Two last things about my trip to California:
1. On the ride home I sat next to this young woman probably in her early twenties. Throughout the entire three and a half hour flight she didn't nap. She also didn't read. She didn't have a computer. She didn't do a crossword or sudoku book. She declined a drink when they came by to offer a complimentary beverage. She never went to the bathroom. She never spoke to anyone. No, she did nothing except stare straight ahead and blink for 3 and a half hours. Absolutely bizarre and kind of creepy. She's either a genius who needs nothing more than her brain to be entertained, or dumb as hell with an empty head. I have my suspicions.
2. If you are ever in California you absolutely have to check out In-and-Out Burger. Absolutely the best burger ever, excellent fries, and it's all at a near fast-food (but it's not fast food) pace. Get yourself a double-double and order it animal style. You won't regret it. So freaking good. Anyway, on to the real stuff.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. UCLA Bruins. Still not exactly sure what to make of the Pac-10, and I'm still pretty sure they mostly suck, but UCLA picked up a huge win this weekend knocking off BYU (previously undefeated) in Anaheim at the Wooden Classic. They won by forcing the Cougars into 19 turnovers, 7 by Jimmer Fredette, and got a huge game out of Reeves Nelson, who looks like a nerd but plays like white jesus. This win, along with the Bruins hanging with Kansas right to the wire earlier this year, shows that the Bruins have the capability to compete with Washington and Arizona at the top of this conference. They also have the capability to get swept by the Oregon schools. Buyer beware.
2. San Diego State Aztecs. It's not so much that they got a big win this week, but they're still undefeated (now 12-0) and the way they dismantled Santa Barbara by 26 - the same Gauchos team that just beat UNLV and will likely win the Big West - I'm just beyond impressed right now. They're extremely balanced, have a great mix of inside/outside scoring, and are very efficient on both ends of the court. About their only weakness is they don't have a true point guard who plays much, but everyone can handle the ball so they'll probably be ok there. I don't know what odds you'd find at your favorite online betting site, but I can still find 40-1 on them to win the NCAA Championship on mine. I recommend you jump on it.
3. Gonzaga Bulldogs. About time. After whiffing on every opportunity to get a quality win - they lost versus San Diego State, Kansas State, Illinois, Washington State, and Notre Dame - they finally got something to show off in March with a big win over Baylor in Dallas, a semi-road game. Couple this with their win over Marquette, and the Zags are suddenly looking to be in decent shape after being a bit of a concern even last week. They play Xavier, UL-Lafayette, Oklahoma State, and Wake Forest before starting WCC play. ULL and Wake should be gimmes, so if they can split the Xavier/OSU games (and they should, and a sweep is probably likely since both are in Spokane) that would put them at 9-6 with three quality wins going into conference games. With that schedule and those wins they would probably just have to go 11-3 or even 10-4 to get an at-large. Shouldn't be an issue.
4. Kevin Love. I don't write a lot of NBA here - because it sucks until the playoffs - but just how freaking sweet is K-Love? His point/rebs by game this week were: 13 & 14, 23 & 16, 19 & 17, and 43 & 17. Freaking 43 and 17. Wow. He's a 40% 3-point shooter, a decent offensive player inside the paint, and the best rebounder the NBA has seen since Rodman. Other than your physical tools (which Love is lacking in, as was Rodman) there are two things that can make you an elite level rebounder - an understanding of where the ball is likely to go (positioning) and a hunger to be the one who gets the ball (effort). Love has both in spades, and has used those tools to. I don't know about you, but I'd probably find somewhere to do some basketball betting and just take the over on Love's rebounds in every single game.
5. Kansas City Royals. If you're going to trade an ace this is how you do it. They shipped Zack Greinke and his anti-anxiety medication over to Milwaukee in return for SPs Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi, SS Alcides Escobar, and CF Lorenzo Cain. The Royals are thought to have one of the, if not the, best farm systems in the league right now, and they just got better. Perusing some lists, the two starting pitchers they just got are generally ranked in the top 3 in the Brewers' system, Escobar is thought to be a future star at SS even if he didn't exactly have a great first season last year, and Cain is a "toolsy" center fielder of the future type of player. In short, it was a haul for a team that is already loaded for the future. Twins better win now, because starting in about 2013 the Royals' dynasty is ON. (NOTE: Milwaukee also better win now, because between this trade and the Lawrie for Marcum trade they have essentially killed their future).
1. Tennessee Volunteers. There were quite a few teams who had bad losses this week, but nobody can touch the disaster that was the Vols. Two games this week - vs. Oakland and @ Charlotte - and two losses. the Oakland game is rough, because although the Golden Grizzlies are an NCAA caliber team, they've been unable to crab a real impressive win, losing to West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan State, and Purdue. Then the Charlotte loss...oof. The 49ers are, frankly, pretty awful, coming into the game at 4-6 with losses to Gardner-Webb and East Carolina, and they just kicked Shamari Spears, their leading scorer, off the team. Tennessee has shown how good they can be with wins over Villanova and Pitt, and have now shown how bad they can be as well. And that's pretty much their outlook for the season as well, they could easily be an elite 8 team or a team that gets bounced in the first round. Or, hell, and NIT team. That's what I predicted for them going into the season so let's go for that.
2. Kansas State Wildcats. Honestly I thought the Wildcats were a bit overrated coming into this year, but I didn't say too much because I though tthey were overrated last year and then they made the elite 8 so I figured maybe I was wrong. But now if you look at their results this year it's kind meh. Their only two notable wins - over Virginia Tech and Gonzaga - both look worse than they did at the time because both of those teams are struggling, and getting blown out by Florida on Saturday certainly doesn't help things. So it is now a fact - Kansas State sucks. Also I'm pretty sure their coach could get you wacked with one phone call.
3. Illinois Fighting Illini. Well, it's safe to say Ohio State is now the class of the Big 10, and it's not even close (although I'm sure Michigan State will get there by March). After building a nice resume thus far with the only blemish that overtime loss to Texas in New York, the Illini froze up and locked up versus Illinois-Chicago and Paul Carter this weekend, losing 57-54 in a game where the final 15 seconds saw them miss three shots and turn the ball over twice. I still don't trust McCamey, and this is exactly why. I'm sorry, he's just not really a point guard. He's just not. I know he has a ton of assists but he's not a point guard. This team has first round NCAA loss written all over it.
4. Josh Selby. It's a bit of a stretch to say he sucks considering he was a freshman playing in his first ever game and scored 21 points including the game-winning three pointer, but there are some warning signs here. First off, he's a point guard but finished with just 1 assist compared to four turnovers. Secondly, he pushes Elijah Johnson (5 points, 2.5 assists vs. just 1.4 TOs in 15 minutes per game) to the end of the bench, as well as Travis Releford (better than a 2-1 assist to TO ratio). All that helped lead the Jayhawks to a game against USC where they registered just 13 assists versus 12 turnovers for a team that was averaging 20 vs. 13 going into the game. It could just be a bad game for the team, or it could just that it takes some time to gel and get used to playing with a brand new teammate. Or, it could be that one of the best team's in the country, one whose strength was their balance and ball movement, just brought in a ball sync. We shall see.
5. Big Ten naming controversy. Seriously? So the Big Ten announces they are going to name the divisions the Leaders and Legends, people freak out, and now they might change the names? I don't know what's more pathetic, the Big Ten for rolling over and possibly changing the names less than a week after they were announced or the pathetic souls out there who actually care about something as meaningless as division names so, so much that it drives them to write letters and bitch to such a magnitude that it gets the Big Ten to actually reconsider. So sad. It's division names, people. God.
And with the teams in each division already set, how much better are you really going to get? You can't do geographic names, no matter how many national talk show hosts who don't have a clue what's going on keep saying it, and you can't do anything cute like "Great Lakes" and "Heartland" because, again, morons, the team groupings are already set. So good luck coming up with anything better than Leaders and Legends, because it doesn't matter what they do, because the guys who drive their truck in team colors with two flags flying out the window and the personalized "OSU4EVA" license plates are going to send their emails from the library (I assume they can't afford computers) and write their letters (most likely in crayon) and bitch because for some sad, inexplicable, pathetic reason, what the Big Ten names it's divisions is really, really fucking important.
Last thing I want to say now that I'm all riled up that I am not a fan of this Nishioka signing. I can't exactly hate it, because it's a nice cheapish investment, but I would rather have JJ Hardy. And since the choice was basically Hardy/Nishioka vs. Nishioka/Casilla, this move will be evaluated on a Casilla vs. Hardy basis, so it doesn't quite matter as much that Nishi is going to probably end up a mediocre fielding slap hitter. Just like Casilla. God what an awesome middle infield combo. It's like somebody finally answered my prayers and cloned Nick Punto and let the Twins have both of them as a reward for their constant scrappiness and fundamentalsitude. $20 says Nishi is a slide into firster.