Friday, December 15, 2006

Free Jackie I. and the Pitts

First, breaking news. According to the UW itself, the Badger's All-Big Ten cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu has been reinstated to the football team. Now since I currently kind of earn my living in law enforcement, and am a current and definitely future quasi-judicial officer, I should tread lightly here. I am not one to be soft on criminals. In particular, I think the sentences for sex offenders should be far longer than they currently are (then you could avoid involuntarily committing people for "treatment"), and I think "good time" systems-- where someone gets sentenced to 20 years but gets out in ten because they only verbally (not physically) abused the prison guards-- are ridiculous. But if we're going to have a system, we need to let the system work the way it's supposed to. That means the criminal justice process starts with the assumption that you haven't done anything. There is far, far too much trial by media immediately upon arrest. It's basically definitively reported in the papers, that person X did terrible crime Y, and it's all fine because of the magical word "allegedly." That's normally thrown in after some visceral, detailed description of the crime. If I had my way, I'd say a crime was committed, describe the crime, say a suspect has been arrested, but not release the person's name or picture. So when they put out someone's name and picture with descriptions of dastardly deeds and the magic word tossed in, I know it's "educating the public" but lets remember it's also "tampering with the potential jury pool" and "convicting the defendant in the public eye before he or she has been found guilty of anything." Enough venting...
This applies to Jack's situation because of course it was widely assumed, based on his arrest, that he did whatever it was he was arrested for (for the record, the allegations are he and others broke into a house in Dekalb, IL and took a PS2). But he hasn't been proven guilty of anything, and the public defender in his case made, what I thought was, a very strong statement about Jack and his brother's innocence. That, plus his reinstatement upon the University's further review of his situation, bodes very well for his criminal case. I guess what I'm saying is he hasn't been proven guilty of anything yet, and I'm hoping it turns out that he didn't do anything wrong. If he really did it, he should be punished accordingly. But the signs, I think, point to the case being sketchy. (Yes, I have contemplated that his reinstatement may mean nothing except that UW is overly lenient with high profile student-athletes, especially when big games are impending).

Back to the the hardcourt. I'm unsure about what to say about the Pitt/Wisco match-up that will be going down on the morn in the Madtown--tipping off at 11 am Central. Clearly, it's one of the biggest games of the year, a list which includes the Marquette, OSU, Sparty, Indiana and FIB games. And next to the papists, the Pitt Panther (so nice and alliterative) showdown will be our toughest non-conference contest. And, depending on what OSU does against decent opponents, currently #2 ranked Pitt could be our highest rated opponent this season.

But will it be our toughest game this season? We do play at Georgia, OSU, Illinois and Indiana. We also have a fine home record, despite the loss to NDSU last season, and Aaron Gray, the large semi-mobile centerpoint of the Pitt team has strep throat and his status "is in question." I think that means he'll play but probably not have the greatest endurance. Also, apparently one of the players that would usually attempt to guard A-Tuck, Sam Young, has tendinitis in his knees. (I can sympathize). Still, if we're throwing around factoids, Jaime Dixon (that's the coach of the Pitt Panthers, sorry, it rolls off the tongue), has yet to lose a game in December as coach of his team, his team returned 8 of its top 10 players from last season (they won 25 games last year), and is currently undefeated, sitting at 10-0.

How do we compare to the team from the lovely Burg of Pitts? Performance-wise, our non-conference schedule has been slightly tougher. Both teams beat Florida State, Delaware State and Auburn. Pitt's win against Auburn was at Auburn, while ours was in South Father Island, TX, and they beat Delaware State by more. Pitt's other victories are over Western Michigan (3-9), Northeastern (2-6), UMass (9-2 and who just beat Louisville), Oakland (of Michigan) (6-6), Robert Morris (5-3 but 0-2 in their conference the NEC--isn't this a brand of TV?), Duquesne (lousy at 2-6--just lost to West Virginia by 30), and Buffalo (6-4, generally thought of as a solid mid-major).

Most of these victories have been by double digits, though they came close to losing to Buffalo at Buffalo just a few days ago. Whether that close win fires them up, or rather is demonstrative that they can be had, I don't know. As may already be apparent, I actually don't know much about Pitt, besides the facts that (a) they have an enormous white dude, Aaron Gray, who may be even slower than Butch but is bigger with better post moves; and (b) many of their players are from New York, specifically Brooklyn and the Bronx. I think that means they have more of a claim to being from "the Street" and specifically may have more "Street Cred." Joking aside, my general understanding is that they have lots of big athletic folks who play good defense, and that they are, like us, a deep team. Gray is their leading scorer, but lots of other guys (once again, like us) are around 10 points/game. Their second leading scorer is Mike Cook, a 6'4" guard who sat out last season after transferring from East Carolina and who may attempt to guard Alando. Gray rebounds like a fiend, but they actually beat UMass handily (perhaps their best win so far) with Gray only playing 17 minutes. Not sure what else to say, and giving an in-depth match up analysis would require so much computer time that my wife would make me sleep outside.
Thus, I will leave forecasting and in-depth profiling in the hands of other more knowledgeable folks, although many of the quasi-professionals seem ig'nint about the details, too. Is it possible that each team is so deep, no one can do a legitimate preview because it would require too much research? Such a task is beyond me, at the least. I will say that the Panthers have a good inside attack, and thus to counter such things, hopefully the Stiemer will stay out of foul trouble and see plenty of game time. Same for Landry. I bet we see a lot of big lineups from Bo, with the Hoft or A-Tuck playing the 2, and only one traditional "guard" on the floor. Maybe a triple towers look of Butch, Stiemer and J-Cheezy? Or an alternate "big" lineup of Flowers, A-Tuck, Landry, Stiemsma and Butch? One can only dream... We'll need a bunch of folks to have good games, and if we're not moving the ball around well on offense I wouldn't be surprised to lose by several possessions. Hopefully, that won't be the case.
Anyhow, here's what I've discovered out there, and Sconnie represent:
- Brief Sportsline discussion (about halfway down)
- PA coverage
- More PA coverage
- ESPN piece about a 6'10" Canadian senior on Pitt, labeled a "glue guy" (the Hoft also makes the list)
- Best Preview so far: Rivals game of the week coverage (no subscription needed for this one)
- College Hoops Net coverage is solid as well.

Final note, we may not be able to take this game. Pitt is deep, experienced, well-coached, and more athletic overall. They haven't played a ranked team yet this season, however, so they are somewhat untested. I think we can win this game, but certain players, like Stiesma, Flowers, and perhaps Pop Hughes, will have to step up. And no one crucial can have a bad game. Yee gods, I hope we can do it. If we can, it'd be a huge win for this year's team and the program, and vengance for last season's defeat and the loss in Milwaukee in DevI's last game.
I say theme of the weekend: "the legend of the rent was way hard core!"

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