Friday, December 17, 2010

Thank God For Repetitive Programming

As I noted in my previous post, this is a very busy time of year for me at work.  When I get home in the evening, I am dog tired.  And often during this time of year, when I get home, I tend to make the mistake of falling asleep on my bed around 9:00- 9:30.   Knowing this, on Tuesday night  I was hoping the Oakland vs. Tennessee game was on #pixelvision, so I could watch it on my laptop and not have to trek upstairs and watch ESPNU while on my bed.

Alas, it was not.  I decided to stay downstairs and keep track of the game while playing with the kids in the living room.   But as both my sons Matthew and Jonathan fell asleep,  the bedroom called and despite being exhausted,  I was fortunate enough to stay up Tuesday night to watch the end of the second half of this game.  And I was treated to being able to watch the entire 13-0 run the Golden Griz used to propel themselves in defeating the Volunteers on their home court.   It was stunning.

If you are one of the few, the proud, the readers of this site, you know that the Golden Grizzlies were one of the top 13 teams in my first Mid Majors Baker's Dozen poll.   Oakland has played an absolute gauntlet of a road schedule - West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State and Tennesssee.  And they still have to face Michigan and Ohio State, both of which, of course, are on the road.

The Golden Griz have played what are known as guarantee games, or unfortunately known as "Body Bag Games", where a Power Six conference team offers a decent amount money to a mid major conference team to play at the Power Six team's home arena.   Usually that mid major road team gets killed, thus the term "Body Bag Game".  And for a team that's as talented as the Golden Grizzlies are, the games also provide stiffer competition than they will face in the Summit League (no offense to the Summit folks).

Oakland had a similar schedule last season when they played Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan State, Memphis and Syracuse.  It prepared them for the Summit League where they went 17-1 during the conference regular season and won the Summit League Tournament.   The Golden Grizzlies would eventually lose to Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  But Oakland finished with a RPI of 65, which is very respectable for a a mid major team.

Now the difference between this season and last season is where as Oakland was basically slaughtered in their non conference games against top opponents last season, this season, the games have been much closer.  The Golden Griz held their own against Purdue until late in their game and lost by 15.  Oakland led Illinois for twenty five minutes before losing 74-63.  And of course, Oakland only lost by a point at Michigan State.  The only blowout loss was to West Virginia (and the Golden Griz also lost at Wright State).

So you had the setup of the Grizzlies playing a very good #7 Tennessee team that I got to see a couple of times during the NIT Season Tip-Off at MSG.  First, I saw the Volunteers hold off the Rams of VCU in a very entertaining semi-final game. Then, I saw the first half of Tennessee's solid win over Villanova in the championship game two days later.  And to top all that, the Volunteers beat #3 Pittsburgh last weekend.

As I noted, I had been following the first half on my laptop and saw that Oakland led for a good part of the first half until about a little less than seven minutes left.    Then Tennessee went on a 21-8 run to end the half up eleven, 50-39.   I thought to myself, "Looks like Oakland missed another opportunity."

But the Griz wouldn't quit and when I checked the score a little bit later, Oakland was down only four, 64-60.   After taking care of couple things, I headed upstairs finally.  The score was 76-68 Tennessee and I was about to witness the comeback that gave Oakland the 89-82 win.

Now I certainly had watched Oakland's Keith Benson in action from the Summit Championship game vs. IUPUI last season, as well as the first round game vs. Pittsburgh and knew he was a force.  But Benson had a lot of help during that run Tuesday night.   Ledrick Eackles (yes, the son of Ledell Eackles), Will Hudson and Luther Wright all contributed along with Benson in the run.   The Golden Griz scorched Tennessee's vaunted defense with 53.6 percent shooting from the field.  Wright scored 19 points, Hudson added 17, and Eckles had 12 points for Oakland.

But Benson was the main force for the Golden Griz with 26 points and 10 rebounds.   He was 9 of 16 from the field, including two 3 pointers and a perfect 6 for 6 from the line.  During the run, I saw Benson hit a long 2 point jumper.  At 6 foot 11, with the skills to not only score inside but shoot from the outside, Benson, who averages nearly 19 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, has a legitimate chance to play in the NBA.  But first, he will continue to wreak havoc in the Summit League.

So now it was 2:30 in the morning and I was about to see Louisville host Drexel at the KFC Yum Center (more on that later) and one of my favorite coaches, Bruiser Flint.  Flint is by far the most animated coach in the CAA and I would go to Drexel games just to see him work the referees and his own players.  He is just downright hilarious.

One of my all time favorite Bruiser moments is when Drexel played Hofstra earlier this year in a blizzard.  Hofstra's Chaz Williams (now at UMass) was fouled on a successful layup attempt at the buzzer at the end of the first half.   Everyone had left the court sans Williams...and Bruiser.  As you can see from the picture, Bruiser went over to talk to the ref about the play.  Meanwhile the other two refs were with Williams at the free throw line.   They ended up shooing Bruiser off the court in one of the most comical moments I have seen in a game ever.

Bruiser's Dragons are known for three things - defense, rebounding and lots of fouls.  If Old Dominion is the "Ground and Pound of College Basketball", then Drexel is the "Low and Slow of College Basketball".  That's because the Dragons like to keep the score low and they like to slow the pace.  They are rugged and they love to be physical.

And Tuesday night was no exception.  Nine and a half minutes into the game and neither team had broken double digits in scoring.    Now double digit fouls, that's another story.  The two teams combined for as many fouls in the first half as Louisville had points, 23 (Drexel had 14 fouls while Louisville had 9).  And Drexel only had two more points than that thanks to a Chris Fouch three at the buzzer.

The Cards came out in the second half and went on a 10-1 run in a little over three minutes to take a 33-26 lead.  During the run both Samme Givens and Daryl McCoy picked up their third fouls which matched teammates Derrick Thomas and Gerald Colds, who got all theirs in the first half.  This led to a classic comment later in the game when Chris Fouch picked up a foul and the announcers stated "Fouch, one of the few Dragons not in foul trouble..."

As I aforementioned, Jerry Beach and I were IMing during this repeat of the game.  He doesn't get ESPNU thanks to having Optimum courtesy of the wonderful people at Cablevision (yes that's oozing with sarcasm).  But whether it's due to me having FIOS or it's just the lovely folks at ESPN trying to pay their bills, during the timeouts I was subjected to the Mind Freak, Cris Angel and his "Platinum Magic Kit".   It is the cheesiest commercial out there at the moment.  And I was subjected to this commercial a couple of times and of course I noted this to Beach.

Meanwhile, Louisville went colder that one of the Colonel's biscuits in the refrigerator and their shots clanked off the rim just as hard as those biscuits.  Louisville's last lead was 42-41 with 8:09 left in the game.  The Cardinals would score just one field goal and two free throws over those last eight plus minutes.

Now Drexel wasn't much better, but the Dragons were good enough.   Givens hit a layup to give Drexel the lead 43-42, then Gerald Colds, who led the Dragons with 20 points, hit two free throws to extend the lead to 45-42 with 7:52 left  Then both teams went scoreless for the next three plus minutes until Yannick Formbor hit the last field goal for Drexel for the game to put them up five 47-42.  The remaining five Drexel points came on free throws.

Both teams were putting dents in the rim at the free throw line as they each went 12 of 25 from the charity stripe.  Drexel held Louisville to 32 percent from the field and they dominated the boards.  The Dragons had as many rebounds as the Cardinals had points, 46, while outrebounding them by 20.  My favorite rebound of the night was by Givens, who had eight points and ten rebounds.  On one rebound, Givens one handed the ball with his left hand while wrapping his right arm around the Louisville defender. 

They interviewed Flint after the upset.  In his gravely voice, Bruiser summed up the 52-46 win best saying "We just defended and rebounded."  The Dragons had so quieted the home crowd that when the Louisville pep band played "My Old Kentucky Home", it sounded like a funeral dirge.

Now I know that Louisville's new arena is supposed to be gorgeous and I am sure it is.  But when the announcer talked about the arena, calling it "The Palacial Yum Center", it almost sounded like an advertisement for a strip club or a whorehouse.  Here's hoping that either they find a new sponsor for the arena or the folks at KFC consider a name change. 

After a few more messages back and forth with Mr. Defiantly Dutch, where he noted that the upsets by the two mid major teams were the lead on SportsCenter,  I wished him a good night and logged out.  Mission accomplished.  I got to see the Oakland comeback one more time and I saw Drexel beat Louisville in its entirety.   For one night, there was something to be said for repetitive programming.

Now if there was just a way to get rid of that mind freaking Cris Angel commercial.

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