Super Saturday

Over 3200 words from my Saturday sports watching experience. Not for the faint-hearted. If you dare, check below the jump.

What a great day. A couple years ago, before kids, I would have sat on my happy ass all day watching all the great sports action Saturday. Instead, I sat on my happy ass almost all day playing with the kids, watching Nick Jr., and catching the occasional snippet of a game until their bedtimes. So, no live-blogging during the day, but some summarization at the end of the day, while watching USC-Notre Dame and waiting for KU-Florida.

Let’s reset the lineup, first of all. The day started with UF-FSU on ABC and KU-MU on Yahoo. Other big rivalry games all day: Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Ga. Tech, Oklahoma-OSU, and so on. A couple important high school games, with both Cathedral, my wife’s alma mater, and Carmel, the school where my tax dollars go and my man Coach Hebs coaches, both playing for state titles at the dome. A couple nice EPL games on Fox Soccer Channel. And the cherry on top, as mentioned earlier, the much awaited yet slightly diminished clash between the Jayhawks and Gators in Sin City.

Two important streaks were on the line. Warren Central has won every Indiana 5A title since we moved here. KU has beaten Mizzou in football every year since we moved here. Would form hold?

Sadly, no, and in the worst possible way. Warren knocked out a game Carmel team, winning their fourth straight title. But MU finally broke the three-year shnide against KU. From what I gathered through Yahoo and some e-mails, KU fought back nicely from an early, 13-point deficit to cut the game to 20-17, forced a three-and-out, then jumped offsides on the punt. It was all pretty much downhill from there. I hear much hand-wringing about the Mark Mangino regime from certain quarters, and to some extent I think that’s valid. His offense isn’t terribly dynamic. If the quarterback isn’t executing well, everything falls to the running backs. It seems to be the same, relatively basic stuff again and again. But, I think a lot of this year’s problems can be traced to that damn Toledo game. That ends up being an epic loss. It was bad enough losing to a shitty team on national TV. That game also ends up costing KU a bowl bid, baring something odd happening. Worse, that was the game when Kerry Meier got hurt. Despite coming back, he was never the same. He threw an absolute rocket for a touchdown in that game, a ball I haven’t seen a KU quarterback throw since the Mark Williams days. Meier hasn’t thrown a ball like that since then, instead throwing floaters downfield. His arm hasn’t been right, which pretty much took the vertical game out of the playbook. Jon Cornish is a hell of a running back, but he’s not good enough to make up for the total lack of a passing game. That leads to two big concerns for next year: can Meier get his arm back to normal and then can he stay healthy? He missed much of his redshirt year with injuries. He needs to stay healthy in a very important year for the program.

There’s a lot to like about the USC cheerleaders. And when I say a lot, I think you know what I’m talking about. But I really dig the red Nikes they wear. Solid look. Especially in HD.

Cathedral won. My wife will be so happy. She’s an avid high school football fan, you know. (I’m kidding.) Big pressure on the neighbor kid now, who is expected to be the starting QB there next year.

Do more people hate Duke or Notre Dame? I’m betting ND wins that one, with the longer history of national hatred. But the ledger would probably be pretty close elsewhere. They both have their own national network, ND with NBC and Duke with the ESPN networks. They both have sanctimonious coaches and intolerable fanbases. They will both always be rated 5-10% higher than they should be in preseason polls. Their players will always be deified by the national media.

Case in point, Brent Musburger is going on-and-on about the “courageous” performance by Brady Quinn tonight. Because he took a shot and kept on playing? That’s called football, Brent. QBs take brutal shots every week and keep playing. It’s about time the golden boy had to face a little adversity. The ABC cameras seem more interested in showing Brady wince on the sidelines than on what’s happening on the field.

For all the ND haters out there, you have to enjoy the fact they’ve thoroughly wasted the career of a stud like Quinn. Their defense is frighteningly average for a school that can recruit like ND. If it was even a B- defense, they’re playing for the title. By the time Weis gets the D turned around, they’ll probably have a good but not great QB and lose a lot of 13-9 games.

Wichita State beats LSU. Has anyone claimed HireMarkTurgeon.com yet? The persistent rumor last spring, after the Shockers’ deep run in March, was that Turgeon was happy to cool his heels in Wichita until Bill Self either wins a title or decides he wants to coach in the NBA, then he’ll hop up the road to Lawrence. There’s never been any secret that Turgeon is a great X and O guy. He’s credited with drawing up the plays that turned around the 1991 regional final against Arkansas (“Down by 12, we win by 12!”). The concern has always been his ability to recruit. I don’t know that he’s got a lot of blue-chippers right now, but he’s proving his coaching reputation is legit. If he turns WSU into a consistent mid-major power, the recruiting questions will disappear and he’ll be the first and only person called if/when Self does leave KU.

Great, I’m talking about both of KU’s most visible coaches leaving. There’s some kind of serious bad karma in there.

Dwayne Jarrett is awesome. Absolutely awesome.

Does anyone actually watch the Skins Game anymore?

I gotta say, 11:00 PM tip-offs are no fun, even on a holiday weekend. I have a feeling I’ll get through the game just fine, go to bed and think about it a little longer, just get to sleep around 2:00, and that’s when C. will be ready for a bottle. Should I just go wake her up at halftime and do a preemptive bottle to try to buy some more time? She’s ahead of the curve in every other developmental milestone, but can’t sleep through the night at six months.

OK, quick look ahead to the game before it starts. KU has showed no signs that they have any idea what they’re doing on offense if they can’t get out and run. No motion, no awareness of where they should be, no signs of working together. Florida, despite being ranked #1 in both real polls, apparently has a chip on their shoulders about Sports Illustrated picking KU #1. They’re older, know how to play together, and should be focused. KU could well be the better team in March. I don’t think they are tonight. If Roy Williams was coaching this team, I’d expect a tight game with KU pulling it out late. With Bill Self, though, who apparently doesn’t coach offense until January, I have to hope Florida gets too excited about running and forgets to play defense. If that happens, KU has a shot. If not, Florida by 10-15, but I think it ends up being a much better learning experience than KU’s first loss, which we won’t be talking about. Florida is the blueprint. The KU players should look to them to see how they came together, put egos aside, and turned into a deadly team last year. That Noah-Arthur match-up should be telling.

Y-town State beats James Madison in the I-AA, or whatever that division is called now, playoffs. My man Orrie in the Lou was probably conflicted, his alma mater taking on the team from his family’s homeland.

Fuck, Vitale’s doing the game. It’s too late at night to watch on mute, too. A few years ago, I was proud to say that I loved Dick. Now, I think that Dick sucks. (Yeah, no one’s ever written that on a blog.)

Apparently 2/3 of the state of Kansas is in Vegas. Florida fans stayed at home to watch the gators play FSU (To be sure, most Florida fans probably don’t know basketball season has started yet.). Someone pointed out that KU had a football game today, too. That game was far more important to the KU football program than this game is to the basketball program. But all good Jayhawks know what to do. When given the choice to spend the money in Missouri or in any other state, always take the other state. Even Norm Stewart would agree.

11-7 KU at the first TV timeout. A quick 11-2 start but Florida seems to be settling. USC +20. Good times, for the moment.

Dick Vitale on Brandon Rush, “We’ve seen him over the years…” He’s a sophomore. No you haven’t seen him over the years. You’ve seen him over a year. Two minutes later he talks about how Roy Williams built the KU program (didn’t we win the national championship the year before he got there?) and how Bill Self has lost in the first round two years in a row. Still shilling for his boy Roy who was so horribly wronged when KU forced him to take his dream job.

Hey, the Purdue-Hawaii game is on too, so there will be a picture-in-picture option once the SC-ND game ends. I like that Purdue coach Joe Tiller is pissed about having to take his team to Hawaii for a November football game. Apparently the game was scheduled before he even became coach, way back in 1995, and Purdue is losing money on the trip. I bet he was plenty happy to tell players he was recruiting that they would get a free trip to Hawaii if they came to Purdue, though.

Vitale just lobbied for sideline reporter Doris Burke’s husband to be named AD at Rhode Island. First off, Doris Burke has a husband? OK, cheap shot but she is a former basketball player. Wouldn’t you remove a person’s name from consideration for any job if some jackass on TV lobbied for them?

I really dropped the ball on this in-game blogging thing. I should have just tracked the number of ridiculous superlatives Vitale dropped. He lives in a world where 97 players can be All-Americans. His other annoying thing tonight is the endless use of the “You know who else…” anytime he says something good about someone in the game he’s doing. It’s like he can’t say something good about one person or team without automatically linking it to someone else completely unrelated to the game. “Billy Donovan has done a great job with charities there in Gainesville. Hey, you know who else does a great job with charities? My man Charlie Weis!” He really talked about Donovan’s charitable acts for a solid minute. I made the Weis comparison up. If ND had won, you know Vitale would have found that angle, though.

I’m tired and it’s not even halftime yet. I also have yet to open the special beer I bought for this evening’s action.

“Coming up at halftime, Wichita State “shocks” LSU.” Some intern who got stuck working Thanksgiving evening is pretty proud of themselves right now.

11:45 PM – 12:01AM, first bottle of the night. It’s going to be a long one.

Apparently “designated shooter” means something like “possession receiver.” It’s the white guy.

36-29 KU at halftime. Seven players with two fouls. Julian Wright, 17 points on 7-10 shooting. Nice start. Let’s see how the two coach Bills adjust things for the second half.

Man is it fun to finally see Darrell Arthur. That kid is everything CJ Giles could have been. wait until he actually learns how to play. Highly touted freshmen always arrive with the label suspect. Did they play against decent competition in high school? Can they adjust to the speed of the game and to not being the focal point on every play? He looks like a man, and at least so far this season, he’s playing like one.

Who are the geniuses who scheduled a tournament in Vegas that included Florida and Kansas and initially had the games in a 5000 seat arena? They found an 8500 seat gym to step up to, but still, shouldn’t there be other options?

Florida is just fun to watch. That devastating front-court. An outstanding back-court. When they start zipping the ball around, it looks like a video game. I don’t think KU has the same kind of power up front, but it’s easy to see how Florida is the model for what this team can become.

Some great back-and-forth action in the second half. Blocks, dunks, flurries. KU +5, Florida ties. Back to +5, tied again. Julian Wright dunk and the PowerBook nearly goes flying.

Vitale praises 15 different teams in less than 10 seconds.

The more I think about it, the more I think Noah-Wright is the more apt comparison. Julian lacks Noah’s size, but their games have a similar awkwardness. You’re not sure what they are, but they are both the focal point of their teams’ offenses. As they go, so go their teams.

Florida takes a lead. The reason is simple: the Gators have been aggressive, the Jayhawks tentative over the past three minutes. The Gators attacking the rack, pounding the ball in low. The ‘Hawks hanging back, trying to finger-roll.

62-62 with 1:54 to play. What a fun game. And ESPN loses the signal. Fucking great. Someone for KU hits a three while the screen is black.

Wait, it wasn’t a three. Even better. They lose the signal and get the score wrong. Brandon Rush gets caught in the corner, loses the ball, dunk, tie game. Shades of last year in Columbia.

They keep shows Darrell Arthur’s “”mom.” I say “mom” because she finally pointed to the lady next to her as if the camera should concentrate on her instead. Does ESPN have the wrong lady? (Confirmed the next day they were in fact showing the wrong lady all night. Well done, ESPN, well done!)

DA knocks down to free throws. KU +2, 33.2 to play.

Steal Robinson! 24.2 to play. DA to go back to the line again.

Two more. Darrell is ice.

Horford hits two. Florida fouls away from the ball. Russell to the line.

I just remembered I’m still behind live action. Fast forwarding through the time-out!

Russell is ice.

Some idiot fouls Corey Brewer as he scores. The idiot was Julian Wright. You take the good with the bad I guess.

Oh my. This is Columbia from January. Two stupid fouls in the last 15 seconds. Overtime. I think I’m going to puke. We’re either exceptionally dumb or horribly coached. Or both.

I finally agree with Vitale. Darrell Arthur is special. He’s worked the UF inside guys over pretty well tonight. He’s got the power body but a nice finesse game to go with it. I’m going out on a limb and saying that he and Danny Manning spend a lot of time together in practice. Then he finally misses a free throw. Jinx.

They keep talking about KU hasn’t beaten a #1 team since 1994. How many times has KU played a #1 since then? Once? Twice?

Twice, I looked it up. Lost to #1 Arizona in 2003 and #1 Duke in 2000.

Julian Wright grabs a loose ball and calls a time out. Are you paying attention Brandon Rush?

Dick Vitale launches into his second lecture to Kansas fans about what Roy Williams did for the program. Hey Dick, why don’t you ever talk about Saint Roy keeping his mouth shut when his buddy got fired, launching a media frenzy that may well have cost KU a national title? Fucker.

Yes, I finally started drinking. Young’s Oatmeal Stout, a big bottle. A little more fruity than most oatmeal stouts. Not quite as malty as I like, but very smooth and not too bad.

KU wins and some people actually storm the court. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas I guess.

A fantastic early season game. As Vitale kept saying, all these early season losses don’t mean anything in basketball like they do in football. At the same time, these big, non-conference games also don’t mean as much. This should be on-par with say Michigan-Notre Dame from this year. In fact, it was just a fun game for fans to watch and may help determine if these teams are #1, #2, or #3 seeds in March.

I was very impressed by how KU played. Solid on defense, sacrificing a little on the perimeter to keep UF’s inside game in check. Offense looked better, although still has room for improvement. Most importantly, they kept their focus almost all night, rallied from some mental mistakes and a couple big Florida runs and closed out in overtime. The most important thing I see that the team needs to develop is leadership. That’s been the buzzword since last spring, and I don’t think it’s been solved yet. Brandon Rush is not a leader. Good guy, good kid, but he seems more-and-more like his brother Kareem. You love having them on your team, but they are best suited to be the second gun instead of the alpha dog. Everyone keeps saying Russell Robinson is the glue to this team, but he’s not a vocal leader. He’s suited to being the second leader, the guy who only speaks up with the prime leader is in foul trouble or struggling. Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins, despite being guards, don’t seem like the answers either. I really think it has to be Julian Wright. The whole team plays better when he’s playing well. He needs to build on that and take over as the voice of the team. He seems to have the personality and energy you need in that role. And it doesn’t matter that he’s not the best player on the team anymore. He has to guide Darrell through the inevitable rough patches, keep him level and focused, and always have his back when things get rough. When there isn’t a natural leader, it takes time to develop one. I think the coaching staff would be wise to push Julian to step up and fill that opening.