WeAreDePaul.com Bubble Report - 11/28/05

In this report WeAreDePaul.com's Mike Adam muses on the NFL and the College Basketball scene.

A couple of random thoughts to start:

If you had said, as Rex Grossman was writhing on the ground in St. Louis, that the Bears would be 8-3 and have a legitimate shot at home-field advantage throughout the playoffs three months later, you would have been considered delusional. Yet here we are. Question, Bears' fans – of the probable playoff teams, which one worries you the most? My nomination? Dallas. They can run the ball. They have a solid, although not great, defense. And they have mountains of playoff experience among people like Parcells, Bledsoe, Keyshawn, etc. One step at a time, though, I suppose. Let's get the Bears qualified for the playoffs first.

I always seem to come back to commercials in this section. Today, I needed an explanation for that Visa commercial that keeps popping up with the woman who is about to start the snowboard race but can't seem to make her way up to the platform. The coach tries various tactics to get her ready for the race, then says to her, "Pretend like your Visa check card was just stolen", which magically gets her ready to race.

Okay, what? I have used hundreds of motivational tools to get ready for competitions, and I can honestly say my Visa check card has never helped me get mentally prepared. So I went and looked up the explanation of the commercial. For those interested, here you go: www.usolympicteam.com/11485_40176.htm The long and short of the ad is that you're supposed to feel confident when your Visa check card is stolen that nothing bad will happen, and that confidence is supposed to transfer over to a snowboard race.

Can you say "reach"? It would seem to me that if you were about to start a race, you'd want to be slightly on edge to take advantage of the adrenaline rush you're going to feel. I know if my check card was stolen, I'd be hauling my rear end down that mountain as fast as possible so I could go figure out where the heck it was, not feeling comfortable that I had zero liability. I officially don't get it.

Finally, I know I tend to rip on basketball announcers, and these guys are extremely easy targets, but the Sunday Night NFL announcing crew is absolutely brutal. I could do a running diary on these goofs with ease, but there were two glaring moments that caught my attention:

1) Joe Theismann remarked that Jim Haslett should be Coach of the Year for making the Saints competitive through all they've endured. I'm not going to pretend to know anything anyone associated with Katrina has endured, but to say that Jim Haslett is doing a good job is a bit of a stretch. Aaron Brooks continually throws interceptions not because he's distracted by Hurricane Katrina. He continually throws interceptions because he's an erratic quarterback. Teams run all over the Saints not because the Saints are distracted by Hurricane Katrina. Teams run all over the Saints because they've historically had a bad run defense and have done nothing to upgrade it.

To put it another way, if the Indianapolis Colts were the team displaced by Hurricane Katrina, would they be 2-8 right now? Highly, highly doubtful. They probably would not be 10-0, but they'd be a playoff contender. So to say that Jim Haslett should be Coach of the Year under these circumstances is to say that anyone who happened to be coach of the New Orleans Saints in late August when the hurricane hit should be coach of the year, and that's nonsense.

2) Sideline interviews are usually nothing but fluffy filler. Of the 65,000 sideline interviews I think I've witnessed, I can remember exactly two: a) when Joe Namath was drunk and made a pass at Suzy Kolber a couple years back and b) when Peyton Manning called Mike Vanderjagt an "idiot kicker". That's why the interview with Ernie Conwell right before the game was so notable to me. He eloquently described to Kolber the issues the Saints are facing personally and professionally as a result of the hurricane. Conwell is in the "know", too, because he's the Vice President of the NFL Players Union.

So the interview finishes, and Kolber throws it back to Mike Patrick. What was Patrick's reaction to the interview? Did it stimulate any sort of feedback thought from Patrick? Nope. His next statement was, "The Visa Sky Cam is brought to you by Visa! The Visa Sky Cam…" I understand that you script a broadcast to make it run smoothly, but you also need to be aware when something important is said. It was like Patrick wasn't even paying attention.

It wasn't a complete disaster by the group, though. I was shocked that it was Paul Maguire, of all people, who had the most coherent thought of the night. At the start of the second quarter, Patrick asked both Theismann and Maguire, "If you're a free agent, what would make you go play for the New Orleans Saints next year?" Theismann hemmed and hawed and arrived at the insightful answer of (paraphrased), "Well, it's a difficult situation." Duh. It was Maguire who stepped up and said (paraphrased), "I would need a lot of money, I would need assurances that my family was going to be taken care of, and I would need to be assured that wherever we were next year, we would be there for a long time." Thank you, Paul, for stepping up and saying what we were all thinking.

On to basketball…

This Week in the Big East

Cincinnati: Well, the Bearcats have moved to 3-0 with two home victories this week. First, they defeated Illinois State 76-59, then easily dispatched Holy Cross 77-55. Dayton is next up on Tuesday, then their first true challenge, hosting Memphis.

Connecticut: The Huskies are the champions of the 2005 Maui Classic, dispatching Arkansas (77-68 ), Arizona (79-70) and Gonzaga (65-63) in three consecutive days. The rest of the pre-conference schedule doesn't pose much of a threat to the 4-0 Huskies, as every game remaining is at home and none against a BCS-conference team. Tuesday, they host Army and Friday, followed by a visit Friday from Texas Southern.

Georgetown: That's two straight road wins to open the season for the Hoyas, as they went to James Madison and beat the Dukes 73-66. (No word on whether Randolph and Mortimer played in the game.) However, in a mild surprise, the Vanderbilt Commodores came to the nation's capital and escaped with a 68-61 win. Only one game this week for Georgetown, a tricky test at Oregon.

Louisville: The Cardinals didn't play this week, and it's clear their strategy for this season was to conserve pre-conference energy for conference scrums. They host the "Colonial Classic" this upcoming weekend, which will feature games against Prairie View A&M, Arkansas State and Richmond. (Sheesh, Richmond is popping up everywhere, aren't they?)

Marquette: The Golden Gold went up to Alaska and won the "Great Alaska Shootout" with consecutive victories over Eastern Washington, Oral Roberts and South Carolina. Now they visit Nebraska on Wednesday before hosting South Dakota State on Saturday.

Notre Dame: The Irish moved to 2-0 with a 19-point victory at home on Tuesday versus the Flying Dutchmen of Hofstra, then lost in Indianapolis to North Carolina State 61-48 on Saturday. These are the types of wins Notre Dame has been unable to consistently secure and end up haunting them come Selection Sunday. The Fighting Irish only have one game this week, hosting Michigan.

Pitt: Pitt has a non-descript 3-0 to their credit, easily handling both Robert Morris (86-59) and Maine (62-49) at home. This week brings two more home games, St. Francis (NY) and Auburn.

Providence: The Friars kicked off their season with an 87-77 win over Vermont, admittedly a Catamount team that's much different without graduating seniors Taylor Coppenrath, T. J. Sorrentine, and Coach Tom Brennan. They followed up that effort with a 75-51 waxing of New Hampshire. This week is a busy travel week, as Providence faces road games against Fairfield, Wichita State and Rhode Island.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights moved to 2-0 on Tuesday with a 49-42 win over Delaware State. They then traveled to South Padre Island, where they beat Kent State 55-52 before getting blasted by Illinois 77-57. Temple looms on the schedule on Wednesday, followed by a trip to St. Mary's.

Seton Hall: Seton Hall chilled this week. They'll take their 2-1 record into a contest tonight versus St. Peter's, then travel to Richmond on Thursday.

St. John's: St. John's battles Pitt as being the most non-descript 3-0 team in the conference with their two home wins over St. Francis (NY) (64-50) and Niagara (67-61). This week provides two more manageable challenges for the Red Storm: home games versus Hofstra and Charleston Southern.

South Florida: The Bulls are still undefeated, which is something you can rarely say about them two weeks into the season. They defeated Jacksonville 91-78 to move to 2-0. This week holds a match-up at Florida International, followed by a trip to Springfield, Missouri to play Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the first round of the Price Cutter Classic.

Syracuse: It's stunning that the Orange have two losses this early, but Bucknell went to the Carrier Dome and tagged one on them, as we all noted earlier this week. The Orange rebounded to beat Siena (96-77) to take their overall record to 4-2. Two more home games (gee, what a surprise) await this week – first against Manhattan, then TCU.

Villanova: The Wildcats cruised to their second win, a home victory over Lehigh last night. This week has a neutral site game with Rider that shouldn't be too interesting, followed by a visit from Oklahoma, which may make the "Ed Hochuli Power Game of the Week" (to be explained below).

West Virginia: The Pittsnogles took it on the chin three times this week. First, they lost by a point to Texas, 76-75. Then Kentucky handed them an 80-66 defeat. Finally, in a hard-fought game, they lost at home to LSU, 71-68 in overtime. No shame in any of these losses, but any of them turning into victories would have been shiny on an NCAA resume.

Non-Conference Opponents

Bradley: Well, DePaul isn't the only team the Braves can beat. Bradley moved to 2-0 with a sluggish 68-58 victory over Chicago State on Saturday. Bradley continues to play the "Chicago Invitational" this week by visiting Loyola on Wednesday, then host Bowling Green on Saturday.

Northwestern: It was a bit of a struggle, but the Wildcats finally pushed their way past Florida Atlantic 69-59 earlier in the week before their visit to DePaul. Northwestern is 3-2 with a trip to Virginia looming on Wednesday, followed by hosting Delaware State on Saturday.

Northern Illinois: After a tune-up pasting of Aurora College (102-61), the Huskies welcome DePaul tonight, who is currently setting up their zone in NIU's parking lot. Saturday already brings their first MAC game of the year, hosting Toledo.

Creighton: The Blue Jays are as steady as they come. They start the week with a 20-point thrashing at George Mason, then fought to a 91-90 double-overtime victory over Dayton. DePaul is Creighton's only game upcoming this week.

Bucknell: Pay attention, everyone. The Bison's win was at Syracuse. Were they a fluke last year? It doesn't appear so. Bucknell plays Niagara before they head to the Windy City on Saturday.

UAB: The Blazers handled UMass 86-77 in their season opener, followed by an easy win over South Carolina State. Interesting games at home versus Western Kentucky and at Nebraska are coming this week for Mike Anderson's squad.

Dayton: Uh, oh. Danger, Will Robinson. A 58-42 loss at Miami (OH) to start the week might indicate that Mr. Gregory's squad could be in for another mediocre season. The Flyers rebounded for a simple victory over Morehead State (67-41), then lost in the already-mentioned scramble against Creighton. An unusual trio of opponents awaits this week: at Cincinnati, then hosting Pepperdine and Grambling.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons cruised right along this week, first with a 16-point victory over UNC-Asheville, then a 13-point victory over Appalachian State. As part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Wisconsin comes visiting Wake Forest on Tuesday, then a game against local Elon College.

Old Dominion: In the finals in the Virgin Islands, Old Dominion played Wisconsin basically to a draw before bowing to an 84-81 loss. They came back to the mainland and thrashed Mount St. Mary's 80-57 to move their record to 3-1. This week's schedule includes games at VMI and at home versus East Carolina.

California: Cal scored its first win of the season with an 88-69 victory over Long Beach State. That victory was followed by two more at the end of the week, over Northern Colorado (83-59) and Northeastern (83-76). San Jose State and Akron come visiting Berkeley this week.

Florida International: On the "MolsonBlue" watch, FIU fell to 1-2 with a road loss at Florida A&M. This week, they play South Florida, then non-Division I Florida Tech.

Aggregate overall D-I record: 26-10

Other Games of Note This Week

Ed Hochuli "Power Game of the Week"

My buddy Steve has been calling for a special nod to our favorite NFL referee in this section for some time now, and I've finally found a way to incorporate him. Many of you are aware of Mr. Hochuli's work, but in case you're not, pay attention the next time he's refereeing a game. His biceps rival those of a WWE wrestler. He could easily play offensive line for the Houston Texans. His calls are emphatic and generally include the phrase "by rule".

Needless to say, we love Ed Hochuli. Here's a picture for your admiration: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Hochuli The capping sentence from wikipedia: "He [Hochuli] is also known for his unusually muscular frame compared to other NFL referees, most notably his biceps." Long live Hochuli!

So the most "powerful" game of the week will be awarded the "Ed Hochuli Power Game of the Week". "Power" will be determined by quality of play by highly-rated teams (quite subjective, I know). This week's nomination is pretty clear, though:

Gonzaga 109, Michigan State 106 (3 OT). Seriously, how good of a game was this? Consider the following:

- The two teams combined to go 53-for-57 from the free throw line.

- Neither team led by more than five points for the last 30 minutes of the game.

- Maurice Ager of Michigan State, en route to scoring 36 points, picked up his fourth foul with 18:49 to go in the second half and didn't foul out until near the end of the third overtime (practically 34 game minutes). He also managed to attempt an astounding 17 3-point shots, hitting seven.

- Ager and Adam Morrison of Gonzaga (43 points) garnered the most headlines. However, other superb efforts were turned in by J. P. Batista of Gonzaga (22 points, 13 rebounds) and Paul Davis of Michigan State (26 points, 13 rebounds).

Other games…

St. Xavier 74, UIC 73; UIC 73, Georgia Tech 51. Someone make sense of these two scores for me?

Iowa 67, Kentucky 63. Iowa is coming out of the gate blazing again this year with a nice win over the Wildcats. Stop me if the Hawkeyes have told this story before, only to get rocked in the Big Ten and barely stumble into the NCAA Tournament.

Alaska Anchorage 82, Southern Illinois 74. Ooh, what happened here? Maybe the rest of the Missouri Valley is smelling blood in the water?

Iona 89, Iowa State 72. When you play in something called the "Cyclone Challenge" and your team nickname is not the "Cyclones", I would imagine that prospects are not high that your team will be winning the "challenge". Yet Iona was undaunted by the task, went into Ames, and stomped on Iowa State.

Wofford 81, Toccoa Falls 15. Those of you who read Gregg Easterbrook on nfl.com know that he enjoys including an obscure football score of the week. This score was way too easy to pass up as the obscure basketball score of the week. Toccoa Falls is located in Georgia, and it seems like a happy place: www.tfc.edu/ They are a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (the "NCCAA"), Division II. The first sentence on the athletics page says, "There is more to the Christian athlete than winning games", which kind of sets the stage for how this game ended up where it did. The Eagles were held scoreless in this game for a stretch of 15 minutes at one point and managing to shoot 5-for-50 from the field, including 2-for-29 from 3-point range. I hope Wofford is proud of themselves.

Until next week, let's go Demons.

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