March 13, 2009

Terps Beat Wake - Going Dancing?

I'll leave it to Jeremy to find the "touch of grey" in the silver lining, but that's a gigantic win for the Terps.  I'm not a Bracketologist, so I'll have to take others' assessment that the Terps are now a lock to make the tournament at face value.  

It's tough to imagine a bigger game for a team than tonight for the Terps.  The stakes couldn't have been higher: win and you make the NCAA tournament, lose and you face an NIT invitation and the whole season is considered a failure.  Like they have so many times this year, the Terps rose to the occasion when it mattered most.  

This Maryland team can be frustrating to watch at times, but games like this make it all worthwhile.  It was a complete team effort led by the team's unquestioned leader (Vasquez) and his trusty sidekick (Neal).  Everyone contributed, even Braxton Dupree (that was a very smart foul at the end of the first half).  OK, so Jin Soo Kim continued his disappearing act, but almost everyone else was heard from during the game.  

Like most of the Terps' wins this year, tons of the credit goes to Gary Williams.  He came out with a pefect strategy for this game, with a zone defense that made the Wake offense look awful.  Teague certainly didn't look like an All-ACC player.

Next up for Maryland is gravy.  Pure gravy.  Provided things fall into place like people are predicting and the Terps make the NCAA Tournament, the season is a success.  The pressure is off and they can have a little fun.  Expectations are low (especially Jeremy's expectations, I'm sure) and fans will be happy if Maryland can either advance further in the ACC Tournament or make any kind of run in the NCAA Tournament.  As a fan, this is where it can be really fun.  The rest of the season is all upside - losses aren't all that disappointing, and wins are very, very exciting.  I love March.

March 12, 2009

2009 ACC Tournament Picks

It's ACC Tournament time again, and those of us who had the availability to do so between 10am and noon this morning have attempted to give our ACC Tournament picks.

Before we get to the picks, if you're a fan of ACC basketball, and your team has a halfway-decent season, you owe it to yourself to make a pilgrimage to this event at least once in your life. In 2001, J-Red, Brien, and Jeremy went to the ACC Tournament the last time it was in Atlanta, back pre-ACC expansion. Talk about basketball overload... the play-in game the first night, followed by four games the second day of the tournament. ACC basketball from noon to midnight with a 2 hour break for dinner. Incredible times. Plus, two funny stories from the trip:

1) On the MARTA Train (the Atlanta subway), we traveled from Brien's family's house north of the city. NC State fans get on after us and we talk smack back and forth. Then the next stop UNC fans get on and State and Terp fans gang up on the UNC fans. Then a few stops later UVA fans get on and UNC, Terp, and State fans ganged up on the UVA fans. Finally, Duke fans get on the train at the next stop. EVERYBODY gangs up on the Duke fans.

2) On the MARTA Train earlier in the trip upon our arrival coming in from Hartsfield Airport, we noticed that there was a station called "College Park" just south of downtown. Going to the University of Maryland-College Park, we thought it might be a fun idea to get off and take some funny pictures of us with College Park signs, just this College Park being in Atlanta. You know, the same sort of thing that every college student does nowadays purely for purposes of inflating their Facebook pages. Only we were about five years before Facebook. Anyway, for anybody familiar with Atlanta, as soon as the train pulled into College Park Station, the idea didn't seem so great anymore. You couldn't have paid any of us $1000 bucks to step off that train. For those unfamiliar with Atlanta, College Park is the neighborhood where PacMan Jones and Ludacris hail from. That might explain our position a little more.

Anyway, on to the picks:

Opening Round:
#8 Virginia Tech over #9 Miami - I'll talk Malcolm Delaney over Jack McClinton. Both Baltimore guys. Neither are Terps. Interesting.
#5 Clemson over #12 Georgia Tech - Tech has been hot lately, but Clemson is one of the strongest five-seeds you'll see in this tourney.
#10 NC State over #7 Maryland - It's painful to do this, but the Terps can't beat the zone and unless NC State has no tape of the last two Terps games, they'll play zone all game long.
#6 Boston College over #11 Virginia - UVA is terrible. I'm still embarrassed the Terps lost.

#1 UNC over #8 Virginia Tech - Even without Lawson, the Heels will roll with all the rest.
#5 Clemson over #4 Florida State - I just like Clemson and still think the 'Noles are a little counterfeit. Just one of my irrational thoughts.
#2 Wake Forest over #10 NC State - Should be a pretty easy game for Wake if they can get over their yips from not playing at Lawrence Joel.
#3 Duke over #6 Boston College - Again, Duke will benefit from rest and a good matchup against BC.

#1 UNC over #5 Clemson - I just think Hansbrough is going to fight like hell in this tournament and will take over this game to make it to Sunday.
#2 Wake Forest over #3 Duke - A game that truly should be great and could go either way. If Nolan Smith is out, I especially like the Deacs.

#2 Wake Forest over #1 UNC - Wake's incredible depth and tremendous size should take this game, especially given that UNC may be playing without Lawson. I think this game will ride on the strength of Jeff Teague.

Opening Round:
#9 Miami over #8 Virginia Tech - The Hokies haven't been winning much lately.
#5 Clemson over #12 Georgia Tech - Georgia Tech could pull the upset, but I'd be surprised.
#7 Maryland over #10 NC State - The Terps can beat the Wolfpack again, just to tease us some more.
#6 Boston College over #11 Virginia - UVA is terrible. I'm still embarrassed the Terps lost. (ditto to Jeremy's)

#1 UNC over #9 Miami - UNC in a walk. One player is not enough to beat the Heels.
#4 Florida State over #5 Clemson - I'll take FSU just because Clemson almost always disappoints in the ACC Tourney, even though it's not in Greensboro this year.
#2 Wake Forest over #7 Maryland - Wake won't sleep through the first half this time, and this game won't even be close.
#3 Duke over #6 Boston College - It's hard not to like Duke in this one.

#1 UNC over #4 FSU - FSU doesn't have enough to beat UNC on a neutral court.
#3 Duke over #2 Wake Forest - Duke's experience prevails in a very close, well-played game.

#3 Duke over #1 UNC - I hate both of these teams, but I just have a feeling Duke will pull this out in spite of losing to UNC twice already.

March 10, 2009

Idol Recap - 3/10/09

So we're finally past devastatingly tantalizing close Maryland basketball losses to superior opponents on Tuesday nights. Now we've moved on to embarrassing losses to inferior opponents on Sundays. But the upside is we're back to Idol recaps!!

New intro for our attention whore judges. The big stage, a big announcer. Less screentime for Ryan and less uncomfortable winking between Ryan and Simon. Okay by me.

Tonight is Michael Jackson night meaning that everybody has to change up the song that they choose in some meaningful way. Because simply put, there is no Idol contestant in the history of the show who could ever cover Michael Jackson.

On to the recaps... I am "live-blogging" this, so I hope that my comments don't overlap with the judges that much, but I'm going to spit out my take and if it overlaps, it overlaps.

Lil Rounds - The Way You Make Me Feel
Alright, she sang really well. But it didn't matter. The only way she was going home tomorrow was if she pulled a Sinead O'Connor - somethling like wrapping herself in an American flag for her performance, then whipping it off and burning it. We'll see her for a whole many more weeks, if not at the final show. Verdict - SAFE.

Scott MacIntyre - Keep The Faith
He's good, but bottom line is I think that there were 2 or 3 guys who were left behind who were significantly better than him (see Joyner, Ju'Not; Braddy, Ricky). Doesn't have a powerful voice to hold out certain notes, despite having some range. But forget my review... did anyone else hear Paula say it was "magical" seeing Scott's "instrument in his fingertips." Wow. Verdict - SAFE.

Danny Gokey - P.Y.T.
He blew the roof off the theatre. That's all there is to say. Started a little weak and then just was incredible. I wouldn't put him through to the finals yet, like Paula, but he was dynamite. Verdict - SAFE.

Michael Sarver - You Are Not Alone
Great vocals, but a pretty forgettable performance. If we weren't constantly reminded that he was a roughneck, we'd probably totally forget who he is. In the early rounds of elimination, forgettability bodes trouble. Verdict - SLIGHT DANGER.

Jasmine Murray - I'll Be There
Benefits from each week of distance she puts between herself and her horrifying Round of 36 performance. She has a powerhouse voice but isn't very well-trained it seems given how she can stray into screechiness. She may not have developed a strong voter base yet, though. Verdict - DANGER.

Kris Allen - Remember the Times
Somebody wanted to crack out that acoustic guitar just a little bit too early. Acoustic guitar + Michael Jackson = slight trouble. It was a pretty good performance all around and I think his looks has seized a good portion of the young female vote. Gokey = cougar vote, Allen = under 30 female vote. Verdict - SAFE.

Allison Iraheta - Give Into Me
Wow. Her stage presence is INCREDIBLE for a 16-year-old. I just worry that she has enough range. All we've seen is Alone by Heart and an angry version of Give Into Me tonight. At some point she'll have to stretch to be a true threat to win it all. But a knockout performance tonight. Verdict - SAFE.

Anoop Desai - Beat It
Anoop didn't seem to get the memo that you had to do something to switch up a Michael Jackson song to make it your own because nobody can touch the original. Unfortunately for Anoop, he chose Michael's most popular song and did NOTHING to it. He did an above-average college acapella version of the song. Verdict - DANGER.

Jorge Nunez - Never Can Say Goodbye
Jorge did an alright job. He fell into the same Anoop trap of not really doing anything to the song. However, unlike Anoop, he didn't try to re-create a total classic. Still, it was kind of like a lounge singer on stage. If he wasn't so insanely loved and popular, he'd be in more danger. But for tonight, the verdict - SAFE.

Megan Corkrey - Rockin' Robin
Well, the good news is she likely won't be separated from her son for that much longer. But for the tattoos, tonight looked like something out of a trippy 1970s variety show. The other good news was the makeover. I haven't seen an Idol crowd look this dead for a supposedly upbeat performance in a long time. Verdict - EXTREME DANGER.

Adam Lambert - Black Or White
This was one of the most manic performances I have ever seen on this show. I entirely disagree with the judges and was kind of put off by the performance, while at the same time, I appreciated it for the talent. Adam is uniquely suited for a Michael Jackson week given that Adam, like Michael, is more than a little disturbing in some way that may be hard to describe, but that you feel deep in your bones. He'll go very far because of his comfort level on stage from his national Broadway tour. Verdict - SAFE.

Matt Giraud - Human Nature
Excellent, excellent vocals. Tremendous upper range. I hate giving him this much love because I have a sneaking suspicion he's a huge tool. But it was solidly good and at this stage, that's normally enough to get you through. Another performer who benefits from each week of separation he gets from his disastrous performance in the round-of-36. Verdict - SAFE.

Alexis Grace - Dirty Diana
Aside from her wardrobe assistant picking an outfit that made her look like one of women out of HBO's Atlantic City prostitute documentary, a good performance. However, she got screetchy in parts and had trouble keeping up with the fast pace of the vocal lines in between the chorus. If people don't accidentally dial the phone sex line (yes, that's why IDOLS13 isn't being used tonight), she still had a good enough performance to be through. Verdict - SAFE.

Predicted Bottom Two:
Megan Corkrey (easily the worst)
Jasmine Murray (a tough call between her, Anoop, and Sarver)

Unanswered question - what are the judges doing tomorrow to make the process a little different? Throw in your hypotheses in the comments section. Given some of their comments about wanting to take back a little bit of control, I can't imagine that they'd possibly overrule voting results. Could they?

College Basketball Jeopardy!

The category is college basketball teams for $1000.
- On January 5th, we were 10-2 and ranked 9th in the Coach's Poll and 10th in the AP Poll.
- We then proceeded to lose 12 of our next 18 games, including a home loss to Seton Hall and a road loss to St. John's.
- We have a former Parade All-American on our roster as well as three former McDonalds All-Americans on our roster, including the former National High School Player of the Year.
- We couldn't even muster one win in the Big East Tournament, losing again to St. John's.
- We are just two years removed from a Final Four appearance, but finished this season 7-11 in conference and 16-14 overall.
- The only teams in our ridiculously-oversized 16-team conference to have a worse record than us are South Florida, Rutgers, Seton Hall, and DePaul.
If you guessed the Hoyas of Georgetown University, you win $1000 in East Coast Bias bucks. (one thousand Schrute bucks for each East Coast Bias buck).
Congratulations, Georgetown. You've fallen down so low that even Terp fans can look at you and nod our heads slowly in disgusted pity. There's going to be a lot of Prince George's County residents who are turning their Starter jackets inside out to avoid the appearance that they support you.

Adam Dunn Should've Thought of this Sooner

[Referring to the World Baseball Classic...]

"If this is like the playoffs, I have to be in the playoffs,'' America's Adam Dunn said after the U.S. hung on Saturday to beat Canada in Toronto, 6-5. "This is the best experience I've ever had in baseball.''

Hahahahahaha. So you signed a two-year deal with the Washington Nationals? I guess you're at least three seasons away from the playoffs.

March 8, 2009

Illinois CB Vontae Davis Names His Dream NFL Team

On Fox Sports Radio this afternoon, Illinois CB Vontae Davis, a first-round prospect like his brother Vernon Davis was a few years back, was asked which NFL team he most hoped would draft him next month.

Vontae answered quickly - Baltimore. He then explained that he likes the way the Ravens play defense.

It should be noted that Vontae is from Washington, D.C., and attended the District's Dunbar High, but I think Ravens fans can be proud that college stars are dreaming of donning the purple and black (and certainly not the burgundy and gold).

Even if Vontae didn't follow his brother Vernon to Maryland, I still love V.D.

Maryland Basketball - Expect the Soul Crushing Defeat

No need for a caption. The picture says it all.

In response to Brien's Post on February 22 after the Terps upset North Carolina, I had this to say in the comment section:

Every year we get a marquee win against UNC or Duke down the stretch, just enough to make people talk about us getting off the bubble. Then, inevitably, we choke against a team that in eminently beatable and a game that we should win, and we play ourselves right into NIT contention. That said, based upon our game yesterday, now, if we win our two games against eminently beatable opponents, UVA (on the road) and NC State, we should be tourney bound at 8-8 and wins over Michigan State and UNC. However, if this year bodes like years past, we'll choke one of those games away.

Brien responded to my comment as follows:

Wow, Jeremy, that's an unbelievably negative thing to say in the wake of the biggest win of the year.

Look, believe it or not, I'm not out to play who's right or who's wrong. I think all Terp fans are demoralized beyond belief after yesterday's soul-crushing, gut-wrenching loss to the woeful Virginia Cavaliers, which barring a miracle in Atlanta, ended the Terps' NCAA hopes.

But, in reality, should any Terp fans really be all that surprised by what happened yesterday? Was I really all that off base in my prediction? At the time, I was doing it off-the-cuff from my recollections of the past few years, without actually taking a look back. Well, turns out the numbers from the past few seasons show that every Terp fan should have expected the collective bed-shitting that we saw yesterday.

2004-2005 Season:
- Terps beat top-5 ranked Duke, leaving them with 5 games left in the ACC season.
- Terps lose 4 of 5 of those games, including games against UVA, Clemson, and Virginia Tech, who combined to end the season with a 46-45 record.
- Terps blown out in the first round of the ACC Tournament in Washington, DC by woeful Clemson, who finished the year at 16-16 overall.

2005-2006 Season:
- Arguably the season that the Terps got totally screwed for an NCAA Tournament bid, finishing 8-8 in the conference.
- They win their first round ACC Tournament game, but get blown out in the second round of the ACC Tournament by Boston College, a team that the Terps had already beaten. A win here would've guaranteed the Terps entry into the NCAA Tourney in "the year of the mid-major."
- Instead, the Terps get to host the NIT, and it comes out later that Gary had already told the team they would turn the bid down but was forced into it by Debbie Yow, who had already promised the NIT that Maryland would host a first-round game. Maryland comes out listless and gets blown out by MAAC "powerhouse" Manhattan.

2006-2007 Season:
- The Terps most recent NCAA appearance
- Terps run off an amazing seven straight wins to end the season, including a season sweep (2 wins) over top-15 Duke, and a win over top-5 UNC.
- Terps have the chance to earn a very, very high seed in the NCAA Tournament but, instead, as the 17th-ranked team in the country, lose to a 12-20 Miami Hurricanes team (the bottom seed) in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
- Terps do make the NCAA Tournament as a four-seed, beating Davidson in the first round, before losing to five-seed Butler in the second round.

2007-2008 Season:
- Terps are 8-6 with 2 ACC games left and the chance to firmly clinch a high NCAA seed.
- Terps lose a close game to doormat Clemson on Senior Night at Comcast Center
- Terps get blown out by UVA on the road to end the season, finishing 8-8, and placing them firmly on the bubble. For all intents and purposes though, a win in the first round of the ACC Tournament gets them off the bubble and in the tournament
- Terps head to the ACC Tournament and get beaten by Boston College in the first round in that "must win" game, and head back to the NIT for the third time in four seasons.

2008-2009 Season:
- Terps enter final game of the season at 7-8 in the conference, going on the road to Charlottesville to face a UVA team that was 3-12 in the conference, 9-17 overall. UVA students are on "senior recess" (don't even get me started on this shit), and Terp fans fill up a good 20% of the John Paul Jones arena, making it "Comcast South" for the afternoon.
- Terps blow an 11 point first-half lead, can't beat the zone defense, can't keep their heads on straight at the end to have awareness as to what kinds of shots they need, and lose.
- Terps now need at least two wins in the ACC Tournament to even be considered for one of the final slots in the tournament, in a year when mid-majors are weak and lots of other bubble teams have choked down the stretch (see Wildcats, Kentucky; Rams, Rhode Island)

So in the words of Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday, "I don't know what to say, really." I mean, this Terps basketball team has given fans pretty solid heartburn and heartbreak down the stretch in each of the past five seasons.

Is it coaching? I actually don't think so, because I think the Terps executed pretty damn well against Duke, Wake, and NC State, earning close losses against top-10 teams Duke and Wake, and a great road win against NC State. But, then again, yesterday, how could the team seem so startled and get the deer-in-headlights look the second they went against a zone defense.

Is it motivation? Dave Neal called out the rest of his team yesterday after the game asking how anybody could not be motivated to play a game with so much on the line. Greivis Vasquez admitted that UVA wanted the game more. How could you let a team want it more when everything is riding on the game?

Is it talent, or a lack thereof? I think we may be onto something here. So the greater question is how did Maryland fall totally off the wagon when it came to getting talent on their roster, especially big men who could break the zone and get inside?

Terp fans feel sick this morning. I think Denny Green said it best, "AND WE LET 'EM OFF THE HOOK!!!" (edited because J-Red caught my inaccurate quoting of Denny Green)