Sunday, March 22, 2009
Hello all, back from Chicago and we all made it home alive. It was an excellent weekend that involved watching Dayton beat West Virginia at a Dayton bar and realizing all Dayton fans are idiots like the guy who usually sits next to us at Williams, playing Yahtzee for three hours at the bar, a lot of discussion of westerns, trainwrecks, boxcars, and other deviant behaviors, some excellent wings, several threatening text messages from Mama Dawger, a Madden draft, Dawger passing out at the bar by 9pm the first night, me losing two elite 8 teams in the first round, Bogart going 5-0 on his $100 bets but still barely breaking even due to his inability to get an OVER/UNDER right, and playing Madden on a 12 foot TV.
I won't spend much time breaking it down, but I do want to relay one specific story, however, and it's the way the trip kicked off. Dawger and Snake came to the airport together, although Dawger was on a different flight than Snake and I. I was surprised when I saw Dawg because I thought he was flying Southwest, and they fly out of the Humphrey terminal. So I said, "Aren't you flying out of Humphrey?" and I get a look back like I'm an idiot and a "No, dummy." well guess what? Yep, he ended up having to run all the way to what he thought was his gate at Lindbergh because he waited too long to head down there, and then they told him he was supposed to fly out of Humphrey. This was about 10 minutes before his flight was scheduled to take off.
So he's got to run all the way to the shuttle, take the shuttle from terminal to terminal, and then get through security again and get to his gate. Naturally, that's impossible. So instead he had to pay to switch to a later flight. Then, when Bogart picked up Snake and I at the airport, we decided not to wait around for Dawger to finally show, so he had to take a cab to Bogart's mansion. He pretty much spent somewhere in the ballpark of $100, all because he's an idiot. Good stuff.
On to the sports,
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. The Big East. Seven teams invited to the tournament, five in the sweet 16 with a sixth (Marquette) who took a third-seeded Missouri team right down to the wire without it's possibly best player. Every said the Big East was the best conference, and that put a lot of pressure on the teams to play up to that standard. They certainly have. Although unlikely, because Syracuse would have to beat not only Oklahoma but also likely North Carolina, we could be heading for an all-Big East Final Four. Louisville, UCONN, and Pitt have the inside track, but Villanova could also surprise.
2. Cole Aldrich. Just in case you didn't already feel enough pain every time you hear his name mentioned, Aldrich got to play in the Metrodome for the first two rounds and put on a show in front of the home crowd. He had a good game in the Jayhawks ten point win over North Dakota State with 23 points and 13 rebounds, and then followed that up with a dominating 13 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 blocks in a stomping of Dayton to put Kansas in the sweet sixteen. It was just the sixth triple double in NCAA Tournament history since steals, blocks, and assists became official stats in 1986, and the first since Dwayne Wade in 2003. Interestingly, both of the last two were at the metrodome, both had Snacks and Old Man W in attendance, and both I went out of town instead of going to the game in person.
3. Blake Griffin. I don't know if you noticed or not, but this guy is really, really, good. Seriously, it's like watching old footage of Wilt Chamberlain dominated poor slow white guys when you watch Griffin play. His combination of size, strength, athleticism, pimpitude, and speed is rarely seen, and if he's not the first overall pick in the NBA draft it'll automatically become the worst pick ever. Griffin put up 28 points and 13 rebounds in the Sooners' opening round win over poor little Morgan State, and he then followed it up with 33 points and 17 rebounds in their surprisingly tough 73-63 win over Michigan. He's so good, the over/under line for his total rebounds was set at 14.5 for the Michigan game. Crazy Papa Griffin (have you seen this guy? Yikes) must be so proud - until he looks over at older brother Tito Griffin.
4. Orlando Mendez-Valdez. Enough of the big guys, let's talk point guards. One of the most impressive guys we watched over the weekend was Mendez-Valdez, aka Taco Hawk aka Magic Taco, the point guard for Western Kentucky who almost single-handedly knocked Gonzaga out of the tournament. He had a good game in the first round upset of Illinois, going for 11 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, but then torched Gonzaga in round 2 with 25 points (including 7-10 on three pointers) and 7 assists to just one turnover. Unfortunately the Hilltoppers couldn't quite pull off a second upset, as Jeremy Pargo hit a leaner at the end to finish WKU's run, and Taco Hawk's career, with the Bulldgos pulling it out 83-81. Godspeed Magic Taco. We hardly knew you, but you will be missed.
5. A.J. Price. Watching UCONN destroy Chattanooga 103-47 and then Texas A&M 92-66 one thing is clear; the rest of the country is damn lucky Jerome Dyson got hurt. Even without him, the Huskies might be the favorite to win the whole thing, and point guard AJ Price is a big reason. He lit up Chattanooga for 20 in just 27 minutes, and then followed it up by hitting A&M for 27 points and 8 assists. UCONN will have a very tough elite 8 game against either Missouri or Memphis (assuming they beat Purdue) but if I had to pick all over again, they would be my choice to win - which pretty much guarantees a Purdue upset.
1. The Pac 10. Honest to god, I didn't watch nearly enough Pac 10 games this year because if I had realized they played this piss poor of defense I would never had picked even one team to advance. Watching UCLA give up layup after layup to Villanova was like watching team of retarded fourth graders play the globetrotters. Also had a chance to watch Arizona State against Syracuse, and they were just as bad. Ugly. The Pac had six invites, and only the team that probably shouldn't have gotten one, Arizona, made it out of the weekend.
Cal was seeded higher than Maryland but let the Terps shoot 49% and lost. UCLA beat VCU thanks to them having zero idea what to do down 1 with ten seconds left and the ball, but then got the absolute shit kicked out of them by Nova, giving up 46% shooting which should have been higher but towards the end the Wildcats just started chucking up anything for fun. Washington was one of only two teams seeded #4 or better to not make it out of the weekend, thanks to a loss to Purdue, and even though USC and Arizona St won their first games and were then expected to lose their second, the way these guys play out west is soft and weak. Really wish I had known that before I put ASU and UCLA in the sweet 16.
2. James Harden. Speaking of Arizona State, other than their piss poor girl style defense, they also had no chance of winning thanks to James Harden, likely a top five pick in the NBA draft who refused to show up this weekend. They won their first round game over Temple despite Harden, who shot just 1-8 and scored only 9 points. They were then bounced by an infinitely better Syracuse team, with Harden once again not showing up, going just 2-10 and scoring just 10 points. Unacceptable, especially since he led his team with 20.1ppg in the regular season, and shot over 50%. Even more troubling is that Harden scored 10 points or less six times this season and three of those are in the Sun Devils last three games. Maybe he's a choker, or maybe he's broken, but if I'm going to draft him into the NBA, I'm very nervous.
3. Wake Forest. The only top four team to lose in the first round, the former #1 ranked Demon Deacons not only got beat by Cleveland State, but they straight up got their asses beat, losing 84-69 in a game that honestly probably wasn't that close, ending the year on a 2-game losing streak after losing in their first game of the ACC tournament as well. How ugly was it? Wake's 18 turnovers weren't even the worst part, nor were the 7 by Jeff Teague alone. Wake's defense was the truly awful part, allowing Cleveland State to shoot 48% from the floor, when they shot just 43% for the season, and turning them over just 10 times when they averaged 14 per game during the season. Even worse, the 84 points the Vikings scored was their highest total this season. With Teague, Al-Faroque Aminu, and Josh Johnson all possibly going pro, who knows what direction the program is heading.
4. The State of Utah. Three NCAA bids for the six Utah D-I teams, which should have been four if Weber State hadn't choked in the Big Sky Tournament, and zero wins, zero teams advancing. Utah State looked like absolute garbage other than a little run towards the end when it was pretty much too late, losing to Marquette while refusing to make a shot and not giving it to the Big Ginger enough. Utah, although catching a bit of a bad break by getting the best of the 12 seeds, was still a favorite and probably shouldn't have let Arizona shoot 55%, and BYU was a favorite over Texas A&M (8 over a 9) but got rolled 79-66, losing to the Aggies in the first round for the second year in a row. I'd also like to point out once again that the state of Utah has six division I basketball programs, and Minnesota still has just the one for some reason.
5. Clemson. It wouldn't have been too hard to just include the ACC here, since Wake (see above), Clemson, Florida State, and Boston College all managed to disappoint with first round losses, but Maryland's nice win and the success of UNC and Duke will keep them from being labeled a disappointment - at least for now. Clemson, however, is most definitely a disappointment and continues to come up short, year-after-year. This year, the 7th seeded Tigers, who started 16-0 and at one point were ranked 10th in the country, lost to who we know is a pretty bad Michigan team to end their season early. This season is similar to last year, when they Tigers started 12-1 and were ranked as highly as #15, then limped to a 5 seed and lost to Villanova in the first round. Which was similar to the previous season, when they started 17-0, were ranked 14th, and then crashed and missed the NCAA tournament altogether. Which was similar to the previous season when they started 11-0 and didn't make the tournament. Seriously, I think it's time to just stop taking them seriously.
That's it for now. I head to New Jersey for two nights tomorrow, so I'm sure I'll be back writing one if not both of them. Stay tuned.