Monday, March 28, 2011

This Team Wasn't Tough Enough

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We've all seen this story unfold before. We've seen the unfulfilled 1 seeds. We've seen the missed free throws. We've seen the media hand games over to Kansas before ever being played, and we've seen KU blow those games. We've seen the mid-majors showcasing the name on their jerseys, while we've seen the KU players use them to cry into. We've seen the rejoice from Missouri and K-State fans. We've felt the heartbreak.

KU's loss to the VCU Jay Bilas's summed up the season perfectly. You never knew whether to take this team too seriously because you never knew if they were going to take their opponent seriously. This team was defined by cruise control. They possessed very little killer instinct. They played with a sense of entitlement, believing that they would win the game because they were Kansas, and probably wouldn't have to try their hardest to do so.

All of that is fine and dandy until somebody punches you in the mouth. With such a sparse amount of superior teams around the country this year, we only saw one team really do it to KU all season: Kansas St. That game played out very similarly to what we witnessed on Sunday. Let the opponent surge out to a giant lead before finally deciding you'd better give it everything you had, only it was too late, and you didn't have the extra gear that you thought you had. KU never learned how to play from behind all season. Simply put, KU wasn't tough enough.

The lasting image of this team in my mind will be Brady Morningstar nearly in tears on the bench in the first half of Sunday's meltdown. THE FIRST HALF! They didn't get mad about VCU's hot start, or a few calls going against them (their excuse, not mine), they got sad. That's about as un-tough as it gets. I lost a good amount of belief in the team when I witnessed this. I couldn't believe it. And M-Star wasn't alone on the bench, with T-Robb the Sobb boohooing along with him. At that point, I had counted both of those players out for the rest of the game.

In fact, with both of those players counted out, Markieff seemingly uninterested in seeing his draft stock rise at all, and Tyrel Reed falling prey to the white guy March shooting slump syndrome (file that under the "we've seen that before" category), this team simply didn't have enough players to trust. Tyshawn played his best ball of the season in the Tournament (as might've been expected from his big game experience), and Marcus Morris did all he could do with a collapsing zone defense with no outside threats. Beyond that, who are you looking to? Mario Little (nowhere to be seen)? Josh Selby (should've been playing over Tyrel)? Frankly, it was more amazing to me what this team accomplished over the season than the fact they bowed out of the NCAA Tournament at this point.

However, it would be un-Dirkness like if I didn't offer a glimmer of hope for my optimistic readers out there, and here it is...The 2008 Championship team had to work their way there. They bowed out in the Elite 8 the year before they won it all. Not only did that provide crucial Tournament experience (which this team was somewhat void of), it gave them the drive going into the next season to get the job done. Remember B-Rush blowing out his knee that offseason? That's magical. I never felt the magic with this team. There was no midseason players-only meeting at Henry's like with that team. They never took joy in beating teams by 50 points like that team. This team was set on coasting. That team never coasted. They knew what was at stake and they knew that any one bump in the road could derail them from their goal. Hopefully, this team has learned that now. Oh yea, and I believe the Morrissii will be coming back.

Lastly, I remind all of you that we are analyzing kids that are between 18 and 21 years old (excluding Grandpa Morningstar). To believe that anything is a given with kids that young is silly. They are very impressionable, and if they are told all week that they are going to beat a team, they're going to believe it. And when pressure is applied to kids that young, you never know what you're going to get. That's what makes the NCAA Tournament so unpredictable and beautiful. Here's to hoping KU never enters another Tournament as the favorite.

Wiping away tears with brackets,
His Bracketness

Friday, March 25, 2011

KU-Richmond Thoughts

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No time to organize, here ya go....

~Richmond thrives at the aspect of a game best suited to upset a top seed and that is shooting 3's. If the Spiders are to win this game, they will be draining 3's all night.

~7 of the 8 Richmond players that see major minutes shoot the 3-ball. 6 of those 7 shoot 39% or better from long range. Egads.

~That being said, the Sweet 16 is where 12 seeds go to die. The first weekend of games is one thing, but the next weekend is a whole new tournament. It can become too much for any mid-major not named Butler.

~KU's path to the Final Four is remarkably similar to the path they took in 2008, when they played a 12 seed (Villanova) in the Sweet 16, and a 10 seed in the Elite 8 (Davidson). Could be the same this year. I liiike.

~The Spiders have two players to keep your eyes on: Justin Harper - 6'10 guy who can shoot and Kevin Anderson - 6'0 guy who, get this, can shoot.

~The Richmond Spiders can shoot. This facet of the game will ultimately decide if this game is close or not.

~The Spiders rank 259th in the country in rebounds. The Jayhawks rank 19th. KU should be able to dominate them on the boards all night long.

~Richmond comes in hot, winning 9 in a row, and 13 of their last 14.

~The Spiders won their only previous meeting against the Jayhawks in 2004 at Allen Fieldhouse. They have a history and a knack for pulling off huge upsets.

~The Jayhawks consistencAy will once again be a Ty TAy dependancAy. If he plays well, this game shouldn't be close. He was the best player on the court against Illinois. If he goes all Tyshawn on us, we could be in for a doozy.

~PreDirktion: Kansas 81, Richmond 69

Down to my loins in brackets,
His Bracketness

NCAA Tournament Awards

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So most of the following pertains to the first weekend of NCAA Tournament games, but I choose to write them nonetheless! Try and look past the immediate relevance of them and enjoy the ridiculousciousness...

And the award goes to....

PLAYERS

For being the best player in the NCAA Tournament (written before last night's manhandling of the Dukies) - Derrick Williams, Arizona

For potentially being the best College Basketball player of all time - Tyrel Reed, Kansas (has a chance to surpass Shane Battier for most wins by one player if KU makes the National Championship Game)

For making the Dirkness All-Tournament team: Jacob Pullen - Kansas St, Jimmer Fredette - BYU, Brandon Knight - Kentucky, Derrick Williams - Arizona, Tyler Zeller - North Carolina

For making the Dirkness second team All-Tournament team: Kemba Walker - UConn, Shelvin Mack - Butler, Erving Walker - Florida, Marcus Morris - Kansas, Joshua Smith- UCLA

For being this year's Omar Sanham (Dirkness mancrush) - Kenneth Faried, Morehead St.

For being this Tournament's Keiton Page (thus bothering Dirkness to no end) - Chandler Parsons, Florida

For being a homeless man's Tyler Hansbrough - Josh Harrellson, Kentucky

For obviously being on steroids - Jimmer Fredette, BYU

For the dumbest play of the Tournament - John Henson, North Carolina - near goaltending at the end of UNC-Wash game (dumber than Pitt-Butler fouls because there was absolutely nothing to gain)

For best nickname - The Mazzula Oblongota, West Virginia

For the second best nickname - Little Onions - Erving Walker, Florida

For most nicknames for one player - Deniz Kilicli, West Virginia - The Turkish Torpedo, The Bearded Clam, The Overmatched Bond Villain, Zangief

For having the best name of the Tournament - MoMo Jones, Arizona

For having the best chance to succeed based on birth name - Bradford Burgess, VCU

For the weirdest KU-related sighting - David Padgett, Louisville (coaching)

For the second weirdest KU-related sighting - Quintrell Thomas, UNLV

For having the best post-game celebration - MoMo Jones, Arizona - Blowing a kiss to the camera while slobbering uncontrollably

TEAMS

For being the true Cinderellas of the NCAA Tournament - Richmond Spiders (most opening round wins as a 12 seed or lower - 5, Tulsa - 3)

For creating argument about who's the true Cinderella - Gonzaga ZagDogs (8-4 as a double digit seed since 1999)

For being the first team ever - Michigan (won a game with no made free throws)

For putting up the biggest Georgetown-like first round lay down - Georgetown

For putting up the biggest Pitt-like Tournament letdown - Pitt

For annually being picked to go further in brackets than they actually go - Texas

For being the least impressive surviving team of the first weekend (written before Sweet 16) - San Diego St.

For being the most impressive team of the Tournament - VCU

For being the easiest Sweet 16 matchup to pick - UNC over Marquette

For being the biggest Sweet 16 toss up - VCU/Florida St.

For having the best fight song: Arizona

MISCELLANEOUS

Scariest sighting - Dan Bonner's overzealous smily face

Silliest looking future leaders of America - Princeton fans in orange-man suits

Weirdest Tournament follow-up show - TruTV's Bicycle Soccer

Best mispronunciation of the Tournament - Charles Barkley - "cramps" ("crabs", "craps")

Troofest statement of the Tournament - Charles Barkley - "Texas is a team that relies on talent alone, but shows very poor fundamentals"

Rule change suggestion - His Dirkness - No more 1-in-1 free throws (too big an emphasis on free throw shooting)

Coolest NCAA Tournament connection - Sean Miller, Arizona - threw the pass that led to "Send it in, Jerome" call...



: Best Send it in Jerome of the Tournament - Derrick Williams, Arizona...



Best prediction - Charles Barkley - picking Arizona to beat Duke even at halftime while trailing by 6 (narrowly edging Dirkness' prediction of Arizona to beat Duke from the beginning)

Best announcing term of the Tournament - Gus Johnson - "Crosstown traffic" (narrowly edging Gus Johnson's "Oooohhhhooooohhhhhh")

Most overused announcing term - "heat check"

Most underused announcing term - "hockey assist"


Sky high in brackets,
His Bracketness

Friday, March 18, 2011

KU: How They Win-How They Lose

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I had higher aspirations for this post once upon a time, but was then struck with a holy hangover from hell yesterday, thus deactivating 85% of my brain. So what we are left with is my preparation notes for this write-up and an inability to organize them. I'm sure you'll get over it.



How KU will lose:


  • Frontcourt depth - KU prefers to play their game through the Morrisi. If opponents can't match up to either of them, then they'll most likely get run out of the gym. However, if you can throw atleast two, preferably three, quality bigs at them, you can neutralize their effectiveness, and give your team a chance.
  • Athletic wing play - There's been much debate about whether B.M. Star is a good defender or not. I would describe him as a good defender because of his effort, but not a great defender because of his (lack of) athletic ability. The problem is, when paired with his Whitey-Tighty partner in crime, KU's perimeter defense struggles to handle athletic guards/wings. This could force Elijah Johnson into a bigger role if it becomes a problem. And yes, race played a factor in this particular bullet point.
  • Because of the previous two points, I believe Pitt is the toughest matchup for KU this year. Also, I think San Diego St. would pose some problems.
  • Adversity - This team hasn't handled adversity very well this year, most notably the K-State game. They panic too soon and press themselves out of the game. There's a very fine line to walk between urgency and panic, and experience is the easiest thing to draw from in that situation. KU doesn't have much of it (Oklahoma St in the Big 12 Tourny, Nebraska at home come to mind - neither quality teams). I think if they are to lose a game it will be because they get down early and press the panic button too soon.
  • Biggest fear - We've all been aware of KU's lack of a killer instinct this year. Or atleast I have. It has yet to really nip them in the butt (bud?). They're single favorite thing to do this year was build a 20 point halftime lead and then go into cruise control, never expanding on the lead in the second half. My very biggest fear of this Tournament is blowing a 15 point lead because KU gets bored.
  • Most feared team in the Southwest - Purdue

How KU will win:

  • Morrisii = Winklevii - The Morrisi need to turn on "I'm 6'9, 250, and there's two of me" mode this NCAA Tournament. Marcus has Final Four Most Outstanding Player potential. He needs to demand the ball for important possessions down the stretch (he failed to against Ok State - which almost cost them). As for Angel Morris, I hope she sports the 21 1/2 jersey throughout the entirety of the Tournament.
  • Ty Tay The Tightay - Has obviously become the key to this team. If he is playing well, KU becomes a very difficult team to beat. If he goes into his unstab-lay mode, even slight-lay, or temporari-lay, then KU could be in trouble. People are mistakenly referring to him as the X-factor, but make no mistake, he is the (t)Ay-Factor.
  • Tyrelasaurus finds his shot - He shot 6-20 from deep in the Big 12 Tournament. That's not terrible, but it's not good enough. Worse off, he didn't look overly confident in his stroke. However, he did look confident in his "Wacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-drive." If he can shoot 50% from three-land, KU will be sitting pretty.
  • X-Factor step up - Since I've ruled out Ty-Tay as a potential X-factor, here are the candidates in order of likelihood: 1. Mario Lil' 2. Josh Selby Do(n't) 3. Eli-Jah Rule Johnson 408. Brock Withey. This is paramount to have, and you won't know when you'll need it, or in what way, but you will need it. Think Sasha Kaun's performance against Davidson in the Elite 8, when he was the best player on the court, which KU wouldn't have won without him.

Up to my clavicles in brackets,
His Bracketness

Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 NCAA Tournament Picks

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I've set out on a quest on different stracketagies to mold and form the perfect bracket this year. I officially submerged myself beyond the extent of reality more so than ever before, which sounds like enough of a reason to celebrate to me. A sampling of different stracketagies applied this year:

  • Bass-ackwards - Picking a National Champion first, then working it inside out like a Blooming chrysanthemum. To see (hopefully) click here.
  • Coin Flip - Pretty standard. Flip a coin for every game. Bet a dollar against Dave's coin flipper (although I could probably handle his real one too). My Final Four was Kentucky, Cincinnati, Illinois, and UC-Santa Barbara baby! Kentucky wins it all. Dave's has St. John's over Temple.
  • Probability Coin Flip - The most extensive bracket of my career. I set probabilities on each game by multiples of 10% (for example: Xavier 60% over Marquette, Michigan vs. Tennessee 50%) and proceeded to let 10 dominoes carry out those percentages (for example: if Marquette had 6 dominoes turn up in its favor, then they advanced). Don't worry, I don't expect you to understand. Hell, I didn't even understand. I knew what I was taking part in was bigger than me, bigger than life itself. However, I must warn you the National Championship takes a nasty, vicious turn for KU fans. To see, (hopefully) click here.

The Dirkness' Bracket (Main Bracket):

East Region:

~First Round winners: Ohio St, George Mason, West Virginia, Kentucky, Xavier, 'Cuse, Washington, North Carolina
~Sweet 16: Ohio St, Kentucky, 'Cuse, UNC
~Elite 8: Kentucky, UNC
~Regional Champ: North Carolina

West Region:
~First Round winners: Duke, Michigan, Arizona, Oakland, Cincinnati, UConn, Temple, San Diego St
~Sweet 16: Duke, Arizona, UConn, Temple
~Elite 8: Arizona, Temple
~Regional Champ: Arizona

Southwest Region:
~First Round winners: KU, UNLV, Richmond, Morehead St (!), Georgetown, Purdue, Texas A&M, Notre Dame
~Sweet 16: KU, Richmond, Purdue, Notre Dame
~Elite 8: KU, Purdue
~Regional Champ: Kansas

Southeast Region:
~First Round winners: Pitt, Old Dominion, K-State, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, BYU, UCLA, Florida
~Sweet 16: Pitt, K-State, 'Zaga, Florida
~Elite 8: Pitt, Florida
~Regional Champ: Pittsburgh

Final Four:
~North Carolina over Arizona
~Pittsburgh over Kansas

National Championship:
~Pittsburgh over North Carolina

Up to my hambone in brackets,
His Bracketness

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bracket Madness Satisfaction 2011

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Here are a few lists for you to enjoy for the big days on the horizon. I'm running on little sleep today coming off of a 5 hour Bracket binge with S'nave well into the AM's of last night. Basically, they had me feeling like this guy...




Top 5 One Shining Moments:
 
1. Duke - Somehow Duke is the least picked top seed to make the Final Four this year according to majority opinion. Add Coach K's announcement that Kyrie Irving may return (a card he had to play), who if he does, gives Duke one of the best backcourts in College Basketball history. For good banter on Irving click here.
2. Ohio St - One of my annual stracketagies is to pick the team with the best big man in the country to win the National Championship. Well, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jared Sullinger (reminds me alot of Sean May from UNC).
3. Kansas - Hampered by the unconditional love thrown their way by the national media. Why, why, why won't you get off our nuts and give us a chance? I was a big fan of Self putting pictures of last year's upset to Northern Iowa in every player's locker this week. This team needs all the motivation it can get.
4. North Carolina - Severely impressed by Harrison Barnes, who might be the clutchest player in the country. Take that Simba, I mean Kemba. Also have a point guard, a shot blocker, and a big giant Tyrel Reed on their team.
5. Pitt - The annual disappointments of the NCAA Tournament. Have been upset by a lower seed in the last 3 NCAA's, and in 4 of the last 5. So they are due right? They could be like 2008 KU, where if they can just get over the hump of making the Final Four, then the sky is the limit.

Top 5 Upsets Everybody Will Have That Will Impress Nobody (11-seeds & Lower):

1. 12 Richmond over 5 Vanderbilt - A gimme for all you upsetteers out there.
2. 11 Missouri over 6 Cincinnati - Mizzou's style transfers over really well to the Tournament, but beware of how truly awful they are this year.
3. 13 Belmont over 4 Wisconsin - The Badgers play a style that allows them to beat anybody or lose to anybody. The Bruins won their conference championship game by 41 points.
4. 11 Gonzaga over 6 St. John's - The nation's adopted Cinderella team is back where it belongs - as an underdog. The Johnnies are without starting guard DJ Kennedy (29 mins, 10 pts, 5 rebs).
5. 11 USC/VCU over 6 Georgetown - Included so I can tell you how much I dislike the First Four. Your screwing up brackets everywhere! Now you either have to make your picks before Tuesday, make them late Wednesday night, or face a big disadvantage in picking an upset in the ensuing matchup. I hate you Ron Burgundy!

Top 5 Manly Man Upsets (ranked in order of an impressiveness-likelihood imprecise interspliceafied coagulation):

1. 13 Morehead St over 4 Louisville - Get to know the name Kenneth Faried, the best rebounder in the country BY FAR! He averages 14.5 boards per game! 2nd best in the NCAAT is SDSU's Kawhi Leonard at 10.7 per game.
2. 13 Princeton over 4 Kentucky - I love when teams picked to overachieve (lot of love for UK taking down THE Ohio St) go down in the first round.
3. 14 Wofford over 3 BYU - The fightin' Jimmers are without their muscle and have been quietly fading down the stretch. Wofford lost to Wisconsin by 4 in the first round last year.
4. 13 Oakland over 4 Texas - The Raiders could beat the Longhorns.
5. 14 Bucknell over 3 UConn - Come on, you know you wanna! Bucknell has won their last two first round games! UConn is a one man team! He ain't gonna get up for no Bucknell! Plus he tiiiiyad!

Top 5 BALLLLL NIGHTTTTT's (Best 1st round games):

1. Kansas St vs. Utah St - I've said it before, I'll say it again: I was terrified of facing Utah St in the 2nd round. By the way, the Aggies have the top scoring defense of all Tournament teams.
2. St. John's vs. Gonzaga - Love the Johnnies. Love the Zags as underdogs.
3. Texas vs. Oakland - Could be an NBA Draft Lottery duel between Tristan Thompson and Keith Benson.
4. Butler vs. Old Dominion - Something sure is fun about Ol' Dirty. Plus, Butler's Matt Howard returns, hopefully donning the stache-nasty.
5. Wisconsin vs. Belmont - Threes vs Dee ('s nuts!).

Top 5 Tomorrows Are Better Than Todays (Potential 2nd Round Matchups):

1. 5 Arizona vs. 4 Texas
2. 1 Pitt vs. 9 Old Dominion
3. 2 North Carolina vs. 7 Washington
4. 4 Wisconsin vs. 5 Kansas St
5. 3 Purdue vs. 6 Georgetown

Top 5 Carl Spackler Potential Cinderella Stories:

1. Utah St.
2. Old Dominion
3. Temple
4. Richmond
5. Gonzaga

Up to my knees in brackets,
His Bracketness

Monday, March 14, 2011

NCAA Tournament 2011 Thoughts

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I hope all of you enjoyed the national holiday yesterday! Selection Sunday ranks right up there with the NFL Draft opening round (although it's tougher to classify now with the way it's structured), the opening NFL weekend, the NFL playoff divisional round, and NFL's Conference Championship sunday. Hmm, I think I like the NFL...

However, I will make the argument that Selection Sunday is a better sports day than Super Bowl Sunday. Yea, I said it. But, once again, this is because I usually have one eye dead set on the future. The Super Bowl is somewhat bittersweet because it is the end of football for 7 months, while Selection Sunday is the launching pad of a 3 day vacation spent in Bracketville (where I turn everyday decisions into an 8 idea bracket), followed by the greatest sporting event known to man (where I spend so much time on my couch that I develop George's condition caused by a "prolonged state of inactivity"). So however silly this sounds, a simple reading of 68 College Basketball teams, in a specific random order, may be my single favorite sports day of the year.

On to some thoughts, I'll start with KU thoughts first for all my homiez out there....


  • I would give KU's draw, in terms of favorability, a grade of a rock chalk solid B. I believe they got the softest 8/9 draw with generi-8-seed UNLV, who has been on the 8/9 line with KU as the 1-seed now in 2008, 2010, and 2011. My buddy CS Mofo explains this phenomenon with the simple fact that Lon Kruger looks like a number 8 (better analysis than I got from the CBS fools). Looking past that, I think 4-seed Louisville could be rough, but I think KU handles their pressure style because of the history against Mizzou. The team that I am most afraid of is 3-seed Purdue, who I consider superior to 2-seed Notre Dame. And, if KU is fortunate enough to advance to the Final 4, I like that we are on opposite sides of both Duke and Ohio St (who I consider to be the overall favorites).
  • All this being said, I think KU is absolutely screwed this year. As soon as 3 of the 4 CBS fellas picked KU on national television for all of the world, all of the KU players, and all of the other teams to see, they were done. I don't like it, but it's true. KU absolutely CANNOT operate as the prohibitive favorite in the NCAA Tournament. Especially, when there's little-to-no reason to think they are overly superior. What are all these experts seeing that I don't see? How can they continue to pick KU year after year to win it all? Give us a chance! My buddy, S'nave compared KU to the Indianapolis Colts recently (to which I'll never concede - because they have a soul), but as far as the way they're treated by the national media (which may have been his point), it's a very fair comparison. Take me now baby Jesus (who I like to think of as a mischievous badger).
  • Everybody's first words out of their mouth last night were over Colorado's snub. Here's my favorite take, via Jack the Quack Harry: "Colorado gets the biggest hose job in the history of NCAA. How in the world could Buffs be left out and VCU & UAB get in. AWFUL. SHAMEFUL!" He then went on to compare it to the Japanese tsunami. What I haven't heard anybody bring up yet (maybe just because Husker fans are quiet right now) is the name Dan Beebe (Big 12 Commissioner - Nebraska public enemy #1). Nebraska blamed every bad break from the football season on Beebe (some of them justified - you can't change my mind), and now yet another Big 12 castoff gets a bit of the shaft? What if this man really is evil-set on revenge against the two teams that put a clown suit on his commissioner tenure, so he makes it his life mission to campaign against these two teams? 
  • For the record, the only change I would have made to the field would be to add Colorado, and subtract Clemson. I like how the Committee is giving more and more respect to mid-majors like UAB and VCU. Also, beware of those two teams specifically, who had to have heard all the bickering about how they shouldn't have gotten into the Tournament. Don't underestimate the motivational impact that can have on a team.
  • While Colorado may have the biggest beef amongst Big 12 teams, the Selection Committee did the other teams little favors. Texas was looking at a potential 2-seed with a win over KU on Saturday, but instead fell to a 4-seed and faces uber-dangerous Oakland in the first round now. K-State got a favorable 5-seed, but draws a team ranked higher than them in the first round, 12th seeded Utah St (who I was terrified to draw as an 8/9 seed). However, as I told a few of my K-State friends yesterday, if they can advance to the Sweet 16, they might become the favorites in that region. The top 4 seeds in the Southeast are incredibly weak. So, if the Wildcats goal is to make the Sweet 16 then they may have gotten screwed, but if their goal is to make the Final 4, I believe they may have received a gift.
  • While we're on the topic of regions, here is my ranking of the four from best to worst: (1.) East (2.) West (3.) Southwest (108.) Southeast
  • I'm very interested to see how the "First Four" affects the Tournament this year. Will it be an advantage to play and win in that game or a disadvantage? For instance, if I tell you that your team wins that game, would you rather be in that position or as an already-locked in 11th/12th seed position. Not only do you get your early Tournament jitters out in the first game, but you get the taste of winning in your mouth. On the other hand, you face the possibility that your team gets worn out playing 3 games in 6 days, as opposed to 2 games in 4 days. So, advantage or disadvantage?
  • In closing, I leave you with the circle of life possibility that Bill Self plays his former team (Illinois) in the city of another team he coached, also near where he grew up (Tulsa).


Up to my ankles in Brackets,
His Bracketness

Thursday, March 10, 2011

KU vs Oklahoma St. Gametox

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

KU: It's Time To Get Serious

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Those who have been following my KU analyses throughout the year know that I'm all about the ridiculousness - from Withey's golden slumbers, to a slew of perfected nicknames (Mar-Mo, Marqueef, Thryrell, Morningstarch, Ratatat Ty Tay, Selby Don't, T-Robb The Backboard Slobb, The Mid Ranger Banger, ChenoWithey, BobbleHeadeford, and The Book of Eli-Jah Rule), to the angel who descended from heaven and graced us with the Yaya's of the Century (YOTC - pronounced Yahtzee) inside the Fieldhouse - but that's what the College Basketball regular season is all about.

Now, it's time to get serious.

Duke wasn't the best team last season by any means. What they did better than any other team in the country was know their roles. A wise man once said, "Knowing your weaknesses can be your greatest strength." So when Zoubek was grabbing offensive rebounds, he wasn't looking for his own shot, but was looking for one of his plethora of shooters around the 3-point arc. Simply, they never played outside of themselves. Duke used this strategy all the way to a National Championship.

Fast forward to this season with KU. How well do the players from top to bottom know their role right now? In a word, not. Which makes this Big 12 Tournament extremely important for the Jayhawks. It's more important that they make it to the Championship Game than it is that they win it. They need the experience because the team's dynamic has changed since the Tyshawn suspension and the Selby implosion. Players are now being casted in new roles, and the biggest question I have moving forward is...

Is there enough time?

The change in the team's infrastructure centers around 3 players. Tyshawn Taylor was the starting Point Guard for the majority of the season up until his suspension for posting a double-double on Marisha Brown at mid-court of the Fieldhouse. Josh Selby had been starting until his man-pon fell out and landed on his foot, sidelining him for 3 games. His spot has been long lost to M-Star by now. Elijah Johnson has filled in gracefully as the starting Point Guard, and has kept the job even since Ty-Tay's return. So how will Bill But-Butta Self juggle this threesome heading into the most important games of the season?

Josh Selby - Ranting time. For the record, I've been against the recruitment of Josh Selby from day one. I feel like I'm the only one that gets it when it comes to 1-and-dones, but I'll explain once again. They may benefit a program like Baylor or Kansas St, but Kansas has no business recruiting these types of players. Not only do they not breed National Championships (the most repeated line in His Dirknesstory), with Carmelo Anthony as the lone exception (and that was 8 years ago!), but they leave your program in worse shape for the next season. If Xavier Henry (who some people still try to argue was successful at KU - SPOILER - he wasn't) and Selby hadn't enrolled at KU, then a player like Travis Releford would have two years of game experience by now and would be ready to contribute not only this season, but for the next two as well.

The most mind-boggling part of it all is that Self hasn't seemed to figure this out, even though it's not how he won his National Championship at KU. But will this experience with Selby change his recruiting strategy? They can't be getting along. And, now, Selby finds himself in a pickle. He can either cut his losses and go to the NBA with a depleted draft stock, or try and repair his relationship with Self and come back and improve his game with one more year of college experience. You have to wander what NBA scouts are thinking about Selby not playing a single minute in the 2nd half on Saturday. Whatever happens, I'm sure nobody hates the rule forcing players to wait a year to enter the NBA Draft more than Josh Selby.

That's enough ranting. Sorry, it's just difficult to listen to people discuss the situation and get it so wrong. Lets address Selby's current situation with KU. I was so sickened by his performance against Missouri on Saturday that I scribbled down in my notes, "I don't even want to look at Josh Selby's face anymore." Well, my guess is that he finds himself 9th in the rotation now, which might not crack more than 10 minutes a game (if he ever takes his warmups off). I would let him see the floor, but wouldn't let his time extend beyond two missed shots, to see if he decided to mentally show up for that game. However, my nightmare of him costing us a game in the NCAA Tournament may no longer be realistic, because I don't think he'll see enough meaningful minutes.

Tyshawn Taylor/Elijah Johnson - I figured Tyshawn would've regained his position in the starting lineup after his suspension, but Self's decision to go with Elijah in the Missouri game may have been telling as to where they stand in his mind. We may be seeing a Point Guard-by-committee situation developing. I really don't know who to expect in the game come crunch time with the season on the line. That's something you need to know this time of year. And maybe Self does. That's what he must get ironed out though, and the Big 12 Tournament is the last opportunity to tinker with his many pieces. I'm in favor of starting Elijah from here on out, and using Ty Tay as more of an off guard, coming off the bench, specializing in transition and getting to the rim. EJ provides something that has been lacking from this team throughout most of the season, which is great on-the-ball defense. I'm talkin Russ-Rob style defense. It's very refreshing, and may give KU the defensive spark they've needed all season.

It's up to Self to get this figured out in time for the NCAA Tournament. I just hope there's enough time. The wrong decision and KU could be headed for another early round upset. However, if Self can find the right combination to these three guards, he might just crack the safe's code, and potentially unlock another National Championship.

For my Big 12 Awards including 1st team, 2nd team, Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Freshman, Most Overrated/Underrated: Click here.

For my Big 12 Tournament predictions: Click here.

His Dirkness

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Answer to the Miami Heat's Problems

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My infatuation with the Miami Heat continues. As I attempt to decide if I'm rooting for them or against them before the NBA Playoffs start, one thing is for sure, I can't take my eyes off of them. The Knicks-Heat game the other night was truly fantastic, and I even watched it with some knowledge of how things turned out. They are the most fascinating team in NBA history (which is to say, my history, which doesn't extend much beyond my fairly limited knowledge obtained in the post-Jordan era). Notice how I boast the Dallas Mavericks as my favorite team in the NBA, and even maintain the monicker His Dirkness (in tribute to two of my idols - The Dude and Dirk Nowitzki - for those of you who weren't in the know), and yet haven't watched more than three of their games all season. They can't come close to matching the interest level of the Miami Heat right now.

However, I must interject right quick about a current power struggle between my ears pertaining to my favorite team in the League. The New York Knicks were the team I was born and raised on because my brother was big into thuggery, to the likes of Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason (although I was a young tyke at the time, so I supported their guards like John Starks and Chris Childs - and even got me to cheer on Nebraska heartbreaker Charlie Ward). However, the Knicks have been so bad the last decade that I was almost forced to pick a new team. Enter Mark Cuban, Steve Nash, and Dirk Nowitzki. But now, the New York Knicks are back baby (!) with a roster full of new players that I all like. Amar'e Qwang-Zilla Stoudemire is a black jew, who sports the goggles, and shares a strong resemblance to my white-commonly-mistaken-as-jewish friend. Carmelo Anthony earned my respect downing KU in the National Championship Game and for standing as the lone exception to the rule that a freshman can't lead a college team to a N.C. Also, he's extremely fun to watch because he's a big body and likes to play physical (just like the old Knicks!). Chauncey Billups...well, it's just fun to say Chaunnnsay. The good news for me is that they play in separate conferences, now giving me a favorite team in the East and the West.

Back to the Miami Heat, who, despite their semi-gaudy 43-18 record, have struggled against the other elite teams in the league. It's bizarre to me how much they have truly become LeBron's team. Dwyane Wade has evolved from The Factor (remember when he cheated his way to an NBA title?) to The X-Factor to the Non-Factor. I forget he's even on the team when I watch the Heat. In fact, I can hardly tell a difference between last year's Cavaliers team and this year's Heat team. It's all LeBron. This got me to thinking, how could they maximize their talents? I thought about when they were at their best and when they were at their worst, which led me to one overriding question...

Has an NBA team ever deployed an all out 48-minute full court press?

Think about how perfect the Miami Heat are built for it. For starters, LeBron is completely unstoppable in transition. Once he starts the locomotive, you ain't stoppin it. Then you throw in D-Wizzly, who would make a perfect high-flying sidekick. Then you got the Heat's third most important player, Mario Chalmers (HA! #LikeABosh) who would be perfectly casted in a full court press style with his instincts and quick hands (interesting to note, that the Miami crowd turned on Mario last game, apparently chanting "Mario Sucks" during the game).

This move also downplays their worst aspect of play, their half court offense. It has been well-reported that they have struggled in close games, mostly because they can't operate on offense down the stretch. I have noticed that there's an effective way to guard LeBron by playing off of him and letting him shoot jump shots because A. He will shoot them and B. He's not that good at them. Suddenly, LeBron becomes LeBroff. Dwyane Wade starts wandering why his name is spelled so goofy and can be spotted swattin' flies in the corner. And Chris Bosh, well, he stays Chris Bosh.

I haven't even mentioned the pure surprise factor if they did unleash this strategy. NBA teams wouldn't be ready to handle it. Plus, a strategy like this elongates the game, which leads to the superior team winning at a higher percentage rate (an outmatched team will almost always try to slow a game down). Shouldn't the Miami Heat be a superior team to teams like the Bulls and Knicks (maybe not the Lakers or Celtics just yet because of their chemistry)?

I'm sure an NBA junkie could give tons of reasons why this idea wouldn't work (for starters, how does Erik Spoelstra get any of his players to listen to him?). I'm also sure many of those same people thought that the Miami Heat would coast to an NBA title this year. However, they might be right that it wouldn't work, but I won't believe it until I see it with my own eyes.

One thing is for sure, the future is bright for the NBA. I am unbelievably excited for the Playoffs. And I didn't even get a chance to delve into the reinvigorated Heat-Knicks rivalry, with the 1-on-1 matchup that everybody has wanted to see since they came into the league: Bron v. Melo.

His Dirkness
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