Friday, March 23, 2007

NCAA championships

6:38 pm I’m writing this from the Carlton homestead in Roseburg, Oregon. (Which is for sale, by the way, if anyone’s interested.) My friends Joe and Brian have joined me to watch two NCAA events. We’ve been watching chunks of the NCAA swimming championships, and we’ll return to that after we watch the Oregon sweet sixteen game against UNLV. Joe is the teacher I’m working with this term, and he has been involved with swimming for 20 years. He also coached some at Roseburg High School. Brian is a sophomore at RHS. He is also a swimmer, and he’s watching the swimming championships for the first time since he was at the event watching his older brother win an individual championship. Oh yeah, his brother is my friend Patrick who won the 200-yard butterfly championship. And my apologies beforehand for not naming UNLV players or the announcers. I was too lazy to get the names.

6:45 pm We’re watching the 200-yard freestyle final after stopping the recording to catch the end of the Florida and Georgetown games. Those endings were both pretty good. I’m a little worried that this could be considered a bit of a letdown game for Florida, so that they’ll be absolutely sure to bring it against Oregon on Sunday. Yikes. We’ve already watched a bit of the swimming, which has been fantastic, and we’re getting ready for the Oregon game. Tip-off is in a little over five minutes. One of the events we watched already was the 100-yard butterfly. Patrick was sixth in that event. That’s his bad event, and he got sixth place in the NCAA. Yeah, it’s pretty sweet.

6:50 pm I’m still watching swimming. Right now the 100 backstroke is on, an event in which I was absolutely terrible. My excitement for the Ducks is building…

6:52 pm Seth Davis just picked Oregon to win this game, which might be a bad sign. Clark Kellog said the game will come down to the stars from each team and nothing more. Umm, really? Seth disagreed with that pretty strongly.

6:54 pm They just showed the starting lineups for the two teams, and I had forgotten that UNLV has a small lineup. That’s good for Oregon, since we also have a small lineup.

6:55 pm First foul of the game. Wow. The keys to the game: Oregon needs to “widen the lines.” I guess that means keep enough space on the floor so that the lane is open. Have they watched Oregon play this year? That's what our offense is. And then Leunen tapped in a missed three pointer. Nice start for Oregon.

6:57 pm Aaron Brooks just did what he loves to do: ran through three guys to make a finger role.

6:59 pm We just found out that Kruger is a graduate student who went to Arizona State. Yeah, I’m glad that loophole was closed. The shots are not falling for either…scratch that, Leunen just made a three. Nice. I love his game.

7:02 pm A pre-game scene from the Oregon locker room was just on. Let me cover that for you: shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure. Yep, that covers it. It seems like Oregon's focusing on defense today.

7:04 pm Nice pass from Catron to Bryce Taylor, whom I love. Then UNLV answers with their first three. Both teams are still shooting poorly. And Brooks just had a lay-up blocked. Yikes.

7:07 pm They just showed the field goal percentages: UNLV was at 25%, Oregon was at 40%. See, I told you…okay, maybe Oregon’s shot percentage isn’t too bad, but they need to do better. And Catron does a good job to draw the foul and then score on the ensuing possession.

7:09 pm Catron is playing better than usual, and he’s playing more than usual. Good box out by Hairston, and then the foul gets called. And remember what I’ve been saying about the shooting percentage? UNLV has made several three-pointers since they showed the stat.

7:13 pm Oregon just did a great job with more offensive rebounding to get second chance points. If they keep doing this, they’ll be tough to beat. I just noticed that USC is beating North Carolina by five. If these two Pac-10 teams keep their leads, we’ll get three of ‘em in the Elite Eight.

7:15 pm Tajuan Porter just made everyone for UNLV look slooooow, then he found Hairston, who couldn’t get the shot to fall and ended up missing out on a three-point play.

7:17 pm That did NOT look like a foul to me, but apparently Brooks grazed his arm when he stripped that ball. Porter pulls up for a quick stop three and gets crushed. First free throw: good. Second: good. Third: good. We can count on Porter at the line.

7:19 pm With over seven minutes left, Oregon is up by two. Last I saw, USC was still ahead too. Oh my, here comes the Pac-10.

7:23 pm Catron just flew in for a board. He does NOT usually play this well, let me repeat that. Then Porter gets it for the open three. He doesn’t miss many of those.

7:27 pm The Ducks just got another turnover, but they called an offensive foul on Bryce Taylor as a UNLV player pushed him into a set teammate. Now UNLV gets the opportunity for a three-point play. Ugh, tie game.

7:29 pm That was a perfect introduction to Tajuan Porter for anyone who hasn’t met him yet. Brooks passed it to him on the sprint, and Porter drained the three. Porter gets two more on a crazy floater. AND ANOTHER THREE!!!

7:31 pm Another phantom foul called on Oregon as UNLV nails a three-point response to Porter.

7:34 pm Porter scored Oregon’s last 14 points in five minutes. Have I mentioned yet that he’s a freshman? Oh, and he just drained a three in some tall guy’s eye.

7:36 pm The Ducks are starting to hit from beyond the arc. They are good. And then Hairston works hard for a loose ball.

7:41 pm Leunen misses a long jumper to make the lead six going into the half. Oregon is up 37-33. Not a great first half, but I’m excited to see how Porter does in the second.

7:43 pm We’re watching the 100-yard freestyle final right now. This is fast swimming, and very impressive. Geez, this is unbelievable. I might be missing a live look-in right now, but I don’t even care. This kid Cesar Cielo from Auburn just won another race. He is really good.

7:46 pm Back to basketball and I was quite surprised to see Hansbrough without the schnozaroo. Good to see that USC is still ahead. Ew, a terrible shot by the Tar Heels, and then USC gets foul shots.

7:48 pm An and-one for USC that I convince my friends was not a travel. Seriously, he was stepping as he caught the pass, took a full step, and then he took off on the last one. Not a travel, right? Right? Maybe I watch too much NBA.

7:55 pm Catching the 200 backstroke before going back to the Oregon game. I also just checked online to see that Portland won their third straight game…without Zach Randolph. I’m still against trading him, but sheesh, that’s impressive, even against bad teams. It’s more impressive because the Blazers didn’t shoot very well.

7:57 pm I forgot to mention that USC was ahead at the half 42-33. Did Jeff Green travel? Clearly, according to Clark Kellogg. Seth Davis agrees. I guess I can’t argue with them both.

8:03 pm Tajuan Porter had 17 points in the first half. Yeah, he’ll be back next year with three other starters. Including Bryce Tayler and Maarty Leunen, who just made a great play for the score.

8:04 pm TAJUAN PORTER with 20 points, IN YOUR EYE. Leunen hits his own. This brings up my main point about this team: the starting line up is made of five guys who can score from anywhere on the floor. When the Ducks are playing at their top level, they can beat anyone in the country. I truly believe this to be the case.

8:06 pm That Holiday Inn commercial with the fake rodeo clown is frightening. I mean, his freaky chins and that crazy twisty hat-bow tie combination are very scary.

8:09 pm Another phantom foul called against Oregon. That was terrible, and Wink Adams is at the line to convert the three-point play.

8:11 pm The Ducks keep turning it over, which is pretty frustrating. If not for those, this game would be further apart than the ten point lead Oregon has.

8:12 pm I just mentioned that I’d be okay with Oregon and USC both winning by ten, and Joe and Brian called me on it. Really? As much as I want that, I would much rather just get an Oregon win. And Tajuan Porter just pulled up for another three-pointer. He is REALLY good. Timeout, and Oregon is now ahead 53-38. I hope you guys are all watching my team right now.

8:15 pm We just saw an ad for Letterman that included Gerber Red Bull baby food. Yeah, that’s some funny stuff.

8:18 pm Another foul called against Oregon. Blech.

8:19 pm Nice non-call as Leunen tried to get the rebound on a bad Porter shot as the 35-second clock expired.

8:20 pm As I started saying that Hairston must have ten rebounds, the announcers let me know that I’m right. Then the refs finally make a call against UNLV. Leunen plays with the ball, passes it off, and then Brooks finds Hairston for the dunk. Hairston follows that by working really hard on the defensive end. Oh, and now they're showing a graphic that says Hairston only has nine. Nice job by the announcers on that one.

8:22 pm Porter just hit another three. Let’s run through the returning players for Oregon next year: Porter, Leunen, Hairston, Taylor, Catron, and Oguchi. Each of those guys has played really well for Oregon at one point or another, and four are doing a great job in this game.

8:26 pm An ugly free throw miss for UNLV, followed by a make. They then get a jump ball, but if Oregon doesn’t let down they should be able to hang onto this game.

8:28 pm Everyone in the room agrees, the officiating has been pretty bad n this game. You should know, I’m the only real Oregon fan. Joe grew up in Alaska, went to Montana State for college, and spent much of his youth visiting his grandparents in Kansas. Brian’s two oldest siblings went to Stanford, his older brother Patrick is a senior at Cal, and his other sister is a freshman at UCLA. So he roots for the Pac-10, but not Oregon.

8:30 pm Oregon hasn’t been doing that well since I made the “game in hand” comment. Oops. Time to pick it back up. Another foul was just called on Oregon, prompting Joe and Brian to go crazy.

8:34 pm “Everything in her life was perfect, except her past.”
Brian responds: Umm, everything was perfect except her life up to this moment?
Me: Yeah, everything.

8:36 pm Another bailout call as a Rebel falls down. This is painful. You know what’s not painful? Tajuan Porter making another three right there. Then good defense by Oregon to force UNLV out of bounds.

8:38 pm Aaron Brooks just legitimately broke someone’s ankles, but Porter can’t capitalize. Wow, Brian and Joe are still laughing, as they try to figure out who sniped that defender from the stands. 63-49, Oregon.

8:40 pm Malik Hairston makes his own three, followed by a UNLV make and another TERRIBLE call against Oregon. Really, was that off the Ducks?

8:41 pm Ugly shot-clock violation against Oregon. I don’t think I’m being a homer when I complain about the number of calls against the Ducks. That last out of bounds seemed pretty ridiculous, and quite a few of these fouls have been pretty bad. Ugh, this is ugly.

8:44 pm Boo, USC is about to lose their lead. Stupid Trojans.

8:46 pm Hairston with another big rebound. He’s been playing well during this game. And the announcers just mentioned that this was Oregon’s best season since 1939, when they won the inaugural NCAA tournament. I wondered when that would be mentioned. Mark it down, they said that with 2:43 left in the game.

8:48 pm This exchange just happened between Brian and the announcer:
Announcer: if Lon Kruger were going to do an autopsy of this game…
Brian (interrupting): Is this game dead?

8:49 pm Oregon is now apparently running my favorite offense: turn the ball over as soon as possible.

8:51 pm Kruger just made another free throw to cut the Oregon lead to nine. Oregon finally gets it down the court and then draws the foul. Time to hit shots from the charity stripe. Brooks is good on the first one to bring it back to ten. And he makes the second.

8:53 pm Malik Hairston, Oregon’s worst free throw shooter, makes both. Oregon is still perfect from the line.

8:54 pm Another phantom call as Leunen slides by the UNLV player on the dunk.

8:55 pm After not rebounding, UNLV makes a three. It is now a six-point game. The turnovers have been frustrating, but the stripes are hurting pretty bad too.

8:57 pm You can see the Ducks playing as soft as possible so they don’t get called for ticky-tack fouls. That’s how the officiating can affect a team. Four point Oregon lead.

8:59 pm Porter goes to the line for the free throws, which is good for Oregon. He makes the first. In and out, even the rim is conspiring against Oregon.

9:00 pm Bad shot by UNLV, and Porter gets the long rebound and then tries to throw up a ¾ court shot while being fouled. Nope, they only give him two shots, and he hits both. Leunen avoids getting called for the foul and gets the rebound. Now he’s at the line.

9:02 pm Leunen misses both, and UNLV responds with a three pointer. Porter gets fouled and goes to the line for two more. He only makes one, then UNLV makes another three to cut the lead to two.

9:03 pm The Ducks get it in, and Taylor runs down the line and gets fouled. At the line with .9 seconds left. He makes both. That’s the game. Oregon has made it to the Elite Eight for second time in five years.

9:04 pm USC is going to lose this game, and we’re going back to swimming now.

9:06 pm We just watched the recap of the 800-yard freestyle relay, which was amazing. And now we get to see the recap of the mile, in which the NCAA record of another RHS graduate is missed by .08 of a second. Yeah, that’s not much time in the mile, especially in swimming.

9:09 pm Alexandrov’s disqualification “really kinda” opened the field in the 200-yard breaststroke. That was my best stroke, but I never swam a 200. Polyakov won that race. I’m sure that neither of those guys is Russian.

9:11 pm We’re now watching the 200-yard butterfly, the event that Patrick won. I’m the only one that’s seen this (other than when Brian was there). It’s still awesome to see Patrick win.

9:13 pm After the first 100 Patrick is in the middle of the pack, but halfway through that 25 he takes the lead. Then he burns everyone on the kick outs of the fifth, sixth, and last turns. As Joe said, Patrick just swam a smarter race than everyone. The announcer is saying a bunch of stuff about Patrick’s swim that we already knew.

9:16 pm I’m done with this running diary. It’s been a good night. We got to see Oregon pull out a close game, Portland won in overtime against Atlanta, and we’re watching some great swimming that includes our boy Patrick winning an individual championship. Now I get to look forward to Oregon playing against Florida. As long as the Ducks come to play, it should be a good game. I think we can pull it off, but we won’t know until Sunday.

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