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The Tuesday Morning Point Guard

December 9, 2003 Columns No Comments


Tuesday Morning Point Guard – December 9th, 2003

by Dean Austin

Another crazy week, another No. 1 team bites the dust. All good stuff early this season.

Ten College Basketball Thoughts

1. You know if Bobby Knight was dead he would be rolling in his grave after Indiana let a 39-26 half time lead evaporate against the highly rated Missouri Tigers. Coach Mike Davis has been recruiting exceptionally well but it just isn’t translating onto the court. Four days earlier a 100-67 waxing by Wake Forest was a complete embarrassment to a University spoiled by Knight’s constant success. Five games into the season and I see buzzards already circling. Davis probably needs to go 4-2 over the next six games to have a chance at better than .500 this season given the strength of the Big 10.

2. A loss is a loss and there really is no good thing as a good loss. However Michigan State’s overtime reversal 80-77 to Oklahoma might be as close as we get to the mythical good loss. As I’ve commented previously it’s a brutal early season jaunt that Coach Tom Izzo has scheduled for his Spartans and it has yet to end. Kentucky and UCLA are upcoming on successive Saturdays. That being said no team in the nation has faced as much high level competition as Michigan State. Yes they’ve lost to Kansas, Duke and Oklahoma but smart Coaches work on this part of the season to figure out what permutations will help win games in March. Izzo has so much talent on the roster; I really think these games have helped. Now they need to win one of them prior to the Big 10 season.

2a: I haven’t backed off my pre season prediction as much as it looks crazy at 3-3. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion this Spartan team comes spectacularly good at the end of the year.

3. Given that Cardinal Coach Mike Montgomery always has his team ready to play I was not surprised that the Kansas Jayhawks lost to Stanford on their trip west. What absolutely floored me was that Stanford won on 17-52 shooting, a measly .327 effectiveness. To put that in perspective even when Stanford lost last year against Oregon and North Carolina they still shot better and haven’t shot that badly for at least 18 months.

4. As the ticker rolled by the other day I honestly thought that Pittsburgh 39-11 Penn State was a football score until I realized that this was the half time score of a game played at Pitt. Kudos to the Nittany Lions for having the pride to “win” the second half 26-25, but it still made for an ugly 64-37 Panther win. It speaks volumes that this is the second time in less than a year that a Penn State team scored 11 points in the first half, the first coming last January against Michigan State.

5. Having completely hexed the Cal program I thought I would move on to Purdue and anoint them with the TMPG Kiss of Death. I’ve been impressed with the consistency of the Boilermakers start to the season. No huge blow outs, no nail biting finishes, doesn’t matter whether the games are home or away. Purdue’s average victory has been a shade under 14 points in their first 6 games, their biggest by 18, their smallest over Duke was by 10.

6. One team that has flown completely under the radar is Auburn, and I’m not exactly sure why. Certainly the Tigers lost Marquis Daniels from last year’s squad but this is a very experienced Senior and Junior led group that Coach Cliff Ellis has humming along rather nicely. Eight players average at least 18 minutes. Baring an upset at UNLV this team could be undefeated going into an early January contest with Vanderbilt.

7. Speaking of Vanderbilt, nice to see them nibbling at the foot of the Hoopville Top 25 at number 26. Possibly the only team that can compare to Gonzaga in getting completely hosed by the NCAA committee in recent years I have an admitted soft spot for the Commodores. Senior forward Matt Freije is averaging 21 points and almost 8 boards a game. In previous years it would be something special to beat both Indiana and Michigan at the start of the season. This year it doesn’t mean as much but it’s a good start for a team universally picked to prop up the cellar of the SEC East.

8. I really like what Gonzaga have done with their early season scheduling. Playing St. Joseph’s in their first game was a risk, and judging by the polls they were overly punished for it. However the lack of respect that the program has received these past five or six years from the NCAA selection committee means that Mark Few’s crew (say that fast six times) has to travel back East and make some noise. A comprehensive 14 point defeat of Maryland in Maryland is a good way to start. I’ll be stunned if the Zags don’t “upset” Missouri on Saturday.

9. Joining Missouri on my all over hyped team at the moment is Illinois. As with the Tigers I just don’t see how the Illini rate their high ranking. Losing your Coach, playing well in defeat to North Carolina and winning against two programs with reputations, Temple and Arkansas somehow translates into a Top 20 position. I just don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, I like Dee Brown, Deron Williams and James Augustine but at some point you have to do it on the court.

10. The game I’d pay money to see this week? Oklahoma vs. Purdue. Both Top 10 teams in my mind I’ll be interested to see how well Purdue travels and how Oklahoma reacts to that emotional win over Michigan State.

Five Non-College Basketball Sports thoughts

1. Where to start with the BCS? A system whose only reason for being, let me repeat that, only reason for being is to set up a National Championship between the nation’s two best teams manages to not invite the #1 team in the land, USC. How about, if you don’t win your conference you shouldn’t be playing for the National Championship? And this is not the first time that this has happened. Didn’t another Pac 10 team, Oregon, end up 2nd in the polls a couple of years ago and a Nebraska team that had been thumped in the Big 12 Championship also went to the BCS Championship game?

1a: Then again the traditionalist in my kind of likes USC vs. Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

2. I was watching the LSU vs. Georgia game. I was suitably impressed with LSU but was very disappointed with the Georgia defense. Time and time again, and this from a Top 10 ranked defense, I saw the Georgia players making arm tackles and/or trying to tackle high. As my old Rugby coach used to say, “Son, there ain’t anyone in the world who can run without their legs.”

3. Advantage Yankees. Days after Curt Schilling joined the Red Sox the Yankees scored an absolute coup by snagging Javier Vazquez from Montreal. Probably the most under appreciated Top 10 pitcher in all of baseball, courtesy of playing in Canada, Vasquez is the single most significant pick up of the off season, even if the Red Sox go out and get A-Rod.

3a: A-Rod is cool, Schilling too but the Red Sox now need another starter. Maybe trading Nomar gets them a quality arm from the West coast. I also think the Red Sox should look long and hard at grabbing Rich Aurilia, now an ex San Francisco Giants, and playing him at 3rd. Excellent defense plus decent pop in his bat is a useful combination.

4. Contrary thought in a season where all the best teams are obviously in the AFC. Do Kansas City, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Baltimore and New England beat each up and the NFC’s one great team, Philadelphia, coasts through the playoffs and ambushes the AFC survivor? That’s my pick as we trundle towards week 15.

5. NFL MVP? Manning and McNair are the trendy picks but for me no one is playing better or means more to their team than Ray Lewis. Without him Baltimore is nowhere near the playoffs.

And a couple of Non-Sporting Thoughts

1. Finally got a chance to see the Recruit this week. The brilliant Al Pacino doing his wild eyed thing as per normal and Colin Farrell showing why he is one of the hottest young actors in Hollywood. What scares me is all the reviews I read talked about a convoluted plot that was difficult to follow. An intricate plot for sure, but logical and well conceived. Worth grabbing it on the old TiVo.

1a: I was interested to see that the soundtrack to The Recruit was by Klaus Badelt, the Hans Zimmer protege who was so brilliant with his Pirates of the Caribbean work. Alas a rather so-so attempt.

2. Speaking of Soundtracks… My pushing around of Dances with Wolves got me looking into the old John Barry Bond music. Such brilliant brass work and glorious strings, his main themes and incidental music of the early Bond movies are something everyone should own. I could listen to From Russia with Love and Thunderball endlessly.

3. So you say you are a fan of CSI and Cold Case? For a show that combines the best of both and runs 2 hours as well, check out Waking the Dead on BBC America. An excellent cast headed by veteran British Television presence Trevor Eve, this show has some of the best stories on all of television.

Look for a new Power Poll on Thursday

     

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