...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Programming note: TONIGHT ONLY, a liveblog of Pistons-Heat game five. DO NOT MISS a chance to see someone melt-down in semi-public (again)! MUST CLOSE TONIGHT.
An unsolicited but not unwelcome second offseason roundtable that I am waaaay late to can be found over at Burnt Orange Nation; answers to the questions posed can be found herein.
Which offseason story are you most tired of, and, on the flip side, interested in? (e.g. Reggie Bush's house, Jimmy Clausen, etc.)
I second everyone's Notre Dame fatigue. Buoyed by their almost-win against an almost-great team that fades considerably in the harsh light of things like that game against Fresno State and the Rose Bowl, Notre Dame has the right mix of hot oldness and hot newness to be thrust down the throats of ... er... nevermind. That sentence wasn't going anywhere my mother would approve. The point is: ND accomplished very little a year ago and does not deserve 10% of the tongue-bathing it's getting. Color me confused by the love for Brady Quinn -- what I saw when I watched ND was a spray passer who excelled against terrible defenses (and there were many of those) but confounded by anything with a pulse. The only thing keeping Michigan in the game last year was the fact that the only player on the field who looked worse than Henne was Quinn.
Let me not swing too far in the opposite direction: with Quinn's experience and a host of returning starters, Notre Dame should be in the lead pack of presumed NC contenders going into the most uncertain season in a decade or more. But can we stop pretending ND did much of anything last year?
The flipside: I love me some good scandal and relish the prospect of an apocalyptic swipe at the USC program that would suddenly give Michigan a victory in the '04 Rose Bowl. An implausible dream, but dreams are all we have left after that season.
Your head coach comes down with a mystery illness and has to step aside. You get to hand pick the replacement for the 2006 season. Who gets your vote?
Spurrier. Not only would Spurrier bring his frenetic offensive game, hilarious comments directed at opposing coaches, and visor, but he would probably cause noted anti-luxury-box crusader John Pollack's head to explode, Total Recall-style. I have nearly as much of a mancrush on Spurrier as the lads at EDSBS, and seeing phosphorus and water get together could be... wait for it... explosive. H!IKM*
*(Ha! I kill me!)
Lastly, we'll mix the football and the blogging together here. If you could have anyone switch allegiances and start covering your team, who you gonna pick?
This is actually a difficult question on pure quality grounds, as there are four or five bloggers out there who I count amongst my favorite writers period (If you have a blog and are reading this, yes, you are one of them. Hugz!). Perhaps we can narrow it down based on the specific needs of the Wolverine blogosphere.
- Ian from Sexy Results is out, since he has a near-doppleganger in Johnny from RBUAS, and that's a compliment to both.
- Stranko and Orson of EDSBS and House Rock Built are out, as Michigan bloggers already possess a blog full of hilarity in The MZone.
- Kyle King of Dawg Sports is out, as we would miss out on weeks of strangely entertaining intersectional sniping with Maize 'n' Brew about the proper place to put Northwestern in a totally fictional, totally implausibile total realignment of college football.
- Other Atlanta bloggers are out because Michigan already has one at Braves & Birds.
- Aaaand Syracuse's Matt Glaude (& co) are out, since Michigan already has a stat-obsessed engineery type prone to gibbering in the corner when things don't go his way.
Those blogs disposed of and many other blogs that cover their teams extremely well but would be largely redundant amidst the dozen or so Michi-blogs politely ruled out, there's one that stands out: Sunday Morning Quarterback. Matt Hinton, the pride of Southern Mississippi ever since Brett Favre turned into an ESPN soap opera, has the sort of prose knack that can keep you riveted to a preview about any one of D-IA's scrubbier members -- or, as he endeavors to do, all of them. Keeping up with my Bloglines account is sometimes a daunting task. Sometimes getting through all the information coming into it is a bit of a chore, but even after four days off and a hellacious number of posts to catch up to, I found SMQB worth lingering over. He's the Big Ten Wonk of college football and should be given gifts.
5/29/06 - Pistons 78-89 Heat - Heat lead 3-1
It's times like this when I wish I really knew basketball. I mean, I know that if you shoot from behind the line it's three points and you have to shoot within 24 seconds and all that stuff, but that level of knowledge is insufficient to explain what's going on in Miami. Watching the Pistons go down fairly helplessly in the last two games -- trailing the whole way, making one push that only serves to increase the pain of the loss -- would be somehow mitigated if I could whip out some obvious reasons. This is probably an after-effect from football season; in retrospect Michigan's losses were more tolerable when one could scream "ack! Pat Masssey." With the Pistons I am forced to shrug and blither, which is no fun at all.
I do know these things:
- Emotionally, I have turned against Flip Saunders something fierce. The ABC/ESPN coverage is wont to linger over the coaches' expressions after every play of consequence, and when they do Saunders gives off a very Bobby Williams-esque vibe. He appears pensive, biting his lip, probably thinking "God, I hope they don't fire me." By contrast, Riley looks like he's going to order a hit on the refs and Shandon Anderson, but not before he gets in some good Joe-Pesci-in-Casino bat action on them. This is where the knowledge would come in handy, as with it I could confirm or dis-confirm my emotional reaction.
- The Pistons are not in a shooting slump any more than the teams the Pistons faced when Carlisle and Brown found suddenly found themselves in a shooting slump. They're not getting quality shots -- no fast break points, lots of contested jumpers, seemingly all of them from Lindsey Hunter, and very few easy buckets at the rim. I don't know if it's the players or the coaching, but the offense has devolved into a one-on-one thing where the Pistons are often faced with an iso way away from the basket with the clock running down.
- Ben has not impacted the game and his free throw shooting has gone from atrocious to a war crime. He's hired an agent. He's offering snippy comments to the press. I need a hug.
- This does not feel like a series the Pistons can come back from.
That last comment is the most telling and disturbing. I hate this losing stuff on a variety of levels, but since people actually started reading this thing the worst part is having to sit down and not call for assassinations. I try to keep an artificially even keel when things are in progress but going badly; when the need for a post-mortem arises one shall be given. This is not that time. Yet.
4/27/06 - Pistons 83-98 Heat - Pistons down 2-1
I only just resisted titling this post "Is Flip Saunders An Idiot?" because it seems clear that a man who is paid more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes can't be all 'tard, but... there's a strong chance Flip Saunders is an idiot in some sense. If you did a Family Feud-style survey with the question "Who Is Going To Defend Dwyane Wade in the conference finals?" survey would say:
- What are you talking about? You want a mango? I am from France. (37)
- Um... I don't know his name, but probably the guy who looks like a heavily abused Stretch Armstrong doll? (34)
- Tayshaun Prince, you idiot. (31)
The third opinion would be given to you by anyone with even a smattering of NBA knowledge all the way up to, say, Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant, players of Wade's bionic shooting guard ilk who have run up against Stretch and who -- if not exactly stopped -- have been decently contained. Tayshaun is popularly regarded as the Kobe-Lebron-McGrady-Wade stopper, one of the few players in the league with both the size and the quickness to stop the NBA's unstoppable. Only an idiot or an expert would do anything other than stick Tayshaun on Wade and forget about it.
An expert? Si. A while ago, Bill Simmons sat down to talk/email($ -- archive) with writer, public intellectual, and spectacular jew-fro* possessor Malcolm Gladwell for his "Curious Guy" series. During this exchange the curious blindness of expertise was brought up during a discussion about -- you guessed it -- Isiah Thomas. Gladwell immodestly proposes that he would be a better GM than Thomas. He backs up his assertion like so:
So why do I think I would be better? There's a famous experiment done by a wonderful psychologist at Columbia University named Dan Goldstein. He goes to a class of American college students and asks them which city they think is bigger -- San Antonio or San Diego. The students are divided. Then he goes to an equivalent class of German college students and asks the same question. This time the class votes overwhelmingly for San Diego. The right answer? San Diego. So the Germans are smarter, at least on this question, than the American kids. But that's not because they know more about American geography. It's because they know less. They've never heard of San Antonio.
And now horrible, horrible San Antonio intrudes upon us once again whenever Dwyane Wade is astounded to find Tayshaun Prince guarding someone else.
In last year's conference finals, Dwyane Wade shot 44 percent and scored just under 24 points a game with Prince checking him every step of the way. That's good, though it was probably aided somewhat by Wade's rib injury. But Wade is a scary mofo who shot 48 percent from the field a year ago and 49.5 this year. If you can get 44 percent you take it and run. Go ahead, guess at Wade's shooting percentage through three games in the conference finals. No, that's too low. That's also too low. Just give up.
68.8 percent. Sixty-eight point eight.
Some of that is a fluke based on small sample size, but when Wade is pulling up for his uncontested WadeJumper(tm) he is not even troubled by Hamilton's presence. Riley is beating Saunders' head in with one simple adjustment: going big. With Antoine Walker and Udonis Haslem in the game, the Pistons line up Rasheed Wallace against Haslem, Prince against Walker, and Rip against Wade. Wade shoots 70 percent; Wallace's role on defense is to watch Haslem do nothing; Prince struggles against Walker like he does against most players who are 50 pounds heavier than him. None of this makes any sense. Gladwell sounds the bell for the sports fan who can't believe how... why... aaargh:
The point is that knowledge and the ability to make a good decision correlate only sporadically, and there are plenty of times when knowledge gets in the way of judgement.
It's a cold comfort.
*(I'm not sure if Gladwell is Jewish or not, but his hair damn well is.)
No column-type thing, as I have many things to say, all of them disjointed. Thus we resort to your standard "musings" or "thoughts" post. No doubt these are "random."
- One is inclined to like the concept of Dick Bavetta. He is an NBA referee at the ripe old age of seven hundred and forty-two. I'm sure somewhere in the Bible it says "And Bavetta begat Hastor." He's the definition of the word "spry," and it's always handy to have a platonic ideal wandering around in case you run into foreigners having difficulty with the langauge. Despite having all the aforementioned oldness about him, though, he makes calls with a simple, childlike enthusiasm. To translate Bavetta into sarcastic internet speak:
OMG OMG OMG Pistons ball out of bounds LOL.
This is all very entertaining.
- HOWEVER, when Cute Old NBA Referee and his merry band of travelling minstrels flash back to the days when there wasn't a no-charge circle under the net, ignore requests for timeout, or pretend to not notice James Posey getting very up-close-and-prison with Chauncey Billups in the waning moments of a game that's within two points because you ignored a request for a timeout, well, it is very annoying.
- The difference was night and day, but then we got quite a bit of night at the end again. What? Compare the Pistons offense from the waning days of the Cavs series and Game 1 with what we saw up until about the third quarter tonight. There's been quite a bit of debate about whether the Pistons were just missing open shots or if they weren't executing their offense as well. I think it's some of both, but with an emphasis on the latter. The Pistons sometimes get into funks where they stand around until the shot clock is down to about ten and then rely on a one-on-one play to score. Since they are not in possession of a Shaq, Wade, Lebron, or any of the other genetic lottery winners that can get something useful at a whim, this is extremely damaging. They require the movement, penetration, and kick stuff to get open shots.
- A side effect of not having a spectacular one-on-one player is that the Pistons seem to have major trouble when opponents switch all their screens, since it lures them into that iso-exploit-the-mismatch game that causes everyone to stand around, watching one guy work.
- 50% less crap... 50% less crap... so you only get a few sentences on Lindsey Hunter and his totally incorrect notion that he should be shooting contested threes with time on the shot clock. For that, Linsdey Hunter, you get this:
- His name is Prince and, as the turbaned man's Best Sign Ever said, he is funky. I don't have much add. I love Prince's quiet efficiency, his range, his swooping drives, and his ability to block everything from three-pointers to the entire Indiana Pacers franchise (seriously: from that moment on the team that seemed poised to dominate the East for five years has slumped to mediocrity). I also love that he reminds me of a pterodactyl.
(Does anyone have that picture somewhere? I desperately need it.)
- They are giving Ben the same respect they gave Jason Collins and are calling Shaq when he attepts to make pate out of Ben's jaw with his elbow. And as a result, Ben is doing a great job on Shaq, stats aside. Most of Shaq's points were off wide open dunks that other players created for him by forcing Ben to rotate. All night Shaq's hooks were six inches to a foot short because Ben had him juuuust that much out of his comfort zone. I have privately worried that Ben has been slipping and have had deeply panicked internal monologues about it: last night was soothing.
- We all know ESPN is violent death as a sports broadcast, but really, that awful camera angle with the sliding camera that's way too close to see the corners and at an angle in which you can't understand anyone's movement is beyond even my expectations for their stupidity. As King Kaufman always says, "show the game."
- Hubie Brown has no short-term memory. That is all.
Most annoying was the Posey stuff, since at any other time in the game he would have been called for a foul and everyone would have been like "yes, that is obviously a foul," but for some reason they got all NHL playoff ref on us.
Also, a note: the pregame/halftime guys annoy me even when I am fast-forwarding past them. (I have had to tape the Piston games the last two nights, as they are being shown simultaneously with Edmonton Oiler games and ESPN keeps telling me what the score is when I try to watch basketball first.)
Seeing someone wearing an OSU sweatshirt in the library is already an alarming experience akin to seeing an Amish elder in an arcade. You cannot use any of the objects in this building, so why are you here?
- To play Oregon Trail.
- To check out the free movies.
- To head to the kiddie section, pull up some porn, and yank it.
If you chose Door Number C, you are a very, very sick person. You're also absolutely correct:
It's official: I am worried that Flip Saunders is a regular season mirage and he is INFECTING the Pistons with his postseason MALAISE. (Awesome SYSTEM used for EMPHASIS a direct result of Chris RIX making me into a CHAMPION.) Why no the shooty straight? Why all the contested jumpers? Ach.
Update 5/24: Added MI OL Mike VanDerBergen, who has a profile with Michigan leading but still is without an offer -- looks like a make-or-break camp for him -- and OH S Diaunte Morrow. Moved Jerimy Finch to committed (sort of). Linked to article on OH CB Jordan Mabin -- much hype for a guy with only one real offer thus far. Linked to an article on CO WR Drew Davis and some Helmuth track exploits and Marshall Jones profile from Scout.
Editorial Opinion: Many people now have offers who I know nothing about. Marshall Jones, a big-shot safety recruit from Clausenville, previously mentioned a top three of USC, Michigan, and Tennessee but now seems like a safe bet to stay on the West Coast. There is a new, well-heeled suitor:
"I really like Oregon," said Jones, of Oaks Christian High School. "They offered a couple of months ago. I went up there for a visit with my teammate Mike Ebbit last month. The campus is really nice and their facilities are amazing. They're the nicest I've seen by far. The coaches are really cool. I've talked to Coach (Steve) Greatwood a few times and he said I have a good chance to play early there. I'm thinking about taking a couple more visits up there this summer."
Jones now lists a top five of Oregon, USC, Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan. As for Michigan:
"I'm looking at Michigan too. I don't know a lot about the program. I've talked to Coach (Ron) English. He said he's coming out here soon. I haven't been to see the campus yet. I think I'm going to take a visit out there this summer.
Still in it if he visits, but this seems like those guys from Texas on NCAA 2006 that list Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, SMU, and Baylor. Distance, as they say, is a factor.
Colorado wide receiver Drew Davis was very, very interested in Michigan at some point in the middle of his junior year when the sites had a couple articles about him, but Michigan hasn't come through with an offer yet and thus the interest has scaled back. Davis put on an impressive show at some combine or another and was deluged with Pac-10 and Big 12 offers as a result, but appears to be waiting it out:
"I have not really gotten that 'big school' offer I am waiting for," Davis said to Scout.com's Andrew Friedman. "I am looking forward to a USC or Michigan-type offer. Both those schools have told me that they don't like offering guys this early because usually when they offer this early, the kids will commit, and they need to make sure they are offering the right players. I totally understand that so I am being patient."
DE signee Greg Banks was a teammate of Davis.
When FB commit Vince Helmuth says "I trust him as far as I can throw him," he means it as a compliment:
Saline won four events at the River Rat meet, the discus, shot put, and the 400- and 800-meter relays. Vince Helmuth took first in the shot with a heave of 54-11, while the Hornet junior claimed first in the discus with a throw of 182-0.