Saturday, March 26, 2011

NCAA Tournament Thoughts: Elite 8 Saturday

You really have to love Butler. In most games they are against more athletic, bigger teams, but they stay in the games with good shooting and smart basketball. And heart, tons of heart. They also have the confidence that if it's a close game they are going to win. And they didn't quit, or get desperate (that's important) when they fell behind big. And when the game is close late they never rush, they never get rattled, they don't take bad shots. They knoow how to win these games.

That's the exact opposite of what happened to Florida. They built a lead pounding the ball inside and driving to the lane, but when the game was on the line the relied on jump shooting.

Shelvin Mack is a heck of a player. He really took this game over. He hit his first three shots, then made 2 of his next 11. But when it was 57-53 with 4 minutes to go he hit two driving layups to tie the game.

Len Elmore is absolutely right about Vernon Macklin. Billy Donovan had to take him out on offense. And he's right they should have fouled him when he got the ball about to dunk it. 46% shooter, you have to put him on the line. Reggie Miller is a moron.

What the fuck was that at the end of regulation? Why the fuck do teams do this? Not even try to get a good shot. Why are they so afraid of giving the ball back? I'd rather get the best shot possible and risk playing defense than to just play for overtime.

I really am so impressed with Butler and Brad Stevens. They never get rattled and I think it comes from him.

I also appreciate Billy Donovan. Last year they got scorched by Jimmer Fredette. This year they had a good game plan for him. He also had a perfect strategy for beating Butler, pound it inside, drive the ball on them and press. Exploiting all their advantages, but when it came down to winning time Butler just executed better than Florida did. And Florida made some key mental mistakes, which I guess you can blame Donovan for.

When Matt Howard and Chandler Parsons got piled up on top of each other it was the worst two heads of hair I've seen that close since Nelson.

It was great to send Gus Johnson out of this tournament with that game. He was really getting into full Gusmode.

Silly third foul by Derrick Williams. Just cannot reach in like that. Even if you swat the ball away there's a chance the ref will call a foul wrongly.

Him going to the bench helped UConn come back from an early 8-point deficit and end the first half on a 29-14 run.

When will teams learn? Arizona down by 2 chucks up 2 three pointers? Do they honestly think those shots have a 50% chance of going in? Or that they have a less than 50% chance to win if the game goes to overtime. You should always take a 2 when down 2, I couldn't believe they were doing that.

Sick move by Kemba Walker. He broke out the move he used on Pitt to make the game 65-60, which turned out to be the crucial play in the game.

For me the best part of the Arizona-UConn game was a story Verne Lundquist told about him and Bill Raftery being introduced to Sean Miller's kids. They said the kids were unimpressed until Miller said "Boys, remember when daddy threw that pass in to Jerome Lane. This is Mr. Raftery. He said 'Send it in, Jerome.'"

What a fantastic couple games today, on top of those two great games late last night.

NCAA Tournament Thoughts: Sweet 16 Friday

We had some great games last night and this slate doesn't look promising. Two mismatches (UNC-Marquette and Kansas-Richmond) then you have the Cinderella matchup (Florida State vs. VCU). Ohio State vs Kentucky is definitely the marquee matchup of the evening.

I wrote the above paragraph earlier this afternoon and things have gone just according to my suspicion.

Marquette was actually leading 10-8 at one point. Then trailing 38-15 at halftime, that's a 30-5 extended run. They had a drought of about 9 minutes during which time they missed 14 shots and called timeouts. 3 timeouts in between points scored. Buzz Williams could call 100 timeouts and it's not going to help. His team is missing 2/3 of their shots and turning it over every time they throw an entry pass.

You'd think with Marquette's strength of schedule and 5 wins against top 50 teams, they wouldn't be completely overwhelmed like this.

You can sort of understand it with Richmond. They haven't seen a team like Kansas all season.

Craig Sager provided some good information about a pre-game scuffle between Richmond and Kansas, but it's hard to take a guy seriously when he's wearing a lavender sports coat.

I wish Richmond had put up that much of a fight during the game. Their fans were going nuts when they got hot and cut the lead to 39-22. Down 17 points in the first half and you are cheering. I guess if you and four friends go to a basketball game dressed as Spidermen you might as well go nuts and hope to get on TV.

It's fun to root for upsets but this is often the result. Cinderella's coach turns back into a pumpkin and she gets demolished by a better team. Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

I'm surprised I did not get an e-mail from TON during the Syracuse-Marquette game comparing Junior Cadougan to Street Fighter's Hadouken.

This is when having the games on two separate channels really pays off. You can watch two games at a time, in four minute increments, with the help of halftime.

I like VCU and Florida State, both teams are tough and good on defense, but you can tell they just aren't good enough on offense to compete with the top teams. Whoever wins this game is going to be a sacrificial lamb for Kansas.

I think Crayola should make a special box of crayons with college teams' colors. I would prefer Kentucky Blue to Carolina Blue. But I would color everything with Syracuse Orange.

Every year in the NCAA tournament there are big guys who overachieve, come out early and never make it in the NBA. Patrick O'Bryant from Bradley a few years ago is one that comes to mind. I sort of like this guy Josh Harrellson on Kentucky. He has size (6-10, 275) but he also has some quickness and some offensive post moves. Did you see how hard he threw the ball of Sullinger as he was falling out of bounds? I think he could actually be a decent NBA center in this day and age when they are so few true centers.

Clark Kellogg is a great announcer. Jim Nantz is a terrible one. Their styles don't mesh. Nantz was much better being the sweet gay guy to Billy Packer's old grump.

In the first half Florida State attempted 43 field goals compared to only 23 for VCU. But Florida State made only one more. The extra attempts coming on offensive rebounds, 13 of them, compared to 2 for VCU.

I can't find verification if VCU's Darius Theus is related to Reggie, which must mean he isn't.

I like the way Ohio State passes the ball, on the break and in the half court. They don't let Sullinger become a ball-stopper.

Beautiful final minute of the Ohio State - Kentucky game. First off, I loved the move by Liggins. Don't shoot a 3, don't run full speed into someone hoping to draw a foul, drive hard, stop, get your man moving and bank it off the glass. In many other circumstances that would have been a game-winner.

If not for John Diebler's ONIONS! That also could have been a memorable shot in history and things gone differently from there.

And then Brandon Knight with the real game-winner, a beautiful shot to end a fantastic game.

There have been so many empty seats at all these regions. And not just for the second game, early in the first. If you're a Kansas fan why don't you stick around for this Florida State-VCU game?

Chris Singleton -- ONIONS!

Rough final possession of regulation for Florida State. Throw up anything please.

What a beautiful inbounds pass by Rodriguez to win the game. Give Smart credit but he didn't draw that up. They were just running off a bunch of screens and an FSU player fell asleep and Rodriguez squeezed it between two guys. A thing of beauty.

But I still don't know how to explain VCU's run. Weak competition? Were they really motivated this much by the doubters? All I know is, if they had played this well during the regular season no one would have doubted their worthiness.

Billie loves Shaka Smart. If there were an all-name team, he would coach it. He makes Brad Stevens look old.

I now have zero Final Four teams left.

Reissberg is furious because now only 7 conferences are represented in the Elite Eight. Kentucky and Florida both come from the SEC. Had Ohio State won, it would have been 8 different conferences, something we don't think has happened since the brackets expanded to 64 teams.

But at the very least after two early evening stinkers we got two great games late in the night, and I stayed up for them both.

One leftover from Thursday's games: BYU's athletic director is Tom Holmoe. Say that out loud. Say it again. Billie lost his shit when he heard someone say it on TV. He swore the reporter said "Tom Homo."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jimmer Fredette Can't Jump This High

NCAA Tournament Thoughts: Sweet 16 Thursday

Love that great hustle play and pass from his ass by Kemba Walker. It's nice to see the most talented guy on the floor also display the hustle of a scrub.

They have to stop showing Leslie Visser. She looks awful. And they aren't even doing her hair. I'm not a sexist saying I only want to see women on TV if they are hot. I am being pragmatic. TV is a visual medium, if you look so awful that people can't focus on what you are saying then they need to send you home to Dick Stockton and hire some young hottie.

I don't like Reggie Miller as an announcer. His voice is too soft and his comments are too long.

I also hate when announcers say stuff like "his team is playing like shit but they're only down 4, so coach has to be happy." I get the point, but it's not the right way to phrase it. What coach would be happy or encouraged or heartened to be losing? And it falsely assumes that playing like shit is only temporary. Sometimes you have a bad game, not just a bad half, you have a bad game. It's just more nonsensical announcer-speak I normally complain about.

If Jimmer Fredette's college career had to end with a loss, on a rough shooting night, I'm glad it ended with this great moment. Florida was doing a good job harassing him, pushing the rules and really roughing him up. BYU made a run and with about 5 minutes left trailed 63-60. Fredette brought the ball up court, stopped, popped from about 30 feet and nailed the game tying 3. A great moment for him.

I hate Charles Barkley and haven't watched him at all this tournament but I did hear him say that it didn't matter if Jimmer scored 30, if he shot 10 of 28 from the field, BYU would lose. He shot 11 of 29 -- and BYU lost.

Florida dominated BYU up front. 6'8" Alex Tyus scored 19 points and had 17 rebounds, more than double his season averages. I hope that was some good pussy Brandon Davies.

Nice to see UConn carrying the flag for the Big East and shutting up all those morons who said they would be fatigued from playing 5 games in a row a week before the tournament started.

But I did lose San Diego State, my 3rd Final Four team to get knocked out. I only have Ohio State left.

But I did get Arizona right. Duke sometimes has problems with faster, more athletic teams. Probably because they are mostly comprised of white pussies like Kyle Singler. Derrick Williams completely dominated and he's definitely coming out after this season and will probably go in the top 5.

Butler is the Gonzaga of the Midwest, with better results. I can see them beating Florida and advancing to another Final Four. They are not a fluke. They are a good team with talented players, who also play smart basketball. Brad Stevens is a great young coach who will almost certainly take the Tennessee job in the offseason.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Do You Believe in Magic?

Check out this incredible save by LA Kings goalie Jonathan Quick:

Ok so Quick didn't do shit.
Maybe it was an invisible goalie the Kings deployed to stop Jarome Iginla.
Or maybe it was just the ridiculous spin on the puck.
Any way you call it, pretty amazing.

Story suggested by Juice

The Refs Fucked Us

Upon further review, the referees blew the call that helped cost Syracuse the game against Marquette.
The call in question is the backcourt violation called on Scoop Jardine while receiving an inbounds pass with 51 seconds to go.

NCAA officiating coordinator John Adams says:

"I have reviewed the play in question and it appears from the video that we have seen, that an error was made in applying the backcourt violation rule (Rule 4.3.8)...The Syracuse player made a legal play and no violation should have been called."

Basically, on an inbounds pass you do not need to establish yourself in the backcourt before touching the ball. If you touch it in midair (as Scoop did) you're pretty much good no matter where you land.

This video shows the play and explains it even further:

I admit I was wrong about the rule, I thought in order to receive the ball in the backcourt you have to be in the backcourt before touching it. That is not the case on an inbounds pass. That lets Syracuse off the hook for that, but not the 17 other turnovers.

Knowing this doesn't make me feel any better or any worse about the game. They still lost to an inferior team in heart-breaking fashion because of foolish mistakes and sloppy ball-handling.

Story Suggested by Juice

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If Possible, I Like Jon Jones Even More Now

Jon Bones Jones is a UFC champion and a world champion nice guy.

First of all, when I went to meet him and his PR flak he was standing off to the side texting with the championship belt over his shoulder. But because it was raining he had a belt cover. A black cloth cover for the belt. And not just a big black cloth, it was cut perfectly to cover the belt and protect it from the weather.

He was in a bit of a rush and his PR guy was quite chatty so I didn't get to talk to him very much until after his interview. I did tell him that I'm a big fan and had been since I first read about him as Arthur Jones's brother. He seemed impressed that I was a Syracuse grad and nodded in recognition when I told him how many SU people are in the industry.

I've seen a lot of famous people in these circumstances and you can tell a lot about a person watching them interact with strangers for five minutes. Other than his PR guy he had no entourage. There is an direct correlation between number of people in the entourage and how friendly the celebrity is.

It's hard for me to explain in this post, but you know it when you see it. You could just tell he was a good guy by the way he was smiling and really listening to what people were saying to him, even though "you're the greatest" "congratulations champ" and "can I suck your dick?" must get old after a while.

After the interview I explained a little about the control room and how I was talking to the anchor during it. He seemed impressed that someone could talk to him and listen to someone else without getting distracted.

And even though he was in a rush to get on a plane to do Leno tomorrow night, he posed for pictures with about 8 or 10 employees who had waited outside the studio for him. And one annoying person (not me) was chewing his ear off about a seminar Jones is teaching to MMA beginners. Instead of rushing past him, Jones put his arm around the guy and guided him in the direction he was going so they could walk and talk.

god damn this blackberry camera fuckin sucks

Just being around the guy for even just a few minutes you could tell he is very appreciative of everything he has, and very kind and gracious to all his fans.

God bless the Champ. Long may he reign.

Song of the Week

"Friday" - Rebecca Black
This song is probably annoying the hell out of you now, because it's Wednesday. In two days you will go to work singing "it's Friday, Friiiiday."

Note: This song was originally scheduled for last week but was preempted due to breaking news.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jon Bones Jones is a Superhero

The Jon Bones Jones era has officially begun.

At the end of 2009, I stated on the record that he was my favorite fighter. That appears to be my first mention of him on the Poop. I'm sure I mentioned it to TON and Gunn (heheh rhymes) earlier than that. I remember seeing his fight against Bonnar and loving his energy level and creative strikes. And then I read he was the brother of Syracuse football players Arthur and Chandler Jones. That sold me.

Two new things happened this weekend that made me love him a little more. I'll start with the fight. Jones lucked into a title shot (on 6 weeks rest) when his teammate Rashad Evans got hurt in training.

"When opportunity knocks you better let him in and sit him on down and try to be his friend."

I would say Jones did that and much more. I could go through the entire fight minute by minute, but Bloody Elbow has already done it, spectacularly.

I'll just say he started with a flying knee, ended with a knee as Shogun was dropping to the floor and this is the damage he inflicted in between.

Shogun Rua's face after Jon Jones got through with it

I honestly have no idea how anyone will ever beat this guy. As TON has stated before, he has the perfect build for MMA. He is tall (6'4") and lanky (84.5" reach, longer than any heavyweight even) and he doesn't sacrifice strength. Usually a guy that skinny, gets taken down and outwrestled. But even against thicker opponents (Ryan Bader), Jones does the taking down and the outwrestling. Opponents can't get close enough to punch him, so the theory was Shogun would kick him in his spindly legs. I don't think he did it even once. It may be a very, very, very long time before I have to write about Jon Jones losing his title.

And when he's not fighting light heavyweights, he's fighting crime.

Before the fight on Saturday Jones was visiting a park in Paterson to do some meditation. Here's what happened next according to Jones, via twitter:

"So while we were at the park today a crack head smashed this old lady's car window and took off running with her GPS just as we were pulling up. right away. Coach Wink goes after this guy. Without hesitation, Coach Jackson went after him. I was shocked and stood there for a second. Then I threw my phone down and went with my coaches. Before you know it, we're sprinting up a steep hill chasing after him.
I turned the jets on, we caught the guy. We got the lady's gps back.
Our driver took a picture of Coach Jackson and I subduing the criminal.
I caught him, Coach Jackson finished him."

Bones Jones fights crime

The legend of Jon Jones keeps growing, and it's only going to get bigger.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Big Least

When the Big East got 11 teams into the NCAA Tournament I knew that after the first weekend critics would be questioning the inclusion of so many teams from the same conference.
But I never expected it to be this bad. 7-4 in the opening round sounded about right, but Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Syracuse all losing in round 2 was unexpected.
The top 5 teams in the regular season (Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville, Syracuse) all lost to teams seeded at least 8 spots lower.
There are a lot of reasons this could have happened:
1) The conference was simply overrated. Possible but there was a lot of empirical evidence during the regular season to show it really was the best conference. It didn't have the best teams but it had the most good teams.
2) The conference grind wore these teams down. Possible, but unlikely. I just don't believe in that cumulative effect. For instance, if Gilbert Brown hits the second free throw, we might not even be having this conversation right now. It just doesn't seem likely that 9 teams experienced an almost simultaneous teamwide fatigue.
3) The Big East style of play does not lend itself to victories in March. I can't argue with this one but I don't think the style of play (other than bruising Pittsburgh) differs that much from the rest of the country. Louisville and Notre Dame play wide open games relying on outside shooting. I see that in a lot of other conferences that don't experience Fukushima-like meltdowns in March.
4) Shit happens. My go to approach for almost all seemingly inexplicable questions in life and in sports. 9 Big East teams did melt down, all at the same time. But it doesn't mean the conference wasn't good or the teams weren't good. Is there any other conference that could send two teams from its bottom half to the Sweet 16? I don't think so. Even though the two teams that advanced beat Big East teams to do so perhaps avoiding a worse fate for the conference.

In football, the SEC dominates. It has won the last 5 championships, with 4 different schools. In part that's because football's regular season is so meaningful compared to basketball. The Big East is that conference in basketball. It hasn't won a title in 6 years, and it has egg on its face right now, and will likely never get 11 teams again. But I have seen this conference since it expanded to 16, and I believe it's still the best in the country. Even after this weekend's disaster.

You Can't Spell Suck Without SU

Note: these thoughts were written as the game was happening. So if they seem disjointed or lacking context continue to read.

This is the main problem with Syracuse: whenever they get a lead they get sloppy on offense and defense. They built a 19-9 lead, a few turnovers, a few uncovered shooters and its 21-21.

Gus Johnson is rooting for Darius Johnson Odom to do something so he can call him DJO. Likewise for Rick Jackson aka The Ruler. Len Elmore has co-opted his "ha ha" so I guess that's all Gus has left.

It amazes me how stupid Syracuse can be. Two boneheaded plays, Kris Joseph grabbing a guy and Scoop not holding for one. That turned a Syracuse 29-23, into an 11-2 run to end the half. Imagine if these guys didn't have a Hall of Fame coach all the mental mistakes they would make.

This is why you have depth. This is why you need bench players. They are all human and they dont't deliver the same level of performance every night. I love James Southerland but all he can contribute is outside shooting. If his shot is off, which it seems to be tonight you need someone else to come in and contribute. In this case it's Dion Waiters, the player who can drive to the basket without getting called for a charge.

I'm going to skip ahead to the end of the game now. 52 seconds left, Jim Boeheim calls timeout to set up a play with a 62-62 tie, and they can't even get the ball inbounds. Dion Waiters throws it backwards to Scoop Jardine who touches it, then puts his foot across halfcourt. Why didn't Scoop know he could go into the backcourt first to catch the ball? That play cost Syracuse a chance to win the game.

Coach Boeheim blows another one

Following that turnover Marquette exploited the zone by dribbling at two guys, leaving an open shooter and Darius Johnson-Odom nailed the game winning 3.

That is my number 1 complaint about Jim Boeheim, the 2-3 zone. Yes, it's effective sometimes but teams know how to exploit. A big reason why Marquette won, they are familiar with the zone having terrorized it once in the regular season. Their crucial 6-0 run at the end of the game came on 2 wide open 3-pointers. He doesn't work on or attempt to employ another defense for crucial late game situations when sticking to a man is more important than sticking to your principles.

#2: The mental mistakes. Syracuse was once again done in by their own turnovers, several of them incredibly stupid turnovers. In close games those giveaways mean everything.

#3: Free throw shooting. This one wasn't of particular import in this game because SU shot only 7 free throws (perhaps an indication they didn't take the ball to the hoop enough) but it has killed them at other times. Everyone says it and I'm sure it's borne out by facts, Syracuse is consistently one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country. If I coached these guys I would have Rick Jackson (and Derrick Coleman before him) shooting 1000 free throws a day.

But it's results that matter, right? Everyone points to Boeheim's national title, and his two other final game appearances as proof he is a great coach. In the past 7 years Boeheim has missed the tournament 2 and lost in major upsets 4 other times. Over that span SU is 5-5 in the NCAAs, including two 3 vs 14s and a 1 vs 16.

And here is the total list of major tournament upsets against Syracuse in the past 25 years:

1986: #7 Navy over #2 Syracuse
1988: #11 Rhode Island over #3 Syracuse
1990: #6 Minnesota over #2 Syracuse
1991: #15 Richmond over #2 Syracuse
2004: #8 Alabama over #5 Syracuse
2005: #13 Vermont over #4 Syracuse
2006: #12 Texas ATM over #5 Syracuse
2010: #5 Butler over #1 Syracuse
2011: #11 Marquette over #3 Syracuse

Embarrassing. I just want someone else to get a chance to run this team and see if he can do better, even if it is Boeheim clone Mike Hopkins.

Syracuse fans always end up feeling like this

NCAA Tournament Thoughts: Sunday

That's what scares me about North Carolina. They can score, no lead against them is ever safe. They have what Clark Kellogg calls "spurtability."

I love the ending of this game, especially compared to Pittsburgh-Butler. The teams were aggressive and attacking. I love LoRo letting Venoy Overton drive to the basket with 7 seconds left. He didn't make the shot and he didn't get fouled, but Jamie Dixon would have called time out and made his team wait til 2 seconds were left. It didn't work out for Washington but they gave themselves several good chances to win it.

I think Jim Nantz called Scott Suggs Scott Sucks. He garbled it just enough so you couldn't tell. Like when John Sterling garbles his Ps and Bs so it sounds like "hre really smacked that bitch" or "that was a good looking bitch."

Even Duke is not immune from the late game jitters. They almost blew that game and it seemed like no one on the team even knew they had to shoot the ball.

I like Michigan's coaching at the end, don't call timeout (did they have any left?) let the guys run, they got the best shot they were going to get, they just happened to miss it.

Did they pair Michigan and Duke just to get more mileage out of this "Uncle Tom" comment? I still haven't watched "The Fab Five" though.

Didn't Damino go to Cornell?

I paused the Syracuse game to watch Arizona-Texas and I am so glad I did. Amazing turnaround in that game. Texas has the ball, a 2 point lead and only 27 seconds left. They get called for 5 seconds, right before the timeout and Arizona not only scores, but gets fouled and takes the lead on the free throw. Texas's last chance was denied when Jim Burr swallowed his whistle. Not on the shot, but there was deinitely a foul underneath on the putback. At least similar to what Robinson did to Howard in the Pittsburgh-Butler game last night.

What did I tell you? A 2 seed always loses in the second round. When the other 3 2s survived, barely, I knew Notre Dame was gonna lose. I should have bet the money line.

VCU goes from derided team, to play-in game, to Sweet 16/Cinderella darling. Just to clarify, their performance in these three games does not mean the Committee was right or that Jay Bilas or anyone else who criticized their selection was wrong. It simply means they started playing in the tournament at a lot higher level than they played in the regular season. This team lost 11 games during the season, 3 of them to teams with RPIs higher than 150.

I never believe in that whole "no one believes in us but us" mentality actually being a benefit (because USC probably felt that way too) but they do seem genuinely pissed off and now they have at least a decent chance of beating Florida State and making it to the Elite 8.

Kansas has no excuse not to make the Final Four now. Illinois is the highest seeded team they can face until the Final Four. If they don't beat Richmond and the VCU/Florida State winner it would be one of the biggest choke jobs in NCAA history, worse than UConn losing to George Mason.

Speaking of choke jobs, there will be separate posts coming on Syracuse and the Big East.