Saturday, February 28, 2009

My bad

My bad.

I take full credit for the loss at Michigan. I know, I know, the jinx fell squarely on my shoulders, but I still don't apologize for my excitement.

What I do apologize for is my complete ignorance at how valuable Nemanja Calasan's five fouls are. Put the Bosnia on the bench with the sniffles and opponents need only do one thing, attack JaJuan Johnson with impunity. Johnson's early foul trouble left the ole' aching back playing too much post defense.


No rest for the weary though. Ohio State rolls into West Lafayette today, and hopefully my pilgrimage to Mackey Arena will absolve me from the sins of my jinx. So I'll skip the hypotheticals and stick to relative facts.

There was an obvious defensive breakdown against Michigan that extended beyond the low post. Amazingly, Michigan was getting wide open cherry-pick layups in the second half run that allowed the Wolverines to pull away. Absolutely uncharacteristic for the Boilermakers. Next, Painter pulled Kramer off of Manny Harris and inserted Keaton Grant. Don't get down on Kramer. Harris was hitting shots that should have been in the Bird & Jordan McDonald's commercials. The larger issue there seems to be a quick bout of the Joe Tiller 2008 effect. The opposition makes all of the right adjustments at halftime while Purdue makes all of the wrong or no adjustments.

Purdue is now a 10-point favorite in today's game but still smarting from Thursday's let down and the earlier overtime loss in Columbus. I've not found any definitive word on Calasan's condition, but regardless I hope Painter keeps going as deep as Riddell on the bench.

That Thursday afternoon optimism isn't fully gone. The hopes we had of a healthy squad when Hummel was laid up for a month have now transitioned to a sinus infection in the faux-hawk. Give the Boilers nine healthy players and an Illinois win over the Spartans tomorrow and that should spell a good weekend.

By the way, I just typed that with my fingers crossed. The jinx was jinxed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Could any image better exemplify the latest run for the Boilers?

I'm not saying that Hummel is the key to winning - especially with the recent tour de force from E'Twaun and JJ - but the sheer number of injuries and illness have been staggering at times. Had the photographer stuck around a few seconds longer he might have seen Robbie back on his feet as the Boilermakers went on dispatching Indiana (even if Rob was a tad woozy).

Tonight's the time to put the recent agony behind us.

Purdue is a 2-point favorite on the road at Michigan. Obviously this is a reunion of Manny Harris's elbow and Chris Kramer's nose. And as exciting as more of Kramer's blanket defense is, there's a larger picture though.
A road win tonight keeps Purdue in the driver's seat for a Big Ten championship, and that carries additional weight that seems quite appealing at this point. Not only would the Boilers then have another road win in dethroning Michigan St, but just imagine an Illinois victory over the Spartans. In that scenario the Boilers would be the #1 seed at Conseco for the Big Ten tournament and potentially leapfrog themselves to a #2 seed in the NCAA.

Not only does the #2 seed bring the easier walk to the Sweet Sixteen, it might also earn opening round games in Dayton, OH. Add to that fact the recent tendency of the Paint Crew to travel well and the games in Dayton being on the Friday-Sunday rotation and it spells home court advantage and another weekend in Indianapolis.

It all hinges on tonight though.

The Boilers need to extend their defense to take down the perimeter shooting of Michigan and hope that JJ can continue his dominating inside presence. Avoid those opening lulls that have been arduous to watch. Keep the pressure on, and don't play not to lose. And for God's sake, hit your damn free throws.

Hit on all six Boilers and you might start paving your road to Detroit.

I'm know I'm getting ahead of myself, but holy shit, it actually seems plausible.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bad Idea Live Blog: 2009 Oscars

In what has now officially become a tradition (with this being the 2nd consecutive year!) the Bad Idea Oscar live blog is taking effect. Who will be the big winner tonight? Benjamin Button was tedious and boring despite outstanding effects. Milk and Frost/Nixon both took a couple HUGE flawed dramatic liberties in their scripts which cheapened the overall effect of each film. Slumdog Millionaire won the highly coveted title of "only best picture nominee I would watch more than one time," which means it is best picture by attrition. Criticism at it's finest! On with the grammar errors, misspellings, and the show...

7:30 Central Standard Time - Hugh Jackman is your host. While the Grammy Awards recently went without a central host, instead relying on younger commercially viable pop artists to appeal to the younger demographic, the Academy Awards have decided that their demographic is your mom, and believe me, by the time the show is done, your mom will shocked by how versatile and talented Hugh Jackman is!

Cue the opening dance number. And the economy jokes. Ugh. Hugh Jackman has the kind of smarmy musical shtick that makes you think, "He seems like a total hack, and yet I feel oddly persuaded to buy a monorail from him."

7:43 - We're 13 minutes into the show and we're already on our second standing ovation of the night. Keep this in mind later when some production designer is getting cut off 30 seconds into their speech.

One of the great things about the Oscars is that moment when you see someone in attendance and think "Holy Shit! He/she actually won an Oscar at some point!" Case in point: Whoopi Goldberg. What a career path. Could you imagine 15 years from now watching Cate Blanchett spend her days on a daytime talk show debating the economy with some reality-show burnout?

7:48 - Penelope Cruz is a trend setter. Making out with Scarlett Johansson=Oscar gold! Take note, actresses of Hollywood.

7:55 - Milk wins best original screenplay. I really liked this movie, with the huge exception of the implication that Josh Brolin's character was a closet case. Not only is there no basis for this being true, but it was the one aspect of the film that felt contrived and cheap, not to mention being completely unnecessary to make the script work. That said, the acceptance speech is nicely done.

8:01 - Is Benjamin Button the laziest screenplay to ever get nominated? Perhaps not, but it's in the conversation. It's almost as if that guy had already written the film years before... Luckily, Slumdog wins the bald man here.

8:09 - Did you have money on a Styx lyric being referenced during an acceptance speech? If so, thank the short animation winner for your glorious windfall.

8:19 - What is with the background music while the art and costume awards are being given out? Did this ceremony get moved from a theatre to a jazz club?

8:24 - Benjamin Button justifiably wins best makeup. What struck me most visually about this film is that the old wrinkled Brad Pitt looks impressively authentic - it's really only when Pitt gets young that he gets creepy and synthetic looking.

8:25 - Cue the "romance in movies" montage set to Coldplay. Let's face it, no other band would work here. This idea is great - the people who are putting together the Oscars have the same ambition and creativity as 14-year-old girls with iMovie who edit their own Gossip Girl montages for YouTube. OSCARZ 4EVER!!!

8:31 - You knew the Joaquin Phoenix joke was coming at some point. Fastball down the middle, Ben Stiller. "I just want to retire from being funny." I believe you just did. Booyah! To be honest, I'm probably just spoiled because a far funnier play on this aired during the Independent Spirit Awards over the weekend. When does the Christian Bale parody take place tonight?

8:39 - Jessica Biel refers to animator Ed Catmull as "God." He's not really God, although if he were a failed sci-fi writer as opposed to just an animator, a significant portion of the attendees would likely regard him as a God.

8:42 - I'm sorry, but I can't take Seth Rogen seriously as his Pineapple Express character when he's now half the size he was in the movie. Luckily, I could watch James Franco's character for hours so it evens out.

Rogen loses his shit when Franco can't spit out the German name of the live action short winner, and I can't figure out why I find this moment so hilarious. I just rewinded this three times to watch the giggles. I'd like to think that were I ever presenting an award, I would also use the occasion to laugh at my friends in front of millions.

8:51 - Hugh Jackman is wearing a tux, top hat, and Madonna-style face mic, which means more dancing. At this moment, he's one monocle away from playing Mr. Peanut.

Beyonce appears to minimal applause. Don't think she's just gonna let that shit slide, America. She will not be winning an Oscar for best lip-syncing tonight, but who cares - everyone is just waiting to get to the Abba section of the song.

9:05 - It's best supporting actor time, though there's no suspense over who's winning this. What is going on with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and his knit hat? Is he preparing for some period piece set in Seattle circa 1991?

Back to the award. Remember when you first heard that the Joker was coming back as a character for The Dark Knight? It seemed baffling to re-create a character that had been portrayed in an iconic performance so recently, didn't it? The greatest testament to Heath Ledger is that he took a role that was already ingrained in so many people's psyche thanks to Jack Nicholson, and not only re-invented it, but in fact left Nicholson's performance in the dust. Stunning.

9:13 - Bill Maher plugs his own terrible documentary before giving out an award to an legitimately great doc, Man On Wire. If you haven't seen this movie, you are missing out and you should fix this flaw as soon as possible. Philippe Petit is styling with a suit he apparently stole from the set of Life on Mars.

9:23 - The "action in movies" montage. There sure were a lot of cars wrecked and people punched in 2008. I only wish both had happened to Speilberg and Lucas before the Indiana Jones movie got made.

Will Smith has apparently taken over the show. He also just said "Boom goes the dynamite."

9:42 - Jerry Lewis gets the humanitarian award, and - WAIT! Again with the fucking Coldplay soundtrack on the Jerry Lewis tribute video?!? Did somebody put Gwyneth Paltrow in charge of music selection for this show?

9:54 - Slumdog keeps cleaning up, winning for both music score and original song. A.R. Rahman has to walk like 4 steps to get his second award, which seems like it should be a record for shortest acceptance walk.

HOLLYWOOD FUN FACT: Since it looks like Slumdog Millionaire is going to dominate the night, it seems appropriate to point out that this movie was scheduled to be a straight-to-DVD release when Warner Independent went under, and company execs thought it had no commercial viability. Amazing. I wish the dance numbers tonight went straight-to-DVD.

10:10 - It appears that the "In Memoriam" tribute is running with the audience applause microphones significantly lowered, even though the rumor earlier was that the applause was going to be muted completely from the telecast. But let's face it, we all knew Paul Newman was going to win running away. Nobody's touching Cool Hand Luke.

10:20 - Best director. Is there any filmmaker who seems more genuinely likable than Danny Boyle? The accent and dishevelled look play a huge part of course, as does the fact that he's responsible for the once of the greatest/most horrrific breakfast table scenes in modern cinema.

Here come the two heavyweight battles. Winslet vs Streep, and Penn vs Rourke. But first, more standing ovations for the presenters!

10:32 - Kate Winslet wins for a Holocaust movie, which means one thing: Ricky Gervais is a genius. As if you needed more proof. FACT:

HOLLYWOOD FUN FACT: The Wrestler was the best movie I saw all year. And in true industry fashion, Darren Aronofsky originally was only able to secure financing by replacing Mickey Rourke with Nicolas Cage. Nicolas Cage! Can you imagine such a debacle! And if Aronofsky hadn't held his ground (and subsequently lost all his funding), Nicolas Cage would have played the part! These are the problems the film industry should be focusing on rather than worrying about who's pirating copies of Tropic Thunder.

10:43 - Sean Penn edges out Rourke, which frankly bums me out. But he mentions Rourke in his speech, so he's back in my good graces. At least to an extent (my resentment of Sean Penn has very little to do with his political screeds, and much more with I Am Sam. Those woulds linger.)

10:52 - The coronation of Slumdog is complete with the best picture win. Disappointingly, the Oscar broadcast does not end with a stylized Bollywood dance sequence. But it does end with an oddly selected cover of Bob Dylan's "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" performed by Beck. Interesting choice there. Was a Coldplay song unavailable?

Be here this time next year, and call Vegas as quickly as possible with your 2010 bets, while you still have good odds on Night at the Museum 2.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wait and See

Tonight's contest with Michigan St. has been on most fans' calendar since the beginning of the season.

We just didn't think it would be like this.

Sure Purdue is only two games back and can put themselves back near the driver's seat for both a Big Ten championship and #1 seed at the conference tournament. Sure they're sitting on 18 wins with a minimum of 7 games left. Sure they're currently projected as a 4 to 5 seed in the NCAA tournament with that cathartic Indiana game on the weekend horizon.

But it just doesn't feel right. Not right enough, yet.

Despite the two game winning streak including stellar defensive scoring efforts against Penn St. and Iowa, this doesn't feel like the team that went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma and dismantled Davidson.

The recent loss of Robbie Hummel has a load to do with both the lack of wins and lack of chemistry, but that isn't the whole story. I found myself asking Mrs. McLochness recently, "Doesn't it feel like Purdue is missing two players?" The disappearing acts of Calasan and Green have most fans on edge. The addition of Bobby Riddell's playing time has been an boost, but do we really want to be looking at Buckets for that spark off of the bench?

Here's what I do know. Purdue is a 3-point home dog, despite the debut of the new, lengthy unis. Michigan has won 16 of its last 18. The Spartans are averaging 5 more points again and a scary 5 more rebounds. Purdue has a statistical edge in blocks, steals, and turnovers, and that's where our fate lies tonight. If the Boilers want to pull off the definitive, message-sending victory it's going to take those big plays like blocks and steals to keep the crowd energy up unlike the malaise that descended on Mackey during the Duke game.

All this and Michigan St. is still as quick and explosive as ever.

This should be interesting.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan

Needless to say, the last six games have been a whirlwind for the Boilers.

Not only have they knocked off Wisconsin in Madison two years in a row, climbed back into a statistical tie for first place, and weathered numerous injuries and illnesses, they've even begun to accessorize. The flash of that elbow pad sleeve against the shattered nose mask - and all of if topped with a sweat-laden headband - FAB-U-LOUSSSS!

In all seriousness, the Boilers are on the precipice of two reclamation games. The next two bouts with OSU and Illinois could set the stage for a grab at the upper hand. A loss in either could keep them hungry in second and champing at the bit. While losses in both may drop them all the way back to a number 5 the Big Ten Tournament.

I was reviewing preseason goals I'd set for the boys and so far, we're not successful on any (except I think they might have locked up the winning season). Regardless, this recent stretch has yet again underlined the beauty of this game. Despite depleted losses against Illinois and Penn State, the Boilers might be looking their best even with the blemishes.

The final goals remain the same. Snag that top-4 seed and hopefully a fuel-efficient run through March with bus rides to Dayton, Indianapolis, and Detroit.

For now, take down Bucky.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Bubble of Sanity

Well look what have we here in the newest edition of Bracketology:

While it might be borderline presumptuous to look ahead to a classic 9 vs 4 match-up in the 3rd round, the mere prospect of Dayton facing Syracuse in the first round intrigues me for a couple reasons.

The first reason is that aside from a huge neutral court win over 8th ranked Marquette and an impressive win vs St. Joe's yesterday, you could make an argument that UD is the most baffling 20-win team in the country. Consider the circumstances of some of these victories:
  • A 60-59 win over Auburn where Dayton sets an NCAA record by going 0-24 on 3-point attempts, getting the win thanks to Auburn making only 12 of 26 free throws.
  • Blowing a 6-point lead to a 2-13 Fordham team by allowing 8 points in the final 24 seconds of the game, only to win 72-71 on a Rob Lowery runner with 2 seconds left.
  • Trailing George Washington by a point with 20 seconds left, only to take the lead (and get the win) because GW picked up a technical for playing with SIX MEN ON THE COURT! This is simply amazing - watch the kid racing off the court here when he realizes there's an extra white jersey out there.
  • Defeating St. Louis 47-46 in a rough watch where the only Flyer points in the last seven minutes of the game were scored on the game-winning alley-oop! They also went 0-11 from long-range in this game.
So yes, the Flyers have been spotty, but are also an NCAA best 8-0 in games decided by 5 points or less. The second reason a Syracuse matchup intrigues me is the ESPN factor. It's easy for people to understand how my hatred of all east coast sports teams flourished during my time in Bristol based on the rooting interests of my colleagues. To this day, when the Yankees play the Sox, I root for brawls and that's about it. But like the proliferation of Patriots fans, the contingent of Syracuse alumni walking the corridors of ESPN (and virtually every other broadcast outlet in the country) is just too overwhelming to ignore, try as one might. As is often the case, the meathead pride swells with success. This was the case during Cuse's '03 title run, where seemingly every day of work revolved around an 18-year-old kid named Carmelo turning grown professionals into slackjawed fanboys, obsessed with his every move long past the point of awkwardness. The prospect of an entire newsroom full of Orange alumni being forced to watch Boeheim exit at the hands of UD is an image that would leave me babbling like Ned Beatty.