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Tuesday Morning Point Guard 8

January 6, 2004 Columns No Comments


Tuesday Morning Point Guard

by Dean Austin

A column this week that is written before the Hall of Fame announcements. It’s possible that I will be surprised and that those I believe are equally deserving will get in, but it looks like only Eckersley and Molitor make it this year.

Ten College Basketball Thoughts

1. “There has been a major upset in the top 25.” So was the statement made as Belmont knocked off Missouri. Upset; certainly. Major? No not really.

2. The TMPG Kiss of Death was in full force this week. Having commented about LSU and their undefeated nature in last week’s column it should come as no surprise that they immediately went down to defeat at Houston. Alumni of schools looking for a guaranteed win against a hated rival should let me know which school they wished praised and make checks payable to…

3. I’ve watched literally dozens of games so far this season and I’ve yet to see a poorer contest, especially in the first half, than Kentucky vs. North Carolina this past Saturday. It was poorly played, poorly executed and an all around poor excuse from two programs that have national title aspirations.

3a: Only Kentucky’s Erik Daniels redeemed himself in the second half.

4. It is becoming fairly obvious that the problem in Chapel Hill wasn’t Coach Matt Doherty, but a group of underclassmen who are talented individuals without any team fundamentals. I loved that Coach Roy Williams sat down his starting five early in the game against Kentucky, presumably for lack of hustle. If, and it’s a big if, Coach Williams can get anything out of this team it will one of the better coaching jobs of the year. The Tar Heels are burdened with unrealistic expectations and it will take a couple of years of Coach Williams’ style recruits to meet those expectations.

5. Don’t look now but the Beast of Westwood is starting to awake. It will probably take a couple of seasons for the Bruins to become relevant in the national picture, but the 81-74 defeat of Oregon was a nice start. The Ducks have owned UCLA for the past couple of years. Now if they could stop losing to the likes of UC Santa Barbara.

6. When I said last week that Texas vs. Providence was the game of the week I’d pay to see I had no idea just what a crazy game it would be. Forget the overtime, the last shot controversy and the ultimate Texas victory this game should have been over in the first half. Texas was blowing out the Friars in a serious way. I generally don’t take notes when watching a game, it messes up the flow for me – and to me sporting events are all about momentum and flow, you miss that if you are taking notes in person or while using a VCR/TiVo – but Providence didn’t score a field goal in at least the first 14 minutes of the game, were down by at least 20 and had no business being just down by 8 at half time. The turn around was Coach Tim Welsh bringing back Ryan Gomes in the first half when the junior was in foul trouble and the use of full court pressure which emphasized that Texas desperately misses departed point guard T.J. Ford. With Ford this Longhorn team had a shot at the National Championship this year, without him they are an upset candidate for the NCAA tournament especially if they get matched against someone like Air Force.

7. I see that whoever was voting for Saint Joseph’s number #1 in the ESPN/USA Today poll has now decided to go with someone else. Obviously it was all the defeats the Hawks had this past week! I love pollsters with backbone. If you think Saint Joseph’s are number #1 then stick with it.

8. As I feared Saint Joseph’s are well on their way to being the official over ranked East Coast team this year. Coach Phil Martelli’s squad is undefeated, sitting on top of the RPI rankings and being projected as a #3 seed in the tournament by bracketologists such as Joe Lunardi. I say feared because it is a nice team, Jameer Nelson is currently my pick for player of the year, but the expectations are going to become ridiculous. Give this team a #6 or #7 seed and watch them make a nice run to the sweet sixteen. Burden them with a #3 seed or higher and watch them get upset early.

8a: I love the work that Lunardi does; he has an understanding of the machinations of the selection committee that knows no rival.

9. Joining Bob Knight, Lute Olsen, Rick Pitino and Paul Hewitt on my Top 10 list of coaches are Duke’s Coach K, Mike Krzyzewski and Stanford’s Mike Montgomery. It wasn’t that long ago that Stanford was an afterthought in Pac 10 basketball. The quality recruited, under exacting academic standards, is probably the most impressive performance in all of college basketball. Meanwhile Duke and Krzyzewski are the gold standard for every other program in the nation. The Blue Devils should be the favorite to win it all in 2005, and have the ability to do it this year as well.

10. Game I’d pay to see this week. This one is easy, it’s Connecticut vs. Oklahoma. I caught Sooners Coach Kelvin Sampson talking the other day, possibly on ESPN, saying that his team wasn’t as good as their record. We shall see.

Five Non-College Basketball Sports thoughts

1. Baseball Hall of Fame time. If they offered me a vote, I’d start with Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pete Rose and Ed Cicotte which come to think of it is probably why they wouldn’t give me a vote, HOF voting eligibility rules not withstanding. Rose and Jackson’s stories are well documented although debate still rages as to whether Shoeless Joe was involved in the Black Sox fix. With Cicotte there is no argument, he admitted his complicity but remains the best pitcher not in the Hall. I’ve always believed that Cicotte is the reason Jackson has never been reinstated. If you let in one, you really have to let in both.

1a: Dealing with more modern players I find in incomprehensible that Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter are not in the Hall. These were the premier relievers of their generation. Similarly Ryan Sandberg was by far and away the best 2nd baseman of his generation. That to me, were they the best of their generation, is the primary criteria for Hall of Fame induction. It’s why Dale Murphy, even with a .265 career batting average, is someone who should get serious consideration. For a half a dozen years, starting in the early 80’s Murphy was the outfielder in Major League Baseball.

2. My prediction of a Packers win notwithstanding, I was actively rooting against Green Bay in overtime against the Seahawks. It had nothing to do with either team, but rather after Carolina beat Dallas I was faced with the ultimate Austin household nightmare; a Green Bay victory would set up a game against Philadelphia. Sure in your household that probably isn’t a problem but in mine I’ve got one kid who supports Green Bay and you guessed it, the other son supports the Eagles. Cheetos and Cola at 10 paces will be the least of my worries!

3. Here’s what the BCS farce did to one College Football fan. I usually watch at least a half a dozen bowls each year. This year I caught a few minutes of USC vs. Michigan and didn’t even realize that LSU vs. Oklahoma was on Sunday night. Literally I couldn’t be fussed and this from someone who watches all of both days of the NFL draft – literally the powers that be managed to completely unhook me from the bowls.

4. Given a choice I’d take USC as the National Champion. That being said Nick Saban has done a masterful job at LSU. It will never happen but I’d love to see a game in two weeks between USC and LSU. The best two defenses in college ball would be fun to watch.

5. What a great blockbuster trade in the NBA. Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway for Antonio McDyess, Charlie Ward, Howard Eisley, a lifetime TiVo subscription, three bags of dog food and a $1.99 burger. The general analysis is that this is Marbury and subsequent run at the playoffs for the Knicks in exchange for cap room for the Suns. I beg to differ. In Maciej Lampe and the rights to Milos Vujanic the Suns may have acquired two building blocks that will see the Suns become the new power in the West. Certainly the cap room gives them a shot at Kobe or another significant free agent, but the two Europeans and a couple of first round draft picks make this a deal that Phoenix will point to in 5 years time as the one that gave them an NBA Championship.

5a: Given the propensity for Colangelo to run out of town any players that run afoul of the law I’m a little surprised at the Kobe link.

And a couple of Non-Sporting Thoughts

1. Speaking of James Bond, for those of you paying attention from last week, I’ve seen just about every kind of Monopoly set except 007. Paging Parker Brothers…

2. And speaking of Soundtracks… Given my obvious enjoyment of pulsating soundtracks from the likes of Hans Zimmer, John Barry and Klaus Badelt it may surprise you to learn that this week’s recommendation is James Horner’s beautifully haunting score to A Beautiful Mind. Given my enjoyment of Horner’s Enemy at the Gates, maybe I should have picked this one up earlier. Ron Howard’s movie is not one I’ve seen, given a choice I watch Oklahoma State vs. SMU but will have to get TiVo into action on that one.

3. Anyone else think that Russell Crowe as Richard Burton and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elizabeth Taylor would be the perfect casting for any movie about their amazing life?

     

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