Friday, March 22, 2013

Where are your Rebel friends NOW??

What was the best part about the first round of the tournament? It obviously involves Marshall Henderson, but that doesn't help to narrow things down very much.

What could it have been?

-Is it the fact that in the first 28 seconds of today's game against Wisconsin, he had already chucked up a fade-away three (that missed), stole the ball at midcourt, and raced back the other way for an out of control layup (that also missed)?
-Is it that he missed 12 out of his first 13 shots, and yet I was ecstatic because Ole Miss was still hanging around and I highly suspected that he was about to go off?
-Is it that he did go off shortly after, scoring 17 points in the final 11 minutes?
-Is it that with Ole Miss's 57-46 upset win, we've all been spared from snoozing through another second of Wisconsin basketball until next season (Except for you dweebs who watch Big Ten: The Journey on BTN)?
-Is it that, despite shooting an abysmal 6 for 21, Marshall Henderson still shot a higher percentage than Wisconsin for the game?
-Is it the fact that a guy for Lasalle did 'the Land Shark' to celebrate his team's 13 over 4 upset against Kansas State? **side note: Guess who Ole Miss plays next.
-Is it that I remembered an old Calvin and Hobbes comic from 1991 where Calvin does 'the Land Shark' at nose level to taunt Susie?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. No, from my vantage point, the top moment has to be the exact instant when I came to the realization that Marshall Henderson looks exactly like Sid from Toy Story.

Such is the legend of Marshall Henderson.


-Despite a poor performance from Trey Burke, Michigan looked pretty good out there. Great games from both Timmy and Uncle Glenn.

-If the Michigan/VCU game were being played anywhere besides the Palace, essentially a home game for Maize and Bromothymol, I would be very, very concerned about their chances tomorrow. I don't know if there was any team that was more impressive than VCU in the first round; the last time I saw a full-court press embarrass a team that badly was when my 7th grade team beat Alanson 61 to 8 in the 2001 season opener.

-As Pops would say, "Boy did Georgetown turn out to be a piece a' CRAP!"

-Gonzaga might be the worst 1 seed that the tournament has ever had. Southern couldn't quite pull the
upset in the end, but I'm pretty sure we all wanted to see that one happen.

-Best uniforms: Southern

-Best matchup of the NBA sons: John Stockton's son (Gonzaga) against Manute Bol's son (Southern)

-Best performance from an NBA son: Timmy Jr. (Michigan) hitting 5 threes against South Dakota State

-Worst performance from an NBA son: Jim Jackson's boy (Wisconsin) throwing up airballs on back-to-back possessions against Marshall Henderson.

-Weirdest attempt to be funny by an announcer: During the Missouri-Colorado State game, the announcer summarized a referee's discussion with one of the coaches by referencing an overrated Seinfeld episode from about 20 years ago. It's not worth finding the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of, "And the ref's response was pretty much, 'No soup for you!'"

-Speaking of jokes that have been played out for decades beyond their natural expiration date, there's yet another Bobby Knight commercial making the rounds with the punch line being that as a coach, he would get mad and that he threw a chair once. Who still thinks that's funny?...I'll wait. I'd like a few names, please.

-As I write this, Kansas is losing at halftime against Western Kentucky in the last 1 vs 16 game. Stay tuned, that's about the only thing that could push Marshall Henderson out of my spotlight at this point.

Monday, March 18, 2013

He is...The Most Interesting Man in the NCAA Tournament

He’s a sweet shooting, hustle-play making, white basketball player—yet ESPN despises him.
He celebrated winning the SEC basketball tournament—by partying with the football team.
The Forcier family thinks that he transfers schools too often.
In the offseason, he’s been known to buy illegal drugs—using Fake Money.
Stay thirsty, my friends.

I’m sitting here with a straight face and telling you that the one must-watch game of the 2013 NCAA tournament involves the Wisconsin Badgers. That’s right, a game featuring the least-exciting team in all of college basketball is suddenly the most intriguing matchup of the entire tournament. Why? Because by some twist of serendipity, it just so happens that they’ve been matched up against the most entertaining player in all of college basketball. In fact, you wouldn’t be missing much if you cover up your eyes and count to 35 every time the Badgers have possession (that’s pretty much what their offense consists of anyway). Just make sure you open them back up again when Ole Miss has the ball, so you can witness the mesmerizing freak show that is Marshall Henderson. (Everyone who lives north of the Mason-Dixon line: “Who????”)

If you’re not quite sure who Marshall Henderson could be, don’t worry. In fact, just two days ago, I was in that same boat; I'd never heard of the guy in my entire life. If asked about the subject, I probably would have guessed that he’s the dopey dude that Jason Segel plays on ‘How I Met Your Mother’. 48 hours later, however, this is a name and person that I won’t soon forget.  The sharpshooter down at Ole Miss has etched himself in my memory, for better or for worse. Move over Adam Morrison…the Tourney has a new raging lunatic.

"I always tell myself before every game, ‘OK, this is going to be the game where I’m focused’, and it just never happens.” –Marshall Henderson

A brief Marshall Henderson bio:
-   Leading scorer in the SEC, averaging over 19 points per game.
-   The coaches of the SEC didn’t vote him first team All-Conference, just out of spite. He responded by singlehandedly winning the SEC tournament and saying that all those coaches are "losers”.
-  He does some weird celebration/taunt after making shots, that he calls ‘the Land Shark’.
-  This is already his fourth college; he ended up at Ole Miss after bombing out at Utah and Texas Tech, and then winning a JuCo national championship a la Cam Newton.
-  He has tested  positive for cocaine, and was once busted for purchasing marijuana with Fake Money. That’s right, counterfeit money. Where would you even get that?? Does he have an old friend from high school who has his own printing press and a few reams of green construction paper? Did he do a Google Images search for ‘money’ and print out a bunch of copies of the first picture that showed up? I don’t deny that me and Marshall Henderson don’t exactly run with the same type of crowd, but I would be shocked if I could possibly find a single friend of a friend of a friend who would be willing to hook me up with some Fake Money. Such is the legend of Marshall Henderson. I’m not judging. There’s something perversely awesome about all of this.

**side note: Is it still a violation of NCAA rules if some booster gives a player thousands of dollars in pretend money? Should Ole Miss have to vacate all of their losses from the season?

On paper, I should hate Marshall Henderson. I know, I know, he goes against nearly everything that I stand for when it comes to basketball, sportsmanship, and lifestyle. But I can’t do it. I’ve fallen victim to the Chris Kramer Effect (see side note #2). I find myself cheering for the bad guy with no remorse whatsoever. When Marshall Henderson plays, I want the Titanic to sink, I want Johnny Lawrence to pummel Larusso, and I don’t want Scrooge to see the error of his ways. Henderson is just too good, and plays with too much fire and passion, and is far too entertaining for me to root against him. He has a gametime intensity that evokes John McEnroe. He took a bubble team in Ole Miss and carried them on his back to an SEC tournament championship with a stunning comeback win over Florida yesterday. He taunted the crowd by doing an ironic Gator chomp for nearly ten seconds. He buried a 35-footer at the buzzer on the road against Vanderbilt to send the game to OT. At Auburn, he allowed for this picture to exist, after hitting two free throws to clinch the game. He will shoot from anywhere on the court, at any time, no matter how closely guarded he is. On any given night, he could take between 20 and 30 shots. Of Jaeger. On the basketball court, he might put up even more.

**side note #2: back when Chris Kramer played for Purdue, I thought I was going to hate him. When his Boilermaker squad came into Crisler Arena in 2009, I took one look at the guy and thought, “this is the most stereotypical frat boy meathead that I’ve ever seen.” And I wasn’t wrong either. He was and still probably is. And yet, the more I watched him play, the more of a fan I became. He was a great athlete, lockdown defender, could dunk a little in traffic, was a better offensive player than he chose to be, and his "I'm a complete frat boy douche, but that's who I am, and at least I'm true to myself" persona actually suited him quite well. For some reason, I could appreciate that, and Kramer became one of my favorite Big Ten players.

Back to Marshall Henderson. I have no idea what will happen when Ole Miss squares off against Wisconsin on Friday afternoon. Channeling the unpredictability of JR “Swish” Smith, Marshall Henderson could go 2 for 20 and get thrown out of the game just as easily as he could explode for 40 points, hit the game winning shot, give Bo Ryan the ‘suck it’ gesture all the way through the postgame handshakes, and help Ole Miss become the ugliest Cinderella in the history of the tournament. That craziness and uncertainty is precisely what makes the NCAA Tournament so exciting, and it’s been awhile since we’ve had a good villain (one that doesn’t break down crying with 1.9 seconds left and his team still having a chance to win). So once again, when 12:40 rolls around on Friday afternoon, I implore you all to drop what you’re doing and bear witness to a game where something crazy is almost guaranteed to happen. In the meantime, check out a few of these gems.

During one game, he threw a handful of ice at the fans—and they were his own fans.
He wears jersey number 22, in honor of his favorite player--Marshall Henderson.
He lives by the three—but doesn’t die by it.

“I don’t always shoot, but when I do…you know what, scratch that. I DO always shoot.”



Friday, March 15, 2013

A Guide to March Madness: How (Not?) To Fill Out Your Bracket

With March Madness just around the corner, I thought it only fair to dedicate my comeback post to letting my loyal readers in on some powerful lessons that I’ve learned about filling out NCAA Tournament brackets. Unfortunately for all of you, everything that I know about brackets comes from nearly a decade and a half of watching my best friend cement his legacy as the Least Successful Bracket Picker in Northern Michigan history. In fact, some of the bracketeering strategies that you’ll find on this page are the very same tactics that landed Big Mitchy with 3 of the top 5 lowest scores (including last place and second to last) in the 2005 Harbor Springs Tournament Pool. It’s hard enough to win one of these things, but I’ll go on record to say that I think it’s even harder to get double last places.

Big Mitchy is notorious around the Great Lakes State for using the ‘shotgun approach’ to his pool sheets; he enters multiple bracket contests, and places multiple entries into each contest, adding up to anywhere between 7 and 10 total brackets in a given tournament year. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always felt that the spirit and sanctity of gambling on the athletic pursuits of 19 year old kids is somehow tarnished when some bad apple jumps in with nearly a dozen entries to increase their chances of winning. Maybe old age has just made me cynical. When questioned about this controversy in an exclusive interview, the Big Guy flashed an ‘aw shucks’ sort of closed-mouth grin and conceded, “Well, I do just love filling out brackets.” Back in high school, most of these brackets were entered into the Harbor Springs Pool, and my grievances about his high number of entries were quickly dismissed due to the fact that he never came anywhere close to winning on any of them.
So then what do some typical Big Mitchy brackets look like, you might ask? Here are some of his more common bracket templates (**Use at your own risk)

The “Holding Grudges” Bracket
This one is simple: Every team that he hates or that has a player that he hates gets picked to lose in the first round. This strategy backfired tremendously in 06’ and 07’ when Big Mitchy’s legendary hatred of Joakim Noah kept him from cashing in on back-to-back Florida national championships. Duke is usually involved here, for reasons that don’t need to be explained. Luke Harangody and his younger, uglier, and less talented twin Jack Cooley have ensured that Notre Dame be on this list for the last 6 years or so as well. I’m pretty sure Joey Dorsey from Memphis was also part of this (which is saying something, because he also happens to be a Dunks & Blocks guy).

 The “Teams That Big Mitchy Has Replica Basketball Shorts Of Will Meet in the Final 4” Bracket
This ends up being Michigan State, Arizona, Syracuse, and a second Michigan State team every time. It may be rudimentary as far as the thought process is concerned, but if there ever were a year where Big Mitchy can finally put it all together and pull of some winnings, this is probably the combination of teams that will do it.

 The “Darnton Madness" Family Tournament Pool
You need to have a strong showing in the early rounds to set yourself apart in this one, since they all invariably will pick Michigan State to go all the way every year. However, family bragging rights are typically the only thing at stake in this pool, so Big Mitchy doesn’t necessarily give his best effort in filling the rest of it out. Consequently, this is usually the highest scoring of his brackets.

 The “Dunks & Blocks Guys” Bracket
You know, I think to some degree, we all fill out a bracket like this. I mean, you have to be a real nerd to make your tourney predictions based on who sets the good screens and has good shot clock awareness. The reason the tournament is fun is because of the close finishes, the dunks, and the blocks. The rule instituted around 2003 that gives each team eleven time-outs in the final minute has made the close finishes a lot less fun, so what does that leave us with? You guessed it. If that means incorrectly picking Jeff Trepagnier’s USC to the 02’ Final Four (they lost to a 13 seed in the first round) based on one cool alley-oop highlight that you saw sometime in February, then so be it. I honestly don’t have much negative to say about this bracket, sometimes you’ll even see some Dunks & Blocks teams make a solid run (Michigan’s Fab Five, Auburn in 03’ Memphis in 08’, Kentucky last year). There’s not very much that I respect about Big Mitchy’s approach to tournament pools, but with the Dunks & Blocks bracket, I can make an exception.

**side note, I’m sick of hearing announcers talk about teams that “play the game the right way” or “the way it was MEANT to be played”. This usually refers to Duke, Indiana, the Ivy League teams, and the San Antonio Spurs.  It’s essentially a thinly-veiled euphemism for teams that have a lot of Caucasian players who set the good screens and take a lot of charges. Anyone familiar with James Naismith’s original game of Basket Ball will find that the game was originally intended to be played 9on9 with one a tip-off after every basket. There were no picks. There were no charges. You weren’t even allowed to dribble. Oh, and they played using a soccer ball.  With these criteria in mind, I don’t think you’ll find a single team in the tournament this year that plays the game the way it was meant to be played. Any idiot who tells you differently is sadly mistaken.

**side note #2: I always think it's funny how in some basketball team pictures, you can pick out the one guy on the team who forgot their jersey on the day the picture was taken and has to wear something stupid looking. Imagine my surprise to find that this type of picture day mental lapse has been going on almost as long as the game itself. You'll notice in this team photo from the 1908-09 season that one guy on the Swastika team forgot to bring his Swastika jersey to practice on picture day and had to just wear the plain tank top instead. That's gotta be embarrassing.

 “The Funny Bracket”
The Funny Bracket is like Brent Favre’s fondness for Wrangler jeans: it’s annoying. Always has been…always will be. In Big Mitchy’s mind, however, The Funny Bracket is kind of the Holy Grail of bracketeering, the crown jewel of all “What If” scenarios. He puts all 15 and 16 seeds in the Final Four, just to see the look on everybody’s faces when he shows it to them. Sure, filling out this Funny Bracket is a waste of dollar, but it’s totally worth it. The upset angst, stat-checking, and flip-flopping of the 8vs9 games while filling out his nine serious brackets is all worth it knowing that he has the joy and catharsis of the Funny Bracket waiting on the other side.

A Final Thought About Brackets
He seems like a good guy and all, but I think we all could do without seeing an enlarged version of Barack Obama’s bracket every day on ESPN during this year’s tournament. First of all, Obama is not as good at basketball as he is made out to me. Despite the media’s claims that “Obama is a GREAT basketball player”, this is a guy who has a weird one-handed lefty set shot, rode the bench for his high school team in Hawaii, and plays once in a while when he isn’t busy Presiding and stuff. Secondly, as a general rule, I make it a point to never take basketball advice from a guy who plays the game wearing the tucked in shirt and sweatpants with elastic around the ankles. Call me prejudiced, but I just can’t do it. Happy March Madness everyone; I hope this guide has cleared up any lingering concerns that you might have had heading into next week.