I'm not exactly sure what to call a national championship game that featured just 94 total points and one team shattering the only Washington State record of any kind in any championship match. Granted, lowest field goal percentage in a championship game is rather shameful, but it happened all the way back in 1941 when the world was at war and one of the most popular songs was Glenn Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo". So a big thank you to the Bulldogs of Butler University for taking over that distinction by shooting 18.8 percent from the field on Monday night. Even though the Cougars aren't in the record books anymore I'm rather alright with it.
Back to the actual game though. I'm not exactly inclined to believe what a lot of sports pundits have to say about the game, which is it stunk. Anyone who watched Cougar basketball prior to Ken Bone's arrival should be very used to games where the point total regularly sat under 100 combined. Both Bennett coaches preached defensive basketball and worked the shot clock down to nearly a goose egg. The Bennetts don't win games by out running their opponents; they did it by frustrating them on the defense end with the pack defense and damn near lulling them into a nap offensively.
However there is one problem with this theory: The Cougars didn't look as terrible as Butler doing it - and they surely didn't make less than one in every five shots in their games. Because Washington State didn't put up 64 shots in their games, they actually managed to shoot around the industry standard of 45 percent or thereabouts in their games. Meanwhile, Butler seemed content to run with the strategy of not scoring and ultimately, that backfired.
Credit where credit is due has to go to Connecticut though. Butler didn't make baskets at the rate of my nine-year old cousin's rec league because they were open. Connecticut was absolutely locked down on every Butler attempt. In fact, Butler scored their first points in the paint a good portion of the way through the second half and it was on a put back lay up. Connecticut absolutely commanded the low, and for that matter the high post. The Bulldogs were absolutely and utterly helpless when it came to scoring around the rim.
I'll admit: I wasn't a big fan of the game like most of you. Also, I was at work and unable to pay as close attention as I might've liked. Perhaps for my sanity that was best though because that is a hell of a way to end the college basketball season. An absolute stinker in the championship game doesn't leave a good taste in people's mouths until the season begins again in the late fall.
Either way though, it's time to turn our focus to something else. Even though the beginning of football season is a long way off, it's still important to look at this team as they plow through spring practice. Now, I could delve into what is wrong with the baseball team but I don't know nearly enough about what exactly is wrong to pinpoint any particular problem. But I do know a thing or two about the football team. Seriously, I think it might be just one or two things. I think all the money spent at Valhalla and mind-numbing boredom in sociology classes might've just zapped my brain. For the Cougars to have a successful 2011 season and fulfill my prophecy for their performance (which will be revealed when we do our Cougar football extravaganza in the summer), the following quick points are what needs to happen this spring.
Jeff Tuel Needs To Be Jeff Tuel: Tuel improved with every single start last year and pretty much went stride for stride with Jake Locker in the Apple Cup. The junior quarterback needs to keep up the improvement pace and given his incredible aptitude for the game, I expect nothing less.
The Receiving Core Needs To Develop ESP: Talent wise, this is one of the best, if not the best, receiving core in the conference. Even better, they have one of the best quarterback throwing to them. And with another spring under their belt, it'll help them learn to know what Tuel is thinking on every play. You could tell last season miscommunication was a problem between Tuel and his wide outs and if the Cougars want to win games, they're going to throw the football this year. These guys have to be on the same page.
Lines Need To Turn To Brick From Chalk: Right now, the Cougar offensive line makes even the most mediocre defensive tackles and ends look like a group of Cortez Kennedy's. The defensive line gets no penetration up front which makes getting to the second level on running plays like jogging through a sorority pillow fight. If the o-line can hunker down, Tuel will have more time to throw and Galvin will have more space to run. On the other side, if the d-line digs in, the linebackers can fill holes where there is just air and a potential RB, not an offensive lineman to meet them.
Who Will Punt: Heisman Trophy candidate Reid Forrest has graduated. This might be the biggest loss for the Cougars from last season. Forrest's punts were always booming and in the corner when they needed to be. He even presented a threat to run for a first down, a threat most teams actually game planned for. In fact, the only punter on the roster is back up quarterback Dan Wagner. [though Zack Sampson, a 2009 North Kitsap graduate, made the spring roster]. Maybe the punting duties will fall to Alex Gauper. But I'm very serious when I say this is a huge hole the Cougars will have to fill, especially if they're going to punt as much as they have the last few years.
Who Cares Pick of the Week: Once again, the picks are over. So we try and find and obscure sport to pick or one we just think no one should care about. Actually, or one I want to pick.
Masters Championship Winner: I'll by into the hype on this one. Tiger Woods.
Dunderhead of the Week: The University of Washington whose solution to their budget crisis is to admit very few in state students and more out of state students for the tuition money. You know, last I checked, you were the University of WASHINGTON. You are supposed to educate kids from this state. This is outright shameful that kids from other states with mediocre high school resumes at best are getting into a school that supposedly considers itself the public Ivy League. But don't worry kids, there is still one big university in this state that wants you and prioritizes the education of locals - and it's located just over the mountains in Pullman, Washington.
And, of course, John Buccigross.
+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++
The 2010-11 athletic season continues to be here…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Men's hoop, women's hoop and baseball, just to name a few, are playing their 2011 seasons. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.