Feathers, Fur, and Nuts: The REAL Final Four

My bracket’s hopes are long gone, I resigned to torching mine by way of kitchen matches long ago when all of my genius picks were promptly thwarted by the finicky mistress of NCAA hoops.

In that light I have decided to one up March Madness and take a look at this year’s two final four games through a very different lens.  My results below:

Cardinal vs Wildcat

 



 

  • The Cardinal, a robust, seed-eating bird with a strong bill is a worthy adversary; prone to capturing the hearts and camera lenses of many a mid-west bird tourist.  They are quick, flashy and have an aptitude to clog the bird feeder lanes with their strong plumage presence.  However their obsession with nuts, seeds and grass as well as an almost negative killer instinct misses the aggressive mark and leaves many a hole in their defense.
  • The Wildcat, refusing to go by its proper name of lynx or catamount immediately gives off the vibe of cocky and self-assured.  However this is largely just a defensive ploy as the bobcat is a very shy animal and does not handle noise or large crowds especially well.  With few known predators and a powerful athletic and agile fortitude the Wildcat has taken a comfortable seat atop the forest throne, but is often seen napping and swatting at flies.  They can be caught off guard by a clever opponent who can dart in and around their claws, teasing them out beyond their own reach. Especially if a well placed bit of string is involved.

The winner here is the wildcat.  The cardinal would put up a good fight; flying around and tiring out the lazy wildcat but ultimately would be caught posing for a tourist camera and become wildcat feed.  The cardinal would be played with, batted across the floor a few times before either being consumed or taken as a dead gift to someone’s doorstep.

Buckeye vs. Jayhawk

 

 

 


  • The Buckeye is a shifty nut, it’s leaves often being mistaken for marijuana and this has caused it to develop a spike laden exterior to fend off any would be addicts or junkies.  While the spikes prove to be a great defense, they leave the buckeye with very little speed or mobility, opening them up with a nimble and cleverly designed offense reveals a very soft and docile nut that is ripe for the picking.
  • The Jayhawk is a combination of two birds, the blue jay, a robber of other’s nests and the sparrow hawk a smallish devious hunter.  This combination leaves the Jayhawk with great power and speed but often a lack of morals and integrity.  While stealing the Jayhawk is prone to making costly mental mistakes due to the pressure of a high stakes life of thievery.  However, when cornered look for the jayhawks to lash out with beak and claw in a valient effort to make off with their bounty.

This match-up promises to be a real thriller with copious amounts of rolling around aimlessly and much pecking.  It will be a test of patience and stamina.  I give the victory to the buckeye, who will wait until, through no act on the nut’s part, the jayhawk will become frustrated and make that costly error.  The jayhawk will get antsy with the non-responsive and very sluggish nature of the opponent and accidentally stab it’s beak on a spine as it tries to make off with the sweet nut inside.  The jayhawk flies off in extreme anger and a beak full of pointy skin-parts to contemplate his lack of identity while the buckeye nut sits on the ground, brown and shiny, awaiting his future as neck jewelry.

– Rob Melick

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NCAA Wrap(crap) Up

And breathe.  The first round madness is over and we all have time to grab a quick one before the the second plunge.  Honestly though, I don’t need a breath.  I need a restart.  Sure, there is some great talent and have been quite a few da da dum, da da dum, Sportscenter top plays but the basketball itself is lacking.  By the time the second half rolls around everyone has figured everyone else out and the game becomes dull and ugly to watch.

I have been overwhelming depressed by the basketball in this year’s tournament and here is why:  Offense is stagnant and one-dimensional, fundamental concepts have gone by the wayside, and finally, team defense is at an all time low.

Stagnant Offense:  When did college basketball switch to the two-man pick and roll, everyone else stand around with our hands in our shorts, game plan?  It seems like every team follows some version of the following.  Bring the ball down the court, make a pass or two around the perimeter then some big come set a ball screen and see what happens on the drive.  This works twice, then the defense wises up and the offense is left bumping into each other and backdribbling out of the lane until there is two seconds left on the shot clock and we hoist an ill-advised something.

Stockton and Malone perfected this pick and roll and it was continually successful for two reasons, they played together for eons (a record 1,412 regular season games) and they had talented threats around them to keep the D honest.  This simply does not exist in college.  Kids are in and out in less time than it took me to figure out where my college’s library bathrooms were and let’s be honest, college teams simply don’t have the depth to surround a would be dynamic duo with reliable threats.

Secondly, it would appear to me that we have lost all sense of what to do when facing a zone.  Not once during this tournament have I seen anyone dribble drive to a gap, make two guys guard them and then pass either to an open man on the wing (who is toeing the 3-point line) or feed the high post.  Instead the standard is to whip it around the wing to players seven feet from the arc and then looked bewildered when the clock runs down and we turn it over.

Fundamentals: Who in the name of everything holy is designing out-of-bounds plays these days?  Just terrible.  Every team seems to rely on the ol’ wait, lazy cut, lazy cut, wait, wait, panic, throw a lob towards the back-court and pray that your guy can jump the highest.  Out of bounds plays should be a simple well designed machine that almost always result in 2-3 guys being open.  I don’t know if the coaches are just over looking these in practice or the players are too lazy but it is bad.

Team Defense:  COMMUNICATE!!!  Unbeknownst to me, the NCAA has issued a credo stating that it is irrational and simply rude to  talk to ones teammates during the ball screen.  Instead players should simply run smack into each other or play follow the leader – chasing the ball carrier, leaving the screening johnny come lately wide open under the hoop.  Next, should said johnny come lately make his cut and find himself open it shall be a sin to have anyone yell help and pick up the open man.  Such simple things to work on in practice, but from what I can tell essentially nonexistent during the games.

My conclusion?  Schools are hunting out the 1-2 superstars and trying to build a team around them.  Then, when those superstars leave  before they’re halfway done with their college career the teams is left in shambles without ever having formed any sort of bond or “chemistry.” You’ve got to get players to stay with and buy into a system.  That is the only way to develop the team skills, and flow that make for the great basketball of years past (Princeton offense baby!).

Mark my words, without change I say that within the next two to three years we’ll finally see a 16 upset a 1.  The teams that have a deep core group of bonded players, regardless of athletic talent, will rise to the top.  Look at the two who nearly did it this year.  Lehigh, I thank you for saving my tournament sentiments with your genius and simple picket fence scramble out of bounds play that slammed the lid on the Dukies’ coffin.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSL8qrp6PVs&feature=related (skip to 1:20 for the play)

There is hope for collegiate bball yet.

– Rob Melick

Bracket Buster Already? Most Certainly

Hello sports fans, a quick intro before I get into the real post.  This is the sports section of The Weekly Snooze.  If you have the wrong classroom please exit quickly – try not to make eye contact with anyone to avoid awkward conversations with the cutie in the first row at the next frat party – consult your schedule, and head back to our home page and click the category you meant to land in.

I plan to take this sports section in loads of different directions and will be exploring and commenting on whatever is current and on my mind.  In hopes of keeping it fresh I’ll be going after all sorts of topics and questions in the wide world of sports and believe me, in my opinion it’s a wide one so brace yourself, and get involved.  This will be much more interesting if you readers give feed back and suggestions.  Pound out those comments or send an email to weeklysnooze@gmail.com and throw my name in the Subect line.  Now, let the games begin!

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NCAA basketball is heating up and we’re inching closer and closer to that fabled and time honored week in March when sane men and women turn to animals, incapable of functioning and can only be found perched in front of the nearest television clutching worn-through print outs and muttering phrases like “Cinderella…,” “Upset…,”and  “14 over a 3…..14 over a 3“.

If you’re looking to get the edge in the office/dorm/random Facebook pool this year then now is the time to strike!  The games over the next few weeks will define the attitude and style teams take into the big dance.   Watching games now is going to give you a huge edge come pick time.  Don’t be the guy or gal that waits until the field is set and in a last second panic hastily fills in some numbers, an upset or two and calls it done.  There is a better way.  Here is my strategy until we find ourselves in that fabulous second week of March.

Skip the big names vs. big names, those will be easy to pick come bracket time.  My suggestion is to start watching conference play and focus on the two or three teams in each conference that seem to be falling in the middle of the pack.  Take a look at game summaries and see who, while they may not be winning, is putting up a fight .  End of season conference play is when a team truly defines itself.  Teams play hardest within their conference and team dynamics are much more visible.  These games are perfect mini peep shows of what a team can really do.

I look for consistent team play, shared point and rebound stats across the team, serious value from the bench, and most importantly leadership.  When it comes to the NCAA tourney, upsets and close games are the norm and it’s in these situations that teams that have the best chemistry with one or two very strong leaders can easily out perform much more talent-blessed squads.  Find great flow on offense (hint: this means very few isolation plays and hardly any standing around), a true leader, and that rebound as a team with everyone crashing the boards.  Combine this with quality defense from the bench players and you’ve got your Cinderellas down pat.  Keep track of who does this well as the weeks go on and that 8 vs. 9 pick might just be a breeze.

So who am I looking at?  If i told you that much I’d have to kill you, or at least un-friend on Facebook and any related march madness integrated social media platforms, not speaking with you until the pools are locked.  But I will leave you with this:  Take a peek at a little group of Royal Purple Wildcats over in the sunflower state and find teams that are doing what they’re doing.