--Just a note - I frequently write under the name "seattlehog". From this point forward all of the diaries will be written under that name.
Arkansas vs. Morgan State - Running Diary
“Y’all know me,
It’s the same ol’ G
But I been low key”
Dr. Dre “Forgot About Dre”
Greetings boys and girls.
It happens every year. The squeak of rubber soles on waxed hardwood can be heard across the land. Hundreds of cocky freshmen are finding out that maybe they aren’t going to jump straight to “the next level”. Junior College transfers are learning new terms like “help defense” and “role player”. Football writers are having a group hug whenever someone mentions the names Manning, Favre,or Tebow. The Raiders coach is on the hot seat. NBA writers are telling us that THIS year the Bulls will finally come together. Utah fans are complaining that Deron Williams doesn’t get as much love as Chris Paul. Hawks fans think they might have a point guard and that Josh Smith will develop an offensive move that involves something besides dunking or jacking a 3. People are saying the Spurs are too old. Everyone thinks the University of Kentucky has REALLY sold their soul this time. Middle aged men are showing up in high school gyms and talking about lateral quickness, stroke, and “basketball IQ”. Middle-aged women are scouring Facebook trying to take down drunken pictures of themselves in misguided “Sexy Nurse” Halloween costumes. These are the rites of November and I dearly love them all.
Another staple of the season is Seattlehog awaking from a 6 month slumber, clearing the cobwebs from a baseball and reality tv soaked brain, exploring with a finger the ever expanding depths of his belly button, referring to himself in 3rd person, developing amnesia regarding the hideous disappointments of Hog Hoop campaigns recently past, and cranking out a diary about the Razorback Basketball team. WooHoo!!
Much has changed since the sad, lifeless, and frankly embarrassing end to last year’s edition of Razorback hoopsters. The roster has turned almost completely over. The fan base has gone from disappointed encouragement to near outright hostility. Seattlehog has gotten MARRIED (gulp!) and become step-parent to a pair of teenagers. Mrs. Seattlehog became pregnant and an infant seattlehog is expected come summer. Oh things have changed alright.
But amidst all of that some truths remain. Seattlehog looks at the Hogs in uniform and can squint his eyes and imagine that THESE little piggies are different. That THIS group understands "The Secret" to basketball immortality. They MUST know it. It is so simple. Why do so few teams seem to grasp it?
I was once prattling on about "The Secret" and the woman who would become Mrs. Seattlehog finally caved and asked me what this great Secret was.
"You play like wild dogs on defense and you always look for the open man on offense" I said.
"That's IT?" she gaped at me. "That is sage and wise seattlehog's great secret to winning basketball? EVERYBODY knows THAT."
"You'd think so" I said and shook my head, feeling wistful for the good ole days.
So I am speeding up to the game - doing about 80 - wondering what the Mrs. would think if her sage and wise husband got a speeding ticket. She is already at the game and I am late. I had to work today and couldn't head out until well after 6 pm with an hour and a half drive to Fayetteville.
"Just stay home" she said. "Its freakin' Morgan St. You can go to the game Friday."
"I haven't been to a game yet this year, hun. My people are clamoring for a running diary of a game."
"Your PEOPLE?" she says. "You have PEOPLE?"
"Yes! Well seattlehog has people." I clarify.
"And these people - they are clamoring?" I sense she is being a wise-ass now.
"Well maybe not clamoring so much. But I'm pretty sure they would read it if I posted it. They LOVE seattlehog."
"Your people do?"
"Well seattlehog's people yes. They love me . . . or him. I'm getting confused."
"I married a retard" my bride said then.
I just gave her a half-wit smile.
And so I am running through the Bud Walton parking lot 30 minutes after tip off, hoping to catch some 1st half, swearing to myself once again that I MUST quit smoking - like for real this time. I stop for a rest halfway there and cough up something that looks like raw sewage. I'm thinking to myself that the hogs better get good SOON because I might not have too many basketball seasons left in these lungs.
My favorite hairy faced usher that reminds me of a bearded Wilfred Brimley nods to me as I jog by. Thats the sort of relationship I have with this usher, incredible amounts of unspoken understanding.
I debate using the bathroom because I really, really need to pee. I eschew that option because it is basketball season and during basketball season fans are in their seats.
Well I guess not ALL the fans. I notice as I jog down the steps that at least half the seats are empty. We are a front running bunch here in hogland
Julysses Nobles buries a 3 and I yell his first name just to hear it aloud. It is a FANTASTIC name. I imagine it would be the name of the lead character if Homer's "The Odyssey" was remade with an all black cast, like "The Wiz".
A steal and a layup from Powell. Are we pressing? Yes I do believe we are pressing. Good god amighty I can't believe my eyes.
I find the wife (I like saying that. Makes me sound like a real grown up) and kids and various friends of the kids and plop down, lean over to give Mrs. Seattle a peck.
"My boobs hurt" she overshares. This pregnancy is starting to get on her nerves.
LAST TIMEOUT 48-37 HOGS
Not bad. Up 11 against a decent team. Mike Washington makes a glacier like move to the basket.
"He'll go right" my wife says. He goes right. Not sure its a good things when casual fans notice your tendencies.
RC and Powell run a nice little 2 man game but Powell misses.
Rotnei at the line. He makes this weird little face where he puffs out his cheeks and grimaces every single time he releases a shot. Not a good look for him.
Morgan State is making a run. We just threw a zone at them that was maybe the weakest defense I have ever seen. It left the lane WIDE open and gave the added bonus of not guarding the perimeter either. Yikes!
HALFTIME 52-47 HOGS
Powell has 16. The kid is a playa.
My wife says I remind her of the dad on the sitcom "Modern Fanily". She claims I say things like "playa" trying to be cool but that I just look like a massive nerd. I tell her that I am using irony when I say "playa".
"I know honey" she says. "Nerds do lots of irony".
They are having the same lay up contest for halftime entertainment that they did last year. Is it really THAT hard to come up with 12 minutes of entertainment to distract us folks from the halftime blues.
The ushers are all wearing khaki pants and running shoes. They look like frat boys home for their 50th reunion, ready for a night of old-fashioned beer chugging and date rape.
My wife points out Stat Girl. This could turn into a touchy subject so I just nod. She says she thinks Stat Girl looks like Rachel Ray. Maybe, I'm not sure. And I'm not sure what my wife thinks of Rachel Ray either. I'm so confused.
Powell has a chin-only beard. This was a popular look back during the Civil War and had a brief resurgence around the time Keith Wilkes changed his name to Jamaal. Not sure if it's time has come again.
Its now a 4 point game - criminy. We haven't gotten a shot off in 3 trips. Set play anyone? Anyone? My kingdom for a set play.
No joy on that dream. RC forces a 3 and eats it. Too much side to side with his dribbling. He needs to move with purpose.
When Pelphrey is angry his eyes look stone scary, like he just might be capable of murder.
We run 2 nice plays out of a timeout to go up 8. Now how hard was that?
1ST TIMEOUT 59-51 HOGS
"Morgan State's coach (Todd Bozeman) looks like Alfonso Ribiero from "Fresh Prince"" Mrs. Seattle says to me.
And THAT, ladies and gentleman, is why I love her.
I had forgotten Bozeman was their coach. I remember when he was coaching those impossibly talented Cal teams, pacing the sidelines with the "Blazer over a black t-shirt" look. The world was eating out of his hand back then - 29 and head coach at a major program. He'd just gotten his boss Campenelli fired by instigating a player revolt led by Jason Kidd and he had 3 McDonald's All-Americans on his roster. Then it all came crashing down because one of those stars (Jelani Gardner) got miffed about playing time so his parents dimed out Bozeman to the NCAA. The NCAA came down hard because he lied to them and they banned him from coaching for something like 10 years.
Interesting how someone like Calipari, whose programs have been just as bad if not worse than Cal's, has skated through completely untouched while someone like Bozeman ends up looking tired and gray. He reminds me of a grizzled man running a 12 step meeting. Bitter and ashamed about what he gave up through foolishness, intent on getting back to where he was, but maybe fighting just a little too hard, becoming a tad too desperate for any real success to find him.
Nobles goes coast to coast. He looks just a bit like LaBradford Smith of Louisville fame.
Mike W. walks - again. Goodness he has clumsy feet.
Our interior defense is just awful. They are making uncontested entry passes to guys posted up DEEP in the lane. Man I hate being a bad defensive team.
RC misses a pull up. He is having to work hard for looks.
Farmer is struggling on both ends.
I just caught sight of Rik Schafer's hair in my peripheral vision. It is STUNNING. Absolutely STUNNING.
The crowd is dead
2ND TIMEOUT 63-60
#11 for Morgan State looks like he is 37 years old. Nice player though.
"Would you look at that ref's britches?" my wife says. I do. He has the belt well up over his belly button.
"He's a little high-britches man, isn't he." she adds.
Love I say. Pure love.
RC gets a 5 second call on one end and gives up a 3 on the other. We are in trouble.
Stef is in. It appears that he didn't lose his headband during all of his off season stuggles. We can only dream of luck that good.
Nice defense from Stef drawing a 5 second call.
MW makes a slow move to the hoop (to his right) and drops a hook through.
Johnson is in for MW and he just got torn up inside. Gotta be tougher than that.
Stef makes a nice dribble drive from the top of the key and pulls up for a wide open 3 footer - and comes up a foot short. Is that a metaphor for a career I hear knocking?
We are down 1. Oh my.
Bozeman has an assistant that looks like Morris Day's (of "The Time") sidekick Jerome. Well he would if Jerome weighed 500 pounds. I'm not kidding, 500 pounds EASY.
Rotnei is trying to create a shot off the dribble but more than half his steps are AWAY from the basket. Forward, young man. Forward. Get a quarter step then push push push.
3RD TIMEOUT 68-69 HOGS TRAIL
#44 for Morgan State has a remarkably tiny head. Just thought I would share that.
"Marshawn has no butt!" Mrs. Seattle cries out, as if maybe he had one once and it was now missing and it was vital that she alert everyone. "Absolutely NO BUTT".
Old Man #11 nails a 3. He has 26.
MW with another move (to his right) for a nice hook.
They score and we are down 3. I sense a collapse.
Washington goes LEFT!! Washington goes LEFT!! Washington goes LEFT!!!
RC out, Stef in. Stef drives and draws a foul - knocks down a pair. The Arena announcer is calling him "Stef". That seems a little familiar.
NOBLES with a pretty open court steal but misses the dunk - draws the free throws.
Stef drive and score - oh my.
LAST TIMEOUT 83-81
The folks in the foldout courtside seats aren't the livliest looking bunch. Normally you would have to go to a dialysis waiting room to find a cast of characters like these people.
RC still out
We give up a score on the out of bounds play. GOOD GRACIOUS! I almost come out of my chair but I am held there my a massive wad of gum that it appears I have been sitting in. This is an omen methinks.
RC is at the scorer's table waiting to come in. Stef barely draws iron on an open 3. State scores on the other end.
We have to call TO to get Rotnei in. THAT'S why all this defense/offense subbing is so ridiculous. I hate that it passes for strategy.
We finally run a set play and RC misses a wide open 3.
RC misses another open 3.
I begin to concentrate on the gum stuck to my butt.
Down 3 and we just had the worst possession in history. Nobles dribbling around looking for double teamed RC, finally makes a move as the shot clock winds down and loses the ball. State converts layup. Ballgame.
NOW RC hits a 3.But they won't miss FTs.
CRAZY 3 from RC. But they still don't miss.
Desperation 3 from RC to tie - no joy
FINAL SCORE 94-97 Morgan State wins
There were positives I'm sure, but they are hard to see right now. Our offense has spurtabilty. Our players are unselfish. Nobles will be very very good. Powell IS very very good. Rotnei is the player we thought he was. Stef gives us a touch of depth. Rotnei is a decent defender.
BUT BUT BUT
Stef is a limited player. Powell disappears for long stretches. Rotnei can be shut down and he is no better than an average defensive player. Nobles gets ahead of himself at crucial times. Mike Washington is Mike Washington - A fair rebounder, poor defender with a good offensive game but limited passing instincts. Farmer was a no show. Bryant may not be ready. We don't have a single good interior defender. Our perimeter defense remains spotty. We STILL haven't decided what kind of team we are. Do we press? Do we push? Do we attack on both ends? I see no evidence of it.
Seeing these guys up close I think I now understand what Pel has been doing as far as recruiting. He is building a physically strong, quick team with good perimeter size and a strong post presence. Unfortunately he has ignored or been unable to find even 1 shooter to compliment RC and he hasn't turned loose the players he DOES have.
Things can come together for this team I truly believe that. It will take exceptional coaching and leadership to do it but it can be done. Now they just have to do it.
See ya Friday
--Just a note - I frequently write under the name "seattlehog". From this point forward all of the diaries will be written under that name.