Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tourney Game: Effectively Over

For the first time ever, all the 1-seeds are going to the Final Four. By necessity then, everyone has one player remaining, their player from the 1-seeds.

It also appears that Poseur's and my own brief threat to overtake Jason will fall short. In fact, I know mine has. Poseur is still mathematically in it, but he's 51 points behind, meaning Kevin Love would have to outscore Tyler Hansbrough by 51 points over the remainder of the tournament in order for Poseur to catch up. That's pretty far-fetched.

Anyway, here are the current standings:

Jason: 697 points, Tyler Hansbrough remaining
Richard: 683 points, Tyler Hansbrough remaining
Poseur: 646 points, Kevin Love remaining
Rollie Fingers: 602 points, Tyler Hansbrough remaining
Daniel: 598 points, Chris Douglas-Roberts remaining
Jroberts: 490 points, Chris Douglas-Roberts remaining
Scott: 388 points, Darren Collison remaining

No matter what, I will end the tournament 14 points behind Jason. As mentioned, Poseur has to have Love outscore Hansbrough by 51 in order to catch Jason. No one else is even remotely close.

It's been a pretty fun tournament, though I regret there's no underdog story in the Final Four. Watching Stephen Curry's run through the tournament was exciting. Watching Western Kentucky (to the small extent I got to watch them) was also exciting. I also enjoyed watching Joe Alexander from West Virginia.

What did I learn about the game that I will be applying next year?

1. Find the dynamic scorers and pick them, no matter what. If I had picked Michael Beasley, I would have won the game. I didn't pick him because I thought USC was going places, and I didn't want to pick Beasley, who played USC in the first round and would have gotten the stifling Wisconsin slow-down game in the second. I picked Ramel Bradley instead, and though Ramel had a good game, he was outscored by Beasley 46-19. There are always a few dynamic scorers in the tournament. Find them and pick them, and don't overthink it.

Of course, it was exactly this thinking that made me pick Shan Foster, so take this advice for what it's worth.

2. Avoid players on teams that have "balanced scoring". Picking players off of Louisville or Wisconsin this year didn't pay off. David Padgett only scored in double figures in one game out of his four. Trevon Hughes had one big game and scored a total of 8 points in his other two. Find another team with a star player instead.

3. Don't believe the hype about guard play being most important. This maxim made me pick Jamont Gordon instead of Charles Rhodes. Gordon had a respectable 29 points. Rhodes scored 48. Once again, I would have won this tournament if I'd just picked the other Bulldog. This also made me pick DJ Augustin, who only had one game in the 20s and also one game with 6 points. Then again, Augustin was the best among the 2's anyone actually picked.

We won't be focusing so hard on the tourney from here on out. Frankly, I have no rooting interest anymore. I dislike all the teams remaining. I suppose I dislike Memphis the least though.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tourney Game Results - Round 3

We have results for Round 3 of the NCAA Tournament Game, and wouldn't you know it, but it's a game again. I won the 3rd round with 136 points. Jason had 128, while Poseur had 122. I ate into Jason's lead by 8 points, leaving me 30 points behind.

Most importantly though, Poseur and I each have an extra player over Jason. Results are as follows:

Jason: 644 points (Hansbrough and Curry remaining)
Richard: 614 points (Hansbrough, Augustin, and Curry remaining)
Poseur: 605 points (Love, Augustin, and Curry remaining)
Rollie: 549 points (Hansbrough and Curry remaining)
Daniel: 542 points (Douglas-Roberts, Padgett, and Curry remaining)
Jroberts: 449 points (Douglas-Roberts and Augustin remaining)
Scott: 369 points (Collison remaining)

It's a 3-team race now between Jason, Poseur, and myself. We all have Stephen Curry remaining, so he doesn't count anymore. Jason and I have Hansbrough in common, so I simply have Augustin as a bonus. If Augustin scores 31 points from now to the end of the tournament, I pass Jason.

For Poseur, if Love and Augustin score 40 points more than Hansbrough, he passes Jason, but he needs Love to outscore Hansbrough by 10 in order to pass me. This will actually be an exciting finish.

The key players remaining, then, are Love, Hansbrough, and Augustin. Poseur and I want Augustin to do well. Jason and I want Hansbrough to do well. Poseur wants Love to do well. None of these players go head to head in the Elite 8. It's really anyone's game at this point, and the key game is probably Memphis vs. Texas tomorrow night. If Texas is eliminated, it is highly unlikely anyone will catch Jason. If Texas advances, it's anyone's game.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I Would Have Titled this "The Prodigal Son Returns" But That Name Doesn't Really Apply and I Couldn't Think of a Better One

Les Miles re-instated Ryan Perrilloux to the team earlier this week, though he has to complete a cadre of personal workouts on his own time before he is allowed to practice. He should return to the field on Monday.

Let's face it. Whatever you think of Ryan Perrilloux, one thing is undeniable: this team's chances of winning are a lot higher if Ryan Perrilloux is on the field.

With Ryan Perrilloux, the 2008 LSU Fightin' Tigers form a triumvirate with Florida and Georgia as the pre-season favorites in the SEC. With Ryan Perrilloux, LSU is clearly the pre-season favorite in the SEC West. With Ryan Perrilloux, LSU has an offense that promises to be as dynamic (and frankly, terrifying) as any offense in the country. With Ryan Perrilloux, we have a quarterback who can throw the deep ball, can beat you with his legs, can run the option, and can run the short and medium-range passing game. With Ryan Perrilloux, our receivers are likely to run wild. On ability alone, Ryan Perrilloux is a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy.

Without Ryan Perrilloux . . ., well, without Ryan Perrilloux no one really knows what we have, exactly. We know we don't have a quarterback who has taken a meaningful snap. We know we don't have an exceptional athlete behind center. We know we don't have anyone who could legitimately be called a Heisman threat, at least not this year.

I know as well as my readers do that there is more to being a quarterback than natural physical ability, and it is that "more" that Ryan may lack, including leadership skills and team-first attitude. We also know, however, that various members of the team have spoken out publicly that they do not think Ryan Perrilloux has reached the point of no return with them. You can ask, "What do you expect them to say" to which my response is that if they really don't want Perrilloux back, they probably wouldn't say anything at all.

It is healthy to be reminded, however, that Ryan Perrilloux has never been arrested, has never been accused of drug abuse, has never been accused of committing a crime of violence or a crime of theft. He has never done any one thing that could be labeled as truly lawless. Instead, he is a guy who seems to always do little things, like try to get into a casino with another person's license or skip too much class. Let's also not forget that the incident that got him suspended for the Bama game last year was at a time and place when he was out with his teammates, including senior leaders, in an incident that appears to have been initiated by overenthusiastic bouncers. For those reasons, I think the cries of "thug" are grossly misplaced.

Les recently changed Perrilloux's living situation. He is now rooming with my larger, much more athletically gifted cousin, Kirsten*. This fills me with good feelings, as being paired with a high character guy like Kirsten Pittman can't help but be good for Ryan.

I don't know the future. I don't know if Ryan Perrilloux will be able, this time, finally, to be able to continue his career without controversy. I hope so, for more reasons than one. I know it's entirely up to him. Les Miles isn't asking much of him. He just has to get to class, get to team functions, stay out of legal/academic trouble, and basically be a good citizen. If he does all that, he could end up as good as any quarterback we've ever had, and the Perrilloux-led Tiger offenses could be the most dangerous we've ever fielded.

*The author is not, in fact, related to Kirsten Pittman, though he would like to be.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

GeauxTuscaloosa Gets Lucky: Chris Garrett

I assure you I had no inside information. I just read something on a message board and concluded it meant something before reporting it here. It turns out, Chris Garrett, the 6'4" 220# quarterback from Tupelo, Mississippi committed to LSU yesterday after my post in which I pointed out his comments as showing serious interest in LSU.

I certainly didn't know he was committing that day. As far as I know, I've never laid eyes on Mr. Garrett nor had a conversation with him. I'm not a reporter. I'm just an analyst. But I think it's illustrative of the point I made, which is that if you watch it closely enough, you can eventually figure out that certain kids aren't serious about their interest and certain kids are.

Anyway, about Chris Garrett. He's our second quarterback recruit of the 2009 class, as Russell Shepard committed earlier this month. Where Shepard is a dynamic athlete, Garrett is more of a traditional quarterback. You have to love his size at 6'4" and 220 pounds. He's a pure drop-back passer, where Shepard is a dangerous runner. Garrett may not be a John Elway with his legs (remember, he was a tremendous runner early in his NFL career), but he can move out of the pocket a little if he needs to. He is not in the Rivals250 at this point, but he projects to probably be a 4-star player, though he may be a high-3-star. It doesn't matter. He's a guy that MSU, LSU, and other schools all wanted. He's a solid kid.

He's a little reminiscent of a Jamarcus Russell, in that he is a big strong-armed kid who nonetheless cannot be described as Kosarian in his mobility.

About that strong arm. OK, he's no Jamarcus Russell in the arm, but when you watch his videos you notice he can hit the hardest throw in football: the deep out pattern. If a kid can throw a 20-yard out-pattern accurately and get it there before the defensive back can get to it, the kid's arm is not an issue. Chris Garrett does that.

The other good thing about him is he projects to be another mid-term qualifier, which means he should be at LSU in time to participate in 2009 Spring Practice, along with Russell Shepard and Drayton Calhoun. This will help his progression and development, and give other schools a lesser chance to get him to change his commitment.

This gives us two very different quarterbacks in this class. We will have to see how they fit together. Personally, I hope that Crowton isn't planning to go to a permanent 2-quarterback system where quarterbacks split time 50-50. I don't think that's happening though. I think he's just trying to give himself a variety of weapons to choose from.

This is also the 5th state LSU has gotten a commitment from so far for 2009. We have eight current commitments. 3 are from Louisiana, 2 are from Texas, and 1 each from Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi. LSU's regional reach remains strong, while other schools continue to be unable to get recruits out of Louisiana if LSU wants them. That is a tremendously strong position to be in.

We may not be done in Mississippi. Garrett has a teammate that LSU is reportedly very interested in. Chad Bumphis is listed as an "Athlete", meaning he is a DB/WR. He is #8 on the Garrett videos and may be the top recruit in the state of Mississippi this year. Having his high school QB as a commitment can't hurt in getting Bumphis.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Recruiting 101 - Reading Between the Lines

If you watch recruiting closely for a few years, and you really observe what recruits say and what eventually ends up happening, you get to be pretty good at reading between the lines of recruiting articles. Recruits often tell recruiting analysts what those analysts want to hear, and the analysts themselves are pretty good at asking loaded questions and providing selective quotes.

As an example of what I'm talking about, suppose you have a kid who lives in Florida and has been a Florida State fan all his life. He says something to the effect of, "Florida State is my team because I've lived in Florida all my life, but that's not going to have a big impact on my life." What he means is, "I'm going to Florida State, but I'm going to take some visits and experience the fun of recruiting first." If he says, "LSU is way up there on my list," what he means is, "LSU is an afterthought." The only real chance LSU or any other out-of-state school has is if Florida State fails to offer the kid.

I'm not being critical of the kids. It's not like they're lying. They are listening to other teams' recruiting pitches. They do have LSU on their list, perhaps a distant 3rd or 4th with little or no chance of making up the ground. Heck, they might even be thinking that they have open recruiting, but in the end a kid like that almost always picks the childhood favorite team if it's a real option for him.

As briefly alluded to earlier in this post, there is an alternative meaning to the kid's words of encouragement to other teams' fanbases. His statement may mean he does not have a real scholarship offer from his favorite school. He wants it, but he may not be willing to come out and say that he does not have it, out of embarrassment and ego.

One thing to be mindful of is that not all "offers" are the same. The written offer the recruits receive in the mail definitely is not an "offer" in the legal contractual sense, and may not actually mean much of anything. A kid who receives an offer in the mail and who actually calls the coach to commit may come to find out that the coach has 4 players ahead of him on the board at his position and will not accept his commitment until he learns what those other 4 players are doing. If the coach gets one or two of those 4 to commit to his school, he will never accept the commitment of the other kid and the offer amounts to nothing.

It's a harsh business, and this is sometimes how it works. A kid may receive the offer he wanted all his life only to find out it wasn't an offer at all.

As you read articles on recruiting services, keep these things in mind. A recruit who tells you he has a lifelong favorite school but is open to anyone is probably not be completely honest, perhaps even to himself, about either his state of mind or the state of his scholarship offers.

This begs the question, however. How do you tell when an athlete is really sincere about being serious about LSU. There's not hard and fast rule, but sometimes a recruit will say something surprisingly candid, like Mississippi quarterback Chris Garrett said recently, as reported by "I'm actually looking at LSU pretty hard. Really hard, actually." He continued: "When I went to LSU, I fell in love with the place." But he's not done: "It's going to be really, really soon (that I make my final commitment). I've made up my mind. I just want to wait a little while." [All emphasis added by me].

That's a kid who is really serious about LSU. He's currently a soft commitment to Mississippi State, and he may not end up switching, or may end up switching back if he does, but he's serious. He's getting past cliches, talking about his feelings for LSU in some depth, and indicating he's already made up his mind. Some of these other guys aren't serious. Garrett is.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Round 2 Results: The Let-Down

After Round 1, it seemed like it would be a pretty good battle, but then Round 2 happened.

Well, not exactly. The first thing that happened is I noticed I failed to count one player for Jason in the first round, so his totals went up by 26 points from that round, putting him among the leaders in points, but still insanely high in players remaining. This paid off in the second round, as Jason took a commanding lead in the game with 516 points, with 5 players remaining. Here are the standings:

Jason: 516 points (Hansbrough, Lofton, Lopez, Alexander, and Curry remaining)
Poseur: 483 points (Love, Augustin, Lopez, Curry, and Reynolds remaining)
Richard: 478 points (Hansbrough, Augustin, Lopez, Alexander, Curry, and Lee remaining)
Daniel: 459 points (Douglas-Roberts, Lofton, Padgett, and Curry remaining)
Rollie: 447 points (Hansbrough, Lopez, Morgan, Alexander, and Curry remaining)
jroberts: 364 points (Douglas-Roberts, Augustin, Lopez, and Reynolds remaining)
Scott: 332 points (Collison, Lofton, Hughes, and Alexander remaining)

Poseur is in 2nd place in points, but has fewer players remaining than either Jason or me. Daniel had a very good first round, but lost a lot of ground in the 2nd round. Rollie was killed by Roy Hibbert and his failure to pick any of the 12- or 13-seed upsets. Shan Foster probably ended any hope I had of winning this thing, and DJ Augustin has played well without scoring any points, screwing everyone who picked him. Then again, the same could be said of James Lofton. All around, every player picked a dud in the 2-slot. Jroberts was one of the guys who picked the Eric Gordon-Malik Hairston combination at the 8- and 9-seeds, and as a result he is pretty much finished.

Anyway, I now think I'm the only one with any chance to beat Jason, and I need to hope for a miracle. I have one additional player remaining, so all I have to say is, "Go Hilltoppers!" If Lee scores 30 in the next game, or advances to the next round, I'm right back in it. Poseur could still get back in it, but he'll have to do it the hard way, by his players simply manning up and scoring more than Jason's.

Football stuff: I had a request for a Spring Football update. LSU has been on football hiatus due to Spring Break, but they return to practice today. There will be updates in the future.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Super-Late Round 1 Results

Like I said, I was at a funeral in my wife's family this weekend. I was away from home all weekend, and I did not have my spreadsheets. As a result, I was unable to start compiling results of the tournament until this morning. I realize it's hopelessly out of date, but here are the results from round 1.

Richard (me): 275 points, 6 players eliminated
Poseur: 280 points, 6 players eliminated
Daniel: 277 players, 5 players eliminated
froberts: 225 points, 7 players eliminated*
Rollie: 275 points, 7 players eliminated
Scott: 192 points, 7 players eliminated
Jason: 253 points, 4 players eliminated

The number of players eliminated is as important as the number of points scored at this point, so while me, Poseur, Daniel, and Rollie look really strong in points scored, Jason may be the player with the advantage at this point because he has two more players still playing at this point. I think it's a two-player race at this point between Daniel and Jason, although one quick look at the brackets shows that Daniel has 5 players left in the sweet 16 while Jason has 7. Advantage Jason.

I'll get to the rest of it tomorrow.

froberts made a mistake and listed Josh Akognon as a player for Mt. St. Mary, a 16-seed. Akognon is actually a 14-seed player for Cal St. Fullerton. As a result, that slot is disqualified for froberts and it will be treated as if he did not pick a 16-seed player.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day Three - Duke Loses And It Is Awesome, Baby

Only one upset yesterday, but it was the one that gives me the warm fuzzies: Duke losing. Pittman has already said how much he hates Duke, and I agree with everything he said. Just add the bitterness of growing up in Maryland and roting for the Terps and that's how much I hate the Dookies. hope they lose every damn game. And it was beautiful to see them not only lose, but to lose to a Duke-clone in West Virginia. Even better, one coached by unrepentant scumbag, Bob Huggins. It made my day. It was also the only real upset of the day, so it gets to be one of the central stories. Thank you, Duke.

There were two other big stories: the struggles of the Pac-10 powers only to result in a perfect 3-0 day and the collapse of the vogue sleeper teams.

Say what you will about the Pac-10, but they can ball. Is UCLA the luckiest team n earth? Did they get a gift of a draw? Did they still struggle with a fairly mediocre A&M team? Yes on all counts. But they just keep winning. Really, there comes a point where they start believing they are team of destiny, because this team has benefited from more bad calls and lucky bounces than, well, the average Duke team. Hell, I'm not picking against them until someone surgically removes the horseshoe from their collective ass. Stanford also needed a late shot to win, and frankly, they were outplayed all game. Marquette was the better team, only to get beat in OT by Brook Lopez. It sucks, but it happens. Marquette can commiserate with Belmont about outplaying a team but still losing.

But what about Wazzu? The least heralded of the Pac-10 leaders, their 4-seed was widely regarded as a mistake. Washington St doesn't have the athletes, and they don't play a real fun style to watch. They are like the Wisconsin of the west (another team which won with ease - defense rules in the tourney because defense never goes cold). And they didn't just win, they absolutely crushed Notre Dame, one of the popular teams to make a deep run. Honestly, Washington St would be a horrible draw for UNC because of their half-court pace and tough defense. That's if UNC gets past Arkansas.

The other team of ultimate hype was Pittsburgh. They will watch the rest of the tourney on TV because, well, never bet against Tom Izzo in March. The good Drew Neitzel showed up, and when he does, they are simply a much better team than Pitt. So, once again, the Panthers make the Big East final and then bomb out of the Big Dance. Seriously, people. Stop buying into the hype. Pittsburgh does this every year it seems. A hot conference tourney has no correlation to success in the real tourney. Pitt is my poster child for this theory, but it really applies to any team that is seeded 4 or lower and is coming of a good tourney run. This year, that included Clemson, Pitt, Georgia, and Arkansas. Be skeptical of good but not great games who re being told they are great. They rarely are.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day Two - Cinderella Gets to Jitterbug

It's not that Day One lacked drama. It's just that aside for about one hour of basketball, it didn't quite deliver. Belmont taking Duke to the limit was dramatic, even if it didn't have a happy ending. Day Two had the happy endings. Just because I'm a firm believer in overanalyzing things, let's jump to way to broad conclusions from each upset. The big boys will have their day in a week, but the first weekend is about the little guy.

LESSON ONE: Stephen Curry is awesome.
Actually, we knew that going in. Curry is one of those guys I am openly rooting for just so I can keep watching him play. He is practically automatic from anywhere on the court. Gonzaga got screwed with this draw.

LESSON TWO: The committee hates and despises mid-majors
Gonzaga v. Davidson. Western Kentucky v. Drake. Butler v. South Alabama. Pretty much every mid-major people were excited to see got matched up with another mid-major power. It's like the draw was designed to get rid of the mid-majors as quickly as possible. But first, we got incredible drama from two of those games. Actually, the WKU game kind of sucked until Drake made a spectacular late run to force overtime, build a lead in OT, only to lose it on a desperation three at the buzzer. How would you rather lose?

LESSON THREE: Clemson was overrated.
Not to call out Clemson, but come on. They beat Duke ad suddenly people act like thy are a great team. They were the fifth best ACC team at best for most of the season, only to benefit from Maryland's late season collapse. They win one game against Duke and suddenly they ar a 5-seed and a popular pick to make noise? Why? That was their first real impressive win all season. Really, they weren't that much better than Villanova.

LESSON FOUR: The SEC stinks.
Tennessee struggled with American but put them away late. Mississippi State, admittedly, looked good against Oregon. Arkansas beat the floundering Hoosiers, which just about any team in the field could have done. End of good news. The SEC took it on the chin in round one , as they really weren't all that great in victory and the defeats piled up. Vanderbilt led the way with an absolute thrashing at the hands of Siena, in a game that was never even competitive. They didn't get upset, they got beat.

LESSON FIVE: Tampa rocks.
Four games, four upsets. UConn and Drake went down in the morning. Then Vandy and Clemson at night. Now, I hate the pod system, but this is something that could only happen because of the pods. Four first round games, all resulting in upsets could only happen in a venue with two 4-13 and two 5-12 games.

LESSON SIX: Let's not get too comfy with Cinderella just yet.
OK, 1st round wins are nice, and there's going to be at least two 12 or 13 seeds in the Sweet Sixteen thanks to Tampa, but let's take a quick step back. Before the tourney, I pointed out there isn't a hell of a lot of difference between teams seeded 5 through 12. The gap is really those top three seed lines. Know how many of the teams seeded 1 through 3 lost? That's right, zero. The decimation of the bracket helps the power teams, and we're still on course for the heavyweights to assert their will. The next two days go a long way towards showing whether this is another Year of the Upset, or whether this was just clearing the way for the top seeds.

NCAA Tourney - Day One

I hate Duke.  I hate them hate them them.  There probably is not a single team in all of sports that I dislike more than I dislike the Duke basketball team.  Maybe the New York Yankees.  Well, probably the New York Yankees, but other than them, I hate Duke more than anyone.  My hatred of them increased just a little last night.  

Belmont had them beat until they played a truly horrific final 30 seconds of the game to give the game away to Duke.  With the ball and a one point lead, they failed to get off a good shot because they dithered around for too long before starting the offense.  Then, Gerald Henderson of Duke (their only good offensive player on the day) got the ball and Belmont decided not to play any defense against him, allowing him to score the go-ahead basket on an easy layup.
Belmont got the ball back, got off another bad shot, but managed to get a tie ball on the rebound giving themselves the ball back, down by one with four seconds to play.  On the inbounds play off of a timeout, apparently someone on the floor didn't know the play, because the inbounds man threw up a lob and no one was there to get it.  It was not obvious who was the intended recipient of the pass.  Duke gave them one last chance by failing to hit a free throw, but the desperation heave at the end didn't fall.

Duke escapes and moves on, free to piss me off again another day.

Not a lot of surprises in the first day.  Right now, it's looking like mostly chalk.  The one substantial exception (9-seed beating 8-seed does not count) is K-State's victory over USC. Those of you who had Michael Beasley (23 points, advancing) on your team had a good night.  Those of us who picked an 11-seed other than K-state lose out, as Kentucky and Baylor both bowed out of the tournament.

Those of you who had Dionte Christmas (3 points, eliminated) and/or Michael Jenkins (2 points, eliminated) had a bad night.  Those of you who had all three of those had a mixed night.  Rollie Fingers made a great call and picked up Josh Akognon off of 14-seed Cal St. Fullerton.  He lost out, but scored 31 in the process.

I did alright.  I'm behind the leaders, but I'm still in it.  I probably need to get some upsets to go my way though, or I'll probably end up substantially behind the leaders.  Go San Diego and Western Kentucky and Arkansas and Mississippi State!

No one had a worse day than Scott, in my opinion.  He had Christmas and Jenkins, scoring a total of 5 points before exiting.  He had his 1-seed player play and only got 5 points out of it.  Only the pick of Michael Beasley relieved some of the horror, but now Beasley has to go against his pick for #3, so one or the other of those guys is getting eliminated Saturday, meaning that in order to get additional benefit from his 11-seed pick, he has to get his 3-seed pick eliminated.

I won't reveal the points or standings quite yet, because they only really matter at the end of a total round.  Not everyone has had the same number of players play.  Poseur, Rollie, and Scott have had 9 players play so far, while Jason has only had 6 players play.  Jason's behind those guys, but obviously he is likely to catch up.  

Actually, Jason is in really solid position right now.  His 3- through 7-seeds have all played, and he has escaped the big upset, except for K-state over USC, which bit everybody and doesn't hurt Jason because he has Beasley as well.  Moreover, Beasley is the only one of his lower-seeded players to have played already, meaning Jason has a lot of opportunity to gain from some upsets.  If I had to pick one player in really good shape, it would be Jason, but a lot of people are in decent shape and can catch up with a little luck.  As for me, however, most of the things that could happen to help me also would help Jason.  I need to root for American to take down Tennessee, which seems like just about as unlikely as a 16-seed beating a 1-seed.

You probably won't get a detailed breakdown from me tomorrow morning, as I will be unavoidably traveling this evening and will be away from home tomorrow to attend a funeral in my wife's family.  If anyone else is actually keeping up with the scoring, feel free to post the points and standings tomorrow morning.  Otherwise, I will take care of it when I get a chance.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Poseur's Brackets

I was all set to do a tourney preview until I looked in the mirror and admitted it would all be a bunch of bull. Look, the teams with little numbers next to their names are better. That's why they ahve such high seeds. The four #1 seeds are the best four teams in the country and everyone outside of Tennessee knows it. But here's the catch, this is a one-and-done tournament, which encourages upsets. Inferior teams are going to win games (exception: last year's tournament, which was the most boring March ever). With any luck, inferior teams are going to win lots of games. The key filling out your bracket is accurately predicting those inferior teams. So here's the answer: No one knows.


The other thing to keep in mind is that the gap isn't that wide between a 6 seed and an 11 seed. You wouldn't bat an eyelash if St Joe's beat Oklahoma on February 9th, so why think it will be an upset now? The real gap is between the very top teams and the rest of the field. Once you get past the top three seed lines, everyone is on fairly equal foooting until you get to about the bottom three seed lines. So what follows is a Peter Gammons style notes commentary based just on random guesses from watching too much basketball...

Hansborough is the perfect symbol for UNC: he scores lots of points, he plays hard, and he's a deserving Player of the Year, but at the end of the day, you just aren't that impressed by him... If UNC thought Clemson was tough, they should get a load of Louisville... Winthrop and George Mason are not as good as the team's which won our hearts in previous tournaments... I have no idea what to make of Washington St.. Butler and Tennessee is potential matchup that would be an awesome contrast of styles, but defense normally wins out in the tournament.

I think this is the bracket most likely to get blown up, meaning that I've jinxed it and only the top seeds will advance... The typical Michael Beasley game is scoring 35 points in a losing effort... Face it, if there was another school's name on the jersey, Kansas would be an overwhelming pick to win the title, but they have choked so many times in the past... I expected Georgetown to be so much better this year... Clemson beats Duke and suddenly they are a great team? Did I miss something?... I hope Davidson wins just so I can see Stephen Curry play twice... Wisconsin is the matchup from hell, but they really lack athleticism, I'm not sure how much that matters... Final upset alert: Siena is pretty good. Ask Stanford.

If the first thing negative you say about a team is that they stink at free throws, that means that team is really, really good... Texas would love to play Memphis in Houston, but Stanford creates huge matchup problems for them... I refuse to be burned by Pittsburgh again: every year they do great in the Big East tourney and every year they lose in the big Dance. I refuse to buy the hype again... Which Drew Nietzel is going to show up for Michigan St?... Will Jesus call Oral Roberts home if they lose by double digits in the first round again?... Kentucky's 12-4 conference record says a lot more about the SEC than it does about Kentucky.

Who did UCLA blow to get this draw? Take a look at the region, every team's weakness is: lacks a powerful big man, which is UCLA's strength (well, one of them)... Arizona-West Virginia should be spectacular, so should be the encore of the winner vs. Duke... I'm partial, but I really do love this Baylor team. Purdue is gonna press a team with tons of guards who love to play in transition, rarely a recipe for success... Georgia is the lowest seeded team from a major conference ever... OK, Drake, time to put your money where your mouth is... I've ignored UConn all year. I honestly have no opinion on them, but they do seem like the sort of team that can make a surprising run.

The Tournament Begins

Today is the day. It's one of the greatest days of the year for college sports fans. It's the day the college basketball NCAA tournament begins.

I got a slew of entries into our game yesterday. Daniel (my bro), Rollie Fingers, and Jroberts all input teams here. Scott and Uberschuck sent in their teams by email. That gives us 7. there is still time to put your team in, but you better get it in before 11:00am central time. If you want to be a late addition, compose your team and add it to a comment to this post, or you can email me at

Some observations:
  • Despite Poseur's conclusion that everyone would pick Stephen Curry of Davidson, two players declined to pick him.
  • Only OJ Mayo of USC is common to all teams, meaning that the #6 seed is basically removed from the game as everyone will score the same points in the 6 spot.
  • So far, 4 different players from #1 seeds have been picked, with two coming from UCLA and none coming from Kansas
  • Other very popular players include Brook Lopez of Stanford (5 teams), Luke Harangody of Notre Dame (5 teams), Michael Beasley (4 teams, which I think is incredible considering EVERYONE picked a player off of his first round opponent), and Jamont Gordon of Mississippi State (4 teams).
Just so everyone knows the emailed teams, Jason's team is:
1) Tyler Hansbrough, UNC
2) Chris Lofton, TN
3) Brook Lopez, Stanford
4) Sam Young, Pitt
5) Luke Harangody, Notre Lame
6) OJ Mayo, usc
7) Joe Alexander, WV
8) JaMont Gordon, MSU
9) Sonny Weems, Ark.
10) Stephen Curry, Davidson
11) Michael Beastly, KSU
12) Courtney Lee, WKy
13) Edwin Ubiles, Sienna
14) Reggie Larry, BSU
15) Garrison Carr, American
16) Jeremy Goode, MSM

Scott's team is:
1) Darren Collison G, UCLA
2) Chris Lofton G, UTenn
3) Trevon Hughes G, Wis
4) Shan Foster G, Vandy
5) K.C. Rivers G, Clemson
6) O.J. Mayo G, USC
7) Joe Alexander F, WVU
8) Jamont Gordon G, Moo St.
9) Sonny Weems, Our Kansas
10) Jerryd Bayless G, ARIZ
11) Michael Beasley F, KSU
12) Dionte Christmas G, Temple
13) Michael Jenkins G, Winthrop
14) Sundiata Gaines G, UGA
15) Drake Reed F, AP
16) Chris Vann G, Main Stream Media

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Les Can Buy a Lot of New Hats

Q: How does the $3.751 million man wear his hat?
A: However he likes.

Those jokes never get old.

Les Miles finally finished renegotiating his contract, and obviously it's the talk of the football world for a day or two. Being here in Alabama, obviously I get an ear-full of the Alabama perspective.

When certain balding, deliberately provocative radio personalities deliberately try to provoke us, the best thing to do is not to respond at all. That's the last word about that particular subject, but there are others.

Obviously, the figure of $3.751 million per year was not chosen randomly or on accident. It happens to be $1,000 per year more than Nick Saban's salary at Alabama. If Les Miles cares about money (and I suspect deep down he probably doesn't), Nick Saban is his best friend in the world, because without Nick Saban's return to Alabama, Les wouldn't be nearly as wealthy.

The reason for this, as is apparent to those paying attention, is that Les Miles' previous contract called for him to be the 3rd highest paid coach in the country if he won the National Championship. He did it, but it became hard to determine exactly how much Charlie Weis and Pete Carroll made, because they are at private schools and need not report their salaries. LSU and Miles settled on his becoming the highest-paid coach in the SEC. The previous highest-paid SEC coach was Nick Saban, at $3.75 million per year.

If you're trying to read more into it than that, I think you're wrong.

On the JOX morning show, one of the guys recalled Alabama getting criticism for paying Saban so much while living in a poor state with a poor education system, and wondered if LSU would get the same criticism for overspending. It's an interesting point, but I believe there is a significant difference in the situations.

When Alabama gave Nick Saban his contract, Alabama dramatically escalated the arms race between big-time football programs. It was expected that this signaled an acceleration in the rise in coaches' salaries nation-wide, which had already been escalating quickly for years. Alabama was seen as raising the bar further, which would lead to rising ticket prices and the decline of non-football sports, as football took up more and more of the entertainment money at football schools.

LSU giving Miles a salary roughly equal to Saban's is the result. It is the realization of the fear that Saban's salary would increase coaches' salaries nation-wide. People feared Alabama's actions signaled a change in the way football programs worked across the country, and LSU's actions confirm it. We will see more and more of it in the coming months and years as coaches like Mark Richt, Urban Meyer, and Tommy Tuberville are probably going to be looking at big raises next time it comes time to renegotiate their contracts.

The difference is that LSU is reacting to market trends while Bama rocked the market and changed the trends.

If you want to know the long term impact, you can look more at what has become of Alabama. In recent weeks, Alabama has taken several actions that appear to be designed to save money:
  1. Announced a cancellation of plans to expand Bryant-Denny Stadium, specifically naming economic concerns as the primary factor.
  2. Apparently decided not to fire Mark Gottfried at least in part to avoid paying a hefty severance.
  3. Hired a women's basketball coach on the cheap from within the current University payroll, a guy with little or no qualifications for the job other than the fact that he apparently doesn't cost much money.
It is apparent that Alabama is trying to avoid big outlays of money, and even the football program feels the impact. Is it connected to Nick Saban's salary? It's impossible for me to say, but let's keep an eye on situations around the country as salaries continue to escalate.

One More Thing: Get your teams in before games start tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Get Your Teams In

Alright, people.  I know you're out there.  Put in your teams for the NCAA Tournament Fantasy Game, described below.  We only have one other player so far.  Last year, we had 5 players including myself.  Readership is bigger this year, so there's no excuse for not having a few more players.

The winner last year was Scott, who hasn't put in a team yet.  So far, it's just myself and Poseur.  To recap the rules:
  • Pick one player from each seed level, giving your team 16 players in total.  
  • The play-in game does not count, and you may post conditional 16-seed players or wait until after the play-in game to choose.
  • Count the points scored by your team.  The team with the most wins.
It's that simple people.


Yesterday, there was a lot of chatter complaining about the brackets.  I understand everyone complains about brackets (except me, because I don't know enough to complain), but some of the complaints were just plain silly:

Complaint #1: Tennessee got screwed by being placed in a bracket with the #1 overall seed, UNC.

The gist of this complaint is that Tennessee, who was playing for a #1 seed going into the conference tournament, got bumped all the way down the #8 seed overall, as evidenced by being placed in the same region with #1 Overall seed North Carolina.

First, I really don't think they seed teams among brackets with the exception of assigning a #1 overall seed and assigning #s 64 and 65 for a play-in.  Other than that, I don't think they really do that, so I don't think anyone decided that Tennessee was the lowest #2 seed.

Second, Tennessee gets to play close to home to start the tournament.  They start in Birmingham, Alabama, where their fans will likely pack the house.  Then they'll go to Charlotte, North Carolina where they will be outnumbered, but not overwhelmingly, by North Carolina fans.  They could have been put in another region and have to start in Anaheim, California before going to Houston, Texas or Washington, DC and then Phoenix, Arizona.

Third, if your goal is to win the National Championship, which is Tennessee's goal, I think the only approach you can take is to not care about the draw and just take whatever comes at you.  If Tennessee is going to win, they are going to have to play several very good teams, and they'll get to the dreaded North Carolina in their fourth game.  Heck, it's entirely possible that neither team will make it that far.  Just play your bracket and stop complaining.

If your goal is to make it the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8, you can complain about a tough draw.

Complaint #2:  Arizona State didn't make it.

I know the arguments, and they make a certain amount of sense.  Fact is, though, Arizona State played their way to the bubble and put themselves in a position to be left out.  If they had won another game or two, they would have been in.  If they had been let in the way they are, they would have been one of the two or three last teams.  Whoop-dee-doo.

Complaint #3: Mid-majors are playing each other.

OK, I actually agree with this one.  Everyone's favorite thing about the tournament is seeing little guys take down big guys.  Everyone wants to see Gonzaga take down a Big East, Big XII or Big X team.  No one wants to see Gonzaga take down Davidson.  It makes no sense to engineer the brackets to have Gonzaga playing Davidson, Butler playing South Alabama, Georgia playing Xavier (which counts as two little guys against each other), and Drake playing Western Kentucky.  It's just bad television.  

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Annual NCAA Tourney Fantasy Game

This is the annual GeauxTuscaloosa NCAA Tournament Fantasy Game. The rules are simple.
  • Choose one player from each seed level. T.g., one player from a 16-seed, one player from a 15-seed, etc.
  • Make sure your team is entered before the first game starts on Thursday. The play-in game does not count, but you can wait until its results are in if you wish.
  • Count the points scored by your team over the course of the tournament.
  • The winner receives $150 million.*
16. Deonte Huff, Portland State
15. Garrison Carr, American
14. Sundiata Gaines, Georgia
13. Brandon Johnson, San Diego
12. Courtney Lee, Western Kentucky
11. Ramel Bradley, Kentucky
10. Stephen Curry, Davidson
9. Sonny Weems, Arkansas
8. Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State
7. Joe Alexander, West Virginia
6. OJ Mayo, USC
5. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
4. Shan Foster, Vandy
3. Brook Lopez, Stanford
2. DJ Augustin, Texas
1. Tyler Hansbrough, UNC

My hardest choices were 8 and 9. I really wanted to pick Jamont Gordon from Mississippi State because I think he's the kind of player who can excel in the tournament, and I think Memphis is very vulnerable, but I didn't like anyone from the 9 seeds other than Leunen from Oregon, and Oregon plays MSU in the first round. I didn't want to play my 8 and 9 seeds against each other, because I wanted the chance to have both of them play a second round game. Not having an option I liked at the 9 seed, I ended up having to change my 8-seed.

Then I decided I didn't like having my 8-seed and 9-seed players both going against SEC competition, so I switched both of them up, returning Jamont Gordon to my team and adding Sonny Weems. This could end up backfiring horribly.

I had to pick Sundiata Gaines just because you have to root for Georgia. It's incredible what they managed to accomplish. I honestly think everyone in the world was rooting for Georgia today with the possible exception of the Arkansas players, and I bet even they had mixed feelings.

Get your teams in before the games start, and I'll keep up with everyone's stats.

*All cash prizes are "virtual", meaning they do not exist. If this is not clear enough, it means there is no cash prize. All that is at stake is pride.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Checking in on Baseball

We interrupt the end of basketball season to remind you that LSU baseball has just begun its SEC schedule. LSU went to Tennessee and dropped the first game 6-5 and looks like they will wait until Sunday to play again due to weather. A 6-5 loss is actually a perfect indicia of the season so far.

If you're an optimist, you'll see the good things from the game: Matt Clark hit his seventh home run of the season, which is as many as any tiger hit last season. Every starter got on base once, showing some real depth in the lineup. Bradford, our All-American pitcher, threw nine strikeouts in five innings of work. And Aaron Ross threw three innings of scoreless ball from the pen. The team fell behind and rallied back, and had the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first in the 9the inning. All of these were good things.

If you're a pessimist, you start with the obvious: we lost. Bradford, a guy we need to be awesome, let up six runs in five innings, which isn't good. Sure, everyone got on base, but no one had a multihit game. Hollander drew the team's only walk, and he was hitless. Jared Mitchell kept up his trend of striking out at a truly prodigious rate. LSU rallied, but that means they fell behind: 6-1 after six innings. And LSU never put up a crooked number on the scoreboard, scoring 3 or more runs.

Both groups are right. There are some really encouraging signs from this team. Clark is a masher. Blake Dean is picking up where he left off last season. DJ LeMahieu has been a revelation both in the field and a the plate. The pitching has been solid, though not overwhelming. Even Mike Hollander is hitting .300. And there are quality bats coming off the bench. They are even playing good defense. This team is ten times better than last year's squad.

But that isn't saying much. Last year's squad was terrible. The bullpen is still unreliable. LSU has been getting wins, but they have played a creampuff schedule. Even with the steady diet of patsies, LSU has been unable to get a sweep, seemingly always dropping the third game. That points to the weakness of finding a third starter and the bullpen. Mainieri has been unable to find a starting job for Helenhi, who is one of the team's better hitters. Hollander's hitting .300, but with no power. And while Dean is a stud, finding the other two outfielders has been the biggest problem. Mitchell strikes out way too much. Escobar was awful but coming off injury, Landry is hitting .229, Jones may not be ready, Pontiff lacks speed and power, and Gaudet... well, I can't find a problem with Gaudet other than he can't seem to get the starting gig.

A lot of this is nitpicking. The team looks pretty good, but the SEC is capital "L" loaded, so pretty good may not cut it. And potential around these parts don't make the sun shine. LSU expects wins in baseball. The pieces are there, and hopefully, they are coming together. Because I'm feeling like an optimist today.

Sue Calls Paul Finebaum

I've talked about my love/hate relationship with talk radio before. I find much sports talk radio to be vapid, senseless, and borderline offensive, but I still listen. Well, yesterday, on my way home from work I was listening to Paul Finebaum's show and he got a caller named "Sue".

The call was a long one. Sue did not like the way Finebaum was acting, in particular with regards to Finebaum's famous dust-up with Mark Gottfried's wife at a basketball game about 6 weeks ago. Sue and Finebaum got into a pretty good argument, with Sue making the following points/observations:
  • People who call for a coach's firing should be people who somehow contribute in some concrete way to the coach's program. Otherwise, they don't have a stake in it.
  • Finebaum has the advantage of being able to continue talking when the caller hangs up.
  • People who call his show posture and talk big but never have to actually make a decision.
  • His callers are poseurs who act aggressively and drive big trucks to compensate for their insecurities.
  • Finebaum himself cries about the fact that Elizabeth Gottfried "accused" him of calling for her husband's firing, which he has in fact done dozens of times.
  • Finebaum is a jerk for bringing his beef with Mark Gottfried to Gottfried's wife.
  • Finebaum's show encourages the worst kind of bellyaching and ultimately does more harm than good.
  • Mal Moore doesn't owe Finebaum or anyone else an explanation for why Gottfried has not been fired.
There was more to it. You can listen to it here, care of the Paul Finebaum Radio Network. It's about 1/5 or 1/4 of the way through the 4th hour of Friday's program. I was thinking, "Wow, she's really got him pegged."

Finebaum, of course, resorted to what he's done a whole lot of lately. He dwelled on the fact that Sue was a woman, and that Elizabeth Gottfried was too. He said Gottfried "stuck her breasts in his face." He said he can "never get a woman to stop talking." Finally, Finebaum said, "Sue you obviously just don't understand what the purpose of programs like this are." Then he quizzed her on her sexual ethics, and accused her of having problems with men.

On the contrary, I think Sue knows exactly what the purpose of Finebaum's program is. She just doesn't like it. OK, the comment about the big trucks was way out of line, but honestly we all know people who drive big trucks for no practical purpose.

Of course, when she was done and the program moved on to other topics, Finebaum wasn't done with her. He called her a "stupid bitch" when another caller asked about it. The next caller really struggled to defend Finebaum, saying he wasn't calling for Mal Moore to fire Gottfried but merely "expressing his opinion." Left unsaid is that the "opinion" referenced is that Mal Moore should fire Mark Gottfried.

I say, hats off to Sue. She called him out on his misogyny and he naturally responded by calling her a "stupid bitch" and suggesting that she was a whore. Score one for Finebaum on that one. He clearly proved her wrong.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Out With a Whimper

Any positive momentum gained by the men's basketball program in the closing weeks of the season was dampened yesterday by its ignominious and unceremonious ousting from the SEC Tournament, which also ended the team's season. Let's hope it does not end Anthony Randolph's career.

What's worse, because of the early weekday start time, no one with a regular 9-5 job like myself got to actually see it.

Strangely, for the first time in a while, LSU actually had scoring balance. The swing shifters, the college students, and the unemployable all got to see a balanced scoring attack that saw five Tigers score in double figures, but saw no one take over the game for the Tigers. Randolph and Johnson got their points, but also committed turnovers, and couldn't keep the mediocre Gamecock frontcourt off the scoreboard. Thornton hit for 17, but shot well under 50% from the field, and missed a lot of 3-pointers. Garrett Temple wasn't his usual self, as he fouled out in just 26 minutes and was held scoreless. As a result, South Carolina's good guards ran roughshod over us at times.

So now it's time for the basketball team to regroup for next year, probably under a new coach. I like Butch Pierre, but I think his only real chance of keeping the job was if we made a serious run in the tournament. For all the talk of improved play, which is true, this team was still only barely above .500 with Butch as head coach. He'll catch on somewhere though, and we'll probably see him as a head coach somewhere at some point in his career. He did and admirable job, but I think the basketball team needs an experienced head coach who can bring excitement to the program.

Who is that? Well, the three I keep hearing are Tim Floyd, Anthony Grant, and Mike Davis. Tim Floyd is currently coaching USC, and he has major Louisiana ties. He's also reportedly been interested in coaching the Tigers in the past. I don't know if he'd leave USC at this point, as they seem to have something pretty good going on despite a mediocre season this year.

Anthony Grant is currently at Virginia Commonwealth, and you have to think he'd jump at a chance to coach in a major conference. I can think of no real downside to hiring Grant. His teams have had success at VCU, having gone to the second round of the tournament in his first year. He was a long time assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida, and you have to think he'd love to come back to the SEC as a head coach. There are no guarantees he'd be successful, but he's a legitimate candidate who would bring excitement to the program.

Mike Davis is currently at UAB. He has been a head coach somewhere every year since 2000, and he took his Indiana team to the NCAA tournament finals in his second year. He has had success at UAB, and according to many has made that school the best basketball program in the state, which is a pretty substantial compliment considering UAB is a C-USA school and there are two SEC schools in Alabama. Since his trip to the Finals, however, he has only been to the NCAAs twice and has not advanced past the second round. He has not taken UAB to the NCAAs yet, and may not be able to do so this year after losing early in the conference tournament. His team finished second in C-USA, but Memphis pretty much sucked all the air out of that conference this year.

Players love Mike Davis. When Davis was fired from Indiana to hire Kelvin Sampson (that worked out great for them, didn't it?), one of Indiana's best players, Robert Vaden, transferred to UAB to be with Davis and sat out a year. He's been UAB's best player, and has real pro potential. Instead of going to the NBA, he decided to sit out a year and follow Mike Davis. Davis also got a commitment from one of the best players in the 2009 recruiting class in DeMarcus Cousins, who made it clear he'd go wherever Davis was. Davis, then, is a package deal with a 5-star power forward.

Things to think about.

If I was the one making the decision, I don't know which of the three I would ask first. All have their plusses and minuses. Floyd may not want it, and isn't exactly a charismatic guy. Grant is inexperienced as a head man. Davis is pretty close to the dreaded label "retread". I think we need charisma and excitement, but we could also really use a Demarcus Cousins.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's Tourney Warm-Up Time

One of the immensely regrettable things about college basketball is how the NCAA tournament, the 64-team behemoth, sucks all the air out of the room. It is truly the end-all, be-all of college basketball, to the exclusion of all else. The point of the regular season and the conference tournaments is to set the field of 64. Success in the pre-tourney season is measured by what kind of a draw you get in the tournament.

I wish that was not the case. While I find the NCAA tournament to be very enjoyable, I believe that winning your conference regular is an important accomplishment. Winning your conference tournament is another important accomplishment. Most people believe that it's only important to win your conference tournament if you need to do so in order to make the tournament.

In order to win the SEC tournament, a team has to win 3 or 4 games in quick succession, fighting fatigue and playing against multiple different styles of game. After your first or perhaps your second game, you no longer have any opportunity to actually prepare for any given opponent, because you won't know who it is in time to do anything about it. You just have to go out there and play. May the best team win.

LSU is one of about 6 teams in the SEC whose season is probably over unless they win the conference tournament. Bama is another. Our opponent South Carolina is another. I know here in Alabama, some people are reportedly high on the Tide's prospect of actually winning it, despite the fact that Bama hasn't won two consecutive SEC games since the 2006-2007 season, and has won only one conference game outside of its home gym in the last two years.

LSU has played much better of late, and I believe we are a dangerous team. We are capable of going out there and beating anyone. We get South Carolina first, and I think we match up well against them. Their best player is their point guard Devan Downey, and we have good on-ball guard defensive play with Garrett Temple. They lack size and physicality near the basket, so they won't be able to muscle Randolph and Johnson away from the goal quite as easily as other teams can. We may have a big mismatch near the goal in this game.

Last time these two teams played, Randolph got 20 points, and Johnson was also in double figures. Temple held Devan Downey in check, allowing him only 6 points on the game.

What South Carolina does very well is shoot the 3-pointer. Zam Frederick can go out there and light it up, which he did against us in scoring 21 points. Of course, we have Marcus Thornton, who can do the same thing.

Where LSU finished the season on a relatively strong note, winning 4 of its last 5 games, South Carolina went the other way, losing 5 of its last 6 and 7 of its last 9.

I think we should win this game, but of course you never know. That 4-game winning streak that ended on Saturday could have taken it all out of us. We shall see. Or rather, we will see the highlights, because I will be at work while this game is going on at noon.

Speaking of poor scheduling, the only really good team playing today is scheduled to start up at 2:15pm, when most people are still working. Could this have been more poorly planned.

But hey, that barnburner between Bama and Florida is in prime time. Good show.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Character Issues

With the commitment of Russell Shepard last week, it seems like as good of a time as any to discuss an aspect of Les Miles' recruiting that has not been much discussed. Les Miles seems to be more-and-more passing on players with character problems in favor of players with real leadership skills, and I think this will pay off for LSU in the long run.

What do I mean by "character issues"? Well, for one, I think he is shying away more and more from kids who are far away academically from qualifying. This year, by all reports, even very good players are getting passed over if their academics aren't in order. We can all point to examples of kids who have not qualified in the past, such as DeAngelo Benton, that Miles has taken. And that's fine. Grades are not the end-all, be-all of character, but bad grades are a risk factor.

This year, we are reportedly turning away quality football players whose grades aren't up to snuff. Well, I think that may be too strong of a term. We aren't "turning them away". We're telling them to go back to the classroom and show that they can do what they need to do to get qualified and THEN they may get an offer if we still need them. This reportedly happened to Russell Shepard's teammate Hasan Lipscomb, in-state offensive linemen Chris Faulk and Carneal Ainsworth, in-state linebacker Tahj Jones, and possibly others. Les Miles is asking these guys to show that they can improve their grades before he will accept a commitment from them.

Miles has gone in the opposite direction from recruiting a bunch of very talented prima donnas who think they can coast through life. He seems to have concentrated on finding guys who can graduate high school early and get with the team as quickly as possible. After dipping his toe into the early-enrollee waters with Joseph Barksdale in 2007, he seems to have jumped into those water enthusiastically now. One member of the 2008 class, linebacker Kellen Theriot, is currently participating in Spring Practice, and many thought that all-everything cornerback Patrick Johnson would be able to as well, but his clearance from the NCAA came too late to enroll early.

For the 2009 class, Miles already has commitments from two players who expect to enroll in January of 2009: quarterback Russell Shepard and athlete Dexter Calhoun (more on him another day). There may well be more than that.

Not every coach likes to get players in early. I remember that Nick Saban allowed it, but at the same time discouraged recruits from enrolling early. I don't remember all the reasons for it, but I respect that opinion, even if I disagree with it.

He's also staying away from players who have gotten into trouble. One very high profile Louisiana kid, who will go nameless here, is apparently getting the cold shoulder from us in part because of an arrest in his recent past.

Miles is concentrating not only on guys with the grades, but also guys with leadership skills. You hear Michael Ford talk and you can just tell this kid oozes leadership. The same is true of Russell Shepard. Reports out of some quarters said that Patrick Johnson was like a magnet for other athletes. Even star athletes, with their understandably enormous egos, looked up to Patrick Johnson and considered him a natural leader.

Why is Miles concentrating so hard on getting leaders and high character guys? Well, I think one explanation is probably fairly obvious to anyone paying attention. I think Ryan Perrilloux has probably added a lot of grey hair to Miles' head since his recruitment in 2005, and because Perrilloux was the only quarterback recruited in a 3-year stretch, he is kind of stuck with him now unless he wants to bite the bullet and play a Jarrett Lee or Andrew Hatch. I think Miles is very good about learning from mistakes, and he doesn't want to get stuck again having to rely on someone who is fundamentally unreliable.

It's not all negative reenforcement, however. I think you only have to look at the 2007 season and see what leaders and high-character guys like Jacob Hester, Kirston Pittman, Ciron Black, Darry Beckwith, and Glenn Dorsey can do for a team. As is becoming evident from the coverage of the NFL draft we're seeing, that team may not have been as talented as many people thought. We may have only two players (Dorsey and Doucet) drafted on the first day, when many people early in the season believed that Ali Highsmith, Craig Steltz, and Chevis Jackson could all be high picks as well, and believed players like Beckwith and Tyson Jackson might be tempted by big dollars to leave early, where now it looks like they may not have been high picks had they come out. That team won with a combination of talent and leadership, and Les Miles is smart enough to learn from that and put his learning into action.

If this continues, this is going to be one of the great classes in LSU history, both on Signing Day and into the future.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Look Back to 2006

Following up last week's retrospective on the 2005 signing class, here is an early retrospective on the 2006 class. Obviously, there isn't as much information available about the 2006 recruiting class as there is about the 2005 class, because these guys have played one fewer year. However, I think there's enough information to make the task worthwhile. Of course, all grades are tentative as there is still time for players to break out (or fail to break out).

QB: None
Analysis: Not getting a QB in this class has certainly put us in a bit of a bind. We have Ryan Perrilloux as a junior and no scholarship sophomore or senior QBs other than Hatch, the Harvard transfer. A good QB in this class could have really helped out.

RB: Keiland Williams - *****, Richard Murphy - ****, Charles Scott - ****
Grade: A
Analysis: These guys are now the key runners on the team, and should be one of the team's strengths no matter what happens with the QB situation.

OL: Matt Allen - ****, Steve Singleton - ***, Mark Snyder - ***, Zhamal Thomas - ****
Grade: D-
Analysis: Pewww! Three of these four are no longer on the team, and the fourth appears to not be in the two-deep and to have been passed by younger players on the depth chart. Zhamal Thomas was allegedly involved in a burglary and was dismissed. Singleton left for reasons unknown. Snyder's career ended due to injury problems. You can't blame Snyder for that one, as he endured two catastrophic knee injuries. Matt Allen had a lot of good press at this time next year, but he seems to have gotten lost on the practice field.

WR: Jared Mitchell - ****, Chris Mitchell - ****, Ricky Dixon - ****
Grade: C-
Analysis: This group has a combined 22 catches for their careers, none of them have been particularly memorable, and none of them came in the last 6 games of the season last year. Actually, Jared Mitchell looked like he was getting somewhere early last year. He made 13 catches in the first 7 games, several of them in SEC play. Then he stopped getting the ball once Doucet returned from injury. Of all these players, Jared seems the closest to becoming a productive player, but he's not there yet. For the Mitchells, it's now or never. I think if they don't do something this year, they will get passed on the depth chart by multiple freshmen this year.

TE: Richard Dickson - ****, J.D. Lott - ***
Grade: A
Analysis: One guy who looks to be an All-America candidate next year, and another guy who left the team. That's an A-grade in my opinion. Dickson had a huge breakout year as a receiver last year, and is a 2-year starter at tight end. If we're lucky, he'll stay for his senior year.

DL: Al Woods - *****, Pep Levingston - ***
Grade: B
Analysis: Woods has been a mild disappointment, but he's a solid contributor. He just doesn't dominate like we'd expected. Pe Levingston looks like a solid depth player, but it's not certain he'll ever get starters' time. All-in-all, something of a light defensive line class, made lighter because Charles Deas never made it to campus.

LB: Derrick Odom - ****, Perry Riley - ***, Jacob Cutrera - ***, Kelvin Sheppard - ***
Grade: B
Analysis: The highest rated guy on the board never played a down, while the three-stars have gotten significant playing time as reserves. Riley looks like a stud to me, and Sheppard looks like a solid player. Both have excelled at special teams and it's now their turns to really have a shot at starting. There are probably no All-Americans in this group, but Riley could be an All-SEC type guy.

DB: Jai Eugene - ****, Danny McCray - ***, Troy Giddens - ***
Grade: Incomplete
Analysis: I'm just not prepared to give a grade to Jai Eugene yet. Danny McCray has become a key player as the nickel back, though he sometimes struggles in coverage. Giddens is off the team for the same reason as Zhamal Thomas. The key here is Eugene. He's played well on special teams, but he has struggled when he's gotten into the game at corner, after being one of the most sought-after defensive backs of his class. Fact is, he didn't play defense for the last year-and-a-half he was in high school, and is learning the position from scratch as a Tiger.

You look at this class and you have to think there are some disappointing aspects to it, though it could end up being stronger than it looks right now. Perhaps the coaches would have liked to have redshirted the Mitchells, but didn't have the receiver depth to do it. Perhaps if Thomas and Snyder hadn't had their problems, the offensive line class would look a lot better. Perhaps if Deas had made it to campus the defensive line would look better.

Still, there are also things to like about this class. The running backs and linebackers appear to be strengths, and Richard Dickson might end up being the best player from this class, and maybe our best tight end ever.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Basketball Woes

I watched much of the women's basketball game last night, the SEC Tournament title game against Tennessee. LSU lost 61-55. The loss was a result of poor offensive execution and poor free throw shooting more than anything. Down the stretch, LSU missed 3 front-ends of one-and-one free throw situations, and went 3 1/2 minutes without scoring a field goal.

It was a very good and very exciting game overall. Except for some brief occasions where Tennessee busted out to a lead of 7 or 8 points, it was a very close game throughout, with many lead changes. We occasionally went through stretches of poor play, and we just happened to go through one right at the end of the game.

On the men's side, we lost our final regular season game against MSU. Mississippi State is a really good team, and it showed. We played well for a while, but once again we had very little diversification of offense, as most of our points were scored by 3 players: Marcus Thornton (38), Chris Johnson (17), and Anthony Randolph (14). The rest of the team combined for 6 points. When Johnson got into foul trouble, the team really fell behind and never recovered.

The SEC Tournament is next for us, beginning at noon on Thursday. I really think we have a shot in this tournament. On the right day, I think we can beat anyone in the conference. Of course, we've also proven we can lose to anyone as well. I guess as long as we don't get Arkansas we have a chance. They seem to be our kryptonite. We would meet them in the semifinals if both teams make it that far.

Honestly though, as long as we win one and stay competitive against Tennessee in round 2, I will be moderately satisfied.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"How I Dearly Wish I Was Not Here"

I recently got a request for music videos. I used to post a lot of music videos, mostly to classic alt-rock or alt-pop from the '80s and '90s. I just sort of got out of the habit once football season started and I didn't pick it back up when football season ended.

One of the things about being a mostly one-person operation is that I'm somewhat dependent upon the fickle whims of inspiration. I can really only do something if I have some desire to do it. For a while now, I haven't had the desire to seek out videos to the music I like, but I'm making an effort. I present to you "Every Day is Like Sunday" by Morrissey:

I'm not a big Morrissey fan at all. This is the only Morrissey solo song I'm actually familiar with, though I like some of what The Smiths did. I like the song, but primarily I'm posting it because it is an example of '80s and '90s music videos that were weirdly detached from the song.

The music video posted above is about a young woman, attractive in an '80s Madonna-ish sort of way, struggling to make sense of a world that she finds offensive or vacuous. She goes through town and is bothered by butchers selling meat and by people mistreating animals. She finds her inspiration in the Beavis-like good looks of Morrissey, and achieves some sort of peace knowing there are kindred spirits out there if she can just find them.

The song is not about that at all. It's about nuclear war. It's about how following the apocalypse, every day is pretty much the same and it gets kind of lonely.

I don't know why music video producers and directors so frequently strayed so far from the subject matter of the songs in designing a video around, but this is clearly one of the most egregious examples. Granted, the song is slow and kind of romantic sounding, so it doesn't exactly shout "I'M ABOUT THE HORRORS OF GENOCIDE," but the director had to know what it was about. Surely someone told him.

If you don't know the song, go ahead and click the video and listen. Despite its subject matter, it's actually a pretty catchy and melodic tune.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Moving Right Along

Obviously, we cannot keep this up forever. Eventually, this site has to move away from its slap fight with Tigerdroppings. After all, despite what you may have read recently, there are about 350 posts on this blog out of about 355 that do not mention Tigerdroppings at all. This blog is about discussing LSU sports and SEC sports, and those topics have been sadly neglected the last couple of days.

One topic sadly neglected, and not just in recent days, is the play of the LSU women's basketball team, which finished the season undefeated in SEC play and heads to the conference tournament as one of the favorites. Winning the SEC is a huge accomplishment, as we all know that the Tennessee program has been the 500 pound gorilla of this sport. Knocking them off was huge.

First up in the SEC tournament is Ole Miss. Unfortunately the game is at noon today, which means it is pretty much impossible for me to watch it, as I will be at work. And yes, I enjoy watching LSU women's basketball when the games get more important (against Tennessee, or in the tournaments). I am hardly an expert on the topic, but I know we are really good and we have an excellent chance to win this tournament.

I also need to talk about the LSU-Bama basketball game from the other night. I was a little distracted from this topic yesterday, as you may have noticed. Despite being outrebounded dramatically (36 to 24 according to ESPN's boxscore), we won that game on the strength of good shooting, and in particular good free throw shooting. Shooting 41% from 3-point range doesn't hurt either. Clutch shooting and clutch defense are also nice, and we held Bama without a field goal in the last couple of minutes, coming from behind by 1 point to win by 7.

My analysis of this game is handicapped a little by the fact that I did not watch it. It was not on television here. I know that Anthony Randolph, perhaps in another showcase for the NBA, scored a career high.

He and Marcus Thornton again carried the scoring load, getting 56 of our 80 points. I sure hope this kid comes back, and just based on what I've seen I have to be doubtful of the projections that he is a lottery pick. He has the height and length, and he has athleticism (but not Tyrus Thomas-level athleticism). He has moves and overall general skills. He just lacks so much strength, and it showed in his inability to fight Hendrix and Jemison for rebounds. Neither of those guys are as good as the players he'll meet in the NBA.

If he really is a lottery pick, I can't be mad at him for going. That's a lot of money to pass up. I just doubt those projections.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

More on Yesterday

Congratulations to the LSU basketball team on another win last night. That makes four in a row, and I think we've accomplished what we wanted to accomplish regardless of what happens with Mississippi State on Saturday. Am I getting way ahead of myself to think we might have a real shot at winning the tourney?

Anyway, the Tigerdroppings issue is still in my mind. Let me make one thing very clear. I do not begrudge Tigerdroppings its success, nor do I set out to pick a fight with it. Quite the contrary, every conflict that has ever arisen between this site and Tigerdroppings happened because the administration of Tigerdroppings did something that I thought was jaw-droppingly surprising.

Was I warned against linking to this blog? Yes. Did I follow that mandate 100%? No. Did I follow it mostly? Yes. Was I kicked off for linking? No.

To summarize this, it is perfectly within the rules of Tigerdroppings, and even encouraged, to start a thread with the topic "Top 5 strangest places you've taken a dump," but you must not link to a blog that talks about football. Linking to the blog that talks about football is clearly outside of the purview of a message board about football. Hell, the topic on taking a dump will probably go on for 3 to 5 pages, and more than one admin will probably post to it.

I don't justify breaking the rules, but the Tigerdroppings rules are broken all the time. It's almost a rite of passage over there to break some rule and cause some drama and then it all blows over in a day or two. I broke the rule against linking to this website exactly once after I came to understand exactly what the rule meant, and I've been banned twice, neither time was immediately after linking this blog. It's not the linking that got me banned. It's something else. Did I break the rule? Yes. Am I the only user in the world who deliberately broke a rule once? There will probably be more than one TD user who deliberately breaks a rule TODAY.

Like it or not, there are some unwritten rules at Tigerdroppings. These rules aren't advertised except to people who unwittingly break them. Unwritten rule #1 is, "Don't talk about the unwritten rules." I guess if you talk about them, they're no longer unwritten.

I don't know why there are unwritten rules. I don't know why certain things are out of bounds, and I don't know why they don't want other users to know that it's out of bounds. It's certainly not out of fear of conflict, as the place is nothing if not full of conflict and drama. It's certainly not because they want to generally restrict what topics are discussed. Almost literally anything goes over there. The only things that are clearly out of bounds are the following:
  • Use of racial slurs (though expressing racism is not out of bounds, as long as you avoid racial slurs)
  • Posting of pornography
  • Linking this blog, whether you are me or anyone else
One of these things is not like the other.

For more, check out the comments section to yesterday's post. Someone decided they did not agree with me, and you can check out his perspective if you want.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I've Gotten Into More Stupid Drama

Everyone knows that drama creates buzz, right. Well, maybe it's time this website got a few more hits because I seem to have gotten involved in more Tigerdroppings drama. Hence, we are calling an audible, and the post I promised you yesterday will have to wait.

In a thread over at Tigerdroppings, a poster named Catahoula Lake, who is a person totally unfamiliar to me, started a thread in which he quoted my post yesterday on Russel Shepard. He seemed to have trouble getting the link right. A little later in the day another user tried to help him fix the link and discovered that any attempt to link to this website is automatically garbled. Someone over there has programmed it so that it is impossible to link to this site from Tigerdroppings.

He pointed this out on the thread. I noticed his response, and I posted my own response expressing my surprise. Then I noticed that my response did not send the thread to the top of the page. The thread, completely harmless though it was, had been "anchored", meaning it was set to not to get bumped to the top when someone posted to it, so it would steadily sink to the bottom and off the page, where it would likely not be viewed again.

It was not anchored automatically the way the link was garbled. This was done by an admin that day, who chose to disfavor that particular thread, the one that mentioned this website, tried to link to it, and that prompted someone else (none of these people are me mind you) to notice that this website got special treatment.

Special negative treatment, that is. Links to national media aren't garbled. Links to LSU beat reporters like Glenn Guilbeau aren't garbled. Links to local LSU-themed bloggers like Dandy Don aren't garbled. Why is this website so disfavored over there?

I then started a thread on the Help Board asking about this. I will admit, I got a little testy. Frankly, I took it as a personal slight, which I think is a fair conclusion under the circumstances, and my testiness was justified. After a short conversation on the topic with a handful of users, the thread was deleted and my posting privileges were revoked. What's more, the message that pointed out the garbled links on the original thread, and how it only involved this website, was deleted along with my follow-up.

Recall, from the previous drama, the last straw was that they didn't only ask me not to link to the website or comment on it over at Tigerdroppings, but they didn't want me to ever point out that they had taken any action against me. It seems they did not want their users to know that this website was so disfavored. So, to recap, here is the relationship between GeauxTuscaloosa and Tigerdroppings:
  • I can't mention the website over there
  • I can't discuss the rules regarding not being able to mention the website over there
  • Anyone who attempts to link to my website will find it impossible to do
  • Threads that mention this website will be anchored
  • Posts that mention that this website gets special treatment will be deleted
  • People who attempt to bring this forward will be punished
I still cannot imagine why this website is held in such contempt by the people who run Tigerdroppings. I don't have a big enough ego to think that I'm some kind of a threat. Hell, this blog has approximately 15-20 regular readers. Tigerdroppings probably gets 15-20 new regular users every day or two. It's a behemoth. I doubt I take away one cent of advertising dollars, and I doubt I would take away a cent if my readership increased by a factor of 100. Why does anyone spend 2 seconds thinking of this place as some kind of enemy?

And if they are inclined to think about this place, why is it held in such contempt? In over 350 posts on this board, I've mentioned Tigerdroppings exactly three times that I recall. This would be the fourth, and the drama started well before the first time I mentioned Tigerdroppings in any negative way. Heck, all I do is post long, rambling articles about football. Most of Tigerdroppings clientele doesn't even have the patience to read them, much less care about them. To the extent I've been critical of Tigerdroppings for having an incredibly high number of idiots posting (and apparently at least one petty and vindictive admin), other websites have been at least as critical.

I think, ultimately, that's what bothers me the most. This is so petty on their parts. What's more, because they won't let it even be discussed openly, they seem to know that it's petty. The only reason I can think of to censor all discussion of this website and their rules regarding it is that they must know how unreasonable they're being, and they know that if it's openly discussed over there, people will point out how chickenshit it is (pun intended).

It also makes me wonder what other topics of discussion may be secretly censored.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Russel Shepard Commits to LSU

Big-time prospect Russell Shepard out of Houston-Cypress Ridge committed to LSU last night. He is listed at 6'2" and 180#, but you have to be a little suspicious of those numbers, but also must realize he will get bigger before he leaves high school.

If you don't know this kid, get to know this kid right now. He's a 5-star quarterback, and the #4 2009 recruit in the country, one of the best players at the most important position on the field. His commitment to LSU is the biggest so far in a year with several big commitments already.

You want my breakdown of this kid, do you? Okay, here's what I have:

Strengths: He's a tremendous running quarterback, a true speed-burner with running instincts. Also, and I think this is almost as important, he seems like he really has his head on straight. He'll be a December graduate and a Spring enrollee, meaning he'll be at the 2009 Spring Practice. He projects to qualify with ease. He is a very well-spoken kid who seems like a natural leader as well. He's athletic enough that if he does not make it as a quarterback, he could still end up being an All-Conference or All-American performer at cornerback, wide receiver, or maybe running back.

He could also end up helping us get other high-profile Texas recruits like defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland (a kid with a name like this has to go to LSU), defensive back Craig Loston (Shepard's cousin, actually), and teammate Hasan Lipscomb, who will be a Tiger if he gets his grades in order.

Weaknesses: His videos don't show a heck of a lot of passing, and the passing they show doesn't stand out as being spectacular. He's also a little small to be taking the huge hits at quarterback you have to take if you want to be a run-first guy. That said, his videos on Rivals aren't highlights. They're sophomore highlights, and the kid is destroying everyone.

If you want some comparisons to former players, he looks an awful lot like former Colorado Buffalo and Pittsburgh Steeler Cordell Stewart, a.k.a. "Slash". He's also reminiscent of Tommie Frazier. If he's not a quarterback, he's like a taller Percy Harvin.

The only reason we were in it with Shepard is because Texas coach Mack Brown was recruiting him strictly as a wide receiver. Shepard has said he does not mind switching positions but wants to get a shot at quarterback, and will switch positions if he doesn't earn playing time at QB.

That's fine with me. Les Miles has said he's a quarterback and that's where he wants Shepard. I actually give Mack Brown some credit here. He didn't just tell Shepard what he wanted to hear. He told him the truth, which is that Texas wasn't going to give him a shot at quarterback. LSU will.

Here's what I'd do with him. I'd tell him, if you don't get into the two-deep at quarterback as a freshman (which is realistically unlikely, if you ask me) you will redshirt, and during your redshirt year you will work exclusively at quarterback. During your second year, continue working him at quarterback while installing some specialty sets to utilize his skills as a ball-carrier or receiver. In his redshirt sophomore year, make the final evaluation on whether or not Shepard is the quarterback of the future, and if he is not, make a permanent move. If he is, leave him at quarterback even if he is not the starter yet, but continue to leave in specialized plays for him at other positions while you wait.

I don't know if he's a future QB, or if his future is at another position, but I'm happy to give him a fair shot at quarterback. He'll have to come in and compete with Jarrett Lee (who will be 2 years ahead of him), Jordan Jefferson (one year ahead), and possibly Ryan Perrilloux who will overlap him by one year if he is still here for his senior year and who will not be beaten out if he stays, and then he'll have to compete with whoever we sign in the 2010 class. There are also rumors that we will sign another 2009 quarterback, but considering another QB could scare Shepard away and further considering the small class we have this year, I'm not sure it's a good idea to recruit another quarterback. I'd rather use that slot for another position. I'm not the coach though, and Les Miles has long since earned my trust.

With us getting a non-binding verbal commitment from a high-profile out of state kid that everyone in the world wants, you have to be concerned about the possibility of him changing his mind. Even though he says he's finished, and even though he seems like a real high-character kid (more on that tomorrow), you can't help but be worried. It helps that he's a mid-term graduate who will be enrolled by the time the pressure gets enormous in January. it also helps that he's a quarterback, and coaches aren't going to wait around to get their QB commitments.

It's an exciting day to be a Tiger fan.

Monday, March 3, 2008

3 In a Row

There was another impressive win for the basketball team yesterday, as the Tigers came back from 16 down to win 71-64 at home against Georgia. LSU had only two scorers in double figures and only got 1 bench point. Obviously, if you watched the game at all, you know how top heavy the team was, getting 36 from Marcus Thornton and 19 from Anthony Randolph. The rest of the team scored 16 points.

We have 5 conference wins now, which means that Butch Pierre has as many wins in conference as Mark Gottfried has, as someone on talk radio pointed out last week.

Gottfried gets a chance to even the score on Wednesday when LSU takes on the Tide in the PMAC. They beat us pretty good in Tuscaloosa earlier this season, but this is a very different team now, and Bama hasn't won a conference game on the road all year.

We are out of the basement and ahead of Georgia, Bama, and Auburn. If we win on Wednesday, we put more distance between us and those teams, and we have the opportunity to pass Ole Miss and South Carolina. That's as far as we can go.

Honestly, my enthusiasm over this strong finish is somewhat dampened by the rumors that Anthony Randolph is likely to go pro at the end of the season. The development of Randolph as a skilled post player, and the prospect that he will get physically stronger are two of the primary reasons for excitement going forward. His alleged plan to end his college career after this season
throws a wet blanket over that enthusiasm.

I know the school of thought that says it's probably best to go pro as soon as you can in basketball, but I really wonder if that is true with Randolph. Randolph is an excellent player, but he has two primary weaknesses that will handicap him dramatically in the NBA. First, he's not strong enough to play back to the basket in the NBA, and he doesn't really have the face-up game to make up for it. This will affect his immediate effectiveness and will make him a "project" in the NBA, hurting his draft stock. Despite his myriad skills, I have to think he's going to make a pretty ordinary NBA'er.

Second, he has no apparent passion for the game. He has not shown to be a fierce competitor. This is something that I think another year or two of college can actually correct. Heck it's probably one of the few things college basketball teaches well. The NBA has a reputation for being not a very fun league, and if his passion is lacking now, one wonders what it would be when he's playing 5 minutes a game for the first year or two of his career.

I hope he decides to come back for another year or more. He's a young kid and the NBA can wait. This is probably the last time in his life he'll be a key player on a basketball team, and he should enjoy it while it lasts.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Look back at 2005

With the talk of recruiting lately, even for the 2009 class, I think it's instructive to go back and look at Les Miles' earlier recruiting classes and grade them after the fact. Miles' first class was the small 2005 class with only 13 commits. Let's grade them out. Star ratings are by Rivals:

QB: Ryan Perrilloux - *****
Grade: Incomplete
Analysis: We all know Perrilloux has the talent to be a phenomenal quarterback. He sat behind Jamarcus Russell and then Matt Flynn waiting his turn, and no it's his time to shine. He has looked very good in limited roles thus far, and has excelled when he had to be the key guy because of injuries. The problem of course is his inability to stay with the team. If he plays, his gameplay will get an A-grade. If he doesn't, this is a washout of course.

OL: Ciron Black - ***, Kyle Anderson - ***, Lyle Hitt - ***
Grade: A
Analysis: Black is a two-year starter following his redshirt season, and may end up going pro early following his third year as full time starter. He's an All-SEC left tackle, and if he stays for his 5th year he will probably go down as LSU's most accomplished offensive lineman ever. Can't get much better than that. Lyle Hitt originally was a defensive tackle before being moved to offensive guard and was an important role player in last year's national championship run, primarily as a run blocker on the right side. Kyle Anderson washed out due to off-field issues, but a Ciron Black is enough to make up for that.

WR: Brandon Lafell - ***, R.J. Jackson - ****
Grade: B
Analysis: Jackson has not done much other than play special teams, which is a disappointment for a 4-star player. Lafell is threatening to emerge as our #1 receiver. If he does, this grade will go up a bit. Lafell redshirted his first year, then made a handful of catches in his second year while sitting behind Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, and Early Doucet. When finally given his chance, he made a bunch of catches, but also had some costly drops. He seems to have gotten past the drops problem and looks to be a very solid wide receiver now.

RB: Trindon Holliday - ***, Steven Korte - ****, Antonio Robinson - ****
Grade: B-
Analysis: We all know Trindon and his speed, but it's clear he is only a specialty back and a kickoff returner, though he is dangerous at both. Trindon's a weapon, but this class was only 1 for 3 on running backs, and that running back isn't capable of being an every down back. Korte and Robinson washed out at LSU and are now elsewhere.

DL: Ricky Jean-Francois - ****, Al Jones aka Rahim Alem - ****
Grade: B+
Analysis: Rahim Alem has been an important reserve defensive end and role player in his time on the team, and figures to be so again before maybe taking over for Kirston Pittman next year. Jean-Francois looks like an All-American in the making, but his off-field problems that made him lose 12 games last year keeps this grade from being an A.

LB: Darry Backwith - ****
Grade: A
Analysis: Darry spent his first year excelling on special teams, then he took over the strong side linebacker position at the start of the 2006 season, moving inside at midseason, where he has been a stalwart when healthy. He returns for his senior season as the undisputed leader of the linebacker corp and one of the best linebackers in the conference. Not bad.

DB: Chris Hawkins - ****
Grade: Incomplete
Analysis: He was stuck behind quality starters for his first years in the program. Now, he enters his junior year with a legitimate shot to nail down a starter spot at corner. This grade will be determined by whether or not he does that and how much he excels at that position. One could say he's a mild disappointment for failing to win the nickel back position, or the dime back position, but let's not go that far.

Overall, we have 13 prospects, three of whom have washed out and several of whom have emerged as leaders and producers. Considering the unavoidably small size of the class, this is a pretty good effort.