So in the past seven days, New Orleans hammered Dallas at Dallas, then lost to lowly Washington in the Superdome, and Seattle got bonked at home by San Francisco. ESPN is running out of chic NFC Super Bowl picks not named "Bears". I'm bracing for a week of Philadelphia Eagles stories about how they were left for dead, and Jeff Garcia is resurrecting his career, and blah, blah, blah. Of course, the Bears didn't exactly do much to instill confidence that they are the best team in the NFC Sunday, but hey – home field is home field, however you get it. I'm of the philosophy that you can win a game by either being better than the other team or being less bad than the other team. It still counts the same in the standings. By the way, are we bad Americans in Chicago because we're not rooting for the Saints to make the Super Bowl so Drew Brees can play his old team, the Chargers?
I think I speak for Bulls' fans everywhere when I say to the Philadelphia 76ers, "Would you hurry up and trade Allen Iverson already?" The longer Philly inactivates him and doesn't do the "35 cents on the dollar" trade we're all expecting, the more games they're going to lose, and the better the chance they end up with a worse draft pick than the Knicks. As we all know, that pick is on its way to the Bulls, and it currently stands to be the #4 pick based on lottery probability.
You probably haven't noticed, (and as Bob Uecker would say, "…and judging by attendance, you haven't!") but the Blackhawks have won seven of their eleven games since they changed coaches, with two of the four losses occurring in shootouts. Don't worry, though – they are currently exploring all opportunities to trade productive players who might command salary increases at the end of the season.
I was privy to an exclusive conversation this week that occurred between the NFL Network and Terrell Owens, the transcript of which follows below:
NFL Network Executive: "See, Terrell, we have a problem and we think you can help us out."
Owens: "How much you gonna pay me?"
NFL Network Executive: "Well, here's the thing. We can't really afford to pay you, because our network isn't making any money. We were hoping to force the cable providers to put our channel on basic cable, but we keep showing these dog games that nobody cares about. In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea to choose the featured games with a dartboard and a bottle of Everclear, but too late to change it now. Anywho, you haven't been the lead story on SportsCenter for at least 48 hours, and we can help that."
Owens: "So what do I have to do?"
NFL Network: "We were thinking that maybe you could pick someone and spit on him. It's really hard to detect on TV without super slow-motion, and we could discreetly make sure the cameras aren't on you when you do it. But you'd have to admit to it after the game to make sure you and the network get the publicity."
Owens: "Hmm, I like it. Michael Irvin could even still defend me because there'd be no video evidence. And I look good because I'm apologizing for something I didn't have to apologize for."
NFL Network: "There's really no downside here."
Owens: "All right, I'm in."
All the Saturday night spitting fiasco proves is that once again, you can't spell "tool" without "T-O".
And what about the other sideline? Jim Mora, Jr. is not having a great 12 months, is he? Let's start with the end of last season, where he didn't know the tiebreaker procedures for his team's playoff qualification in a regular season game against Tampa Bay. So he frantically searched for a cell phone during the game to call someone to ask. Then, a few weeks ago, his dad comes on the radio and calls the franchise quarterback a "coach killer". Now he goes on a radio station this week and says about the University of Washington coaching job, "if that job's open, you'll find me at the head of the line with my resume in hand ready to take that job". Then he says, "Ha, ha, just kidding." With this sort of buffoonery as a head coach, I expect him to be named the head coach of Montana basketball any day now.
On to this week's games. As always, the standard disclaimer applies: all summaries are assumed correct unless I forgot something or got something wrong. Then they're incorrect.
Bradley: The Braves (6-3) had a light week, but they won their only game in Des Moines against Iowa State, 76-66. This week, they play two games in Peoria against Loyola and Southern Mississippi. These games will finish their non-conference season.
Northwestern: Even though it would hurt DePaul, I feel like Northwestern (5-2) should get knocked down a few RPI rank spots for having to eke out a two-point win at home against Wheaton College this week. This week, the Wildcats will be in Puerto Rico as part of the San Juan Shootout. Their first opponent will be Tennessee Tech, then either Vanderbilt or the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, then Utah, Central Florida, Virginia or Appalachian State. Wow, what a field.
Eastern Illinois: You know, if I recall, Eastern Illinois (3-6) was the original "MolsonBlue Special", but since we've had a nomination for UC-Irvine, that's who will receive this coveted award this year. Anyway, EIU had the week off, but they continue their quest to enter the RPI Top 300 this week with three home games against Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and Western Illinois.
Kentucky: It appears as if the Wildcats (7-3) are starting to roll. They picked up their third consecutive win this week at Louisville, 61-49. The upcoming week holds home games against Santa Clara and Massachusetts. And since UMass just played at Louisville, I wonder if they're staying the week in Kentucky. If they are, I have a great website for them to check out for all the great things to do in Lexington…
Purdue: The Butler did it to the Boilermakers (8-2). Butler handed Purdue its first loss since Thanksgiving in a taut 68-65 decision. This upcoming week, Purdue has two more home games against Wagner and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Kansas: After a week off, "Rock, Chalk" (8-2) is back in action with two home games against Winston Salem State and Boston College. And I have nothing else to add here, so I'm moving on.
Chicago State: I picture Chicago State (4-9) like John Candy and Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", aimlessly wandering the country, exhausted and frustrated, unable to get to the ultimate goal (in this case, a victory). The Cougars posted two more losses this week, at Wisconsin-Green Bay (92-81) and a game effort at Michigan State (69-61). This week, they play two more states that really aren't, Cleveland State and Wright State. Yes, they're both on the road, too.
UAB: The Blazers (6-4) had only one game this week, a loss at Virginia Commonwealth (53-44). They stay in Virginia to play Old Dominion, then go home to play Winston Salem State. (Is there a team in the country that doesn't play Winston Salem State in the pre-conference season?)
Wake Forest: DePaul handed the Demon Deacons (5-4) their third consecutive loss, then they followed it up by losing at Virginia Tech to open the ACC season, 63-60. This upcoming week holds two home games for Wake, against Gardner Webb and Richmond.
Rhode Island: I'm certainly glad that the Demons beat Rhode Island (4-5), but I'm hoping the Rams can get themselves straightened out in a hurry such that they aren't a drain on the schedule. They have but one game, a home one against Boston University.
UC-Irvine: The designated "MolsonBlue Special", UC-Irvine (4-6) split this week. First, they lost at Drake, 76-73 (those pesky Missouri Valley teams), then won a double-overtime home game against Sam Houston State (70-62). The Anteaters will be touring Chicago this week, first playing DePaul, then Loyola.
California: Cal (7-3) spent the week just hanging out, doing a lot of nothing. They get back in action with their last two pre-conference games, hosting Furman, then visiting DePaul.
Northwestern State: The Demons (4-5) played their first of five consecutive road games this week, losing at Hawaii, 89-78. They are off all the way until they visit DePaul on December 29.
This Week in the Big East
Cincinnati: Even though the Bearcats (7-3) split this week, they probably consider the week a successful one. First, they beat cross-town rival Xavier 67-57 before being absolutely destroyed in Indianapolis by Ohio State 72-50. Cincy has one home game this week against North Carolina State.
Connecticut: These summaries are pretty easy to write. "Connecticut beat [insert weak opponent] at home this week [insert lopsided score] to run their record to [insert]-0." See, try it for yourself. Connecticut beat St. Mary's at home this week 89-73 to run their record to 9-0. They have one home game this upcoming week against Pepperdine.
Georgetown: The Hoyas (7-3) had only one game, and they, too, beat Winston Salem State (76-32). I went ahead and looked it up. As of today, Winston Salem State is 0-13, only plays five Division I home games, has already played four current or future DePaul opponents, and has three more on the schedule. That's probably more than anyone ever cared to know about Winston Salem State. Anyway, this upcoming week, Georgetown plays Towson and Navy at home.
Louisville: What an awful week for the Cardinals (4-4). First, they were surprised at home by Massachusetts (72-68 ), then lost at home to in-state rival Kentucky (61-47). If you're going to start pointing at games that DePaul is going to need to win to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, Louisville is starting to shape up as one of those games. They're more bark than bite right now. Louisville has two more home games this week, against Savannah State and Miami (FL).
Marquette: The Golden Gold (9-2) won their only game of the week, a 68-46 home thrashing of Maryland-Baltimore County. They have two home games this week against Oakland and Morgan State.
Notre Dame: The Irish (8-1) took care of business this week at home against Elon, 94-63. Five more consecutive home games await, none of which seem particularly challenging at the moment. Portland and Army are upcoming this week. Don't be surprised if Notre Dame heads to Georgetown on January 6 with a record of 13-1.
Pittsburgh: The Wannstedts (10-1) took it on the chin for the first time this season, losing at Wisconsin 89-75. They have a week of solid competition ahead, playing a "semi-away" game against Oklahoma State (in Oklahoma City), then hosting Dayton.
Providence: The Friars (7-2) sat on their gaudy record this week, as they didn't have a game. This week upcoming, they host Holy Cross and Harvard.
Rutgers: After five consecutive losses to start the season, the Scarlet Knights (4-5) have responded with four consecutive wins. Of course, that fourth win was at home this week against Iona, 66-51, so I wouldn't put Rutgers on the national championship track just yet. This week, they have but one game, hosting Lehigh.
St. John's: The Red Storm (6-3) had the week off, priming for their epic clashes with the New Jersey Institute of Technology (yes, they're a Division I team) and Columbia, both at home this upcoming week.
Seton Hall: The Pirates (5-1) was another one of those teams in chill mode this week. Coming up this week, they have a neutral-site game with Virginia Tech, then host Penn.
South Florida: As well as South Florida (7-1) is playing in the pre-conference season, this could be a good year for them to be a mirror opponent for DePaul – assuming DePaul can beat them twice, of course. They handled Norfolk State in the "Duel in the Desert" in Las Vegas, 87-56. This week, South Florida continues in Las Vegas, playing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UNLV, then host Missouri State.
Syracuse: The Orange (9-2) improved their record with a home win this week over Baylor, 94-71. More home games this week against a pair of Colonial Athletic teams, Drexel and Hofstra.
Villanova: Seriously, colleges need to stagger their finals schedules so that so many teams are not off in a given week. I have a "Bubble Report" to write, and I can only use the same lame jokes so many times in a given column. Villanova (6-2) was off this past week, but they go back into action this week, hosting Rider, then traveling (well, it's the same city) to LaSalle.
West Virginia: The Pittsnogles (7-1) have a solid record, but haven't played the most challenging competition as of yet. This week, they played their first of six consecutive home games, beating Savannah State (76-41). This upcoming week, they have only one game, a home one against The Citadel.
Let's go, Demons.