Notes From Wonderland: Thoughts from Cali

ANAHEIM – It's been a little too long since I've written a proper column. Things have been so crazy with staff changes, football recruiting, magazine commitments, the Holidays and my recent engagement. I'm away from Tucson, in LA covering the USC and UCLA games and it seemed like a good time to get back into writing my column.

Random thoughts from a an Anaheim hotel while waiting to go to Pauley Pavilion…

I watched my first NBA game since the Lakers/Sacramento game seven last year. I bought into the hype and settled into watch the much-ballyhooed Shaq/Yao match-up. I actually wasn't expecting much, but the first 10 minutes or so exceeded the hype. Yao had three blocks and six points in the game's opening minutes. "Could this be as good as I hoped?" I thought, NO it couldn't. Shaq found his groove and scored 31. Yao had 10 boards, but scored just four more points the rest of the way. Oh well…

My official take on the controversial calls in football games over the past few weeks:

Ohio State/Miami-It wasn't pass interference, but it looks like the Miami defender was guilty of holding near the goal line. Tough call.

Giants/49ers-Bad call, but what are you going to do? I was rooting for the Giants and was outraged at first…but that was when I thought the refs blew the rule. I thought flags were thrown for both illegal receiver AND pass interference. For 24 hours I was upset. Then I realized that the moronic ref didn't throw the flag on the pass interference because he thought it was against the ineligible receiver. The ref screwed up, but refs screw up all the time. I'm upset, but I'm just as upset at Jeremy Shockey for dropping the touchdown pass and Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire for picking up retaliation fouls when Terrell Owens was trying, begging to give them 15 extra yards. I'm also upset that one of the Giants' coaches did not remind the holder that he could fall on the ball and call timeout.

Steelers/Titans-Yes, Joe Nedney was acting, BUT he was run into. It was a penalty with or without the added acting.

Henry Bibbly blamed the refs for the loss. He wasn't alone. An older Trojan booster stood in front of press row after the game and told the writers that the refs were, "scared of Lute Olson." He kept asking how many free throws did the Trojans get in the second half. While there was an obvious advantage in free throws to the Cats, I happen to think it was the 5:00+ scoreless streak and the 1-16 second half shooting slump that killed the Trojans.

I'm calling it right now. Creighton and Butler will be in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Everyone is worried about Jason Gardner's scoring slump, but not many people are talking about the rest of his game. His defense is solid, he's passing great and he pulled down 10 rebounds against USC. The Cats don't need him to score 20 a game anymore. While I'd like to see the shot falling more consistently, the Cats need him with 14 points and 6 assists, not 20 and three.

LA radio is strange. On the UCLA post game show the callers were blasting Lavin, but the two hosts kept blaming the talent. They actually supported Lavin more than criticizing him. Finally a caller asked, "Isn't Lavin responsible for bringing in talent?" The hosts backtracked a little, before one blurted, "Well, if the Bruins had Evan Burns they'd be much better. How were they supposed to know he wouldn't get in?" Uhm, err…didn't anyone who remotely follows college basketball recruiting know that Evan Burns had academic woes? Weren't we all surprised when the Bruins brought him in?

By the way, as a Wildcat fan I'd love to see Lavin stay. A good coach at UCLA could do some damage.

Can you imagine if the Eagles and Raiders go to the Super Bowl? The Philly fans are tough and the Raider fans are, well, the Raider fans. You get a group that boo Santa Claus and cheer compound fractures in the same stadium as a group of fans that have to call their parole officers at half time. Memo to San Diego, lock up your women and children.

The Cats are bringing in a good football recruiting class. They still have a ways to go, but have the talent in place to be pretty good sooner than later. Their biggest problem next season is their schedule. In addition to the Pac-10, they face three bowl teams in TCU, Purdue and LSU.

Texas recruiting guru David Garvin told me that RB recruit Brenton Bolden is a great get.

"Wildcat fans should be excited about this kid," Garvin said.

My one question about recruiting is, why can't the Cats land defensive tackles?. If you are remotely good you can come in and play right away. Last year they signed one and this year they have one signed and another "soft" verbal commitment.

I keep waiting for the Cats to put out a classified as:
Up and coming D-I football program seeks 18-year-old defensive tackle for immediate playing time. 300+ pounds preferred. If interested call John M…

If you liked Grand Theft Auto 3, you'll love GTA Vice City. The game isn't for kids. It's like Miami Vice meets Scarface meets Godfellas. It's violent, but it is a lot of fun.

If Hassan Adams can consistently knock down the three he'll be "scary good".

Channing Frye attributes his success in the Pac-10 in part to less schoolwork. Frye takes more classes in the fall semester and had a ton of finals and a project due towards the end of the semester, which is also the beginning of the season. He takes a lighter load in the spring and feels that less academic pressure allows him to dedicate more energy to basketball.

LeBron James has a Hummer…who cares? His games are on pay per view, his school charges opponents to play them, Slam Magazine's highest selling issue had him on the cover. He didn't see any of that money. He's not going to college so who cares? I think it is a stupid purchase for a family that doesn't have a lot of money. I don't see why he can't wait until he's drafted, or at least until he signs with an agent, but it's not my place to criticize. No one complains when a 16-year old tennis player drives a Mercedes, but it's wrong for an 18-year old basketball player to drive a Hummer. At least LeBron is still in high school. Ever hear of Ty Tryon? He dropped out of high school to join the PGA tour.

The scary thing is that the Cats still aren't clicking on all cylinders. What happens when Gardner, Walton and the rest of the team start putting it together? I'll just let you sit there and smile while you think about the possibilities.

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