Tuesday, November 29, 2005

DirecTv and Sportsbooks Make Strange Bedfellows

The ACC/Big 11 challenge started today, with Wisconsin/Wake Forest and North Carolina/Illinois both playing close, hard-fought, skillful games. Unfortunately, thanks to gambling motivations and alumni allegiances, I found myself spending most of my time watching two of the ugliest basketball games of the season.

13. 14. 14. 19. That was the quarter by quarter scoring for the Utah Jazz. In an arena where the few fans who did show up should be asking for a refund, the Pacers and Jazz met for some very uninspired basketball. Police should investigate if someone had substituted the A&W Root Beer in the local Salt Lake City bars with Barq's last night, because both teams were playing like they were hungover. But since I had the Pacers giving 5 points, I had to watch the bricklaying convention until midway through the 3rd period when they finally pulled away. But at least I got to see part of history. The 60 points scored was the lowest point total at home in Jazz lore, breaking a record that had lasted for all of two weeks. I won my bet, but it was the most painful way to earn 50 bux I've endured since college...

UCLA invited Albany from the America East conference into Pauley Pavilion. Albany plays in a conference with such storied schools as Binghamton, Stony Brook, and Maryland Baltimore Community College. UCLA was missing starting point guard Jordan Farmar with a stress fracture. Ben Howland reacted by going to his notes from the Jeff Van Gundy school of coaching and put the handcuffs on his entire squad. The Bruins rarely got out on the break, instead pulling the ball back and running down the shot clock before taking an outside jumper, which played right into the upset-minded Great Danes.

Meanwhile, the UCLA centers continued to show that they're only a few stages away from becoming dominant players. Unfortunately those stages include: catching the ball, outmuscling 5'7" guards for defensive rebounds and learning to walk without falling over their own legs. Ryan Hollins and Michael Fey are just painful to watch. It's as if someone found a baby giraffe, taught it to walk on its hindlegs and thought to themselves, "you know with this kind of length, this giraffe could be unstoppable." So they put a UCLA jersey on him and let him take the post. Only, anytime someone pushed him, he'd tumble over his spindly legs. And if someone threw him a pass, he'd only have hooves to catch it and the ball would deflect off them out of bounds. That's Ryan Hollins. For Michael Fey, pretend the baby giraffe never learned to walk on its hindlegs, so every ball just bounced of its face.

Despite the Toys R Us mascots at center and Van Gundy syndrome on the sidelines, UCLA still barely pulled it out 73-65, thanks to some great rebounding by the Prince of Dunkness and clutch play down the stretch by freshman point guard Darren Collinson. Nevertheless, it's going to be a long season for the Bruins if they can't get something resembling a basketball center to play some minutes for them.


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