Monthly Archives: March 2012

What I Was Doing During the NIT Semis

Instead of watching the NIT I went to the Air Sex Championships and watched drunkards faun climax on a stage to R&B jams while either taking themselves far too seriously (so uncomfortable) or performing with a hint of jest befitting an event called “Air Sex.” It was a show about pretending to be a part of a bigger act than they actually were a part of.

So while I was at said show, a pair of Pac teams took to Madison Square Garden in their respective NIT semifinals. Stanford prevailed, defeating UMass while the Washington Huskies’ season came to an accordingly odd close. It was a show about pretending to be a part of a bigger act than they actually were a part of.

Yeah. Air Sex and NIT Hoops because sometimes you just can’t perform.

I won’t go into elaborate sexual analogies, likening Washington or Stanford’s time in the NIT to a night at the bar, their subsequent efforts with variedly intoxicated coeds, or even expand much on them as Air Sex participants. But as I watched awkward gyrations, discomforting facial expressions, and hysterical adult reenactments of Goldy Locks and the Three Bears while also checking these game scores on my phone, I couldn’t help but recognize the fact that neither of these parties were in the “Big Dance.”

Because that’s the end goal, right? The real deal.

Washington made a run of it, strengthening my belief in Romar as a motivator of talent. It didn’t last long enough (pun) however, and Tuesday served as a Husky microcosm, highlighting what plagued them all year: effort, intensity, turnovers, depth. It was no doubt a difficult pill to swallow for the Washington faithful, but you can only fake it so long. Husky hearts were broken on that Sunday, lightly resuscitated in hosting and beating Oregon, then laid to rest by Minnesota.

As for Stanford, their path to the NIT was a touch different from being labeled the first ever major conference champ not to receive an NCAA invite. Perhaps this motivates them differently and if you saw some of the Air Sex participants you’d realize that this show very well may have been the closest they’d been to the real deal in awhile. Kinda like Stanford’s eight year hiatus from the NCAAs. So yeah, Stanford is into it. They’ll play tomorrow for an NIT championship and as I explained at Pacific Takes, making it to the NIT finals is a fortuitous sign. By my math, Stanford has a 70% chance of making next year’s NCAA tournament. Probably better than Andrew Zimmerman’s odds at the bar:

Andrew Zimmerman

The Cardinal and Huskies and Air Sex participants performed with variable motives, histories, and results. None had the chance at the real thing. And there’s a takeaway here: Getting close to the main event can be a lot of fun and say a lot about you.

But there’s nothing like the Dance.

Seriously though, if an Air Sex show comes to your town, it’s worth your time. Find it.

Dendrophilia-lite: Stanford to the Final Four

Shhh. No body mention it but the Pac-12 just got two teams in the Final Four.

Before you get too far, allow me this: SEMANTICS! The Final Four is the Final Four is the Final Four and the Pac will have represented 33% of the available FF spots in post-season play. Hell, both Washington schools are in a Final Four – WSU in the championships!

And now let me back down to earth.

Washington and Stanford made the NIT Final Four while Washington State defeated Oregon State in the CBI Final Four. But I want to focus on Stanford, namely because we know all about UW and I know literally nothing about the CBI.

Stanford put Nevada in their place as a mid-major and has surprisingly rolled their way into NYC. Once in the Big Apple they’ll have another opportunity to put the little guy in his place against UMass. Whodathunkit?

After all, this is the group that jumped out to a 12-2 record and promptly fell on their face during conference play; finishing the season a yawnable 8-8 and raising questions about what it means to be a Johnny Dawkins squad. They were the “biggest loser” in two of the final three Weekend Reviews, including once for an astronomical loss at Utah. But, as we believe here at pachoops, it doesn’t matter how you start or middle, it matters how you finish.

And the Cardinal, apparently, are not ready to return to class contrary to popular Stanford stereotyping.

With Aaron Bright playing like a seasoned veteran (19ppg, 4apg in the NIT); Chasson Randle filling the cup like a Lopez twin (19ppg last eight games); Josh Owens refusing to finish his five-year career quietly (12 & 9 in the NIT); and the rest of the Cardinal faithful filling roles like Oompa Loompas, it’s no wonder Stanford finds itself playing in Madison Square Garden (even the stats agree).

The biggest question around this team has long been where would the offense come from and, of late, they’ve managed. Which is about all you need to do when it comes to win-or-go-home season.

Now in the coming days I plan to present some NIT research proving my hypothesis that NIT finalists carry their successes into the following season (NOTE: this is still a hypothesis for which I plan to exact the scientific method). Examining this Stanford team and assuming my hypothesis, they’re poised to do exactly that. Aaron Bright is a solid play making guard, they have a bevvy of big, athletic, active bodies, and, mark my words: Chasson Randle is a stud.

I’m not going out on any limb here telling you he’s good. It’s been a fact for awhile. But if you’ve ever seen the kid play, you understand he could be special. I’d say he reminds me of Allen Crabbe – big freshman year with high sophomore expectations – but Randle creates far better than Crabbe. He’s [insert scout adjectives here] and then some. I’ll stop before hyperbole sets in.

So say what you will about the Pac, but there’s still a heartbeat. An opportunity to create a shining moment, hoist a trophy on the heralded hardwood of basketball’s Mecca, Madison Square Garden.

Oregon-UW was a Throwback Game as Good as March Gets

That was some March basketball.

And I’m not going to let you call me crazy because Tuesday’s Oregon-Washington game was as good a game as you’re going to see this time of year. Two teams took the court wanting nothing more than to beat their opponent. That’s what college basketball is all about; that’s competition at its finest.

And did you watch?

It was terrific. Terrence Ross played like the league-bound talent he is and Tony Wroten was bigger than the other kids and Abdul Gaddy conducted like the ballyhooed point guard he is. On the flip side of the equation EJ Singler was as well rounded and tough as a Dukie, Olu Ahsalou was unstoppable, and Tony Woods approached flawless.

The unfortunate difference maker? Garret Sim and Devoe Joseph combined for a pedestrian 7-24 shooting night and that kinda breaks my heart.

I’m a sucker for seniors. That guy – I wrote all about it last month – who hits the shot he shouldn’t, makes the plays others couldn’t; and draws the charge others wouldn’t. The kind of plays that Joseph and Sim made all year long for an improved and solid Oregon squad.

On this night they simply didn’t have it while the Huskies did. Such is basketball; such is March; such is life. Washington heads to New York as the Ducks return to Eugene, their season complete after a terrific five month run. Back to the game.

The Huskies were terrific out of the gate, quickly building a lead in transition and off of Duck turnovers; staples of LoRo-ball. But Oregon quacked right back, taking a lead with the score in the teens that they wouldn’t yield until the second half when some combination of defense and a too much individual creating began. But that just may be what you do when Terrence, Tony, and Devoe are on the floor.

It worked for the purple team.

And perhaps my favorite part of this game? The pace. It was some old school Pac-10 action: fast, pressing, offensive, and athletic. Loved it. It’s like the weather. I’d rather it be in the 80s than the 50s. It was simply put: good basketball. Or at least my favorite kind of basketball.

Many have and will rip this league. It wasn’t a great year, a fact we’re all beyond well aware of by now.

But Tuesday night was as good as it gets.

Oregon v. Washington: Apathy, excitement, revenge, and Prom

I wrote an excitable little number about Arizona playing in the NIT and how Wildcat Nation and I needed to get into it. That worked.

Arizona promptly lost as I apathetically got drunk alone. So much for taking my own advice. And what’s more, I’ve found it difficult to follow the National Invitational, gaining a whole new perspective on why it’s considered a damning invite.

But if you manage to filter through all of the (deserved) Kyle O’Quinn parables, glass shoe fittings for teams from Athens to Raleigh, Hummel hyperbole, and musings on the meaningfulness of Kendall Marshall, you’d notice that Oregon and Washington will be squaring off in the NIT.

I knew it was a possibility when I reluctantly first looked at the undersized bracket but now it’s come to fruition and I’m oddly fascinated while simultaneously at a loss for what to make of it.

I figured Washington would be waving the white flag soon after Selection Sunday. Let’s liken it to Prom. You’re going all in, inviting the most popular girl in school who’s already moved past flavored vodka and is on to Manhattans and college dudes (which, as we gain life perspective, allows us to realize that she’s really just moved on to bigger losers) to accompany you as your date. Her response resembles a confidence and charm you’ve only seen portrayed by adults playing teens in movies as she says, “Oh sweetheart! I’d be flattered to go with you but I’m already going with Steel Thompson from [opposing high school].” At which point you’re utterly defeated by the swift rejection; embarrassed at your ill-conceived presumption that she’d say “yes” just because the two of you had talked about an AP test at a party; fearful of your social fall out; but all the while grasping to a sliver of pride for what you in fact just did.

Yeah, that about sums up Washington’s feelers following their Pac-12 championship and subsequent dance snubbing.

And so now – following a pair of anything-but-impressive-but-wins-nonetheless against UT-Arlington and Northwestern – the Huskies are one win away from Madison Square Garden, the NIT’s holy land.

To get to said holy land, Washington will be hosting the Oregon Ducks, who we can also fit into our Prom analogy. They kinda wanted to go but didn’t have the nerve to ask anyone or looks to have a cute girl’s friend tell them to ask her and are ultimately pretty content just getting drunk at the after party and being the most fun person there.

The Ducks have come into this whole NIT thing looking to win; as evidence by their dismantling of LSU (sweet football revenge!) and a high scoring victory over Iowa – a box score that led me to believe maybe the NIT is something of a non-All-Star game in which defense is dismissed?

Alas, we find ourselves with two squads arriving at the same NIT quarters on two very different hikes.

For all of the aforementioned Husky apathy, I could see a fire being lit under a collective ass and them taking the Ducks to the woodshed. In their last meeting, Oregon obliterated and embarrassed the Huskies 82-57 and my non-insider perspective says LoRo and Co weren’t too happy about it. Just a guess. Of course the Ducks can stake claim to that 25-point thrashing and should come in to HecEd as confident as anyone.

So who’s it going to be? The Prom reject or the Prom passer? Dogs? Ducks?

Woof, woof! Quack, quack! Tuesday, 6pm, ESPN.

Colorado is Not the Pac-12 Torch Bearer

Colorado is the last remaining Pac-12 team playing relevant basketball in an abysmal Pac-12 season.

Many cheered as the Buffs defeated the Runnin’ Rebels. Applauding Tad Boyle and his group for representing their new conference with some sort of qualifying NCAA Tournament victory on behalf of the down conference.

Nah. Forget that.

The Buffs are carrying no such torch. They’re playing for Colorado because the only way you ever pull big things off is when you’re doing it for you.

Allow me to analogize for you.

The Biggest Loser: Chubsters conspire to lose weight and compete to become the biggest loser and win a quarter million bucks. The point here, is when you watch, each contestant has a similar sob story surround their weight gain and loss journey. The common thread of each of their failed attempts is, “I wanted to lose weight for me [insert closest family member here].”

Doesn’t work.

Once on the show transformations (both physical and mental) begin. The Losers begin to realize that they’re never going to get up off their couch/ass/excuses until they want to do it for themselves. Not for husband, wife, child, grandparent, dog, cat, neighbor, long time crush, nobody but numero uno.

And that’s what Tad Boyle is doing. Has to do.

Because there are no torch bearers. UConn won last year’s national title. Doesn’t excuse the fact that of the unprecedented eleven 2011 Big East entrants, just two played during the second weekend. And it shouldn’t effect Colorado’s standing that Arizona didn’t show up to the NIT, Cal to the play-in game, or the conference in general to the 2011-12 season.

We don’t even have to get all March Madness cliche about it and start talking about belief and trust and haters. Cause really, if you’re doing it because you’ve been hated on, you’re just going to wind up a bitter loser, forgotten amongst the countless others who’ve cited the critics that never were.

So do it up. Take it to your old conference foes, the Baylor Bears. Light it up brighter from distance the the hue of those Baylor unis. Get Carlon another thunder dunk and Austin Dufault another game.

And do it for you. Cause you’re the ones who are doing it. You’re the ones who will have done it.

BB: The Heart that Stayed in Staples

Looks like I wasn’t the only one who needed a minute.

It appears as if that shot put of a three-point attempt as time was preparing to expire at Staples was the last of what Kyle Fogg had to give. His five-shot effort in Round 1 of the NIT was tragically indicative of a man who’d lost the will to fight.

And it sucks.

For all the work he’d put into this season – taking 1000s of shots, lifting to exhaustion, growing into a leader – to come down to an unglamorous, two-thirds capacity, National Invitational game broadcast by a ring bearing Wildcat had to feel like defeat before the tip.

Which is odd for the kid who took what appeared to be a season ending gut punch from Washington and channeled it into a 7-2 close and a Pac-12 Tournament Championship game appearance; asserting himself as the heart and soul of this team.

Then there was that championship game. Another gut punch, a two-point defeat with the season in the balances. In January, the pain quickly manifested as effort, because there was still work to be done, goals accomplished, and games to win.

The second blow to the belly came later, with little season remaining. And what can you do when that punch simultaneously rips your heart out?

I unglamorously watched the Bucknell Blunder alone, horizontally on my couch, drink(s) in hand, donning similar – if not identical – attire to Josiah Turner. My enthusiasm for that game essentially matched the Wildcats’ despite both of our best efforts to get behind this new experience. I exchanged texts with eight different friends surrounding the strangeness of the event. Fogg took five shots, none for the first fifteen minutes of the game. It was the fewest shots he’d attempted and points he’d scored (5) since that very Washington game two months ago.

And to be clear, I’m making no excuses. Bucknell was terrific in exploiting Arizona’s glaring weaknesses and playing the role of “better team.” It was a game they were better prepared for, wanted more, and deservedly won.

But boy, oh boy is it tough to give effort when your chest cavity is devoid its pacemaker. That Colorado effectively ended Arizona’s season and Kyle Fogg’s career. The senior had so courageously become the centerpiece of this team, setting the tone for what very nearly was an all-time memorable final twelve games.

But it didn’t end that way and the Wildcats couldn’t advance without their heart, as he no longer had his.

Washington’s NIT Challenge? Themselves.

I know I’ve spoken on it before, but success is best defined by how you react, how you respond, to the bad stuff. Did you learn? Will you grow? Can you get better?

And now I also ask: How will Washington respond? They’re riding a painful two game losing streak and are wearing the hat of first ever major conference champ not to dance.

That sucks and could prove defining for a very solid basketball program. I mentioned at Pacific Takes following UW’s loss to Oregon State that Romar’s quotes were indicative of his team and his program’s mentality. That’s to say they were hopeful.

When you’re in the business of controlling your own destiny, as in playing games with a tangible outcome of winners and losers, hope is about as good as losing. Sports require a level of knowing and confidence that you will get it done. And for that, I’m greatly encouraged by Tony Wroten’s recent quotes.

“Yeah we’re going to treat this like it’s the national championship. Obviously it’s not what we wanted, but since we’re here we’re going to deal with it and play like we are in the national championship.” (via Percy Allen)

Who doesn’t want to win a national title? And while the NIT certainly plays little brother to the NCAAs its still a tournament, a series of games where a champion will be crowned and there’s something to be said for that. There’s also something to be said about competing, particularly if you’re wearing a Washington jersey right now.

Knowing full well that they controlled their own destiny into the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies showed up flat as backboard to Staples, promptly finding themselves in a thirteen point hole. A deficit that proved insurmountable but now we’re left to wonder, what are the Huskies really needing to surmount?

If it’s themselves they must overcome, Wroten’s quotes (and read the whole thing for more evidence) indicate that he and his team are prepared for the challenge. And it’s long been discussed that this is a very talented team, why not prove it now? Know you can, then do.

For that, I expect Washington to be playing in Madison Square Garden.

If they’re not up to the challenge, it will be very interesting to see what direction the program heads.

For a good preview of Washington’s Round 1 NIT game, read the coverage over at Montlake Madness.

BB: Full NIT Support Because it’s like Batman

I needed a minute.

You know, a hot second to recompose, figure out what the hell was going on because this is foreign to me. I’m twenty-seven years old and have only once experienced a March sans the cardinal and navy (2010). That was a tough one but 15-14 teams don’t get At-Larges so I had a lot of time to prep for that (I’m also talking like 3 years as the whole damn program was bottoming out).

So, now I find myself here.

I don’t know what channel NIT games are on, which days they’re played, or if they’re even scored the same way. What the hell does the bracket look like? Do they even have those? Has anyone, anywhere, ever taken a three-and-a-half-hour lunch break at Hooters to watch the NIT? I’m left wondering if maybe we can get Gus Johnson to call one of the games or at least have Jim Nantz to glance at it. Do the letters actually stand for something? Does the winner get a Shining Moment or is it just a “We’re #65″ tee? Does Luther Vandross give a shit?

This feels like the ultimate “if a tree falls in the forest” scenario.

But I’m going to get behind this. I could do some kNITting. Because life is about growth. Our greatest moments, grandest achievements, our championships, are the collective of our reactions to the things we may not like.

Take Batman for example. How full rock bottom was that fool at the end of the Dark Knight? All of Gotham thought he’d just killed Harvey Dent, his vigilante justice no different than the crime lords in a city lawlessness. Batman had to go away before he rose again.

And I know you’ve watched that trailer. Are you effing kidding me? Not only is that movie about to be other worldly bad ass, but Batman comes back stronger than ever – completing our metaphor – the hero we’ve adored, need, and cherish.

So hell yeah I’m going to kNIT.

Bring on the Bucknell I-don’t-care-who-your-mascot-is’s. The ‘Cats will take care of Kansas’ unfinished business. Oral Roberts? Sounds like something I’d look up on Urban Dictionary and get grossed out by (alas, it is). Nevada? I’ll pass and roll right on to Tahoe, uh-thanks. Stanford and Cleveland State? Rolled and stomped. Illinois State? It won’t even come down to playing them but the lop sided score they’d be subjected to would likely cause the Red Birds to fire their coach then holler at the recently unemployed Bruce Weber who’d then write a book about it. Mississippi? Any team that’s sustained a three game losing streak to Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee State, and Dayton will get beat.

Anyhow, that’s what they call “Region 4″ and I don’t quite know what else to make of it.

I took my minute to recover, found the silver lining, and grabbed me some knitting needles and one of these (that looks so weird). It’s disappointing and monumental to not dance but like Harvey Dent said, “The night is darkest before the dawn. Bear down.”

Or something like that.

Takedown Shakedown: Sean Miller Death Match Champion

Sean Miller, the humble looking, Pennsylvanian, requester of ball catching is Death Match Champion. He received 440 to Tad’s 403 votes and was winning big, losing big, tied until ultimately closing out the victory, terminating the Colorado Cranium.

Alas, I ask who gets the last laugh? Tad’s dancing. Sean’s NITing.

EMO MOMENT: Thanks to everyone who voted, shared, discussed, and commented during this lil’ tournament. Big thanks to JL for his wit and mass networking. Good work, all.

Two Days Deep and a Whole Lot of Crazy

No one has showed up to watch the first two rounds of the Pac-12 tournament. That’s too bad.

Because from where I’m sitting – twitter, bars, gchat, text, bars, iPhone, bars, home – it’s been one helluva tournament heading in to today’s semifinals. A quadrumvirate of Arizona, Colorado, California, and Oregon State remain. This, non-coincidentally, is also 75% of the Pac-12 Coaches Death Match Final Four.

Alas, this final four is actually using baskets and balls and a 94-foot court to determine its winner and last night’s games treated us to four contests with a combined victory margin of 4.25. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, its gotta be March.

And so now allow me to remind you that Arizona is 3-1 against the remaining competition; Colorado is 3-3; and Cal and Oregon State are each 2-3. Make of this as you will. I’m going to ignore it because it is indeed March and only crazy shit happens. That’s why I nearly broke the refresh button on my browser during the Oregon State-Washington game and why I can’t wait for the Pac-12 Network and games streaming on my phone.

Then there’s the fad of ripping this conference’s resume. How even this late in the season, after the out of conference schedules were complete in December when we knew there would be very little RPI boosting, this is still a topic to be discussed is beyond me.

A wise man once said, “Carpe Diem.” Yeah, that was Robin Williams who is also notorious for utterly raging but he’s god damn right. If you want to wrap yourself up in wins against top 50 or SOS or Bubble Watch, that’s fine. But you just might be missing some good old fashion barn burners.

It’s down to an unpredictable four and that’s pretty sweet. Enjoy.