March 21, 2009

A Frustrating End to a Good Season

Still more attractive than a Duke cheerleader

I'm not quite ready to do a full post-mortem on the 2008-2009 Maryland Basketball season, but I'll just say that it was eventful and I'm happy with the results.  I have high hopes for next year and I think we've put a bit of the Gary drama behind us for a while.  Losing only Neal (hopefully) and adding Jordan Williams, James Padgett, and Lance Stephenson (hopefully) should provide Greivis with an even better supporting cast.

Today Memphis was simply a better team.  While we could have made it close on most days, with the Tigers shooting as well as they did, the Terps didn't have a chance.  Scoring 70 points is actually a fairly high output for Maryland, but Memphis made it look easy scoring against our press.  That was a tough draw, but you can't expect anything else as a 10 seed.

After some time to reflect, I'll have some more thoughts on the season and what we can expect next year.

March 19, 2009

No Pressure

It's really a different experience watching the Terps when the pressure is off.  There've been so many times in the NCAA Tournament where the first round was all about avoiding embarrassment.  This year, it was found money.  

I was thrilled that the Terps were in the tourney, and while I certainly wanted them to win, it wouldn't have been that bad if they lost.  For whatever reason, that makes winning all the more sweet.  That sense of relief is replaced by genuine happiness.   

Being a sports fan can be strange at times.  There's so much emotion invested in the success or failure of a team, and so much of it depends on expectations.  When you aren't expecting your team to do much at all, any successes are even better.

Saturday is going to be even better.  I think the Terps have a decent chance against Memphis, but Terps fans have every reason to be thrilled with the results this season.

Random thoughts on the game:
  • I can't decide if California is Maryland's bitch (a football and a basketball win this season) or if Mike Montgomery is Gary's bitch (Gary beat Montgomery when he was at Stanford in the tournament as well).  Maybe it's both.
  • Another amazing team effort:  Neal had 15 points, Hayes got 14, and Bowie had 12 and 7 assists.
  • And I don't want to start another Gary Williams argument, but you have to give him all the credit in the world for having the team that ready to play.  They were mentally prepared and had a great game plan
  • We're going to miss Dave Neal next year, but I really hope Greivis comes back.  We could be really great next year.

March 17, 2009

Idol Recap 3/17/09

And a wee fine St. Patty's Day to ya' all. Alright, I'm not going to lie, I don't get this holiday. Probably because I don't have a drop of Irish blood in my Russo-German body. Probably because I got pinched too many times in elementary school because I hated the color green and would never wear it, regardless of the occasion (except for the one year that my BFAA pee-wee baseball team was the Athletics and I had to wear those horrifying green stirrup socks). Anyway, if you're reading this, maybe you skipped the Smithwick's and the Guinness and you watched Idol tonight. Or maybe you're watching it drunk, which could be entertaining after all.

Tonight is Grand Ole Opry night on Idol, otherwise known as the night Jeremy has practically zero interest in the songs that are sung and probably will only have background knowledge of no more than half the songs. Like Simon, I'm just not a country music kind of person. It'll be a true test of the range of some of the performers, namely Allison Iraheta and Lil Rounds, who have both managed to survive up to this point by singing only one kind of music, country for neither, and singing it well.

That said, on to the recap. Same ground rules as last week... I'm live-blogging, so any overlap of judges' comments is inadvertent. In fact, the more I overlap the comments of the judges, the less you should probably read this blog. For many reasons.

I promised one of our readers pictures of hot female contestants a few weeks ago. Here is Adam Lambert, courtesy of I saved you from the picture of him making out with another guy in this same costume. You think the producers of Idol will let him win? Really????

Tonight our guest host is Randy Travis who has apparently had albums out for 23 years and who I don't know one song by. Randy Travis and Landry from Friday Night Lights - separated at birth? Just a thought.

Michael Sarver:
It's almost unfair that this guy gets to compete on "country night." There could not be a genre more in his wheelhouse. His vocals didn't exactly shine but he performed the hell out of it. He's likely going to get through with no problem with that "awww shucks" charm. I'm coming back here after the show ended to say that as the show went on, it was clear that he had one of the weaker vocal performances. But he still will appeal to an enormous cross-section of American voters. Going first might hurt.

Allison Iraheta:
It's no secret I'm in the tank for Allison and think she's got a killer rock voice. Unlike the judges, I was not super impressed with her performance tonight. Probably because I don't love country and probably because I thought that she was struggling with trying to grasp the country nature of the song. That said, it was still a strong performance and she's got to have more upside than any other Idol contestant (to use a Mel Kiper term since this is a sports blog at heart)

Kris Allen:
A wise choice to leave the guitar behind and show off his amazing ballad voice. I thought it was a dynamite performance, a beautiful performance (aside from the last note which was a little bit of a reach), and combined with his looks will allow him to sail through. Apparently my wife thinks that he's hot, for what it's worth. He could be very, very dangerous for a few weeks to come.

Lil Rounds:
Did more than enough to survive country week, which I was very concerned about for her. I guess the bottom line is when you have a voice like she does, it really doesn't matter the genre. It was a very measured performance and she clearly held back for a lot of it. It wasn't necessarily the best that she can do, but I applaud the heck out of her for trying to choose and perform a true country song. Also, how about Kara mocking deaf people during her critique when there is a blind guy who is in the wings about to perform later. Nice Kara... nice.

Adam Lambert:
Holy shit, what just happened? Alright, so he is now officially the most offbeat, dangerous, mothers hide your children's eyes from the TV for five minutes finalist Idol has ever had. I mean, Adam channelled his inner Boy George tonight. There were some truly great Thom Yorke'ish Radiohead notes hidden in there, but all in all, this was a horrible, and actually downright scary choice to appeal to the voting American public. But he seems to have a lot of people who love him if DialIdol is worth anything. Verdict - SLIGHT DANGER.

Scott MacIntyre:
Thank you so much Randy Travis for the most blunt honesty we've ever had from a guest judge. Please come back every week. I don't get the deal with this MacIntyre thing. He's getting insane feedback from the audience, but his vocals didn't come within a country mile (get it??? country mile???) of Adam, Kris, or Michael. He just can't hold out his power notes at all. Sure, I get it. He's blind. It's impressive that he can play the piano the way that he does. He's got an above average voice. But let's face it, he is not an American Idol. And now Paula and Simon are battling over who can be more politically correct in critiquing the blind guy. We're at like a 14 on the unintentional comedy scale of 1-10. I'll say it for you judges... he's good for a blind performer.
Verdict - DANGER

Alexis Grace:
I was definitely expecting more on country night out of Alexis. Alexis just didn't mesh with the song and didn't pull it off that well. It's super, super, super dangerous to try to pull off Dolly Parton, and Alexis fell right into that bear trap. It was a performance by Alexis that was memorable simply because it wasn't memorable. I still think she'll get through though because she's got a huge following.
Verdict - SAFE.

Danny Gokey:
Started off really, really rough and then just morphed into a great performance when he hit the bridge and chorus. I was starting to think that he was going to be in a little bit of trouble, then the voice rose, the lights came up, and BOOM. He's going to be around for quite a while.
Verdict - SAFE.

Anoop Desai:
The return of Anoop. That's about all you can say. Made me look smart picking him back in the top-36 to be one of the five to watch. His vocals were FANTASTIC. I mean, truly and honestly fantastic. He did an incredible job of switching up a country music standard and making it fit him perfectly. He went from probable elimination coming in to the night (unless the Indian-American vote pushed him out of elimination) to the best performance of the night so far.
Verdict - SAFE.

Megan Joy:
Apparently the "Corkrey" was causing her to finish in the bottom part of the voting. Not her poor vocals. Or her shitty-ass dancing. Listen, judges, are you happy? Was it that important to gender balance the top 12 that you gave a wildcard to Megan and Jasmine over Ju'Not? Apparently she has the flu and did a roundtrip to the hospital today. I give her credit cause God knows I wouldn't have been up there after the flu. That said, I think it's over for Megan.
Verdict - DANGER.

Matt Giraud:
He inadvertently proved my point as to why Scott MacIntyre totally doesn't belong here. Matt had ten times the vocals of Scott and played the piano better than Scott. But let's focus on Matt... it was a terrific performance, it's not easy to rearrange a Carrie Underwood song for a male's performance as Matt did, and he'll benefit from going last when it comes to the voting. You know... that whole recency effect that they teach psychology majors like me.

Verdict - SAFE.

Predicted Bottom Three:
Megan Joy
Scott MacIntyre
Adam Lambert

How to Pick Your Brackets

If you go to or Sportsline, they all have bracket previews divided up by region.  These may give you things to talk about at the watercooler or make you sound smarter watching the games with your friends (thanks to Andy Katz, I now know that Cleveland State's Gary Waters is an emotional coach), but do they really help you fill out your brackets?

The sites that do have bracket advice seem to all be geared towards newbies.  Giving advice like "Pick all the #1 and #2 seeds in the first round" doesn't help people who can name all the #2 seeds that have lost since the field expanded to 64.  As for expert advice, I don't really want to make picks based on what other people say.  It isn't quite as satisfying to pick an upset if you just copied it from someone else.  I was thrilled to have Davidson over Georgetown last year because I had seen firsthand how good Stephen Curry was against Maryland a few years earlier.

Each year I plan to watch a lot of college basketball during the regular season so I'll be more knowledgeable when making my picks, but inevitably I end up only watching Maryland games.  So come tournament time, I turn to two resources that help me make my picks.  

The first is Jeff Sagarin's ratings that are a little more informative than RPI.  It helps just to get an idea of where a team slots in to the overall picture.  

The second is  I don't care about their rankings, but the site has a very easy way to see the full-season results for every team.  The best way to make picks is to look at who each team has played and what the results are.  Then you can make your own rules and decisions about each game.  For me, I love picking against teams that suck on the road.  collegeRPI makes it obious when a team can't win away from home.  

However you choose to pick the games, it's important to look at the full season results to see trends, blowouts, and overall schedule quality.

For the record, my Final Four is Louisville, Memphis, Villanova, and UNC.

March 15, 2009

A Few More Thoughts On Gary Williams

First of all, let me preface this by saying that I am writing this post with the assumption (a rather major assumption) that in about four hours, the Terps will appear on CBS in the NCAA Tournament brackets, after they showed up in a big way at the ACC Tournament in Atlanta.
I think it's safe to say that the "Gary Williams Issue" is one of the biggest quandaries for Terp fans. Because, at the end of the day, we all still love Gary Williams.
J-Red and I were talking this morning. I think the main reason that Terp fans love Gary so much is that he reflects the personality of the Maryland student and the Maryland alum.
Most anybody who went to Maryland is damn proud to be a Terp. The reason that many of us hate Duke and hate UVA and hate Georgetown is because we have a huge chip on our collective shoulder at the collective sanctimony displayed by so many of the alums and students at those schools. I know, I know, there are exceptions to the rule - one of my best high school friends went to UVA. But by and large, there is truth to this stereotype. We're stubbornly proud to be Terps. We're angry. We're competitive. Our fans will do whatever it takes to get under our opponents skin to create the most hostile environment possible and we're actually damn proud that Comcast has such a horrible reputation. We feel like we've been wrongly singled out by the national media (like Outside the Lines and ESPN) for engaging in the exact same conduct that student fans of most major colleges engage in. We feel FIRE about our athletic teams (and as the stereotype goes, often times literally so when it comes to celebrating our victories). We're confident that we went to a great school and got the best bang for our buck when it came to education, no matter what anybody else has to say about it.


When Gary comes out of that tunnel and rocks his fist towards the student section, it's Gary against the world. It's Gary against his own athletic administration. It's Gary against the opponent. It's Gary against anybody who dares to doubt him. It's Gary against those programs that buy wins and buy talent and dare do anything to decrease his legacy. It's Gary against the media who wants to write multi-part series about his recruiting failures and who want to write stories trying to dig up recruiting violations that, even if they did happen, are commonplace at Georgetown and Duke and Syracuse and UConn and Kansas.

In sum, Gary Williams embodies the spirit that Maryland students have. Gary embodies the spirit that Maryland alums have. We can't wait to say "screw you" to the NCAA selection committee and beat whatever team is seeded higher than us. We can't wait to say "screw you" to Jim Calhoun and Bob Huggins and John Thompson III and Mike Kzykzadfxsdkski and any player, coach, or program that likes to pretend to be sparkly clean, but that everyone knows in reality is dirty as hell.

And herein lies the problem. Gary's stubbornness to change is what Terp fans love about him. And what Terp fans hate about him. We know that we should never, ever, ever be in a situation where we're starting a 6'7" guy at center who would either be starting at the 3 or 4, or would be coming off the bench at most other schools. We know that we shouldn't be in a situation where we are so far behind when it comes to talent. Yet at the same time, we want to shake Gary's hand, buy him a beer (or 20), and thank him for his incredible job this season, because we'd take Gary over literally any other NCAA coach in the nation in light of how Gary has made the most with the least. I would bet that no other coach in the nation could have had the success that Gary has had with the talent that he's had at his disposal this year, in such a difficult conference. Very few other coaches in the nation could've had his players literally fighting and scrambling and scrounging for those two wins necessary in the ACC Tournament to sneak into the NCAAs.

Gary's coaching performance in Friday night's game against Wake made Terp fans everywhere awfully damn proud. We love Gary for who he is. And we love him for who he is not. But at the same time, sometimes we hate Gary for who he is. Because he's a lot like many of us in ways we're not necessarily happy about.