With the public-voting portion of American Idol starting tonight, check out Becca’s blog for several posts about Chris Sligh, who went to Bob Jones University at the same time that Becca (a.k.a. Puck’s human) did.
According to at least one betting website, Chris is the favorite to win Idol, and it’s easy to see why — not only does he have a great voice, but he has a fantastic personality and sense or humor. Becca says that’s totally genuine; it’s how he is in real life. Anyway, I’m totally rooting for him.
If the NCAA Tournament consisted of six games against DePaul at the Joyce Center, the Irish would totally win the national championship. :)
Becky and I left at halftime because, frankly, we were bored. (Er, and because Becky wanted to watch American Idol.) Notre Dame leads 40-22 at the break. Needless to say, a great first-half performance by the Irish. Colin Falls is 6 of 9 from the field.
GOOOO IRISH, KEEEEP BEATING DEMONS!!
UPDATE: Irish win, 78-54. Nice!
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will announce on Wednesday a new timetable for withdrawing British troops from Iraq, with 1,500 to return home in several weeks, the British Broadcasting Corp. reports. Visit CNN for the latest.
This being Fat Tuesday, a.k.a. the final night of Mardi Gras, NOLA.com’s New Orleans webcams may be of some interest.
Big game for Notre Dame tonight, as the Irish try to continue their winning ways at home and beat the DePaul team that edged them by 1 on the road 12 days ago. It’s at 7:00 PM on ESPN2, but I’ll be there in person at the Joyce Center. GO IRISH!
And a pair of huge, huge, huge games in the Missouri Valley Conference, as Bradley hosts Northern Iowa and Missouri State visits Wichita State at 8:05 and 9:05, respectively. Bradley and MO State are the MVC’s two most likely at-large contenders outside of Southern Illinois and Creighton, while UNI and Wichita are almost certainly out of the at-large discussion. So if you want to see a three- or four-bid Valley, root for the Braves and Bears. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of some major-conference bubble team, root for the Panthers and Shockers.
Oh yeah, and second-place Big South team High Point visits Winthrop at 7:15 PM. The Eagles, fresh off a huge win at the above-mentioned Missouri State Bears, are one of the “last four in” Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket as an “at-large, if needed,” but they’ll presumably need to win out until the Big South title game to have any chance of making that prediction a reality. And tonight’s game figures to be their biggest challenge until said title game (which will probably also be against High Point). Previously, Winthrop won at High Point by 1. Tonight, they get ‘em at home, so here’s hoping for another win, by a more comfortable margin this time. On the other hand, will there be a post-BracketBusters hangover? Hopefully not. Go Eagles!
I believe the moral of this story is don’t ’shroom and drive:
Suspended Gonzaga center Josh Heytvelt is being charged with felony possession of a controlled substance following his arrest in Cheney, where police alleged they found hallucinogenic mushrooms in a gym bag in his car, prosecutors said Tuesday. …
Court documents released Tuesday police found 33.2 grams — just over an ounce — of mushroom parts inside a plastic Ziploc bag in the back of the Chevrolet Blazer that Heytvelt was driving. Possession of any amount of illegal mushrooms is a Class C felony.
KHQ has more, including a photo of the ’shrooms that sank a thousand Zag dreams:
Apparently, police and prosecutors aren’t buying Heytvelt’s attempt at the tried-and-true “they’re not mine” defense:
According to new court documents, on the night Heytvelt and Davis were arrested, Heytvelt denied any knowledge of the mushrooms in a backpack in the back of his vehicle. The baggie was inside a backpack next to one that featured Heytvelt’s name on the front. Heytvelt said the backpack that contained the mushrooms belonged to a friend, and that he allowed that friend to borrow his vehicle a couple of days earlier.
During the stop, Heytvelt also said that the same friend that had borrowed his car grew mushrooms in his home. When asked whether he had seen it for himself, Heytvelt responded, “yes”. That friend has not been identified.
Hmm. Well, prosecutors aren’t always right, are they? We’ll have to see how this plays out. Let’s all remember that Heytvelt is innocent until proven guilty.
Luckily, Barney Frank is a 66-year-old gay Jew, so he still has a chance. ;)
P.S. I’m disappointed the survey didn’t ask whether people would vote for a Muslim president. Like commenter LawrenceB, I bet Muslims would have beaten out atheists as the group least likely to be elected.
Fellow 3L Dmytro Aponte, a.k.a. “Fists of Furry,” is competing tomorrow — for the third straight year — in Bengal Bouts, Notre Dame’s intramural boxing competition. Tomorrow’s matches get started at 6:30 PM at the Joyce Center, and Dmytro is in the third match. He’s up against freshman Danny Wemple. Methinks the law students in attendance need to get a “WHOMP WEMPLE” chant started.
Other law students competing in this year’s Bengal Bouts, according to Dmytro, include Tom Hardman, Pat Salvi, Raphael Flood and Geoff Spiess. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or from one of the participants (though Dmytro says he’s all sold out).
Anyway, GOOOO APONTE! BEEEEAT WEMPLE! TOOOO A BLOODY PULP! :)
Heh: “A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in a medical malpractice case brought by Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis after a juror collapsed and several doctors — including the two defendants — rushed to his aid.”
Yeah, I can see how that might result in jurors making a decision based on something other than the evidence presented… LOL. (Hat tip: Chris, via ND Nation.)
It’s Fat Tuesday, which means that: 1) I wish I was in New Orleans right now (next year, dammit), and 2) Lent starts tomorrow. In view of which, a question for my blog readers: what, if anything, are you giving up (or pledging to do differently, etc.) during Lent?
Myself, I’ve never been much for the whole “giving stuff up during Lent” business, probably because there aren’t many things that I do regularly which I regret or feel guilty about (which may help explain why I’m not much of a Catholic… hehe), and also because I have no will power and am all about instant gratification. :) However, in view of my recent slow-but-steady transformation into a “skinny fat guy” (I was dreadfully thin when I started college, but I’ve gained half of my own body weight since then, which is a good thing except that the last 20 pounds or so have gone directly to my gut), I think perhaps I’ll give up Cheetos for Lent.
On the other hand: Cheetos are so yummy… how long is Lent again? ;)
For her part, Becky advocates making “Lenten resolutions” instead of necessarily “giving things up.” Maybe I can kill two birds with one stone by setting some concrete research goals for myself and declaring those to be Lenten resolutions. I’ll need to be in good shape with both of my papers by Easter Sunday, so that wouldn’t be a bad idea. And this way, if I fail, I’d be courting not just the wrath of Mayer or Kaveny (or Becky), but the wrath of God… hehe.
Anyway, enough about me… what are y’all doing for Lent, if anything?
Briandot sends in the following report via e-mail:
I’ve been having a hell of a time trying to read irishtrojan lately. I can only seem to see it one out of every, say, five or six times. It’s incredibly slow and I often get a 503 error. Anything up?
I’m not having any such problems, and I haven’t received any other complaints (aside from the comment error that I fixed yesterday), but… is anyone else having similar problems to what Briandot is reporting? Please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail (bloy[at]nd.edu) if so. Thanks!
[NOTE: You can read all three “BracketBusters Experience” posts, from start to finish, here.]
Actually, before I start talking about the game itself, here’s a nifty pregame video — which I should have included in “Part II,” but I didn’t think of it — to set the scene. First you hear the Salukis cheering section chanting “S-I-U” as their team takes the floor, but they’re quickly drowned out by Butler fans’ boos… which are in turn quickly replaced by wild cheers as the Bulldogs enter the arena. And then comes a clip of the Butler player introductions.
Really, though, the video doesn’t do it justice. As Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star wrote:
Being at Hinkle on Saturday was not a job, really; it was an honor. The place was hot, old Boston Garden hot, and it was hopping, filled to the top with Butler’s first sellout since 2003. There was an undeniable Cameron Indoor Stadium feel to the place, except for all the visiting team’s fans filling the corner of the old barn.
The absolutely electric atmosphere in that place is the biggest reason why I ended up “switching sides” and rooting for Butler (having arrived with my loyalties split maybe 55% to 45% for SIU). Early in the game, I was torn about who to root for, but I realized that if it came down to a final possession and Butler was going for the win, there was no way I wouldn’t root for the result that would cause the “Dawg Pound” at Hinkle Fieldhouse to go completely crazy… because that would just be so awesome. So, about midway through the first half (with the Bulldogs trailing by 6 points or so), I decided to jump on the Butler bandwagon right then and there.
Anyway… coming in, my fear was that the game would be so defense-oriented as to be painful to watch. Kyle Whelliston had predicted “the best 35-33 game ever,” and Andy Glockner had mused that the matchup might induce comas in casual viewers. But it quickly became apparent that those fears were exaggerated. These teams were, as advertised, very good at playing defense — it was, as SIU star Jamaal Tatum told SI’s Luke Winn, “the blue-collar matchup in college basketball” — but they also knew how to score points, even against the other’s suffocating “D.”
Besides, given the setting, the game almost couldn’t help being exciting. The slightest momentum shift in Butler’s favor sent the crowd into a frenzy, and the slightest shift in the other direction produced a mighty roar from the sizeable SIU cheering section. Here a video clip where you can get a sense of the seesawing momentum late in the first half:
Unfortunately, in the second half, the referees became an uncomfortably large part of the story, calling an extremely close game with tit-for-tat ticky-tack fouls on both ends of the floor. It was even-handed, IMHO, but it was disruptive to the flow of the game, and honestly, resulted in more points than probably should have been scored, since good, disruptive defense would often result in a foul being called.
One of the more memorable officiating moments was an absolutely horrible foul call on a clean block by Butler’s Mike Campbell with 7:01 to go, disrupting an 8-1 Butler run that had cut SIU’s lead to 49-47. The officials obviously realized their mistake, as they promptly did a classic “make-up call” on the next Butler possession, but the damage was done: the Bulldogs lost their momentum, and SIU started slowly rebuilding its lead.
But it was the general whistle-happiness, more than any individual call, that negatively impacted the game. And I’m not just saying that because I was rooting for Butler and the home crowd was booing every call that went against the Bulldogs. Neutral observers noticed, too. Sports reporters rarely mention the officiating in their articles unless there’s some specific controversial call late in the game, but in this case, several columnists mentioned the referees’ overall frustrating pattern in their write-ups. For example, the Star’s Kravitz wrote, “The second half got bogged down by a trio of officials who called a foul on every possession, whistling both teams a total of 34 times in the second half.” Kravitz added that “the game didn’t ultimately suffer that much from it,” but Kyle Whelliston didn’t seem so sure of that:
The real difference in a contest that lasted nearly 2Ã‚Â½ hours was what happened when time stopped altogether. With all the tooth-and-nail physical play around the paint, whistles were abundant, and SIU outpaced its hosts 27-19 in made free throws. One of the key rules of the BracketBusters format is that the visiting conference brings its officials (to counter home-court advantage), but Butler head coach Todd Lickliter was diplomatic about the 26 fouls the Missouri Valley officiating crew called against his team, a regulation game season-high.
More on what Lickliter said in a second, but first, here’s a video of a pretty typical second-half possession: an entertaining standoff between the offense and defense, followed by a whistle.
I’m not criticizing that particular call, but in general, I wish the refs had let ‘em play more. And so, I’m sure, did Butler star A.J. Graves, who — as if feeling ill and vomiting in the first half wasn’t bad enough — picked up his fourth and fifth fouls late in the game on a pair of ticky-tack calls, and was forced to sit out the final minutes as Butler almost came back to win. I wasn’t videotaping when he fouled out, but here’s the crowd and bench reaction to his fourth foul:
Now, I’d love to blame this all on the refs, but I actually need to take a moment here to criticize Butler’s coach. I’m certainly not suggesting that he’s a bad coach generally, but his handling of the second-half officiating really left something to be desired, as the Bulldogs simply did not adequately adjust to the way the game was being called. This was particularly evident on Graves’s last foul.
To set the scene: With 2:44 remaining, Graves hit two free throws (he’s virtually automatic from the line, having missed five FTs all year) to cut Southern Illinois’ lead to 62-56. Now the Bulldogs needed a defensive stop or, ideally, a turnover. They decided to pressure the ball, which makes a lot of sense, but was obviously risky because of those whistle-happy refs. What made it particularly risky was that Graves, the star player whom Butler was obviously going to want on the floor in the game’s final moments, was the one pressuring the ball, even though he already had four fouls. As I watched him step up his agressive defense on SIU’s Jamaal Tatum, 45 feet from the basket, I felt sort of like how you feel in that split-second when you realize a beverage is about to spill, but you can’t do anything about it. I thought to myself, “Oh no, he’s going to get called for a foul!” Not that he necessarily deserved it, but that was just how the refs were calling the game. And, sure enough, a half-second later, the ref blew the whistle. Graves was done.
My first question for Coach Lickliter, if I had a seat at the postgame press conference, would have been: Why on earth did you have Graves pressuring the ball on that possession? You knew the refs were calling a very close game, so you had to know he was taking a serious risk of drawing his fifth foul, even just by playing run-of-the-mill aggressive pressure defense and trying to force a turnover. Obviously you needed to put pressure on SIU in that situation, but surely someone else on the team could have played that role, so that Graves could stay in the game and be ready when you needed him to score a potential game-winning basket down the stretch!
But alas, Graves drew the assignment, Tatum drew the foul, and it was all over for Butler’s star. He spent the rest of the game a few feet away from Becky and me, watching from the bench.
Of course, the Bulldogs didn’t just roll over when Graves fouled out. In fact, to their great credit, they managed to mount a real attempt at a last-minute comeback, even though Graves’s absence presumably made it easier for SIU’s defenders to focus on the Bulldogs’ other shooters. (They — possibly in combination with the flu — had been very effective at bottling up Graves all night, holding him to 1-for-8 shooting.)
The crucial moment came between in a 12-second stretch with less than two minutes left. At 1:41, with the Salukis up 63-57, SIU’s Bryan Mullins had a three-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer rim out; if it had gone in, that probably effectively ends the game right there. Butler’s Mike Green grabbed the rebound, the Bulldogs quickly moved it up the floor, and Brandon Crone hit a three-pointer with 1:29 remaining, cutting Southern Illinois’s lead to 63-60. The crowd went wild. We had ourselves a ballgame!
Southern Illinois hit a pair of foul shots to get the lead up to 65-60, but Butler answered with two FTs of its own to cut it back to 65-62 — and then the Bulldogs almost forced a turnover on the inbounds pass, which would have given them the ball with 20 seconds left in a one-possession game. But the ref ruled that Green fouled Tatum an instant before Tatum lost the ball out-of-bounds. You can watch that dramatic sequence here:
Tatum sank both free throws to stretch the lead back to 67-62. A few more tit-for-tat free throws later, the game was over; the Bulldogs never did get the ball in their hands with a deficit three points or less in the closing seconds. The final score was 68-64.
Here’s a photo of the handshake line after the game; the player hunched over, supported by a teammate, is Green, who moments earlier had collapsed to the floor after losing the ball in the final seconds and being unable to get off a shot.
This game, the first in Hinkle’s long history in which Butler and its opponent were both nationally ranked, was not as good as advertised.
It was better.
Southern Illinois won, and so did college basketball. Throughout the country, ESPN2 viewers saw two teams that have a chance of making a mess of millions of brackets come NCAA Tournament time.
When Lickliter came to the postgame news conference, he was hard-pressed to find the right words. Then the disappointment temporarily gave way to sheer appreciation. He had been part of something pretty special.
“We saw two top-20 teams compete for 40 minutes, and we saw guys make plays that were terrific,” he said. “I just can’t imagine there’s been a harder fought, better game throughout the course of this season. Two really nice teams. Two teams that share the ball. Two teams that guard.
“It’s difficult. I guess it tests you. But I don’t think we have anything to be ashamed about. They were a little better than us. I sure would like to see them again.”
“Maybe in Atlanta (at the Final Four),” Lickliter said, smiling. “That would be nice.”
Wouldn’t it, though?
Anyway, Becky and I had a great time. (Pay no attention to the Missouri Valley Conference shirt in the photo below; I was rooting for Butler by the time this picture was taken. Hehe.)
Unlike the Missouri Valley tournament last March, which was fun in spite of the ugly basketball being played (those teams were just absolutely exhausted from all the regular-season battles, and they played like it), this was an afternoon of hoops where we could genuinely enjoy the quality of play, on both sides of the ball.
There’s one definite similarity to the MVC tourney, though: just like I felt a sense of “ownership” when Bradley and Wichita State made Sweet 16 runs last year after we saw them play in Arch Madness, you can bet I’ll be rooting especially hard for the Salukis and Bulldogs next month. Well, unless they come up against USC, Notre Dame or Gonzaga, of course. :)
Anyway… you can view my full gallery of photos here. Here are a few particularly notable ones that I didn’t manage to work into this or either of the posts. In the first one, note ESPN’s Rick Majerus in the background. (That’s Coach Lickliter adjusting his tie in the foreground.)
UPDATE: You can read all three “BracketBusters Experience” posts, all at once, here.
I blogged yesterday about the death of Dermot O’Reilly, the Newfoundland folk singer who wrote and sang the poetic ballad West Country Lady, one of the favorite songs of my childhood. I was immediately saddened to learn of his passing because that song has always had such a special place in my heart, but until I started reading the various online eulogies, I had no idea of the profound influence that O’Reilly and his band, Ryan’s Fancy, had on the Newfie music scene.
This video from the 2004 East Coast Music Awards — a Ryan’s Fancy retrospective narrated by Great Big Sea, and also featuring a singer from another one of my favorite Canadian bands, the Barra MacNeils — does a good job of explaining it:
GBS member Bob Hallett, who just last month penned a lengthly paean to the profound influence that Ryan’s Fancy had on Newfoundland folk music, is prominently quoted in this article about O’Reilly, prominently featuring some lengthy quotes from Hallett says:
It’s his Senior Night, and he still looks like he’s about 12 years old.
Gonzaga beat Portland 87-67 on Senior Night yesterday, and San Francisco lost to St. Mary’s 92-83. As a result, the Zags clinched no worse than a #2 seed in the WCC tournament, which means they’ll get the automatic double-bye into the semifinals, and will need to win only two games to earn an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
Gonzaga is 9-3 in conference, one game behind leader Santa Clara (10-2). San Francisco is alone in third place at 7-5. Even if the Zags lose both of their remaining games — one of them at San Fran — and finish tied with the Dons at 9-5, they’d win the tiebreaker, as explained previously, because Gonzaga is 1-1 against Santa Clara whereas San Francisco is 0-2 against the Broncos.
P.S. The WCC semifinals are on Sunday, March 4, and the title game is on Monday, March 5. All the games are in Portland, Oregon, and all will be televised on either ESPN or ESPN2, I believe. I’ve added March 4 to the countdown sidebar at left.