Sunday, January 25, 2009

Being Average Is Frustrating

The UO basketball team is 0-8 in Pac-10 play right now. Perhaps when you read this they are 1-8 or 0-9, it really does not matter. Given the team's track record over the last nine years (the amount of time I have followed the team) one cannot be the least bit surprised that they would not be very good this year. Would one expect them to be one of the worst BCS conference schools? Doubtful. But hey, when the coach is able to set expectations at the beginning of the year and the local media and fans find that acceptable then an epically bad team is what you get. Just so you know, when it comes to most things in life I am not big on excuses. If you find this post infuriating, then you probably love to find excuses when things go wrong and will therefore not agree.

My assertion: Over the last nine years the Ducks are nothing more than an average Division I college basketball team. If being average is acceptable then I think the team and its staff is constructed in just the right way. If one aspires to be better than average then, well, it's not brain surgery.

Let's start with indisputable facts. Most of the historical information was found at
  • According to Ken Pomeroy, who is a math guy that tries to approximate the RPI, the Ducks are 139 out 344 (as of 11:20am on an 31, 2009). That really is not that good. There are all of 5 teams from BCS Conferences rated lower.
  • Over the last nine years the team has had an average (mean) finish of 5.5 in the Pac-10 Conference. So that nothing gets past anyone, the Pac-10 only has ten teams. From 2000-01 to 2008-09 the Ducks standing in the Pac-10 has been (6, 1, 5, 4, 8, 7, 3, 6, 10).
  • Since the Pac-10 Tournament returned the Ducks have been 10-4, with two titles. They missed the tournament entirely one year but that will never happen again since all teams are invited now.
  • The Ducks have been to the NCAA tournament four out of nine years, advancing to the Elite Eight twice and losing the first game twice.
  • The Ducks have been to the NIT a couple of times. For me, the NIT means absolutely nothing. All that is needed is a .500 record, which this day and age (30+ games and a ton of nonconference cupcakes) is not a big deal.

Okay now that the basic facts have been laid out there, some analysis is needed.

1. The last nine years of UO basketball have proven one thing: The Ducks are consistently inconsistent. The team has finished in the bottom half of the conference five out of nine times. The Pac-10 is nowhere near the strongest conference. My sources tell me the Ducks have had more talent during this run than at any other time in the program's history. My eyes tell me talented players have worn the jersey but really spotty team play has characterized the on-court performance.

2. I have not really seen a legitimate offense too often. Watching exceptionally fast-paced play is a lot of fun but it seems only a select few can actually thrive in that system. This year's offense in particular has been an abomination. My junior high team ran some set plays that required a bit more creativity than high post screens at the three-point line and long range three-pointers. I'm far from an expert but when Mike Montgomery puts Yao Ming's cousin in the game just to shove it in the Ducks' faces that he is one helluva coach that would be a good time to get the ball to the only good post player I have ever seen wear the green and gold.

3. I was unaware that freshmen players have to suck for the first few years. If I have to hear or read about a the Ducks having a young team one more time I will cry. Just last year I had to hear that the experienced Ducks were at a disadvantage because all of the good players were freshmen. This year, it is the exact opposite story. It simply makes no sense. Michael Dunigan is routinely talked about in the paper as very young and in need of a lot of seasoning. The best way to get that done is to play the guy, though it seems foul trouble does get in his way. I'm not sure he was in foul trouble at Cal but I think he was pulled out of the game for displaying a phenomenal post move, the drop-step daddy dunk. Perhaps he wasn't taken out immediately after but that play alone should have warranted a few more touches.

4. The coaches seem to be in complete denial. After every loss the team is "really close to getting over the hump" and "didn't quite execute the game plan." Am I the only one that actually watches the game? When multiple teams shoot their season-high field goal percentage it probably is not a reflection of really lucky shooting. When a team loses by 15+ points that is not a positive thing. It does not matter if things looked good for 18 minutes, the game is 40 minutes in duration. By the same token, a "close loss," anything less than ten I suppose, may not be that close. Last week's Cal game being a perfect example. At no point were the Ducks out of the game but at no point did it seem they had a chance to win. It is a hard feeling to describe but if you have felt it you know what I am talking about.

5. There also seems to be a lot of weird finger pointing. I remember when Aaron Brooks was a struggling junior I heard it was Luke Ridnour's fault because he left early and did not tutor Brooks. Really? Then last year the team did not meet expectations and it was because Brooks decided to enter the NBA draft after playing four years. How selfish could one be? The talk about having a really young team and making that an excuse is pathetic. When a team has a ton of seniors it is reasonable to expect that the team the following year will be young. As far as I can tell that is the only thing that can be assumed. Assuming that a team has to be awful because it is young seems like a bit of a stretch for me. Those are general themes, if you read a game report you can find numerous excuses for why something did not happen. Personally, I find great joy in trying to guess what those might be. If you want to try it, my only advice if you want to be correct is to try and be outlandish in your guesses.

6. The UO needs to offer a night class on how to properly arrange a team schedule. For the last eight years the preseason schedule has been chocked full of teams that are rated less than 250 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings. As much as I would love to see teams of lesser quality than those invited to the Les Schwab Invitational, a college gymnasium is not where I want to see them. Then what do you know, this year the schedule could be classified as ambitious and the team is full of freshmen (see above). Again, another point of bewilderment for me. Last year's team had all seniors and played very weak teams, this year's team has all freshman and plays decent teams. It should be fun watching a paper tiger in the early part of the season next year as the experienced bunch plays cupcakes. If history is any indicator of things to come then the opening of Matt Court should be hosting such heavyweights as: North Florida, Furman, Dartmouth, Sac State, Army, and Longwood. Should be easy to pay off the state bonds with those Final Four favorites. I don't know who is to blame for the scheduling but one would think the coaches and administrators are the culprits.

7. I was not aware that if a team recruits good guys that graduate then it means they cannot be good for the duration of their career. It is not a bad thing that the Ducks have good guys but I doubt they are the only team with good guys. Very few times do I hear about college teams rampant with jerks on the roster. For the most part it seems the vast majority of college players are guys you wouldn't mind your kids being friends with. There also is not a problem with players graduating but I don't think that is an excuse for bad on-court performances. Unless things have changed drastically since I graduated, the UO would never be confused for an Ivy League school. When all is said and done I do not think responsible men and consistent winning are mutually exclusive.

8. This does not necessarily reflect poorly on the basketball program but the local newspaper is an enabler. I get that there is only one show in town and if that show does not want to talk then one is screwed. I don't think that means the Register-Guard has to be an extension of the UO SID. After every failed weekend, you can count on a heartwarming off-the-court tale just like you can count on clouds in the sky. You can go to the paper's basketball blog and easily confuse it for There is a weekly update on players from the past and how well they are doing on and off the court. I suppose that is good but let's have a little bit of accountability. My favorite was when LeKendric Longmire (who did redshirt) was asked if he thinks all freshmen should be required to redshirt. This was clearly a question to placate the "there should not be any expectations placed on freshmen" crowd. Given the success of countless freshmen every single season, that is one of the worst questions ever asked.

I suppose this is as good a place to stop as any. If after reading this you think my expectations are that the Ducks should win Pac-10 Championships year after year and routinely make the Sweet Sixteen, then you are not a very good reader. I simply believe that the Ducks have the potential and should be a better-than-average program. Routinely finishing in the top half a respectable conference and therefore going to the NCAAs more times than not does not seem too ridiculous. I am okay with baby steps as long as they are forward. When Washington State is better equipped at rebuilding after having tremendous success it is time something happen. Oh wait, you're to tell me they are not having an epically bad year this year? And playing down to the level, or even comparing oneself to Oregon State, is a place I never thought the Ducks would be. If this is acceptable to you then you will leave a nasty comment on here and I am fine with that. I will leave you with one question to consider before commenting: Is there such a thing as a good coach or program that is by definition average?

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Distant Memory

I suspect I may be writing a scathing blog about a certain UO team so I will try to endear myself to Duck fans by railing on Notre Dame football. This post is slightly dated but is something I have to do.

I grew up a huge Notre Dame fan. When I was a kid my family did not have cable (my parents waited until I left for college) so I only watched the games that were on the national networks. Add to that the fact that my dad is a Catholic from Iowa and there was only one team to watch. We would spend every fall Saturday watching Notre Dame beat up on people. We visited the campus, I purchased and still have a #3 jersey and I subscribed to Blue & Gold Illustrated. Name any player from the 90s and I remember them.

It will be a very long time before I forget watching Notre Dame defeat Florida State, then lose shortly thereafter to Boston College. I remember it like it was yesterday. Over the course of a week our basement in Virginia saw a wide range of emotions from a 10-year-old. I also remember Lou Holtz running out onto the field in a big game (can't remember the opponent) and pulling a player off of the field for being an idiot. I read books about great Notre Dame coaches, memorized lines in Rudy and even caught NBC's one or two obligated broadcasts of Notre Dame basketball. Who can forget the great LaPhonso Ellis?

I say all of this because the Notre Dame I grew to love no longer exists. And it has nothing to do with the won-loss record. There is one (well, he's nearly the size of three) man that has screwed Notre Dame up to a point where I hope the team fails. Charlie Weis is a joke. He has managed to ruin something that was once great. As this last season unfolded I hoped Notre Dame would lose every game. I tried not to watch their games because it was embarrassing. If only I had decided not to watch their bowl game. After seeing that abomination I have no choice but to renounce my membership in the Notre Dame fan club. Let's review:

1. This day in age it is not very nice to make fun of anyone for any reason but Charlie Weis is too easy. He is an arrogant snob who curses the individual that decided donuts should have holes in them. The guy is so pathetic that he sued the doctors that botched his shrink-the-stomach surgery. Not sure what the medical name of it is. I mean come on, take Obama's advice and be responsible for your own actions coach. Your lack of care for yourself (this includes the snot running down your upper lip into your mouth on cold days) reflects poorly on the team.

2. At first, you may think the first point is a low blow but it leads to a greater point, Charlie Weis' laziness translates into the way he coaches. His inability to pull his face out of a pasta dish has left his players far too cocky for a .500 team. And even worse, he is so lazy that he has pulled an Ernie Kent and dumbed down the Notre Dame schedule. As I grew up I always knew Notre Dame was going to play quite a few top teams. Now, Weis has decided the best way to save a job is to play the absolute worst BCS conference teams, every military school and USC. How can a true Notre Dame fan stand behind such a schedule?

3. Jimmy Clausen is a chump. During the Lou Holtz days a guy like Clausen would not even be allowed to step on campus, let alone quarterback the team. No one has had so much hype and been such a pansy. Watching him think he was the greatest player ever at the Hawaii Bowl made me puke. After every touchdown he would taunt the Hawaii sidelines and fans. Hawaii's defense was so bad it would be the same as me taunting third graders at a spelling bee. I look forward to the day that Clausen gets drilled by a military school linebacker and has to be carted off the field.

4. I have been over the coach being a lazy (insert any four-letter word you prefer) and having that trickle down through the program. You add to that the fact that the team loses more than it ever has and you have a sports equivalent to California's budget crisis. I'm all for losing control of a team if you win games but games must be won.

5. People go back and forth on loving and hating Notre Dame. It is this way because they used to be dominant. Now, they are anything but. There is no way anyone under 20 cares one way or the other about Notre Dame. They are now terrible. A lot of people point to losing Syracuse this last year as a really bad moment because the Orange had such a pitiful record. What seems to be forgotten is that Syracuse had already fired its coach before the game started. In the future this should be written into every coach's contract: If you lose at home against a team with less than three wins that has already fired its coach you must be terminated without compensation.

It would be too easy to point out what is wrong with Notre Dame without providing some solutions. The program has fallen apart and I have a very simple two-step solution. By following this advice Notre Dame may be able to save face.

1. Hire a head coach. Weis seemed to do a fine job calling plays from the press box during the bowl game. He was able to sit down, drink lots of soda, venture over to the press box buffet, drink lots of soda, partake in some chips and dip and eat some more buffet. As long as the intern remembers to laminate the play sheet to avoid grease marks Weis would be perfect for the OC job at Notre Dame.

2. Join the WAC. The WAC would still let their games be broadcast on NBC so that would not be a problem. By joining the WAC, Notre Dame would be able to improve its strength of schedule and slowly but surely win back respect. It would not be an overnight turnaround but it would be a step in the right direction.

If it is decided that this process is too involved, the school could easily just fire Weis all together and bring in a real coach with enough dignity to restore the luster to the gold helmet. It is up to those that actually have a vested interest in Notre Dame to make that happen. My days as one that cares about Notre Dame are over. It is sad to admit but I have to do it. I would be a terrible father if I rooted for a coach and a team that was so lame.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ready To Explode

Let this post serve as a warning. There is a Pac-10 basketball team that is one loss away from making me lose my mind. For the life of this blog I have been holding my tongue but things have gotten so pathetic I may have to let loose. Here is one clue as to which team I am referring to: They are two games behind Oregon State in the conference standings. That my friends, is the definition of pathetic. The same Oregon State team that did not win a single Pac-10 game last year and whose coach took a vacation for part of this week. Perhaps the unnamed school might want a similar schedule next week for its coach.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Greatest Day Ever

President Barack Obama has taken over so all of our worries can go out the window. If he can't fix our problems then no one can. Though it seems he has an incredibly difficult job ahead of him all he needs to do if something goes wrong is blame Bush and no one will think twice. It does not matter if it is something that happens years from now or if it is a natural disaster that happens in the Great Lakes Region. I say all of this mostly tongue-in-cheek and actually hope he can pull everything off he wants to.

To call the man ambitious would be an understatement. Most families in America can't make necessary changes over the course of a presidency but Pres. Obama and his supporters seem to think he can change an entire country. It seems far-fetched to me but I am just being a downer. I am a bit more realistic so here are my suggestions for Pres. Obama and America for the next couple of years:

1. Let's just leave his daughters alone. Maybe it is because I have a daughter but are we that pathetic that we have to follow their every move? And please do not tell me that the daughter's outfits are so, so cute. No matter what a young girl wears, they are going to look cute.

2. Is it possible for a president to age gracefully while in office? The only presidents I really remember in my lifetime have been Clinton and the second Bush. Following their eight years of service they looked 20 years older.

3. Keep his word on one thing and one thing only. As I have mentioned he has set up quite a lineup of things to take on but the one that interests me the most is getting rid of government programs that are a waste. As one who thinks a vast majority of government programs are a waste I will be interested in seeing what fat gets cut. My premonition is that if any fat is cut it will only be replaced by more (think of a typical Oprah diet if you need a visual), but we will have to wait and see.

This list is not very daunting and should be very easy for Pres. Obama and Americans to tackle together. If it were just these two parties, something may actually get done. I hope all the best for Pres. Obama but suspect dealing with all of the clowns in Congress could make life more difficult than anything else.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Actual vs. Observed

Today is not Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. It is the day we observe his birthday. Is it so hard to figure out? He was born on January 15th, the same day as my father. It is my assumption that since my dad celebrates his birthday on the 15th that MLK, Jr's birthday is the same every year. I completely understand why his birthday is observed today, just don't look foolish next year and assume that because you have the day off (you must work for the government) it is MLK's actual birthday.

I will give everyone a pass on it this year since David Gregory screwed this up. For those that don't know him he is now the moderator of Meet the Press. Only people that are complete nerds watch that when they are in their mid 20s, I get that. While the rest of you watched the Eagles storm back I watched a rerun of the show and heard Gregory mention that King would be 80 today. I was stupefied by his idiocy, but managed to watch the rest of the show. I am sure I screw things up on a daily basis too so I will let it go. But just this once, David.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Warning, I'm Back!

It has been far too long. I was caught up in the holiday rush and neglected this blog. The Internet has suffered as a result and I apologize. It seems as though my wife is tired of hearing me ramble on and on and on about topics that have my interest right now. Some of the topics are away from the world of sports. So hold on because I may touch on something in the next few weeks that is near and dear to your heart. If I do, do not take offense. Consider it a compliment that I am paying attention to something of interest to you. As of now the line up for talking points will include (in no particular order): policemen, Duck men's basketball, teachers' unions, Notre Dame football, the changing of the guard in D.C., state governments, the juggernaut that is Duck football and whatever else strikes a nerve with me. I have been known to hold punches but that will stop so expect some gems. If a certain team starts their conference season 0-8 in the Bay Area next weekend, you will know exactly what I am talking about. On a lighter note, I hope 2009 is starting strong for you. If not, keep this blog in mind for when you need light reading.