Boom Goes The Dynamite: 02.14.09 EditionPosted by jstevrtc on February 14th, 2009
Good afternoon, college hoops fans, and welcome to another version of Boom Goes The Dynamite. What does that mean? If there’s a game on my television, I’m watching it. I’m even monitoring games on about five different online game-trackers. John Stevens, here, holed-up in the RTC Midwestern Compound. Normally you have to wait until Tuesday for me to force my opinions and exert my influence on you in my weekly column; on this particular Saturday, NVR1983 (the Zelig of college basketball fandom — the man can literally pop up anywhere in the country with a press pass and do a live broadcast and duck out before you’ve noticed he’s been there, and probably eaten half your food) is probably somewhere setting himself on press row for a game tonight, and RTMSF (the guru of RTC) is, from what I understand, probably laying under a big pink blanket watching Mad About You or Sex And The City DVDs with his wife at a spa somewhere. Poor b—ard.
(Just kidding, Mrs. RTMSF…)
Anyway, where I am in the Midwest, it’s cold again, it’s grey, and it’s starting to snow. Sounds like good basketball-watching weather (but what isn’t?). I’ve got a television, I’ve got a cooler, and I’ve got a couch. Let’s watch some hoops. I invite you to join me.
We’re getting a little bit of a delayed start because of a techincal difficulty on my end (long story — suffice to say, I am easily distracted and/or confused by things like shapes and colors), but now that we’re up and rolling, in a moment we’ll catch up on what’s happened so far in today’s games. Welcome!
2:15pm — The first thing we notice is that Kentucky is handling Arkansas by 16 early in the second half in a game that UK sort of needs, not just because it’s a road game in the SEC, but because there’s still a little residual bleeding from that stretch of 3-in-a-row that they dropped before barely pulling one out against Florida on ESPN on a Jodie Meeks three with about two seconds left. The SEC is down (you’ve probably heard), but my friends who follow UK basketball collectively feel like it would be hard to keep a 20-win UK team out of any NCAA tournament. They’re currently 17-3 (6-3) with this one more than half over. We’ll have to let our resident bracketologist chew on that one.
The other story here is that Bill Raftery is in full, glorious Raftery-mode, with multiple references to “Leaving a little lingerie!!” and “The puppies!!” already in the second half. It just never gets old to me. I love that man.
#1 Connecticut has pulled one out in New Jersey with an 8-point win against Seton Hall (speaking of Raftery), and Syracuse/Georgetown has gone to OT, tied at 89 at last check with about 2 minutes to go. #11 UCLA is taking some licks at Arizona, DOWN 18 against a Wildcats squad who is making a strong case for an NCAA spot; MAN, what a feather in their cap a win against UCLA would be.
Syracuse has beaten Georgetown 98-94 at the Carrier Dome. G’town is now — are you ready for this? — 13-10.
Meeks has 36 for UK on CBS and there are 10 minutes left. Is he going for 50+ again??
2:41 — Over on the Big Ten Network, Penn State leads Minnesota 24-23 at halftime in a game that made me call my doctor and ask if he’d call me in some Zoloft. PSU shot 36% for the half…eight points better than Minnesota. There were six assists between the teams. And 22 turnovers. I think there were actually about 87 personal fouls called. Possibly the ugliest, happiness-extinguishing half of basketball I’ve seen this year. Barring special request in the comments section by a Gopher- or Nittany Lion-loving monk or nun sequestered in a monastery/convent somewhere, I might just wait until the final on this one before mentioning it again.
Kentucky is slipping a little, letting Arkansas get back to within 11 after leading by 19. I neglected to mention ealier that UK is playing without Patrick Patterson who suffered a sprained ankle in the aforementioned Florida game. UA is without starting PG Courtney Fortson who averages 14.6 ppg and 6.5 apg; Fortson was suspended by Arkansas coach John Pelphrey for undisclosed reasons; so neither of these squads is at full strength. Kentucky isn’t finishing this game well, taking a few defensive possessions off, but it looks like time will run out on the Hogs, as we’re now at the under-4 TV timeout and it’s UK by 13.
And you may have seen…the March Madness ads have started in earnest, now. Hellz yeah.
Arizona is holding on…up 11 with 5 left. I’m frantically trying to find that one on my TV. Nothing doing.
Oklahoma up 14 early in the second half against Texas Tech. Missouri up 7 early in the second half against Nebraska.
3:07 — Kentucky wins 79-63. Meeks had (gulp) 45. CBS switched to the Arizona-UCLA game. UCLA was down by as many as 25 in this thing and are now down by 11…but there’s less than a minute. Collison with 26 and Jordan Hill with 20.
3:12 — Arizona wins 84-72. Nic Wise also had 26 for the Wildcats. That’s seven straight for Arizona.
The other games going right now are Texas 36 Colorado 32 getting ready to start the 2nd half…and…that Minnesota vs PSU game, tied at 48 with 8 minutes left. You know, to look at him, Jim Jackson (providing color for the Big Ten Network on this one) hasn’t changed ONE BIT since his playing days. The man looks exactly the same. It’s the Curious Case of Jim Jackson, coming to a cable network near you.
Oklahoma is pantsing Texas Tech by 25 (78-53) with nine minutes left. Blake Griffin already has 35 points and 19 rebounds. There are nine minutes left. Echoing something both NVR1983 and I mentioned earlier this week, I think the player-of-the-year conversation…is over.
3:40 — To Scott, from the comments section: Thanks for checking in today. What you say is true. Within the last week, both RTMSF and I have made mention on this site about how UCLA is playing better than its ranking and is peaking nicely for tournament time. Then…two straight Ls. I don’t think we were alone in that sentiment. Personally, I chalk it up to the fact that this is the time of year when some of the high-ceiling teams can sometimes…well, coast a little. You’re slogging through the end of the conference schedule, you’ve got the tournaments approaching…it’s kind of like those last 2-3 days of classes or work before you go on a big road trip or vacation you’ve been looking forward to. Coaches do everything they can to keep this from happening to their team, but it often does. But more to the point, I think the Pac-10 gets five teams in; UCLA is still Final Four-worthy. Washington has been a surprise — and still is, sitting unranked but yet atop the Pac 10. Arizona State is one of those dynamic duo teams, and that’s where I think their fate lies — Harden and Pendergraph simply need more help from those other three guys who play more than 30 minutes a game (Kuksiks, Glasser, and Abbott). If they get it, Arizona State can definitely make a run. I don’t see it happening for California, but I think they’ll be in the field. Arizona is the wild card. They’re certainly playing their best basketball of the year at the right time, but you never know which team is going to show up. But as far as an Elite Eight or Final Four run, if you’ll permit me a rain check on Washinton (like most people, I’m playing catch-up with them), I think both Arizona State and UCLA most certainly have the talent and chemistry to compete with anyone and make that run with Arizona taking on more of a spoiler’s role, meaning I don’t want them in my bracket for a 1st or 2nd round game; and even they can move up to the heights of the other two, if they keep playing like they are now.
4:02 — Penn State pulled it out at home against Minnesota, 68-63, in a game I’m kind of glad is over, though the second half was a little more tolerable. The Nittany Lions deny Tubby Smith his second straight year of 20-win basketball with the Gophers though it’s sure to come eventually this year. Oklahoma finished off Texas Tech 95-74, with Blake Griffin posting — I’m laughing as I type this — 40p and 22r. Holy LORD.
4:20 — Now underway and on my TV…an improving Kansas State team at home against defending champion Kansas, a Rivalry Week game truly worthy of the name. K-State is up 10 with 5 minutes left in the first half. We also have Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, early in the 1st. Texas and Colorado have just started overtime in Boulder, tied at 72; and Purdue at Iowa, very early.
4:30 — Hasheem Thabeet’s line from earlier, against Seton Hall: 25 points, 20 rebounds, and 9 blocks. And yet there’s so much about his game that shows us that he hasn’t even totally put it together yet. Scary, to be honest.
Texas pulls out a Big 12 road win at Colorado, 85-76, getting 29 by A.J. Abrams. Our second overtime final of the day! This day started out having little fanfare in terms of the actual matchups but we’ve ended up having a couple of nice contests today.
4:55 — OK, does anyone get this Pacific Life commercial with the whales? There’s no concept that I’m aware of, here, other than, “Look, here are some whales.” And yes, I know the whale is part of their logo. Some people would answer, “Hey, you’re talking about them on a popular blog and now you know their logo.” Fine, I see your point. But if I happened to find myself in the market for some new life insurance, that commercial (God, that music is horrible) makes we want to NOT buy their product. I would go out of my WAY to NOT buy it. Aren’t commercials supposed to make you want to buy their product? Mind you, the opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of anyone else affiliated with this blog…
Pittsburgh just shot 72% for the first half and takes an 11-point lead into the locker room against Cincinnati. Great hoogly-moogly, DeJuan Blair is a large human. Blair versus Thabeet is going to be a war this Monday night in what’s gonna be, at worst, a 1-versus-4 game. Two likely #1 seeds going at it in late February. I tell you…it’s a beautiful thing.
5:10 — Missouri, with a more balanced attack, schnockered Nebraska 70-47. Back on ABC, Kansas State was up by one at the half over Kansas but the bad news is that they were up by 16 with less than 9 minutes left in that 1st half. The K-State defense is starting to sag and Kansas is relying on fundamental basketball (tight defense, solid screens, shot selection, blocking out on both ends, etc) to open up what’s now a 10-point bulge.
5:30 — A thought on the Arkansas loss to Kentucky earlier today: this is a team that started out 12-1 and knocked off both Texas and Oklahoma. Then, in an apparently suffering SEC (by the way, the SEC is down this year, I don’t know if you’ve heard or not), they start 1-9. How does this happen? Keeping it in the SEC, did you hear what SEC commissioner and NCAA Tournament committee chairman said earlier this week? He states that conference and team RPI will not be considered in the War Room when teams are being selected and seeded. Is it a coincidence that this comes up in a year when the conference he runs is “down” on the RPI table?
(By the way, in case you didn’t see it a few lines above, the SEC is what we call “down” this year. It’s breaking news. Alert your hoop-loving friends.)
5:40 — Again, in the SEC, important scores: South Carolina beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa on a last-second tip-in that was oooooh-so-close to being in the cylinder, but it counts and the Gamecocks are well-placed in the SEC. Georgia has beaten Florida, 88-86 in a TERRIBLE loss. Georgia gets its first conference win (1-9) and Florida has to just be KICKING themselves. This is a game they should have won and you NEED all of those in a year when your conference is probably only going to get four (or at the VERY maximum, five) teams in.
Kansas was trying to run away, but Kansas state is keeping this close…78-72 Jayhawks with a minute left.
6:00 — This would have been a really easy game for Pitt to overlook, given UConn looming on Monday night. Let me offer this: when Pitt plays defense, they do it as well as anyone in the nation and they really look like champions. When Pitt plays its “usual” level of defense — which isn’t necessarily bad, but just not what they’re truly capable of — they have to rely on their numerous offensive weapons to carry them. This is their only vulnerability, i.e. what if they decide not play defense one night when they shots aren’t falling? Approaching it from another angle…the team that is the best and most consistent at using their defense to create offense is Duke. When Pitt cranks up their defense and uses it to create offense, they’re better at it than Duke is. Pitt just doesn’t do it as often. They’re up 80-66 on Cinci with two minutes left, and the Bearcats aren’t really mounting much of a comeback.
6:15 — Kansas got through, 85-74. They’ll improve on their #16 rakning and are probably no worse than a 3-seed in the dance.
In other games not mentioned previously, #7 Wake Forest is taking out some frustrations against #25 Florida State , 84-61 with just under two minutes left. #14 Xavier (not offered in the Vegas odds) beat up Fordham 88-53. Purdue got by Iowa 49-45 in a useful road win in the Big Ten. Tennessee had no problem with Vanderbilt, 69-50.
6:30 — With no other game on my TV besides Creighton vs Southern Illinois (Jays up 57-33 with ten minutes left), that’s going to do it for me for this edition of BGTD. I hope you enjoyed the stream-of-consciousness as it pertains to college hoops today. Check back in the next couple of days for full updates and opinions on the weekend’s games; enjoy your weekend, and remember — only four weeks to Selection Sunday!