Tag Archives: basketball

Not a Soccer Blog…Top Eight From The News

Thanks to the absence of the venerable Nick and Austin, I have heard rumors of this blog turning into a “soccer blog.” While I have no problem with that, I thought I would appease all my eager fans with a mixed bag of non-soccer news.

Here are the top eight stories today and my not-so-humble opinion on them.

1. Brett Favre and the J-E-T-S? Who saw this one coming? I don’t think Favre will pull a Namath and win a Super Bowl, but I do think he takes a team that won just four games last season to the playoffs.

I also would like to see the Jets release Chad Pennington already so that the Bears can add him to their stable of unreliable, mediocre quarterbacks. One positive about Pennington: he is much better than Grossman and Orton.

The Patriots are safe on the top of this division for at least another year.

2. In honor of Landy I will delve into the Packers. This was a huge mistake. Plain and simple. ESPN’s Rachel Nicols asked the question that I would like to see answered: “Are the Packers better off with Aaron Rodgers than Brett Favre?”

How can they answer that with a yes? They have never seen Rodger play for a whole season, and while I am sure he will be decent, Favre is a Hall of Famer. There is no comparison. This is a win now league and the Packers just shot themselves in the foot.

3. Because we are The Looper I have to mention something having to do with golf don’t I? How ironic would it be if Sergio Garcia won the PGA Championship this weekend? The man that was expected to challenge Tiger Woods wins his first major with Tiger sidelined with an injury.

But, to tell you the truth, I hope he wins it. I think without the pressure of having to beat Tiger, Garcia will be loose and this could mark a significant turning point in his career if he is able to pull it out. He is just one shot off the lead after most of the field finished the first day and he is one of the top five most talented golfers there so why not?

4. Have you lost count of how many players Georgia has suspended this season already, because I have. They are named the preseason number 1 and immediately their players begin to act like they just won the National Championship.

Let me be the first to say that I don’t think Georgia will finish in the top 20. They obviously don’t have the maturity or leadership, their coach, Mark Richt, doesn’t have the experience to withstand the pressure and while their star running back, Knowshon Moreno, will be a front runner for the Heisman, he is not prepared to lead this team through the heart of an impossible SEC.

5. Can’t you see it now. Kids all over L.A. with dreadlock wigs and wearing number 99 Dodgers jerseys on Halloween as the Dodgers battle deep into the playoffs behind midseason acquisition, Manny Ramirez. So far Manny has hit four home runs in just six games and has energized this team that was struggling mightily to score runs.

I still can’t believe the Red Sox made the trade. I know Jason Bay is good—I have seen him 16 times a year when the Cubs play the Bucs—but he is not Manny. This is a team that is fighting for their playoff life and they traded away their best bat.

If they are able to overcome the Rays and withstand a run from the Yankees and make the playoffs it won’t matter but I don’t know if they will be able to without Manny in their lineup.

6. Sticking with baseball, how can I not mention the Cubs. Just a week and half ago people said they were going to fail as they fell into a tie with Milwaukee. But just five days later the Cubs were the proud owners of a four game sweep of the Brewers and a five game lead in the division.

Since that series the Cubs have continued to roll winning nine of their last 11 games. Meanwhile the Brewers have been winning but have also been fighting—Parra and Fielder’s little shoving match in the dugout the other night—and seem frustrated after not taking advantage of a great opportunity with Chicago in town for four games.

In no way am I writing off the Brewers but I do think they need to pull themselves together the rest of August in order to avoid a catastrophic collapse like we witnessed last season.

7. Why is there football on tonight? It is not that I am not ready for football—it reminds me that fall is coming and that is always a good thing—but it seems so early for people to be hitting each other.

Am I going to watch any of the games tonight? No. Maybe I will turn on the Bears game for five minutes to see Orton beat up by the Chief’s fourth string defense, but otherwise these games are absurd.

These EXHIBITION games are more for the coaches than anyone else and all the hoopla that comes from these games is completely ridiculous. The football writers need to wait until at least Labor Day, please.

8. I guess I will finish up with the Olympics, which begin tomorrow. I am excited to see the summer games. Great athletes competing in the largest competition in the world is always good time.

Highlights for me have to be whether the USA basketball team can actually win gold, Michael Phelps (why did he grow that disgusting ‘stache, by the way?) run for eight golds and how many people asphyxiate do to the poor air quality.

Should be a good time had by all.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed and hope that it inspired Nicks and Austins everywhere to come out and write once in a while.

Sweet Seventeen

After a 22 year hiatus, The Looper –– excuse me –– the Boston Celtics are NBA champions again. And there are still four minutes left to play.

After almost everyone and their brother outside of New England picked the Lakers to triumph in the NBA Finals* Boston and its Big Three turned the series expectations upside down and completely dominated Kobe Bryant –– the widely-annointed “Best Player in the League” –– and the Los Angeles Lakers.

After it’s over, now, it’s easy to say it wasn’t even close

The best team over the course of the season prevailed in stunning fashion, in a series that featured the largest comeback in NBA Finals history, another almost-huge comeback, domination and more domination. The Celtics’ losses were still close games, and their wins were, by and large, marked by superb performances of one kind or another.

And so I’m watching the post-game festivities of the NBA Finals (cringe!), watching David Stern (a man who makes me detest the word commissioner) and wondering why Eddie House’s kid isn’t getting more face time.  I could go on at length about the gross shortcomings of the NBA, but I’m not going to. I think I’ll save that for tomorrow.

What’s significant about today (boy this sounds like a history exam) is the end of Boston’s 22-year draught, the erasure of the sad memories of Len Bias, Larry Bird’s retirement, Rick Pitino’s tenure, and the botched draft lottery that landed Tim Duncan in San Antonio instead of Boston.

For the first time in a long time, a basketball crazy NBA city gets to celebrate like it’s the golden years of the 1980s. There’s no Bird, McHale or Parrish, but there’s certainly plenty of magic in the “Garden.” For the first time in a long time, the NBA Finals sounded like they meant something to people. From the sounds and looks of it, another Kevin Garnett head-butt into a basket support might have led the place to implode.

So, for now, there’s no existential dump on the NBA. I’m content to listen to the experts back up in their tracks, cover them up, heap praise on the champions, and, oh yeah, be happy for Boston.

P.S. If Kevin Garnett doesn’t get the league MVP honors, Ted Donaghy, the crook, is right and the fix certainly is on.

* The mediocre conclusion to possibly the most mediocre postseasons in any American professional league.

Why I’m Mad This March

What’s a bracket?

What’s this thing called March Madness?

What do I do?

I might as well come right out and ask those questions as, judging by my bracket’s performance during the last four days, I obviously know next to nothing about college basketball.

Frankly, I had not been able to pay as much attention as usual to basketball (the NBA is not basketball) but that thought never crossed my mind – I managed to do my research as usual, reaching that maddening, critical mass of too-much-information.

Then, I could see the possibilities and I made my choices.

Now, I look like an idiot: in the basement of the office pool, the ESPN.com pool and my Facebook pool.

Ouch.

Through the first half of Thursday my picks were faring pretty well — through the first half of the day’s games my only SNAFU came in picking Kent State over UNLV. Then, during the second half of Thursday’s extensive bill of games, well, my .375 percentage would get me into Cooperstown, but absolutely nowhere in Bracketville.

And I was pretty sure I was going to be in OK shape on Friday until the insanity in Tampa.

Ohhhh, Tampa.

I’d go out there and say that the 4-13 matchup is the new 5-12 upset special, but then the 12s went right out and did the same thing — damned, my bracket was. I should have seen what was coming when Duke almost lost to 15-seed Belmont (not that I picked Duke to get past the second round).

One of the best things about this year’s field was that there were several small-time schools seeded better than big-name schools, and many big-name schools seeded in the middle of the pack such that you had Marquette (6) playing Kentucky (11) in the opening round.

The original tourney bracket was knocked by many who felt that it was neither controversial nor borne of an overly-exciting regular season.

I thought it was pretty interesting. I thought there were a lot of possibilities. I just didn’t pick any of the right ones. Now I’m last, being bested in the office pool by people who know the ins and outs of rap, Realism and runways but have no idea what an RPI is. If they had a clue, it would be because they transferred from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — and they’d still be wrong.

I made the rules and I’m losing the game, a trend becoming more real and scary since the year of George Mason and the upside-down bracket in 2006.

I thought I had that year pegged too. Well, I didn’t. The next year I picked too many upsets. This year though, I thought I had a very money balance of upsets and favorites; I had about the realistic ratio, just none of the right ones.

What do I do next year? I have no idea, but I’ll be ready for the best stretch of sports: 48 season-ending games in four days. It’s like Christmas, but with 48 trees full of presents.

Pop Quiz!

A fun, timely Madness quiz:

What you know about that?

The biggest beast in America East

At the end of last season, Marqus Blakely looked like a budding star.

If you missed it, his dunk –– it’s on YouTube, it’s still incredible –– in the America East championship game might have been the biggest possible exclamation point to the idea of his stardom.

His stats were not incredible but he provided an undeniable spark as the most exciting player on the floor and showed flashes of brilliance that weren’t always predicated on his ups.

With Blakely, whatever was left unclear and unanswered at the end of last season should be cleared up and quite satisfactorily at that.

I can’t put it any more accurately or bluntly than this: Marqus Blakely is a beast, a game-breaker and maybe the best player in America East.

It’s a role he’s been growing into all year –– the new mohawk-look only accentuates the situation.

Blakely manages to be nearly everywhere he needs to be, nearly every time. If he was less flashy, he might be the team’s “glue” guy. However, he has shown that not being flashy isn’t something he does well.

I know his teammate, junior Mike Trimboli, is also arguably the best player in the conference and has a more complete game, but right now my money is on Blakely.

While one or the other has been UVM’s leading scorer in every game this season, Saturday’s game sealed the deal for me.

Against an undermanned and smallish but still-feisty UMBC club, Blakely played like the biggest man on the court. He was a force.

The stat sheet had him for 26 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, but I lost track –– it was an impressive display.

On one defensive stand in the second half, Blakely rejected three consecutive shots, the last being chalked up as a foul on teammate Evan Fjeld. Blakely only received credit for four swats but I’m confident he altered many more than that.

On the offensive end, Blakely doesn’t go out and snipe you to death — he was out of place with the ball at the end of the game, attempting a last-ditch 3-pointer — but his repertoire has grown significantly since last year.

Not only does he take it to the basket, he does so now with moves and a level of finesse he didn’t show extensively last year.

And then there is the aerial display. Blakely outworked UMBC and has consistently out¬worked opponents for put-backs, dunks, blocks and rebounds. He is listed at 6’5” but leads his team’s frontcourt as if he were more like 6’10”.

It’s a treat to watch.

Although the Cats’ five-game winning streak was snapped Saturday by UMBC, there were a lot of positives to take away, Blakely most notably among them.

So long as he doesn’t pull a Trapani and bolt for a bigger program (my fingers are crossed), the next two and a half years will be something special.

It appears Blakely is just beginning to show what he can do. It’s something else.

Catch-22

If anything, my time at UVM –– primarily in the stands and press areas of Patrick Gym and Gutterson Fieldhouse –– has convinced me of two things:

1) The University needs a newer, larger, more modern arena for its marquee sports.

2) It will be a sad day if/when we have to say good-bye to Patrick and The Gut.

Gutterson Fieldhouse

In coming to this, though, I have come across a few different facts. We can think of it as another minor area of study during my undergraduate period.

An obvious fact: Patrick Gym and Gutterson are, with the exception of Matthews Arena at Northeastern –– essentially an irreplaceable Boston relic –– the oldest facilities in both America East and Hockey East, and two of the smallest ones at that. They’re lovable, but lovable only gets you so far.

A financial fact: while a new arena will be undoubtedly expensive, it will certainly have room for more fans, which means increased ticket sales (more people, more tickets, more money).

A sad fact: what is endearing and attractive to you, me and any other serious fans –– Patrick Gym and The Gut’s character, quirks, closeness to the action and history –– is not always appealing to the athletes competing on the ice or court.

A probable fact: after visiting some of the newest, nicest arenas in America East and Hockey East, it is likely that a new UVM venue will produce, sadly, a dissatisfying fan experience.

New facilities will attract higher caliber coaches and recruits to UVM’s blooming athletic program.

Part of the grand cycle: steps were taken to achieve more success, success was achieved, more enticing resources will attract even better people to achieve even greater success.

The University has done just about everything short of building new facilities, except instituting astronomical coaches’ salaries, to become more successful. A new, marketable resource like an arena is the logical next step.

Old facilities, well, they speak for themselves. The great ones are kept for their character and history (and sometimes the prohibitive expense of a replacement).

They’re what make college sports special, compared to the professional level.

Your traditional hockey barn –– Gutterson is a standout here –– is disappearing. Your matchbox, foldout-bleacher gym (Patrick) is going by the wayside too.

So, while a new arena will mean more fans and more room for students, they will be farther away from the action, especially for basketball. Agganis Arena at B.U. –– a gorgeous, amazing facility –– is a perfect example of this.

If I had my druthers, I’d take old and classic over shiny and new, any day.

The thing of it is, I also want to see more wins… It’s the only catch, Catch-22.

That damn Yossarian was right.