Friday, February 16, 2007

The Nightcap

Tonight's Nightcap is being brought to you by um..whatever they're having. It looks real good to me. Make mine a double.

The game of the night was USC at Arizona, where the Trojans won at the McHale Center for the first time in over twenty years. It's now 26 games into the season and Southern California still hasn't developed anyone off of their bench, but so far they're proving that their starting five is enough. Tonight Gabe Pruitt, Lodrick Stewart, and Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate Nick Young combined for 69 of the team's 80 points.

Arizona is now 17-8 and has four remaining games (vs UCLA, at Arizona St, at Cal, at Stanford) before the Pac-10 tournament. I wouldn't go so far as to call them a bubble team just yet as reputation goes a long way with the selection committee. But they do need to beat either UCLA or Stanford to firmly secure their invitation to the dance. I think they'll do both.

It may be my imagination, but this season really seems to be wearing on Lute Olsen. He's beginning to look less and less like a venerable old coach, a la Dean Smith in his golden years; and is beginning to take on the appearance of a frustrated old man, like Joe Paterno. I'm not sure how many more years Lute has left in him. It will be interesting to see if the program is able to maintain its position amongst the elite when he leaves.

What happened to Jawann McClellan? When he first arrived at Arizona, he looked like the next superstar to wear the Wildcats uniform. But this season with the emergence of Chase Budinger and Marcus Williams, he's all but disappeared. It seems like the only time he's capable of putting together a good game is when he's playing the Washington Huskies (for some reason, all of the Wildcats transform into Sean Elliot and Steve Kerr when they play U-Dub). McClellan is going to have to step up his game if Arizona is going to be any sort of threat in March.

The exact same could be said of Josh Shipp at UCLA. He is no longer the same dynamic player he once was when he joined the Bruins. UCLA doesn't need him to be a superstar, but he does have to become a viable third option and role player- much like Cedric Bozeman was for last year's team. While he did lead the team in assists in UCLA's lethargic victory over Arizona State, he also led them in turnovers. He needs to become more of a contributor on offense especially against the zone defenses being thrown at UCLA.

About those zone defenses? Expect to see a lot of them, because until either Shipp or Mbah a Moute develops a reliable mid-range jumper, the Bruins primary attack against the zone is to just throw it around the perimeter until either Collison or Afflalo shoots a three to beat the shot clock. That's not the kind of offense that will get them to Atlanta.

Has Cal really fallen on such hard times that their fans will rush the court after any game that the Bears manage to win? Apparently so, as the students came a-stormin' after Cal beat Oregon, 63-61. This is the same Oregon team that has now lost four of their last five and is falling fast. With Cal playing Oregon State on Saturday, they'll need to get some extra security at Haas Pavilion as there could be a full blown riot if the Bears actually get a two game winning streak.

I've been having an internal struggle on just how much to write about the Tim Hardaway fallout today. When I first heard the comments, it seemed to me that what he said was pretty much indefensible. But then listening to talk radio and reading the AOL FanHouse, it's apparent that many people are rushing to his defense. I've been trying to stay out of the discussion because I'm of the opinion that anyone that advocates hate against a group of people is by definition closed minded, and so my words won't be that persuasive anyway. I expected the Biblical cherry-picking to justify hate, but my favorite rationalization has been that it's OK to hate gays because unlike race, sexual orientation is a choice and therefore homosexuals can be "trained" to like the opposite sex. I'm not sure how anyone can sincerely believe that it's a choice, because why would a person choose a lifestyle that leads to being oppressed and ostracized? And if that were the case, then wouldn't the converse be true? Wouldn't you be able to get any heterosexual male off the street and via therapy be able to train him to prefer the company of men? I guess the theory is that a dick is like Diet Coke. It's revolting at first, but if you force it down your throat long enough, it becomes quite palatable.

Hypothetical question of the night: Let's say you had an 8 year-old son who wanted to join a youth basketball league. There are two teams in the league with a roster opening. One is coached by John Amaechi and the other is coached by a Catholic priest. Which team do you put your son on?

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