Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Miscellaneous Me

March Madness Edition

(1) Fans not being surprised anymore at anything that happens in the NCAA Tournament
(16) Getting excited to watch Butler face VCU for a trip to the National Championship

(8) A company purchased laptop computers for employees to use while traveling. Fearing they might be stolen, the managers came up with a clever solution: permanently attach the laptop computers to the employees' desks.
(9) Kodak once introduced a single-use camera called the Weekender. Customers have called the support line to ask if it's okay to use it during the week.

(5) Reviews for Johnny Depp's new animated movie Rango
(12) Reviews for Simon Pegg's new animated movie Paul

(4) ESPN running a bracket to find the coolest name out of all the players in college basketball
(13) ESPN running a bracket to find who should be on the cover of Madden 12

(6) Keith Law in the spring and summer
(11) Keith Law in the fall and winter

(3) Connecticut Huskies
(14) Connecticut Huskies before the season started

(7) I recently had a dream that I pitched a perfect game
(10) I recently had a dream that I pitched a perfect game in MLB 2K11

(2) The new euphemism "violating BYU's honor code," i.e. I passed Starbucks this morning and saw 18 people violating BYU's honor code.
(15) Using the phrase "LeBron'd" to say that you witnessed something, i.e. I LeBron'd a tragic automobile accident.

Last Four Out:
- News outlets trying to convince us to care about the Barry Bonds trial
- Trailers for the movie Thor
- The release date for the fourth novel in the Inheritance Cycle
- Virginia Tech Hokies

[8 and 9 are true stories from Scott Adams' book The Dilbert Principle.]

Monday, March 21, 2011

NCAA March Madness

It's called March Madness. I get it. Things are supposed to be crazy. But is 'too crazy' even fun anymore?

The tournament is unpredictable; it always has been. When do we get to the point where being so unpredictable makes it lose its luster? There are four double-digit seeds in the Sweet Sixteen, including three in one region. There are as many schools from the city of Richmond, Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen as there are Big East teams. VCU has already won three tournament games after only winning three games total since February 9th.

To top it all off, the Butler Bulldogs beat the number one team in their region, Pitt, on their way to becoming this year's George Mason and not this year's Butler. And this year's actual George Mason got blown out of the water to become this year's somebody else. Got it?

My bracket, like most people's, is in pieces. I only have two Final Four picks remaining. That is nothing to be concerned with however. It has happened before. The concerning part is the teams that are busting brackets. Marquette lost 14 times during the regular season! They finished 9-9 in the Big East and yet every single Big East team with a better conference record has been knocked out already.

Florida State went 2-6 in the regular season versus eventual tournament teams yet they have already won two actual tournament games as a 10 seed and now head into the Sweet Sixteen as a technical favorite, facing the 11 seed VCU Rams.

There can really be only one reason for the lack of sense in the tournament and many people have mentioned this theory even before the tournament got under way. There is not enough talent in college basketball. There aren't any great teams, there aren't enough good teams, parity has struck. I suppose this makes March even more mad in the coming years with so few talented players sticking around for even two years on campus but I don't see that as a good thing.

We've heard this all weekend now: just imagine if Butler still had Gordon Heyward, if UCLA still had Westbrook and Love, if Memphis had Rose, etc. The end result wouldn't even be that each individual team might have advanced farther in the tournament. The important thing would be that our 2011 tournament would be filled with better basketball teams, led by talented and experienced players. Yet this isn't how the basketball landscape is shaped anymore.

North Carolina won the ACC regular season title and is now in the Sweet Sixteen led by (essentially) all underclassmen. They should be amazing next year, right? Yes, until you factor in that current NBA draft projections have Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller all being first round picks, all leaving school early. Kendall Marshall might be the best point guard in Chapel Hill without blazing speed since Ed Cota. It won't much matter if all his pass receivers leave.

People are also killing the tournament committee for the four play-in games but I'm not too hung up on that. Although, I do think it would be better if they were between all 16 seeds. Waiting to see a winner of a 12 or 11 seed battle is just a pain for bracket-filling purposes.

Not everything about this year's tournament was bad though. Even if you hated the "first round" and the double-digit seed blowouts and the poor play, you have to give credit where credit is due. CBS and Turner got things right.

It took a long time, many years in fact, but they have finally mastered how to televise March Madness. Instead of being at the mercy of CBS flipping to the minutes of the game we wanted to see, now we were in control. Four channels, games with staggered start times, every game televised in its entirety for the duration of the tournament, just superb.

When I first heard of a new television arrangement, I was skeptical, but mostly because I wasn't aware of how it would work. I thought most of the charm of this tourney was having games coming down to the wire and seeing one ending followed by another. This was still the case except that there were a few minutes in between each and a good channel-changer could catch all the action they wanted.

So my viewing experience was better than in year's past although the games I was watching were, perhaps, not exactly up to par. If San Diego State played Temple again, I think they'd change the rules to first to 40 points wins.

I guess then we broke even. Once this viewing freedom becomes the norm though, is there any way for March Madness to not be heading downhill? The talent pool seems abnormally low, with no hope of refilling. Players come to school, don't even excel athletically, and still leave after one year. Can you believe Josh Selby, Perry Jones and C.J. Leslie will all be first round NBA picks? Talk about drafting based on potential; none of them were even the second best player on their college teams, let alone the best.

So unless David Stern institutes another age limit for draft prospects, we might be heading down this road for a while. The games could get ugly, there will be no hope in predicting who will win on a given night, excitement will trump execution, and it will most assuredly be Mad.

(Image courtesy of

Saturday, March 12, 2011

RE: What does Calhoun do?

Allow me a Jim Calhoun retort.

Perhaps it isn’t fair to criticize comments made prior to this run UConn has gone on in the Big East Tournament. Prior to this week, they were definitely struggling to perform, struggling for offense, struggling to find a second banana.

However, perhaps none of that had anything to do with Jim Calhoun’s coaching. A more likely scenario than a Hall of Fame, championship winning coach dropping the ball may be out there.

It seems to me this team just got tired the second half of the year. The freshmen certainly got tired.

Jeremy Lamb was on fire for a chunk of the season, taking the scoring load off Kemba Walker’s shoulders by scoring in double digits eight straight games at one point, but he’s a freshman. He then only scored in double digits one more time before the Big East Tournament got under way. Freshmen get tired.

Shabazz Napier lost his legs a bit after a nice start to his career. He’s a freshman. His scoring was helter-skelter all year long but his minutes too got chopped down. Freshmen get tired. The same thing happened to Roscoe Smith and even sophomore Alex Oriakhi. Guys who aren’t used to playing 30 games against Big East competition wear out during a long season. And perhaps Calhoun knew this.

He didn’t seem to feel the need to push these young guys too much. They were almost assured of a trip to the NCAA Tournament rather early in the season. After wins in the Maui Invitational against Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky, followed by a road win at Texas later on and another over Tennessee, they were almost a lock. No team in the country would put up an out-of-conference slate better than that.

Jim Calhoun even admitted as much in an interview with Mike Francesa this week during the Big East Tournament. Although he wouldn’t say his team was a lock for the big dance, he made it clear that pushing these freshmen too hard during the middle of the year would not have been a good thing. Paraphrasing Calhoun’s sentiments: it’s better to come out of the gates hot so everyone knows how good you are, and then peak in March.

He wasn’t much concerned with the rest, other than having these young players learn and develop, i.e. make mistakes when it wouldn't mean the end of their season.

Another important factor that led to some midseason swoons was the fact that Kemba Walker, as great as he is, is really a streaky player. He has many games where he shoots very poorly from the field. He will take too many threes in some games. He also may have been getting tired, carrying a team for the first time in his career. There has been no consistently reliable second scorer behind him and that is something he had to adjust to.

So perhaps Jim Calhoun was coaching brilliantly all along. This team seems to be peaking right now, at the perfect time. The freshmen seem to have their legs back a bit in the Big East Tournament. If Oriakhi settles himself in the middle, this team can be very good. Also, Kemba has gotten back on track after some poor late-winter performances.

Whether they win the Big East title or not, this team is playing just the way they want to be, at just the right time of the season.

I'd like to think Calhoun knew what he was doing all along.

(Image courtesy of

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What Does Calhoun Do?

At the beginning of the year the UConn Huskies were brilliant and unexpectedly explosive. They continued to rise until Notre Dame fought to win by three points at home. While the Huskies were young and Pittsburgh was the easy favorite to clean up and win the Big East, the Huskies were just outplayed and over-matched. UConn still went on to beat Texas and Villanova on the back of Kemba Walker. Even in a stretch in the middle of the season, freshman Jeremy Lamb and veteran Jamal Coombs-McDaniels were on hot streaks taking the load off of Walker. Then came Lousiville at the Huskies home in Gampel. It all went down hill from there.

During this game UConn and Lousiville battled to two overtimes and there were some exciting plays by Peyton Siva and Walker going back and forth only to see Siva make some great plays down the stretch to edge out a one point victory. But there was one thing that stuck out to me that played a huge role in this game. Louisville knew Kemba had to at least be altered getting into the paint. So they implemented a zone in the days before getting to Storrs. This zone was pretty effective in holding UConn to last second shots and made it difficult for Kemba to get to the rim, especially with inconsistent big man Alex Oriahki. That was the first time they saw that zone and lost to a good team on the rise.

From this point on, the teams that have used a zone have challenged and, majority of the time, beaten the Huskies. Syracuse dominated using their height as pillars in the paint to stop penetration. Louisville again rocked them, being extremely comfortable with how to stop Kemba Walker. West Virginia and Marquette both held the Huskies scoreless for a lengthy period of time in the second half when they decided to start using zone.

Jim Calhoun's offense with the zone is pass left, pass center, pass right, until the last person with the ball has to do something because there are eight seconds or less left on the shot clock. The West Virginia game saw the Huskies fail to score a basket in the last four minutes after the Mountaineers started doing what? ...playing zone defense. After that game, Calhoun said that the zone was not the problem. The same thing happened again versus Notre Dame. For the last five minutes or so, UConn struggled when they brought in a zone defense. At what point do you need to realize that something needs to change? Marquette held them without a field goal for up to eight minutes when playing zone. When does a coach have to realize this is just not working?

For a while now I have been questioning Calhoun's coaching abilities. Ever since Siva and the game against the Louisville Cardinals, there has been no adjustment when the zone defense has been brought in. As said before, UConn's offense against the zone is pass to people at top of the three point line until the shot clock runs out. It bothers me and probably many other Husky fans that nothing has been done. No one moves around, picks are lazy and everyone looks to Kemba Walker to do everything. Calhoun seems content now taking the ball out of Jeremy Lamb's hands and I don't know why. The kid is talented, can hit the three and penetrate without having to make a lay-up all the time with his tear drop shot. Calhoun needs to stop sitting back and watching and get in the tape room and bury himself in new plays because UConn, with their glaring weakness, is more beatable then ever.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hardwood Fever

Hardwood fever is much more pleasant than yellow fever. The only known side effect is March Madness...zing!

Here are a few recent basketball columns from Suite 101.

The first is about the Virginia Tech Hokies and their recent victory over then number one Duke. Of course their subsequent loss to fellow bubble team Boston College left a damper on the occasion but they still have a very good shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Beating Clemson this week would help.

The other article is about problems in basketball today. The NBA has problems that aren't even related to the CBA expiring or players demanding trades. Meanwhile, college basketball is encountering difficulties I'm sure they never even considered years ago.

With the state of basketball these days, good thing MLB Spring Training is going on.