Friday, February 09, 2007

Caruso. So Bad He's ... Really Bad.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Into The Stretch

Kentucky and Illinois make the turn into their February regular-season stretch runs today -- Cats in Fayetteville and Illini at home against the stinkin' Gophers.

What to say about each?

Kentucky is still a work in progress, alternately infuriating and enrapturing. After taking advantage of something of a scheduled break to win 11 straight, culminating with an 87-49 dismantling of South Carolina in Columbia on the WWL in S, they have now hit the mountain. Head on in the case of a second-straight home loss to a resurgent Vandy (who prior to last year had never beaten UK in Rupp Arena) and a dispiriting OT loss at Georgia after blowing a 17-point first half lead.

A home win over a hobbled and reeling Tennessee really answered no questions -- all of which remain as they tip off in Fayetteville this afternoon:
  • What has happened to Randolph Morris? After a string of dominating games, the last three have featured a return of foul trouble with a resultant timidity of play -- 10 points and 4 rebounds per game over the last three, and no offensive rebounds in the last two. The offense had been on a real uptick, mainly due to the evolving inside-outside combination of Morris and Joe Crawford. Crawford has continued his part of the bargain (19.5 ppg in conference play), but the Cats need both legs in order to move their typically misbegotten offense forward.
  • What happened to the defensive consistency? As with most of Tubby Smith's UK teams, this one will only go as far as its defensive consistency will take it. There is just not enough offensive firepower to outscore good teams. Their record in games when the opponent is held below 1 point per possession? 14-0. When the opponent scores better than 1 per? 2-5 (0-2 in conference games). Keep the opponent's offensive efficiency down, and there's still enough offense to win.
  • Is this the worst senior class in UK history? Probably, yes. The team right now consists of a junior core (Morris, Crawford, Ramel Bradley) getting a little help from the freshmen (some Jasper, a bit of Stevenson, but mostly Jodie Meeks), and next to nothing from the non-existent sophmore and head-shakingly awful senior classes. Sheray Thomas has actually contributed in some degree recently (7 boards and 5 assists against Tennessee), but Bobby Perry continues to produce nothing (38% shooting and 4 rpg from a starting power forward is as close to nothing as you can wring out of the position), and Lukasz Orbzut has responded to Morris' recent foul troubles by playing 8 minutes in the last 3 games. Not a good sign.
All of which makes today's game rather important. Caught in a mix with Georgia and Vandy a couple of games behind Florida, a loss to a member of the SEC's weaker sisters (no one in the SEC West even has a winning record in conference) would mean a complete loss of touch with the Gators. On the other hand, a road win at this point would be huge and enormously welcome.

As for the Illini, tonight's breather against Minnesota will bring them back to even in the Big 11. With a large number of very winnable games left on the schedule (6 of the last 7 by my count), 22 wins and 10-6 in the conference is still a possibility. That clearly will depend upon the defense coming to play every night, though, because this team is an offensive basket case -- as in unable to put the ball in one. With Jamar Smith's jumper gone AWOL and Brian Randle still hobbling, the offense has come down to what Shaun Pruitt can give them in the post (usually quite a bit) and what Chester Frazier can generate from pounding the dribble until the shot clock has gone under 5. As offensive strategies go, this latter is somewhat akin to waiting on the divine wind -- while it may take out a cruiser now and again it's no strategy to win the war.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Schrute...Dwight Schrute

Via Life In The Office

Thursday, February 01, 2007


The only thing wrong with Hendrik Hertzberg's "Talk Of The Town" pieces in The New Yorker is that they're only in every other issue. I always hate the disappointment of his off weeks. What's right with them, of course, is that they almost always eloquently develop thoughts that I completely agree with.

This week he's in with a piece on last week's State of the Union address (remember that?), and the follow-up from Sen. Jim Webb. Here's the shiniest nugget:

Between the veggies and Baby Einstein fell the shadow: Iraq. The President pointed to his “new strategy,” begged Congress and the country “to give it a chance to work,” and added, “Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.”

True, but not true enough. Last November, the voters didn’t endorse failure—they simply acknowledged it. And they certainly didn’t vote for escalation, which is what Bush is giving them. With this address, in conjunction with his January 10th “new way forward” speech, the President has taken full ownership of the Iraq war. Four years ago, many were complicit to one degree or another in the decision to invade, including a bipartisan majority in Congress and the governments of Britain and other members of the “coalition.” That is no longer so. The generals on the scene, who resisted Bush’s “surge,” have been removed. The Senate is on the point of passing a resolution of disapproval. The coalition is crumbling, and its British component is likely to ratchet itself down once Tony Blair leaves office. Senator John McCain, who a month ago passionately warned against a surge of fewer than thirty thousand troops, now supports a surge of twenty thousand—largely because, he says, the new American commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, thinks it has a chance of working. But Petraeus conceded, in testimony last Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the new troop levels fall short of his own previous estimate of what would be necessary. Soldiers follow orders, and General Petraeus has his.

In a Saturday radio talk before the State of the Union address, the President said, “Those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success.” The day after the address, Vice-President Cheney—in an instantly notorious CNN interview in which he dismissed talk of blunders as “hogwash”—said, “The critics have not suggested a policy.” That is hogwash. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is in its fourth week of hearing such suggestions. The Iraq Study Group has a plan. Senator Joseph Biden and Leslie Gelb have a plan. The Center for American Progress has a plan. But what all their plans have in common is that they recognize that what remains is the search for the least bad of a bad bunch of options. Implicitly, they recognize that Bush’s policy—and, therefore, Bush—is a failure. And so, rather than looking for a policy that might be within our means and might mitigate the disaster, Bush is betting all his chips—all our chips—on the only choice that allows him the fantasy that in the end people will say: Bush was right. He is sending twenty thousand because twenty thousand is all he has. Next to nothing in the way of ground forces remains for other contingencies. His Presidency and his “legacy” are in ruins anyway, so he imagines he has nothing to lose. If only that were true of the rest of us.