Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Brief (But Lengthy) Update Of Everything

As you people know, I've been a sick person of late. This means I'm behind on a few things.

Such as...

1. This Mick Cronin thing is scaring me. Has he lost his team? Has he overrated his own recruits? Was he lying to us to make us feel better about the direction of the program? Did his mouth dig a hole he'll never emerge from? All legitimate questions, no?.

Bob Huggins had flaws, no question - unimaginative (and difficult-to-stomach) offenses, taking the hard line with players when they probably needed kid-glove treatment (read: Tony Bobbitt), pathetic recruiting classes in his last few years (save for the Devan Downey score) - but you'll never hear anyone say that the kids Bob Huggins put on the floor didn't play hard. His guys always played their asses off, and I can't say the same about Mick Cronin's troops.

When Cronin got to town he took a not-so-subtle dig at Huggins by saying something to the effect of, "You won't see me pulling kids for throwing one errant pass." The point being: Huggs made players afraid to screw-up, and in turn, afraid to play loose. Cronin's line of thinking, I'm guessing, is that a player (and a team) can't reach his (or its) potential if they're always looking over their shoulder, expecting to get yanked.

And I agreed with that, but it's not working. Something ain't right.

Plus, the players just aren't that good.

I still find it shocking that Mike Williams once threw up nine points and seven rebounds (as a member of a loaded frontcourt) as a sophomore in a hotly contested Sweet 16 game. I mean, earning minutes on a good team - in the most important game of the year - more-than-likely means you're good at basketball, right? Well then, how do you explain what I'm seeing?

The same can be said for every player on the team, with the exceptions of Deonta Vaughn and Dion Dixon (who still has a long way to go); every other guy on the team hasn't a clue how to play basketball. Alvin Mitchell catches the ball and waits for the defense to catch up to him, just so he can beat his man (which he can't do); he clearly thinks he's better than he is. Darnell Wilks: Maybe the worst passer I've ever seen (and does he realize he might be the most athletic human in school history?). Larry Davis does one thing well (one-bounce intermediate game), one thing okay (long-range shooting) and everything else horribly. Anthony McCLain's feet are too slow to ever make an impact at a school that wants to run and press. Rashad Bishop played like a poor man's Pete Mickeal last year...and now he thinks he's a scorer? He's not. (Note: I wanted to strangle Bishop against Xavier). If Yancy Gates never left the block he'd be an effective low-post player right now. But he thinks he can shoot, and he thinks he can dribble, and he thinks he's a plus-athlete...and he's not. He's another one who drives me insane.

Sure, they don't have Cashmere Wright, and Vaughn gets swallowed whole by bigger, more athletic PGs, but the overall talent level on UC's roster is nowhere near where Cronin led us to believe.

A little over a year ago I had issues with Cronin, first for throwing his seniors under the bus, and then for unnecessarily raising the heat in his own kitchen.

If you really examine his words from November 2007, he should be under a lot more pressure at the moment. Unfortunately, fan apathy is at a twenty-year high (which is a whole other story).

Let me be clear: The best chance the Bearcats have of returning to national prominence is with Mick Cronin at the helm. It's not often that an up-and-comer in the coaching game lands his dream job, but it's happened here. I'm less than satisfied with the guy, but he's still considered to be an excellent recruiter, and sometimes that one blue-chipper can change everything. Give the guy a few more years, but at some point, it shouldn't be impolite to ask for a little progress (or at least hustle).

Okay, moving forward with the other teams I blindly support...

2. I desperately wanted the Reds to take a two-year flier on Rocco Baldelli, and everybody called me stupid. Now the Red Sox are about to do just that, and it's considered a wise move.

3. While we're at it, why aren't the Reds a player in the Derek Lowe sweepstakes? Would a 3 year, $45 million contract kill the club financially? I can't imagine so. Would it give them a legitimate shot at contending for a pennant? Absolutely. Volquez-Lowe-Harang-Cueto-Arroyo as your starting staff...doesn't sound terrible.

4. And if you happen to bump in to Edinson Volquez between today and sixty years from now, tell him I've thought about him at least once a day since he was traded for Jesus Christ. (I cannot control my wandering mind.)

5. If the Bengals don't draft offensive linemen in rounds one through three, followed by a shifty running back with A+ receiving skills in round four, I'm officially out of the "Caring about the Bengals" business. (Why do they neglect their glaring needs every year?)

(Note: Disregard everything I just wrote if they can get their hands on a game-changing pass rusher.)

6. Ohio State's overflowing group of departing seniors has me relieved it's finally over. Aside from Malcolm Jenkins, all of them are replaceable. Boeckman, Laurinaitis, Robiskie, Boone, Freeman, Nicol, Mo. Wells, Rehring, Abdallah, Others I'm Forgetting, they just...weren't good enough. Weren't tough enough. Overrated? Yep. They were either (a.) good players being billed as great (read: Laurinaitis), (b.) solid players being billed as really good (read: Boone and Freeman) or crummy players undeservedly given playing time (read: Boeckman and Mo. Wells).

It might be harsh to be critical of a bunch who played in four (three prominently) BCS games, including two title-game appearances, but let's face it: They simply weren't good enough.

7. A handful of the aforementioned fellows returned for their senior years with hopes of winning it all. They'll tell you otherwise - some nonsense about "you only get one senior year" - but it's all crap. Everyone knows the real motives, and that's fine. But when things go south, it gets tricky. When the Bucks got pounded by USC - way back in mid-September - the season was over. Everything the players came back for went down the toilet. That created a weird vibe - namely, the Boeckman-Pryor issue. But coach, we still have ten games left...why are we already peaking into the future?

They put all of their eggs into the USC basket, got blown out, and now everything was different. The Laurinatis-Jenkins-Boone group was basically in a lame-duck situation and it didn't feel right. Advice for players: If you think it might be time to go, go. Things can go south in a hurry if you're dreams I'm realized.

And I'm bringing this up because Chris Wells is apparently considering returning for his senior year. Big mistake. Don't get me wrong, I'll take the guy if he comes back, but it could all go to hell with little slip-up in an early-season rematch with the Trojans. Then what? With a national championship an impossibility maybe would Wells keep himself out of games to protect his draft stock? Anything's possible, right?

Edit: Chris Wells just declared for the draft.

Okay, on to things that have nothing to do with the teams I root for, and sometimes, nothing to do with sports...

8. Prediction: Artie Lange is dead before the end of the year. And if I'm right, it will be the first time a stranger's death has led me to tears.

9. When I first heard of Charles Barkley's infamous traffic stop, I was devastated. Not because of his actions, but because I thought he would almost certainly resign from his post at TNT.

10. ESPN's college football analyst Jesse Palmer, thanks to his Second-grade English skills, continues to rank among the worst at his profession. On a bowl telecast a few weeks back (I can't remember which), Palmer had a fifteen-second stretch that left my ears bleeding: Moments after describing some quarterback as "unaccurate," he told the nation about something else that was "remarkably unbelievable."

And you wonder why people complain about ESPN...

11. Speaking of bowl games, do you idiots still think a 64-team tournament (which I lobbied for here, here and here) wouldn't be a good idea? Wouldn't you love to see what Old Mississipi, Utah, TCU, Iowa, Florida State, Oregon, etc., would do with a second life?

Change is good, dammit!

12. I had more than a few hours to watch movies over the past week, which precisely explains why I watched movies over the past week. I own both Kill Bill movies but I ain't seen a lick of neither. But I've seen Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs millions of times, and those movies will always be endlessly cool. Which made me think that Kill Bill had a decent shot to join them.

Not close.

I watched a little over an hour of Kill Bill Vol. 1 and I'm wondering why the name of the film wasn't Neverending Sword Fight with No Cool Dialogue. I think that would be a more accuracte title. But seriously, am I missing something here? Why was nobody else outraged about this? Weren't Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs endlessly cool as a result of unique dialogue?

"What ain't no country I ever heard of; they speak English in What?"

13. On the final day of 2008, I briefly posted some end-of-the-year awards, but neglected the Worst Guy of the Year Award. And this year we have a tie.

First up: Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. Do you realize he allowed Javon Ringer to carry the ball a nation-leading 390 times this year? To put that in perspective, Knowshown Moreno, tenth on the list, carried the 140 fewer times in '08.

Next: Billy Ray Cyrus and the pimp job he performed on his daughter. Remember this summer when provocative Miley Cyrus photos were leaked every couple of weeks for two solid months? Of course you do. How did her daddy react to this? He did the right thing and allowed his 16-year-old daughter to expose her bare back while posing for more provocative pictures in a Vanity Fair spread! What a guy!


Even though I promised not to mention gambling in this post, we might as well knock out the Vickers right now:


Florida-Oklahoma UNDER (69.5)


Arizona (-10)
vs. Oregon

Washington State (-1.5) vs. Cal

Arizona State (-21) vs. Oregon State

Yesterday: 4-5
Overall: 183-154-6

-Brad Spieser (