Final Four Thoughts

Posted by Irregaahhdless

At this point, I don’t remember if I picked Butler (a 12 seed at the time) to beat Florida in the 2000 NCAA Tournament. I just remember — as happens to me often, regardless of what my bracket picks are — that I wanted the Bulldogs to win. (I do enjoy myself some upsets.) And when Florida’s Mike Miller missed being called for a charge by thismuch and hit a game-winner to thwart a game effort by Butler, 69-68, I remember swearing at the TV. A couple of times. The undersized and undermanned Bulldogs had played just about the perfect game. And the reward for that? The same trip home what the No. 16 seed that loses by 35 gets. Something was wrong with that.

I won’t say that I was hooked on Butler at that point — or, for that matter, that I’m hooked now — but the Bulldogs definitely fit in that “Oh, they’re back in the tourney? Yeah, I hope they win” team for me. Year after year. I mean, we all have teams like that, don’t we? A crew from whom you can barely name anyone of significance from the past decade, yet when they win a big game in the tourney, they get a little something extra on the fist pump. I just sorta liked ’em a little bit more than the standard root-for-the-underdog crew. Something about that loss 10 years ago made me want something big for them — like that would somehow make the “injustice” from 2000 all OK.

Well, you can’t get much bigger than playing for the national championship, which the Bulldogs will do Monday night. (Seriously, Butler is playing for the NATIONAL FUCKING CHAMPIONSHIP. Everyone can come out and say, “This is a Top 10 team in the preseason polls.” And that’s totally accurate. But, you know, still, this is Butler. And this is the national championship game. If you don’t think that’s kinda awesome, stop watching sports.)

So, it’s safe to say that no matter what happens Monday night, Butler, the NCAA Tournament gods and I are all cool now. (And, by the way, props to Butler head coach Brad Stevens for recently receiving his driver’s license. I’m sure that was a big day for him.) That damn-we-shoulda-won-it game in 2000 is well in the rearview mirror now. And I’ll bet that the guys who suffered the heartbreak on that day — who, for all intents and purposes, have as pretty big hand in what’s gone on this season — are enjoying this tourney run almost as much as the guys who are taking the court.  And they should.

Well done, Bulldogs. One more to go. Now, if you wouldn’t mind beating Duke by, like, 87, that’d be perfect. Thanks.

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Terps Hit Two Game-Winning Shots, Gary Is a Genius

Posted by SuckaFish

Down by one with time running out, Greivis Vasquez crossed half court and launched a desperation heave. As it hit the backboard and went through the net roughly half of the sellout crowd at the Comcast Center celebrated the apparent victory. The rest knew that it didn’t count. Just before he released the ball the Maryland bench had called timeout.

So with 1.5 seconds left and the ball near half court the Terps found an unlikely hero, Cliff Tucker.

And that’s why Gary is a genius. During the timeout he drew up a play that no one was expecting.

Eric Hayes had 15 points and hit a three to give the Terps the lead with 1:20 to go. Gary has him inbounding the ball.

Vasquez scored 18 and had become Maryland’s fifth all-time leading scorer earlier in the afternoon. And don’t forget his half-court heave seconds before. Gary uses him as a decoy running past midcourt and away from the basket.

Landon Milbourne is the second-leading scorer for the season. He sets a pick for Vasquez at half court and is no factor in the play.

Sean Mosely might be the best pure shooter on the team. He’s on the bench.

Dino Gregory meanders to the top of the key and stands there.

Cliff Tucker had only played nine minutes and made just one field goal so far. When the Terps absolutely had to have a big shot he’s the only player going towards the basket and getting into position to shoot. Pure genius.

Last season the play would have failed and “fans” would be calling for Gary’s head. What a difference a year makes.

The win puts Maryland (19-7, 9-3) in sole possession of second place in the ACC one game behind Duke. The Terps host the Blue Devils on March 3.

As the celebration died down Coach Williams was asked if he had seen Tucker hit a shot like that in practice, or anywhere else. After a long pause and a near chuckle Williams answered, “I saw him today.”

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Michael Donner Is Not Welcome Here

Posted by Irregaahhdless

I love this proposed deal in Peter King’s MMQB Tuesday Edition today:

From Michael Donner of Rochester, N.Y.: “Hear me out, as I think this makes sense given the history of the Belichick Era (Deion Branch, Richard Seymour, Ty Law, Curtis Martin): Offer Tom Brady to the Raiders for their 2010 1st, 2nd, 3rd; 2011 2nd, 2012 1st, 2nd.”

What’s the matter, Mike? Couldn’t figure out a way to get Richard Seymour back — and maybe throw in Nnamdi Asomugha, too?

Al Davis is all but brain dead, but even he’d hang up on the Pats if they called with this deal.

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Preseason Picks — Revisited

Posted by SuckaFish

Before the NFL season started we predicted which teams would win each division, make the playoffs, make the championship games, make the Super Bowl, and win the S Bowl. The competitors were SuckaFish, Irregaahhdless, KilgoreTroutIII, and two guys I haven’t even heard of (Slothtastic, who may be a local television star, and LJizzle, who might play hockey in a mediocre fashion). Here are the results.

SuckaFish Irregaahhdless KilgoreTroutIII Slothtastic LJizzle
NFC Division Champs 2-2 1-3 1-3 3-1 2-2
NFC Playoff Teams 5-1 4-2 3-3 4-2 4-2
AFC Division Champs 3-1 2-2 3-1 3-1 2-2
AFC Playoff Teams 4-2 3-3 4-2 3-3 4-2
Overall Playoff Teams 9-3 7-5 7-5 7-5 8-4

Inside the Numbers

Best Pick: Predicting 5 out of 6 NFC playoff teams
Worst Pick: Seattle winning the NFC West (It’s not that bad, they only finished five games back)
Still Alive: All four championship teams and both Super Bowl teams

Best Pick: New Orleans versus Green Bay in the NFC Championship game. These teams look pretty damn solid right now.
Worst Pick: Tennessee winning the AFC South, Houston as a Wild Card team. That means he had Houston the Colts 14-2 out of the playoffs.
Still Alive: All four championship teams and both Super Bowl teams.

Best Pick: Hard to find one, I guess it was going 4-2 on the AFC playoff teams.
Worst Pick: How about the Giants over the Bears in the NFC Championship game. It would be a good choice if either team had a winning record.
Still Alive: Only one team in either championship game and one in the Super Bowl.

Best Pick: Nailing six of the eight playoff teams
Worst Pick: Having the two teams he missed, Pittsburgh and the Giants, playing in the Super Bowl.
Still Alive: Two of the four teams in the championship games, neither team in the Super Bowl.

Best Pick: Getting the second-highest amount of playoff teams, eight, out of the group.
Worst Pick: His horrible homer pick of the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Still Alive: Three out of four in the championship games and one Super Bowl team.

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Playoffs! Don’t Talk About Playoffs!

Posted by SuckaFish

Cowboys tonight, Patriots tomorrow. We at the SWAGLESS Network are fired up for the playoffs. Even one of the Swaglettes is channeling Jim Mora.

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Before You Even Start, Shut the Hell Up

Posted by Irregaahhdless

I’m already bracing for it — the backlash that’s sure to come from Wes Welker’s apparent season-ending injury today. In fact, as I’m typing this, I’m positive that Dan Shaughnessy is licking the stamp on his column that will include statements like:

a. “What was Belichick thinking playing Welker?”

b. An allusion to Belichick having lost his touch. (First the Colts game earlier this year and now this.)

c. Some out-of-date reference to Larry Bird.

Of course I’m bummed that the ghost of a chance that the Pats had to make a run in the playoffs disappeared during one awkward cut on the Reliant Stadium turf. But in no way am I (nor should any clear-thinking Pats fan) think that Welker being the game was the wrong decision.

First off, the play happened on the Patriots’ first drive of the game. Even notorious close-to-the-vest coach Jim Caldwell had his starters in during the first quarter of a snowstorm (considering the footing, you have to imagine there was a much higher injury risk in Buffalo today). And the bottom line is this isn’t college with 100-player rosters and ample subs. You can only dress 45 on game days in the NFL. You’re always going to have some starters in the game. (Additionally, the Pats play many three-receiver sets and only have six receivers on the roster — two of whom are really just special teams guys just happen to have “WR” next to their name on the roster.)

Secondly, the injury was a fluke. If Welker had been getting tackled or was blown up while returning a punt, there’s at least a bit of an argument. But this happened on a play where he was untouched. And it happened to one of the league’s toughest and most durable receivers. He was making the same cut he’s made 100 times in games this year (and likely 1,000 times in practice) on a dry, grass field. Sometimes weird shit happens. And if it had happened in practice — an event as likely (if not more) as probable as doing it in a game — would folks be saying, “Why was Welker practicing?” Of course not. Because that’d be retarded.

Anyway, anyone who wrote a “Jim Caldwell shouldn’t have pulled his starters” last week column is automatically DQ’d from being allowed to write one saying that Welker shouldn’t have been in the game. That should eliminate 90 percent of all columnists. For the other 10 percent who are considering questioning Welker playing today, here’s a thought: Don’t. You’ll only be embarrassing yourself.

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Hit ‘Em High, Hit ‘Em Low, Go Northwestern Go

Posted by Irregaahhdless

When you’re a Northwestern fan who has sat through countless miserable seasons and your team goes to the 11th hour of a bowl game (seriously, I think the game actually took 11 hours) before losing, there’s little to complain about. Of course, when you start a blog post by saying “there’s little to complain about,” it all but guarantees that you’ll start complaining about losing your bowl game. So, let’s get that out of the way right now.


No, wait. Fuck!

Goddammit, again.

And, yeah: FUCK!

That the Wildcats played a miserable game in a lot of ways today and nearly wound up winning is a testament to the program and how far it’s come. It’s also a reason why, when people make comments that allude to a nice season for NU as if it’s some kind of aberration, that I want to punch them in the dick. We’re a decent team (maybe even a little better than decent) now. So, you know what: F you.

But, yeah, I’m pissed. I usually wake up on New Year’s Day, invite some folks over and aimlessly watch football for 7 to 14 hours. But not this year. This year was different. The Cats were actually playing — fucking PLAYING — today. There was a whole brunch thing. This meant something.

The French toast was awesome. And then the boys came out and sucked. Terribly. Five interceptions, including two in the end zone — one of which was returned for a touchdown. A QB who had thrown seven INTs all year did his best to match that total in the first half alone. There was a lot of swearing at halftime, much of it with small children in the room. Whatever.

The second half was, well, one of those things that you say was indescribable right before you try to describe it. A 14-point comeback to even the score at 21. Completely losing that momentum. A second 14-point comeback — this time one of those Christ-on-a-bike-what-the-F-is-happening-here ones that included three fourth-down conversions, a missed PAT and, honestly, a two-point conversion that had even the 2006-07 Boise State Broncos saying, “That was pretty good.” Ludicrous coaching decisions (an onside kick with three minutes to go, Fitz, really?). A missed FG to end regulation. A missed holding call that led to an Auburn field goal in OT. A ridiculous NU possession in overtime that, I swear, featured:

a. a game-ending “fumble” that was correctly overturned

b. a missed game-tying field goal

c. a roughing-the-kicker penalty that kept the NU drive alive — and knocked NU’s kicker out of the game

d. a fake game-tying field goal that came up two yards short — and one block on the edge — of the game-winning score

There are countless things (and, yes, all the folks who gathered at my house for the Rose Bowl later today know that I can list them all; sorry for the Jaworski-like breakdown of the final plays during commercial breaks, fellas) to second guess in a game like this. And, despite all the folks who remember Pat Fitzgerald only as a hero of the 1995 turnaround of the program (which he was) while ignoring his shortcomings as a gameday coach (which he has), it’s clear to see that this is a team that’s headed in the right direction. There will be far more winning seasons than losing ones in years to come. There’s a coach who will continue (I hope) to figure it out. And, while he’s doing so, he’ll stand up and shoulder the blame for losses like today’s. I’d rather be in Evanston than Lubbock these days — and that’s saying something.

So, to all of the boys at NU (but especially you, Drake Dunsmore; that TD catch/run was F-ing awesome and had the whole living room screaming to the point that my buddy Justin’s son started crying from all the noise), a tip of the cap. The 2010 Outback Bowl was awesome, terrible, fantastic, horrific, sloppy, exhilarating, countless-text-generating and altogether exhausting. I need nine months off from this. But I really wish the Cats had a game next week.

See you guys in September. Can’t wait.

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