Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More Photos and Video

The Fieldhouse goes CRAZY


Mario For three...........


Self loving life.....

Getting the Trophy...CHAMPS BABY!!!

Tha Hawks watch One Shining Moment


It's all over. My demons have been exorcised. 32 years of frustration have all melted away with a flick of Mario Chalmers wrist. This just doesn't happen to my teams. It doesn't. MY TEAMS are the ones that choke away a nine point lead with 2:12 left. MY TEAMS are the ones that don't make the insurmountable leads disappear. MY TEAMS are the one that experience excruciating heartbreak. But you know something. For once in my life and for once in this crazy, ridiculous world we live in, the good guys won and karma was on our side.

With a minute to go, the game seemed over. With 10 seconds to go, the game seemed over. That is when I received the following text message from my brother: "Come on dad! work your magic!" he was referring to our late father who was no doubt looking down and smiling last night. Just like that, Derrick Rose missed his first free throw and Chalmers tied the game with a shot that the Jayhawk Nation will never forget.

Seriously though, did this really happen? Did Memphis really miss four of their last five free throws in regulation? Did they really get an offensive rebound with 10 seconds to go and weather two different storms in the last 20 seconds, yet still give KU a chance to tie it? Did they really not foul right away and allow Chalmers a chance to tie it? YES! Did Roy Williams really put a KU sticker on his shirt and sit in the stands rooting for his old team?

I just can't believe this really happened. I was a wreck all night long, but when Derrick Rose hit that ridiculous bank shot fade-away with about four minutes left, I knew it was over and it wasn't meant to be. Was I ever going to get that championship feeling? I was convinced the answer was no. But then came the run.

A Sherron Collins inbounds pass and steal turned into a big three. The Joey Dorsey fifth foul away from the basket and the Chalmers free throws. The Darrell Arthur fadeaway. The missed Memphis free throws. The Chalmers three. WOW. Not until KU had the ball back down two with about 20 seconds left did I actually think there was a shot. Then Collins went OOC and drove wildly to the hole and was swatted. All of us in the room were cursing his poor decision. Still, Chris-Douglas Roberts granted us all a reprieve with two misses at the line. Yet, Arthur forgot to box out Robert Dozier and KU had to foul Rose. Now I was 100% SURE he would hit both and we'd be done. So much for "we will hit them when they count," right coach Calipari?

When the Chalmers three was in the air, it felt like five minutes went by. When it dropped, I screamed "OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!" I literally didn't believe it had just happened. On to OT we went and you just knew Memphis was done.

As the clock hit zero, I didn't know what to do. I hugged my boys, I teared up, I stood in disbelief watching as the KU players and coaches celebrated. But more than anything, it felt as though the weight of the world was off of my shoulders. I seriously felt different. Something that has lived with me for 32 years had died. One of my teams actually won it all and the championship I had so badly wanted was here.

I couldn't sleep all night. The boys went out in Chicago for some drinks to celebrate. I came back to Sean's apartment and we watched highlights. I was so geeked up. I'm up early again. The whole thing just feels so good. I came to a conclusion last night, it's over for me and the blog. I can now officially retire "My Teams are Cursed," because you know something, they aren't. Maybe my Cleveland teams still are, but my beloved Kansas Jayhawks have delivered something to me that I have always wanted and needed. Later today, I will post the article link roundup as well as game analysis, but after that, it's over folks. Thanks for everyone's well wishes, support, and love. This was truly one of the great nights of my life.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Sunday, April 6, 2008

One More!

One more. That's all it is going to take. If Kansas wins Monday night and gets MTAC their first title, do we have to change the name of the website? Do we retire the site? Who knows. It's clearly not the right move to even think about having that conversation since my teams have been this close before, only to fail to seal the deal. Maybe though, just maybe, this team is different. Maybe, they are the ones to give MTAC that feeling that we have longed for our entire 32 years of existance. I said to my Mrs. MTAC last night that there is only one thing missing in my life, and we are 40 minutes away from it. I've got the coolest wife (who else could put up with all of my bullshit) and family, amazing friends, and the best son any man could ask for. Scott van Pelt on ESPN Radio said on Friday that when his beloved Maryland Terrapins won the national title in 2002, he said he knew what it meant when they said "now, I can die in peace." Is MTAC about to finally experience that feeling?

If last night was any indicator, Monday could be a wild ride. What a tale of three games this was. In all of my years of watching KU Basketball, I have never seen a first 15 minutes. It's almost as if the 'Hawks couldn't miss and the Tar Heels could hit anything. The defense was swarming. Everytimg you looked up, Russell Robinson or Mario Chalmers was taking the ball away or Cole Aldrich was blocking a shot, starting a fast break that would end in a layup or a Brandon Rush three. Before we could stop from holding in the giddyness, it was 40-12 and CBS's Billy Packer actually said "this game is over." Shots of a desponent Roy Williams brought smiles to the KU Nation watching on TV. We've seen that look too many times.

But you just knew the Tar Heels would make a run. Game two was just starting. The last five minutes of the half was dominated by UNC and their super sixth man Danny Green. Sherron C0llins buzzer-beating layup put KU up 44-27 at the half. Self diagrammed a beautiful screen and dish to the post for Darrell Arthur on the first possession and that is where the game turned. Tyler Hansbrough and company were attempting to make our worst nightmares come true. The run we were awaiting was happening. The Jayhawks decided to stop going into the post and started jacking up wild jumpers whole UNC couldn't miss. (Oh, I forgot to mention the various b.s. charge calls that Hansbrough received. If you bump into him going to the hole, its a charge). I felt myself getting sicker and sicker. A 28 point first half lead all of a sudden turned into a 54-50 game. UNC was on a 47-24 run.

But once again, the game turned. We don't remember whether it was the big Sherron Collins three, the Brandon Rush driving left-handed layup, or the renewed move to go into the post with Darnell Jackson, but KU put the game away with a 13-0 run and finished the game 20-7. The last two minutes, we finally had a safe feeling. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions. KU fans had the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and the highest of highs again. Now, they are just one win away from winning it all. You can see it in Bill Self's face, he is having so much fun with this team. We can't imagine what he'll be like if his squad closes the deal Monday night.

The Whup

Cole Aldrich - Say it again. COLE ALDRICH! If you would have told us that Cole Aldrich would play 13 first half minutes, score six points, grab six boards, and block three shots in those 13 minutes, and while he was on the floor, KU ended a 17-10 lead to 40-12, we would have asked what you were smoking and where can we get some. Cole was sensational. This was by far his best game of the season. He was so active on the glass and on the defensive end, who knew HE'D be the one who gave Hansbrough fits. With Sasha Kaun and Jackson in foul trouble, he stepped up big time. “I thought Cole was the best player in the game for a stretch in the first half,” Self said. “He may have won the game for us as much as anybody because he bought us so many great minutes.” The best is that thanks to Cole, we no longer have to hear about Hansbrough working harder than anyone else in the world, well at least for nine months.

Rush to the Rescue - Everyone has been telling us that Rush is an NBA prospect. I think I finally saw it last night. He had the eye of a player trying to move up the draft board on the season's biggest stage. In 32 minutes, Rush was as aggressive as he has been all year, scoring 25 points and taking 17 shots. He grabbed seven boards and played his usual excellent defense. You can bet he will be the one who gets the assignment of Chris Douglas-Roberts on Monday night.

The Post Defense - Not many teams can hold "the great" Tyler Hansbrough to 17 and nine boards, but the KU rotation of bigs did the job. Jackson, Kaun, Darrell Arthur, and Aldrich all took turns guarding him and the double-teaming worked to perfection. You could see the difference in the two teams right there. KU has four agile, tough, and smart big men, UNC had one. Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson? What do those two do?

The First 15 - This bears repeating. This was the single best 15 minutes of Basketball any KU team has ever played, especially in a game of this magnitude. The Hawks shot over 70%, nailed 4-5 threes, and were all over the Heels defensively. It was truly a thing of beauty.

The Real Sherron - OK, he turned the ball over seven times and played out of control at times, but KU's offense just rolls when he is on his game as he was late in the game. He shed the knee brace and finally looked 100%. This was the perfect kind of game and matchup for Sherron, because he wants to run, run, run. “Everybody keeps saying ‘their pace’, but it’s our pace." He said. "We’ve played like that all season. That’s the big thing. Everybody’s saying ‘How you gonna stop them? How you gonna run with them?’ How you gonna stop us? We run, too. I think that played into our hand, everybody’s worried about how we’re going to run with them and we ran them.”

The Glass Work - Kansas 42 North Carolina 33. Did you know that North Carolina led the country in rebound margin? That and a quarter would have gotten them a newspaper last night. Didn't matter. KU was the more physical team and it showed on the glass. UNC had no answer for Aldrich. Did we really just type that last sentence?

Vintage Roy - While his team was getting it's doors blown off, Roy Williams once again refused to slow things down with timeouts. Some things never change. You can also question why, with five minutes to go, trailing by nine, he had Ty Lawson on the bench in favor of Quinton Thomas. By the time he went back to Lawson with just over two left, it was too late. Credit him for the motivation to get his team back from a 28 point deficit to four. But late, Self outcoached him.

Game Quotes (courtesy of KUsports.com)

Rodrick Stewart on watching the game hurt and losing control of his emotions late: “They used it as motivation, and every time they came over in the timeout, they would just say ‘Keep your head up’ and stuff like that. But it’s all about the team. I don’t know if my knee really helped motivate us. I hope it did. It looked like it did. Whatever worked. Played with a lot of energy and had a lot of fun out there ... I was over there crying, trying to hold it in the whole time, but I think that set it off a little bit with the fans chanting my name.”

Sasha Kaun on Cole Aldrich’s contributions Saturday: “He played the best game of his career. I think he did a phenomenal job. He came out strong, got some boards, made some shots, and he was a huge, huge, huge help to us.”

Sasha Kaun on comparing going against Tyler Hansbrough to Michael Beasley: “They’re both great players. They’re so different from each other in a way that Beasley is more of a talent and Hansbrough’s such a hard worker, and he always fights. Beasley can just take you off the perimeter, so creative with the ball.”

Darrell Arthur on the efficiency KU played with: “If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing and come out like that (Monday), I don’t think anybody can beat us.”

Darrell Arthur on answering UNC’s second half run: “I think those guys got winded, because they were down 28 and had to make a massive comeback, so I think those guys got tired and we just took advantage of those guys on our offensive end.”

Sherron Collins on Memphis: “They’re tough. They’re fast, tough, strong, similar to our guards. We’ll be ready to play them, though ... We feel confident. We feel we’re one of the best teams in the country and it’ll be proven Monday.”

Sherron Collins on the game’s pace Saturday: “Everybody keeps saying ‘their pace’, but it’s our pace. We’ve played like that all season. That’s the big thing. Everybody’s saying ‘How you gonna stop them? How you gonna run with them?’ How you gonna stop us? We run, too. I think that played into our hand, everybody’s worried about how we’re going to run with them and we ran them.”

Mario Chalmers on the huge first half lead: “I kinda was surprised, but I knew a lot of it had to do with them missing a lot of shots and we were hitting our shots. Our defense was excellent tonight, so it was hard for them to get going ... Once we got them down, we just wanted to make sure we kept them down and were able to do that.”

Cole Aldrich on his performance against Tyler Hansbrough: “It was a blast. I don’t even know what to say, because he’s such a great player, and just being able to be on the same court, in the Final Four, in San Antonio, playing against him, it’s a huge honor ... We’ve got four really good big guys, and I don’t know if he’s quite gone against four big guys like that. We just tried to double the post, constantly deny the post and keep him off the glass.”

Cole Aldrich on literally taking a rebound away from Tyler Hansbrough: “I wasn’t gonna let it go. I got it, and I was like ‘He’s gonna try his dangdest to get this, and I won’t let him.’”

Bill Self on Cole Aldrich: “I thought Cole was the best player in the game for a stretch in the first half. We’re playing out of foul trouble, Sasha gets two minutes and Darnell gets seven the first half, and we didn’t have to play out of kilter because he was so good ... He may have won the game for us as much as anybody because he bought us so many great minutes.”

Bill Self on answering UNC’s run: “When I was at Tulsa, in my first NCAA Tournament game, we had College of Charleston down 52-26, and they missed a three to take the lead with a minute left, then we end up winning by nine ... We knew they were gonna make a run. We hoped they wouldn’t have got to four, but we went braindead for awhile. We kept clipping off shots when shots weren’t going down, and then their best offense was our offense because we just threw it to them to start the second half and they went and made layups ... The thing I was most proud of, on the biggest stage, they were in the attack mode for 40 minutes.”

Bill Self on where motivation came from Saturday: “All we talked about was Carolina (their players, not going against Roy Williams). Our players care about guarding Lawson, Ellington and Hansbrough. They were on the circuits together. Ty was the best point guard, Sherron was the second-best point guard coming out. That’s what everybody said. Mario wanted to go against Ellington. That’s what our motivation was.”

Bill Self on what is now guaranteed to be KU’s last game of the season: “I think it’s great, because we can all hibernate and get some rest in a little bit. Coaches are like this: They never want the season to end, but when they do, they’re really glad. I know Cal and I are both gonna be really happy that the season’s over - of course one of us is gonna be ecstatic and one of us will struggle for awhile. But I told our guys before, I’m really looking forward to practice tomorrow. And I am. When you get to this point, everything is the last ... And we’re ready for it to end. We just didn’t want it to end until Monday.”

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Final Four Preview

We have the Final Four that many people wanted to see. For the first time since the seedings began in 1979, all four #1 seeds have made it through. North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, and Memphis were clearly the best four teams in the country all year long. The lowest any of these teams was ranked at any time was 8th (Kansas). Their eight combined losses is the least amount combined for any Final Four in history. You’ve got three first-team All-Americans (UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough, UCLA’s Kevin Love, Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts), two of the three best Freshman in the country (Love, Memphis’s Derrick Rose), and the best defensive backcourt in the nation (Kansas’ Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers). The casual fan wants to be watching Cinderella this weekend, but the hardcore fan, like me, is salivating at these two matchups. Any one of these four teams could easily win it all. Let’s break it down:

UCLA (35-3) vs. Memphis (37-1)

Toughest Game Getting Here

UCLA – 2nd Round vs. Texas A&M 51-49 – If not for a blown non-call (sound familiar UCLA fans?) against A&M’s Donald Sloan on the final possession, who knows if the Bruins would still be playing today.

Memphis – 2nd Round vs. Mississippi State 77-74 – The infamous poor free-throw shooting Tigers allowed Mississippi State back into the game with a chance to tie on the last shot.
The Starters

PG Darren Collison (UCLA) vs. Derrick Rose (Memphis) – Talk about a Rolls Royce vs. a Bentley. Collison is the heart and soul of the Bruins and does everything. He handles, he is their go to scorer when they need a bucket late, and he is their lock down defender on the perimeter. Rose, on the other hand, is one of the most talented players in the country, a lock top three NBA pick who is a pass first point guard who can score if need be. He doesn’t play like a Freshman. You can’t go wrong with either guy. Advantage: Push – This is a copout, by while Rose probably is the better overall talent, Collison’s a veteran of three Final Four’s and one of the toughest and smartest players in the country.

SG Russell Westbrook (UCLA) vs. Antonio Anderson (Memphis) – Westbrook is another lottery pick waiting to happen. This kid has superior athletic ability, loves to play defense, and has greatly improved his offense game in his Sophomore season. Of all of the UCLA studs, Westbrook is most loved by NBA scouts. Anderson is a spot up, catch and shoot guy who is very streaky. The Tigers are at their best when he is hot. Advantage: Westbrook – Bottom line, he is more valuable to his team and does more than Anderson.

SF Josh Shipp (UCLA) vs. Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis) – Shipp is the guy who stepped into the scoring role vacated by Arron Afflalo. Unfortunately for him, he picked the worst time to be mired in a shooting slump. That said, if he gets going, it opens everything up inside for Kevin Love. Douglas-Roberts is an absolute scoring machine who gets to the hole or nails you with a superb mid-range game. He may have been a first team All-American, but he is probably the most underrated player in college basketball. Advantage: Douglas-Roberts – It’s really no contest. CDR could drop 30 on anyone. UCLA included.

PF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA) vs. Robert Dozier (Memphis) – This is a battle of role players who are of the utmost importance to their teams. Mbah a Moute has been battling an ankle injury, but has been gutting it out. He is the ultimate garbage man; a mini-Dennis Rodman type who does the little things. Dozier is a skinny four man who can get you 12 and eight or completely disappear. Advantage: Mbah a Moute – A very close edge thanks to his intangibles and smarts on the court.

C Kevin Love (UCLA) vs. Joey Dorsey (Memphis) – This matchup may be the one that decides the game. Can Dorsey, the smack-talking defensive and rebounding tough guy stay out of foul trouble why trying to stop the man the UCLA offense runs through, Love? Dorsey can dunk with the best of them and is only counted on for garbage points in the paint. Love on the other hand can do it all; shoot from three, hit fade-aways, and show an array of post moves. Not to mention, he is the best passing Center you will find anywhere. Advantage: Love – He’s the best true post man in the nation west of Tyler Hansbrough and hasn’t been stopped all year.

The Bench

Alfred Aboya, James Keefe, Lorenzo Mata-Real (UCLA)


Shawn Taggert, Doneal Mack, Willie Kemp, Jeff Robinson (Memphis)

Advantage: Memphis - Really, this isn’t a contest. UCLA literally gets nothing from there bench other than fouls and rebounding. Forget James Keefe’s double double in the Sweet 16, it was his career game and before that he rarely played. Meanwhile, the Tigers bench includes a solid backup PG in Kemp, their best three point shooter in Mack, and a savvy veteran PF in Taggert. They will be without Andre Allen who was suspended for violating team rules earlier this week.

The Pick: UCLA 65-64 – We desperately want to drink the Memphis Kool-Aid, we do. But there is a sneaking suspicion that Dorsey won’t be able to keep his hands off of Love and will be in foul trouble all night long. UCLA hedges better on high screens than any team you will see. Rose and Collison will cancel each other out and Westbrook will lock up CDR. Love’s massive offensive skills will be the difference.

North Carolina (36-2) vs. Kansas (35-3)

Toughest Game Getting Here

North Carolina – Elite Eight – Louisville 83-73 –
This had the making of another classic Roy Williams choke-job as the Cardinals came all the way back from a 13 point deficit to tie it, but than Tyler Hansbrough took over down the stretch.

Kansas – Elite Eight – Davidson 59-57 – KU shot the ball poorly early and let Stephen Curry and company hang around long enough to scare the heck out of them. Sasha Kaun saved the day in the second half with his post play and Bill Self’s decision to go to the box and one on Curry was genius.

The Starters

PG Ty Lawson (UNC) vs. Russell Robinson (Kansas) – Lawson is lightning quick with the ball and the perfect point man for Roy Williams offense. He gets up and down the floor after a made basket in a blur. Since returning from his ankle injury, UNC hasn’t lost a game and has dominated their competition. As fro Robinson, his forte is defense and play-making. He is definitely the fifth option on offense, but has been known to knock down a big three when open. It’s his Senior season and he has played like one, saving his best for last; he has been brilliant in the tournament. Advantage: Lawson – Really it’s no contest. Not one coach would take Robinson over Lawson. He is superior offensively in every way, but don’t discount what Robinson means to KU.

SG Wayne Ellington (UNC) vs. Mario Chalmers (Kansas) – When Ellington is knocking down his deep jumpers, UNC is extremely tough to beat. His problem is consistency. He is as capable of scoring 28 as he is eight. He is a classic catch and shoot two-guard who has improved his driving game. Chalmers is the guy who wants the ball at the end of the game for the Jayhawks. He is a superior three point shooter, loves to drive to the hole for a floater, and is the best off the ball defender in the nation. Advantage: Push – We wanted to give this to Chalmers, but in reality, Ellington is a better offensive player, Chalmers the better defender, but Chalmers isn’t that far off offensively.

SF Marcus Ginyard (UNC) vs. Brandon Rush (Kansas) –
Ginyard is UNC’s version of Russell Robinson. He is counted on for defense and can knock down the occasional three if he is open. Williams has said he reminds him of former KU Guard and current UNC assistant Jerod Haase. Rush is the enigma. He has the talent to be the best player on the floor anytime he is out there, but too often fades in and out, camping out at the three point line, where he is KU’s best shooter. His defense also cannot be discounted. Advantage: Rush – If he plays up to the level he should, this is a mismatch. You can bet Rush will be guarding Ellington at times as well. He is KU’s best on-ball defender.

PF Tyler Hansbrough (UNC) vs. Darnell Jackson (Kansas) – Should we join the parade of people who stroke Hansbrough? Nah. Lets just state the obvious and move on. He’s the best player in college basketball and is a lock for at least 25 and 12. He is truly an unstoppable force. As for Jackson, he improved dramatically this season, becoming a reliable offensive threat, while continuing his work on the glass and the defensive end. The last month, however, he has struggled. He’ll have his hands full with Hansbrough. Advantage: Hansbrough – Did you think we’d really say Jackson?

PF Deon Thompson (UNC) vs. Darrell Arthur (Kansas) – Thompson and Arthur worked out together for the team USA U-19 team this past summer and know each other’s games well. Thompson has a solid mid-range jumper and can be counted on in the post for board work. Arthur, like Rush, is a head-scratcher at times. This kid has all the makings of a star. His fade-away jumper is money and he is a beast on the glass, but too often he commits silly fouls on defense and can’t stay on the floor for long stretches. Advantage: Arthur – Arthur has the ability to take over the game if he can get his mid-range game going. He is the superior of the two players, but if Kansas is going to win, they will need the active “Shady” to show up.

The Bench

Alex Stepheson, Danny Green, Quinton Thomas, Will Graves (UNC)


Sherron Collins, Sasha Kaun, Cole Aldrich, Jeremy Case (Kansas)

Advantage: Kansas –
This game features two of the best sixth men in the country in Green and Collins. Both are the X-factor for their respective team. Thomas has improved greatly with his extended PT when Lawson was injured. Stepheson is a solid third big man who really isn’t that different of a player than starter Thompson. If you get the 100% healthy Collins, Kansas is a completely different team. Sources say he has ditched the knee brace in practice in the last two days and looks great. Kaun may be the most important player in this game. He will be the one spending most of the time on Hansbrough. He’s KU’s best defensive big man and against Davidson, the best offensive one as well. Aldrich will be used to throw his body at Hansbrough as well. The Jayhawks will miss Senior G Rodrick Stewart who broke his kneecap in practice Friday.

The Pick: Kansas 85-80 – Everyone’s been talking about Roy Williams vs. his old team all week long. Roy insists it’s not about him, it’s about the players. No Roy, you are wrong. This is about you. Want to know why? Because he is so personally invested on both sides, we truly believe this will cloud his judgment. Reality is both teams love to get up and down and Kansas matches up very well with North Carolina. They have four big bodies to throw at Hansbrough and have three lockdown defenders at the guard spots. If they can hold down Ellington and Green in check, KU could roll. We think that is exactly what happens with Chalmers and Rush having big nights.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Eat it, Mr. I

While the Tribe bats are asleep (down 1-0 in the 4th as we type this), we have to get a little bash-sesssion going on those $137 million Motor City Kitties. This can't be what Massah Illitch was picturing when he unloaded the farm system and opened his checkbook every wider this offseason.

Today's 8-5 loss at home to Chicago makes the Tigers 0-4. The good news for Detroit fans is they scored five runs today. The bad news? They were held scoreless the final six innings. More bad news - the much maligned bullpen continued to be laughably bad. Today is was journeyman Jason Grilli's turn to be the gas can. Not like starter Nate Robertson was any good (5.0 IP, 7 Hits, 5 ER), but the Tigers tied the game at 5-5 when Grilli entered the fray in the seventh. Here is what ensued:

J. Grilli relieved Z. Miner
- P. Konerko doubled to deep center
- J. Dye singled to right, P. Konerko to third
- A.J. Pierzynski homered to deep right, J. Dye and P. Konerko scored
- C. Quentin singled to center
- J. Crede singled to center, C. Quentin to second

Just like that, it was 8-5 White Sox and the game was over. Tribe fans like myself LOVE it. Jim Leyland? Not so much: “We’ve just got bad combinations going. We got pretty good pitching the first three games. Today we swung the bat better, but we didn’t add runs and didn’t pitch quite as well."

"When you’re in this business, you have to understand that’s part of it, and if you don’t, you’re in the wrong business,” Leyland said. “I don’t blame people for being antsy and impatient. They’ve waited the whole winter, and we haven’t given them much to be excited about.”

Now they move to the #5 man in the rotation, Dontrelle Willis. The same guy who couldn't find the strike zone all Spring long. Leyland's pen arms aren't much to talk about either. Without the great Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, guys like Zach Miner, Grilli, and Denny Bautista are playing key roles. They give new meaning to the nickname "The Nasty Boys."

It's imperitive that the Indians take advantage of the Tigers struggles early. Every game counts, whether it's in April or September. Plus, the Tigers are without Gary Sheffield (torn tendon in his finger) and Miguel Cabrera is battling through quad soreness. Regardless, we love watching the Tigers play like garbage.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Not A Chance

I know this story is now two days old. but I must comment on it. Sean Sutton "resigned" as coach of the Oklahoma State Basketball team. Don't be fooled, he was fired. We've been hearing since late January that Sutton would be on his way out and Billionaire Booster Boone Pickens would throw $4-5 million at Bill Self to get him to come home and save his alma mater.

If you think that's happening, you are on crack. First off, you don't go from a Mount Rushmore program to a second tier one, regardless of whether or not it is your alma mater. It's not like Self is going to go into the poor house if he passes on the Oklahoma State job either. You can bet Kansas A.D. Lew Perkins will be sweetning Self's current deal to keep him happy and in Lawrence, especially since he has made it to the Final Four this season.

“Bill and I have been talking about a lot of things including his future. We’ve been doing that for quite a while,” Perkins said. “It’s premature to talk about it publicly. We’ll definitely talk about adding resources for him."

“We talk about a lot of scenarios. The bottom line is we have a good relationship,” Self said of him and Perkins. “We’ve said all along when the season is over we’ll evaluate what’s going on. I don’t anticipate just because this happens at this time that we change our game plan. Our game plan is that when the season is over, Lew and I get together and make sure this is a great fit for everybody. I certainly anticipate that being the case.”

Look at the pressure Self would be under if indeed he did take that gig. People would call him nuts for leaving a place like Kansas for a much lesser job. The scrutiny and pressure for him to bring a winner back to his alma mater would be greater than what he is going through at KU. What if he failed to land the top talent there? It's an absolute no-brainer to stay.

Meanwhile in other coaching news, MTAC is a big fan of the Tom Crean hire at Indiana. Give them credit - they hit a jackpot by being able to score one of the most well-respected young coaches in the game. In Crean, they are getting a master motivator and recruiter and a guy who is squeeky clean and highly regarded by his peers. How they landed him in the face of NCAA sanctions, losing pretty much their entire starting lineup as well as recruits who have asked out of their letters of intent, is a testament to the Indiana name.

The Ground Ball Machine

Looks like Fausto Carmona picked up where he left off last year. This kid is a stud. Seemingly everytime he put a guy on base, his best friend, the double play ball, would make an appearance. He got three in the first four innings to help the Tribe move to 2-0 with a 7-2 win. Fausto went seven, allowing just one run on four hits. "Fausto threw a strong game for us," said manager Eric Wedge. "He was in control throughout." It is so nice to be able to send out a sinker-balling witch like Fausto every fifth day right after the reigning Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia.

Offensively, the top of the order was all the Indians needed. Memo to Wedge: Put Asdrubal Cabrera in the two hole and leave him there. He was there last night after hitting 7th on opening day against lefty Mark Buehrle. The kid responded with three hits and two clutch RBI. There is no reason to be fooling around with Jason Michaels or David Dellucci there. AC knows how to handle the bat.

How about Grady? We smell a big season coming from #24. He was the pace-setter and the difference maker last night, going 3-5 with three RBI, all three coming with two out. "Grady had a big night," said Wedge. "He got us started with that hit with the bases loaded."

It was freezing down at the Jake (sorry, we won't call it the Prog) last night, but the Tribe bats stayed warm. We will say this: If the Indians put up offense the way they have in the first two games against two quality starting pitchers (Buehrle and Javier Vazquez), with their pitching, there is no telling how great they can be this season.

On the downside, David Dellucci. Can we end this already? he is the new Casey Blake. Last night he was 0-2 with two walks. Not so bad, right? What about when he swung at the first pitch and weakly grounded out to second with the bases loaded, two out, and the previous hitter, Franklin Gutierrez walked. Lame. Just like the rest of his game.

Good to see Masa Kobayashi's debut. We love the crazy windup. We didn't love his spotty control, but it was cold and his first major league game, so he gets a pass. Jorge Julio came in to close things out and gave up two hits and a run in the ninth.

We will be down at the Jake today for more Tribe action.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lute Olson is a Bitch

For the second time in a week, Arizona's old man coach Lute Olson held a press conference to talk about returning from his year long leave of absence. Remember, he told everyone it was not for health reasons, then said he had a health scare, and then claimed it was no big deal. Yes, he was getting divorced and you feel bad for him for that, but that doesn't give him the right to be a bitter old man.

Now interim/assistant coach Kevin O'Neill, who said last week he planned on being back next season, won't be returning. Olson clearly didn't like the defense first style O'Neill ran all year and the two clearly clashed. Check out these quotes from yesterday's presser:

"Frankly, even though I realize I'm a public figure, I don't think I need to go into every nuance of my private life. There were things going on in my life that did create some health issues that I needed time to address. But it was not a health scare."

"I hope you can see that I feel great. This issue, though, has raised my blood pressure all the way up to 113 over 65, and my resting heart rate has gone from 60 to 62. So I'm concerned about my health."

When asked if he had to provide a guarantee on his health to the A.D., he angrily replied "Do I look like I have a condition to you?"

Here he is throwing O'Neill under the bus again: "When he said he's coming back, or that he's going to fulfill the terms of his contract, he won't be on the staff. I apologize for what they had to go through this year in terms of the change. They came here to play a wide-open game, and they didn't. That's no one's fault, because that's not coach O'Neill's belief on the offensive end. It was his team once I left. But I said we're going to play Arizona basketball and we're going to have fun doing it."

Finally: "You know what, maybe the fans needed to realize that this program doesn't just operate -- we don't go into the gas station and fill the kids up with fuel and turn the key on."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Game Won

A beautiful day in Cleveland for the home opener (for a change) ended with a Tribe W. One down, 161 to go. We are not going to break down the minutia of every single game, but since this was the opener, it deserves the attention. Again, it's only one game and there is no reason for concern on anything...except for Victor's hamstring.

They are telling us that it's "day to day," but the Tribe brass is very quiet. One of my Tribe insiders told me yesterday that the night before the season, Mark Shapiro said only two things keep him up at night, one of them is Victor Martinez getting hurt. Luckily for the Indians, Backup Catcher Kelly Shoppach is the best in the business. Seriously, you find us a better backup catcher in baseball. Shop has a cannon for an arm and has pop at the plate. He was stuck in the cleanup spot after Martinez left with the injury. He started the three run rally with a single off of Octavio Dotel in the 8th, which ended with Casey Blake's bases loaded, two out double that won the game for the Tribe 10-8.

Back to Victor. If he is out for a long period of time, it could be big trouble. He is the most indispensible player on the team, regardless of Shoppach's value. He is the best hitting catcher in the league and the Tribe's most clutch hitter. With the shaky head of Travis Hafner, it's of the utmost importance that Victor is not seriously injured.

How about Franky G! Seriously, we said it yesterday and Terry Pluto agreed in today's PD, this kid is going to have a breakout year. He was 3-3 yesterday with a walk and a three run Pizza. You knew Dotel wasn't going to give him anything to hit with Blake on deck in the 8th and the lead run at second. Who knew Casey would make the Sox pay? Certainly not this guy. I yelled "come on Casey, get lucky" as he stepped to the plate. He got down 1-2 in the count and laced a BB off the left field wall clearing the bases. I'm off his case for this week at least.

No Need to Worry, but the bullpen was very shaky yesterday. Jenson Lewis did a great job striking out two to bail out C.C. Sabathia (and Blake for booting a DP grounder) in the sixth, but got into trouble in the seventh, giving up two hits. Rafael Perez was brought in to face Jim Thome and he ripped one to the wall, where Jason Michaels saved Raffy Left with a great running catch against the wall. Perez wasn't so lucky with Paul Konerko who doubled home two to tie the game. Rafael Betancourt didn't look himself yesterday either, but somehow managed to get out of a bases loaded, nobody out jam unscathed. JoBo did his usual in the ninth. He gave up a HR to Jermaine Dye and walked Joe Crede to bring the tying run to the plate. Luckily, he got the final out for the 10-8 win. Again, nothing to worry about, it was only one game.

C.C. looked like the C.C. of the playoffs. He had some control issues, and couldn't spot his breaking pitches. Jim Thome, who cam in 0-11 with seven K's against Sabathia, homered in his first two at bats. He looked gassed in the sixth and probably shouldn't have started the inning. When you walk Alexi Ramirez, its not a good sign.

We finally saw the replays of the controversial plays, well, two of them at least. The play at the plate with Crede in the 8th looked like a phantom tag to us, but we will take it. Thome's double play ball was definitely interefernce by Orlando Cabrera, who reached out and grabbed Jhonny Peralta in attempts to break up the DP. Even Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen agreed: "I went down in the clubhouse tunnel and watched the replay, he grabbed Peralta."

One last thing about Jim Thome, anyone who booes him, yes - I am talking to the majority of the crowd yesterday - is an idiot. The guy gave this city everything he had. He has so much love for the city and the fans and continues to take the high road in the press. Like you wouldn't take a guaranteed extra $16 million dollars and play for a winner, rather than sit here through a rebuilding phase? Not to mention, had the Indians signed him to that big contract, it would have only been a matter of time before that contract would have hamstrung the organization and he would have been dealt. He is a great player, a great guy, and booing him is just plain dumb. Good for him for going deep twice yesterday.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Why Musburger is Still the Best

"A Star is Born in the Teeth of a Lake Michigan wind."

It's Opening Day!

Could this be the season? It all starts today for our beloved Wahoos. MTAC, fresh off of the weekend in Detroit, will be down at the Jake...errrr....the Prog today to hopefully witness the first of about 95-100 wins for the Indians. Obviously, I am emersed in Kansas Jayhawks Basketball, but my first love will always be Tribe ball. I bleed Red, White, and Blue. My father, brother, and I went to so many opening days together. I cannot wait to take my son to opening day with me in the years to come. But it's such a great day. I love the pagentry, the bloom of the new season, the expectations, the smell of the Hot Dogs and Peanuts, the sold out stadium. Its all good. But, with a new season upon us, there are also a whole new batch of high bars the Indians must get over. In 2007, The Indians were just one win away from the World Series, with three chances to get there. This season, everyone is back and it most likely will be C.C. Sabathia's last ride on the Indian Express. So what does MTAC think about the 2008 season?

There is no way Travis Hafner repeats 2007 - The pressure of the contract negotiations followed by the pressure of the actual big contract weighed on Pronk heavily. He was so poor during the Red Sox series that it got in his head. With a clear mind, Pronk will hit .280 with 35 HR's and 115 RBI.

Franklyn Gutierrez and Ryan Garko become stars - The talk of Winter Haven was certianly not David Dellucci, it was Franky G. The talented Rightfielder raked all spring long and looked like he is primed for a breakout season. There is no platoon for him; he is now an everyday player. We think his offense catches up with his defense. Garko was near or above .300 all year, but didn't drive in as many runs as he should have. He looks thinner this Spring and the ball continues to jump off his bat. With Hafner hopefully getting back into form, Garko will see a lot of pitches and he will be lining doubles into the gaps for the next six months.

The rotation will be a rock - We here at MTAC are no fans of Cliff Lee, but you could do a lot worse as the #5 starter. C.C. and Fausto are the best 1-2 punch in the AL. Jake Westbrook is the model of consistancy and can be penciled in for 15 wins and an ERA around 3.50. Paul Byrd is the master of deception and somehow continues to win games. With Jeremy Sowers, Aaron Laffey, Adam Miller, and Brian Slocum in reserve in Buffalo, the Tribe starters will be money all year.

and the bullpen... - The depth is the envy of the rest of the league. Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez, along with Jenson Lewis will be stellar again. Masa Kobayashi, to be honest, we don't know what to make of him. Jorge Julio and Craig Breslow will not be long for this team. Tom Mastny and Brendan Donnelley will take those spots by mid-season. The issue is still closer Joe Borowski. By June, Betancourt will be closing.

Left Field - Eric Wedge is giving David Dellucci just enough rope to hang himself. We think he struggles out of the gate again, and by June, he's still hitting .215 and is released. Ben Francisco will become the Leftfielder with Jason Michaels getting plenty of AB's against lefties. Make no mistake, Francisco MUST and should be on this team.

Andy Marte - Ugh...did he really make the team? He's lucky the Tribe has such an organizational hole at Third base, or he'd be long gone. Errors in the field will do him in, as well as his long, pull everything swing. This kid is 4A. He's not Brandon Phillips.

The Prediction: Last year, we said 90 wins and missing the playoffs. This year, we say 94 wins and the AL Central Crown. The difference: Too much Tribe pitching depth and the Tigers bullpen is really THAT bad.

More on the Final Four

Reading all of these articles really makes me smile. It's so solid. It just keeps getting better. Now we get to play against Roy Williams? I am a member of the Roy Williams fan club. The is a big faction of the KU fan base that is anti-Roy and still harbor major resentment towards him. Not me. He did what he had to do. He has never once bashed Kansas. In fact, nobody shows more love for the school than he does. I promise you, this week, 100 times you will hear the following from him: "For 15 years, I gave my heart, my body, and my soul to that school." But as Ryan Greene from the Lawrence Journal-World put it:

"Now, of course, it’s time for Roy Williams to face the Kansas music. You’d have to think he’ll have much more pressure on him from the media in the upcoming week than Bill Self will because, first, he’s the only one with ties to both schools and Self is just more of a cool customer in the public arena, while Williams has a tendency to provide the emotional moment. Either way, KU fans now have what they truly want Saturday night.”

Two quick thoughts before the article rundown: Sasha Kaun saved the Jayhawks yesterday. Seriously. I have so much respect for him. For three years, he seemed to regress and not be able to figure out to do with his thick frame. After being benched early in the year, he embraced his role as a reserve and continued to get better. There was no better illustration of that improvement than yesterday. He was 6-6 from the field, led KU with 13 points, and grabbed seven boards. “I just wanted to play good," Kaun said. "I was committed to trying to give everything I could to the team. I thought we had a good mindset about everything...It was just a sense of urgency that it might be over. We had to step up and get some good possessions...I’ve been waiting for this game for so long to go to the FInal Four, and last year we came up short, it’s an unbelievable feeling right now.”

Credit Bill Self for going to the Box and One on Stephen Curry in the second half yesterday. Other than the three he hit with 58 seconds left, KU defenders held him down for the final 10 minutes of the game. The junk defense didn't let Curry get the screens he needed to get free. Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson, and Sherron Collins all took turns harrassing him.

Kansas-Davidson Game was Great, but Less Fullfilling - Jason Whitlock, KC Star

When it was over, your sigh of relief felt a bit empty, a little less satisfying than you’d imagined. You were happy the team you love escaped, but you were unimpressed with the route the Jayhawks climbed to safety.

Kansas’ cakewalk to the River Walk turned bittersweet on Sunday.

You were hard-pressed to find any evidence inside Ford Field that the champion of the Big 12 is superior to the champion of the Southern Conference. Kansas’ biggest lead was six points, and the boys from the tiny Carolina school of 1,700 students controlled the tempo, the action, from start to finish. With 16.8 seconds left, they had possession and the ball in the hands of the tournament’s best player, shooting star Stephen Curry.

Credit Kansas for denying Curry the game’s final shot. Other than that, thank the basketball gods for KU’s good fortune.

A trip to the Final Four should never taste sour, especially when you’ve knocked at its door four times and been denied, but Bill Self had the damnedest time explaining his emotions Sunday.

•“This game has a different feel to it than a lot of other games,” he said.

•“I don’t want to say we played poorly, because that takes away from Davidson,” he said.

•“Our guys didn’t handle it great, but we were tough enough to get the win, which is all that matters,” he said.

•And finally, Self said: “I would say instead of jubilation, it was probably more relief. You know, you picture the way you are winning a big game like that. You make a shot. You celebrate…. This was not one of those deals. I just wanted to make sure that I hurried up and shook hands and the officials left the court, so they couldn’t put any more time back on the clock.”

Jayhawks Shaky Play Surprises Self - Joe Posnanski, KC Star

Pressure will do strange things to men. The pressure on this Jayhawks team was immense. First, none of them had ever been to a Final Four. The seniors had lost in the first round twice, they had been beaten down by UCLA in the Elite Eight last year — they knew the score.

“I really feel like without a win today,” Self would say, “their careers would be incomplete.”

Second, they were playing America’s darling — a team that seemed to be touched by magic this whole tournament. Everyone was rooting for Davidson. Third, this was the last regional final — and the first three No. 1 seeds had already made it into the tournament. If Kansas lost, then the Jayhawks alone would be seen as a No. 1 failure.

And fourth, probably the most important factor, everyone wanted so much to win this game for Self. Nobody wanted to see him go through the suffering of another Elite Eight defeat — especially to a tiny and feisty No. 10 seed like Davidson. Self is a good guy. Everyone likes him.

Players respect him. Nobody wanted to see him lose again.

Feel Good Story of the Year Ends with KU, Self Headed to the Final Four - Pat Forde, ESPN.com

But as America sagged over the demise of its endearing underdog, a freshly unburdened Bill Self heaved himself up from his knees on the sideline. The Kansas coach looked briefly into the stands and blew a gust of air through his cheeks.

As one Kansas staffer said, "It looked like 400 pounds of pressure had just left his body."

Self had been asked a day earlier what the emotion would be upon winning and reaching his first Final Four. He said probably joy, then acknowledged that there would be some relief, as well.

Given the way this went down, relief won in a landslide.

"I would say instead of jubilation, it was probably more relief," Self said. "You picture winning a big game like that, you make a shot, you celebrate, or something happens and you're able to go congratulate all your coaches and your players. This was not one of those deals.

"I just wanted to make sure that I hurried up and shook hands and the officials left the court so they couldn't put any more time back on the clock."

Self Feels Sense of Relief After Davidson Scare - Jeff Goodman, Fox Sports.com

Bill Self would have been crucified. The fans in Lawrence would have gladly pushed him out the door to return to Oklahoma State — for the $3 million or so per year that billionaire Boone Pickens is reportedly willing to toss around to lure Self back to his alma mater.

It wouldn't have mattered that Self took the Jayhawks to their third Elite Eight in five seasons.
The whispers had gotten louder. Self could recruit against just about anyone, but was he a big-time X's and O's guy?

He had a pair of first-round exits on his resume in his five postseason appearances — and this year's road couldn't have been paved any smoother.

A walk-over Portland State. Then an overachieving UNLV team in the second round. Villanova, the final at-large team in the tournament and a No. 12 seed, in the Sweet 16.

Then No. 10 Davidson in the regional finals.

A Final Four is the measuring stick for those in Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk-land. The Jayhawks had been to a dozen of them, but won just twice — with the last coming 20 years ago when Danny Manning led them to the national championship.

Well, Self has finally silenced the skeptics who questioned his coaching ability with a Final Four appearance, courtesy of a down-to-the-last-shot, 59-57 victory against Davidson.

"I was nervous the whole time," Self admitted.

The Big Stop - Stewart Mandel, SI.com

The play was called "Flat," short for flat ball-screen. Under normal circumstances, Richards handles the point and Curry flies around the floor bouncing off screens, looking for his opening, but "the amount of time left was an issue," said Curry. "Usually I have 30 to 35 seconds to fight through screens."

The goal was to draw a big man out to the top of the key, allowing Curry to drive, pop a three or kick to the open man. But Kansas is 35-3 first and foremost because of its perimeter defense. With the Jayhawks' season on the line, it was only fitting that they prevailed by stopping the hottest shooter in the country, putting four guards (Rush, Collins, Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson) on the floor so that when Rush got screened off Curry, as was the plan, another guard, Collins, was right there to pick him up.

"It kind of defeated the purpose of the play," said Curry.

It was also emblematic of Curry's entire night. Though he finished with an impressive 25 points, 20 of them came in the game's first 22 minutes. In the second half, his open looks started disappearing, his shots looked increasingly rushed and off the mark. Defenders like Robinson and Rush were never more than a step away from him. Curry would finish just 9-of-25 from the field.

Kaun Inspires Hunted - Tom Keegan, Lawrence Journal-World

And through it all, there was Kaun, the least offensively gifted of the nine players who appeared in the game for Kansas, clapping his hands to demand the ball, tossing bodies aside to get into position for rebounds, challenging so many shots and blocking one, not looking anything but energized by the heat of the moment.

Kansas played a terrific defensive game, most notably on the final possession, and made superstar Stephen Curry work so hard for his 25 shots. Still, KU needed all Kaun’s field goals to fall for that effort not to go down as a footnote swallowed by tales of failure. Kaun contributed 13 points and six rebounds and shot 6-of-6 from the field, 1-of-3 from the line.
His offensive output came in handy because Davidson reserve Bryant Barr evoked bad memories of Texas Tech’s Darryl Dora and Marchello Vealy of Oral Roberts, lesser-known players for whom the basket grew so large in victories against Kansas.

The Monkey - Gone!

Before we get into anything, let me just say that we at MTAC could not be any happier for Kansas Head Coach Bill Self. A class act across the board finally gets to his first Final Four. We were there again yesterday, now 3-0 live at Regional Finals. As we have said in the past, our job is to get them to the Final Four, once they get there, they should bring it home. No need to rehash what you already know; The KU defense put the clamps down on Davidson's Stephen Curry on the final possession with the Wildcats down two. Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, and then Sherron Collins all switched onto him and wouldn't allow him to get a look. Eventually, the ball ended up in the hands of Jason Richards, who's NBA three for the win was wide left. Just like that, the monkey was lifted off of Self's back, a country was disappointed, but the Jayhawk nation rejoiced as they have returned to the Final Four. 59-57. What a game.

Our Experience: As stated Saturday, the set up and atmosphere at Ford Field was attrocious. Friday was definitely worse. Had Davidson not been KU's opponent, the crowd would have been dead. Everyone was caught up in the Davidson story and rightfully so. We would have been as well if we weren't diehard KU fans. The way it went, there was one section of Davidson fans - their entire student body - and one section of KU fans. The rest of the the reported 57,563 (no chance there was 57k there) had no real rooting interest, but took up for the Wildcat cause. So my boy Sean and I were essentially the only two real fans in our section with hardcore interest.

As the game went on, it was clear Davidson was not going away. In fact, several times we both thought we were done. I couldn't take it. Late in the first half, as Kansas continued to miss bunnies and open jumpers, Rush spotted up for a three. He hadn't hit a shot yet. I yelled "One Time Brandon!" Brick. I then jumped up and screamed "BRANDON! WAKE UP! JESUS CHRIST!" Keep in mind, the building is like a library and nobody else around me is standing. I sit down, look up and 40 people are staring at me. I've yelled at games before and I'll do it again. But this one was reminiscent of my late father, who loved to melt down on occasion during Tribe Playoff games. But we digress.

As poorly as KU played in the first half, they were still up two. But our main concern was that they had played good defense, but they were getting nothing in the post outside of Sasha Kaun, weren't hitting outside shots, and seemed to be committing too many dumb turnovers (see Cole Aldrich's outlet pass right to Jason Richards). Seemed like the UCLA game all over again. Mario Chalmers and Kaun really were the only two who showed up in the first half, and Kaun had gone to the bench with two fouls with eight minutes left in the half.

The second half gets going and with 15 minutes left, Andrew Lovedale hit a layup to give Davidson a lead and the crowd roared. We sat in disbelief. This was the first of two times where we thought The Jayhawks were done. A short three minutes later, KU went up six at 43-37, and this is where we figured we would pull away. But oh, the ups and downs of sports. This is why we love this game so much. Fast forward three minutes, Davidson's Bryant Barr, a guy I had never heard of until the second half of this game, hit back to back three's, Lovedale scored inside, Barr hit his third straight triple, and Davidson led 49-45. We sat with our heads in our hands while the parisan Wildcat crowd stood and screamed. I believed it was here when Sean turned to me and said "this is when it is no longer fun. This is painful." At the under eight TV timeout, KU trailed 51-47. This is where the game changed and the KU defense kicked into high gear. Kaun's layup and Sherron Collins' three - his only basket of the game (1-8) - put KU on top 52-51, a lead they would never relinquish.

The final minute felt like it took an hour. A 59-53 lead almost disappered. Curry, who was hounded all game, hit the three to cut it to two. Davidson had one more chance to win it with 16 seconds left. Coach Bob McKillop, a master X's and O's guy, called a timeout. I had to walk out to the aisle and pace. I was in full freak out mode. Later I was told by my brother that the woman behind him said "That poor guy is going to have a heart attack." Everyone in the building knew, heck, everyone in the country knew Curry was going to take a three for the win. I could just visualize it: Another classic loss by one of my teams. This one was going to hurt more than any other KU loss. I said to Sean, "lets see what my dad has up there for me." I am not a religious man and I don't pray. That was the best I could ask for, my father looking down, who had been to the 2003 regionals with me the year before he passed away, helping my boys out. Sure enough, Curry ended up with the ball, but couldn't get any sort of look, instead, it was Jason Richards who got the look. It was wide right.

I don't know if I was more happy or more relieved. Relieved probably, but so happy for Self, who now has shed the "best coach to never get to the Final Four" tag. Thrilled for Darnell Jackson, who despite playing very poorly, wanted it more than anyone else. For guys like fifth year Senior Jeremy Case, the last Roy Williams recruit, and Senior Rodrick Stewart who rarely plays, but is the epitome of a team player. But nobody deserved it more than Self. It was a pleasure watching him cut down the nets.

There will be more to follow....

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Being There

First things first, another big win. One more win closer to the Final Four. A great first half by the backcourt set the tone. The second half was a snooze-fest, but the game was long over. One more win and Bill Self gets over the hump.

I was at Ford Field last night. I couldn't wait to see what the "new set-up" was all about. 55,000 people allegedly attended. The number was more like 40,000, but it sounded more like 5,000. It was the single worst atmosphere of any major sporting event I've ever attended. The set up with the court in the middle of an football stadium made it so completely non-intimate. The crowd was a complete non-factor. Other than the Davidson section, you could hear a pin drop in the stadium. It was like watching a game in a library. We tried so hard to get into the game, but it was a real struggle, even with the stakes being as high as they were. The place was a morgue.

How can they players feed off of the energy of the crowd when there was no energy? The biggest group of fans were from Wisconsin and now they are out. People couldn't give their tickets away for Sunday's Final last night. By the second half of the KU/Nova game, the place completely emptied out and there couldn't have been more than 5,000 people left. Our seats were in the risers section on the floor of the football field. Unless you were sitting where we were, the players looked like ants. When we walked up from our seats, it was a serious hike. Everytime I turned around, the players and the court got smaller and smaller. Anyone who would pay for seats behind the baskets should have their heads examined. Tak about bad seats. You were seemingly miles from the court.

The whole set up to maximize the amount of fans is an abomination. Wait until they see how few people the game Sunday. They will e lucky to get 20,000, which will make the place look and sound empty. You know what else? I don't care as long as I am there an my Jayhawks win.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Scout's View on KU

SI.com's Luke Winn grabbed a great scouting report on Kansas from an opposing assistant coach who faced the Jayhawks this year. It's a very interesting read.

"The biggest issue is keeping [Kansas] out of transition. They're a team of great spurts, and early in the year their margins of victory were so large because they were going on 3-4 big spurts per game, getting out in the full-court, and it was always the deciding factor.

"They're a very balanced team, so you have to choose something to take away. They're a team that ball-screens a lot, and out of their screens they get a lot of layups for their bigs off penetration, and they get a lot of lobs. The way I think you handle the the screening action is to push up and try to contain the guards, which is easier said than done, but it means their big men are going to have a tougher time getting easy looks.

"You have to be conscious of keeping them off the offensive glass, too, since they're usually plus-8 or plus-9 in that category. Off of pick-and-roll plays, they get the ball to the rim and then always seem to have two bigs crashing the glass, and on top of that, [Brandon Rush] is a very good offensive rebounder himself. So there are a lot of block-out responsibilities there.

"We felt like Mario Chalmers was a huge key; he's the one guy who attacks the rim constantly off of ball screens and can score. Rush is more of a catch-and-shoot guy -- he's the best shooter in the Big 12, and he's 6-foot-6, but he's not great off the dribble with his mid-range game. Nor is Russell Robinson. But Chalmers is terrific; he can get to the basket, he can stop and shoot at 15 feet, he can step behind the screen and hit a three, all with a lot of effectiveness. From our view Chalmers was their best player.

"Now that Sherron Collins is healthy, you have to find a way to keep him in front of you, because he's so big and powerful. If he gets his body by you, you're not going to get back around him, and he's a very effective finisher at the rim. He's good at setting big guys up for easy little dump-off passes. So you have to keep him contained and make him shoot over the top instead.

"There are a couple of things that seem to go unnoticed with Kansas. The first is that their bigs sprint to their screens; if you watch Sasha Kaun or Darnell Jackson or Darrell Arthur, they sprint from the post to set a screen. So the big guys guarding them are at a disadvantage, because they never get in the right defensive position. They'll run some double ball-screens on the outside, too, where the first guy slips [to the basket] and that forces you to help.

"The second is that they're an unbelievable passing team. That's why they're very hard to zone. They're always in attack mode, and their guards catch the ball where they want it, close to the three-point line in triple-threat position. They'll run some high-low sets that are effective, especially with Darnell Jackson, whose shooting has expanded the floor for them. Last year they didn't have a big man who could shoot that well. Arthur is so strong and quick on offense that we wanted to make sure he didn't get deep post-ups. We tried to be physical with him before he got into the post and not allow him to get the ball. When he does have it, his main move is a fadeaway over his right shoulder, and he'll counter that with a jump-hook -- but he always needs a dribble to get that off, so you can attack him that way.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time, [Kansas] is going to play man against you. Chalmers is as good a defender as you'll find anywhere in the country; he's a great anticipator, has quick hands and causes havoc in passing lanes. He and Robinson are constantly looking to create steals. Rush is a very underrated on-ball defender because of his length, and they're throwing a lot of different big guys at you. They're efficient defensively because of their quickness and their length, and the fact is that they dominate the glass, so you rarely get multiple shots.

"One thing you can do is try to take their big men away from the basket. For guys like Arthur and Jackson, and much more so Kaun and [Cole Aldrich, their comfort zone is within 7-8 feet of the basket, and once you get them away from it, they don't guard as well or rebound nearly as well. Arthur has been prone to foul trouble, too, and if a team attacks him and gets him out of that comfort zone, there's a chance he'll pick up some early fouls. Sometimes he's overly aggressive, or a half-step out of position, or just trying to make a play that sometimes he shouldn't make. If you get him out and they have to bring in Kaun or Aldrich, who aren't as athletic, then you try to lure them out to the perimeter.

"There are two intangible things that are just as important with Kansas. First, you can't lose your composure against them, because they're so well-coached that their effort never varies. You have to match the mental toughness of an experienced team. The second is the tempo of the game. You have to try to control your pace, because if you get running with them, they're going to run you out of the gym. That's what they like to do, and you have to be smart enough to avoid it."

The Bullpen is Set....We're Not Happy

Our boy, Tom Mastny, otherwise known as "Thomas Nasty" has become the odd man out, despite having a great spring. Offseason pickup Jorge Julio has made the team, as has journeyman lefty Craig Breslow, picked up off of waivers two days ago. Here's a prediction: Breslow won't last through May. The obsession wiht keeping two lefties is the only reason he is still around. Meanwhile, a quality reliever in Mastny is going down to AAA. The guy spent the entire year on the big club last year. This shows you the depth of the Tribe pen. Mastny would be the key set up man for 80% of the teams in this league. He can't even make the Indians. So here is the Tribe pen as it stands:

Joe Borowski - Closer
Rafael Betancourt
Rafael Perez
Jenson Lewis
Masa Kobayashi
Jorge Julio
Craig Breslow

Poor Nasty. He deserves better than this. Now all the Indians have to do is figure out a way to get rid of OF David Dellucci so Ben Francisco can play Left Field. On the link below, make sure you scroll down and read the comments. The fans despise DD.

Mastny Optioned to Buffalo

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is This a Foul?

According to officials who do UCLA games, the answer is no.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Readers of MTAC know we have been obsessed with this story. The Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick and his former lover....errrrr...chief of staff Christine Beatty were formally charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and misconduct after being busted lying under oath about the affair the two had after secret text messages were uncovered linking the two. According to the Detroit Free Press story, Kilpatrick is being charged with eight felonies.

“This has been a very flawed process from the beginning,” Kwame said. “I look forward to complete exoneration once all the facts in this matter have been brought forth.”

The mayor's attorney, Dan Webb, said the mayor will be found innocent of the charges and will not resign. “This man, my client, the mayor, is entitled to his day in court,” he said. “If this man is required to resign his office before his jury trial, that means he’s going to be punished before his day in court.”

You have got to love this story. For a refresher, here are some of the text messages:

Free Press columnist Stephen Henderson is one of the many who say it's time for Kwame to quit. The Detroit News' Daniel Howes says the real victims are the people of Detroit. Here is the national view from CNN.

It's Stiff

It looks as though th Indians brass has finally made their decision on the 5th starter. In a shock to nobody, Cliff Lee has taken the job thanks to a solid spring. In his last outing, he went five scoreless and most likely nailed it down with that performance.

Our take: This was bound to happen. Stiff Lee is a bad guy and a clubhouse cancer. Notice the team's performance picked up when he was sent to Buffalo? We think it was no coincidence. He is a head-case and when things go bad for him, he loses his control. Maybe we will see the guy who won 18 games a few years back this year. We hope so, but the good news is that Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers will be in the Buffalo rotation getting regular work.

More good news for the Indians pitching staff; veteran lefty reliever Aaron Fultz will be released, while fellow lefty Craig Breslow was claimed off of waivers from Boston and could take Fultz's spot.

Our take: Goodbye and Good Riddance Fultzy. This guy never showed anything after mid-May last year, throws a flat pitch with no zip on it, and could not be counted in an key situations. The main issue is that the Indians were dumb enough to pick up his option in December and now essentially cost themselves his $1.5 million salary. Give props to Shappy for cutting his losses with Fultz. The Breslow thing I don't get. His numbers were unimpressive and reportedly his big issue is control problems. It's nice to be a lefty, isn't it? Why claim this 27 year old scrub instead of keeping both Tom Mastny and either Jorge Julio or Scott Elarton (potential long man)?

Weekend Recap

The sea has parted in the Midwest for the Kansas Jayhawks. The same can be said for the UCLA Bruins in the West. North Carolina looks dominant in not being tested in either of their two wins, while Memphis' free throw shooting nearly cost them a game they were in control. Only the East held form, Two #2 seeds are out, while two #10's, and a #12, are still around. Lets take a look at what happened during the first weekend of the greatest event in American Sports.

The East

Oh, Carolina - Maybe no team in the entire field looked better in it's two wins than #1 North Carolina. They put up 113 against Mount St. Mary's and 108 in a 31 point blowout of Arkansas to get to the Sweet 16. The partisan crowd in Raleigh loved every minute of it. The Tar Heels claim they aren't happy or finished yet. Said SF Marcus Ginyard after the Arkansas game: "We've got another two-game tournament to play next weekend and that's what we're focused on right now. At this point, this game does not mean anything to us anymore. This is just not where this team wants to end up."

The Half-court Clinic - Mad props go out to Tony Bennett's Washington State Cougars. Most experts were picking Notre Dame to knock them off in the second round, but Wazzu literally took the Irish apart on both ends of the floor. Their slow down, halfcourt offensive style ran their sets to perfection, thanks to PG Taylor Rochestie. Their defense was even better. The double-teaming of ND's Luke Harangody worked so well, the Big East Player of the year was 3-17 from the floor. He is a Power Forward. The Cougars slow down style could really give UNC fits in the Sweet 16. It should be a great contrast to watch.

Pitino Does it Again - If North Carolina was the most impressive team in the first weekend, Louisville has to be a close second. After easily dispatching Boise State in round one, the Cardinals throttled a very good Oklahoma team by 30. They did it with balance. Seven players scored at least seven points, led by Earl Clark's 14. They shot 59% and held OU to 31%. Said Coach Rick Pitino "Offensively and defensively, we did a beautiful job. You really can't find a weakness in the way the guys played."

Teetering Tennessee? - Like the old saying goes, survive and advance. That is exactly what Tennessee did this weekend. Their opener with American was way closer than they would have liked. This was a two point game with 5:45 left, before the Vols pulled away. Sunday they were tested again by a solid Butler team. Give Bruce Pearl's kids credit, they surrendered the lead for the first time in the entire game with just over one minute left in OT, and then finished the game on an 8-3 run to close out the Bulldogs. Their lack of a true point guard was exposed by Butler, as they forced 20 turnovers. The way they played and the way Louisville played, you'd have to say the Cardinals are the favorite in their Sweet 16 matchup.

The Midwest

Two Down, Four To Go - The Kansas Jayhawks were very business-like in their two wins over Portland State and UNLV. They did it with offense against Portland State, and defense against the Runnin' Rebels, holding them to 26% shooting. Bill Self showed a lot of the four guard offense against the smaller UNLV team and it worked. All four KU guards, Mario Chalmers (17), Russell Robinson (13), Brandon Rush (12), and Sherron Collins (10) were in double figures. The draw looks good for KU as well. They get upstart #12 Villanova Friday, and the bottom half of the draw no longer has #2 Georgetown.

The Big East's Beast? - Who knew that the one Big East team left in the Midwest would be Villanova? Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher have been magnificent since the second half of the Clemson game and Jay Wright has his team back in the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years. Reynolds and Fisher combined for 45 points in the second round W of Siena. More impressive was the way they handled the Clemson press Friday night. The Wildcats were down 36-18 in the first half and looked bad. After blitzing the Tigers by 18 in the second half, Wright said "It's incredible what happened here today."

Just Win, Baby - Nobody talks about them, nobody gives them any chance, yet here they are again in the Sweet 16. You want to know why we said Wisconsin's Bo Ryan is the most underrated coach in America? Take a look at what he has done this year. The Badgers sit at 31-4 and handled the great Michael Beasley and Kansas State with ease 72-55 on their way to Detroit. Trevon Hughes' 25 set the pace for Wisconsin. If they can hit their threes (9-22) and defend the way they did against K-State (39%, 0-13 from deep), they will be really tough to beat.

Everyone's Cinderella - The darlings of the tournament are the Davidson Wildcats and the star of the tournament is clearly Stephen Curry. Curry went off for 40 in the win over Gonzaga, but was held to just five in the first half as Georgetown shut him down and led by as many as 17 early in the second half. Then Curry woke up and Bob McKillop outcoached John Thompson III. Curry scored 25 after the break, including one back-breaking three after another. Davidson fed off of the crowd who jumped on their backs and pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament. "I'm numb right now," said McKillop. Curry has played three NCAA Tournament games in his career. he has scored 30, 40, and 30. Not bad for a Sophomore who was overlooked by all of the big schools. They took down mighty Georgetown, the Big East Champ, why can't they do it again to Wisconsin? The Hoyas loss also signaled the end of the careers of Jonathan Wallace and Roy Hibbert, perhaps the most overrated player in the country.

The South

Will The Freebees Do Them In? - Memphis Coach John Calipari can tell us all he wants that his team will make their free throws when it counts, but is that really going to happen? Sunday, they had the game well in hand in the end against Mississippi State, before a barrage of threes and missed free throws gave the Bulldogs a chance to tie it with a last second three, which was missed by Jamont Gordon. For the game, the shot 15-32, 46%. They only won by three. You tell is if that doesn't make a difference. It doesn't matter to Calipari, who said after the game "I love the frame of mind we are in. We may not be the best team. We may be one of them, we not be anywhere near it, but I like the mental attitude." If they can get past Michigan State, they will be in for a tough matchup with either Stanford's post players or Texas's shooters and the home crowd in Houston.

Izzo's the Master - You have got to give props to coach Tom Izzo. With his team underachieving all year long, he finds a way to turn things around and get them to the Sweet 16. PG Kalin Lucas was spectacular in both games, and is the shot in the arm the Spartans need. He was blowing by Pitt's Levance Fields all game long in the second rounf win over the Panthers. Drew Neitzel was on in the second half as well, nailing five threes and leading the way with 21. Expect MSU to give Memphis a tough game Friday night.

Feed The Beast - This is the year of the big man. The three best are all still playing. UNC's Tyler Hansbrough and UCLA's Kevin Love get all of the press, but is Brook Lopez the best of the three? Everyone knows he is going to get the ball, and he still can't be stopped. With his team needed him badly while trailing to Marquette in the second half, Lopez went nuts, scoring 28 points in the last 25 minutes, including the game winner with 1.2 seconds left. Take Lopez off this team and they'd be lucky to be .500. Give credit to his brother Robin, who played his best game of the season, with 18 and nine boards. PG Mitch Johnson played 44 of the 45 minutes and dished out 16 assists. These three saved Coach Trent Johnson from serious embarrasment as he was ejected in the first half for receiving two technicals. After the game, Johnson had no problem falling on the sword: "The bottom line was, the responsibility was on me, and I was out of line. Just leave it at that if you would, please."

Houston, Here We Come - The Texas Longhorns escaped against Miami after almost gagging away a 17 point second half lead. The good news is that now they head to Houston, where you can expect a partisan Burnt Orange crowd. that should help them big time. Their matchup with Stanford is the marquee game of the Sweet 16. Its guards vs. the bigs, and both teams are Final Four caliber. Expect to see a lot of zone to try and limit Brook Lopez's touches in the post. The Horns will do it from deep, like they did against Miami to the tune of 13-26. All five starters hit a three as well. Will Texas run out of gas? Their bench played just 21 minutes combined and scored two points.

The West

Thank You, Pod System - Anyone who thinks the pod system doesn't give an advantage to certain teams should have watched the UCLA/Texas A&M game in Anaheim. They might as well have played in Pauley Pavilion. With A&M in the lead most of the second half, the crowd, and Kevin Love, willed the Bruins to a 51-49 win, a game they probably stole. Love was unbelievable. His two fall away jumpers in the last two minutes were unstoppable. Darren Collison, not to be outdown, went to the hole and hit the game winning runner with five seconds left. The question remains though, can UCLA win it all playing essentially no offense and being a two man team? Love and Collison scored 40 of the Bruins 51 points. Russell Westbrook was the next high man with 5. Like Texas, UCLA is relying heavily on its starters. Their bench played 20 minutes combined and scored four points. They have a walk to the regional final as Western Kentucky awaits.

The Belt Way - For the first time in 15 years, the Sun Belt's Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are headed to the Sweet 16. The almost didn't get out of the first round. Their game with Drake was probably the best first round game as Drake fought all the way back from a 16 point second half lead to force OT, but Ty Rogers hit a buzzer-beating three to win it 101-99. PG Tyrone Brazelton was the man against Drake with 33, then star SG Courtney Lee took over the reigns in the win over San Diego. He had 29 including 4-5 from deep. This has been a nice story, but its all going to come to an end against UCLA.

The Hardest Draw Toughens Up The Musketeers - You tell us, if the committee got this right: In the first round, Xavier was dealt Georgia as their #14 seed. This is a Georgia team that plays in the SEC and is used to battling against top talent. Meanwhile, fellow #3 seed Stanford got the Ivy League Champ Cornell who was out of the game by the first eight minutes. They gutted out the win over Georgia after trailing by nine at the half. In the second round, a very well coached and solid Purdue team gave them a run, but in the end, the Xavier balance did the Boilers in. Four starters were in double figures, with C.J. Anderson and Drew Lavender both scoring 18. "We have a number of different players that can answer the bell on offense," said coach Sean Miller. "It's really a unique team to guard, because on different nights different people can beat you."

You Gotta Love Huggins - Everywhere the man goes, Bob Huggins just keeps winning. After lucking into a first round win over Belmont, Duke wasn't so lucky against a well oiled West Virginia machine. Joe Alexander has become a superstar over the last month of the season and the X-factor Joe Mazzulla came off the bench to score 13 points, grab 11 boards, and dish out eight assist. This is a typical tough-minded Huggins team. There is not reason they can't keep this run going.