Saturday, April 02, 2011

NCAA Tournament Thoughts: Final Four

Butler hits the first two shots and Shaka Smart switches to a full-court press which keys an 11-2 run. As a Syracuse fan that hurts because Jim Boeheim hasn't made a similar adjustment in 25 years.

Thank you Jim Nantz for confirming that Darius Theus is not related to Reggie.

By the way, that's the third mention of Reggie Theus I've seen in 24 hours. I watched the HBO special on UNLV. And I also watched an NBATV show on Kevin Love in which he chided his assistant coach for being on "Hang Time."

What you are about to read is the greatest insight I have written this entire tournament:

Late in the first half they showed video from before the game of Shaka Smart jumping around with his players in something of a mosh pit. Nantz, Kerr and Kellogg then praised Smart for his "energy" and said his team "feeds off it" giving that intangible "energy" at least some credit for the team's success.

Nantz said there's a long list of coaches who would never do that with their players. One of those coaches would undoubtedly be Brad Stevens. In fact, I have heard announcers praise Brad Stevens for being "even keel" and saying his team takes it lead from him, and indirectly attributing Butler's success, especially late in close games to the example of their coach.

In summary, the announcers pointed to two different coaches with two polar opposite demeanors and gave those very traits credit for the teams success. Now, if two opposite approaches are each equally successful (or have the potential to lead to equal success) perhaps neither of those approaches is right or wrong and neither has any impact on the team's success.

And this is my problem with mainstream media (and it's shared by many, especially in the statistical community), in lieu of examining things differently they just trot out the same platitudes they've been using for 50 years as an explanation for success. This especially happens in college athletics when the players turn over so quickly and the coaches don't. Everything is attributed to the coaches when in fact very little of what they do matters (the aforementioned strategic adjustment notwithstanding).

I hope I made myself clear. The mainstream sports media is intellectually lazy and it often contradicts itself in an effort to explain things that either can't be explained or are too difficult to explain.

Ok, back to the action. Lots of fouls called in this game. And a lot of stupid reach-ins and over the backs and stuff like that. You don't want to see a game like this decided by fouls, and with best players in foul trouble the entire second half. The fouls also slowed the pace of the game considerably compared to the up and down pace we saw early in the first half.

I love Shelvin Mack. What a great player.

I also like Joey Rodriguez as a leader and a passer, but not as a shooter. He has poor form on his jump shot. He leans his upper body into it and it looks like he is throwing the ball at the rim.

It's amazing when any team goes to the final game, loses a top 10 pick, then makes a return trip. It's even more amazing when it is Butler.

"Butler says 'let's do it again.". Really Jim Nantz? You had all week to come up with a cheesy line and that's what you came up with?

And then he breaks out "Okwandu says 'no can do'" And this guy is the best announcer CBS has? Between him and Joe Buck what is it about these guys with their cheesy lines that network executives love?

Now he just said Kemba Walker performed at the Apollo with his dance troupe when he was a kid. At least that was intesresting.

Non-stop action. After a foul with 8:15 left in the second half there wasn't another official's stoppage of play (foul, ball out of bounds) until 2:09 left. There were timeouts called by each coach but those doesn't satisfy the requirements of TV timeouts. So the under-8 timeout came at 2:09 and the under-4 came with 56 seconds left.

Why do teams insist on shooting 3s when they are only down 2 points? I just don't get it.

Rough game for Brandon Knight in what I still think will be his last college game.

Terrence Jones is going to leave too. He'd be well-advised to practice his free throws.

Shabazz Napier must watch a lot of European soccer. He took one dive, and then faked a low-blow that didn't get called.

At least we don't have to worry about the championship being vacated in a few years.

Or maybe we do.

I think every Big East team is going to try to play on the first day of the conference tournament next year.

I think Butler would have had a better chance beating Kentucky. I don't doubt them, but UConn's size is going to be a problem.

Chase Sold Me Out

Chase is supposed to be my buddy. He looks just like me, acts just like me and will probably grow up to be just like me. I care for him, I feed him, I love him, I teach him things. And for the most part this arrangement works. But every once in a while Chase works against me.
We were in the local smoke shop/news stand buying tickets for the big Mega Millions drawing. There were 3 people on line in front of us including 2 middle aged ladies.

Note: middle-aged used to mean old, now it means "a couple years older than I am."

Chase runs right up the counter where there was a magazine display and says "look daddy, just like the magazine you have."

And he points at -- the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011 Baseball Season Predictions

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers
NL West: San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Card: St. Louis Cardinals

AL East: New York Yankees
AL Central: Minnesota Twins
AL West: Oakland A's
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox

NLCS: Phillies over Brewers
ALCS: Yankees over Red Sox
World Series: Phillies over Yankees

NL MVP: Albert Pooh Holes
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay
AL Cy Young: David Price
NL Rookie of the Year: Domonic Brown
AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Moustakas
NL Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke
AL Manager of the Year: Bob Geren
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Javier Vazquez
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Justin Morneau

Note: I looked back at last year's predictions and couldn't figure out a winner. I had the most playoff teams with 6 (if you include my late change to Giants). Several of us had King Felix as Cy Young Award winner, but Master Bates was the only one with two individual award winners correct (both Cy Youngs). Nails got the incredibly difficult Comeback Player of the Year correct (Tim Hudson) and Freedo was the only one who had both the Rangers and Giants in the playoffs, and he even had the Giants winning a round.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Idol Chatter

There is no style of music I love more than Motown so there couldn't be a better time for our first Idol Chatter of this season.

I saw Casey Abrams when he was called Taylor Hicks. I didn't like him then and I don't like him now. Though Mrs. Poop loved his performance of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," she turned against him after his awful rendition of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." I can't believe the judges used their save on him. Even if they loved him and thought it was too early for him to go out they had to realize that if he was low man with 11 left, no matter how well he does from here the viewers don't like him and he'll just end up getting voted out again in 3 or 4 weeks. It's way too early in the season to use the save, what if someone better has an off week later on?

Thia Magia is in the bottome three-uh. She's the typical young teenager who gets on this show and sticks around a couple weeks longer than she should. She can sing, but is too bashful/inexperienced to really cut loose on stage.

A similar problem derailed my all-time favorite Idol contestant, roly-poly teenager Jacee Badeaux (no relation to Neon). I was so sad when my little pudgeball got kicked off but he just wasn't good enough because years of being called fat hurt his self-confidence and didn't do anything other than just sing the song as it was written.

I hate Paul "Jelly Legs" MacDonald and his goofy smile. But I loved his rendition of "Tracks of My Tears."

I also hate the Tourette's kid James Durbin. He sings as if he has Tourette's, each note is an uncontrollable outburst.

I kind of like that girl Haley, because she has great legs. What's with girls named Haley on American Idol wearing booty shorts? Remember Haley Scarnato?

Speaking of sexy, I think they are showing too much cleavage for 16-year-old Lauren Alaina. And while we're talking about her, she suffers from the other problem that often befalls young contestants. She's singing songs with mature subject matter without the life experience to back it up. It ends up being an act instead of a heartfelt performance. Being that I love soul music, precisely because the singer's feelings are palpable, this really turns me off about Lauren.

Scotty McCreery is not going to win this competition. But there is a possibility he could have the best career of any of these people because he fits so perfectly into the country genre. He seems a little arrogant though.

I'm not ignoring Naima and Stefano, I just have nothing to say about them.

Now on to the two favorites:

Jacob Lusk is a really awesome singer, but he tries a little hard at times. And he opens his mouth so freakin wide when he sings. But his rendition of "You're All I Need To Get By" was one of the 5 best in the history of American Idol.

But the real favorite is Pia Toscano. She is the best pure singer of anyone. She delivers great performances every single time. She's seems really nice and friendly. Plus she's hot.

The one criticism of her is that she sings the same kind of power ballads every week. I agree I would like to hear something different, especially during Motown week (why not something by the Supremes?) but the judges constantly tell the constants to figure out who they are and stay true to themselves. And then when they do it, the judges say they need to switch up.

Speaking of the judges, I thought this season was going to be the beginning of the end for the show but I now I have changed my mind. First of all, I think the talent decline over the past few seasons has stopped. There are a couple top people, and a lot of dept this year.

Second of all, I am actually enjoying the more positive tone to the judge's comments. I was always uncomfortable in the audition rounds when they would so thoroughly embarrass someone, often someone who had a questionable grip on reality. There were a lot fewer awful performances during those shows this season.

And I think all three judges have done a good job of straddling the line between Paula and Simon.

Paula was on mood stabilizers and refused to say anything negative. Steven Tyler and J.Lo have both had their moments of criticism, but they try to do it in a constructive way.

Simon hated everything and looked like he wasn't having a good time. You can tell J.Lo and Steven Tyler are both really enjoying being a part of the show and it's always more fun to watch someone who is having fun.

Even though she wears her hair in a different style, and often has silly outfits, J.Lo is still has hot as ever.

And I love the goofy things Steven Tyler says. "Hell fire save the matches, fuck a duck and see what hatches" is the greatest quote in the history of humankind.

One guarantee: at the finale both of those judges will do a duet with the two finalists, especially if it's one male and one female.

My prediction: Paul McDonald third, Jacob Lusk second and Pia wins it all.

Song of the Week

"Soul and Inspiration" - Righteous Brothers
They have two other more famous hits ("Unchained Melody" and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling") but this one shows off their harmonies better, the great complement of Bobby's high-voice and Bill's tenor.
I love when Bill goes off at the end "it will kill me I swear it, girl I just can't bear it!"
And it also shows what a musical performance looked like in the 60s, two guys in tuxedos standing there singing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicopee's Finest

If you have been watching as much of the NCAA tournament as I have you have seen the same commercials over and over again. But when it comes to the Miller Lite ads with the hot bartenders making fun of douchebags, you probably aren't complaining.

One in particular stood out in my mind, the one where the hot blonde in the bikini makes fun a European man thong.

And I knew I recognized that girl from somewhere. Turns out it is Sabina Gadecki, former hostess for the World Poker Tour.

While researching this post, I found out two interesting things about Sabina. First, she is from our favorite town in Western Massachusetts, Chicopee. Though I would have much preferred to see her with her thong hanging out during a scuffle at Denny's.

Second, she is dating former Knick David Lee.

Monday, March 28, 2011

NCAA Tournament Thoughts: Elite 8 Sunday

I would put VCU over Kansas as the third biggest upset of the 64 team era. It has to come after Villanova over Georgetown even though they were the same conference. Because it was the title game, and because Georgetown had Patrick Ewing. There are no all-time legends on this Kansas team. I also rank it behind George Mason over Connecticut because at that point we really didn't know it was possible.

There is one great equalizer in basketball. Something that will help you overcome a bigger, stronger, faster, more talented team: shooting. VCU made 12 of 25 3-pointers and 77% from the line. Kansas was 2 for 21 and made only 53% of free throws. That was the difference. Every time Kansas started to make a run VCU hit an outside shot.

Jamie Skeen was unbelievable, even though he missed a lot of shots. And Rozzell (who reminded me of Rahzel) also was clutch.

I think Shaka Smart deserves a lot of credit. I think I could have beaten Kansas after his pregame speech. "We're gonna punch our ticket to the Final Four."

Did the announcers say Tyrel Reed's father has taken off four years of work to watch his son play basketball? Apparently he quit his coaching job (maybe that was only part-time) so he could travel to all of Reed's games. And he damn near played in more than anyone. Yesterday was 132, if Kansas would have won he would have tied the record, if they played for the title he would have set a new record. But for now no college player has played in more games than Shane Battier.

Note: I mentioned this last year but Reed also has a hot sister.

If you're a VCU alum you have to go to this Final Four right? When else in your lifetime is VCU going to make the Final Four?

Kentucky earns a Final Four appearance they will have to vacate in a few years.

There are actually some I like about Coach Cal. First, he recognizes that talent is the most important factor in winning. So he goes after talent. He embraces the one and done player and even encourages those guys to come to his schools. But he also develops them. Look at the point guards he's had in the past four years: Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and now Brandon Knight.

Sure he probably bends the rules to get those guys in but some schools go on probation for guys like Conrad McRae whereas Calipari got popped for Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose.

Also, I heard he didn't show his team any game tape of North Carolina. He used the old Petey Bell credo "it's not what you do God damn it, it's how you do it."

But I think he also tried that in 2008 with free throws, had the guys stop shooting free throws and just mentally picture free throws going through the hoop. They ended up missing a bunch and losing the title to Kansas.

Back to this game for a minute: I love Brandon Knight. He's the kind of point guard that only scores when he needs to. He point totals in the NCAA Tournament: 2, 30, 9 and then 22 against UNC.

I really like Tyler Zeller. A big guy with a good post-up game. And he's improved each year. He has to come out right.

It's amazing that Kentucky lost an entire starting lineup (Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe and Orton) and actually advanced farther in the tournament.

First year of 64 teams I believe that no number 1 or number 2 seeds made the Final Four.

ESPN says only 2 of 5.9 million brackets had all four Final Four teams correct. Amazing.

I Fight Authority But Authority Always Wins

For quite a while Mrs. Poop has wanted to get Chase a fish. I have always resisted because of the obvious, fish don't live very long and then we're stuck with either getting fish after fish to hide the death, or explaining death to Chase and dealing with the hysteria.
Normally I'm all in favor of a child having a pet (especially one he can care for like a fish) but since we already have Diesel and teach Chase about the importance of feeding him and taking him for walks, I thought the responsibility lessons would be redundant.

But Mrs. Poop has retained her undefeated record.

Chase stares at Roddy

Meet Roddy. Chase wanted to name him Porange, because that rhymes with orange, but we discouraged him and he came up with Roddy instead.

Chase won him at the Purim carnival, throwing a ping pong ball into a fish bowl. They didn't even need to cheat for him (though they would have), the kid has a pretty good throwing arm.

Don't worry, since the above photograph was taken his bowl has been appointed with all the necessary accoutrements, including green (Chase's favorite color!) gravel. And so far Roddy has lived a happy and healthy week with us.

Now that I'm into this fish for $25 I hope he lives long enough that we can push off getting his replacement until next year's Purim carnival.

We didn't plan this but there is a powerful metaphor in the above picture. Chase stares at Roddy while Diesel is lingering, heartbroken, in the background.