Saturday, March 7, 2009

College GameDay In Morgantown

It's Louisville vs. West Virginia tonight on ESPN's College GameDay. Noffke, are you really not watching this? Religion puzzles me.

Here's my deal. The Big East is definitely great this year. Personally, I'll take the ACC top-echelon teams over those of the BE, but all in all it seems like a good year for all the power conferences in college basketball (except the SEC!). Everyone knows that Pittsburgh and UConn are locks for 1 or (at worst) 2 seeds, but this Louisville team is sort of the mystery squad of the elite. And if they win tonight in Morgantown, they get the regular-season Big East crown. For me, it all hinges on ultra-inconsistent NBA prospect Earl Clark.

Clark is so amazingly talented. He can make some killer passes, he is 6'9" with a monster wingspan, he can shoot and crash the boards. But sometimes, he just disappears. Terrence Williams is a rock solid player for Pitino, for sure. But for me, whether this team goes deep or not depends on the play of Earl. And you just never know whether he will decide to play big or not on any given night.

Meanwhile, Bob Huggins' West Virginia squad features probable Big East ROY Devin Ebanks, who used to be an Indiana University commit under Kelvin "Text Me Baby!" Sampson. I love watching Huggy Bear coach. I also love watching Pitino coach. This is a definite showcase for those of us who feel like the Big Ten is the land of the best in CBB coaching - other conferences feature great coaches, too. Just to be fair.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited for this one. Jacksonville vs. East Tennessee State was a terrible game, basically unwatchable, so that was a big letdown. I'll be flipping back and forth between this game and the OVC Championship (OVC: Land of Perennial First Round Loser Austin Peay) on ESPN2. Hopefully at least one of these two will be entertaining.

Not to pick a side, but Go Mountaineers! Gotta represent the Pittsnogle Legacy. And I guess I'll take Austin Peay over the humorously named Morehead State.

UPDATE: The Big East is giving us a killer game. Louisville leads 32-29 at halftime on the strength of four Terrence Williams three pointers. He is looking pretty much unstoppable. Williams also had a gorgeous jam in transition. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, are showing off some pretty passing to the interior and are getting easy layups against the Cards big men. Very entertaining game.

Jerry West on who should be College Basketball's logo (West is the NBA 'logo'): "Maybe Bobby Knight, throwing the chair?"

UPDATE II: Well, it looks like the Ohio Valley Conference ain't no slouch, either. Morehead State and Austin Peay (with their rousing chant, "Let's Go Peay!" - sounds urgent) were tied at 55 all when Kenneth Faried laid down an alley oop jam for Morehead with 6.7 seconds left. And now?! Caleb Brown of Austin Peay ties it off glass as time expires! Huge. This one is going to overtime. Tim Welsh and Lou Canellis have the call on ESPN2. Both teams have big time players, notably Faried and Leon Buchannan for MSU. Who will get to battle a 2 seed next week? Stay tuned.

UPDATE III: Double OT in the O.V.C. 63-63. Louisville-WVU is within a few points. This is great.

IV: Well, Morehead State is dancing. Freshman Steve Peterson hit the winning shot, his only score of the game, with less than two seconds left. Meanwhile, West Virginia has taken the lead on Louisville, despite leading scorer and sole senior Alex Ruoff being held scoreless and tied to the bench with foul trouble for most of the game.

So far, we've got Cornell, Radford, East Tennessee State, and Morehead State in the tourney. I don't see any of these teams as higher than a 14, but I predict that at least one of them (probably Radford - that Art guy is really good) will give someone a scare in the first round.

V: Well, Louisville wins 62-59, despite West Virginia having one final last-gasp shot. Ruoff was held scoreless throughout. Terrence Williams had a huge game. Louisville goes into the Big East tournament as the #1 seed, ahead of Pittsburgh and Connecticut. What a tournament that is going to be. I'm signing out for the night. These next two weeks are going to be freakin' awesome.

The Madness Begins

Welcome to March, ladies and gentlemen! Yes, yes, I know, technically I'm seven days late. Whatever. I just got off work, it's a beautiful (if a bit windy) Saturday in B-Town, and the midmajor conference tourney championships are ON!

I gotta say, I love these games. Right now, its VMI (Virginia Military Institute) vs. Radford in the Big South final. Next up is East Tennessee State vs. Jacksonville for the A-Sun title. The next time we see any of these teams, it will be as overmatched 14 and 15 seeds in the Big Dance!

Nothing is sweeter than being able to talk semi-knowledgably about, say, Radford's Art Parakhouski, a 6'11" center from Belarus who according to ESPN 'couldn't speak a lick of English' just a few years ago. He has 26 and 18 tonight and looks like a beast. (Pictured here) Radford just cracked 100 points on its way to just its second NCAA tourney appearance ever. This is the highest scoring Big South game in championship history.

Andy Katz has a good nutshell breakdown of the mid-major tourneys here., Ken Pomeroy's comprehensive stat-head site, is a great resource.

There is just a ton of action today. Michigan beat Minnesota 67-64 to stick the Golden Gophers firmly on the bubble. And Iowa downed Penn State. The Big Ten is just a bubblicious mess right now. Tomorrow's Northwestern vs. Ohio State game (in Columbus) is just huge for the Wildcats. I don't want to say too much about this game and jinx it, but I am definitely on high alert. Thanks to my mom for this link.

You can see a Top 25 scoreboard here. Check out how many teams are in action. It's madness!

Okay. I'm ready to enjoy E. Tenn. St. vs Jacksonville. Bracketology has Jax in as a 15 seed, but East Tennessee State is leading by eleven early.

Oh, and by the way. Pitt sweeps UConn on the season, winning 70-60 today. They are looking like the favorite for the #1 overall seed now. I'm still going with North Carolina to win it all. Surprise, surprise!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Weekend Watch (03/06/09)

First off I know I know I know. I keep promising to put up a big new article and I keep not doing it. I have it done, I just need to give it the final look over. The piece requires that it be done more professional then my typical writing style. My apologies. I promise it will be up Saturday around mid day.

On to the weekend watch!

All Weekend (Heck all next week too): Conference Tournaments.

I debated about putting this in separate for each day but I thought about it. I have no idea which conference tournament games I am going to watch. That’s the great thing about March; you can just flip around and find exciting games everywhere even if you have no connection to the teams. I will try and catch most of the Horizon and MVC games this weekend.

Who I want to Win:
Horizon: VALPO
MVC: Southern Illinois University

Who I think will Win:
Horizon: Butler
MVC: Creighton


Milwaukee at Chicago Bulls: 8:30 ET CSN

Chicago welcomes back former coach (who they are still paying by the way) back to the United Center. The Bulls are currently trailing the Bucks by 1 game in the win column but have 1 fewer loss as these two teams are fighting for the last spot of the playoffs. A win tonight for either team could be the deciding factor of who wins the right to get dominated by the Celtic or the LeBrons

Cleveland Cavs @ Boston Celtics: 8 ET ESPN

Look my Cleveland bet is already paying off! There is no way I would care about this game without placing that bet on Cleveland. (Why, NBA regular season is dumb. 82 games that doesn’t even eliminate half the teams is dumb) If Cleveland wins they will be two games up in the race for the one seed in the East, and they have only lost 1 time in Cleveland this year. So go LeBrons

Who I want to Win: The LeBrons
Who I think will Win: Celtics

World Baseball Classic: 10:30 ET ESPN2

Not too much competing for my interest tonight so yeah I’ll probably tune in to watch the WBC. I do always enjoy events with nations competing against each other (See Moment 7) so I will not watch the WBC religiously, but I will probably watch my fair share of it and most of the semifinals and championship games.


College Gameday: 11 ET ESPN

I know I know I sound like a broken record. But I still plan on watching College Gameday. Live from Morgantown West Virginia this week for the #6 Louisville at West Virginia game.

My question is why are they in West Virginia and not Pittsburgh? I mean I understand they have this big show put together where the sit on the arena floor while students fill into the stands and the marching band plays. The Pitt game is at 12 ET so sitting on the floor is probably out of the question, but that shouldn’t be the reason not to do that game. I also understand ESPN wants to hype it’s own product, “ville @ WVU on ESPN while UConn @ Pitt is CBS. But Gameday for football (most the time) goes to what they feel is the biggest game of the week regardless of start time and station. Why couldn’t the basketball guys set up in a lobby or even outside for this game. The shows only an hour they can bring heaters. This is a terrible decision by ESPN trying to hype up there own product

#1 UConn @ #4 Pitt: 12 ET CBS

The revolving door of #1 teams continues (remember earlier in the year when people were predicting UNC to go undefeated) with UConn back on top (and on top of Women’s as well). The Zoo will being going nuts for this show down which could make it tough for UConn to come in and win. It should be a good slug it out game.

Who I want to Win: Pittsburgh
Who I think will Win: With the Zoo going nuts Pittsburgh in a close one.


#20 Purdue @ #8 Michigan State 12 ET CBS

Purdue has been so up and down this season it’s hard to tell which team will show up week to week. A lot of people have been saying these two teams won’t do well in the tournament, but I actually think these two teams are Elite Eight material if not better then that. They game will probably be boring to Pac-10 or ACC fans. But both teams play solid Defense even if there scoring comes and goes.

Who I want to Win: Michigan State
Who I think will Win: Michigan State

#7 Duke at #2 North Carolina: 4 ET CBS

The ESPN chip in my brain is telling me I have to watch it or I will die. I think I’m going to risk death.

Who I want to Win: UNC
Who I think will Win: UNC

#19 Clemson @ #10 Wake Forest: 6 ET CBS

This is why I love March. In the start of this column I said I was going to watch a whole bunch of college conference tournament games; and then through the rest of the column I just talk about other CBB I’m going to watch on top of it. I’ll say it again I LOVE MARCH.

Who I want to Win: Clemson
Who I think will Win: Wake Forest

Indiana at Wisconsin: 7 ET BTN

Well in less a miracle happens this will be the last time Indiana will play on a weekend this season. It’s been a rough one for the Hoosier faithful but it’s almost over.
Who I want to Win: IU
Who I think will Win: Wisconsin

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Northwestern Beats Purdue!! (And more CBB)

Whoah! I didn't have much hope of coming home to a headline like this tonight. The Wildcats went into Lafayette and ruined Purdue's Senior Night 64-61, getting revenge for the teams' first matchup in Evanston, which the Boilers won by an almost identical 63-61 score. 'Cats are now 17-11 (8-9) with one game left at Ohio State before the Big Ten Tourney.

Bubble? I don't think there can be much doubt. This team has beaten Florida State, Ohio State (home), Michigan State (road), and now Purdue (road), as well as Minnesota when they were ranked. That's a pretty darn good resume.

In other news, I went to the Indiana vs. Michigan State game last night, another five dollar bargain home game (thank you, AD Fred Glass!!). The kids hung tough, despite losing leading scorer Devan Dumes in the early minutes of the game and having to play Brett Finkelmeier (note: look at that picture. Hah!) for seventeen agonizing minutes of bogged-down offense.

Athough the walk-on did a good job on defense, I seriously think we scored maybe twice the entire time he was in the game. It was so hard to watch. Here we were, hanging right in there with the best team in the Big Ten, and we literally couldn't run a play or score for half the game! Let's move on.

Verdell Jones played well, so did Nick Williams and Malik Story. I delivered pizza to Jones and Kellen Lewis tonight. In a row. Weird, huh?

IU trailed by only a deuce with less than a minute left after Williams, my favorite Hoosier frosh, buried a baseline three. But Raymar Morgan had a disgustingly awesome putback dunk that pretty much sealed it, ruining an excellent Indiana defensive stand. Senior Night was a nice tribute to Kyle Taber as well as the senior cheerleaders and band members. Highlights here.

On a tangent, have you ever wondered what happened to your favorite college basketball players?

Great New York Times article on one of my favorite guys, West Virginia's Kevin Pitsnogle, here.

List of former CBB stars playing overseas here. Khalid El-Amin is in the Ukraine these days! And Bracey Wright is, I hope, riding the pine in Greece.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Here Come the Hawks!

Just got two tickets (Section 217 Row 4) to the Blackhawks vs Ducks game tonight. I will have a full recap of the sights and sounds of the game tonight or tomorrow. GO HAWKS!


The Hawks game was phenomenal last night. Whole night was just great. I started out at a happy hour at Cactus Bar and Grill in the Loop. (Having one of the coolest web addresses around and yes it’s right by the board of trade). Great deal 5 dollar pitchers of Miller, Blue Moon and St. Pauli Girl. Bulls game came on around 6. Just looked depressing, no effort by either team and the stadium looked maybe 1/6 full.

After enjoying few pitchers, Jamie picked me up and we drove to the stadium. I threw on my Toews jersey which made its inaugural trip to the Untied Center (Jamie had hers on as well so we were twins, how cute I know) We walked in the stadium while they were singing the national anthem. I was a little bummed cause that is one of my favorite parts of the Hawks game and a really cool tradition. We grabbed some food and drinks and got to our seats. We missed about 3 minutes of action, but the Blackhawks scored in the 1st minute. That was a bummer.

Our seats were literally next to the cameras. We were just to the left of center ice in the 200 level. Best thing about 200 level is they bring food and drinks to you. So I opened a tab and got some beer. I did laugh that I was paying 6 something for a cup of Miller Lite in the United Center when not an hour earlier I was paying 5 for a pitcher. Our server was a real nice guy and I noticed he was wearing a really big ring, I was thinking this is some kind of championship ring. He showed me his hand and 1959 AL Championship ring. That was awesome.

Alright so back to the game; The Blackhawks played great in the first adding another goal on the breakaway. It was a 3 on 1 breakaway and everyone got on their feet in anticipation and it paid off. Hawks up 2-0 early. I have to say. I do love the Hawks horn and song for when they score goals this year.

The second period rolled around and Hawks did not look that good. Powerplay was slow and scoring chances were hard to come by. Even when we had good looks Giguere Giguerre made some good saves (34 on the night). The Hawks defense and Huet each made mistakes that allowed the Ducks to come back and tie it.

Third period came and went with neither team being effective. So the game went into overtime. Two minutes into the overtime Marty Havlat got the puck on a breakaway, with two Ducks defenders bearing down on him. Once again the crowd rose to their feet in anticipation. The defender bumped havalat and knocked the puck off his stick while Marty was crossing across the middle. I thought, our opportunity was lost, but no, Marty adjusted from the hit, kicked the puck back to his stick and went over Giguere’s left shoulder for the game winning goal. (Here’s a clip of how it looked from the upper deck, can’t see him kick it back to the stick, but you can see how the UC reacted).

Fantastic game and I look forward to being back next Wed.

TJ Heading West

Bad news for the Bears, good news for the Seahawks.

I bet the happiest man in Seattle right now is Matt Hasselback. According to this TJ Houshmandzadeh article, he has decided to head west and is signing with the Seattle Seahawks. This is a solid pickup for a team that was demolished by injury at wide receiver last year. Lining him up with Deion Branch makes their WR core one that needs to be reckoned with.

This move strengthens the teams biggest weakness from last year, but they still have some holes to fill. They still need some help at D-line as well as some help at running back. As we all know, the NFC West was down last year so Seattle returning to the playoffs doesn’t seem unlikely. Arizona should be just as good as last year, but if they lose Warner they might fall off some going to Leinart. If Warner ends up in San Francisco he could really help a team in need of a QB, but if he doesn’t they will still need one before they become a solid contender. St. Louis is still in rebuilding mode.

Seattle has a new coach in Jim Mora Jr running the show now, and making the playoffs should be a realistic objective for this team. The question marks mentioned above about teams in their division should allow for a few easy wins helping them get a wild card if they can’t get the division outright.

I think this was an excellent pick up for the team and expect them to do well next year.