Monday, March 26, 2007

Jeremy: ...allow me to retort...

Let me start off by saying, Jeffrick might have me on this one. He's got stats and knowledge about Tubby Smith that I just don't have. And one thing that he definitely does have, that I definitely do not have, is perspective.
Look, let's be honest here: I'm a Minnesota guy. Go down the list of any sport and I will tell you that my favorite team is the one representing 'Sota and I'll follow that up by telling you that none of the other teams matter. When it comes to sports I might have strong opinions, but my loyalty to the hometown team is probably even stronger.
Having said that, keep in mind that I was the person who broke the Tubby Smith news to Jeffrick, which I had heard from a co-worker who is a huge Iowa fan, just two minutes after I had heard it. The Iowa fan was absolutely beside himself, knowing that his Hawkeyes were looking for a new basketball coach too.
As a Gopher fan sometimes you expect to hear the worst (I do). You probably never expected that the Flip Saunders thing was going to happen (I didn't), and you assume that Joel Maturi is going to make a mistake (I still did). So when the name Tubby Smith comes up, it really knocks you off your chair.
After some thought and perspective about the hiring, I do have a couple of reservations, but not nearly as many as Jeff.
I see all of his arguments and I understand each and every one of them. But is one thing that Tubby Smith brings, that none of the up and coming young coaches can bring to a program like Minnesota.
Tubby Smith brings credibility to a program that had lost all credibility and desperately needed it back. Ten years ago the Gophers were the cream of the crop in the Big 10, and since then absolutely nothing good has happened to this program. There was one, and only one, single move that could erase a decade of free-falling and that was hiring a coach who has a credible track record with a big name. Rick Majerus and Bobby Knight were the only other possibilities that could have brought instant credibility to this program. Majerus has probably been out of the game for too long to do it (not to mention his health concerns) and Bobby Knight was never a viable option.
Credibility breeds excitement, excitement breeds ticket sales, ticket sales breed atmosphere, and atmosphere might win some recruits. How many recruits would be excited about Rick Majerus? Would any of them even remember when he was coaching?
Joel Maturi had the opportunity to right the ship, and the opportunity to do it in one fell swoop. There's a lot that goes into building a quality program. Based on what was available, I think he made the best possible choice.

Jeff: Monday Musings

Quite a little sporting weekend. Maybe Bed Bath & Beyond but I don’t know if I’ll have time. Seeing how the Madness played out I feel even dumber about my bracket selections. Remember my ramblings about not being able to make picks because I hadn’t followed college hoops much during the year? That looks pretty foolish now, doesn’t it? Go with the chalk! All 4 #1 seeds, 3 #2’s, and a 3 seed in the Elite 8. A couple of upsets here and there but nothing major and we end up with 4 teams that were ranked in the top 8 for most of the season as our Final 4. I’m going to REALLY try to remember this when I’m filling out my bracket next year!

Not sure if I was more impressed with Georgetown’s comeback or appalled at North Carolina’s collapse yesterday. Up 10 with 6 minute left and then the bottom completely fell out of things for the Heels. All that young talent but they couldn’t find a go-to guy, well except the White Karl Malone, aka Tyler Hansbrough- actually, since Karl Malone is one of the whitest black men in history, Hansbrough would just be the Next Karl Malone. Hansbrough’s only move is to fight for good position in the post and then throw himself into his defender to draw the foul. Wash, rinse, repeat. All he needs now is a 15 ft jumper and to never dunk with two hands and he could be a Hall-of-Fame power forward- well maybe in the 80’s. Georgetown’s front line altered or blocked a lot of his shots, which means he’ll have a lot of trouble getting his shot off at the pro level. I know the Hoyas Roy Hibbert is 7’2, but it’s not like he’s much of a leaper. How many rebounds did the guy get standing FLAT FOOTED? As Billy Packer said, he looked like a dad playing with his kids. It’s not good when you look like a 7’2 version of Gheorge Muresan. Still he’ll be a lottery pick in June, and he was white, you know the Wolves would have to take him (Paul Grant anyone? Anyone? You in the corner with the ugly sweater? No?).

But as bad as the Heels looked down the stretch, credit Gtown for taking advantage and taking the lead. I love Florida’s Corey Brewer’s nickname of “The Drunken Dribbler” but I thought Jeff Green was even more deserving of that nickname. He looks out of control and almost clumsy on his drives and his shots, yet he’s so effective. He might be the tourney MVP thus far. The matchup with Ohio State should be fabulous, as I’m intrigued to see how Greg Oden does against Hibbert, who’s legitimately his equal in size and strength (although not in athletic ability). That game could be a slug fest but I’m really looking forward to it.

On the other side it’s Florida vs UCLA. Again. As Colin Cowherd said this morning, what’s changed since the Gators ran the Bruins off the floor last year? Nothing, which is why the Gators SHOULD do the same again. I picked Florida to repeat and I see no reason to change that now, as they’re the most talented and experienced team left. Their game against Oregon was a fun one to watch, as the Gators pushed the hell out of the ball all day. Expect that pace against UCLA who’s a great (aka boring!) defensive team. Not blow away by UCLA, which is why I had them getting knocked out earlier, but that’s not how Ben Howland’s team plays. They win ugly and will continue to. I just wish I didn’t have to watch it!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jeff: Kentucky's Trash Is Minnesota's Treasure

This is one of those rare times when Jer and I have a difference of opinion on a sports topic (Hopefully he’ll present his argument on the Tubby Smith hire because this is one where I’d like to be wrong). Jer likes it and believes the good outweighs the bad. An average of 26 wins a year and 14 straight NCAA tourney appearances at 3 different schools (Tulane, Georgia & Kentucky) while running a clean program with likable athletes is certainly a reason to get excited. There’s just one problem: Tubby Smith failed at Kentucky. In 1998 he was handed the reigns to THE best basketball program in the country, and 8 years later he leaves it as a middle-of-the-pack major conference school. Call me crazy, but that’s not a good sign. The Gophers are getting a guy who couldn’t succeed with every conceivable advantage, and now is being asked to do so with far less.

Save your breath. Don’t bother me with the argument that if Tubby got the Gophers 20 wins and an NCAA tournament berth every year, they’d be naming streets and erecting statues after the man. I agree completely, but how confident can you be that the man will be able to recruit and build a program when he couldn’t maintain the best in the country? Kentucky IS one of the top programs in America (along with North Carolina, Duke and Kansas), one of the few places where they measure success by Final Four appearances and National Championships. 20 win seasons and NCAA berths are not only expected, it’s the minimum standard, which Smith was able to maintain. Yes he won a National Title, but it was with Rick Pitino’s kids, a group that had 5 or 6 NBA players on its roster. Now? Kentucky will be lucky to have one guy get selected in June’s NBA draft. Tubby had every possible advantage, from name recognition to athletic budget to facilities, yet he wasn’t able to recruit the elite athletes that Kentucky is expected to get. Patrick Reusse’s comments yesterday in the Strib are bogus. He claims that more kids want to stay home nowadays, so it’s not possible to dominate the landscape anymore, citing Duke as his example. Really? How many quality basketball players come from the state of Kansas? And yet aren’t the Jayhawks playing in the Elite 8 on Saturday? Greg Oden is from Indiana but went to Ohio State. Kevin Durant is from DC but went all the way to Texas. The certifiably insane OJ Mayo, this year’s top high school senior, is going from West Virginia to Southern California next fall. Hop on this thing we call the interweb and look at the rosters for the sweet 16 teams, and you’re going to see a lot of players that are playing out of state. Kids DO travel, but few elite players wanted to travel to the basketball Mecca in Lexington, Kentucky. And that has to fall squarely on the shoulders of Tubby Smith.

I hope Tubby succeeds and returns the Gophers to a respectable level where they’re annually competing for the Big 10 title and traveling to far off lands for the NCAA tournament. But I have to ask: if Tubby couldn’t recruit at Kentucky, how’s he going to do it at Minnesota? If kids wouldn’t play for him at an elite school, why would they suddenly play for him in Minneapolis?

Minnesotans celebrate this because he’s going to be better than Dan Monson. Hey congratulations, the mindset that Gopher football fans had (well at least he’s not Jim Wacker!) has now carried over to the basketball program. Flip Saunders or Rick Majerus (who wanted the job and was more successful at freaking UTAH than Tubby was at Kentucky) would have been better hires. Despite Sid Hartman’s usual asinine comments, plucking an up-and-coming coach from Southern Illinois or Xavier would have been better hires too. I’d rather have a guy who had success at his last job than a coach who got run out of town because he failed to meet expectations.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Jeremy: Smell 'Em

Okay, quick story...
I was at Cub Foods yesterday with my special lady friend, doing a wee bit of grocery shopping. Cub often sells a bit of local sports swag: I have found Gopher floor mats for my truck there, and a Gopher rug that looks like a football field. Currently Cub is selling Twins memorabilia with the popular catch phrase "Smell 'Em," a phrase coined by catcher Mike Redmond, short for "Smell those runs."
So we're walking past the display for the "Smell 'Em" hats and t-shirts, and I see one of the funniest things I've seen in a long long time. A well-dressed middle-aged man was standing there, with a "Smell 'Em" hat in his hand, and he was... you guessed it!!! SMELLING THE HAT!!!
Now, one can't be sure if the man was smelling the hat because the words on it had prompted him to do so, or if the hat was giving off some kind of odor which caused him to do so. I prefer to think that he was smelling it because the hat said to smell 'em.
Either way, I got a good hearty laugh at this man's expense.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Jeff: Madness?

Is there any doubt that today and tomorrow (and the day after the Super Bowl while we're at it) should be national holidays? Anyone? Every year we see stories about how many billions of dollars (or beaver pelts and mukluks here in Canada)are lost over these 2 days because of lost worker productivity. If you've got any leverage at all, you've found a way to skip work today and tomorrow, or at least get out early. Or if you're Jer, you walk 5 seconds down the hall to a conference room where they've got a big screen TV with the game on and free popcorn for when you're "just checking out the scores". If I ran a business, I would just give people today and tomorrow off. It's really pointless to expect people to work on the two greatest sports days of the year.

Having said that, I already had to miss some games for an internship interview, and have to work tonight so I'll miss more, but so far, I really haven't missed much, and neither have you if you weren't fortunate enough to find a way to skip work. We've had a grand total of ZERO upsets that far, and in the last game of the day games, Vandy is currently crushing GW 43-16. Nothing like a cross-country flight over 4 time zones for GW from DC to Sacramento to get blown right out of the building. And now James Brown tried to use the phrase "I'm looking at GW for some 'give-up'". James, you're the third whitest black man in America behind Stuart Scott and Karl Malone; Just stop it, please.

So how's my bracket looking, you ask? Just dandy, thanks. My only loss so far was ODU to Butler, but I had Old Dominion losing in the 2nd round anyway. Looking this over, I really don't have much in the way of 1st round upsets: Villanova, VCU (isn't it great that Duke sucks? This would be like the Yankees finishing last in their division or the Knicks giving Isiah Thomas an extension when the Knicks are still under .500 with a $120 million payroll...uh nevermind), Long Beach State (who, just in case you're wondering, are indeed going to the Sweet 16), Xavier and Arkansas (they haven't even played and I'm already regretting that one) are my only upset picks of the first round. I just didn't see that much "MADNESS!!!!' happening in the 1st. So far so good, but with the way my bracket usually goes, I'm sure my bracket will be in shambles by this time tomorrow.

I have to say, I did find it difficult filling out the ol' bracket sheet. Jer and I both said it's tough when you haven't watched a lot of college hoops all year, and then are suddenly faced with figuring everybody out. If you've got the time to watch 5 or 6 games a week during the regular season, then more power to you, but for guys like Jer and I, there's no way you're going to be able to cram in 4 days to become a college hoops genius. We figured we'd read a few sites, watch a tourney preview show or two, and just go with the gut. It's as good a strateegery as any I say.

My Elite 8 looks like this: Florida over Notre Dame, Kansas over Pitt, Texas over Georgetown, and Ohio State over Texas A&M. I then picked Florida to thump Ohio State in a college foosball-style title game rematch. I don't like picking last year's champs to repeat because it so seldom happens, but their side of the bracket is ridiculously easy, and once they've won 4 in a row to get to the Final 4, how can you pick against them? I just couldn't. As for Texas, yes I'm on the Durant bandwagon, and I just see the guy winning a few rounds by himself, and yes that includes beating North Carolina AND a lot of people's darkhorse in Georgetown. After watching the Hoyas today, I can see why they were a chic pick because there's not much they can't do. The East, obviously, is THE toughest of the 4 regions.

I also just couldn't pick against Ohio State because they have Oden and nobody else does. I hope we get to see A&M and the Buckeyes in the Elite 8, because that would be a beauty, and then set up the Greatest College Basketball Game Probably Ever between Texas and OSU. The chances of it happening are slim I know, but I thought hey why not? Also, speaking of Texas A&M, they are another team that I've seen in a lot of people's Final 4 predictions. I'll be honest: I was THIS close to having Louisville beat them in the 2nd round and going all the way to the Elite 8 (Memphis as a 2 seed is a joke. They WILL lose to Nevada in the 2nd round), but changed my mind at the last minute. After watching the Cards destroy Stanford (who, let's be honest, had no business whatsoever being in the tournament) in Lexington, I'm thinking they're going to be VERY tough for A&M to beat in what is essentially a home game for them. I'm just saying.

Well we'll see if things get crazier tonight and tomorrow. I know nobody ever comments on this site, but I'd be interested to see who everybody picked to win it and who your "Upset Special" was for the first two days: Mine was Long Beach State over Virginia.

PS- Vandy is up 30 POINTS to start the 2nd half. I had them also getting to the Sweet 16 thank you very much.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Jeremy: Free Stylin'

I will now attempt to rant free style, without looking up any facts, about my thoughts on the world of sports. (Disclaimer: Yes, I have had >/= 3 beers.)

*Is there any doubt left in anyone's mind that the Vikings will NOT improve going into next season? Honestly. There was one area that desperately needed to be addressed during free agency and that was WR. So what did we get? Something named Bobby Wade? A dude who is under 6 feet tall with two first names? That's it? Also, we got a tight end in free agency, who caught less passes last year than the guy we let go, Jermaine Wiggins. Remember the "Sarcastic Clapping Family" sketches on Saturday Night Live? Picture that sketch, but instead of a family, picture me at the table, clapping sarcastically, with Zygi Wilf and Brad Childress across the table from me.

*By the way, if you haven't yet, please read more about the Vikings free agency dealings this off-season. After which, if you aren't already, please consider what a perfect time it is to become a Golden Gopher Football fan.

*Kevin McHale was voted by Forbes magazine as the best General Manager in all of sports. The criteria was weighted ridiculously heavy by comparing current GM stats vs. prior GM stats. We here at Midwest Sports Rubes believe that this criteria is fair, balanced and accurate in its ability to show the talent of GM's in all of professional sports.

*In other news, Kevin McHale was also named as the best General Manager by the Bill Cosby Society (BCS). Criteria was weighted 100% based on each GM's collection of hideously ugly sweaters.

*Also, in Beating A Dead Horse news, Glen Taylor was voted as the second best owner in all of sports by the Al Davis Association for Owners Who Allow Their Emotions and Personal Feelings to get Too Involved in Front Office Decisions (ADAOWATEPFTIFOD).

*This just in... Troy Hudson has been put into the starting line-up by Randy Whitman. Hudson will attempt to build a house with all of the bricks that he shoots so that the Timberwolves don't have to board up the franchise, they can actually just move. (Side note: If we ever have to refer to the Timberwolves as "The House That T-Hud Built," please remind me that choosing death by killer bees is still an option.)

*Sid went ahead and said this week that the only coaches that can save the Gophers men's b-ball team are Flip Saunders or... Bob Knight. Here's a question... Is there anyone besides Sid who thinks that Bob Knight has a shot at this job? Here's another question... Have you seen this team play? I'm not sure that ANYONE can save this program right now. The wheels fell off a long, long time ago, and this is probably a 2-3 year rebuilding job.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Jeff: BJ, CJ, and More

Before we get to Calvin Johnson we'll pass along to you that the Vikes, to no one's surprise, released Brad Johnson yesterday. I'm sure there's a backup job for him somewhere, but as he displayed last year, his days as a starter are definitely over. To quote Jer: What was your favorite moment from the BJ era?

In that same story Chilly says it'll be an open competition between Tavaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger (is he sure? There's gotta be a 3rd option there somewhere right? RIGHT?) but then says there could be some interest in taking Brady Quinn at #7. That, of course, is total BS, which is to be expected this time of year, when EVERY team talks nothing but BS about who they're taking (well except the Raiders). Do not trust what a team says, look at what they need. I would hope they'll at least entertain trade talks about David Carr or Jake Plummer because the options out there in free agency are slim to none, especially with the Chiefs resiging Damon Huard, who I really would have liked to have seen in Minnesota. Bringing him back can't be good news for Trent Green, but trust me when I say we don't want him either. The best "options" (and I use that term REALLY loosely) are Jeff Garcia, Aaron Brooks, or Kerry Collins. OK so how much do the Texans want for David Carr again?


Ok then onto Mr SuperFreak Calvin Johnson. 6'5, 239 pounds, and he ran a 4.35 40 yd dash which means he's playing wide receiver in a linebacker's body with sprinter's speed. He's got TO's body with Randy Moss' skills and Marvin Harrison's work ethic and demeanor. In other words, he IS the perfect wide receiver! There's always been this stigma of not taking wide receivers high in the draft, partly because it's a difficult position to adjust to, and also because as Peter King mentions, the failure rate of 1st rounders has been pretty high. He guesstimates that only 10 of the last 30 WR's taken in the first round could be considered impact guys. For every Randy Moss or Marques Colston (who was of course a 7th round pick and not even a 1st rounder), there's so many receivers who struggle that first year. Now, the failure rate is also pretty high at quarterback and other positions, but because there seems to be less importance placed on wideouts than quarterbacks, well you're not going to see teams stop taking QB's #1 overall.

This is also a very strong wide receiver draft, so if the Vikes don't get CJ, they'll be in position at #7 to take Teddy Ginn of Ohio State, Robert Meachem of Tennesee, or Dwayne Jarrett of USC, just to name 3. It's all well and good, and I highly doubt the Vikes brass has the stones to deal up, but for me, all of these arguments just cement the fact you HAVE to go up to #2 or #3 to take Johnson, and deal anybody not named Hutchinson, Williams, or Winfield to do it. Seriously.

Simply BECAUSE wide receiver is such a volatile position and BECAUSE it can be such a crapshoot with first rounders, that is all the more reason to get Calvin Johnson! He's a CAN'T MISS PROSPECT at a position where MOST GUYS MISS!!! Don't you see? Because Johnson is such a safe bet to be a productive Pro Bowl-caliber receiver for the next decade at a position where it's so difficult to find assess, that's why they NEED to go up and get him. And yes it's a strong receiver class, but Johnson is that much better than everybody else! You're rolling the dice with any of the other guys who have some glaring flaw to their game. CJ? NONE! He's a physical freak with a great attitude, work ethic, and superior ball skills (and yes I just wanted the excuse to use "ball skills" in a sentence)!! He would also help their slipping attendance by putting a marquee player in Minnesota that could make a big impact from day 1. Do you have any idea how many CJ jerseys the Vikes would sell? I would order one on draft day if they took him!

He would solve so many of their problems and create so many for opposing teams, but because Minnesota lacks the stones to take the SAFEST PICK IN THE DRAFT, I'm sure we'll be watching him light up the league in a Bucs jersey for the next 10 years.


Finally a shameless plug. I'm off to Hamilton, Ontario today to do play-by-play webcasting for Trinity Western University men's volleyball team, who are the defending national champs and are the top seed in the tourney. My buddy Ben is the assistant coach, so it'll be fun to watch him and the lads hopefully win for a 2nd year in a row! If you're bored Friday or Saturday night and want to listen to the game, tune in at at around 8pm Est both nights and you can hear me do what I love to do most. They also have some past games archived on there. Have a great weekend everybody!