Analyzing Purdue’s Performance in Maui

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 27th, 2014

After three convincing wins against three low-major teams and the impressive debut of freshman Vince Edwards, Purdue entered the Maui Invitational ready to test themselves against their major-conference peers and see if they’re as significantly improved from last season as they have appeared thus far. So what did they find out? They’re definitely better than last year but their season-long trajectory is still yet to be determined. Purdue finished Maui in fifth place with a 2-1 showing. The Boilermakers have proven they can beat teams likely not making the NCAA Tournament (Missouri) or likely to be on the bubble (BYU); but they missed their opportunity to get a resume win or two when they dropped their tournament-opener to Kansas State. But most importantly, they learned they’re a talented group that will need more consistency from their starters and less costly turnovers in order to really make some waves in conference play.

Rapheal Davis helped lead Purdue to a 2-1 and 5th place finish in Maui.

Rapheal Davis helped lead Purdue to a 2-1 record and 5th place finish in Maui.

Against Kansas State, the Boilermakers effectively lost the game in the first half when they committed 11 turnovers that led to 17 Wildcats points, and subsequently a 15-point halftime deficit. In their second game against Mizzou, Purdue remedied their first half woes by coming out strong and playing physical defense right from tipoff, which led to the Tigers being unable to make a field goal until six minutes into the game. In the final game against BYU, the Boilermakers found themselves in a back-and-forth nail biter that went into overtime, which could have been lost due to a Rapheal Davis turnover, but instead was won on A.J. Hammons hook shot. The last few sequences of the BYU game seems representative of Purdue’s Maui performance: moments of intense frustration from turnovers, that is overcome by the innate talent within this group.

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Big Ten M5: 11.21.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso & Brendan Brody on November 21st, 2014

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  1. Anyone who watched the Wisconsin game on Wednesday night saw what could have been the dunk of the season from Wisconsin-Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes. Sykes almost went full “Deandre Jordan on Brandon Knight” in his missed dunk attempt over preseason All-American Frank Kaminsky, causing the preseason All-American to take to Twitter after the game to talk about how the dunk “would have ruined my confidence as a basketball player.” This led to a very lighthearted exchange between the two players that you can read here. It’s nice to see two great players who both hail from Chicago being supportive and recognizing the skills that each of them possesses.
  2. Many of us here at the microsite had written off Indiana after a tumultuous offseason, but after their 74-68 win over #22 SMU in Bloomington last night, we may need to reevaluate this group. Freshman sensation James Blackmon Jr. led the way with 26 points. This game also marked the return of three players from their suspensions — Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, and Emmett Holt. What once looked like a bleak future for Tom Crean may be turning brighter thanks to the outstanding play of Blackmon Jr. — who has now proven he can play at a high level against nationally relevant teams. The freshman may singlehandedly pull the Hoosiers from the valley it found itself in just a couple weeks back.
  3. In the midst of all the holiday tournaments going on either this weekend and next week, Michigan State announced that it will be part of the Wooden Legacy tournament next season. The other headliner in the field will be Arizona. Providence and Boise State also will be playing in Anaheim along with Boston College, Evansville, Santa Clara, and UC Irvine. The Spartans will lose two of their top three players from this year’s squad, but should return Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello next season.
  4. It’s not always going to be pretty basketball, but if you’re into watching a player just go completely “Kobe” and chuck shot after shot, look no further than Penn State and D.J. Newbill. The prolific scorer put up 35 points on 33 shots in the Nittany Lions’ 97-106 double-overtime loss to Charlotte. Newbill had a chance to score the game winner with an open lane to the basket in the dwindling seconds of the first overtime, but it was blocked by Charlotte. The 35-point total was the most for a Penn State player since 1995, but without many other options on this team — especially with Tim Frazier graduated — look for more nights like these from Newbill. It’ll be entertaining if nothing else.
  5. Maryland also struggled in its quest to stay undefeated, yet managed to pull away from Fordham to notch a win on Thursday night. Unlike Northwestern, their struggles were on the offensive end. This is what senior leader Dez Wells wanted however, as he spoke to wanting to see how the young team handled things when they weren’t hitting shots. They ended up winning this one on the defensive end, holding the Rams to only eight free throw attempts and to 30.6 percent shooting from the field. A game like this should help them, especially once conference play hits. They now know that they can still get a win even if things aren’t clicking on the offensive end of the court.
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Three Keys for Iowa to Beat Texas Tonight

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 20th, 2014

One of the Thursday night headliners will take place in Madison Square Garden where Iowa faces #10 Texas in the 2K Sports Classic. The Hawkeyes have gotten off to an impressive start by beating both their two opponents by an average of 32.5 points per game, but after last year’s late-season tanking, many are hesitant to jump back on the Iowa bandwagon. Fran McCaffery‘s squad is without question a talented bunch, so the Longhorns present a November opportunity to gain back some of that trust. An win Thursday night means the Hawkeyes would have a top 10 win before December, something they couldn’t muster at all last season. Here are three keys to the game that Iowa will need to address if they’re going to pull off the upset.

Adam Woodbury will look to use his size against Texas's big frontcourt on Thursday night

Adam Woodbury will look to use his size against Texas’s big frontcourt on Thursday night

  • Use their size. It won’t be very often this season that Texas looks across the floor and sees a team that has more size than them, but that will be the case tonight against Iowa. Three of the Longhorns’ starters are listed at 6’8”, 6’9”, and 6’9”, while the Hawkeyes have three starters at 6’9”, 6’9”, and 7’1”. Iowa will need to use its size advantage in the frontcourt — especially with Adam Woodbury — to defend under the basket. Through two games, 35.6 percent of Texas’ total shots have come at the rim, and they have been extremely effective from this spot (76.2% FG). The Hawkeyes need to challenge every shot and dare the Longhorns to hit that same rate over the arms of their big guys.

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Freshmen Consistency Will Key Success For Georgetown

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 19th, 2014

It was obvious when John Thompson III inked his consensus top 15 recruiting class that he would be relying on those five recruits to make an immediate impact on his program. While there is no transcendent player who headlines the class, the group is talented enough to the point where JTIII can play each of them significantly — 36 percent of all available minutes through two games, to be exact — and put as many as three freshmen on the floor at the same time. On Saturday, his assuredness paid off as freshmen carried Georgetown to an easy victory against St. Francis (NY) by scoring 42 of the Hoyas’s 83 total points. But on Tuesday night in the team’s 78-62 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Hoyas’ head coach was forced to deal with some of the inconsistency that comes with youth. Against the Islanders, his heralded corps of rookies only chipped in 16 of the 78 total points. This issue of consistency will need to be addressed if Georgetown hopes to crack the Top 25 and get the national attention that they’re used to.

JTIII will need L.J. Peak to be aggressive every night to win the Big East (Jonathan Newton/Washington Post).

JTIII will need L.J. Peak to be aggressive in every outing to win the Big East (Jonathan Newton/Washington Post).

The group that was so impressive over the weekend was far less so on Tuesday night, taking a number of bad shots and committing half of the team’s 16 turnovers. L.J. Peak, a wing from Gaffney, South Carolina, and the only starter from his class, led all scorers with 23 points on 8-for-8 shooting in Georgetown’s season opener, but he struggled to contribute 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting on Tuesday. Three others — Isaac Copeland, a power forward from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire; Paul White, another power forward from Chicago, Illinois; and Tre Campbell, the only Washington DC native — all played significant minutes in both games. But their performances in each were in stark contrast with one another – as a collective, the trio went from 19 points over the weekend to a mere six on Tuesday. The decline was felt systematically, as the Hoyas went into the half tied with the Southland Conference team. Read the rest of this entry »

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Purdue’s Hot Start Brings Hope to Program

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 18th, 2014

From a distance, this weekend seemed like a relatively unremarkable start for the Big Ten. The teams that were expected to win won, and those that were expected to lose lost. But if you take a closer look, you’ll find that one team, with the help of an especially impressive freshman, turned some heads with its dominant weekend play. Purdue looked nothing like the team picked to finish 11th in the Big Ten, as predicted in the Preseason Media Poll, easily disposing of both of its opponents by a combined 60 points. Outstanding performances from certain players, especially freshman guard Vince Edwards, fueled Purdue’s offense to an average of 78.5 points in the two games, giving Boilermakers fans and some prognosticators reevaluating the trajectory of their season.

Vince Edwards has led Purdue to their hot start. (Jerry Schultheiss).

Vince Edwards has led Purdue to their hot start. (Jerry Schultheiss).

Edwards, a little-known freshman, was awarded this season’s inaugural Big Ten Freshman of the Week – ahead of a number of other high-profile freshmen like Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell – after averaging 19.5 points (including a 26-point outing against IUPUI), 8.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in his first two games. The freshman was so unheralded as a recruit that he failed to make both Scout’s and Rivals’s Top 100 rankings. The Middletown, Ohio, native has been a stat stuffer so far, but he hasn’t been the only major contributor. Sophomore Kendall Stephens has been deadly from the outside, evidenced by his 9-of-13 shooting from deep and 17.0 PPG average. A.J. Hammons already has eight blocks, if little else, and sophomore Raphael Davis and freshman Isaac Haas brought excellent performances to the season opener – Davis chipped in 13 points, while Haas contributed 11 points and eight rebounds. The Boilermakers’ hot start has been an impressive team effort thus far, which is in stark contrast to the underachieving unit we saw come out of the gates last year.

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Georgetown Needs Joshua Smith to Fill Its Rebounding Vacuum

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 15th, 2014

On Saturday afternoon, Georgetown’s Joshua Smith suited up for his first official game since January 4, the date when he was suspended for failing to meet academic obligations and only the latest bump in a turbulent road throughout his collegiate career. In last season’s 13 games for the Hoyas, he was a helpful presence, leading the team in Win Shares per 40 minutes (.191) despite playing fewer than 20 minutes in nine of those games. Smith’s presence inside balanced the team’s offense by providing efficient post scoring to complement outside shooting from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks. But after his suspension, Georgetown struggled, losing six of its next seven games en route to an 18-15 overall record and missing the NCAA Tournament. Now, Smith is back, Starks is gone, and the Hoyas have added a slate of talented freshmen who will play significant roles this year. The challenge for Smith, in his final year of eligibility, will be again defining his role and asserting himself in the new rotation. In Saturday’s game against St. Francis (NY), an 83-62 victory, it became obvious what the Hoyas need from Smith the most: rebounding.

Josh Smith Iis back and the Hoyas need him on the boards. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Josh Smith is back, and the Hoyas will need him to rebound more effectively. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Smith posted a familiar stat line of 19 minutes, 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, two rebounds (both were offensive rebounds of his own misses), and a block. Limited minutes, high offensive efficiency, and leaving something to be desired on the rebounding front are what we’ve become accustomed to with this player. But head coach John Thompson III is not conceding to this assumption. He expects more from his senior center, and he made that clear when he was asked about Smith’s performance in the postgame press conference: “I thought it was unacceptable. He’s got to play better. Josh Smith can’t play and have two offensive rebounds, two rebounds total.” His lack of rebounding presence was certainly felt, as the Terriers grabbed 22 offensive boards on the day, a major contributing factor as to why they were able to take 10 more shots than the Hoyas. As Thompson acknowledged, giving up that many offensive rebounds will become a greater issue when the Hoyas start playing Big East and other high-major teams that can better take advantage of those second chances.

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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #9 to #5

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 13th, 2014

We continue our preseason Big Ten rankings today with spots #9 through #5. The bottom tier of teams, #14 to #10, released earlier this week. These middle tier teams will be fighting to be on the right side of the bubble — and providing us with great drama — all season long.

9. Maryland

  • What they do well: Defense. Mark Turgeon has had a top 40 squad in adjusted defensive efficiency the past couple seasons and it’ll likely be his area of focus once again.
  • What they don’t do well: Retention. Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell, Nick Faust, Roddy Peters and Shaquille Cleare all transferred out of the program in the offseason — not exactly inconsequential players.
Dez Wells is one of the few familiar faces in College Park this year. (Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback)

Dez Wells is one of the few familiar faces in College Park this year. (Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback)

  • Get to know: Melo Trimble. The top 40 recruit will need to use his offensive skill set to help replace all the lost scoring from last season.
  • Why they’ll finish 9th: The exodus of key players and unfamiliarity in the Big Ten will cause some very sharp growing pains for the Terrapins.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: This team still has talent and is used to playing top-notch competition. If they can get all their new pieces to gel together, they can compete in a relatively down Big Ten.

8. Iowa

  • What they do well: Offense. Last season, the Hawkeyes were fifth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and they bring a majority of that roster back this year.
  • What they don’t do well: Mental toughness. Last season, Iowa wilted in close games against Villanova and Iowa State. Things really spiraled out of control at the end of the season when they lost seven of their last eight contests.

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Introducing the RTC Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 13th, 2014

We continue our preseason superlatives this week with the introduction of our Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team. To review our Preseason All Big Ten Third Team, check out Eric Clark’s post from Wednesday. It’s important to point out with this group that, while we stuck to five players, we weren’t completely married to a true team concept and ended up with two point guards on this team. Instead, you should interpret this as the next best five players after our Preseason All-Big Ten First Team, which will release on Friday.

RTC All-Big Ten Second Team

  • Yogi Ferrell, Junior, Indiana, 6’0”, 178 lbs. (17.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.9 APG). Ferrell made a huge leap last season by adding almost 10 points to his per game average in becoming the primary scoring option for Indiana. This year, the junior point guard will have some additional scoring help with freshman Justin Blackmon Jr. joining the Hoosiers. This should relieve some of the pressure to score from Ferrell and allow him to concentrate on running the offense and improving on his mediocre 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Yogi Ferrell is a Lone Bright Spot at Indiana Right Now

Yogi Ferrell is a Lone Bright Spot at Indiana Right Now

  • D.J. Newbill, Senior, Penn State, 6’4”, 210 lbs. (17.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.7 APG). Last season, Newbill was the primary scorer and Tim Frazier played the role of distributor. Now that Frazier has graduated, it will be solely on Newbill to run the Penn State offense. Because of the transition in his role, his scoring may drop as he tries to involve teammates like John Johnson and Jordan Dickerson in the offense. Still, Newbill will be the one with the ball in his hands during crunch time — as he goes, so will the Nittany Lions.

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D’Angelo Russell: RTC Big Ten’s Preseason Freshman of the Year

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 11th, 2014

Thad Matta has been the most successful coach at Ohio State since the Fred Taylor era in the sixties. As he enters his eleventh season in Columbus, his Big Ten resume reads as follows: Five regular-season conference championships, four tournament championships, and two Final Four appearances including a trip to the National Championship game. One of the pillars to his success has been his ability to lure superbly talented recruits who are able to have an immediate impact in their freshman season. Players like Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jared Sullinger, and Aaron Craft have fit this bill and are a big part of why the Buckeyes have had sustained success for almost a decade. D’Angelo Russell is the next player to follow in these footsteps. He’s a prolific scorer who joins an Ohio State squad in need of someone to take the reins of their offense. For these reasons, he’s our Big Ten Preseason Freshman of the Year.

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D’Angelo Russell is set up to lead his team in scoring in his first year at Ohio State (Danny Wild).

Although Russell is originally from Louisville, he finished his high school career in Montverde Academy in Florida where played point guard and led his prep team to win the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. He was also selected to the McDonald’s All American team where he scored 11 points (5-10 FG) in 15 minutes. The 6’5”, 180 lbs. combo guard has a remarkable ability to put the ball in the basket due to his effective shooting, ball handling ability, and natural feel for the game. But what impressed Matta most about the young guard is “… his demeanor on the court at this point just in terms of, he can take a court over”.

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The Five Best Big Ten Non-Conference Games

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 11th, 2014

We’re just a few days away from the first official tip-offs of the season, which will mean that the non-conference portion of the season has begun. Most fans will watch their team play some little-known school for an easy win over the weekend, but there is an excellent slate of non-conference games involving Big Ten teams on the horizon. The five best of those games are listed below. A couple caveats: (1) no games from the Big Ten/ACC Challenge were included because we’ll cover that event in full later this month; and (2) the annual rivalry match-ups (e.g., Illinois-Missouri, Iowa-Iowa State, etc.) were also removed, since those games have already been discussed ad nauseam. This list represents the best of the rest.

The following list is in chronological order and displays each team’s expected record (according to Kenpom) at the time of the game.

Minnesota (0-0) vs Louisville (0-0)

Armed Forces Classic – Aguadilla, PR – Friday, November 14: Minnesota fans will be in for a treat on opening night as the Gophers will headline ESPN’s coverage against the Cardinals at U.S Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico. This will arguably be the best match-up of the night, pitting two teams from power conferences in a father/son battle with Richard Pitino taking on his dad, Rick, for the second time in his short career. The Golden Gophers play a similar style as Louisville — including the Pitino family’s patented pressing defense — but they are outmatched in talent. Still, with returning starters such as Deandre Mathieu, Andre Hollins and Elliott Eliason available, young Pitino could be poised to catch his father’s team by surprise and make it interesting. Honestly, just be happy that this game is not taking place on an aircraft carrier.

Michigan State (1-0) vs Duke (2-0)

These two legends face off again as Michigan State battles Duke in their early non-conference schedule. (AP)

These two legends face off again as Michigan State battles Duke. (AP)

Champions Classic – Indianapolis, IN – Tuesday, November 18: The Champions Classic has become an early-season staple as the unofficial marquee event to tip off college basketball. It’s been a successful series as four elite programs — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and Michigan State — have rotated match-ups to play each other over a three-year period. This season the Spartans draw Duke and their trio of super freshmen — Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. But what the Blue Devils have in talent, they lack in experience. An early game like this gives Michigan State a golden opportunity to notch a resume-building win against a team that could end up as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 11.07.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 7th, 2014

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  1. On Wednesday, the NCAA decided that Duje Dukan would get one more year of eligibility and could play in all but the first two games of the upcoming season. Our newest microsite writer, Eric Clark, wrote about the specifics of the decision earlier in the week. The crux of it is that Dukan took a medical redshirt in 2012-13 after already playing in a couple of scrimmages, making his eligibility for a fourth year questionable. In the end, this is very good news for Wisconsin because for all their talent in the starting lineup, the Badgers are not very deep. On Thursday, Zach Bohannan, a former Wisconsin player and teammate of Dukan, wrote on CBSSports’ blog about the complexity of the medical redshirt rule and called for the NCAA to make its application consistent to all players regardless of class. That would make sense, but that’s not exactly what the NCAA is known for. Speaking of Wisconsin…
  2. That same night, we got to see the Badgers in action for the first time in an exhibition game against Wisconsin-Parkside. The game ended with a 37-point Badgers’ win, and Frank Kaminsky showed why he’s a consensus Naismith candidate by contributing 19 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes. He even generated a Sportscenter-worthy highlight as he showed off his ball-handling skills, going coast to coast before dishing to a teammate for an assist. We all know exhibition games mean absolutely nothing, but Frank the Tank certainly seemed like he was already in midseason form.
  3. And now for your daily update on the circus formerly known as Indiana basketball. We are now getting a clearer picture on how severe Devin Davis’ head injury is and how long the road to recovery will be for the sophomore. While Davis is progressing, simple tasks remain difficult for him. As Tom Crean describes it: “Progress this morning is sitting up in a chair. Progress is taking a walk.” There’s been a lot of chatter about whether the Indiana head man will be fired during or after this season, so it’s easy to forget that a young man is dealing with a very serious setback in his life. We hope that Davis fully recovers and that this experience, not just the threat of bad publicity, motivates the rest of the Hoosiers’ roster to modify their behavior.
  4. There’s been a good amount of discussion this preseason as to whether Nebraska can continue the success it built last season. Most prognosticators believe the Cornhuskers can, thanks in large part to players like Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields and Tai Webster. But if Tim Miles’ team wants to improve, it is going to need other players to step up beyond that trio. One such candidate is backup point guard Benny Parker, who is hoping that the work he put in the offseason to improve his shooting will make him more of an offensive threat during games. If Parker can become a consistent shooter from deep, that will add another scorer while also opening things up for Petteway and his mid-range jump shot.
  5. Finally, many basketball programs that do not typically recruit top 100 prospects have started to look overseas to find promising talent. For example, Patty Mills became a star at St. Mary’s via Australia and Alex Len became a lottery pick at Maryland via Ukraine. Alex Olah, Northwestern’s returning big man, hails from Romania and now plays basketball at one of the most elite academic institutions in the country. Henry Bushnell from SBNation did a really interesting profile on the junior. It describes his journey from humble beginnings in low-middle class Eastern Europe to now walking around as a semi-celebrity in Evanston. Olah will probably never be a star in this league, but that doesn’t mean his story — and others who travel from afar to be part of the sport we love — shouldn’t be shared.
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Seven Years Later, Indiana in Free Fall Once Again

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 4th, 2014

A little less than seven years ago, Indiana basketball was in free fall after head coach Kelvin Sampson admitted to numerous NCAA violations stemming from extra phone calls to recruits. We would learn soon afterward that not only was the coaching staff behaving inappropriately, but that there was rampant drug use among the players and some of them had altogether stopped attending classes. The last few days in Bloomington have felt eerily similar. First, news broke over the weekend about a car accident involving two Indiana basketball players, sophomore Devin Davis and freshman Emmitt Holt. According to details from the crash report, Holt hit Davis with his car after dropping him off when Davis unexpectedly entered the roadway. Both players are under the age of 21 and had been drinking, but only Holt was cited for illegal consumption of alcohol after registering a blood alcohol content of 0.021. Meanwhile, Davis is still in the hospital with a fractured skull. On Monday afternoon, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that two more Hoosiers — sophomores Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson – have been suspended by the school for failed drug tests. For Tom Crean’s program, these most recent events total four off-the-court incidents involving almost half of his roster since February.

If it wasn't the case before, after this weekend it is apparent, Tom Crean is fighting for his job. (Getty)

If it wasn’t apparent before, it’s pretty clear after this weekend: Tom Crean is fighting for his job. (Getty)

With the spate of recent off-the-court incidents combined with questionable on-court finishes the last couple of seasons, Crean’s future in Bloomington is in serious question. The blowback from these events reached a tipping point in the media yesterday. First, Indianapolis Star’s sports columnist Gregg Doyel stated that the Indiana administration should explore releasing its head coach if another incident occurs. Dan Dakich, the interim head coach at Indiana before Crean, expressed even more indignant frustration across his Indianapolis-based radio program’s airwaves. Dakich was upset by the lack of institutional control apparent, stating, “These guys decide it’s more important to go out drinking than prepare for a scrimmage and compete for a job. Indiana basketball stands for nothing. Absolutely nothing.” And this was all before the Williams/Robinson news broke out. (Doyel has since said that Crean can’t survive). Finally, as if his day wasn’t stress-filled enough, the Indiana head coach had to fend off the anger on his weekly Monday night radio show. When a caller said he blamed the head coach for all the recent transgressions, he responded, “You’re more than welcome to put it on me.” Read the rest of this entry »

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