Friday, April 08, 2016
One of my favorite parts of the start of baseball season is when some young rookie comes up and gets off to a hot start and I get to go into the basement to see if I have any of his rookie cards to sell. When Rockies shortstop Trevor Story came up and hit home runs in each of his first two at bats, his name immediately sounded familiar. I remembered I had his 2013 Bowman Chrome Farm's Finest Mini Blue Wave refractor. Which is limited to only 250.
Mrs. Poop's favorite hockey player used to be Hartford Whalers great Ron Francis, for whom she rooted (along with her French-Canadian grandmother), while wearing this jersey:
Thursday, April 07, 2016
For years Master Bates has been sending me his bracket just under (and sometimes just after) the deadline for our 3-man family battle royale bracket challenge. Unbeknownst to him, I have been entering him into ESPN every year. And while everyone else picks a different name depending on what's happening that season, he remains, for once and for always, the Overworked Accountants. In this topsy-turvy year Master Bates prevailed, defeating his nephew Juju who picked the lower number seed in virtually every game. The biggest story however was yours truly who was the only person to pick North Carolina to win it all. I would have been the easy winner had that miracle shot not gone in and UNC had prevailed in OT. But it would have been a hollow victory, because that was not my real bracket. It was the bracket I filled out right after the brackets were revealed, with little or not thought at all. My real bracket is way down at the bottom, 14th of 16. I would have been the first to admit it wasn't my real picks, but we have always treated this tournament challenge, the way Chicagoans treat their elections: "Vote early and often." But it was not to be, so Master Bates is the winner, once again proving that you need to watch college basketball, or to even knowingly enter, to win. 2015: Nat 2014: Billy 2013: TON 2012: Reissberg 2011: Mrs. Poop 2010: Vacated (I forgot to keep accurate records) 2009: Mrs. Poop 2008: Pa Beers 2007: Michael
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
I already made "Danger" by Blahzay Blahzay the Song of the Week back in March of 2009. Being a Syracuse alum of a certain age, a great run by the basketball team always reminds me of this song which became the anthem for the team's run to the 1996 Championship game, with one minor lyrical adjustment. "When the Cuse is in the house..."
Tuesday, April 05, 2016
So the dream scenario did not play out the Syracuse women's basketball team got decimated by UConn, just like everyone else. It doesn't even make sense to analyze the game, because in a 31-point loss, 1 or 2 or 10 different plays wouldn't change the outcome. But I do wish they had gotten off to a better start and kept it competitive for a while. I also wish Syracuse's best two players, Alexis Peterson and Brianna Butler, hadn't played their worst games and the worst time, though surely UConn deserves a lot of credit for forcing them into it. Peterson averaged 24 points per game in the tournament, but had only 11 in this game, on 0-6 from 3-point land. She also had only 1 assist and 4 turnovers. Butler, who set the national record for most 3-pointers made in a season in the Washington game, added only 1 to her total, shooting 1 of 8 from the field. But these ladies should be very proud of what the accomplished. They have set all kinds of high-water marks for the program, brought a lot of joy to the Syracuse community and put the program on the map. Butler, Maggie Morrison and Cornelia aka Corn Fondren are moving on, but Peterson will be joined on next year's team by Isabella Slim, the Day sisters, and possibly Brittney Sykes, who could come back for a 5th season because she played in only 3 games last year after suffering a knee injury.
Oddsmakers have Syracuse at +4000 in tonight's National Championship game against UConn. That means a $100 bet returns $4000. Also known as 40-1. So essentially, if the two teams played each other 41 nights in a row, UConn would win 40 times, Syracuse once. And that seems about right to me. This UConn team is great. They have great players, and they play great together. They have won 3 straight titles and 74 games in a row. Their average margin of victory is 40 points. They've played all the toughest teams and beat them, no, slaughtered, them all. So that's the case for the 40 games, what about that other one time? If tonight is to be that 2.5% chance come true, here's how it could happen. UConn is thin, they really only play 7 players, and one of them, Katie Lou Samuelson broke her foot in the National Semifinal and will not play. Syracuse is a great pressure team that routinely plays 9 players. It will be hard to press successfully with Moriah Jefferson running the point, but they need to force some turnovers and wear out UConn. On offense Syracuse needs to attack the basket to draw fouls, and also to kick out for open 3s. Syracuse made 12 out of 33 3-pointers against Washington (36%) and 14-30 (47%) against Tennessee. They will need to shoot at least 40% to have a chance. So if they can do that, press effectively, wear out UConn and get them in foul trouble, while shooting the lights out from distance, they may have a chance.
All the North Carolina fans are bemoaning their bad luck today, losing the National Championship game on a buzzer-beater. How awful! And yes, it must be heartbreaking and if it happened to Syracuse I would still be in my bed, under the covers, cry-bernating, but, remember the game was tied. If Villanova didn't win it there, it was going to overtime, a roughly 50.50 proposition. It has got to be a lot worse to lose a championship where you actually have a lead with less than a second to play! And a miracle 3 beats you. That actually happened. And in this case North Carolina was the WINNING team. 1994 women's NCAA tournament, UNC (in white) vs. Louisiana Tech (in light blue). That was Charlotte Smith with the game-winner and if you keep the video rolling you will see a young Marion Jones at the bottom of the pile. So as you see, North Carolina really has nothing to complain about. Live by the title-winning, buzzer-beating 3, die by the title-winning, buzzer-beating 3.
After Northern Iowa's amazing buzzer-beater from halfcourt beat Texas, Nails and I were talking about the greatest buzzer-beaters in tournament history. We discussed some amazing early-round shots, like Bryce Drew vs. Mississippi, but decided that for the best ever the stakes needed to be higher. NC State's Lorenzo Charles won the title with a buzzer beat in 1983, but it was a weird dunk, putback type of thing. So we decided the best might be Christian Laettner vs. Kentucky. Until tonight! The first 2395 seconds of this game were fun and well-played. Some of those moments would have been memorable and remarkable, were it not for what happened in the final 5 seconds. First Marcus Paige (who got his team to this point with an amazing steal under the basket, which I still don't understand how he was able to pull off) nailed an amazing off-balance, double-pump, closely-guarded 3, to tie it. But Villanova was able to remain calm and execute a perfect play, Ryan Arcidiacono, with a dribble up the court and the dish to Kris Jenkins, who calmly stepped into the shot and nailed the game-winner as time expired. It's hard to criticize because Villanova just made the perfect play, and because the game was tied so UNC had to defend the paint too, but I don't think Berry did a good enough job of slowing down Arcidiacono, and I think Isaiah Hicks made a terrible mistake by backing up, giving Jenkins the space he needed to get the shot off. Normally, I reject the instant-classification of games and players, as I try my best to remember what happened in the past, but there is no doubt, zero doubt, that this is the best ending in the history of the National Championship game.
Monday, April 04, 2016
Jim Boeheim was praised for changing his strategy against Virginia, shifting to a press and turning the game around. He made no such chance against North Carolina, but even if he had, it wouldn't have mattered. All week leading up to this game, I was hopeful that Boeheim would use a different version of zone, essentially packing it in around UNC's excellent interior players and daring their suspect guards to shoot over the top. Clearly, that didn't happen in the first half as UNC missed every single 3-pointer (0-11) and made almost every inside shot. I was begging for him to change their approach and set up Cooney and Gbinije basically at the free throw line, and keep the wings down on the baseline instead of having them jump out to contest. But when Syracuse finally started to make a run, scoring 10 straight points to turn 57-40 into 57-40, Marcus Paige nailed an open 3. And every time Syracuse tried to get back in, UNC nailed another one. Missed their first 12, made 4 of the next 5. They just ran into a better team playing better. But we will always remember and appreciate the great tournament run they went on. I hesitate to call it a great season because it was actually so bad they almost didn't even make the tournament. But four great games in a row at the right time is very special. As are Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije. And with Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon, I feel a little more optimistic about the remainder of Jim Boeheim's tenure as the head coach. If only he would continue with the defensive adjustments.
Sunday, April 03, 2016
NL East: Washington Nationals NL Central: Chicago Cubs NL West: San Francisco Giants NL Wild Cards: New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals NLCS: Washington Nationals over Chicago Cubs AL East: New York Yankees AL Central: Cleveland Indians AL West: Houston Astros AL Wild Cards: Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels ALCS: Houston Astros over New York Yankees World Series: Washington Nationals over Houston Astros NL MVP: Bryce Harper AL MVP: Mike Trout NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer AL Cy Young: David Price NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager AL Rookie of the Year: Byron BuxTON NL Manager of the Year: Dusty Baker AL Manager of the Year: Terry Francona NL Comeback Player of the Year: Jose Fernandez AL Comeback Player of the Year: Yu Darvish