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19 09 2010

As promised here are some photos from the Rauch / Traore Dit Nignan wedding.

Groomsmen awaiting the ceremony . Beautiful weather for an outdoor wedding

 

Armel in the midst of a tear-jerking speech. Wasn't a dry eye at the ceremony

Brent and Ajay kick-off the reception with their retro-90's dance moves

A classic beginning for Nicole and Armel's first dance as a married couple...

And the fitting end to their first dance as a married couple

Linds and I pause for a photo. What you don't see - former Drake basketball players busting a rug behind camera

Klayton Korver makes an appearance ladies and gentleman. You know its a special occasion if this man shows up

I interrupt a conversation between the former roommates. Something about Jewett, ranch, video games, and bed time...





Man vs Blog

10 09 2010

And we’re back. Back to work. Back with inspiration. Back with a plan.

Four months into my working career and my head finally stopped spinning. Drastic life changes – starting a job and buying a house are enough to make this man go insane. And stress. Don’t forget the stress.

But I’m starting to settle in. I’m excited to have a schedule. Because for everything basketball is, predictable it certainly is not.

That being said, it’s hard not to miss. The everyday competition and excuse to be in great shape are not as easy to come by in the working world. Work highs will never be the same as basketball highs.

But that’s not a bad thing. Actually, being settled in Des Moines has many advantages.

More-so than anything else, being back helps me realize how proud I am of what my teammates and I helped build. There’s still a buzz in the city. Almost three years have gone by, but Drake fans will never forget. Though daily life can put it to the back-burner, I can’t help but feeling fortunate for having such great teammates and such a tremendous experience.

Last weekend proved a great reminder – former teammate Armel Traore Dit Nignan tied the knot with his wonderful new bride Nicole. The wedding served as a reunion for many Drake guys. Aliou Kieta, Ajay Calvin, Brent Heemskerk, Jacob Baryenrbuch, Josh Young, Klayton Korver, Leonard Houston all attended.

A beautiful ceremony. Emotional speeches. And a great bunch of guys. I couldn’t imagine a better weekend and am very happy for Armel and Nicole.

Pictures and more posts to come. Welcome back blog.





5lbs of NBA Playoff Goodness (With a Few Sides)

2 06 2010

As was so keenly pointed out by the Des Moines Register’s Sean Keeler, I’m not keeping up. I sound like a broke record. Anyway. Here’s what’s going on:

1.The WebMaster reached number 20. It seems this blog has become more devoted to his gastronomical feats than sports. In fear of running out of adjectives, that’s all I’ll say about that.

2. Former Drake football player Allen Ussin got his name on the board. Days before departing for a new job in Texas, Ussin labored through all five-pounds of meat and gets a well-deserved photo on the blog. Best of luck Al.

3. This weekend is the Principal Charity Classic. Look for myself, Brent Heemskerk, Luke “The Landlord” Frieberg, and the rest of the LDR’s as hosts around the 17th and 18th greens. The PCC promises to be a great time.

4. I am not looking forward to the NBA Finals. In fact, I will shun the NBA Playoffs like Dwight Schrute shunned Andy Bernard in The Office. I won’t even write about them. I won’t do it.

Ok, maybe because its necessary.

(Un-shun)

NBA Playoffs, I am disappointed in you. What began with such promise has produced nothing but series after series of disappointment.

In the Eastern Conference’s round 1 we saw two five-game series and a sweep. The only savior was an exciting seven-gamer between the Bucks and Atlanta. More than a good series, it was just a chance to root for an underdog.

Come on. There is no way an undermanned team like Milwaukee, void of its two best players, could defeat a vastly talented Atlanta Hawks squad. Not if both teams played hard anyway.

So why did it go seven games? You tell me, was it

a) Fear the Deer is such an amazing phenomena it could not be denied

b) the Hawks players wanted to remind us that NBA players have way more power than coaches (even sometimes the front office) by the way they continually disrespected Mike Woodson

c) the Hawks roster as a whole just doesn’t care

d) Mike Bibby died, therefore leaving the young and immature Hawk players without a guiding light.

e) All of the above

I vote e). Nothing short of all of those answers could’ve allowed that series to go to seven games.

(Re-shun)

Speaking of series that won’t go to seven-games, I’m not looking forward to the remainder of the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup either. Don’t get me wrong, I love playoff hockey. I’m basically Canadian. But, I hate that the Chicago Blackhawks are in the NHL Finals.

My reasoning is two-fold. First and foremost because the Detroit Red Wings and only the Red Wings are allowed to represent the Western Conference. Secondly because the WebMaster and new housemate Jeremy Gehl are Blackhawks fans. The obnoxious yelps for joy watching their team score two goals in 30 seconds. I can’t take it. Not when the Red Wings should be in the Finals.

So yes, the Blackhawks will win. Like the Bucks, Philly is just overmatched. Chicago is too big and too skilled. They even have a better net-minder.

I pick the Flyers to win one game. Blackhawks in five. More importantly, in 2011, the Red Wings and Hockeytown will return to their rightful throne atop the NHL.

I digress.

(Un-shun)

Moving out West, the first round was a little better. Despite being the two-seed, Dallas couldn’t get the monkey off their back, falling to seventh-seeded San Antonio in six. That was entertaining.

Interestingly enough, every other first round Western series ended in six games too – Lakers over a tough Thunder squad, Utah over Denver, and Phoenix bettering the Blazers.

Second round action proved more of the same. Losing teams won a whopping 2 games combined. We knew Atlanta would get swept. The Lakers were too big inside for Utah. Sweep. And Phoenix finally got over their San Antonio hump. Sweep.

So the team that won … you guessed it, the Cleveland Delontes. Look, Boston never should’ve defeated the Cavaliers. This was supposed to be Cleveland’s year. The fans need it. The franchise needs it. The city needs it. The team is finally put together. Lebron has the pieces. They finished with the league’s best record. Have the league’s best player. And somehow, they seem to get along.

It was smooth sailing in the first round. Round two seemed more of the same. Until the former champion Celtics fought back. And Lebron seemingly quit. Come to think of it, the entire Cavs roster quit. But how? Why?

Enter Delonte West.

Notorious for his bipolar personality, being a red-headed African-American is just the beginning of the statistical anomaly that is Delonte West. West was once pulled over for speeding on his motorcycle while carrying a guitar case. An honest mistake. Except for the fact that the guitar case came packed with two handguns and a shotgun. Delonte, why a guitar case? Why TWO handguns? And a shotgun? And if you knew you were packing like that, why speed on your motorcycle Delonte?

Maybe a little unusual. But he’s a professional athlete. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The Cavaliers gave him a second chance.

And how does Delonte repay the city of Cleveland? By becoming the reason for one of the least inspired playoff losses for a superstar of all time. Delonte (you have to read this link)– you may have single-handedly swayed the course of basketball history. Based solely on your actions, Lebron James may defect from his hometown to a new franchise. The city of Cleveland hates you. What did they do to deserve this?

(Re-shun)

Quick side note – did everyone see the the Kendry Morales freak accident (fast-forward to about a minute in)? What a sad way to go. Early reports suggest he may be done for the year. He’s enjoyed a great two-year stretch and I wish him a healthy recovery. Moments like these make it easy to second-guess traditional celebrations.

(Un-shun)

Ok, we’re going to skip the conference Finals. After the first two games, there was little question we would see a Boston-LA rematch from 2008.

I liked seeing the Suns with Steve Nash and fellow Saginaw native Jason Richardson get to the Western Conference Finals. They were exciting and fun to watch. But Kobe has been unbelievable. Scoring. Sharing. Playing a great floor game (as much as it pains me to say it). The Suns didn’t have an answer for the game’s best closer.

Unfortunately, I’m not much of a Kobe fan. He’s selfish. Overconfident. Even phony at times. But I can’t deny his worth as a basketball player. Him taking over at the end of Game 6 vs the Suns is one of the best offensive displays I’ve witnessed. Fadeaways over two-three defenders. Over and Over. Like stabbing a knife right through my heart.

Even worse, I don’t see the trend changing. The mediocrity of the playoffs so far suggests a mediocre Finals. Even the historic LA-Boston rivalry can’t save the NBA this time.

Like the Atlanta Hawks, the Lakers have looked disinterested at times. Its just Kobe won’t let them lose. Maybe a game, but not a series.

Earlier in the Eastern Conference Finals, I thought the Celtics would be able to match the Lakers. They have size. They have experience. The Celtics roster is solid.

I am even encouraged by the progress of Rondo. I mean, how can I not appreciate a pass-first point guard, on a team with great scorers, who will do anything he can to get the job done? He’s played great. Even legendary. But, with his running mates showing their age late in the series against the Magic, I can’t see the Celts defeating LA in a best of seven.

My prediction – LA in six.  Maybe the Celts can string a few together. Maybe Kevin Garnett’s legs will be rejuvenated. Maybe the Big Three can go for one more ring. I’m hopeful. But not optimistic.

(Shunning resumed)





The Number 19

8 05 2010

It was a struggle.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Every other time the WebMaster’s workman-like attitude owns the meat.

Last night, the meat almost owned him. Almost.

The WebMaster meets his competition

At Jethros along with myself, Luke Frieberg, one Brent Heemskerk, and MotherMaster, our own WebMaster had a fight on his hands. Choosing to attack The Emmenecker for the 20th time*, he seemed ready.

Earlier this week, he informed me his mother was coming into town. Like all good sons, he wanted to provide  a Mother’s Day gift for the ages. He wanted the MotherMaster to witness a feat of greatness.

We ordered. They knew what he wanted.

The food came quickly and he went to work. Meticulously sprinkling the Hot BBQ sauce for the perfect taste combination. Using the double-handed smash and wide-mouthed munch to devour the meat. I’ve seen it all more than a dozen times.

Halfway through things still looked great. I’d barely started my meal, but the tell-tale signs or greatness were taking shape. His face looked like a mural for grease, cheese, and crumbs. True majesty.

Halfway with much more in store. The awesome glow of grease halo's the WebMaster's enticing mug

It wasn’t until the final few bites that I began to worry. Normally, the WebMaster’s eating prowess allows him to finish mega-bites before I complete my meal. However, as I stared upon my spotless plate, the WebMaster had chomps to go. Plural.

Laboring, he wasn’t himself. He continued to stare at his meat. His digestive tract begged him to stop. Mind over matter. He had to get it done.

One bite. Then another. Then another. The once massive sandwich now seemed so small in the WebMaster’s always steady hands.

Only a few steps to go. But the stomach resisted. He needed a break.

Brent finished his rack of ribs. Luke and MotherMaster sent their empty plates once filled with the Home and Garden Melt. And then there was one.

Struggling over the last few bites he was going to finish. We could see it in his eyes.

Victory! Despite a maybe-just-a-little-bit-bigger-than-normal Emmenecker, the WebMaster got his 19th.

A quick run to the bathroom and we were on our way. Proud mother in tow.(Well, ok. Maybe his run to the bathroom wasn’t so quick. But come on. After that effort, he deserved it.)

In the past 24 hours, I’ve been peppered with texts, emails, and cries of discomfort. The performance was second to none. The pain represents the struggle all athletes endure post-competition. He wins again.

I’m impressed.

Respect. All the respect to you, WebMaster.

*One time (and only one time), the WebMaster did not complete the sandwich. The reasons were legit. I gave him no forewarning. He was in the midst of dominating a large bowl of macaroni and cheese when the phone rang. Thats like asking Evander Holyfield to \ fight Mike Tyson after finishing a three-hour workout. The challenge is enough. Odds don’t need to be stacked against them. But, like a champ, the WebMaster ventured to Jethros to give it a go. And he still complete nearly 3/4 of the beast. This was no ordinary failure. It was a commendable effort and deserves an asterisk for extenuating circumstances.





Congrats again, Mr. Templeton

4 05 2010

Fear the Deer disappoints. I neglect posting. The world is unfair. Get over it.

This weekend I travelled to Michigan to briefly visit the fam, taking advantage of a down cycle in plane ticket fluctuation. How they actually determine the costs of tickets, and why every single person on the aircraft pays a different rate is beyond me. Regardless, I snuck in at the right time and was fortunate enough to be able to visit the parents.

Coming back to a barrage of emails ranging from Tigers articles (Detroit not the golfer) to loan information, I also received a link to the prestigious Rapid City Journal. Who else could be in the news, but one Adam Templeton.

Tisk, Tisk. Just one year too late Temp

As if the kid hasn’t done enough. Recently married and within a few days of graduating from Drake, Templeton has also been named the 2010 Rapid City College Male Athlete of the Year for his hustle, hard-work, and determination displayed for the Drake men’s basketball team. Quite a busy close to a college career.

Something few people may know about Temp is that I constantly badger him. No, not in a negative way. But, he came one year late. He decided one year to late to transfer to Drake from UC Irvine. If he would have been one-year earlier he would have been an instrumental piece to our 2007-2008 Drake Bulldog puzzle. Such a talent. He missed by one year. He would have been a joy to play with. Too bad he had to redshirt and didn’t come the year before. Did I mention that I tease him about coming a year too late?

Anyway. Pile up the awards Mr. Templeton. They’re well-deserved.

And PS, For those unaware that Saginaw, MI can actually benefit society (ie fellow Michigander Brent Heemskerk), here’s a link to something positive from my hometown and former elementary school.





Weekend Weddings

12 04 2010

Congratulations to Brian and Rebecca Steenhoek! Affectionately referred to as Hook, Brian’s coaching prowess was instrumental in our team success in 2007-2008. Well, maybe coaching prowess is not the best description. At least the comic relief, endless stories, and good-natured ribbings certainly helped. In a beautiful wedding ceremony in Des Moines on Saturday, Hook and Becca readily exchanged vows. Congrats again to the happy couple and best wishes.

Now back to me. The whirlwind basketball season was exciting but the college season is finally over. Duke triumphs over Butler on the men’s side. UConn wins their 78th consecutive game and second straight national title on the women’s. As my blog has undergone this recent revival basketball has been our focus. And let me tell you, its been a lot of fun.

I’ve learned about myself, about the game, enjoyed constant banter with some friends, took a few potentially unjustifiable shots (maybe Brent, I dunno), and had some interaction with readers. Its been great. But where do we go from here? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. I found something I enjoy. A release. A way to share things about myself to anyone who will listen.

As spring begins to fade into summer, I can’t help but be exhilarated. This time of year is always one of the most exciting. March boasts March Madness. April introduces the NBA and NHL Playoffs (and seriously is there anything better than watching playoff hockey? Especially considering the Red Wings are on a tear, I’m excited). At the same time, baseball fans excitedly weigh their team’s chances. And NFL fans hope their teams can improve in the draft.

I don’t know where things will be going from here, but there’s plenty of material out there. As I mentioned in a previous post, we’re going to see if we can move into some podcasting. More guests. More sports. More fun.

Though I can’t always promise expertise (see my Final Four picks), I’ll do my best to keep things interesting. Interaction and participation always help. If there are any suggestions, a person you’d like to hear from, or something you’d like me to discuss please help me to keep this going.





Zoube Zoube Zoo

6 04 2010

After Hayward’s miss I was as upset as any other human being with a soul watching the game. But, did anyone else see the 7-ft Zoubek after the shot clanked? We rewatched it at least 5 times, giggling like toddlers watching Sesame Street on nitrous (thanks for lightening the mood Brian).

The WebMaster dubbed it the Zoubek Zebra Saunter (Skip to about 1:00 in).

I like the name, but you can’t tell me that after millions of years of evolution any Zebra could possibly run that awkwardly. I was thinking Phoebe from Friends on a mad scamper through the park. Take a look.

(Brent didn’t have a clever analogy. Surprised?)

.





What. A. Game.

6 04 2010

I know its been a couple days and I didn’t even come out with a national championship prediction. Well, guess what? It doesn’t matter because I would’ve picked Butler anyway (Honestly, Butler really could have won a national championship. I continue struggling to wrap my mind around that fact. It was THAT close.) That puts me at a stellar o-fer, an O for the Final Four. Fantastic.

In case you forgot, I was in Rapid City, South Dakota, attending the Finley-Templeton wedding (yes, I am using the wedding as an excuse not to update). The ceremony was beautiful. The families were great hosts. And both Adam and Kara looked insanely happy to be together. It was great to take part in the festivities with the happy couple. Congrats again to Adam and Kara!

Unable to watch most of the Saturday games, I did catch the last couple minutes of the Butler vs MSU contest. If the rest of the game was anything like the final minutes, then I missed a dandy. Despite being on the country’s biggest stage, the Butler Bulldogs made the necessary plays to escape with a win. I couldn’t believe Butler actually had a legitimate chance to win a national championship (did I say that already?). (Oh, and PS – Although Butler played Cinderella this tournament, they proved they belong among the nation’s elite. Move over Gonzaga. There’s a new and improved Bulldog team to be called the king of mid-majors.)

I would have picked Butler because I wanted them so badly to win. I’m not a big Duke fan. I’m not a big Coach K fan. And I’m especially not a big fan of either after the easy draw they received to get to the national championship game. Yes, they beat everyone they played. But were they ever really tested? I vote no.

Regardless, it couldn’t have been a better championship game. Well, I take that back. It could have. This could have went down as the best game of all time. Any sport. Any era. Ever.

Not only did Butler reach the Final Four, in their home city, as a big underdog, conquering storied-program after program, but they almost won. Twice. Two times the Bulldogs were within inches of winning the game.

The first – Gordon Hayward’s fall-away with just over six seconds left that proved just long. This would have put Butler ahead by one and in a great position to win the game.

The second – Hayward’s potential game-winning half-court shot as time expired that bounced off the glass before hitting front rim and out. Both shots were about an inch too long. Who said basketball wasn’t a game of inches?

If Hayward makes either, this is the best game of all-time. The underdog story. The home-town team. A highly difficult shot to win the game. All that against one of the most historic programs in college basketball history boasting one of the most hallowed-coaches in the sport.

The only thing that would’ve made this game better (other than Butler winning) would be someone making big plays in the end. Unlike 2008 Memphis vs Kansas, there was no Mario Chalmers three to force overtime. We didn’t see someone step up and savor the moment like Christian Laettner. Duke looked nervous. Butler’s shots just didn’t fall. It is still one of the greatest championship of all-time. But, like few other games can, this one had a shot to be the best-of-the-best.

Instead, it was more missed opportunities. Let’s look back. After Matt Howard’s layup with 1:43 to go:

With 1:18 to go, Duke’s Nolan Smith drives the lane with the Blue Devils up 60-57. He leaves it short. Miss #1.

Rebound, to Butler’s Ronald Nored. He races up the floor for a fast break opportunity. Finds Shelvin Mack open for three and a chance to tie. Miss #2.

Offensive rebound Matt Howard. Now 1:09 to play. Butler holds possession. Pick-n-roll leaves Howard wide open for another layup with under 55 seconds on the clock.

Duke ball. Run a set. Wide-open Kyle Singler flashes to the middle in front of the free-throw line. Receives a pass for Jon Scheyer for an open 12-footer. Airball. (Ok. Maybe it grazed the front of the rim. For all intensive purposes, airball.) Miss #4. Hustle by big-man Brian Zoubek keeps the ball alive. But, the ball bounces off the seven-footer’s big right foot.

So far, we have two open layups by Matt Howard and a lot of missed opportunities. Timeout.

Butler possession. The whole time, Brent, the WebMaster, and I are screaming “Hayward. Get the ball to Hayward”. The Bulldogs almost lose the ball out of bounds. Timeout. Try to pass it in. Timeout. Finally, Hayward has the ball in his hands.

Starting with about 10 seconds to go, Hayward begins moving forward. First to his left. Cut off by Singler. Behind his back to his right hand. Hayward reaches the right elbow. 9 seconds to play. Howard fights for position and Zoubek moves to help. One more dribble toward the right block. Hayward jumpstops. Zoubek steps up. 7.3 seconds. Hayward falls away from two-feet outside the right block and releases a high-arching rainbow. 6 seconds to go. Ball hits long and bounces off the rim. Miss #5. Rebound Zoubek. Fouled with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Maybe the most clutch play of our finish was Zoubek’s first made free-throw. A 55% shooter, I didn’t think it was going in. But, can it be a clutch play if it didn’t really matter. Regardless of whether Zoubek made it or not, Butler would have shot a half-courter. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if Duke is up two or three. Is the free-throw clutch? I vote no.

Zoubek steps to the line for the second. Misses on purpose. Hayward skies for the rebound. Clock starts.

Hayward moves around Zoubek and pass 3/4 court. 2.2 seconds. Singler steps up. Hayward moves down the right sideline approaching half court. A big screen by Howard knocks Singler to the ground and clears a path for Hayward. 1.4 seconds. Hayward steps on the half court line to the right of the circle. 0.6 seconds. Hayward releases a two-handed shot with 0.4 seconds as Nolan Smith contests. Buzzer sounds. Ball floats toward the basket beginning its downward decent. Ball caroms off the backboard, bounces off front-rim and bounces out. Miss #6.

Elation for Duke. Heartbreak for Butler. It was that close. A game of inches.

Butler has been and should be commended for their efforts. They play great defense and have a knack for making timely baskets. The Bulldogs play great TEAM basketball. They didn’t win with one-and-dones. In fact, no Final Four team did. Butler’s run is great for college basketball. After this year’s tournament you’re telling me we need to change the NCAA basketball championships? The Bulldog’s success this year proved that March Madness is running like a well-oiled machine.





Final Four Predictions

3 04 2010

First off, I want to make sure I extend a big congratulations to Adam Templeton and Kara Finley, who are soon to be married in South Dakota. Along with some former teammates, I am present in SD enjoying the festivities. I couldn’t be happier to see two of my friends, two great people, unite for eternity. I’m ecstatic to be able to share this day with them, and wish them nothing but joy and happiness down the road. Congrats to Adam and Kara! (But a wedding on the first day of the Final Four Temp? How’d you let that one sneak by?)

Back to business. (Well, sort of. Can it be called business if there is absolutely no financial activity? No? Ok then. I’ll try again.)

Here we go again, prediction time. Time for me to try to prove my basketball knowledge (or at least guess right). After a decent 8-4 record coming in, it will be interesting to see how the Final Four plays out.

Game 1 Butler vs Michigan State

To be honest, I’m disappointed that these two teams have to be on the same side of the bracket. I want both these teams to win for different reasons.

Butler is the mid-major team, representing a history of underdogs in the NCAA tournament and basketball players without the most size or talent. But more importantly, this team represents the common man. This is a hard-working team who represents everything that is good about the NCAA. A team filled with scholar-athletes and overachievers who, when put together, can produce a whole greater than the sum of their individual parts. As a basketball fan what more could you ask? Watching Butler play is like watching an instructional video. They are that well coached and they are that good.

Michigan State is my home-town team, boasting mostly Michigan players, and representing the state’s blue-collar work ethic. If you don’t live there, it’s difficult to understand. The state of Michigan (the east side especially) is struggling more than people realize when looking at statistics (After all, who knows what it means to have a 15% unemployment rate statewide, rising above 20% in certain areas? Those are just numbers). But Tom Izzo’s teams show the state that it can succeed.

I often am annoyed with media members overblowing the relationship between team success and the attitude of their host city. But in this case its hard to ignore. Detroit and much of Michigan was built on the premise of assembly-line labor. Workers arrived, put on their hard hats, and got to work, earning each month’s paycheck through. Tom Izzo’s teams compete in much the same way. Izzo prides himself on defense, rebounding, and smart basketball. He doesn’t generally recruit the top-20 players in the country (although he’s gotten a few), he wants the lunch-pail guys. Guys with a chip on their shoulder who are going to work harder than the kid who’s been spoon-fed his whole life. That’s why Izzo recruits so often in Michigan and the surrounding areas; those kids understand the struggle and will do anything to put themselves in a position to succeed.

Now, in saying this, I don’t mean that this doesn’t happen elsewhere. Plenty of coaches recruit players from a disadvantaged upbringing. But Izzo doesn’t go after the bad boys, he recruits the hard-workers. Rarely do MSU athletes (I am referencing the basketball team, not football in this case obviously) find themselves in trouble. Izzo runs a tight ship and deserves all the respect in the world for the job he’s done.

Well, after my two cents on each team that really tells nothing about the game, I guess I better get into some content…

Game 1 represents coaches with similar philosophy. Both teams made it to the Final Four relying on the “ugly” parts of basketball to win (rebounding for MSU and defense for Butler). I’d be surprised, scratch that, I would be shocked if this game reaches 60 points, let alone 70. Neither team is offensive-minded, though they can both score and play very well together.

I think the key to the game will be Butler’s defensive rebounding. MSU is going to have trouble scoring on Butler’s defense despite superior athleticism. But, second chance points could be huge momentum swings in the Spartan’s direction. To get here, Butler had to thwart a similar Kansas State team’s efforts, and did an excellent job.

The most important player for Butler will be Matt Howard (Yes, this is the same Matt Howard that averaged 14 pts, 8 rebs, and 2 blocks in two games against Brent Heemskerk). As an undersized center, a lot of the rebounding will fall on Howard’s hustle, grit, and determination to outsmart the Spartan bigs to the ball. (Oh and remember how I mentioned Howards resemblance to one, Ron Burgundy. Thoughts?)

Howard

Hello San Diego

Burgundy

This face? It's me remembering the time I dunked on Brent Heemskerk. Nasty.

Offensively, Butler knows what they will get from Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward, two players who have been outstanding in this tournament. However, they need Howard to step up on this end as well. Howard will have to be that third scoring option, trying to get easy baskets whenever he can with offensive rebounds and low post feeds. (The game’s wildcard will be the location of one Mr. Heemskerk. If Howard can channel his inner self-confidence by feeling Brent’s presence MSU may be in trouble. If Brent’s location in South Dakota hidden amongst Mt. Rushmore is too difficult for Howard’s radar to detect, Howard could be in for a long day. Brent’s presence is key, not some of the time, all the time. And yes, Brent eagerly awaits the day when people we played against are no longer in the NCAA.)

For Michigan State, their keys remain much the same; find a way to share the ball and break down the opponents defense without your starting point guard and best player (Kalin Lucas). Durrell Summers has stepped up, averaging over 20 PPG and knocking down clutch baskets for the Spartans. But in this game, points in the paint become even more important. With their size advantage, look for MSU to establish Raymar Morgan, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe posting up smaller players. If Butler is forced to double team, Korie Lucious, Chris Allen, and Summers will be able to get open looks.

This game will be a hotly-contested, low scoring affair that goes down to the wire. Neither team will be willing to give an inch and I’m looking forward to the physical play. Slight edge to MSU for their size and athleticism, but I can already tell the basketball gods (and the Indy fans) are going to be upset with me for this pick.

Final score: Butler 56 – MSU 58
Brent’s Prediction: MSU 1 – Butler 0 (Points don’t matter to the big fella. Just results.)

Game 2 West Virginia vs Duke

While the other side of the bracket predicates everything that is good about college basketball, this matchup shows something entirely different.

In West Virginia, you have an easy-to-hate coach (Bob Huggins) notorious for his thug and intimidation tactics. Huggins will beat his team up so they beat you up. He has a history of giving people second and third chances (not a bad thing) while his teams continually are in trouble with authorities (this is more of a reference back to his Cincy days as we haven’t heard much from the Mountaineer squad). West Virginia’s made it this far by defeating their opponents mentally and physically.

Duke and Coach K have the pretty-boy image of college basketball. Though seemingly cool on the court, Coach K has a reputation for belittling players behind closed doors, often barraging them with a shouldn’t-be-made-public vocabulary. His players either love him or hate him. Just like a lot of fans either love Duke, or hate Duke.

If nothing else, West Virginia vs Duke is intriguing. Duke has shown they can play any style, but matching-up with the forward trio of bully Da’Sean Butler, “Stretch-Armstrong” Devin Ebanks, and increasing steady Kevin Jones, is something the Blue Devils haven’t had to do this year. What makes the Moutaineers so intriguing is that their best players can basically all play the same position. They have size, they have strength, and they have heart.

For Duke to win, they are going to have to shoot well. Jon Scheyer (one of the least favorite players of my former teammate Jonathan Cox), Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith will have to shoot the ball well. Against Baylor, The Dukies were fortunate that despite Singler’s nightmare performance, Smith stepped up and had a career game. Duke’s big three will have to combine for 60 points to keep up with West Virginia’s attack, while their role players must continue to do the dirty work.

West Virginia must defend the three-point line in their zone and not allow Duke to get many open looks. The length of the zone is going to have to bother the Blue Devils, otherwise, we could be looking at a high-scoring matchup.

I like West Virginia and their three forwards to carry them to victory

Final: West Virginia 70 – Duke 64
Brent: Duke 1 – WVU 0





If It’s A Duel You Want, Then A Duel You Shall Have

1 04 2010

April Fool’s, right? Thats the only explanation. Is this a joke? Did Brent Heemskerk basically just refer to the things I’ve said about him as poppy-cock? Well Mr. Heemskerk, allow me to defend myself.

You, sir, have a presence. Not some of the time. All the time. That presence is undeniable. Yet, it often works in the opponents favor. Of the Sweet Sixteen teams, you played a major role against two prominent big men – Omar Samhan and Matt Howard. In three games trying to overcome your physical and self-described “high-flyer” prowess, the duo combined to score 40 points, grab 26 rebounds, swat 10 shots, and grab 3 steals. Thats an average of 13.3 pts, 8.6 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, and 1 steal per game. They were MEN. Look at the stats. MAN. Yes, basketball is a team game. I whole heartedly agreed, but to blame the stripes on your output is less than fair. I am not bashing Brent, folks, I am merely stating facts.

Oh yes baby. Oh yes.

Seriously Brent, for all I know Randy Bennet drew your picture on the dry-erase board during halftime of the St. Mary’s-Baylor game and said, “Picture Epke Udoh as Brent Heemskerk. He won’t seem so intimidating.” He was searching for a way to motivate his star player. You serve as that motivation. Think Jordan or Lebron entering Madison Square Garden. MSG always gets their best efforts. Though you have yet to reach that iconic status, you are MSG. You helped launch the careers of the aforementioned young men.

In your defense, I understand that big-time players bring it against big-time opponents. The initial intimidation of your sculpted figure entering a gym often produced open-mouthed, awed expressions. Like a young Bill Simmons seeing the “purple” Manute Bol enter the old Boston Garden. So, sure, they brought their A-game. I give credit where credit’s due. But as you said my friend “Hips don’t lie. And neither do these numbers.”

In reference to my blogging proficiency, I’ll be the first to admit my subpar performance. As your crossed-out lines referenced, I was trying to take the next step in life. Previously, my blog was about adventures in life overseas. I didn’t find a basketball job this year. It wasn’t until conversations with the WebMaster that we decided to switch to a new format. I’m proud of where this blog’s went. I mean, you read it. That counts for something right?

Now let’s talk about the sandwich. You are correct, sir, I have only consumed the entire sandwich once. After collaborating with Jethros on the concept, I made sure to consume the entire sandwich and side during the maiden feast. That way, challengers like yourself would not be able to conjure up lies and fabrications regarding the massive sandwich that bears my name. Au contraire.

You are also correct about the WebMaster. He is a champion. Each time I am more impressed. He continues to get better and refine his technique. I can only imagine the self-motivation required to continually train and improve when you are the unquestioned world-champion. Like Usain Bolt, he remains largely unchallenged by the rest of the world.

But my friend, you are incorrect in your assumptions. You say I do not like the taste of my sandwich? Spumoni! I do not often order my own sandwich because of sheer size. As I said, I did it once. Like a movie sometimes you have to understand that the original is so great, a sequel will only tarnish its legacy. It is delicious. The flavors complement each other so well I am salivating just thinking about it. But, the sandwich is supposed to be a challenge. I attempted once. I completed once. While the WebMaster is on another universe far far away from us all, you sir do not have the statistical backing to attack me in such a way.

As for the challenge I would gladly accept. I’ve seen what you can do. (Brent once ate four pounds of apple sauce in under half an hour. Seriously, four pounds. More than a toddler. It was astonishing.) Regardless, I am confident. Shall I call up Matt and Omar to ask for tips? Or does your opponent rising to the challenge naturally come with your stated presence?

Jordan conquered MSG. And with your help, I will conquer this challenge. Sometimes, Brent, you can’t stop it. You cannnnnoooooottttt stop it. Next subject.








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