- I don’t know if anybody woke up Sunday morning next to anything as regrettable as Rick Pitino. Well maybe Evan Rachel Wood, but that’s it. It’s fugly for Louisville right now. They dearly miss David Padgett, the kind of dirty work guy no one appreciates until he’s gone (much like Chris Penn, god rest his soul). His and the shorter term injury to banger Juan Palacios have affected the team, but more like a nagging cold, whereas the continued petulance of leading scorer Derrick Caracter has affected them more like an open, festering head wound. Still, should they get just a couple of those bodies back and survive the Big East regular season, the Cardinals will be an excellent buy low candidate come March.
- Arizona State, on the other hand, woke up Sunday morning feeling pretty good about themselves, but that’s par for the course when you go to a school with warm weather, loose attractive women, an endless supply of ecstasy, and lax academic standards. The scary thing about the Pac-10 is you have three teams that are locks for the NCAA Tournament (UCLA, Washington State, Arizona), two that are near locks (Oregon, USC), and four more that are anywhere from probable to possible (Stanford, ASU, Cal, Washington). Doubtful that they can send nine teams to the Tournament, so likely there needs to be a litmus test for postseason eligibility, such as losing to Oregon State.
- Completely off subject, former Tonya Harding bodyguard Brian Sean Griffith, formerly named Shawn Eckardt, Griffith died last Wednesday at age 40, “of natural causes, according to the Washington County medical examiner’s office.” Natural causes, at 40. The Washington County medical examiner has a fairly broad definition of “natural causes”, having last appeared on the national radar when they found that Kurt Cobain was killed by a naturally occurring bullet in his head.
What we’re looking forward to this week between shots of tequila nog:
- Santa Clara at Stanford, Wed. 12/19 – A matchup of two insufferable Bay Area schools. Ask yourself this: have you ever met someone from Stanford and you didn’t know they went to Stanford within five minutes of meeting them? We didn’t think so. One guy I went to grade school and high with went to Stanford and he never stopped talking about it. In a fitting bit of poetic justice, he was last seen working at our hometown Blockbuster. As for Santa Clara, remember the old Onion “Second Hand Smoke Increases Second Hand Coolness” article? Santa Clara kids employ the same logic, concluding that thanks to their school’s proximity to Stanford the two are somehow academically equitable. Another acquaintance and SCU alum intimated years ago how much he liked watching the Cardinal get beat because they were the Broncos’ greatest rival. If he meant rival for reservations at a Palo Alto Buca Di Beppo he’d be right. Take two parts Stanford smugness and one part 4 year Jesuit college stupidity and you get the typical Santa Clara student. Steve Nash is a notable exception. The game marks the return of Brook Lopez, but may be better known Friday morning for Santa Clara, a sneaky threat in the WCC to Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, upsetting the Cardinal.
- Gonzaga at Oklahoma, Thurs. 12/20 – Upset Alert #2. The 18th ranked Zags will have to work very hard to get out of Norman unscathed. The Zags will have to contend with a tough Sooner squad and rangy center Longar Longar, perhaps the only possible challenger to Folarin Campbell (see 11/28 post) for best name in college basketball. But this may end up being the showcase for Sooners forward Blake Griffin, probably the most underexposed freshman in the year of overexposed freshmen. It’s a sportswriting cliché to say so-and-so power forward would make a great tight end, but I’d bet Griffin could suit up next Sunday and drop less balls than Vernon Davis.
- Duke at Pitt, Thurs. 12/20 – The “hey let’s go to Reno” of this group, Pitt-Duke will be either the best or worst matchup of the week. One thing’s for certain, when announcers try to rationalize the validity of December basketball with bullshit comments on how early wins and losses affect tournament seeding while you’re watching Maryland-Boston College, this game actually could, and should, come back to haunt one or the other. Not that that’s really added incentive.
- Tennessee at Xavier, Sat. 12/22 – The overall impression of this way-too-highly ranked Vols team is about as enthusiastic as the response you’ll get from anybody who has seen “I Am Legend”, but we’re willing to give Bruce Pearl a little more rope than Will Smith.
- Georgetown and Memphis, Sat. 12/22 – On a weekend of blockbusters this is undoubtedly the biggest game of the year thus far that didn’t involve Cal State East Bay playing a country we’re currently occupying.
- Texas at Michigan St., Sat. 12/22 – Everybody is slowly finding out how good Texas is, but this may the game we find out how good the Spartans are.