Sunday, February 8, 2009


Before the rant, let’s get this out of the way:

-I hate baseball. I’m already sick of the A-Rod story.

-The timekeeper in the Duke game was one of the worst of all time. How many times did the officials correct him at the end of the game?

-Jay Bilas is right when he says we should eliminate the situation where officials check if the shot is a 2 or a 3. This has just gotten excessive. We don’t review if a player is out-of-bounds. Just make the call and live with the occasional human error.

-Bob Knight, “shot fakes”, got it. OK, I’m ready for you to go back to coaching now.

-Don’t look now, but the Big 12 North isn’t terrible. Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas St. are all decent teams. Not that any of them are ever going to beat Kansas, but at least the race for Big 12 NCAA slots should be fun.

The Rant

As readers of this blog know, I cheer for three teams: Georgetown, Minnesota, and Illinois. Since Jan 15th, these three teams have combined to go 5-12 in games against outside opponents. This is absolutely crushing my enthusiasm for the college basketball season. Normally by this point, I have a rooting interest in just about every game in the nation. For example, I would have been cheering for UConn, Syracuse, and Memphis today, because those are Georgetown’s 3 signature wins. But at 4-7 in the conference, after watching the Hoyas blow a 12 point lead late in the game at home, any such cheering is purely a joke.

Georgetown is just not an NCAA quality team. At one point you could point to the losses and say there were specific correctable problems. I.e. defensive rebounding, perimeter defense, turnovers. But by the time a team loses 5 of 6 games, they invent new ways to lose.

Sunday this included the Georgetown starters sleepwalking to such an extent against Cincinnati that JT3 pulled the old, “sub in 5 bench players” trick. One catch, Georgetown only has 5 bench players. And as Cincinnati noticed, with 5 underclassman and only one good ball-handler, this was the perfect time to employ full court pressure. Georgetown spent the next 4 minutes struggling to even get off a shot. [Head buried in hands.]

Still, this motivational ploy appeared to work as Georgetown built a 12 point second half lead with the starters back in the lineup. But wait, Georgetown had more disappointment in them. A stretch of absolutely horrid defense allowed Cincinnati to tie the game and send it into OT. And in OT where Georgetown’s defense finally stepped up, craziness ensued. Neither team made a FG in overtime. Allow me to repeat that. Neither team made a FG in overtime. How often does that happen?

And while Greg Monroe was missing FTs, Cincinnati made enough FTs to win the game. Losing a game where the opponent doesn’t even make a basket in OT, now that’s inventing a new way to lose.

What was at one time simply a lack of energy, now seems to have become a lack of ability. Cincinnati was better than Georgetown on Sunday and we can fully expect to hear how the Bearcats swept the Hoyas 200 times during the Big East tournament in March.

The worst part is, I can’t even look forward to next year. Yes Georgetown only has one senior, Jesse Sapp. And yes, Sapp has completely wasted his senior season. His reaction to the 5 player sub was to sit on the bench and pout while playing with his towel like a little kid. JT3 was so shocked with his behavior, that I didn’t even see Sapp in the game in the second half. So certainly on paper, you drop Sapp and pencil in incoming freshman wing Hollis Thompson into the lineup, and next year’s team looks fantastic.

But I can’t shake the belief that Greg Monroe is going to leave early. Yes, his numbers have been average, but anyone who watches the team play knows he is clearly the best player on the court, and he is clearly the most consistent player on the Hoyas. His raw talent would make any NBA GM drool and he’s only coming back next year if he wants to come back.

All I can say is, I hope some people are getting some serious “Schadenfreude” out of this. I hope after back-to-back outright Big East titles, there are a lot of people out there that smile when they look at the standing and see Georgetown will be playing in the Big East tournament’s new Tuesday edition.

Oh, and as for Hollis Thompson coming in next year and playing well, I’ll also believe it when I see it. Case in point: Alex Legion of Illinois. Has there ever been a player with more hype relative to actual ability? (OK, Demar Derozan.) Still, after Illinois spent last season imploding like Shaun Pruitt at the free throw line, all Illinois fans read about was how Jamar Smith and Alex Legion were filling up the basket in practice and how both would lead the offensive resurgence this year. Guess what? Smith got kicked of the team this summer. And Alex Legion doesn’t know the meaning of the word “Quality Shot”. How’s 24 of 81 or 29.6% on FGs for you? If last year’s free throw shooting didn’t cost Bruce Webber his job, trying to mix Alex Legion into the lineup just might do the trick.

On the plus side, I actually think Illinois is the mostly likely of my three teams to pull another huge upset. Any time you play lock-down defense, you’ll always have a chance to win. But Illinois is purely a jump shooting team, and no team can advance deep in tournament play with that type of offense.

Finally we come to the Gophers. My heart reaches out most to this team because the team’s success is predicated on hustle. The Gophers lead the nation in blocked shots, and are 9th nationally in steals. They clearly give 100% every time on the court, and if they don’t, Tubby will trot in someone else from his 11-man rotation. But at the end of the day, the Gophers are simply not an efficient team offensively or defensively. At the end of the day, if a good team is playing well, they will always be able to out-execute the Gophers.

What a colossal nightmare. At the end of January, all 3 of my teams were ranked in the Top 25, and Georgetown had been up in the Top 10. Yes, the polls are overrated, but they express sentiment, and my hopes had been raised. Today the conference season has exposed all 3 as flawed teams. None are bad enough that I can simply avoid watching the games. (Dan Monson did give me about 4 hours more free time per week.) But after a 5-12 stretch, I’m pretty much running on empty.

I’m also a big believer in enjoying the season for what it is. So if nothing else good happens, I’ll always have these 3 games.

Minnesota defeats Wisconsin
Illinois defeats Purdue
Georgetown defeats Connecticut

But I also can’t take much more of this.