The Week That Was
Fantasy golf, Coach Summitt and the Cincinnati Bearcats.
I must come clean about something that happened this weekend. I passed on watching hours of college basketball on Sunday in favor of the Buick Invitational golf tournament. Yes, most of the evening’s FSN action I watched on Monday through the magic of DVR, but the golf was too hard to pass up. Some of you guys know I have this stupid/awesome affection for Fantasy Golf. Yes, that’s right, I abhor the football variety (only for people that aren’t fans of one team) and the one season I tried to play in an NBA league, it was just too overwhelming with the day-to-day monitoring. Anyway, I love the game of golf, play way too much myself, and stink just like everyone else, but a group of ten of us gave it a try a couple years ago, and now it has turned into a low-stakes barrel of fun that we all enjoy.
And golf on HD just might be the best viewing sport ever. Every blade of grass.
We each have the rights over 15 players and score playing a four-man best-ball each tournament. Nick Watney was one of my promising “keepers” from last season (we got four) and seeing him come back from five strokes back to win with a birdie on the 18th yesterday had me fist-pumping like Tiger.
Simply put, my dream match-up of Memphis and Gonzaga was total garbage. The usually mild-manner Mark Few was assuredly vocally irate in response to his team’s disappointing performance. The Zags looked tentative and afraid of a team that shouldn’t have intimidated them physically, but did. The Zags’ energy, or lack thereof, was extremely surprising considering this same Gonzaga squad was the physical aggressor earlier this year against UConn and held an advantage late in the game before squandering the road game in overtime. Knowing the habitual nature of athletes, I bet everyone on Gonzaga’s roster would have preferred the intimate on-campus setting of the Kennel, to the cavernous feel of the arena, downtown where this game was held.
The NCAA Tournament is coming soon, so some preview specials are surely in the works with teams you need to check out before filling out your bracket. (Note: I did not make that last word, plural. Cub Scouts does not endorse the filling out of multiple brackets. Multiple pools are cool, but compromising your knowledge by having different scenarios, is just an admission of ignorance in the matter.) As has become practice in this space, we start today with more positivity; some thoughts and statistics on the game’s most successful coach.
HEADLINE: An Individual With More Wins Than Any Other Program?
Last week, Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt became the only coach in Division-I (men or women) to reach 1000 wins. Only 56 years of age, Summitt took over the program when she was just 22 years old and has since reached 18 Final Fours, won eight national championships, all while making the women’s game, nationally respected and adored. Her rivalry/hatred with UConn coach Geno Auriemma has given the sport drama, heroes/villans, and damn good basketball. Unfortunately for everyone, though, after years of scheduling a game with each other every year, the teams now refuse to play each other. FYI, it is personal.
In 34 years, Summitt has amassed more wins than any other women’s program, period. Not individual coach, but entire university. She has averaged 30 wins and a minuscule five losses each season. Each player that completed their eligibility graduated; every one. Coach Summitt is often portrayed with her domineering gaze that invokes fear, but that is just the serious side to her players. Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker and Kara Lawson are just a few. There are hundreds, actually; even a two-time All-American from the early 80s named Tanya Haave (now the head at University of San Francisco), the best ball player ever from my hometown of Evergreen, Colo.
In the almost three years that I have been a father of a girl (and soon to be second girl) every time Coach’s likeness graces the television I say, “Look! There’s Coach Summitt!” If my girls grow up seeing her as “coach,” that would be pretty okay in my book.
Go get another 1000, Coach! My first daughter is still 15 years away from her freshmen year of college.
TEAMS OF THE WEEK: Studs and Duds
Ohio State — The Buckeyes are owners of five wins over ranked opponents and got two of those this past week with impressive victories over Purdue and Minnesota. They have won four straight and are starting to find some balance in their offense. I think the early-season patience that Thad Matta showed with B.J. Mullens is proving to be a wise stroke, as the freshmen is really starting to become an integral part of the teams’ success. Evan Turner is still just amazing. In the Purdue game I previewed last week and mentioned the 6-7 sophomore, he eventually went for 26/12/7 in a win.
Utah State — This team I have only seen twice this year, but the 23 wins can’t be ignored. Nor can their victories over Utah and Wyoming. The Aggies only loss came against cross-state big-dog, Brigham Young and last week the WAC’s premier team took care of conference foes, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. Stew Morrill’s team is led by a 26-year-old dude that never played high school basketball and lists “hanging out with his wife” as his favorite past-time. The 6-9, 240-pound Gary Wilkinson is the team’s only (married) senior and has his squad at 11-0 in conference and owners of a nice little national ranking.
Cincinnati — I’ve been hoping that the Bearcats would return to prominence, I just didn’t figure this year would be the one, as they are extremely young. Playing in the ultra-competitive Big East has proven to be just the place for this team led by junior guard Deonta Vaughn, who has proven to be a pretty good point guard after being thrust into the role (Cub Scouts loves the high-scoring 2-guard that can morph into NBA back-up point guards. There are tons of examples). Cincy won both games in conference this week and are winners of four of five. They are currently tied for 6th with a 6-5 conference mark to go with a 16-8 mark overall. Three of their next four are in the Queen City, so continued improvement should be expected. A solid finish to the season should ensure a tournament berth, especially with those nice little wins earlier in the year over UAB, Mississippi State, and UNLV. Freshman wide-body Yancy Gates has given the locals all they expected when he spurned the big programs to stay at home.
Honorable Mention: Just one, the Colorado Buffaloes. Granted, they aren’t winning games yet, but they have played Kansas (road), Nebraska, and Oklahoma (road) in their last three games to an average deficit of about five points. Keep on ‘em Coach Bzdelik, I have complete faith that good times are a comin’ in Boulder!
DUDS (Just a few to review)
Gonzaga has to be mentioned for their abysmal showing on Saturday night primetime versus Memphis. Up north, Minnesota has lost their last two games, while down south; Texas has dropped their last three, two of which were “bad” losses. Georgetown and Notre Dame, aaaahhhhhhh!
“It’s the NIT for both of you on line one.”
SCOUTING CORNER: Guess Who?!?!
This player is a lesser known forward from a major conference. This junior is a strong, intelligent, forward who is crafty around the hoop. At about the midway mark of his second collegiate season, I started really noticing him. He seems to just be starting to get his confidence and proving it for a title contender.
For his height (6-6) this native of upstate New York is an above average rebounder with a good nose for the ball which gets him hoards of rebounds and hands on loose balls. Unfortunately, that height makes him a bit undersized to play the power forward in the NBA, but I think he has 3-man ability in him. Besides his need to prove that he can be a consistent outside shooter, he has to improve his quickness off the dribble.
To his credit, this player did make huge strides from long range between his first two seasons (21 percent in his first compared to 45 percent last year) but that may be susceptible to regression with the line moving back an entire foot next season (which has dropped to 35 percent this year). On the defensive end, his intensity and willingness to work make him a difficult assignment.
This guy is someone that I feel needs to assert himself more on an nightly basis to garner “draftable” attention. With him playing on a team where he is probably the fourth most-known guy, his coronation might not happen until next year. If he is able to increase his range, and return to around the 45 percent clip, all while increasing his number of shots, I think he can prove to GMs around the League that he is worthy of a draft pick. Is that asking too much, though?
PLAYER ALERT: Big Country of the Redwoods
This week’s mention goes to a big old guy out west amongst our nation’s tallest of trees, Santa Clara’s John Bryant. The 6-10, 275-pound senior center has been terrorizing West Coast Conference teams since he stepped foot on the Northern California campus a few years back with his brand of toughness and defense. This year, Bryant has trimmed down a large amount of weight after years of carrying 300-plus. One of the nation’s true great postmen, Bryant is super-crafty around the hoop and finds ways to impose his size and will on the way to easy baskets and block shots on the other end. The returning All-WCC center is adept on knocking down the elbow-jumper, but he is defter with his back to the basket. While he prepares to finish his career as a 1500-point/1000-rebound-guy, Bryant is currently busy putting up ridiculous numbers. The nation’s second-leading rebounder behind Blake Griffin, Bryant has averaged 18 and 18 over his last seven games.
Did I mention that this season almost didn’t happen for the Cali-native? Just days before the start of practice, Bryant was stabbed three times in the back near campus. His future on the court was initially in question, but his quick return to the Broncos and his continually improving play must be impressive to the NBA scouts that have tried to ignore him for years.
GAMES: (All times ET)
Michigan and Michigan State renew old friendships with the Spartans hitting the road for a 7 p.m. tip on ESPN. Immediately following is an important SEC game between two of the league’s elite in Florida and Nick Calathes visiting Rupp Arena for a game with Patrick Patterson, Jodie Meeks and the Kentucky Wildcats.
Not usually the best day for college hoops turns out to be the best of the week with several good games to choose from. The Big Ten Network has Purdue hosting Penn. State at 6:30 p.m.
ESPN has a great double-header starting at 7 p.m. with Syracuse at Connecticut opening up for Carolina at Cameron for Round 1 of its historically epic battles with the Duke Blue Devils. Duke’s comeback win against Miami on Saturday might prove to be a huge moment in this team’s season.
The deuce brings it as well with a HUGE World Cup qualifier between USA and Mexico. With Columbus as the host city, the weather doesn’t appear to be grand. Home games at these stages against this particular opponent are crucial. Cuse and UConn will be DVRed, I’m watching this one live. Following the soccer match is a Big 12 game between Oklahoma and a “win-starved” Baylor team. Like in World Cup-qualifying, home games are always imperative in conference, but having a two-loss, star-laden team like the Sooners as your guest does not make things easy.
Breath…. Just getting going on Wednesday.
ESPNClassic has a big Atlantic-10 game at 7, between Xavier (who got nipped by Duquesne this weekend) and a Dayton Flyers’ team that already has 21 wins to their resume.
I’ll take you a bit off the path with two more games starting at 8 p.m. with Tulsa in the Bluff City to battle Memphis (fresh off their impressive win over Gonzaga and owners of a 51-game winning streak in conference) on CBSCS.
Two hours later, The Mountain has another big top-half battle when San Diego State heads to the SLC to face the Utah Utes, who just keep on winning. The Utes’ Carlon Brown caught my eye this weekend in their win in Laramie over Wyoming. That kid looks good and could be a star in the Mountain West next year. Luke Nevill is a pro, by the way. There is much more to this kid than just being 7-2. SDSU, BYU, Utah, UNLV, and New Mexico all deserve NCAA bids, but by the end of the year, at least one of these will be out of luck.
A rare Pac-10 game on ESPN tips at 7 with UCLA on the road to face James Harden and the Arizona State Sun Devils.
An ESPN2 tripleheader is culminated by the now weekly 11 p.m WCC game, this one again involving Gonzaga and their arch nemesis from Saint Mary’s College. Two weeks to the day when Patty Mills’ hand and the Gaels’ season may have shattered all at once in a loss at Gonzaga.
Two PAC-10 teams fighting for every win (both still alive, with NCAA tourney possibilities) will be on their regular FSN airwaves at 10:30 with USC in the Painted Desert to face Arizona.
More PAC-10, and early, too! 1 p.m. on CBS has the Wildcats of Arizona hosting the UCLA Bruins as Air Bud and the boys look to make it a Tinseltown-double.
1:30 on the Big Ten Network has Minnesota in Happy Valley to play Penn. State.
At 4 on ESPN, the aforementioned Cincinnati Bearcats travels to face Pittsburgh and an hour later, the Duece starts a mid-major tripleheader.
At 5 p.m. on CBSCSTV, Memphis heads south to play Jeremy Wise and the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi. Check this cat out whose play has dropped a bit in his junior season, but he is a treat to watch play. Also tell me that Antonio Anderson is not the next Bruce Bowen.
FSN has a tripleheader starting at 5:30 which includes UNC at Miami at 7:45; followed by USC in Tempe to play ASU.
We started with Coach Summitt and we’ll end with her, as well. Her Lady Volunteers are hosting Duke at 7:30 on ESPN2.
Get your bracket/team questions, ready!
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