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Tuesday Morning Point Guard

March 2, 2004 Columns No Comments


Tuesday Morning Point Guard

by Dean Austin

One of the amusing things about writing a column is the lack of immediacy even in this instant gratification internet world. It still takes time to post and Sunday is the best day to write it. I can react to Akron knocking off Kent State – if Kent State wins the MAC Championship and beats Western Michigan in the final both teams go, but if it is the other way around, I think the MAC only sends one team this year – or Syracuse knocking off Pittsburgh. But sometimes the filing deadline is just the wrong side of a Duke – Florida State match up or the Oscars…

So I’m picking Duke, Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Tim Robbins, Renee Zellweger, Peter Jackson, and Lord of the Rings. But I really want Johnny Depp to win. How did I do, 5 out of 7?

Ten College Basketball Thoughts

1. Is it just me or is Gonzaga really flying under the radar even while ranked No. 5 in the Hoopville top No. 25? All the focus has been on Stanford and Saint Joseph’s, which is understandable, but the rhetoric about the Zags has been deafening in its silence. This is a team that just went 14-0 in conference a feat that, even in the media darling years, it never accomplished.

2. All the pieces are coming together for the first No. 16 upset of a No. 1 seed. Don’t get me wrong, Jameer Nelson is easily the player of the year in college basketball and Saint Joseph’s have more than just him, Delonte West in particular, but essentially you have a team ranked No. 16 in pre-season that beat Gonzaga the first game of the year and has beaten no significant national team since. Yes the Hawks have yet to lose and yes they beat Cal, but the Bears have been poor this year and the only other good team on the schedule is Dayton. If as expected Saint Joseph’s go undefeated in the regular season, it will be a marvelous feat and one that will generate justified accolades for Phil Martelli’s team. However a scenario where Nelson gets into foul trouble against a well coached No. 16 seed, say Homer Drew over at Valparaiso or Winthrop makes it out of the Big South and the Eagles Tyrone Walker goes off from 3 point land. Unlikely of course but for the first time in a long time this is now within the realms of possibility.

3. I’ve mentioned before how much I admire the work of Joe Lunardi over on espn.com. The NCAA’s bizarre decision to mix and match the regional sites has made his bracket projections much more difficult, but he’s normally right on when it comes to the teams involved. His projected East Bracket this past week was the most loaded I’ve ever seen. With Saint Joseph’s No. 1 there were nine teams in the projected regional that I would make a favorite against the Hawks; No. 2 Connecticut, No. 3 Mississippi State, No. 4 Memphis, No. 5 Georgia Tech, No. 6 Louisville, No. 7 Arizona, No. 9 Georgia, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 11 Oklahoma.

4. All things being equal, and of course they never are, but all things being equal Stanford goes up to Pullman and hangs at 20 point loss on Washington State. The Cardinal have scored a minimum of 60 points in every game they have played this year but have had a number of halves were they scored in the 20’s. Styles make games. Can Cougar Coach Dick Bennett pull out his bag of tricks and keep this one in the 50’s?

5. Looks like folks are hoping on the Illinois bandwagon as the Fighting Illini have won eight in a row stretching back to the end of January. Please! It’s like being voted best looking on radio. It’s all about context people. Beating up on the Big 10 isn’t very impressive this year. Take Michigan State as an example 5-6 going into conference play and starting to hear whispered predictions of missing the tournament. Now the Spartans are 17-9 overall, 12-3 in conference and a lock to make the tournament all on the back of beating up in the Big 10. Wake me up if the Big 10 has any teams left after the first weekend.

6. Missouri is on the bubble, at least according to various respected journalistic folks. Which begs the question, why? From this vantage point, other than a victory over Oklahoma State there’s very little to write home about. If the Tigers win their last two games at Texas Tech and at home to Kansas and then go deep into the Big 12 tournament then maybe we can talk but until then give me teams who have actually won against reasonable competition.

7. The most impressive stat this year just might be Mississippi State going 7-0 on the road in the SEC. That eighth and last one might be difficult though. It’s against Alabama who have already won in Starkville.

8. Remember when Wake Forest was 4-5 in conference and looking at a realistic 7-9 conference record? Never mind! Five conference wins and six overall have the Demon Deacons poised for a very deep run into the Tournament. Depending on which bracket they end up in, I’m leaning heavily to them being a Final Four pick.

9. Shaun Livingston is making a huge mistake if the High School player goes straight to the NBA rather than play at Duke next year.

9a: Ditto Sebastian Telfair who needs a couple of years at Louisville.

10. Game I’d pay to watch this week: Saint Joseph’s vs. St. Bonaventure. Just to see an improbable undefeated regular season. In some ways it is a shame that Stanford appears to be going to accomplish the same; the Hawks deserve so many accolades. It is ridiculously difficult to focus for the entire season, every team and every player has at least one night off.

Five Non-College Basketball Sports thoughts

1. As postulated in a previous TMPG it now looks certain that both Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens are toast in San Francisco. Certainly the free agency mess up for Owens will be amusing as the league and/or arbitration gets in the way but all this does is allow the Niners to trade Owens rather than losing him for free. Detroit anyone?

1a: Yeah probably not, I’d be stunned if Owens ends up anywhere but Philadelphia. The Eagles need to offer the Niners a No. 2 next year and use the No. 58 pick in this year’s draft on one of the very deep Wide Receiver Class. And if you are wondering, Andy Reid needs to go defense in round one.

1b: You have to wonder if Garcia ends up in San Diego or Oakland and relieves either team of the pressure of taking a QB very high in the draft.

1c: I’m not a fan of taking an offensive player, even a QB at the top of the draft. Give me a great Cornerback or dominant Linebacker any time.

2. Come to think of it, I’m surprised that drafting strategies don’t seem to have caught up with the salary cap era, (or should that be error?) of the NFL. When money was no object, at least outside of Cincinnati, the obvious strategy was to take the best player available, preferably as high as possible. That makes no sense with the salary cap. Unless there is an absolute can’t miss pro prospect, and short of Sean Taylor I don’t see one in this draft, surely it makes sense to move down and get as many picks as possible. The lower a player is taken the less money it costs to sign and the NFL is full of top quality players taken in rounds 3-5. Certainly a number of players don’t pan out, but you didn’t just bet the farm on a stiff who can’t play in the pros and you can use the money saved to pay the players who actually perform. Logical and reasonable – will never work.

3. The IRL season opened Sunday. Yup, most of America didn’t give a rodent’s rump about it either.

4. Early baseball prediction. Yankees win the AL East with superior hitting over the course of the season. However the Red Sox with a 1-2 of Pedro and Schilling come up trumps in the post season.

4b: Over on the NL side any team that has Greg Maddux as third starter catches your attention although the NL Central is going to beat each other up. The Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates and Astros will probably conspire to only allow one of those teams into the post season. If, and it’s a big if, the Cubs make it I see a classic October of Cubs vs. Red Sox. However my sneaking suspicion is that the Cubs don’t make it out of their division and that the Phillies play the Red Sox; and the curse of the Bambino is forever lifted.

4c: Team that could come out of nowhere this season: of all people the San Diego Padres. Trust me on this.

5. Given the Jamal Lewis situation in Baltimore I wonder if Garrison Hearst would be a good signing in Raven country. A contract laden with playing time incentives would allow Hearst to be an excellent second option and if the situation for Lewis worsens, Hearst has the ability and desire to be the featured back for the year.

And a couple of Non-Sporting Thoughts

1. Bu Bu Barbarian… Bu Bu Barbarian… Dave the Barbarian; huge but a wimp…And if you don’t recognize that, you owe it to yourself to check out the Disney Channel’s latest inspired silliness.

2. What is it with taking really cool songs and making lousy versions? First the usually great No Doubt and now there’s a lame version of the classic Tears for Fears’ Mad World floating around.

3. I waffle back and forth on the CBS drama Without a Trace. It’s had a tendency to get bogged down in formula drama and yet two of the last weeks have been superb. Not just great, but superb. The story about the nastiness of school children was riveting and alas so true. But even better was this past week and the story of the Army reservist and his life falling apart. From the moment the character talked about Paul Newman and Robert Redford movies I knew without a shadow of a doubt how the episode would end. And it still packed a punch.

     

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