WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Joe Coleman. No, I'm not actually giving all the credit to Coleman for the 3-game winning streak, but it's easy to notice that the streak started when he was put in the lineup. Coleman has an aggressiveness and a fearless streak to him that's pretty unique on this team (although I think Andre Hollins has some of it too, but just doesn't have the skill level to pull it off just yet), and it seems to be rubbing off a bit, particularly on Austin Hollins, but on pretty much the entire back court - even Maverick, although I'm not sure if that's a good thing. I'm not sure if it was that more aggressive attitude or betting coaching by Tubby (who did, by the way, seem very engaged in the game for the first time in far too long), but when Northwestern went into that 1-3-1 I was ready for all kinds of collapse, but they handled it well. I'm not saying they carved it up like a Thanksgiving taco buffet, but they were definitely more aggressive going into the gaps than the last several hundred years (and seriously, it's not a "trap at half court" 1-3-1, so you don't need to treat it that way). Add in the defensive effort and this was one of the team's best games of the year. The latest bracketology is out on ESPN.com and they currently have the Gophers in as an 11 seed. I'm not sure they're there yet and there's plenty of work to do, but make no mistake, the Gophers are all set-up to disappoint. Prove me wrong. Please.
2. Timberwolves. I didn't even know I missed the Timberwolves. The wife and I watched the end of their big win against the Clippers, and when Kevin Love took that shot I put both arms in the air and when he hit it I turned to Mrs. W and said "Hell Yeah" or something similarly stupid, but the point isn't that I said something stupid, it's that I said anything at all (plus that arms in the air thing). When is the last time I reacted to anything the T-Wolves did with anything other than laughter or indifference? I have no idea. I can't even remember the last time I got irritated. Hell I can't really even remember the last time I watched an entire game and I've watched all or nearly all of three or four this year already. I hate to jump on the Rubio bandwagon and give all the credit to one guy, but he makes them fun to watch, even in a loss, and he's made them a much better team than last year. Even if the upside is an 8 seed an an early exit (and that might be pushing it), they're relevant, they're talked about, and they're entertaining. What more could you ask for after the hell that team has been?
3. Missouri Tigers. After Saturday's win over Baylor I have now narrowed my possible National Champ pick to Kentucky or Missouri (Ohio State and Baylor are my other 2 Final Four picks right now) because that win answered every possible question I could have about the Tigers. And really there weren't many questions, just two: could they win against a tough team on the road (only road wins this year are Iowa State and Old Dominion with neutral court wins over Illinois, Notre Dame, and Cal) and how would they handle a team that could match there athleticism but with more size like Baylor (Ratliffe is Mizzou's only contributor over 6-6). Just an awesome team. And I'm trying to think of anybody else, but Phil Pressey has to be the best point guard in the country right? I know you can get into the scoring point vs. pure point and Pressey probably isn't as good in either category as guys like Ashton Gibbs (scorer) or Kendall Marshall (pure), but combine the two and add in his elite level defense and I think he's gotta be the guy.
4. Florida State. Wow. So after a last second three knocked off Duke in Cameron on Saturday, Florida State's last four games are the win at Duke, a win over Maryland, a win over North Carolina, and a win on the road at Va Tech. All four impressive in their own way, but the win at Duke and the thrashing they gave UNC (remember they won 90-57) are two of the more impressive wins by anybody this year (although I'd give the nod to the Mizzou win referenced above). What's even better for the Noles is that they've always been a great defensive squad (top 5 in defensive efficiency the last 3 years), but in their last few games the offense has shown up. 90 points vs. UNC? 84 vs. Maryland? 75 vs. Duke? In all three cases that's a top 2 score against, put up by what was supposed to be a pretty crappy offense. And since I don't really watch many FSU games I can't really pin it down, but it seems like a different Seminole is stepping up offensively in each game. With that defense and there pretty good guards the Seminoles have March sleeper written all over them. With a sharpie. One of those cool glittery ones.
5. Victor Cruz. Yes, El Juegito finally gets a mention. See, I'm a huge Hakeem Nicks fan, so I could easily convince myself that everything Cruz did was fluky. Like when he burst onto the scene in Week 3 with 2 long touchdowns he only had one other catch and so obviously that was just a fluky lucky day. Then after an 8 catch, 161 yard day he followed it up with a 2 for 12 day, so yeah, no worries, clearly just a fluke. Then, and I'm just realizing this right now by looking at his game log, Cruz went the final 10 games of the season with at least five catches 9 times and at least 90 yards seven times with a 5-44 game in week 16 his only clunker. He ended up 5th amongst wideouts in receptions this year and third in yards, not to mention tied for fourth in touchdowns. Crazy. And after his 10 catch, 152 yard game this weekend against 49ers where he was basically their only offensive weapon I'm finally ready to admit that he's pretty damn good. He's no Hakeem Nicks, but he's a lot better than I've given him credit for.
1. Billy Cundiff. So let's get this straight - your defense manages to keep one of the best offensive teams in the league under control, your much maligned QB keeps you in the game and then, miraculously, manages to drive your team all the way down the field and into chip shot field goal range to tie the game and you shank it worse than Dobby got shanked? It was practically an extra point and I think Cundiff missed it further to the left than how far away the spot he kicked from was. But, I guess that's what happens when you trust a kicker from the Missouri Valley Conference, because everyone knows that other than UNI's upset of Kansas a couple of years ago the MVC has never produced anything that didn't suck. Plus this guy was Dawger's kicker on his fantasy team, so between the curse of Dawger (which is a real thing, just ask Darren McFadden, Josh Freeman, Rodney Williams last year, or basically any Twin) and the Drake thing this guy was pretty much screwed.
2. UCONN Huskies. Add the Huskies to the list of team's in free fall. The warning signs were there after UCONN lost to both Seton Hall and Rutgers earlier in the month, but since Ryan Boatright was shut down by the NCAA they beat Notre Dame, but have now lost their last two - a home game vs. Cincy and on the road at Tennessee who is terrible. What's funny is Boatright, who I desperately wanted to be a Gopher, plays the fourth most minutes on the team while the two starting guards, Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, play the most minutes. So basically this team is three guards + Andre Drummond and that's it (actually the rest of their guys would beat the Gophers, but you get my point). So what do you get if you take something with four legs and chop one off? A Def Leppard drummer, the guy who killed Indiana Jones's wife, or a really funny looking dog, that's what.
3. New York Knicks. Wow, what a shocker that Knicks are 6-9. See, getting two superstars (or more) on one team is definitely a good way to build a winner in a hurry, but you can't just slap any superstars together or you end up with a broccoli and poop sandwich. Lebron and Wade don't necessarily make sense, but Bosh does with either and those two are so good and so special it works. If Deron Williams and Dwight Howard end up together it makes sense, and if both end up with Nowitzki it makes even more sense. Outside of the ball-hogging, bitching, and raping Kobe and Shaq made a ton of sense. Pierce, Allen, and KG, the first of the superteams, made sense. But Amare and Carmelo? No. Chris Paul and Amare, yes. But not this. Two guys who need the ball at all times and are terrible defenders who also take up almost all your cap room and reduce you to using Landry Fields and Toney Douglas as your back court. I thought the Tyson Chandler signing was genius, but not even he can save this defensive wasteland. God the Knicks are just worthless. The only city in America who puts NBA as their #1 sport and this is the crap they get. It would be sad if so many New Yorkers weren't abrasive A-holes. Or at least that's what TV has led me to believe.
4. Michigan Wolverines. Thanks a lot, assholes. So all the talk about how the Big 10 is the best conference in the land and how it's not only good it's deep and that's why things like Indiana losing to the Gophers and Illinois losing to Penn State and Nebraska beating Indiana happen, and then one of the supposed better teams in the conference has a rare chance to prove how good they are in mid-season and the Wolverines lay and egg and lose to Arkansas, a bottom third SEC team with no chance at an NCAA bid. Actually, I was starting to kind of believe the hype so really this just did me a huge favor by reminding me that outside of Ohio State and Michigan State the big 10 always sucks in the tournament so now maybe I can win the bracket pool instead of tearing my stupid bracket up by 6pm Thursday night for the 10th straight year.
5. Northwestern Wildcats. Pardon my french, but what the deuce was that? I can't even decide the most perplexing part between John Shurna's suddenly inability to even come close to hitting a free throw, Luka Mirkovich only playing 10 minutes and most of it in garbage time, or why Dawger was terrified of Dave Sobolewski (as he wrote in the comments of my game preview) when they guy is some kind of cross between a ball boy and a lesbian with a game more on par with Maverick Ahanmisi than somebody anyone needs to be afraid of. Give the Gopher defense plenty of credit because they did a great job, particularly in taking Drew Crawford basically completely out of the game, but Northwestern surely didn't do themselves any favors. Not to mention that now gives them four losses in their last five games, and although they can't quite be counted out of getting their first ever NCAA bid, it's not looking super duper likely at this point.
Of course, all this pales in comparison to the real story of the game, which was that I was selected to do that thing where you pick between the four kinds of lotteries and then whichever one you pick has a certain amount of Gopher 5 tickets behind it and then you win them and stuff. So they come get me at half-time right after the alumni came out there for what I swear was the 4th time this year, and bring me over down by the baseline where we sit in the second row and they tell me we're going up on the floor at the first TV timeout of the half, which is the first clock stoppage under 16 minutes. Ok, fine.
Then, after explaining the bit, they bring over this hideous orange Gopher 5 shirt and tell me that I have to wear this because the sponsor is there and well, that's the bit. Ok, fine. So I look at it and it's a Large, which usually either means it will fit fine or be way too tight, depending on the brand. Of course, this doesn't stop somebody from behind me from yelling "better get that guy a double-XL!" and when I turn around it's some old dude who had to have been at least 90, and he's giving me this big smile and so I laugh and I'm like, "good one, old dude." So whatever, I put it on and it's super tight but I'll live.
I was at the game with Bear and Snake and they kept telling me I had to shtick it up and be funny and they kept saying that when it was my turn to talk I needed to say something like "I'll take the scratch-offs" which was ok I thought but I couldn't think of anything else until right before they called me up there I had an inspiration. So when it was my turn and they're like, "what's your choice?", I said, "In honor of my personal hero, Luka Mirkovich, I select Northstar Cash" and then I looked over and he was looking around so he definitely heard his name. It was awesome.
|Look how loved this guy is. And now he knows for sure who his #1 fan is.|