I'm Going on a Big Vacation
Kate and I are headed out tomorrow for a Caribbean cruise with family, in honor of my grandmother's birthday. As I don't really want to leave the previous cranky post on the top of the front page for the whole week, here's some song lyrics (shuffle play on the playlist of vaguely cruise-appropriate songs I put together, skipping songs that I've used before, or whose lyrics I don't know). You can probably learn something about my basic worldview from the fact that I find these songs good relaxation material.
- 1) "If you see a box of pine, with a name that looks like mine, say I drowned in a barrel of wine."
- 2) "I can saw a woman in two, but you won't want to look in the box when I'm through."
- 3) "I've been sowing seeds from Mexico to Tennessee, and I'm reaping now an awful lot of woe."
- 4) "I can still croon, and make the girls swoon. Ain't that the way life's supposed to be?"
- 5) "My new address is sitting by the ocean, I can't be reached by phone."
- 6) "They say 'I'm all right, I just can't get home tonight.'"
- 7) "I saw you just the other day, my how you have grown."
- 8) "I'm never out of bed before noon, waking up too late seems too soon."
- 9) "I'm goin' out to get me some sun, I'm gonna collect it, baby."
- 10) "Some folks love is hard and strong, That's the kind of love that lingers on."
- 11) "My sister's ex-husband can't get no lovin'."
- 12) "Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins, nature kids, but they ain't got no function."
- 13) "And Ray Charles was shot down, but he got up to do his best."
- 14) "It's six in the mornin', you gave me no warnin', I had to be on my way."
- 15) "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, It's a wonder I can think at all."
- 16) "I learned to play some lead guitar, I was underage in this smoky bar."
- 17) "A big Jamaican took every last dime with a scam, it was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand."
That's about enough of that. Have fun while we're gone, and try not to break anything.
Ask the Right Questions
Weirdly, the "Why are there so few prominent female bloggers" question continues to bubble along, weeks after when I thought it had run its course. Calpundit Monthly has another post on the subject, and PZ Myers makes a plea that I heartily endorse.
I don't have any real theories as to why more people don't link to female bloggers, but I will foolishly rush in where I ought to fear to tread (and then leave town for a week), and note that I think this whole thing is silly. Not because I think one position or the other is so trivially obvious as to preclude discussion, but because I think the whole debate is turning on the wrong question.
Why don't more people link to female bloggers? Good question. Here's another one: Why don't more people link to Fred Clark and "Charles Dodgson"? They both do political punditry, they're both male, and they write some brilliant stuff, but they might as well be screaming into the void for all the attention it generates from the big boys. They don't seem to be doing much better than any of the female bloggers whose lack of links has become such a hot topic, and I can't for the life of me figure out why.
I think people are coming at this whole issue from the wrong angle. The interesting question isn't "Why don't the big-name bloggers link to certain people?", it's "Why do they link to the people they do?" Gender is a red herring.
Of course, I don't think it's an easy question to answer. If you chose ten sites from my sidebar links, and presented me with a list of ten similar sites that I don't link, I'm not sure I could give a coherent explanation of why I link to one group, and not the other.
But that's the important question. Trying to understand why a certain sub-group isn't linked is sort of foolish if you don't have a theory to explain why other people are linked.
If you'd like to understand linking behavior, that's the question you should be asking. And, as a bonus, asking the right question doesn't involve insulting anyone.
Spouse of First-Round Blogging
11:53: And that's the game, go Pittsnogle and Sally, and now I'm going to bed. G'night, all.
11:49: As WVU thwaps away the airball, goes on the fast break, and gets the dunk to go up by two with 2.4 seconds left— Me, silently: Good for the guy with the last name "Sally," because that's unfortunate. Chad to the TV: "And you're going to go to commercial rather than replay it, aren't you, you miserable sons-of-bitches. (as it comes up) There you go."
11:45: Well, I was going to go to bed ten minutes ago, but Blogger didn't want to publish, and now there's less than a minute left. Might as well stay up and see how Pittsnogle's team does.
11:36: *blink* The crowd is actually making noise since that WVU dunk. Goodness.
11:30: "Pittsnogle" really is the best name ever.
11:29: I think the announcer for this game doesn't enunciate that well. Me: "Did he just say 'Seventeen fouls'?" Chad: "no, 'seven team fouls.'" Or possibly I'm just sleepy.
11:23: Chad: "Good God, Creighton has a guy on the team who looks like Kent from Real Genius."
11:21: which doesn't seem to be nearly as interesting, even if it's closer. Or possibly Chad is just falling asleep.
11:16: Annnnd we're done with Illinois-Fairleigh Dickinson, and over to Creighton-West Virginia.
11:15: Chad: "I always forget how annoying Dirk Enberg is. He's constantly trying to use words that he doesn't actually known the definitions of, or these really strained analogies, like called a large Italian basketball player a Fiat."
11:13: Chad: "I'm really kind of torn. On one hand, I think ESPN would do a better job with the tournament, they have more networks; but on the other hand, that would mean Dick Vitale."
10:58: Emmy is snoring. It's been exciting for her, to have Chad home most of the day.
10:58: Chad: "Dee Brown probably doubles his body mass when he puts on his uniform. Jesus, he's small."
10:56: We all expected Illinois to come out breathing fire, right? Right.
10:50: I really, really loathe Dick Vitale. Car commercials are at least better than those dreadful Hooters commercials, but he is still an offense to the ears.
Daughter of First Round Live-Blogging
10:45: Kate would like her computer back, so I think that's the end of live-blogging for this evening. Or maybe she'll transcribe my snarky remarks-- wait and see...
10:41: FDU-Illinois goes to the half, so we're sent out to the UCLA-Texas Tech game, with six minutes left. Meanwhile, the Creighton-West Virginia game, in the final minute of the half, ticks away to halftime, with Creighton trailing by two. Thanks, CBS.
10:32: after farting around aimlessly for fifteen seconds worth of the final possession, FDU drains a deep three at the buzzer, and only trails by one at the half. Go, Knights.
10:30: Illinois has had absurdly silly passes out of bounds on their last two possessions. Look, either buckle down and put these guys away, or fold up, and let them get a lead.
10:28: We're sort of facing the nightmare scenario of the first round right now, with Illinois leading by eight. The outcome really isn't in doubt, but the game is just close enough to keep CBS from switching to a better game.
10:23: Dick Enberg dreadful pun of the night: Luther Head just hit two threes, and was described as "A hot Head for Illinois." Please, God, make it stop...
10:19: Kate: "Do Cool Ranch Doritos go with beer?" Me: "Are you sure you went to college?"
10:15: Mike Krzyzewski, talking about AmEx for the twentieth time this evening. Please, God, make it stop...
10:14: FDU takes the lead, 20-19. It won't last, but it's nice to see.
10:11: All four games are now in progress. Creighton and West Virginia are tied, LSU leads UAB by one, Texas Tech is up seven on UCLA, and Fairleigh Dickinson is making a better showing than I expected, down three with eight and a half in the first. Enberg and Bilas are talking up their offensive rebounding, neglecting to mention that most of those rebounds have been on ridiculous bricks.
10:07: Just to be safe, we're changing the Official Beer of First Round Live-Blogging to Snake Dog IPA. Also, there's only one Hop Wallop left, and I'm saving that for tomorrow.
10:05: So, is the Burger King commercial for the Bacon Cheddar Ranch sandwich real, or is someone sneaking hallucinogens into my beer?
9:59: So, we've had throwback jerseys in baseball and football, and now we've got throwback beer? And am I the only one to think that the "Eagle Claw" Budweiser throwback cans are disturbingly reminiscent of fascist iconography?
9:58: Damn, but Dee Brown is quick.
9:55: OK, back to the action. And CBS is offering up... Farileigh-Dickinson vs. Illinois. Wonderful. Meanwhile, Creighton is up 10-0 over West Virginia. Time for another beer.
Son of First Round Live-Blogging
9:33: And Gonzaga hangs on. The first set of evening games is all chalk, but for Nevada beating Texas. Time for a break to play with the dog.
9:28: Discussion question: The three-point shot is often called the "great equalizer" of college basketball, but more often than not, it's a false hope, leading to the forcing of bad long-range shots. Discuss, using the end of the Winthrop-Gonzaga game as illustration.
9:24: Wake won by 16, and Arizona is up 13 with a minute to play, so it looks like Winthrop is the only hope for a big upset in this block. They're down four with two to play.
9:17: "Spring Break Shark Attack"? This is a joke, right?
9:12: Hop Wallop Ale, bottle #2. And Texas goes down 61-57.
9:09: Down two with fifteen seconds to play, Texas runs a play to a guy named Klotz. Now, you've just got to know going in that that's not going to end well...
9:07: Nevada-Texas now, Texas up one under a minute to play. Fantastic body English from the Nevada coach on a junk shot in the lane to take the lead. Pity about the free throw.
9:04: Gonzaga is playing like they've never even heard of a zone trap. First, they had three possessions where they dribbled directly into the double-team, and then thier Beatle-haired point guard put it off his foot trying to avoid the trap. What the hell?
8:59: All four higher seeds are now leading, Wake by a significant margin. We're getting Winthrop-Gonzaga now, which is the closest of the games in progress.
8:55: So, the Super Bowl is a single football game, lasting no more than three or four hours. And for that, they roll out dozens of new commercials.
The NCAA Tournament is a three-week long event, involving something like six full days worth of televised basketball. For this, they roll out what, maybe two new spots? I'm sick of both of them already. Something is deeply wrong with the American advertising community.
8:51: The clock in the little score box for the Utah State-Arizona game has been stuck at 11:50 for about ten minutes. I wonder what's up with that? Now it's ticking again.
8:42: Chris Paul is kind of a dick. I think I'm rooting for the Mocs from here out. Screw the pools.
8:39: Chattanooga's hanging in there. Wake's playing better in the second half, but the Mocs are matching them almost shot for shot. Given that I have Wake losing to Syracuse in the title game in at least two pools, a loss would be bad. In a good sort of way.
8:31: Somebody needs to get some screen shots of Erik Williams and send them to Hanzi Smatter (I'm guessing "three quick fouls" is in there somewhere). He's got enough kanji tattoos to make a Japanese novel.
8:25:Worried about taste loss? Try Victory Hop Wallop Ale-- the official beer of First Round Live-Blogging. For now.
8:23: We're back with Wake vs. Chattanooga, and a minute into the second half, things are pretty ugly on both sides. Wake looks like they're offended by having to be playing these guys, and the Mocs are trying to play about two steps faster than they're capable of.
8:20: Live-blogging may cease at any moment, either because Kate wants her computer back, or from the effects of the beer I've started drinking. It's hard enough to type on this stupid tiny keyboard when I'm stone sober-- a couple of beers may render this completely unintelligible.
8:15: We're getting the Gonzaga game at the moment (well, mostly we're getting commercials, but in the moments when basketball is on, Gonzaga is playing), and their opponent, Winthrop, shares a name with the basset hound around the corner. Their mascot is the Eagles, but it's hard to imagine anything less eagle-like than a waddling, snuffling floppy-eared dog.
8:08 PM: Four gaqmes going on at the moment, all four led by the lower seed. Winthrop is up one on Gonzaga, Wake trails Chattanooga, Utah State leads Arizona, and Nevada leads Texas
These are all early (none are in the second half yet), but if these were to hold up, that would really screw some brackets up...
First Round Live-Blogging
2:51 PM: Tigers over Panthers, 79-71. Walk time.
2:43 PM: Pacific is up ten on Pitt with a minute and a half left (technically not an upset, as Pacific is the 8 seed to Pitt's 9), behind All-Name Team candidate Guillaume Yango. And now we go to the ugly free-throw contest. Looks like it may be time to take the dog for a walk.
2:36 PM: Your game in a nutshell: Alabama brings the ball up the court, down eight with 45 seconds to play. Just before the mid-court line, an Alabama player goes behind the back for no good reason, and hits himself in the ass with the ball. He scrambles to pick it up, chucks it into the frontcourt, and it's promptly turned over.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee wins by ten, despite chunking a bunch of free throws. Alabama just didn't look sharp at all. And there's the obligatory 12-5 upset.
2:29 PM: Weirdly, they've cut away from the UW-M game back to Pacific vs. Pitt, despite the fact that it's not any closer, and has more time left. Whoops-- now we're back. Panthers up six with under a minute to play.
2:21 PM: First game in the books-- Kentucky wins, 72-64.
2:14 PM: Spoke too soon-- Lentucky has let their lead slip to 5 with a little over three minutes left, so we're getting that game now. They're not going to lose, but it's more interesting than watching the Sooners push Niagara around.
2:10 PM: The current set of games has settled into one of those annoying stretches where none of the games are close enough or late enough to justify switching away from the Niagara-Oklahoma game, which is not really that interesting.
2:00 PM: Mike Krzyzewski flacking for AmeEx: Oh, sweet Jesus, the smarminess. Not even an hour in to the Tournament-watching experience, and the "Most Annoying Ad" contest is all but over.
1:58 PM: The problem with being home during the afternoon is that I'm actually here when telemarketers call. Also, the problem with donating money to worthy political causes is that now the DNC thinks I can be tapped for a grand or so every two weeks.
1:48 PM: "Everybody Love Raymond" has been on for nine years? Jesus, I feel old... Also, the "Peyton Manning buys lemonade" commercial is already getting old. This is not a good sign.
1:44 PM: Sweet full-court pass for a lay-up. If the guy from UW-M had dunked it, it would be a Top Ten play for sure. And now, some commercials, before going back to the Niagara game.
1:39 PM: Ernest Shelton hits a three from about eight miles out, and the lead is only five. Time out, Panthers, time for some commercials. Whee!
1:37 PM: Blogger is being excruciatingly slow, which is annoying. This may turn into pseudo-live blogging.
Niagara went to the half down three, now we're getting a look at UW-M vs. Alabama. The lead has been cut to eight, and UW-M has gone cold.
1:15 PM: OK, let's give this a shot. Normally, people save the live-blogging thing for events like the State of the Union address, but let's use it for something that really matters...
Calculating and turning in my grades took a little longer than expected, and I had some errands to run, but now I'm back. Updates will be a little terse, because I'm typing this on Kate's laptop, which I rarely use.
Currently, we have two good upset games going on-- Pitt trails Pacific by 10, and UW-Milwaukee is up 13 at the half, but we're stuck with Niagara-Oklahoma. Which was a thirteen-point spread a minute or two ago, but now is down to a four-point Sooner lead, so maybe it won't be so bad. Also, Kentucky leads Eastern Kentucky by eight.
Every Day You See One More Card
As alluded to previously, here and elsewhere, it's the end of the academic term. I gave my final exam yesterday, and graded them last night (the grades were lower than on the previous exams, but not as low as you would've expected from watching the students leave the room...). All that remains is to calculate the final averages, turn in my final grades, and collect my course evaluations.
This is, in many ways, my least favorite part of the term. There's a lot riding on those evaluations, and I hate the suspense of waiting to find out what they say. I never feel like I have a good read on what other people think of me (which is one of many reasons why I'd never make it as a professional poker player), so even though I think I had a good term, there's always that naggging dread in the back of my mind that I'm going to get ripped on the comment sheets.
This term has probably been about the hardest term I've had teaching, in terms of workload, but in some ways, these have also been some of my favorite classes. I had a really good bunch of students this time around, and they seemed to like me, so I have reason to believe that the comments will be good. But I never know, and that drives me crazy.
But, once I hand in the grades and pick them up, I'm done. There'll be nothing more to do this term, and I can come home, pack for the cruise we're leaving for on Saturday, and overdose on first-round tournament games.
Which is, of course, the real reason I stayed up late last night grading exams. Also: NCAA Tournament live-blogging! (Maybe.)
The Gernsback Continuum
This post is not actually about basketball. Cue the rejoicing.
A discussion over at Electrolite led to a recommendation of Judith Berman's "Science Fiction Without the Future", and essay which looks at a recent (well, recent when it was written) bunch of SF magazines, and concludes that modern SF is preoccupied with the concerns of old people, and that's why young people aren't being drawn into reading SF.
It's an interesting essay, but I have a few problems with it, starting from the emphasis on magazines. I'm not entirely sure how much of this is just a practical matter (i.e., it's easier to survey a year's worth of Asimov's than a year's worth of novels), and how much is a reflection of a real belief that magazines are essential to the field. To the extent that it's the latter (and that's how I initially read it), it sort of rubs me the wrong way, because I was never a reader of magazine SF.
Well, OK, I did read a big pile of Asimov's and Analog back in the early-to-mid '80's, but they were second-hand (from a cousin who had subscribed). I never subscribed to either magazine, and I never made an effort to seek out more issues. I did discover a few interesting books and authors through those back issues (I first read Brin's The Postman in novella form in one of those, and I sought out Terry Pratchett based on a review of The Colour of Magic), but that didn't get me to buy any magazines.
(I think it was a cash flow issue-- for the price of two magazines, each containing a half-dozen stories that might or might not be appealing to me, I could get a paperback book that would definitely be good. But I don't really remember, and I may be attributing too much rationality to my teenage self.)
And yet, I type this sitting in a room containing something like 500 hardcovers, mostly fantasy and science fiction, and we won't even talk about the paperbacks in the other rooms. My lack of magazine readership hasn't translated into a lack of SF readership-- I just got there by a different channel.
Given that my knowledge of the inner workings of SF publishing is limited to the occasional conversation with authors and editors, I don't have any hard numbers to work with. But I wonder how much of the problem that Berman is talking about is just a shift in the entry method. I hear all the time that magazine readership is down, but that doesn't seem to translate into fewer SF books in the stores-- quite the opposite. And I don't think the vast shelves full of media tie-in novels are being bought by aging baby-boomer SF fans.
Of course, some of this may also be a matter of genre definition. Berman is pretty clearly talking about SF in the exclusive sense-- science fiction only, fantasy need not apply. I tend not to distinguish between them, mostly because the stores I shop in don't attempt to separate them. It may be that the increase in shelf space for SF in stores is actually due to a huge increase in the popularity of fantasy, that compensates for a loss of interest in science fiction. I'm not really in a position to say, but if that is the case, I don't see it as much of a crisis.
Those quibbles aside, Berman raises some interesting points about the change in emphasis in SF from the "Golden Age" to today, summarizing it thusly:
Golden Age sf: hope for the future of technology. Millennial sf: fear of the present, fear of technology?
There's definitely some truth to this, but I don't think it's specific to SF. There's been a shift in attitudes toward science throughout society, and the change in SF is merely a reflection of the different social climate. People in general have become much more cynical about science in general since the giddy technophilia of the post-WWII days that, not coincidentally, were the peak of the "Golden Age." It's only natural that SF has tracked that change.
Which also makes me wonder whether the change in attitude is actually a bad thing. Yes, today's SF would probably not excite a child reader of the 50's or 60's. But the child readers of today are not the same as the child readers of the 50's and 60's-- for children raised in a more pessimistic age, more pessimistic SF may be a better fit. It might be that the stories that children found entrancing in 1960 would fall flat for children today.
But again, I don't have any numbers, nor do I have any way to get any numbers to test any of these theories. I'm just this guy with a website, thinking out loud...
Ask Dr. Principles (Office Pool Edition)
So, you're planning your annual foray into illicit gambling, and would like some advice to help you win your office pool? Then why are you here? I don't know anything useful, and I probably haven't watched any more basketball than you have.
If you insist, though, I can attempt to answer some common questions.
Q: Arizona is a #3 seed in the Chicago region, but some commentators really like them. what do you advise?
A: Arizona basketball and I have a hate-hate relationship, dating back to the 80s, so you're asking the wrong person. Several times, I've bought into the hype, and picked them to the Final Four, and they invariably lost in the first round. Sensing a pattern, I started picking them to lose in the first round, and they went to the Final Four. I can't win with this team. I've settled into a pattern of picking them to the Sweet 16 every year, as that minimizes the damage they can do to my brackets.
But don't be surprised if they drop the game to Utah State, just to piss me off.
Q: What about Cincinnati as a #10 seed?
A: Oh, that's an easy one. As a general rule, I pick Cincy to lose to the first halfway decent team they face, and I've rarely gone wrong with that one. Iowa is halfway decent, so the Bearcats are toast.
Q: Louisville as a #4? Aren't they ranked #4?
A: Enh. They're ranked #4 for two reasons: first, they're coached by Rick Pitino, and second, they play in a lousy conference. They kept winning while other highly ranked teams dropped games to good competition, so they kept climbing. This is why it's a stupid idea to base your national championship around polls.
I am not sold on Louisville as a great team. They tried really hard to hand their conference championship game to Memphis (who aren't a great team), and the Tigers just refused to take it. Of course, I also dislike Rick Pitino intensely, so take this with a grain of salt.
Q: Which #1 seed is most vulnerable to an early-round upset?
A: North Carolina has looked the shakiest of the #1 seeds recently, owing to the loss and return of Rashad McCants. As a general rule, the return of a key player after a couple games' absence tends to screw things up for a couple of games, as it disrupts the routine that has developed. The Tar Heels looked wobbly against Clemson in the ACC Tournament, and dropped their next game to Georgia Tech.
They've probably got it out of their system by now, and will almost certainly have everything worked out by the time they play anybody who can seriously threaten them, but if you put a gun to my head, and asked me to pick a #1 seed to be upset early, that's who I'd take. Washington losing to Pitt in the second round would be my second choice.
Which, of course, mean that Fairleigh Dickinson is going to knock Illinois off.
Q: What about the #2 seeds?
A: UConn and Wake would be my choices here. Wake because they're seeded to possibly play West Virginia in the second round, and if the Mountaineers rediscover the shooting touch they had in the first few rounds of the Big East tournament, Wake could be in trouble.
UConn is the other #2 that looks a little wobbly. They played extremely well through February, but they tried really hard to give away their game against Georgetown, and the Hoyas just handed it right back (sort of like Louisville and Memphis). They've got some of the same player-return issues that North Carolina has (Rashad Anderson is returning from a life-threatening infection-- it's a bad year to be named "Rashad"), and they've added player-loss issues as well, with their backup point guard being suspended for violating team rules.
I'm not sure that either Charlotte or NC State can muster enough to knock the Huskies off in the second round, but it could be a lot more interesting than people think.
Q: Isn't the fake Q&A format a dreadful cliche? And played out, to boot?
A: Shut up. It's my blog, I'll do what I like.
Q: OK, smart guy, what about the 5-12 games?
A: History says that there's probably going to be one game in which a #12 seed beats a #5 seed. The big bracket-pool game has become trying to figure out which of the four it will be.
This year, the choices are Alabama vs. UW-Milwaukee, GaTech vs. George Washington, Villanova vs. New Mexico, and Michigan State vs. Old Dominion. I'm hampered in trying to pick this by not knowing a damn thing about any of the lower seeds.
Based solely on what little I know of the #5 seeds, I'd probably take New Mexico, as Villanova's been kind of flaky this year. I might also pick UWM, because I dislike the SEC, but I don't have any real basis for that.
Michigan State has traditionally been good at winning by making the game really ugly, and Georgia Tech seems to be playing well at the moment, so I don't think I'd pick against either of them. But it's really hard to say.
Q: Any other upset picks?
A: Again, I haven't seen enough basketball this year to make a really informed decision on most of these games. It wouldn't shock me to see Boston College or Florida drop a first-round game, or for Pittsburgh to knock off Washington in the second round. I'll take UCLA over Texas Tech in a no-win situation in the first round (UCLA has been similar to Arizona for me, and Bob Knight hasn't done well in the NCAA's in recent years). Vermont will probably make life difficult for Syracuse, but I don't think they'll have quite enough to pull the upset. But who can say?
Q: So, who are you picking to win?
Not so much because I really think they have a chance, but because I have a strict policy of not betting against teams that I root for. I don't like being in a situation where my rooting interests and my financial interests are in conflict.
Of course, it's not like I've got any money on this. The only price I'll pay for filling out a pool sheet will be a slight uptick in the spam traffic at my Steelypips address, from re-registering with ESPN and CBS. But, hey, I could win a car, so it's all worth it...
What Went Wrong
So, the NCAA Tournament field has been announced, and as expected, Maryland is headed for the NIT this year (to play Oral Roberts U, no less). Before turning to the happier topics of Final Four picks and office pools, a few words on Maryland's disappointing season.
The big question is what went wrong? This is a team that returned nearly all of the top players from an ACC Tournament champion last year, and on paper, they should've been much better than they were. Why were they so bad (I mean, they weren't completely terrible, but three losses to Clemson is a disgrace...)?
The most common explanation is to pin the blame on John Gilchrist, Maryland's talented but erratic point guard. While there's some merit to this, it's also a little unfair. The people who want to put it all on Gilchrist have been spoiled by four years of Steve Blake (one of the best college point guards I've ever seen)-- compared to past Maryland guards like Terrell Stokes and Duane Simpkins, Gilchrist is a rock.
I think the bigger, and overlooked, source of the problem is Travis Garrison. Not just him, of course, but his position. Maryland's scheme (not unlike Duke's) really demands that there be one guy who can more or less hold down the middle by himself-- they play one point guard, one center, and three small forwards. If you look at the really good Maryland teams of the Gary Williams era, they've all had someone like that: Joe Smith, Keith Booth, Rodney Elliott, Obinna Ekezie, Lonny Baxter. Some had more success than others, but those were all guys who anchored the Maryland offense and defense in the lane
In Maryland's scheme, the center needs to be a guy who can be responsible for most of the rebounding, and act as the back line on defense, and Garrison just isn't that guy. He'd rather float around the three-point line and shoot jumpers than go inside and bang. Ekene Ibekwe might become that guy, but it's hard to tell at the moment, because he picks up two quick fouls within thirty seconds of setting foot on the court. The closest they have this year is Will Bowers, who's glacially slow, which causes its own problems.
If they had solid interior play, they could weather the occasional Gilchrist flake-out (see remarks above about Joe Smith and Duane Simpkins). Lacking solid interior play, well, you get what you saw this year. Sometimes, they can compensate for the soft middle by getting contributions from people like Nik Caner-Medley, but when he's taken out of the play in the paint, they struggle. They give up easy lay-ups, they don't rebound effectively, and they put themselves in a big hole against bad teams. Gilchrist gets criticised for not running the offense, and it's true that he could do more, but the offense they have is designed to run through the middle, and those guys just aren't getting it done.
Who's to blame for this? Nobody, really. Oh, there are some people who want to pin this on Gary Williams, but in my opinion, this is just one of those things. You recruit players who you think will fill certain roles, and sometimes they just don't pan out. Williams rolled the dice and won big with Smith, Ekezie, and Baxter, but he missed this time out. That's the game, and there's not much you can do about it.
If you look at certain Maryland fan sites, you'll find people ranting that this sort of thing just doesn't happen to top programs, but those people are mostly idiots. Yeah, fine, Maryland has missed the tournament just three years after winning it. Their title-game oppnent from 2002, Indiana, isn't in the Big Dance either, and neither of them comes close to the record held by Jim Boeheim, who played for the title in 1996, and missed the tournament in 1997.
You could amend the statement to "This sort of thing doesn't happen to Duke" (which is probably what they really mean, anyway), but again, they're wrong. Duke played for the title in 1994, and missed the tournament after a horrific 1994-5 season (yeah, yeah, yeah, Krzyzewski didn't really coach that year...), for more or less the same reasons. Cherokee Parks was no Christian Laettner, and they couldn't quite hold it together after Grant Hill graduated. And there's not a whole lot that even Mike Krzyzewski can do about that (he did make the switch to donut-ball a couple of years later, when Greg Newton flaked out on him, but even that only got him so far).
So what's to be done? Basically nothing. Gary Williams built the program back up from a much worse spot than this, and he's succeeded brilliantly-- there's probably no better measure of his success than the fact that ESPN's talking heads were still acting like Maryland had a shot to get into the NCAA's after their disasterous finish. That's a reflection of the good reputation he's built up over the last ten years, and it won't go away overnight.
Wait 'til next year, and see what happens. If Ibekwe develops a brain, and stops fouling everybody within reach, they could bounce back next year (even if Gilchrist leaves-- Sterling Ledbetter has looked like a competent point guard this year). Or they may pick up somebody up through a transfer, or normal recruiting. It's nowhere near panic time in College Park.
If On a Winter's Night a Blog Post
At a certain point late last night, the song titles offered up by iTunes started to look like they could be strung together in a way that almost makes sense, in a poetic kind of way:
"Have Love, Will Travel"
God is love, just like a man
One kiss in the midnight hour?
Girl, take it easy-- I'd run away.
Sadly, the next title in the list was "Some Drilling Implied," and I just don't want to think about what that might mean.
Anyway, I thought I should offer something silly before I start flooding this blog with hoops stuff. There are eight different bands there (including the rejected next line), if you'd like to make it a guessing game.
Meanwhile, I'll look into this whole "sleep" thing...