Monday, March 22, 2010

March Madness opens with a Weekend to Remember

What an exhilaration, breath taking, heart pounding, phenomenal (feel free to add any other hyperbole) start to March Madness. Never in all my years of watching the Mens NCAA College Basketball Tournament can I recall a weekend with more buzzer beaters, overtime games, and Cinderella upsets.

The first day had drama and suspense from the very beginning to the very end. It started in fine fashion with Old Dominion knocking of the Fighting Irish by a mere point. Even though my disdain of Notre Dame is more geared toward there football program, it still rubs of onto there basketball team as well. Then there was the near historic upset of #2 seeded Villanova by Robert Morris who had the lead and control of the game all the way up to the very end before they succumbed in overtime. Helped mightily by there 40 free throw attempts to 26 by Robert Morris, can you say big school bias anyone. Lets not forget about the Racers of Murray State that calmly knocked off #4 seeded Vanderbilt on a 15 foot buzzer beater by Danero Thomas who was only the 3rd option on the play. Maybe its my anti SEC football bias creeping in but always nice to see the SEC fall flat no matter the sport.

As incredible as these 1st afternoon round of games were, the evening session said hold up we have some sprinkles to add. Now normally I would not be caught dead giving props to any school that has Ohio in its name but when its #14 seeded The State University of Ohio toppling a powerhouse like #3 seeded Georgetown I will happily make an exception. A precursor of things to come for the Big East that saw only 2 of 8 teams advance to the sweet sixteen.

These games were just the tip of the Iceberg for the weekend which saw three double digit seeded teams advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. With #9 seeded Northern Perhaps topping all of that by taking down overall #1 seeded Kansas on a cold blooded 3 point shot that will undoubtedly make its way into the NCAA archives and live on for years to come. It was #12 seeded Cornell becoming the first Ivy league school in over 30 years knocking of Wisconsin handily to advance to next weekend. It was Pac-10 regular season winner Washington storming back against Marquette in the 1st round and then soundly taking out #3 seeded and very new to the party New Mexico. Then the little school that could out of the San Francisco area Saint Mary's College knocking of everyones darling mid-major Richmond first and then beating the aforementioned over rated Villanova next.

I most certainly did not forget the Drama that our home state M.S.U. Spartans brought to the table as the advanced not so easily or healthy to the Sweet Sixteen for the 3rd straight year. However I will be forth coming with another update this afternoon that will give there Spartans there due and I would be remiss if I did not give a very special honorable mention to what the Red Wings accomplished this weekend. Scoring 2 goals with less than a second to go on back to back nights to force the 1st game into overtime and to win in overtime the next night, seemed to fit in nicely with the weekends theme.

Jason Behr

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Red Wings defeat Calgary 2-1 in key match up

Wow what an exciting late night game. Talk about a great way to start off the week by watching the Wings deliver a full 60 minute effort that results in a 3 point lead on the Calgary Flames for the 8th and final playoff spot.

For an official recap go here

Going on this 3 game winning streak and being 5-2 post Olympic break is just what this team needed. Of course the entire game hinged on that crucial sequence when the Red Wings went on an early third period power play and inexplicable gave up a penalty shot to Calgary that Howard stopped and we came back and tied it with a power play goal 30 seconds later. For once it was nice to see the Wings on the receiving end of this type of momentum shift instead of the other end that has happened so frequently this year.

It seems that our star players like Pavel and Hank have definitely heeded Mike Babcocks "our stars have to play like stars" mantra with both of them skating hard and making plays on both ends. I just marvel at a player like Holmstrom that can stand in front of that net take the physical abuse he does and still be so deft with his stick at deflecting in wide shots to the nets. The game winner with 1:19 left had to be a heart breaker for the Flames.

Of course we still have 2 key match ups with Nashville coming up and still need some teams in front of us to lose a game or two but all in all I like where the Wings are headed. I can't imagine either Chicago or San Jose looking forward to first round match up with a Wings team firing on all cylinders.

As always feel free to comment good, bad or otherwise


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Michigan State bows out in big ten tourney

Does anybody remember that classic quote from Rob Schneider in the movie Necessary Roughness?

"Coach, nows not the time to make sure everybody has played. Hey, I haven't played yet, maybe I should go in."

That was actually one of his many classic quotes as announcer Chuck Neiderman.

It's the not the time to make sure everybody played that was eerily similar to the way Michigan State coach Tom Izzo handled his team on Friday. The Spartans loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament left many fans, media and even a few players scratching their heads over the way Izzo managed the player rotation.

With Chris Allen suspended for mysterious reasons, the Spartans were definitely in need of a lift at the guard play. For some reason though Durrell Summers was benched most of the second half again for mysterious reasons. In his place were seldom used Austin Thorton and walk-on Mike Kebler which left Spartan fans wondering why in the world is Izzo benching Summers for those two. Yes, Kebler did help the defense improve in the 2nd half, but offensively he was a liability. The stat line: 20 minutes, zero points, 2 missed free throws and two costly turnovers. One of those miscues was on a fast break where Kalin Lucas passed to him and he basically couldn't wait to release it back to a Minnesota player as if he were holding a hand grenade. The other was while grabbing a rebound after a Minnesota miss and basically tripping over his own feet out of bounds. Lucas was standing right near him and you could see the look of disgust on his face when they showed the replays.

So at the risk of making the offense look bad, Izzo thought at least he would make their defense look good. But Izzo didn't need to contribute to the offensive demise - the players did that on their own with all the missed free throws. Sparty was an aberration from the charity stripe in Friday's loss in which they were slightly over 50% including four straight crucial misses in overtime. Minnesota obviously didn't have issues with the basket as they were close to 75% in free throws. And did anybody notice how a few of the Minnesota players just step up to the line and calmly shoot it in no time? Usually their results are all net. Smooth and secure. The Spartan players stand at the line, stare at it too long, measure it, and almost aim it. Even a lot of their makes were rim rattlers that were fortunate to bounce in. Make a few more free throws and Michigan State could have been the ones facing the battered and bruised Boilermakers, which Minnesota dismantled on Saturday.

MSU's defense has actually improved over the last 4 or 5 games thanks in part to Chris Allen and due to Raymar Morgan playing up to potential. Get Allen back in. Get Summers some more playing time. And get the continued solid play from Morgan. Get all those in place and the Spartans can forget about the Minnesota meltdown and focus on a respectable run in the upcoming NCAA.