Well, we made it back from Chicago and everyone is still alive. Sorry for the lateness of this post, but believe me after pulling consecutive days with 12+ hours logged at the bar, the last thing I could manage when I got back on Sunday was writing some stupid crap for this stupid blog. But now that I'm back, even though I still feel like crap, I figure I should at least put up some kind of half-assed Week in Review (well, more half-assed than usual, I mean.)
Quickly, two things that stood out from the Chicago weekend:
1) A Colombian man openly weeping in the middle of the Dayton bar while listening to latin music on his pink Ipod.
2) Loud, obnoxious Kansas fan yelling "yes" when Kansas hit that meaningless three with 0.4 left in the game. He either forgot the actual score or has no idea how basketball works, and I'm not sure which way is funnier but I know he had all of us rolling in the back room after we heard him.
Anyway, on to the usual garbage:
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Xavier. It's hard to blame the Gophers too much for the loss on Friday, particularly when the Musketeers were the far better team, and they continued to show that by beating Pitt on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season - one of just two teams (Michigan State is the other) who can make that claim. Sure, there were things the Gophers could have done better/differently, but the entire game it seemed as if the Gophers were doing everything in their power just to keep it close, and I don't really remember ever thinking they had a chance to pull it out. Jordan Crawford was by far the best player on the court with his 28 point, 6 rebound, 5 assist performance (which he followed up with 27-6-6 against Pitt) and the Gophers had no idea how to keep Love and McLean off the boards. Xavier has enough talent to take down Kansas State and could advance to the Elite 8 this week. I don't think they have enough juice to beat Syracuse, but once you get this deep, anything can happen.
2. Joe Mauer. Or Bill Smith or Ron Shapiro or whoever you want to give the credit too. The important thing is that Mauer is signed Even if he regresses a bit, his downside is probably something like .310/.390/.480 with 15 homers, and from a gold glove catcher even that is probably worth close to what he's getting paid. Add in his upside, MVP-potential, and what he means to this town, and it had to be done. I'd say this is all they had left to do, but with Nathan now out for the year I think they need to make another move. This team is really good and right on the verge, and I'm afraid if they don't do something it's going to be a disaster. Tell me you don't see them going closer-by-committee, having it become a disaster, and not realizing or trying to make a change until it's too late. That's exactly something the Twins would do. I read somewhere that the Padres want Perkins and two "good" prospects for Heath Bell. Now, if that "good" level means guys like Ben Revere and Wilson Ramos I'd tell the Padres to go screw, but if they're talking like Trevor Plouffe and Steven Tolleson then it's time to run, not walk, to make this deal.
3. Ali Farokhmanesh. The biggest upset of the tournament thus far has got to be UNI's victory over Kansas (well, Ohio over G-Town was probably bigger, but essentially meaningless), and the hero was without question Cedar Falls' version of Jamal Abu Shamala in Farokmanesh. That monster three pointer he hit with 30 seconds left was the stupidest, dumbest, ballsiest shot I've ever seen, and since it went down and ended up being the game winner, Farok goes down as a hero rather than a goat, and is going to end up being a tournament legend who is talked about long after his playing days are done a la Bryce Drew. Add in the fact that he also hit a three with under five seconds to go to give the Panthers their opening round win over UNLV, and this kid had one hell of a weekend. It's just unfortunate that he's a terrorist.
4. Cornell. Remember all that "under-seeded" talk? Well, two wins and a sweet 16 berth says that wasn't just crazy talk. I still contend the Big Red caught a nice break in running up against two team's that play a similar style and weren't going to out-athletic them, but you can't really talk down to an Ivy League team that ends up playing in the second week of the tournament. Even though Ryan Wittman gets most of the press, especially here with his Minnesota connection, seven-footer Jeff Foote might end up being the key against Kentucky. He's not just some big ole seven-footer who plays because he's seven feet tall in the Ivy League, he has some legit skill and good footwork and is going to need it all against Kentucky. This is going to be a real tester, since Kentucky is playing as well as it has all year. I'd love to see Calipari go down, no matter how unlikely it may be.
5. Michigan State. How annoying are the Spartans? It's the same thing every year, they look mediocre all through the Big Ten season, end up with a middle-high type seed, you think they're ripe for the upset, and then they just keep winning. That monstrously entertaining win over Maryland on Sunday gave Michigan State their third Sweet-16 in as many years (meanwhile the Gophers haven't made it that far in over ten years) and showed once again why you never, ever doubt Izzo. I read that there is a 90% chance Sparty will be without Kalin Lucas against Northern Iowa, and normally I'd say that is a pretty big deal, but it doesn't seem to matter who is there or gone on Izzo's teams, so they'll probably win by ten. Oh, and Durrell Summers is absolutely going to be a huge star next season. All Big-10 First Team.
1. Scottie Reynolds. There's not much as enjoyable as watching a truly overrated chucker nearly shoot his team to a loss in the first round against a 15-seed and then, after his team manages to escape thanks to an NCAA mandate to the refs that Robert Morris isn't allowed to win, doing the same thing 48 hours later, but this time they couldn't escape and were dropped by the suddenly super popular Omar Samhan and St. Mary's 75-68. I'm not kidding either. Your precious All-American shot 2-15 in the first game and was 2-11 in the second, going 4-26 in what has to be a record in futility from someone who idiotic fans love because they're stupid. He makes Stephen Curry look like Magic Johnson. I'm almost sad he's graduating, just because he's so fun to root against, but I will enjoy not having to hear about him anymore. Maybe the most overrated player in history.
2. The Big East. Speaking of overrated, what do we think of the Big East? Eight teams with bids, called the best conference in all the land for the second-year in a row, and yet only two teams (Syracuse and West Virginia) are still alive for the Sweet 16. It's really not that bad if you think about how they made up 1/8th of the invitees and still make up 1/8th of the remaining teams, but they were set up for a lot more success. Both Villanova and Georgetown had Final Four aspirations and Pitt was a three-seed, Marquette and Notre Dame as six seeds were picked by some to make the Sweet 16 but lost in the first round, and Louisville was thought to be a challenge for Duke in round two but couldn't even get past Cal. That's currently a 6-6 record for the conference by my count, which sounds ok until you think about how they had a 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 6, 6, and 9 seed. Seriously, pretty embarrassing.
3. The Mountain West. Well, if we're going to talk about disappointing conferences we can't very well ignore the Mountain West, which had three teams invited, two with a good chance at getting to the Sweet 16, but instead ended up going just 2-3, with their top team (New Mexico) getting bounced hard in round 2 by Washington by 20 and BYU refusing to even show up in their second round guy against Kansas State after just squeaking by a Florida team that probably didn't even deserve a bid. Not that I necessarily thought these guys were great, but this certainly doesn't help my argument that high-mid-major teams from conferences like the A-10 and MWC can be valid sleepers in the NCAA tournament. Apparently you have to go to smaller conferences like the Ivy or Missouri Valley to have a prayer.
4. Richmond. Hey, speaking of teams that suck and aren't valid sleepers, let's give it up for my most disappointing team of the dance - The Richmond Spiders. I was so fired up for these guys to make a run. They closed out winning twelve of their last fourteen including a huge win over Xavier in the A-10 tournament, and even though I knew St. Mary's was a dangerous 10 seed I was still expecting a Richmond win followed by another win over Villanova. Obviously not. And they would have beaten Villanova, too, just like the Gaels did, but they decided not to show up for their first game. Seriously, have to seen this stat? Richmond was out-rebounded 39-16? How is that even possible? The earlier mentioned Samhan had twelve boards all by himself, which means he damned near out-rebounded the Spiders all by himself. Ridiculous. And such a good team, too. I mean, they just had 35 rebounds in a game against Xavier the prior week. Such a shame.
5. Blake Hoffarber. I'm sick of Hoffarber. Actually that's not exactly true, I'm just sick of an offense that relies so heavily on someone who can't create his own shot. Hoff is just fine. He's a great shooter (unless he's too open), he's a good rebounder for his size and lack of athleticism, and he's a smart player. I'm just sick of watching all these good teams and all these good players and we're stuck watching the Gophers and their two players who can create their own shot, one of whom is likely functionally retarded. I want better players, dammit. Get on it, Tubby. You need to get this program turned all the way around before you bolt to Auburn. Don't you betray me, too. I'm still trying to recover from Rico Tucker turning his back on me.