The Brick Coda

Coach Groce applauds an assist

Illinois finished the basketball season with a one point loss at Clemson on Sunday.  It was a painful gain to watch:  open shots, plenty of chances, but the ball just would not go in.  14% from three and 37.5% from the field doesn’t get you many wins.  It was the type of offensive performance we’ve grown accustomed to this year.

If you look at the gross stats on ESPN, you’ll see the Illini ranked in the bottom quarter of all Division I schools for points per game (64.6 points, ranked 311).  There are a few good teams that score that little, a very few, but the remaining teams in the NCAA Tourney all score more.  Illinois shot 40.9% from the field (320th) and 31.9% from three (293rd), still in the bottom quarter to bottom third of all teams.  In assists, we were 10.1 per game, good for 330th, which is bottom 10%.  There are lots of other statistics that measure tempo, offensive efficiency per possession, etc., but bottom line, this was a bad offensive team.  Hopefully we won’t see worse offense in many years to come.

The real question:  how did this team actually manage to win 20 games and make it to the post-season?  Defense, obviously, and grit and toughness.  When Nike unveils their rebrand concept soon, they damned well better place ‘FIGHTING’ above the ‘ILLINI’ on the basketball jerseys.  And yes, this toughness and sound defense can keep you in a lot of games, even allow you to steal a few.  You can build an identity around ‘Fighting’.  This last game against Clemson, for example:  Clemson shot close to 50% and out-rebounded Illinois, and yet we were one better possession the final minute away from stealing that game at the end.

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No tourney picks; Coaching…

Maybe it’s not having my team in the tournament – although, I’m usually more objective and make better picks when the Illini are out.  Hey, can this please be the last year in many without the Illini in the tournament?  Coach Groce, looking in your direction…  Maybe it’s because I actually won the pool last year and am feeling the pressure to repeat.  Maybe it’s because the wife’s been monopolizing the laptop…

At any rate, no March Madness picks this year.  Just couldn’t carve out the time to do it.  At least five or six people are disappointed.

The real reason:  the joys of coaching.  Yes, Youth Soccer  Spring Season is nearly upon us, and there’s stuff to do…  Getting all the drills and mini-games organized, having the kids vote on shirt colors and team nickname, contacting the team sponsor for this year’s donation, pricing and ordering the team shirts, securing a field for practices, writing the welcome email for team parents…  Yeah.  Not to mention the weather’s been nice enough a few days to actually get the kids outside and kick it around a bit.

So that’s the reason.  Focused on the kids’ season.  Yeah, I’ll be tuning to watch the tournament (and the NIT as long as the Orange and Blue are alive) and hoping  for upsets and Wichita State to shut people the hell up.  But no official picks.  Maybe next year.

23 For Brazil – March

Bring Back Jay!

Earlier this month, Jurgen rolled out a mostly European-based squad in Cyprus, who were pretty roundly outplayed by a motivated Ukrainian side that’s just about the best team not to make the World Cup.  It was an opportunity to confirm who probably shouldn’t be on the 23 man roster for Brazil, and that’s the best we can say about that game.  Guys like Oguchi Onyewu, John Brooks, Edgar Castillo, and Sascha Klejistan showed very little.

So here’s our Ides of March Beemsville 23:  our picks (not who we think Jurgen will take) for the World Cup, based on numerous factors.  We will know more next month, with the Mexico friendly played and MLS a month or so into the schedule.

Goalkeepers (3):  Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).   Timmy remains the #1.

Defenders (7): Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Matt Besler (Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (L.A. Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Timothy Chandler (FC Nurenburg), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin).  The more I think about, the more this group needs some veteran leadership.  DeMerit, if healthy, can provide that in spades and is still one of the best pure defenders in the pool.  He’s the perfect late game, settle-it-down defensive sub.  Yeah, I know, Jurgen’s never called him in.  If Tim Chandler can get back on the field by late April, he goes, due to lack of other viable outside back options. Continue reading

Now 342% more fuel efficient

Sometimes you have re-assess and analyze things.  Then you have to trust your conclusions.

This winter, which has been the worst in quite a few years, had about two days when I really needed my truck’s four-wheel-drive.  And even on those two days, I could have and did go out and about in the van (aka the tank).  This realization, while filling up at the pump and wincing, led me to a little analysis of what I’d actually hauled with my truck over the past year.  True, we hauled a piano on a flatbed and took a mattress and box springs over to my Mom’s house, but other than that…  Primary cargo is children.  Children to an from activities.  Mostly in town.  I did a little more analysis on cost-per-mile.  Then I started researching, shopping, assessing the options, and…

Ninja-mobile

Ninja-mobile

Yeah, we’re a Prius clan now.  Beemsville:  now 342% more fuel efficient (14 mpg to 48 mpg).

So far, we like it.  It’s the little black ninja-car.  Silent, stealthy, quick, patient.  The dashboard setup and controls remind me of Darth Vader’s Tie-Fighter.  It has lots of secret compartments.  Will it pay off for us in the end?  That’s probably a 3-4 year question.  Check back with me then.  Just keep Dirty Mike and the Boys away from my house.

And now a moment of silence for Scott Beem, truck guy.  14 years with a truck – many-a-couch, television, second-hand exercise bike, boxes upon boxes, and loads of firewood hauled.  Many moves facilitated.  Grandpa always said you needed a truck around, and as a farmer all his life, he did.  Grandpa also liked cool gadgets and new technology.  He was good with math, too.  And we still have the tank (van) for long trips and intermediate hauling…

And, hey, I’m the Prius and Mini-Van guy…  Did that just happen?  Maybe we need to start looking into a motorcycle or speed boat or some powered combat armor or…

Applause for my girl

It’s been a big week for my daughter.  She just had a birthday, and as my mom pointed out:  she’s now lived with you in your house longer than she will live with you.  This gave me and the wife pause, and then it kind of hit me:  Mom’s probably right.  Oof.  The teen-aged years will soon be upon us.

But at this point, we’re really not all that worried.  My girl has a lot on the ball.  Parent-teacher conferences are like the highlight of the month when they occur.  She has lots of friends but not just one best friend without whom she can’t function.  She does her homework on her own.  She loves to read.  She’s kind to her little brother and often more patient with him than me (and that boy will try your patience).  In sports, she plays hard and smart and listens.

Last week was her first time at band contest, a trumpet solo.  We were well-prepared.  She can play the Jurassic Park theme without missing a note, with good dynamics and intonation.  But…  after warming up in the practice area, our piano accompanist was running behind (because there are never enough piano players these days), so she had to sit in the room with the judge for about twenty minutes waiting.  The judge was great, trying to put her at ease, talking to her about dinosaurs.  She seemed OK if not completely calm.  Continue reading

Review: Superior Spider-man

In Brief:  Superior Spider-man, written by Dan Slott and illustrated by Ryan Stegman, takes Spidey in new directions with a bold narrative twist.  Volume 1, ‘My Own Worst Enemy’, and Volume 2, ‘A Troubled Mind’, collect the first 10 issues of this ongoing series.  Books like this one continue to show that Marvel  is more than a marketing arm – they still produce great comics stories.

Pros:  Slott picks up from the historic events Amazing Spider-Man #700 and continue with strong storytelling involving major changes to Spider-man and his world.  It’s a much different kind of story, but that makes it no less effective.  Stegman’s panel work and ability with the action and staging are first rate.

Cons:  Well, this is a major shift.  It certainly has the potential to put long-time Spider-man fans, especially if you haven’t been keeping up with the comic books.  You just have to give it a chance.

SPOILERS —-  SPOILERS  —- SPOILERS

Do we still do spoilers?  Anyway…

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