Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Why am I sad, here on the eve of the Greatest Day Ever? On the day before the day that brings us the Best Day of the Year (the start of the NCAA tournament), but then for extra kick, throws in my first St. Patrick’s Day at Notre Dame and Kobe vs. Shaq II, I’m feeling a little gloomy.

Well, I don’t mean to be a Depressing Danny, but I have to address what has me down, and it’s two major issues that sprung up last Wednesday and Thursday night. In reverse order, I’m talking about the current state of The OC and Irish basketball. I’ll start with the California sun so anyone not interested in the disappointment known as Notre Dame men’s basketball can just skip out when they’re done.

The OC

The OC wasn’t very good at all on Thursday. If you eliminate the scenes with Sandy, Caleb and Julie Cooper, that show isn’t even worth watching. Great, the original four characters, who all haven’t hung out together in months, are going to spend the night in a mall? A mall with perhaps the worst security in the history of shopping centers and some of the most worthless stores you’ll find in Newport? That’s really great – super exciting. And now, Seth and Summer are right where they left off, only Seth is now jealous of a guy that had multiple times to fight for his girlfriend, did so once (at the Sn-OC), and immediately regretted it. I know it’s Seth character to be worried about every little thing, but for us viewers, we knew there wasn’t going to be anything in the postcard, just because Zach is that big of a wuss.

It now also seems like we’re a week or two from them writing Alex out of the show, as apparently her screentime is going to be replaced by The Random Magazine Guy Who Has the Hots For Kirsten. Here’s the problem with that: Nobody likes it when you threaten the Cohens’ marriage. It’s not dramatic, it’s not tense and there’s no anxiety caused, you just get sick to your stomach and don’t enjoy it. If Sandy’s law school fiancĂ©e and Kirsten’s high school sweetheart can’t break them up, then how do we expect the random guy from the publishing company to do so? Why would we want them to do so?

Plus the point remains that we don’t want to see Alex go, not just because she is smoking hot and bisexual, but also because she’s replaced Ryan as “the girl in awe of the Newport-style of living”. Ryan is no longer impressed by the pomp, circumstance and implants, and with Anna gone, we don’t have that outsider view in the world, that “us”. So Alex became the normal-ish person in the world of glitz and glamour, now that Ryan had been assimilated, but she apparently is on her way out. I’m really glad they continue to get rid of the quality characters, such as Jimmy Cooper, Luke, Anna and Alex, while bringing in cardboard cut-out older men like the Porn Tape Blackmail Guy and The Random Magazine Guy. At least Samaire Armstrong gets to party with Lindsay Lohan.

The other problem, other than all of the characters being pretty boring besides the adults, is the fact high school no longer exists. There are no high school parties, there are no high school classes, there are no high school feuds. You’re telling me Summer’s boyfriend heads to Italy and nobody is making a move? Have you seen Rachel Bilson? There’s no way a play isn’t made for her. And what happened to everyone hating Ryan, and we’re supposed to believe Seth doesn’t get on anybody’s nerves? There aren’t anymore parties on the beach, or water polo players, or mean teachers, or hottie subs?

This is high school, writers of The OC. You may not realize this, but people have written entire shows, hour-long, too, about the high school experience, and didn’t have to include power struggles at a real estate company or fugitives from the 1970’s to fill time.

I’m just bummed about the entire situation because I’m not even remotely excited for tomorrow night’s episode, and that’s not just because I’ll be knee-deep in Heineken flipping between four tournament games and Shaq/Kobe. The OC was supposed to be my replacement for Buffy, and it was for a while, but now I’m more excited for Brendan to get to certain episodes on my Season Three DVD’s so I can watch them with him than I am for new episodes of FOX’s stalling drama. Hopefully things turn around, and I’m pretty sure they will, as the network will be putting the pressure on to stop ruining a good thing (see: cash cow). You need more than just American Idol for your network to be successful.

Then again, looking at the numbers, maybe you don’t.

Irish Basketball

The Notre Dame men’s basketball season essentially ended last Wednesday night, when they fell to the lowly Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the first round of the Big East tournament. Holy Cross Pat will argue our season wasn’t officially over until last night, when his Crusaders embarrassed the Fighting Irish in front of a raucous crowd that filled a quarter of the Joyce Center. Needless to say, other than the diehard Legionnaires, the fans were not there.

And why should they have been? We were not a fun basketball team to watch play. Certain things really make me love watching a team, which is why I’ve gotten such enjoyment out of UConn and Kentucky over the years. The first is interior passing, something Erik Daniels and Chuck Hayes made an art form last year for the Big Blue. In contrast, our big men have such bad hands that the sports section headline for The Observer would have read “Torin Francis: Autistic?” if I was in charge (Apologies to Torin, who played a magnificent offensive game against Rutgers, but sucked it up on defense, according to the courtside Andy MacKrell).

As far as fast breaks go, I’m not sure we got more than five lay-ups out on the run the entire year. It’s hard to really generate offense through your defense when your defense is apathetic and doesn’t care most of the time, which is what ours seemed like. I guess it’s not really the fact of not caring as much as bad match-ups, as Colin Falls doesn’t really have a position and Thomas was nursing a recovering back the entire year. Granted, it’s also hard to get out on the break when you don’t block out and rebound, something that has less to do with injuries and positions and more with simply wanting it more than the other team.

I wasn’t one of the people who hated Chris Thomas before the year started and was down on him the entire year. I was realistic. When Thomas played well and managed the game, I commended him, and when he played poorly and cost us games, I would try to point out bright spots, and if there were none, I would recommend we perhaps consider throwing him under the bus. As many accolades and stats that are given to Thomas, it doesn’t change the fact he didn’t lead his team the tournament his junior and senior years. That will be his legacy at Notre Dame, as the point guard of a team that couldn’t make the players around him that much better and never carried the load for more than short stretches of individual games.

Last year, Torin Francis went out, the Irish got on a little roll, got themselves back on the bubble and had to beat an Okafor-less UConn Huskies in the Big East semifinals. If memory serves me correctly, Charlie Villanueva went down in that game, so the soon-to-be-champs were without two future NBA lottery picks, leaving Chris Thomas against Ben Gordon to decide who was taking the game. Thomas couldn’t get enough help and Thomas couldn’t do enough on his own to seal the deal.

This year, Thomas’s running mate Chris Quinn – or the player I believed was the most consistent, did a lot of the dirty work and was our best player – wasn’t available to help in the last couple of games against Pitt and Rutgers. What happened? Loss and loss. You can’t help but wonder how much Thomas’s early success had to do with Ryan Humphrey and Matt Carroll, as opposed to the coveted recruit himself. Thomas just wasn’t what a senior point guard was supposed to be: consistent.

For every UConn or Boston College game, there was a Syracuse game, or a Michigan game, or the Pitt game on his Senior Day. When you’re both the point guard and senior leader at the same time, you expect some stream of consistency, like the kind Daniel Ewing gave Duke this year, or the kind Taleik Brown, Chris Duhon and Jameer Nelson gave their teams last year, or the kind Steve Blake gave Maryland in ’03 when he’d lost talent like Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox to the draft. Sure, all of those players still had more talent around them than Thomas did this year, but they also ended up with high seeds in the tournament, so there’s a little room for error.

As much as I am disappointed about this year, when Final Four hopes turned into NIT first round losses, I’m excited for next year. We only lose Thomas and Jordan Cornette, and I can’t explain how excited I am about newcomer Kyle McAlarney, who seems like the epitome of the gym rat, undersized-but-gritty college point guard you can’t help but love. Throw in the hopeful development of Rob Kurdz, Omari Israel, Russell Carter, Ric Cornett and the additions of other ‘09ers Zeller and Ayers and we should have a fun team next year.

If it was anything, this year’s team was not fun. Some of the games were, but the team most definitely was not. It was painful to watch at times, despite the obvious effort being put out on the court, and whether it be the players or the coaching, the season is over and there’s no sense in “What iffing?” when things went that badly.

So with that, I close the book on the 2004-2005 Irish basketball season and move onto more interesting topics, such as the glory of the NCAA tournament, the NBA playoffs and summer. I’ll miss putting on the Legion shirt until next November, but hopefully by then, both the attitude and team around here will have changed.

One more sleep until the Tourney…

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