Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Baseball Coming...Basketball Hasn't Left

Dictionary.com, an Internet website, defines "promise" as a declaration that something will or will not be done, given, etc., by one.

Brad Spieser's definition is just like that, minus about forty percent. I'm constantly promising a specific column or podcast in the coming days and only sometimes do I follow through.

Well, let me tell you, boys and girls, I *promise* you a lengthy Reds preview before the end of the week. This, I'm guessing, makes you horny.

But before we transition into full-on baseball mode, allow me to focus on NCAA basketball for a moment. Here are four more thoughts heading into this weekend's Final Four:

1. If you're an NBA GM, how in the hell do you evaluate UConn forward Stanley Robinson? Do you see the versatile, skilled and frighteningly athletic dynamo who's been a true difference-maker in March, or do you see the guy who disappears for not just games or weeks at a time, but years at a time? Your guess is as good as mine...

2. Not that we haven't known this for over a decade now, but college basketball is a little man's game, and that was made abundantly clear during North Carolina's thorough ass-raping of Oklahoma on Sunday. There wasn't a player in the building anywhere near as great as Blake Griffin, and he had a predictably dominant (and remarkably efficient) game, yet Ty Lawson's one-sided beatdown of Austin Johnson proved to be all the Tar Heels needed. (And you can spare me the crap about OU's piss-poor 3-point shooting; sure it hurt, but not nearly as bad as OU's inability to feed Griffin in the post.)

3. Which brings me to topic three, something I didn't whip up on my own. Pop quiz: What do North Dakota State's Ben Woodside, CS Northridge's Mark Hill, the little guy at Siena (I'm guessing he has a name), the little guy at Cleveland State (ditto), the little guy at American (ditto) and that Mendez-Valdez dude from Western Kentucky have in common?

Answer: They're all undersized (and under-recruited) guys who didn't draw a sniff from a major D-1 school because of their size. Which is ridiculous, because they were probably just as small and just as dynamic in high school. Plus, we see it every year in March: the little guy from the small-conference school gives the big boys fits. Look, it's happened every year for my entire life, so you can throw out the common theory that Player A simply "had the game of his career." The reality is that Player A is friggin' good, and talented enough to hang with the major conference teams on a nightly basis.

Which brings me to the obvious question, posed by my buddy Cam during an opening-round hoops-watching marathon: Why don't big conference teams go out and get one of these guys? There's always a need for game-changing point guard play, and -- as witnessed by the Oklahoma-North Carolina game -- having a super-elite post game can only do so much.

The legend of Devan Downey's recruitment...

As the story goes: During the middle of fourth-seeded Cincinnati's 2004 first-round struggle with No. 13 East Tennessee State, Bob Huggins -- after being torched by ETSU's lighting-quick midget of a point guard, some cat named Tim Smith -- turned to one of his assistants and said, "get me one of those guys." Twenty months later, 5'9 Devan Downey played his first game as a Bearcat and terrorized the Big East.

4. Finally, and I know I bitch about this every year, but flopping/taking charges is out of control -- to the point that it's become difficult for me to watch this thing I obsess over. I mean, when a necessary ingredient of winning is to simply fall down with hopes of a referee rewarding your acting performance, that's a large effing problem. I've written about this time and again (please click the link to truly understand where I'm coming from), yet nobody seems as outraged as I am. But why? Why do you accept that it's become a smart move for a defender to either (a.) fall down after minimal contact or (b.) slide under an opponent flying towards the rim, well after he's taken off?


Before sending you home, I'd like you to read what Minnesota Timberwolf Mark Madsen wrote earlier this month after Shaq famously flopped against Dwight Howard. It's pretty interesting, quite telling and more than a little maddening (stolen from True Hoop):

I played with Shaq for three years in Los Angeles and while I did see the big fella sacrifice his body and step in and take charges, I never once saw him flop in those three years. And the funny thing is that almost every team in the NBA tries to flop against Shaq. There are probably even coaches that teach their centers and forwards to try to flop on Shaq. So, this whole commotion about whether or not Shaq's play against Dwight Howard was a flop is so funny because everyone in the league tries to flop on Shaq and Shaq never flops back.

The funny thing about this is the way the game is called on this type of play at the NBA and college level. Every year, an NBA official comes in and talks to every NBA team at the beginning of the season.

One year, we were in this meeting and a Timberwolves player made the point that NBA players are strong and have good balance and that for an NBA player to fly backwards after getting hit is actually almost "impossible" without the player faking it.

The referee disagreed, but hey, I can tell you it's true.

In some ways, the art of the flop makes the game fun because fans get so riled up over it. In another way it takes away from the game because it's purely acting and it takes away from the athletic skill of other players.

... There is a dramatic difference between "taking a charge" and "flopping." Taking a charge is when a player is coming at you full speed and out of control and you step outside of the charge circle and sacrifice your body and fall backwards. This hurts, it takes skill, and you might really get hit hard by the fast moving player. Most NBA players respect "taking a charge." A "flop" is when you barely get touched and fall to the ground or flail uncontrollably.

Again: 'NBA players are strong and have good balance and that for an NBA player to fly backwards after getting hit is actually almost "impossible" without the player faking it.'

Telling quote, but it's something we've known forever.

That being the case, why is flopping rewarded and not penalized?

*****End of words*****

Reds preview guaranteed by the end of the week. Also, Craig and I should be recording within the next few days, so be on the lookout for new podcasts.

Final thought of the day, which is completely unrelated to all them words you just read: Whoever wrote "If U Seek Amy," and I'm assuming it wasn't that hick Britney Spears, is a goddamn genius. And yes, I mean "goddamn genius" in the John Nash sense.

-Brad Spieser (