Tuesday, March 29, 2011

VCU in the Final Four..

I don't want to take anything away from VCU. Scratch that, as our rival I want to take everything away from VCU especially their final four. However, being rational I can't, rather I shouldn't. I can but I won't.

For those of you do want to take something or everything away from VCU, here are some excuses, you can put them in your back pocket for your next chat around the office cooler (insert elitist UR joke like you are the boss and the VCU fan is the delivery boy if it makes you feel any better):

1. They did away with staggered games, ie play-in games, before they expanded to the field of 64 because they felt the teams that played in them had an advantage getting their feet wet in the tournament. They did. Higher seeded teams playing teams cold were losing too much. Those play-in winners got a bit of momentum and were rolling with it. It was deemed to be slightly unfair. Recently, this was forgotten as 16 v. 17 obviously never had enough of an advantage to defeat a 1 seed.

Last teams in... where the talent deficit isn't nearly as large, it makes sense that it is still true. Clemson also a play-in winner jumped all over their "2nd round" opponent--but didn't win. VCU to their credit did. Something I'm going to remember for future years is to take play-in "dogs" against the first half spread, especially, and probably full game spreads. BTW, I had both Clemson and VCU winning their second round games in almost all of my brackets.

2. VCU's first round opponent was USC. Maybe the worst at large bid ever per Jerry Palm. If you've ever seen this guys TV presence you know not to quibble with him on numbers. I was more upset about their inclusion than VCU or UAB's by far. While I've said I don't think VCU deserved to get in, not sure who I wanted in before them... maybe Alabama. But at that point a resume is more warts than anything else. Still, they had to chance to start rolling and they did.

3. VCU's second round opponent was Georgetown. A team without it's best player at the tail end of the season and freefalling. In fact, if not for Villanova maybe one of the worst teams "at the moment" to make the field. Like nova, gtown would have been seeded significantly worse if they still had the last 10 or 12 game consideration. Asinine they did away that. So, not only was VCU ripe for another upset so too was their opponent, who like everybody else trying to reincorporate a lost asset struggled with the process (Duke-Kyrie Irving).

4. Purdue. Lost one of their starters prior to the game. UR blew them out and knew them to be suspect. Turns out the big 10 was overrated this year, so the fact they did relatively well there didn't mean all that much.

5. FSU. Might have been one of the strongest defenses in the field, but got lucky to get a lead on Notre Dame (and as Pitino so clearly professed... the game's over because Notre Dame can't comeback, don't know how to press or run their offense quickly enough). FSU was probably the weakest team in the sweet sixteen and still took VCU to the wire.

6. KU came out after a blowout and no prep work. They were amped to play us and their guards shot the lights out and had nothing left for VCU. Unlike some (most) people I liked VCU to do damage in their bracket. I even remarked before the tournament started I'd rather their path to the final four than ours. Can you imagine how different our game would have been with Kansas if they only had one day to prepare and we already had a second weekend win under our belts.

Also, I hate it when big teams blow out an opponent in the game before. With underdogs it's great for them because it gives them confidence, Goliaths it just gives them overconfidence. OSU, Pitt, UNC, and KU all played flat after blowout wins.

--Why I don't like those excuses... VCU still had to beat USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and frickin' Kansas (if they beat Kentucky in the finals they'll singlehandedly beat the BCS). They hit big shot after big shot, and their guys Joey R., Burgess, and Skeen looked every bit as good as KU's or any other teams big three. I don't understand how they tanked at the end of the CAA season, and I don't buy that it's because their conference mates understand them. They are not a system team per se. Maybe they got all their bad shooting nights out of the way--because they have been lights out in the tournament (second time I've used that cliche and once was bad enough... my apologies).

Besides, everybody--especially this year--is there because of a bracket going their way. Butler is in the final four and almost lost in the first round (err, it was their first game but technically "second" round, can we just call the play-in games fricking play-in games). As Coach Brad Stevens said their spot could have just as easily been filled by ODU or Pittsburgh. Kentucky almost got beat by Princeton in the first round (okay... second round). We knew there were no great teams and the field was wide open. Credit to VCU for taking advantage of their path and being two wins, in two very winnable games, away from the national championship.

--I also find it typically annoying that everybody is now talking about how the process is flawed. Just because it's not four big schools going to Houston. Truth is, this year there were no great teams. Great teams don't lose to VCU to go the Final Four, great teams don't fall to young, young, four seeds in the sweet sixteen or Butler in the round of 32. When they are no great teams you can play the tournament 50 times and maybe get 30 different final four teams. And that in itself has some real value.

Just because we are left with two cheating Cals on one side of the bracket and two mid-majors on the other is no reason to scrap it. I think VCU is deserving of the final four, so too gutsy Butler, UCONN and Kentucky (talk about a team capable of hitting BIG shots). I'm curious to see how Butler handles being the favorite, a role they certainly didn't thrive in during the regular season. VCU gets to play an 8 seed in the final four... wow.

Go ahead and put that excuse in your quiver, too, but fellow UR fans in your deepest, darkest places, where you conceal truths from yourselves (like just how tight that red sweater is on your gut), you know VCU deserves to be there. And though jealously, envy, wrath, or whatever petty emotion that causes us to root against VCU may be at an all time high, as basketball fans somewhere inside of us, in that same dark place, we also have admiration for that VCU team and what they are accomplishing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On second thought...

Might as well not play the game Richmond has no shot against Kansas. Okay, the video disrespecting UR wouldn't post so here's one that will highlights of the win at the Phog:

Madness-- Two Richmond Schools to battle it out for a final four spot?

March has roared in like a lion for me in New Orleans. Mardi Gras, Irish-Italian parades, St. Patricks Day, and of course the Madness. Hasn't left much room for poker... so today I'll put on my sportswriter's cap.

This year tiny little University of Richmond with a student body of only 2800 or so is one of the last remaining 16. Reward for that? A date with Kansas one of the top two teams in the country. Does Richmond have a shot?

They've played only once before and that was in the Phog (Kansas' home Phog Allen Fieldhouse). Yeah at KU, when KU was good, and in head coach Bill Self's first year--how'd that go? The itsy-bitsy Spiders came into enemy territory, a place where KU had beaten 52 straight unranked opponents, and stole a win with a buzzer beating jumper from the top of the key (Read about it here). Consider the Spiders had to overcome a late deficit and the shot was just one of many baskets they had to make to win it was an epic performance. Right up there with Richmond's victory over mighty Syracuse when Syracuse was a 2 seed and the Spiders were a 15 seed in the NCAA tournament. The first time that ever happend. So, Richmond has faced impossible odds before and prevailed.

Richmond has also won as a 14 seed, a 13 seed, and a 12 seed before. This year they were also, unfairly, given a 12 seed when their talent was more likely rated as a single digit seed. Seems the media recognizes that, as they are giving VCU the coverage as the tournament darling Cinderella (despite being a 11 seed, VCU had to win one extra game--albeit against a team that had no business being in the tournament USC).

VCU is also from Richmond, and the two schools are bitter non conference rivals. If Richmond can pull of the impossible and beat Kansas, and VCU the possible and beat FSU, it would set up the penultimate matchup between two teams and two fanbases that at times despise each other. The rivalry is one that is under the radar nationally but it has all the hallmarks of what makes say Duke-UNC so great.

The schools are only six miles apart, considering Richmond's original campus downtown is all but in VCU's current campus, you could argue they are separated by even less. The student bodies and the schools couldn't be more disimilar. VCU is transforming from a commuter type school to an urban campus. It has a much larger student population and is a rising state school. Probably more NC State than North Carolina but VCU is definitely the big school in this equation.

Richmond is the tiny school with high academic standards and struggles to balance athletics with achievements. Winning a National Championship in football two years ago, shows the school is finding that balance. The Spiders returning to the sweet sixteen only confirms that.

Both these schools have surprising and underrated success in the NCAAs. VCU in the early 80s had a good run, even earning a two seed, but their wins, until this year lacked marquee value. Where upstart Richmond always faced goliaths in the first round and captured scalps that featured players such as Charles Barkley, Steve Alford, Derrick Coleman, and coaches like Bob Knight, Bobby Cremins, and Jim Boeheim VCU usually beat who they were suposed to (with a notable exception being their tremenduous victory over Duke in the first round recently).

CBS may not like it but if both teams can pull of upsets on Friday, the rivalry would get an unprecedented and glamorous stage. These two teams don't like it each other so much the final four spot could almost be an after thought. It might be more sweeter to the fans of each to deny their rivals that spot than winning it for themselves. Of course, as ultimate bragging rights go, that's something neither UNC or Duke can say about the other.

The Richmond double header in the sweet sixteen starts off with KU squarely, in Chris Mooney and the spiders sights Friday night in the Alamo dome. The Spiders will have nothing to lose and have all the great elements of the type of team that can pull of an upset. Great point guard play? Check. Seniors? Four starters. Novel offense? Modified Princeton offense. Novel Defense? Match-up zone. Three point shooters? Out the wazoo including two pivot men that will make the Morris have to guard from outside the lane. Unique matchups? yes...

The point guard Kevin Anderson should give younger Kansas' backcourt fits. He destroyed Purdue earlier in the year and was the difference maker against Vandy. Justin Harper is a likely NBA draft pick and a 6'11 silky smooth jump shooter that can score from inside and outside. Dan Geriot is an old-school big man who will struggle defensively, as anyone would against KU, but whose able passing and shooting stroke will give as good as he gets. Darius Garrett is a pivot man who in one game blocked 14 shots (not a misprint) good for second all time in the NCAAs. He'll be in and out of the game and hopefully confuse the Jayhawks as much as he flumoxed the first two teams in the tournament by changing the look. Athletes Kevin Smith, Francis Cedric-Martel, and Cedric Lindsay will also surprise KU with their talent level.

The spiders have a realistic shot to put only the third loss on Kansas' record this year. Granted KU could grab hold of this game and never let go. They are a one seed for a reason, and have experienced underrating an opponent as recently as last year. The Spiders won't wilt, with single digits turnovers in this tournament already, and the type of backcourt that thrives on pressure (it'd would be a mistake for KU to try and overwhelm UR). If they get hot from deep look out. This team is less George Mason and more Davidson with players that have chances to play in the league next year.

In the next game, VCU also will have it's hands full. Sure FSU on one hand is a 10 seed but the on the other hand it has the best defense in the country awaiting the Rams, who may be the hottest offense in the country. FSU will be a tough task, but considering how easily VCU dispatched Purdue and Georgetwon I'd almost want to make VCU the favorite.

I'll be in San Antonio and while a Kansas victory is likely, I think UR has got a far better shot than the oddsmakers give them credit for. I also think a Black and Blue part II matchup is a far more realistic possibility then most of the country thinks. In that game, I hope VCU, like March, limps out like a lamb and it's the Spiders heading to Houston.

If you are a basketball fan and like to see how it should be played maybe you should head to the Alamo Dome and lend your support to the Spiders and or the Rams. Should be a couple of fun games, and with Kansas threatening to bring 20,000 Rock Chalk Jayhawk fans we'll need all the support we can get.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

No wondering Newsweek is dying a slow death...


Hate to get political for a second but I just find it hard to believe something as scatterbrained as this piece can see publication. Talk about randomly assigning cause and effect to a variety of events and then retrospectively passing judgment. I ate eggs both days I had a car wreck. Eggs cause car wrecks AND cereal doesn't.

The crux of this piece is the author thinks that because there is domino effect of revolution in the Arab world we've wasted a trillion dollars and ten years of effort fighting in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Obviously, the implication is those regimes would have also toppled in similar fashion. Which ignores about a billion different nuances or obvious differences between the countries revolting right now and the ones we waged war in.

To further dig his hole of nonsense, he suggests that "waiting out" eastern Europe was the cause of the fall of the Iron Curtain. Facts, dispute this. Interesting piece on Reagan recently on tv, where it is quite clear the Soviet Union was toppled not by waiting for their economic rotten core to collapse on itself but by actually inducing that collapse.

They showed Teddy Kennedy mock Reagan's strategy for disarmament by questioning how building more weapons will one day reduce weapons. Actually, that was exactly what did it. Not only that Reagan had the foresight and inteligence to purposefully do it. Reagan's strategy was simple, by listening to the CIA he saw how close Russia was to ruin, and knew that when he ramped up the arms race they'd try to compete and then wouldn't be able to. As opposed to apeasement he got the Bear in a race it could not win. His coup de grace was SDI (also widely mocked). Which put the fear of God in Gorbachev and the Russians because they knew that was light years beyond their reach. Good poker player that he was, he never let on that it was also light years beyond ours.

That SDI played a pivitol role in the arms treaty that Reagan triumphantly negotiated, that did exactly what Kennedy suggested mockingly was impossible. A few short years later the USSR's total capitulation wasn't just at the negotiation table it was elsewhere. By the way, Reagan also visited Moscow and showed up where dissidents were gathered to lend support to the people, despite Soviet objections, and actively pressed them on human rights issues an example of another pressure point he attacked to induce change.

In his eight years, Reagan was busy doing other things, like bombing Libya and Khadafi into submission. Sure another terrorist group filled the void, but by not sitting on our hands we basically destroyed any chance of state sponsored terrorism. The totalitarian regime of Khadafi has been 'checked' by our omnious might ever since, so too, had any other would be dictator.

The great irony is Iraq tried the same sort of ruse or bluff on us with their "weapons of mass distruction" but we bulldozed right over those fears quite literally. It would be like the Russians striking first in case we were able to get SDI running. Course the difference between Reagan and the Iraqis was Reagan was engaaging in dialogue with the Russians and outmaneavuring them across a negotiating table while the Iraqis were kicking out International investigators.

The author randomly attributes disconnected events to one another but he ignores the easiest connection. I won't make the same mistake as the author and make a connection and cite it as fact, but here's one that makes a little more sense then the ones he tries to inaccurately make. It's far more plausible, that by toppling one regime we scared other regimes into scaling back to the point that their people could revolt, it is also possible, and plausible they were inspired by the new democracy filling the region.

Or not...

One thing the author glosses over is that all these new states or democracies could go afoul. Arguably Carter sat on his hands during a similar revolt in Iran--and look what happened there. The writer assumes a positive result when we have no idea what the result is going to be. In short, he supports his statement with inaccuracies, assumes a conclusion that has no where near been realized, and then seeks to use this a paint by numbers guide to current and previous foreign policy.

The logic in his piece is quite simply nonexistant, at best it is oversimplification to the point it lacks credibility at worst it's not fit to use as toliet paper.

Anyway, had Reagan sat back and

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Harrahs Cash Game after Tournament Bust-out

So, I considering not even playing cash because I had played so poorly in the Saturday tournament. I was also on a little bit of tilt because it felt like one of those days nothing was going to go right. It was... ha, ha. Still, I have chunks of time I can play and that was one of them, so I couldn't see myself walking away.

I played at a nitty 1-2 table and was a bit too speculative and missed every flop and it always seemed to hit someone else. I was about to leave getting into one of those zones where I pick up. Then... the rube of all rubes sits down.

He was such the protypical mark that I felt, and partly still feel, it might have been an act, but I wasn't there long enough for him to flip the script and start out playing everybody (that's not necessarily a good thing). Anyway, let's count the ways he rubed out.

1. He starts off by putting a hundo on the table but that's all he's got in his wallet--which normally just means he's low on cash but this is significant because of what happens later.

2. In the first pot he enters he asks the dealer for change because all he has are reds and slows up the game. Good sign...

3. He goes to show down on a paired, three flush board, with middle of the deck straight possibilities with K high. He pays off a guy in a multi-way pot, mind you, with King high, and shows like he thinks his highcard may be a winner.

4. He asks the dealer if the dealer can run a credit card for him to get more money... lol.

5. He goes back to get more cash and the Asian kid who felted him instructs the table to not chase him away. Yeah, thanks for the heads up, we didn't notice he was easy money. Normally, this wouldn't annoy me as there are some idiots at the table, but this kid just slow-rolled an equally bad player preflop with Aces. The guy shoved on him and he made a delayed call, then the kid said the other guy had to show his hand first because he called him. At the river the guy turned over his hand--maybe a pair--and then kid slowly, painfully revealed AA. The bad player with the Mardi Gras beads, no clue about poker but enjoying a nice buzz didn't return.

6. The guy returns with a grip of hundreds... and I decide it's time to reinvest in the game.

7. I hit him for a good pot after he luckboxed a win or two off the table, by getting to his hand on the river. He found a fold on the river (??? when I finally checked raised him instead of check calling him with top pair top kicker) for not much. Still his three bluffs made for a juicy pot.

8. Then he starts discussing his hands and saying what a bad player he was. He says it's not as easy as it looks like on TV. "I figure I had the draw of the high cards in my hand and I had a straight draw (when he didn't)." I mean every note and soundbite was so pitch perfect I couldn't help but doubt his sincerity, was he running game?

9. He also had one of those "bumpkin" drawls, which fell out his mouth like a chunky butterscoth syrup on to the table,, which made him sound as nice, naive and as Gomer Pyle well meaning as they come.

I decided I was going to be wary until he flipped the switch if he was running some sort of game (though why wouldn't he be doing it at the bigger tables) but in the mean time if he was advertising incompetence I was going to benefit from it.

Later, I get rivered by him when he bets AQ, no pair, all the way to the end and hits his queen on me (I had top pair til then). I just called him down and though i felt like the Queen hit him I couldn't get away fromt he hand. Then, he asks, "I know you play a lot, so I hope you don't mind me asking was my ace good there?" I should have said; yes you had me the whole way. But I was honest and revealed he rivered me. He was surprised he got lucky.

I said I should have bet him off the hand (exploratory question because his answer confirmed my thoughts)... oh, no I saw Ace Queen and I can't fold that.

Later, he raised from one off the button as he was apt to do, now into his third or fourth additional hundo, but he had rivered some more people and gotten some chips. Kid in between called. I looked at 8s from the small blind and decided to isolate. I repunched it I think making 20 into 70 (bad bet should have shoved or put half my stack in). The mark called and the kid in between called.

Flop came two spades. I led out. The mark called and then the kid shoved. I called. Mark folded. Kid told me he was on a draw. Thought he said a straight draw. Turn was a three and made the open ended straight and I asked him if he hit. He said no. Oh, I thought, he must have a gut-shot. River was an ace. I thought I was safe. He showed me A8 flush draw (?) and scooped the pot. He was a nice kid so I think i must have misunderstood him.

Still, I picked up and left even though the Mark was at the table. He had chips to share now, but I didn't know if I wanted to go too deep into my pocket to get them all. Plus, if he was fooling the table, it was about time for him to start playing for real.

Conclusion: Guy really was the type of player you dream about, but sometimes they get lucky. As Eric Lindgren said, sometimes you can't beat a drunk, and sometimes you can't win if you are trying to exploit a mark.