more marquee NC wins, you aren’t looking too good.

2. Maryland. Probably the poster child for bubble teams destroying themselves, the Terrapins have likely doomed themselves to the NIT with an 0-2 week. They lost a home game to Wake Forest that would have greatly helped their bubble chances, and then put their own nail in their own coffin by losing to ACC bottom dweller Virginia. The highly overrated Greivis Vasquez didn’t help, shooting a Stephen Curry-like 15-44 in the two games, including 3-14 from three. Vazquez started getting way too much press after his triple-double in the Terps’ upset of North Carolina, but if you look at the numbers he shoots just 43% from the floor and 32% from three, and turns it over almost three times a game. Even so, Maryland’s problems aren’t really his fault, since he has pretty much zero help. Although it’s probably due to those god awful yellow jerseys they’ve started wearing.

3. Cincinnati. Much like Maryland, the Bearcats managed to completely sabotage any hopes they had of getting into the tournament this week by losing to two bottom feeders in the league. They lost to South Florida on Wednesday 70-59 which probably knocked them off the bubble, but just in case there was any doubt they went ahead and removed it by losing at home to Seton Hall, 67-63. Their record in the conference dropped to 8-10, and with only a win over UNLV to point to in the non-conference season and an RPI of 63, they’ll need to win the Big East tournament to get in.

There is reason for optimism in Cincy, however, as the team played above their projections this year and are losing nothing except a walk-on going into next season (assuming Deonta Vaughn doesn’t do something stupid and try to go pro). Vaughn is their leading scorer and one of the top returning guards in the Big East. Junior Mike Williams (a transfer from Texas) gives Vaughn a nice inside compliment to his outside game. Freshman Yancy Gates was the #22 prospect on Rivals Top 150 and lived up to it, averaging 11 points and 6 rebounds per game this year. And the Bearcasts will get another talent infusion when two redshirt freshmen, point guard Cashmere Wright (the #82 prospect) and 7-1 center John Riek (the #13 center) start playing next season.

4. Davidson. Uh oh, looks like we’re going to have a big dance without it’s precious Cinderella, and I’m guessing there are a lot of “objective analysts” crying themselves to sleep after Davidson lost in the semifinals of the SoCon tournament 59-52 to Charleston. I wish I could say I was surprised, but Stephen Curry’s continual struggles this season against good teams (well documented here) I’m not. And, to continue the pattern, Curry struggled once again against a good team, not to take anything away from Charleston who did a great job. Super Stephen hit just 5 of 18 shots, including just 2-11 from three and put up just 3 assists to go with 3 turnovers. Granted, the rest of the team didn’t fare much better as they shot just 31% overall, but then again they aren’t supposed to – they haven’t been anointed the chosen one by ESPN and every other media type. Good luck in the NIT Curry, I’m sure you’ll rip right through it – at least the first few rounds while you get easy matchups.

5. Scarface. Yes, the movie. I hadn't seen it before and we watched this weekend and holy crap, how the hell does this movie continue to show up on Greatest Movies Ever lists? I'm guessing it's like a Citizen Kane kind of thing, where the movie was so groundbreaking at the time that even though it doesn't hold up anymore movie snobs continue to sing it's praises because of it's relevance when it was released.

First of all, at two hours and fifty minutes it's WAY too long. The only movies that were any good that are that long are the Lord of the Rings movies, and that's because I'm a retard for that kind of thing and I loved the books. Secondly, it's just plain boring. You wouldn't think a movie about a drug lord that involved chainsawing someones head off would be boring, but yet, here we are. I think the fact that this is the favorite movie of the rap/hip-hop culture backs up my point that it sucks. Take your three hours and rent two good movies instead. I'd rather spend three hours watching the Gophers.