Once upon a time, there was an intense rivalry between the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It seems to me that the hard feelings have given way to an all-around attitude of “Minnesota Nice” (a phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it) rather than intense competition between neighboring towns. So, being the instigator that I am, I’m trying to bring back those hard feelings and stir the pot a bit. Because, let’s be honest here, who doesn’t love a good rivalry? Let’s break this down and determine once and for all which city is the “ugly sister”. Continue Reading
Everybody has a bucket list. Whether you actually write it down or not, we all have those things we want to accomplish or places we want to visit before we die. Well I have a new concept for you, a list of experiences I’d rather not have before I kick the bucket, and if I somehow fail to avoid every single one of these dreaded items I’m afraid I might actually drop dead prematurely. Let’s go to the list, which is in order of least to most devastating to my will to live if I relent or are subjected to the listed experience. Continue Reading
Today was Senior Day at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, and it marked the end of a very disappointing season for my favorite college basketball team. The team had what seemed like realistic expectations to finally take that “next step” with a winning record in conference play and hopefully a win or two in postseason play, but unfortunately, despite the great start to the season, it didn’t materialize. One of the biggest reasons the Gophers had such expectations this year, was because it was mostly a veteran team, led by their all-senior starting backcourt of Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen. I want to thank Blake and Al for what they did for Minnesota Basketball the last four years. Both from Minnesota, they decided to stay home and play at the Barn back when Dan Monson was running the show, and decided to stick with the school through the coaching change.
What made Blake and Al such a good team, was that they were such perfect compliments of each other. The point guard and the shooting guard. The lock-down on-ball defender, and the crafty team defender. The ball-handler and the pure shooter. But one thing Blake and Al had in common was that they were both unselfish, great passers. They understood their roles on the team, and gave Tubby what he needed to run his offensive and defensive systems. One of the buzzkills of this season was when junior combo-guard Devoe Joseph decided to transfer out of the program. There are a lot of possibilities for why Devoe decided to transfer, but my theory all along has been that he wasn’t happy with his minutes and absence in the starting lineup. I can understand his frustration, because I believe as an individual, Devoe is a better player than either Blake or Al, but his skill set overlaps both of theirs, and if you started him over either one of them, you’d have a more talented backcourt, but it would be somewhat incomplete. I liken it to a Venn diagram, where Devoe is clearly the middle piece. So when Devoe decided he needed to find greener pastures elsewhere, I was really disappointed, but more so for next season when I knew he would be our best offensive player and get to shoot 15-20 times a night since we were covered this year with our seniors. Of course, I could not foresee the injury that would end up dismantling our team when Nolen broke his foot in Ann Arbor. I guess the team’s 2-8 record after Nolen going down is the best proof of just how valuable he was to our team. It really is a sad way for Al to have to end his career as a Gopher, but almost as sad is what Hoffarber had to endure on the court without him. Blake was the only guard on the team that wasn’t a freshman after Al’s injury, and thus was forced to play out of position, which hurt his own production dearly, and was glaringly obvious at the end of games when good looks at the basket are tough to come by and require a true ball-handling distributor to facilitate open shots. But enough about this season’s disappointments.
These two will go down as tied for my second favorite Gophers of all time (Damian Johnson is #1, I haven’t been a true Gopher fan for very long, mind you), and they’ve brought me many great memories. Blake started his career at Minnesota by knocking down tons of open 3 pointers, and used that amazingly-quick release to knock down tough shots all four years to become the Gophers’ all-time leading 3 point shooter. Al was among the Big Ten leaders in steals each year and helped Tubby’s full court presses work with his awesome quick feet and hands, leading to countless uncontested lay-ups and dunks. Blake had is unforgettable game-winner in the Big Ten Tournament quarter-finals that Gopher fans can always cherish, and Nolen was the catalyst in some of Minnesota’s biggest wins these last four years, especially against #9 Louisville in 2008 (Pitino openly acknowledged that Nolen’s quickness was too much for his players to handle), and over UNC and WVU this year in Puerto Rico (Blake was huge in all three of those games as well, but if you watched the games, Al set the tone for the team).
Unfortunately for these two, the dream season never fully came together, and the Gophers ended up going 0-2 in the NCAA tournament during their time at the U of M. But what they did was help lay the foundation for the rebuilding of the Minnesota program, and it perhaps helped Minnesota kids to consider becoming a Golden Gopher some day rather than leaving the state to play big time college basketball (Royce White and Rodney Williams already followed in their footsteps back in 2009). Their contributions will not be forgotten by this fan, and I wish them the very best in what they choose to do with their lives.
I have the highest of hopes for Al and the team’s sake that he can get a chance to play in the Big Ten Tournament this week, and you never know what could happen with him back in the lineup. I’m not counting this team out yet if he could play, and so I will conclude this post with a giant “Thank You” to Al and Blake, but also, a plea to the entire team to keep on pushing and play for that championship. Nolen and Hoffarber deserve it.
The Golden Gophers are 5-0 to start the 2010-2011 men’s basketball season, and I couldn’t be happier right now. To start undefeated is one thing, but to beat two major conference opponents including a Final Four participant from the year before, a top-10 team, and 5 teams that all could possibly end up in the NCAA tournament this year is another. Here are some thoughts I have to share about this young season thus far, and some predictions going forward.
1. Settle down Gopher faithful! Settle down!
I’m as excited as the next fan, but I have to keep reminding myself that we’ve seen this before from Tubby Smith-coached Gopher teams. Anyone else remember beating #9 ranked Louisville on a neutral court in December of 2008? Or how about beating #10 ranked and eventual national runner-up Butler last season in November at the 76 Classic? We’ve seen Gopher teams that can have early non-conference success on neutral courts. We tend to sneak up on teams because our program isn’t that prominent. Both of those big wins helped us get selected for the Tournament in March, but they still didn’t translate into success in conference play or victories at the Big Dance (Gophers are 0-3 in postseason tournaments under Coach Smith). Furthermore, this North Caroline team is a pretender top-10 team in my eyes. They lost yesterday to an un-ranked Vanderbilt squad, and they didn’t even make the NCAA tourny last year. They are hype and reputation, which is purely what makes up pre-season college basketball rankings. I was actually more impressed by beating West Virginia on Sunday than the North Carolina win. Now, all of that being said, I do have some reasons to be more optimistic about this past weekend than I just suggested we should be. Last year when the Gophers knocked off Butler, they got content and laid an egg against Portland. Last year when the Gophers played out of their minds for 3 1/2 games in the Big Ten Tournament and proved they should be chosen on Selection Sunday, they got content again and got dismantled in the 2nd half by Ohio State. Both years in the NCAA tournament, it seemed like the Gophers were always just “happy to be there”, instead of believing that they could go on a Sweet 16 run. So that’s totally what I expected out of them when they beat North Carolina Friday. I thought they’d play West Virginia close for a half, and then lose by 15 since they were probably thinking, “We got our 2 wins, including one against a top-10 team. We’ve had fun in Puerto Rico, so let’s not worry about this game.” But that’s not what happened. They didn’t panic when Casey Mitchell was lighting up the scoreboard in the first half. They played their game, and were simply the best team in Puerto Rico this weekend. I’m optimistic that this year will be different, but I still will take a “wait and see” approach to this team. They have to prove it to me in January and February against the Michigan States and Purdues of our conference.
2. MVP: Al Nolen.
Trevor Mbakwe was honored by the people who put on the tournament as MVP, but Al Nolen was snubbed, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, Trevor was a game-changer, and he had the most consistent numbers to merit the honor. But Al Nolen is clearly the leader of this team when he’s on the court. He and Blake Hoffarber make up our dynamic senior backcourt, and they both are great leaders by example (and great players), but Al stands alone as the alpha-dog when he’s out there. He’s not the scorer that Demetri McCamey and Kalin Lucas are, but he’s a better defender than both of them, and West Virginia had absolutely no answer for him thanks to his quickness. Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzula both were hardly heard from, and when Tubby asked Nolen to stop Casey Mitchell, he did about as good of a job as anyone could hope against possibly the hottest scorer in the nation right now. Al dives to save loose balls, and he uses his quick hands to deflect passes and pick dribblers clean. And even though he’s not a great scorer, he provided offense when he knew his team needed it with a great driving layup and then a huge clutch 3 both against North Carolina, and then hitting all of those free-throws against West Virginia. My only hope is that Al can continue this brilliant play in Big Ten play, where the opponents are all very aware of quickness.
3. Blake Hoffarber, underrated?
It’s hard to believe that a guy that hits so many big shots could be considered underrated, but in my mind, he still kind of is. In this young season Blake has not only hit his share of 3’s and other big shots, but he’s also been passing the ball so well, playing rather good defense, and even filled in with a little back-up point guard duty. Blake is a smart player who sees the floor well for a non-point guard, and even though he lacks great ball-handling skills, he makes up for that with superior passing and great knowledge of Tubby’s offense and where others are going to be. I was impressed with his leadership in that tough North Carolina victory when the Tar Heels had just erased a 5 point deficit, Blake came right back with a big 3, and then an awesome feed down to Mbakwe in the post that set him up for an easy dunk to bring the lead right back up to 5. Blake is an elite outside shooter, and in truth, he isn’t elite at really anything else, but he is a very good player who does so much more than knock down 3’s. I think we’re all going to realize just how valuable he is when next season we realize we don’t have him anymore.
4. New Guys
How do I sum up this group? Mbakwe is a force and takes this team to another level in post-play. Austin Hollins has shown some promise and has a nice-looking jumper. Chip Armelin can occasionally knock down a shot and shows a decent amount of poise. Mo Walker needs to lose a few pounds and then decide to never launch a 3 pointer as long as he’s wearing a Minnesota uniform, but hasn’t been that bad. Maverick has yet to impress me or even allow my blood pressure to settle down to normal levels when he has the ball. I guess what I’m trying to say is: This group intrigues/scares me at the same time. They’re a rather raw group of kids, but I think in a season or 2 Tubby could turn them into basketball players (except Mbakwe, he’s fine). I’m glad we have these guys, but outside of Mbakwe and Hollins, I’m hoping we don’t have to see most of them very often this year. I think Devoe Joseph’s return will take up any of the minutes that Armelin and Maverick were seeing, and even some of Hollins’, but Mo Walker will always need to give the occasional sub for one of our top 3 bigs who get in foul trouble. Let’s hope he matures quickly, because we’ll lean on him the most out of these freshmen.
We got through the hardest part of our non-conference schedule without losing, and so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t finish that part of the schedule 12-0. The game @ St Joseph’s would be the only game I would pause and look at since we’ve never been a great road team under Tubby, but I still say we win it. I’m not gonna go game-by-game, but looking at the Big Ten Schedule, we should be able to get to 12-13 wins as long as we can survive that tough start. Along with a win or two in the Big Tournament and this team is looking at possibly 25 wins which would help us land around a #4 to #6 seed considering how tough the Big Ten is this year and our non-conference success. I know I’ve already mentioned how we all need to settle down, but I just want to be optimistic. It’s more fun. So I’ll say we go 12-6 in Big Ten play, and then grab a #5 seed, win our first game in the Tourny, but then come up just short of the Sweet 16. I hope the Gophers can outperform my somewhat scaled back expectations, but like I said before, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Yesterday, my beloved Golden Gophers stooped to yet another low by dropping their home opener to the Division I FCS South Dakota Cougars. While I wouldn’t qualify this as a heartbreak, since my expectations are so pathetically low for this particular team, it was still a big disappointment due to the embarrassment of it. So out of this shame, I was brought to the place where I pondered all of my past experiences as a sports fan, and I came up with my worst heartbreaks as a sports fan. I’ve had far worse heartbreaks as an athlete myself, but those are a completely different part of my life, so I’m not going to include any of those stories.
June 26th, 2010 – World Cup Round of 16 – Ghana 2, USA 1
I had all out World Cup fever after the exciting group stage that the USA actually won. It set up perfectly for us to be favored all the way to the final four of the World Cup, but the US stayed true to their colors by giving up an early goal in both regulation and extra time, and didn’t have enough fire power to overcome the deficit twice. My Saturday was a sad one after that.
April 7th, 2008 – NCAA Championship Game – Kansas 75, Memphis 68 OT
This is the only heartbreak that doesn’t involve any of “my teams”, but I was/am such a Derrick Rose fan, that I desperately wanted Memphis to win this game, and somehow I just could not shake the sick feeling I got when they blew that game. All they had to do was foul Mario Chalmers before he could get that shot off. Derrick should have just made both of his free throws.
October 7th, 2006 – Penn State Nittany Lions 28, Minnesota Golden Gophers 27 OT
You’ll find that this won’t be the last time that the Gopher football team will show up in this post, but this one just might be the most ironic. Justin Gianini routinely liked to miss extra points for our team when they usually didn’t matter. So of course the one time he missed an extra point in a tight game, it had to come back and bite us Gopher fans in the collective butt. Our team was trash that year, but we wanted that Liberty Bell. When we went up by a touchdown, we knew the missed extra point would come back to haunt us, but we just hoped it wouldn’t. On Penn State’s ensuing possession, we got a 4th down stop and seemingly won the game, but a phantom PI call gave them the 1st down they needed to go on and score, and you’ll never guess what happened: they made their extra point.
January 17th, 2008 – Indiana Hoosiers 65, Minnesota Golden Gophers 60
If it weren’t for the loss, this would have went down as my favorite night ever in the Barn. I’ve heard that place loud and rowdy, but that night in particular stood out for just how crazy it was even before tip-off. We were a quality team in desperate need of some signature wins over ranked opponents to make the tournament that year, and unfortunately we couldn’t hold on that night.
January 23rd, 2010 – Michigan State Spartans 65, Minnesota Golden Gophers 64
Just this last winter, the Gophers again needed to start getting some quality wins if they had post-season aspirations. Despite leading the entire game, we let Kalin Lucas break our hearts with a deep 3 from straight on to take a 1 point lead, and then couldn’t come up with a quality look at the basket afterward. All I wanted to do was forget that game, and I attempted to sleep it off. It didn’t work.
The Top Ten
10. “He’s Human After All” – May 7th-18th, 1995 – Orlando Magic Defeat the Chicago Bulls 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals
This is the only playoff series that I can recall Michael Jordan losing. I was too young to remember the days before the Bulls were winning titles, and in ’94 Jordan was off playing baseball, so if it weren’t for this series, I would think that Michael Jordan was incapable of losing a postseason series. Clearly, Jordan wasn’t fully back in his best basketball shape, as he had groomed his body to be a baseball player, but when I was 8 years old, I wasn’t smart enough to realize that. I didn’t care that we were the #5 seed and Orlando was #1. I just knew that Michael Jordan was the best basketball player of all time, and my beloved Chicago Bulls weren’t supposed to lose. I think I was more in shock than anything else. I wish I could have that kind of confidence about my teams nowadays, but I’ve seen too much. Let’s move on.
9. “The Un-Retirement” – August 18th, 2009 – Brett Favre Signs With Minnesota Vikings
From May to August, I nervously waited for some sort of definitive announcement about whether Favre would stay retired for the 2nd time, or sign with the Minnesota Vikings. I was against it from day 1 since I’m a big T-Jack guy, and I saw how Favre drove the Jets into the ground, but most of all, I could not accept my least favorite athlete of all time joining my favorite football team. I remember that when I was on a mission trip, I checked ESPN.com and saw what I had been waiting and hoping for: Favre announced that he would stay retired. My level of relief was comparable to this guy. This, of course, only made it that much harder to take when Favre “changed his mind” and signed with the Vikings 3 weeks later. The season saw us go on to win 12 games and get 1 game away from the Super Bowl, but it was tainted by the stench of old beer brats, cheese curds, and Miller High Life that Favre had on him from playing in Green Bay for 16 years. It’s also the reason why you won’t find Saints 31, Vikings 28 on this list, because quite frankly, I saw it coming. And of course, this nightmare isn’t over for me yet.
8. “The Collapse” – December 29th, 2006 – Insight Bowl – Texas Tech Red Raiders 44, Minnesota Golden Gophers 41
It’s funny how expectations can change so many times within a season, and even within a game. Those shifting expectations then, can also reflect the instability of someone’s job security. Glen Mason signed a contract extension before the 2006 season, and since Laurence Maroney had just left the program, his job would be safe as long as he had an average season with 5-7 wins. Check out the Gopher’s season schedule and results from that year. We took care of the easy non-conference opponents and lost a game on the road against a preseason #9 Cal team, so typical Mason team so far. We then lost 4 straight conference games, and when the up and coming North Dakota State Bison came to town, the entire student section was shouting “Fi-re Ma-son”. After we squeaked out a 10-9 win, we had to go to Columbus to get embarrassed 44-0 and be 3-6 on the season, and at this point, Mason’s job had to be in serious jeopardy. Somehow, Mason rallied the troops for 3 straight victories, including a 34-24 win over rival Iowa and a trip to Tempe, Arizona for the Insight Bowl. Surely, he had saved his job at this point. And now, Mason had zero expectations, as nobody thought our traditionally terrible pass defense could hope to contain the high octane Red Raider passing attack. But when the Gophers led 38-7 with 7:47 remaining in the 3rd quarter, it was assumed we would win. When our team went on to allow the biggest comeback in college football bowl game history, I was a mixture of angry, sad, shocked, and just empty. The next day, Mason was fired, and a new chapter of Golden Gopher football was weeks away from starting: The Tim Brewster Era.
7. May 21st-31st, 2004 – Los Angeles Lakers Defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals
Despite growing up a Bulls fan, after Jordan and Pippen left the Bulls and were no longer on national TV, I couldn’t really follow my favorite team anymore. So I adopted the Timberwolves as my second team, and since they’re in the Western Conference, I figured this wouldn’t really ever cause any Sophie’s Choice type scenarios. So by 2004, I was all in on the Wolves. Kevin Garnett was by far my favorite active player, and I was convinced that he was the best player in the world. I watched every single game that I could, and truly believed that our team was good enough to finally beat the hated LA Lakers. Despite the mismatch of Shaq against any one of our lousy centers, what hurt the most was that when we lost game 6 and were eliminated, reserve shooting guard Kareem Rush hit every big shot down the stretch, including 6 3-pointers, and was the guy that beat us. Kobe, Shaq, Malone, and Payton all were effective against us, but we let one guy who never seemed to be relevant before or after that series decide the outcome in the elimination game. It was devastating, and the Wolves never seemed to recover, as they haven’t returned to the postseason since.
6. “The Pick-6” – November 1st, 2008 – Northwestern Wildcats 24, Minnesota Golden Gophers 17
Tim Brewster fell flat on his face in his first season by going 1-11, including a loss against Div. I FCS North Dakota State, after promising so much that some fans actually thought he could take us to the Rose Bowl in year one. But in year 2, Brewster had seemingly turned things around. We beat the cupcake non-conference opponents, and besides losing by a couple scores to the powerhouse Buckeyes early in Big Ten Play, we were taking care of business. We were 7-1 on the year, including 3-1 in conference, and we brought a #20 ranking into what seemed to be a loser-proof game against the Northwestern Wildcats. Things didn’t go quite as planned, as backup quarterback Mike Kafka ran for some 200 some yards on us, and just made our defense look like fools. But by the end of the game, we were finally stifling the Wildcat attack, and had all the momentum to take into overtime. We got the ball deep in our own territory with under a minute left, but Brewster wasn’t content to play for OT, he wanted the win. Our quarterback threw a deep pass down the middle of the field to his go-to receiver, Eric Decker, and the normally reliable Decker let the ball bounce off his hands, and into the grasp of the Northwestern defender, who took it back all the way to end zone, with 12 seconds remaining. You have got to be kidding me. Much like many other years, the Gophers couldn’t come back from this type of loss, and they went on to lose the next four games after to finish the year 7-6. So much for Brewster turning the program around. By the way, that was my senior homecoming game, and I brought my parents, brother, sister, and another friend to the game that day. I simply said to my family after the game, “Welcome to the life of a Golden Gopher football fan.”
5. “The Trade” – March 2nd, 2005 – Minnesota Vikings trade Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders for Napoleon Harris and #7 Overall Pick
I remember being in our family’s living room and I turned on Sportscenter. The news was announced that we had just traded our franchise player, and my favorite Viking of all time, to the Oakland Raiders. Never mind that it was a horrible trade since we ended up getting a pick that was wasted on Troy Williamson and linebacker Napoleon Harris, who never amounted to anything, but the fact that our organization would trade away a fan favorite, once-in-a-lifetime talent like Randy Moss is beyond any amount of certifiable insanity. I will never forgive our franchise for that. I felt so betrayed that day, but the feelings of betrayal truly came to fruition when the next season came and our offense no longer could move the ball at all. That trade killed Mike Tice’s coaching career, and Daunte Culpepper’s career as a quarterback. You can preach Herschel Walker, Pau Gasol, Babe Ruth, or whoever you want, but giving up Moss like we did, over a couple of stupid, blown out of proportion stunts, is the worst trade in the history of sports in my book.
Sure, the 2003 Vikings weren’t going to win the Super Bowl, and you could say we got what we deserved for not wrapping up the division weeks before, but when the Vikings choked this game away, it was absolutely surreal. It looked like it was out of a movie. You couldn’t make it up. I distinctly remember not being able to sleep that night, and neither could my brother, and so we decided the only way we could possibly attempt to forget about the loss was to watch Dumb & Dumber. It didn’t work.
3. “41-Donut” – January 14th, 2001 – NFC Championship Game – New York Giants 41, Minnesota Vikings 0
Only 2 years removed from the best Vikings team I’d ever seen, this team stumbled to the finish and held on to the 1st round bye by finishing 11-5. They looked sharp for the first time in over a month by dominating the Saints in the divisional round, and so all of sudden I, along with all the other Viking fans, were supremely confident that we could go into the Meadowlands and push the Giants around. Things didn’t go quite as planned. We didn’t even need to make the trip to New York. To not even manage a single score was just embarrassing, and I just want to forget it. Why did I decide to write this post again?
2. “The Muffed Snap” – October 15th, 2005 – Wisconsin Badgers 38, Minnesota Golden Gophers 34
Once upon a time, I was a wide-eyed freshman who knew nothing about the heartbreak that would come hand in hand with being a Gopher football fan. I already knew that I didn’t like the Wisconsin Badgers because they are our biggest rivals, and I already hated the Packers, so I figured they had a lot of the same fans. I was going to learn what it meant to truly be a Gopher fan that day, and it would only fuel the fires of disdain for the University of Wisconsin. Our team built a 10 point lead with about 2 minutes to go despite missing our starting quarterback that day, and then went on to purely choke it like only the maroon and gold could. It was all capped off by a perfect snap being muffed by our punter Justin Kucek, and then his attempt at a punt was blocked and just barely stayed in the end zone for the Badgers to recover for the game winning touchdown with under 30 seconds to go. Just like the Northwestern loss in 2008, my team never recovered, and finished the year 7-5, when before that late game collapse, we were 5-1 and ranked in the top 25. As I left the stadium that day, I felt so miserable that I just went home and took a nap. The hundreds if not thousands of Badger fans all around our campus were constantly flashing choke signs at us, and just couldn’t contain themselves. I was scarred that day, and have said many foolish things about Wisconsin since that I’ve learned were wrong and have come to regret. Okay, just one more to get through.
1. January 17th, 1999 – NFC Championship Game – Atlanta Falcons 30, Minnesota Vikings 27
There’s no cute little nickname I could give this game. It really doesn’t need one. I am far too young to have seen any of the Vikings’ 4 Super Bowl losses, so this game is the standard all other heartbreaks are measured against for me. I always thought of this team as the greatest team to not win the Super Bowl, but perhaps you could say the 2007 Patriots have taken that title now, so we’ll easily give the Vikings the greatest team to not even make the Super Bowl. When I think of that team, I just smile because of the joy they gave me. I remember even in the preseason, that I was certain it was “our year”, and that nobody could stand up to us. Randy Moss was that final, essential piece of the puzzle that would transform our offense from a good one, to a top 3 offense of all time. I can play the “ifs and buts” game all day for that game, but that just hurts even more. Gary Anderson gets an unfair share of the blame, but that being said, there’s no excuse for missing a 38 yard field goal, and keep in mind the guy didn’t miss a kick all year! We won the toss and had the ball twice in OT. I guess we just tightened up under the pressure or something like that. If you’re a Vikings fan, and you want to remember the good old days of ’98, check this out. But I’m warning you, it might make you cry. (I’m not a crier, but I get really emotional when I watch it.)
Well, there you have it. Those are my heartbreaks. But don’t feel too bad for me. I have seen my favorite basketball team win 6 NBA Championships (4 of which I can actually remember). Even if I don’t have any other titles to my name as a fan, I’m so blessed to have seen the number of great games that I have. Some day, I’ll write about my greatest sports memories, but that will have to come after a team of mine takes me to that place. We could be waiting a while.
Well I’ve been blogging for a little over 6 months now, and I recently passed the 1000 mark for number of visitors to my blog. What better way to celebrate than to touch on a variety of different subjects in one my sampler platter posts?
1. Crossover Tour 2010: Serbia & Romania
In case you haven’t heard, I’m going on a mission trip to the countries of Serbia and Romania to put on youth basketball camps and play exhibition games against local pro teams. This will be my second year going on this trip, but my first time in Serbia. (Last year I went to Romania and the Czech Republic) I’m really looking forward to the fun and good work we’re going to do over there. If you want to find out more about Crossover, click here, and plus I’m linking to their website at all times under the “Ministries” category. I would appreciate any prayers for my team and me as I’m gone from July 24th to August 14th, and if you would like to get updates from me on my trip, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Crossover mailing list” in the subject line.
2. BP Oil Spill: It’s about damn time
Well, I don’t follow the news too much outside of ESPN, but I heard about the oil well being plugged, at least temporarily, and I thought that was wonderful news. I hope that situation remains under control from now on and so the clean up can continue and eventually restore the Gulf of Mexico to its previous state. This had been going on for so long, that I had become quite numb to hearing that more oil was spilling, and to finally hear that it’s over is more surreal than a relief. However, it’s nice to know that it is over, and since these things are pretty tough to contain, let’s hope they learned a lot from this so we can be more careful and not let another one happen.
3. Gopher Football 2010: I got a bad feeling
My favorite college football team’s season is just around the corner, and I think it’s going to be yet another down year for the maroon and gold. This will now be Tim Brewster’s 4th season as head coach, and so he has no excuse if his team doesn’t succeed. He’s supposedly a great recruiter, but despite good recruiting classes early on, Brewster has failed to develop any of that talent and translate their progress into marks in the win column. As a Gopher fan, I’m tired of waiting through year after year of rebuilding, but it appears that I’ll have no choice but to endure yet another. Our average-at-best defense from last year lost a lot of key guys, and Adam Weber appears to be getting worse each season, which probably will continue now that Eric Decker is gone. I would like to see the prized MarQueise Gray get a legitimate chance to start at quarterback since Weber has never developed and hasn’t exactly led us to the Rose Bowl. I’m so pessimistic about the Brewster era due to what I’ve seen so far, that I would not be surprised if we went 0-8 this year in conference play. All 4 of our home games are tough opponents, and winning on the road in the Big Ten is not easy. Since I think that result is far more likely than the team going 6-2 or 5-3, my prediction is that this will be Tim Brewster’s final season as our head coach. I don’t think that’s a good thing for our program, but I do think that that is the reality.
4. “The Boss”: R.I.P.
You may have noticed that the one sport I never seem to write on is baseball. But after the death of George Steinbrenner, I was noticing something kind of disturbing in the reactions, and I felt obligated to comment. Some fans of smaller market teams, such as the Twins, despised Steinbrenner so much out of envy and jealousy, that they actually said stupid things like that he deserved to die and that they were happy that he was dead. Not only is this completely insensitive, and taking sports too far, but it’s also completely misguided, in my opinion. All George Steinbrenner did was care enough about winning (over making money) to actually spend the money he made with his team to improve his team, and played by the rules that Major League Baseball had in place. He was a nut, and a jerk sometimes, but ultimately he brought 7 titles to his team, and if he was your owner, you wouldn’t be complaining. I don’t like the Yankees, and I think the system is screwed up that they have their advantages, but that is all the fault of the League. Plus, how could you not love this man?
5. The Gallon Challenge
Did you ever think you could drink a gallon of milk in an hour? Well it’s not that easy. Back in the summer of 2006, I made a “mockumentary” type film about trying to complete the “Gallon Challenge” with some friends at Bible camp. I don’t know how I forgot about it for so long, but I rewatched it the other day, and so now I’m posting a link to it on here under “YouTube Videos”, even though it’s actually on Google Video. If you’re bored and have 23 minutes to spare, you may want to check it out. There are a couple good puke shots at least.
My favorite time of year is upon us! March Madness began last weekend!
First things first, I have to give some props to my squad, the Golden Gophers, for showing up for 3 straight games at the Big Ten Tournament. I’m not sure the Gophers played well in 3 conference games in a row all season. It’s a bit frustrating to know that they could have played that well all season and been in contention for a 6 seed or above, and also that they thought that the Big Ten Championship is only played for one 20 minute period rather than two, but at least they were able to go on a run when it counted and salvaged the season by earning that NCAA berth and a Big Ten Tournament 2nd Place Finish. It gives me much more hope for next season, especially since Devoe Joseph and Colton Iverson were the ones that stepped up more than anyone, and they’re only sophomores. The showing in their first round game against Xavier was disappointing as well, but as evidenced by their second round defeat of Pittsuburgh, that Xavier squad is one good team.
As for the rest of the tournament, I, like most people out there, am the owner of a bracket that is full of crossed off picks. I’m in 14th place out of 16 in my pool. And yet, I feel as though I have the pool right where I want it. I’m the only person in the entire pool who didn’t have Kansas to the Final Four, and one of only 5 people who didn’t take Kansas to win it all. Only one other person was wise enough to choose Kentucky to win it all, and since he has Kansas in the championship game, and I have Ohio State, I’ll have plenty of points to overcome his lead on me when Evan Turner leads the Buckeyes to the National Championship game. Syracuse looked really tough against Gonzaga, and the only other two people in our pool that are alive took the Orange to win it all. I think that Ohio State is too good of an outside shooting team to lose to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, and so I like the Buckeyes, but they still have to get there, and I’m also going to be rooting for Butler, K-State, or Xavier to knock off the Orange just so the Buckeyes don’t have to face them. I wouldn’t mind, however, if Syracuse and Baylor both made it to the Final Four, because I don’t think I’ve ever had then entire Final Four correct before, and I’d like to have that accomplishment.
So, why did I take Ohio State to beat Kansas (I’m not smart or lucky enough to predict a Northern Iowa over Kansas upset) and go to the Final Four when everyone else knew that Kansas was the best team in America? For one, I just wanted my bracket to be different from everyone else’s in my pool, but also, I just don’t want to believe Evan Turner can be stopped right now. I also dream to see a Turner versus Wall national championship game, where the winner could potentially lock up the #1 draft pick status by wowing the NBA scouts that would undoubtedly be in attendance. I don’t know the Kentucky team well enough to know how the matchups would work, but I do know that John Wall is a good defender, and even though Turner is 6’7″, he’s not exactly small at 6’4″, so we could even see them guard each other as they bring the ball up the court!
Since both of these guys are up for national player of the year in college basketball, and both are possible #1 overall picks in this year’s NBA draft, I thought I’d break down both arguments for you, with my opinions, of course.
National Player of the Year: Evan Turner
This award is not meant to gauge how anyone will do at the next level, nor is it meant to honor achievements over an entire career. It’s just to honor the best college basketball player in the country for that season. Turner is that player. Let’s compare Turner and Wall’s numbers from this season:
Wall: 16.8 ppg (4th in SEC), 6.5 apg (1st in SEC), 46.5% fg%, 34% 3pfg%, 76.3% ft%, 4.2 rpg(28th in SEC), 0.5 bpg, 1.8 spg (3rd in SEC), 4.0 TOpg
Turner: 20.3 ppg (1st in Big Ten), 5.9 apg (2nd in Big Ten), 52.3% fg%, 35.3% 3pfg%, 74.6% ft%, 9.2 rpg (1st in Big Ten), 0.9 bpg, 1.8 spg (3rd in Big Ten), 4.3 TOpg
Turner is better in almost every category. Wall clearly looks like the better true point guard with his better assist and turnover numbers, but Turner is so much more than a point guard for his team. An argument for Wall is that he is the best player on a superior team, and thus, more deserving. I do think Kentucky is a better team than Ohio State, but I don’t think that the margin is that great. Also, you have to look at Ohio State’s record when Turner was out versus when he came back from a BROKEN BACK! The Buckeye’s are 19-3 since Turner has returned from injury, and whenever they’ve been in close games, Turner has been the one to bail them out. John Wall has only lost twice all season, which is very impressive and a great argument for him, but like I said earlier, the team around him is superior to that of Turner’s, and I think that is actually a strike against Wall. Demarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, and Eric Bledsoe all have made big plays this year in crunch time. Wall still leads that team in big time plays, but Turner seems like the only guy the Buckeyes would ever look to with the game on the line. Okay, so I’ve ranted with a Big Ten bias about Turner for long enough, time to change it up.
1st Overall Pick in the 2010 NBA Draft: John Wall
All of those stats I mentioned above are far from meaningless for this debate, but pure numbers aren’t going to determine who will be the better pro. Wall is 2 years younger than Turner, which is already a plus because whoever is picking 1st is building for the future, and you want a guy that will most likely play a couple more years in the league. The NBA has shown in recent years that really good point guard play can be dominant. Young point guards like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, and now Tyreke Evans (kind of a point guard) are taking the league by storm. John Wall has the Derrick Rose size and athleticism (I still can’t decide who’s more athletic) but with possibly a better outside shot, and maybe even better point guard instincts. Also, look at the last two one and done point guards to play for John Calipari: Rose and Evans, and you have to think that Wall is another can’t miss prospect. I love Turner’s versatility, and since he plays point guard in college, who knows, maybe that’s how a team would use him at the next level, but he’s not going to be able to back down 6’2″, 195 pound college sophomores for easy buckets at the next level. Teams will put bigger, quicker perimeter players on him and give him trouble, so I don’t think his future in the NBA really is point guard. The only way I see Turner going #1 is if the team picking there is dumb enough to draft for need rather than best player available, or is convinced that Wall couldn’t play in their offensive system. (Timberwolves, I’m looking at you.)
So, now that I’ve put it out there that my bracket needs this matchup to happen, and since it’s what everyone else probably wants to see since the Jayhawks got knocked out, we know it’s probably destined not to happen. (I’ve never won an NCAA pool.)
So long for now.