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Tuesday Morning Point Guard

December 24, 2003 Columns No Comments

Tuesday Morning Point Guard

by Dean Austin

Ah the wonders of TiVo. While the creeping crud visited last week and lingered this weekend I was able to queue up a number of important match ups. Took me a while to get through all of it, but finally caught up on my basketball. I also caught up on my West Wing, MI5, CSI, Without a Trace, Cold Case, Waking the Dead and Cambridge Spies. I even caught up a romantic comedy with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock but I don’t normally admit that in public.

Ahem… Anyway, I’m sure it is my imagination but there seem many more interesting match ups this year in the pre conference play.

Ten College Basketball Thoughts

1. The final score said Arizona 84-78 St. Mary’s but doesn’t beginning to tell the story of the game this past Wednesday. The Wildcats were in deep deep trouble until the final minute when a couple of turnovers and their experience unnerved the Gaels. Less than 3 minutes to go and the Gaels were up by 9, their biggest lead of the game. St. Mary’s sophomore forward Daniel Kickert was working well inside but was in foul trouble and yet inexcusably the Wildcats were not pounding the ball in to whomever he was marking. It ultimately came good for Arizona but a more experienced team would have punished the tactical error. Not the first Pac 10 team that St. Mary’s have scared this season, previously USC had escaped with a 1 point victory.

2. I’ve always liked Dick Vitale. Yes his enthusiasm is over the top and borders on the silly occasionally but here is a man that loves what he does every day. I never admired Vitale until I heard his speech at half time during the Jimmy V classic. No script, no notes, just an impassioned address concerning the battle against cancer and the work of the V Foundation for Cancer Research. A beautiful and touching speech. Check out the V Foundation for more information on how you can help.

3. Rick Barnes has a tough job on his hands at Texas. He has to find a way to get James Thomas back to a semblance of the top player he was last year. The Longhorns are one of the deepest teams in the country but have performed badly against Arizona and now Duke.

3a: Super freshman Luol Deng was sensational against Texas. Not on the score sheet although 12 points, 4 boards and 4 assists wasn’t bad. It was his presence. This is a kid that belongs and by March is going to be the main focus of the Blue Devils.

3b: I really like Duke, second best team I’ve seen so far this year.

3c: Arizona is the best.

4. One name that hasn’t surfaced yet in the St. John’s coaching search is Johnny Dawkins, an assistant with Duke. It should.

5. Saturday was a great day for hoops, Duke vs. Texas, Marquette vs. Wisconsin, Saint Joseph’s vs. Cal, Stanford vs. Gonzaga but for me the game of the day, possibly the year so far, was North Carolina vs. Wake Forest. Even without an injured Vytas Danelius, Slip Prosser’s Wake Forest squad was too much for the Tar Heels in the ACC debut of North Carolina Coach Roy Williams.

5a: I found Skip Prosser’s decision making in the overtime(s) somewhat strange. Freshman center Kyle Visser had been playing well for the Demon Deacons and yet did not play in the first two overtimes. Inserted in the third overtime I found it no surprise that Wake pulled away.

5b: I actually watched the game twice. The first I enjoyed the game but I noticed something about North Carolina’s Sean May and spent the second viewing watching May exclusively. What a Jekyll and Hyde type of player. There were times when Sophomore Center would dive on the floor, make excellent defensive plays and fight for position in the paint. And yet there were numerous occasions when he looked ponderous and uninterested making no effort to get involved as the Tar Heels went through their offense.

6. I know referees have a thankless task but the crew in the Marquette vs. Wisconsin game seemed to have an off day. Touch fouls called for no apparent reason while muggings drew no whistle. Neither team particularly benefited over the other but not one for the crew to put on their resume.

6a: Tom Crean’s Marquette club is in trouble if they don’t find a way to have someone other than Travis Diener step up. Diener is a terrific point guard but if you stop him you stop the Golden Eagles. Three assists and only 6-17 shooting told the story of Marquette’s defeat by Wisconsin.

7. Anyone else see Tim Hardaway when they watch Saint Joseph’s Jameer Nelson? Steve Nash is a great player in Dallas but I wonder if Don Nelson will pull a fast one in the draft and grab Jameer at the end of the first round.

8. Deng at Duke is good, Mustafa Shakur of Arizona is not bad, Leon Powe at Cal is a stud and Chris Paul at Wake Forest is exceptional. Yet the freshman who has caught my attention so far is Missouri’s 6’8 forward Linas Kleiza. His thirteen boards, five on the offense end, were so impressive in the Tigers’ loss at Gonzaga. Through five games, Kleiza is averaging a double double in points and rebounds.

9. Starting off my list of Top 10 Coaches we have Rick Pitino and Paul Hewitt. If I could hire one Coach to lead my program to greatness it would be Pitino. Louisville’s addition to the Big East is really going to shake up that league and give Pitino even more recruiting opportunities. Hewitt, whose Georgia Tech team has surprised so many this year, is the leading young gun of the next generation of great Coaches. St. John’s really missed the boat when they hired Mike Jarvis instead of Hewitt.

10. The game I’d pay money to see this week: Louisville vs. Kentucky. Pitino returns, Louisville at Kentucky, it doesn’t get much better than that. Kentucky brings a balanced attack with all five starters averaging over 10 points a game.

Five Non-College Basketball Sports thoughts

1. Look in the dictionary under “Greatness” and you’ll see Brett Favre’s performance last night against the Raiders. 22-30 for 399 yards doesn’t begin to tell the story of what Favre and his family have been through in the last 48 hours and the death of his father. I always thought Favre was a very good quarterback but had never considered him an all time great. I think he joined Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Bart Starr in the top 5 last night.

2. I admit it; I swore at the T.V. on Sunday. As that ridiculous Saints final play came to a conclusion I’m yelling No Way! Except there was an additional word in that sentence! What’s bizarre, and I can only tell you with my hand of my heart, is that I knew the Saints were going to miss the extra point. Yes I know that sounds silly, ridiculous, unbelievable and any other like word you’d care to throw at me. Can’t prove it either, but didn’t that sequence just epitomize everything that is the Saints franchise?

3. My kids play video games, more than they should. They also watch Chris Berman more than they should! So it should come as no surprise that whenever the Rams break a long touch down in Madden Football the kids are chanting “Marshall, Marshall, Marshall.”

4. Isiah Thomas now officially has more lives than a cat.

5. I honestly think Philadelphia’s loss against San Francisco may have cost them the Super Bowl. St. Louis with home field advantage on the carpet is a lot different than playing in Philly in January.

And a couple of Non-Sporting Thoughts

1. Movie time this week. While a vociferous reader, I’ve never been able to get into Lord of the Rings despite a couple of attempts. The grand fantasy epic just doesn’t do it for me; I much prefer the Spy and/or Thriller genre. Nonetheless my brother, who is a huge Tolkein fan, dragged me to the first movie and I enjoyed it. I didn’t get around to seeing the second one in the theatres so the release this week to Premium Channels allowed me to watch the first 6 hours of Peter Jackson’s amazing trilogy. I don’t think the word Epic does these films justice. This is movie making that will be talked about in 50 years. Now I’m all prepped for a post Christmas visit to the local mega-plex for the final installment.

2. And speaking of soundtracks… Howard Shore’s first two Lord of the Rings movie scores really are quite special. I’ve yet to pick up the third but it’s on the old Christmas list.

3. Speaking of which… I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Not Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings, but Merry Christmas. I even had someone wish me a Happy Festive Season the other day and wanted to throttle them. This is what I deplore about “diversity” and those that peddle it. I swear the extreme left wing is as dopy as the extreme right wing, something I never thought possible. We’ve become so worried about any implied or real offense that we’ve stopped actually being diverse and celebrating what makes each of us unique. I want my Jewish friends to wish me Happy Hanukkah, to be comfortable in their celebration; for those of my Black friends who celebrate Kwanzaa I want them to say it out loud and strong rather then whispered in apology. Heck, I want the Bhutanese to wish me Happy National Day (it’s on the 29th), the Slovenians to wish me Happy Independence Day (on the 26th.) and for Gov. Arnold to wish me Happy St. Stephen’s day (also on the 26th.) We are not diverse if we are afraid of who we are.

So please, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous and most importantly Safe New Year.


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