Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One Final Blog Post for Two Years

First, I have to apologize for not posting anything on this blog for over a month. This blog was nearly taken over by required assignments from my Journalism and Communication 1130 class at Utah State, and absorbed away the time and space that I may have used to write about other things, like sports.
However, I want to use this blog to send out some final thoughts, whether or not it be read by anyone...
First, if a team wants to build around a point guard, they should do so with Deron Williams. Or Chris Paul.
Second, a team that builds around a dominant post player and surrounds him with precise outside shooters (like four-time champion Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs) could use a player like Jaycee Carroll. So take a chance on him, NBA teams.
Third, can the Angels PLEASE get some production from their bats? Good thing their pitching is so good. Paging Vladimir Guerrero (who has, to be fair, been hitting better as of late)...
Fourth, if an NFL team wants to build around a running back, they should do so with Adrian Peterson. Or.. Adrian Peterson.
Fifth, I love the new Chronicles of Narnia movie, Prince Caspian. And I've gotta see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull soon.
Sixth, Cherry Hill, New Jersey is the best mission in the world. And I'm now a (very) moderate fan of the Giants, Nets, Eagles, 76ers and Phillies. And the Flyers, if need be.
Seventh, the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is absolutely true. Having a testimony of it is the key to happiness.
That's all! Thanks to everybody who may have stumbled across this blog.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The series shifts back to Utah...

An unexpected split was the result of Games 3 and 4 in Salt Lake City in a great first-round matchup between the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets.

Game 3 was a game the Jazz did not play well, yet still nearly pulled out the victory. Count the problems the Jazz had in this game: poor free-throw shooting, out-rebounded by the smaller Rockets; and Utah was also outscored in the paint by Houston, a stat where the Jazz are #2 in the league in points-in-the-paint scoring.

Woeful numbers
20-33 shooting from the free-throw line for a measly 60.9 percent. Most important was the fourth-quarter numbers: 2-6 free-throw shooting, and six (six!) turnovers.
Utah was also out-rebounded 43-38, outscored inside 40-26, and let Tracy McGrady have his highest scoring output of the series, scoring 27, including seven in the fourth quarter, where he only had one point combined in Games 1 and 2.
Deron Williams carried the team throughout the first half, scoring 21 of their 44 points.

Outplayed in the First Half
Somehow, the Jazz were tied with the Rockets at halftime, despite being ouplayed physically and energy-wise. Obviously Rafer Alston- who due to injury missed the first two games in Texas- was the catalyst for this energy and physical play. Overall, his 20 points and five assists were numbers that were sorely needed for Houston in Games 1 and 2.
The epitome of the Jazz getting out-hustled in the game were forward Carl Landry's 11 rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive glass. Utah will not win another game in the series if they can't keep a player who plays less than a third of the game to rip the boards on the offensive side so easily.
But, overall, the biggest culprit for defeat was free-throws. Nobody could make 'em- not even Mehmet Okur, who shoots from the charity stripe at 80-plus percent. He shot 4-7. Booz was 3-8. AK, 0-2.

Down the Stretch
It was admittedly quite amazing to see the Jazz nearly overcome a seven-point lead with about a minute to go in the game, with a three of a curl from Kyle Korver, a push-off by McGrady after AK didn't let him cut where he wanted, and then D-Will finding Memo for another trey. However, after T-Mac fails to draw iron on the other end, a fadaway D-Will runner doesn't have a chance when it meets the hand of Carl Landry.
Finally, Tracy McGrady finally failed to not disappear in the fourth quarter this series. Though he struggled in the first nine-and-a-half minutes of the final stanza, and shot just 2-8, he did just enough at the end- two field goals for four points, and three free throws- to barely put Houston over the top.

Game 3
MVP: Alston- 20 points, five assists, court leadership and a high presence of energy that his team fed off.
Goat: Lots of contenders for Utah: Kirilenko, with just five points, two rebounds, one block and no steals (a very un-AK like line indeed); Memo, 3-13 and lazy defense, despite guarding the ancient Deke Mutombo; Kyle Korver. For all the key things off the bench that he did in Games 1 and 2, he did absolutely nothing on Thursday night until hitting a 3 with around 40 ticks left.
Subway Sub of the Game: Landry.
Key Stretch: Houston opens up a 15-8 lead; Utah, highlighted by a surprising corner '3' from Matt Harpring, ties the game at halftime; after giving up control of the game in the third quarter to the Jazz, Houston, down 86-83 with four minutes left, goes on a 10-0 run late in the contest that Utah barely fails to recover from.
Key Play: With just over a minutes remaining, McGrady hits a wide-open jumper from the corner, and Landry gets fouled by Kirilenko. Landry proceeds to hit both free throws to complete the four-point play, and opens up what proves to be an insurmountable 93-86 lead.

In Game 4, the Jazz reverted back to their good habits in the series' first two games in Houston. The Jazz got back to winning the battle of the boards and superior scoring in the paint. After an average defensive performance in Game 3, they stepped it up once again Saturday, holding Houston to just 37.6 percent from the floor. A monster board from Mehmet Okur, followed by two consecutive made free throws, ended Houston's very-alive hopes for a tied series heading back to Texas.

Tracy 'The Game Plan isn't working on Me" McGrady
Once again, T-Mac struggled in the fourth quarter, connecting on just one field goal and mustering just four points; McGrady, who is averaging 23.3 points per game thus far through the series, is averaging just three in the fourth quarter. Additionally, T-Mac is shooting just 39.5 percent from the field (34-86). He may be getting his points, and tallying a fair amount of rebounds and assists as well, but the Jazz defenders- Brewer, Kirilenko, Harpring and Korver, not to mention a dose of D-Will in Salt Lake- are making it tough for him, playing him tight, physical and meeting him at half court.
I had to laugh when after the game Saturday I heard McGrady say that Utah's game plan isn't working on him- not at all. Hmmm, then how do you explain the sub-40% shooting, a 3.0 fourth quarter average, and most importantly, a 3-1 series deficit, Tracy? The game plan seems to be working quite well if you ask me.

Shooting Woes and Booz
Carlos has yet to find his offensive groove in this series. He shot just 3-13 from the field on Saturday, but at least hit all eight of his free-throw attempts and grabbed 14 boards. The team went 0-14 from the beyond the arc, but as Coach Sloan said, "It proves that you don't win the game from the three-point line."

Brewin' well in Utah
Ronnie Brewer played fantastic in Games 3 and 4, and other than Deron was the most consistent player during the Utah trip. He scored 12 points both games on 50-plus percent shooting, and played solid defense on Houston's star in the first half. In fact, Jerry Sloan probably made in a mistake in pulling Brewer, who had been playing fantastic, in the fourth quarter of Game 3 in favor of Kyle Korver, who had his worst game of the series last Thursday.
Not to mention that Ronnie had perhaps the highlight of the series when in the third quarter of Game 4 he crossed over a Rocket along the baseline, and as he went for the reverse layup, was hammered by two more Rockets, only to will his body underneath the center of the basket to face it and throw in a triple-clutch, spinning and-1 shot to give the Jazz added momentum.

Balanced Scoring
Williams led the way with 17 points, followed with 14 from Mehmet and Booz, 12 from Brewer, 11 from AK and 10 from Korv- though he was 0-6 from the three-point line. Balanced scoring has been a consistent mantra throughout the season for this team, so there's no reason for that to stop in the postseason.

Game 4
MVP: Memo, who had 18 boards, and the biggest one being the 18th with the offensive rebound that staved off a possible loss; and Williams, who made two key drives late in the fourth quarter and continued his consistent fantastic play.
Goat: Bobby Jackson- 1-10 shooting; Luis Scola- just seven points, but six fouls to force himself out of the game.
Subway Sub of the Game: Paul Millsap- 8 points, 5 boards.
Key Stretch: Houston, down 16 points midway into the third quarter, cuts it to one early in the fourth.
Key Play: Up 83-78 with 2:35 left, D-Will comes out of the timeout with a thunderous dunk, driving right past Alston and throwing it down over Battier. The next possession, after a Utah stop, he drives past Alston again for a layin. Houston, down nine at that point, cuts it to two twice in the final 20 seconds, but Mehmet Okur rebounds the second of Williams' two free-throw misses and hits the two clinchers with 5.5 ticks left.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Houston, you have a problem- Jazz roll in Houston: Observations

It certainly looks like the Utah Jazz, the only playoff team in the Western Conference with a losing record on the road (17-24) in the regular season, have figured out how to win on the road.
Well, at least they have figured out how to beat the Rockets four straight times at Toyota Center (dating back to the regular season and Game 7 of last year's playoffs), and know how to beat a team without its starting, and best, point guard, and without its 7-6 giant Yao Ming, since February.
I don't want to dampen the significance of Utah's wins on Saturday and Monday, though. They certainly played very well. They played good team ball, both on the offensive and defensive sides, particularly in throwing multiple defenders at Tracy McGrady.

Guarding T-Mac
The Jazz's efficiency in guarding T-Mac just proves that outside of the star swingman, the Rockets have a less-than-stellar supporting cast. Simply said, Utah is exposing everybody not named Tracy. While he has had his share of problems in the series' first two games, shooting just 16-43 including 0-7 for one point in the two fourth quarters, Houston's other players have failed to step up. Maybe it would be different with Alston, who would be more capable to step up when T-Mac gets harrassed on the perimeter, be it by Ronnie Brewer, AK47, Korver or Harpring.
Speaking of the 'Big 4' who have the task of guarding the star, I have been particularly impressed with Brewer being able to stick to him for the most part, despite being a young player in just his second year. AK is a better off-the-ball than on-the-ball defender, but has done impressive work. And I love the way Harpring meets McGrady early when he gets the ball and at least tries to keep T-Mac from going where he wants.
Korver is not a great defender, but as a fourth option to defend McGrady, it gives a different defensive look that keeps the Rockets and McGrady guessing. It's a really nice element, and good to know that the Jazz have at least slow-down perimeter defenders.
T-Mac is averaging 21.5 points per game, but is shooting sub-40% in the process, and his average is 7.3 points lower than his career playoff average, proof that the Jazz are doing a fine job defending him.

Rockets' red glare
Game 2 was evidence that Houston intended to be more physical with Utah from the get-go. It looked like they were trying to turn the tables after being out-physicalled particularly at the start of Game 1, where the Jazz where able to seize control of a game they relinquished for only the start of the third quarter.
I mean, we've got backup rookie point guard Aaron Brooks flailing his elbow into Deron Williams' side on a pick, Battier roughing up Kirilenko, and Luis Scola picking on just about everybody.
Too bad Scola's dirty play hurt the Rockets.
His push of Andrei late in the game, right before Bobby Jackson hit the would-be game-tying three, was the biggest factor in the game. Scola may have scored 14 points, but absolutely killed the Rockets with his bonehead push at the end.

The rest of the Rockets
Surprising was the play of Shane Battier in Game 1, when he scored a quiet 22 points on perfect 7-7 shooting, including 4-4 from the three-point line, and also 4-4 from the charity stripe to boot. He in fact nearly matched Andrei Kirilenko's fabulous Game 1 performance, where AK scored 21 points, grabbed four rebounds, had three assists and made life difficult for Houston's star. But Battier was held to 3-7 shooting in the second game. Kirilenko may have shot 1-8 himself, but unlike Battier made himself useful in other aspects of the game, including grabbing eight boards, dishing three more assists and again, making life difficult for Houston's star.
That's the difference between the two teams' small forwards. Where Battier can only help his team if his outside shots are falling, AK can help the Jazz in a variety of ways even if his shot's aren't going down.
Bobby Jackson failed to fill the role left glaringly vacant by Alston, shooting 3-15 in Game 1. He did better in Game 2, as did his temporary backup Aaron Brooks, shooting 7-17, but failed to come through in the end. With his team down three with 4:23 left, he missed back-to-back free throws, then let D-Will score a crafty layup on the other end, before missing two more shots down the stretch. Come to think of it, D-Will frankly took the game over while being guarded by Jackson, scoring four of Utah's last seven field goals. The shot Jackson actually knocked down was negated by Scola's foul.
Then there's Scola, who had a nice Game 1 with 14 points and 13 rebounds but only grabbed four boards in Game 2. He certainly is scrappy, but he is dirty, and it hurt and exposed Houston in Game 2.

Utah's team play: Jazz makin' sweet music
The team play demonstrated by the Jazz was phenomenal over the three days. I mean, AK was the leading scorer for Game 1! The ball was distributed evenly in both games. Players that struggled offensively in Game 1 turned it around in Game 2: Mehmet Okur followed a four-point outing with 16- but even more importantly, 16 rebounds; Ronnie Brewer followed a goose egg with 10 on an efficient 5-9 shooting. Conversely, Kyle Korver went from 11 to 7; Kirilenko, 21 to 3. Carlos Boozer, 20 to 13. Simply said, this club is so team-oriented, that it doesn't matter who has the big night with regards to putting the ball in the hole.
Then you've got a play that many would call lucky, but others would say good teams will to happen: Utah's up three with less than a half-minute left in the contest. D-Will finds Korver on the wing. Kyle drives baseline, and with time running down on the shot clock, fires an awkward turnaround that goes off the side of the backboard. But of course, the ever-active Russian Rifle Kirilenko finds the rebounds, and with not even two seconds left on the shot clock and with his back turned back to the basket, quickly flips the rock back to Korver, who buries both the shot and the Rockets' hopes with one hand. Swoosh. Jazz 2, Rockets 0.
Those sorts of plays are not luck. Rather, they are made by teams that are hustling, active, aware and cognizant of the situation in the game. Great teams make those sorts of plays.

Working 8-to-5
Williams has obviously been a stud in the series so far, averaging 21 points and 7.5 assists per game. Early in Game 2, he bailed out a somewhat-stagnant Jazz offense by nailing three straight three-pointers in the first quarter. He also largely took over the last five minutes of the game, driving to the basket at will. Meanwhile, Boozer hasn't had as big as offensive games as expected, since he has the quicks advantage over 74-year-old Dikembe Mutombo. But he has been efficient, scoring 20 and 13 while grabbing 10 and seven boards, respectively.
The thing about Booz is that unlike many All-Stars, he doesn't force or even demand his points. He takes what is given to him, and if nothing is there, he's fine with others scoring. This is the epitome of the team ball that the Jazz are playing right now. Plus, when his time does come, he can score several consecutive baskets, and all of a sudden his scoring isn't an issue. This only shows to me what sort of All-Star he is.

Game 1
MVP: Kirilenko- 21 points on 9-13 shooting, 4 boards, 3 assists and a steal.
Goat: McGrady. 7-21 shooting.
Subway Sub of the Game: Korver- 11 points, and two big threes in to ward off a Houston third-quarter rally.
Key Stretch: Early in the game, when Utah established their physicality, and late in the third quarter, when the Jazz stopped Houston's biggest run cold.
Key Numbers: Rebounds, even, though the Jazz grabbed more offensive boards; 50 points in the paint. 18 second-chance points for Utah.

Game 2
MVP: D-Will- 22 points, 3-5 3FG, 5 assists, four of Utah's last seven field goals in the final five minutes.
Goat: Jackson. Though he played better than Game 1, he missed several shots, including free throws, and couldn't handle Deron.
Subway Sub of the Game: Want to say Paul Millsap (8 points, 5 boards), but Korver again- his one-handed dagger were by far the biggest points of his seven. Don't forget Harpring, if only for the fact that he makes things tougher for T-Mac.
Key Stretch: End of first half; D-Will finds Memo for back-to-back threes to give Utah a six-point lead heading into halftime. End of third; Williams goes into the locker room to attend to an injury, but Ronnie Price nails a 3 at the buzzer to give Utah the lead back after a couple of Battier shots gave the advantage to Houston. End of game, where Williams guides ship.
Key Numbers: 41-36 rebounding advantage to the Jazz; 38-16 bench scoring for Utah.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

NBA Playoffs: First Round- Analysis

Western Conference
#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #8 Denver Nuggets: Denver has two of the Associations' finest scoers in Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson, but give me an NBA champion who one, doesn't play as a team, where two players take two-thirds of the shots; and two, that wins it all with perimeter scoring and a lack of a real offensive threat inside. Sure, Marcus Camby is a nice player, if you're talking shot-blocking and rebounding- basically defense. Kenyon Martin could be a better offensive power forward if he got more looks at the basket. Likely MVP Kobe Bryant should have a field day every game of this series. Both teams love to get up the floor early and often, especially Denver. The Lakers, from Bryant, to Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher, simply have weapons that can put the ball in the whole. Lakers in 5

#4 Utah Jazz vs. #5 Houston Rockets: The Rockets went on a 22-game winning streak mostly without Yao simply by playing great defense, making good passes, and cutting hard to the hoop to give each other good looks at the basket. Team basketball. Houston had to become better at this without their 7-6 giant to take up the paint. Heck, even Tracy McGrady became more of a team player, and with his 6-8 frame could afford to post up more to give the Rockets the occasional inside look despite their Chinese teammate. (We all know Dikembe Mutombo can't give Houston that back-to-the-basket threat anymore.) Then you've got the Jazz, the hottest team since the turn of the calender- after the Rockets. With Mehmet Okur able to draw Deke away from the paint, the pick-and-roll game should be open for Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, if Boozer can find the offensive rhythm that he lost two weeks ago. Utah's bench is better than the Rocket's inexperienced reserves, but Houston was the better defensive team in the regular season. Jazz in 6

#2 New Orleans Hornets vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks: My, how things change in the course of one year. Last postseason, Chris Paul & Co. were enjoying the playoffs on their 52-inch flat-screen TVs. Now, they are trying to establish themselves as a serious contender this year and in the seasons to come. Meanwhile, Dallas went 67-15 last season and was the overwhelming #1 seed before getting shocked by the Golden State Warriors and ex-coach Don Nelson in the first round. This doesn't mean, however, that the Mavs can't pull off the "upset," if that's what you want to call it. The Hornets don't have an answer for Dirk Nowitzki, which means that the Hornets better hope that Jason Kidd doesn't have enough left in his defensive legs to slow down Chris Paul (who, by the way, is worse than Deron Williams). Hornets in 7

#3 San Antonio Spurs vs. #6 Phoenix Suns: The absolute best series of the playoffs, from a national perspective. For the third year in a row, the Spurs and Suns meet in the playoffs. This is the rubber match, since the Suns won a conference semifinal series in 2006, while San Antonio won a controversial conference semifinal matchup last year, when Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw were wrongly suspended for the deciding game. Now, Stoudamire looks to prove that he has surpassed future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan as a premiere power forward in the West. Phoenix has talent, and may yet get enough out of Shaq to cause Duncan problems, but San Antonio is deeper- and a four-time NBA champion with Duncan as their captain. Spurs in 7

Eastern Conference
#1 Boston Celtics vs. #8 Atlanta Hawks: You kidding me? Celts in 4.

#4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #5 Washington Wizards: Washington may throw Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson (who called LeBron James "overrated" earlier this week- not a good idea heading into a playoff series against the man), and perhaps even Gilbert Arenas at James, but it shouldn't matter. Three of those four players are All-Stars, but defensively they won't be able to slow him down. The Wizards have fine perimeter players, like Jamison, Butler and Arenas, who missed almost the entire season with a torn ACL, but if the Cavs are smart they will utilize their superior size down low and dominate the glass with Zydrunas Ilguaskas, Ben Wallace and Joe Smith not having a problem on the boards against Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche. Heck, half of the Cavs' points might come off offensive putbacks. Cavs in 6

#2 Detroit Pistons vs. #7 Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers showed life in the latter quarter of the season, but had a four-game swoon to end the year that pits them against Detroit rather than the beatable Cavs. Andre Miller may in fact be just as good a point guard as Chauncey Billups, but after that Detroit is just so much deeper than Philadelphia. Samuel Dalembert of Philly may have problems getting taken outside by Rasheed Wallace. Pistons in 5

#3 Orlando Magic vs. #6 Toronto Raptors: SNORE. ZZZZZ. Oh, wait, Dwight Howard against Chris Bosh? That's intriguing. Two of the best young, but so very good big men face off. That's a lot of length getting thrown around right there. Howard has more size, and a better supporting cast with Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. Magic in 5

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Practice News Story 11: Accident

Tragedy hits Utah State University in midst of Agriculture Week
Posted: April 17, 2008 10:21 AM

TREMONTON, Utah- A terrible tragedy hit Utah State University as a van carrying eleven passengers rolled on Interstate 84 west of Tremonton, at around 4 p.m. Only two of the passengers- Robert Peterseon and Jared Nelson- have been confirmed to have survived.
Five other names of those who have deceased were releaed- instructor Evan Parker, who was the driver; Steven Bair; Curt Madsen; and Brad Wilcox.
The group had been returning from a field trip to Green Line Implements as part of Agriculture Week at the University.
Several of the members were taken to Brigham City Hospital, while another was taken to Ogden Hosptial, according to Utah Highway Patrol trooper Jason Jensen. Jensen, who arrived on the scene at around 4 pm. and worked on three people at the scene of the accident, also estimated that the van was traveling 95-100 miles per hour on roads that may have deteriorated a bit due to the layer of salt and sand that had been laid on the cement to help prevent ice slippage.
(It was) a clear day, no storms happening," Jensen said. "It was a horrific scene." Jensen added that in fifteen years of working for Utah Highway Patrol, this crash was by far the worst event he has ever been involved with.
Kyle Holden was a host of the field trip at Green Line, where he works. Estimated to have been traveling at "79-ish" miles per hour on cruise control, Holden said that he was passing the van and glanced at Parker when the wheel on the driver’s side rear mirror blew.
"I turned and watched, and I saw people flying. They were just shot out of the van. They probably rolled four or five times," Holden said.
"This was an exceptional group of students. The fact that we’ve pulled in 20 or 30 really quality students this year… that I can look at this year as one of the highest years in potential of the students. This is a hard day not just for the university, but for the college of agriculture," said Noel Cockett, Dean of the College of Agriculture.
Holden had also been a former student of Parkers’ 15 years ago.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Practice News Story 10: Investigative

Gates and Turner begin supposed philanthropic endeavor in support of Africa
Posted: April 10, 2008 10:19 AM

LOGAN, Utah- Entertainment mogul Ted Turner and Bill and Melinda Gates were seen leaving a private jet together to meet with local African officials last night.
Reasons were unclear as to why Turner and the Washington-based couple were traveling together, but Bill Gates offered explanation as to why they made the trip.
“(The trip to Africa) was very successful,” said Gates. “We met with officials about future plans. (The plans) are very encouraging.”
Among the “officials” Gates spoke of is African Mayor Malik Ok, who is encouraged by the promise of the three’s endeavor through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“We met with the three of them (Turner, Bill and Melinda)… we wanted to get a feel of what they wanted to accomplish, and how it fills my people’s needs,” Ok said.
Ok explained that oftentimes, organizations from the United States have donated supplies to the African people to assist in the treatment of fatal diseases in the various African country. However, Ok noted that the donations always came without training and education for the African people as to how to use the medicines and practice proper sanitation- “We are teaching (the African people) how to fish, rather than giving them the fish,” Bill Gates explained.
“There are a lot of diseases, high percentages of diseases that (Turner and the Gates are looking to get rid of. Our city would benefit from their efforts. They want to get rid of diseases like measles and smallpox, diseases that in many areas (of the world) hardly exist. We are going to go into villages and teach the people how to treat diseases and know sanitation,” Mayor Ok said.
Gates claims that his wife and Turner, through he and his wife’s foundation, are working with the World Health Organization to educate the African people about these diseases, and how to treat them.
There could be, however, an ulterior motive underneath the face of humanitarian efforts.
Gates’ 1 billion dollar donation to the cause was one-upped by Turner’s 1.1 billion dollar donation. It remains to be seen if Turner is just as gracious, or perhaps more so, to the cause than Gates, or if perhaps the two economical giants are competing for a face of goodwill.
More motives in the philanthropic endeavor should be unveiled as details are released in two weeks, as Gates said they will say more about the project in two weeks’ time.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Practice News Story 9: Sports

Victory blocked from Duncan, but not from the Jazz
Several players, including the return of Ronnie Brewer, contribute to pivotal 106-99 win

Posted: April 4, 2008 10:20 AM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- In a Western Conference race this close, the Utah Jazz need every single win coming down the stretch.
Not to mention every single one of their players- something that was helped with the return of Ronnie Brewer.
In a scramble to the finish that coming into the game placed the Jazz in a tie for fifth place, three games out of first in the conference, but four-and-a-half from the dreaded ninth spot, Brewer returned to give the Jazz a much-needed lift with seven points-including a dagger of a shot in the form of a three-pointer to give Utah a 100-97 lead with just two minutes left.
The shot contributed in a big way to a 106-99 victory that puts the Jazz (51-26) just a game-and-a-half from the Spurs’ (52-24) second-place slot.
“Deron, he’s just been able to find open guys all game… it felt good coming off, and it put us up by 3… it was pretty big, big for me and big for the team… I’m glad it went through,” said Brewer, who also said that he tried not to favor the groin during the game, and who also played limited minutes due to the nagging injury.
However, the limited minutes weren’t able to stop Brewer from coming through when it counted most.
With the game tied at 97, Spurs point guard Tony Parker fed Duncan in the post, with Mehmet Okur guarding him. Not known for his shot-blocking abilities, Okur promptly blocked Duncan’s field goal attempt, leading to a Jazz possession that saw point guard Deron Williams find Brewer on the wing for the tiebreaker.
“Memo” also added to his block with 15 points, not to mention a career-high of 30 from C.J. Miles, who just earlier this week tallied his previous career-high with 29 Monday against Washington.
“Some nights, the hole just looks big. Right from when I got put into the game in the first quarter, I felt good and shots were fallin’… D-Will found me for some good looks, “ said the 21-year-old Miles. Of his point guard running mate Williams, Miles said “he is definitely one of the top point guards in the league and the Western Conference… he has only been in the league a few years, but he definitely gets the plays going for us.”
Williams tallied 14 assists in addition to scoring 15 points.
His pick-and-roll partner Carlos Boozer also added 26 points and 12 rebounds.
“I’m proud of my guys for our defense… we made some big stops at the end… I was worried that we weren’t going to make the stops that we needed… but we ended up making the stops that we needed,” said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, alluding to Okur’s big block on two-time MVP Duncan.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Putting a cap on the Utah State basketball season

This season, the Utah State men's basketball team met one of two goals: first, they won the WAC regular-season championship, tying with Nevada, New Mexico State and Boise State but securing the #1 seed for the conference tournament; and secondly, they came short of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, the 65-team field that promises the chance for a national championship, known as March Madness.
Once the Aggies didn't qualify for the NCAA Tourney, they got a pairing against Illinois State, one of the top teams to not make in in the Big Dance, in the National Invitation Tournament, losing 61-57.
Before the NIT game, Utah State traveled to Las Cruces to play in the WAC tourney, winning the first game against San Jose State 85-65 before failing to beat Boise State for a third time this season the next day, falling 88-79.
The Aggies tried to crowd the post against the Broncos, which led to open three-point looks for Boise. Once these early makes got them in a rhythm, there was no stopping them, not even seldom-used bench player Aaron Garner, who averaged barely over one point per game heading into the third meeting against USU before shooting 4-5 from the three and scoring 14 points.
Utah State players and supporters felt a little better the next night, after Boise State defeated New Mexico State on the NewMags' home floor for the WAC Tournament championship and ensuing automatic NCAA berth, taking a 107-102 triple-overtime thriller.
I mean, let's face it, northern Aggie fans: the Broncos brought their best ball into the weekend. Beating a team who they tied for the regular-season title on the road in a championship game is proof of that.
Still, it was admittedly hard to see Utah State allow the looks that they gave to the Broncos to only give them more rhythm and confidence, and also see USU get out-physicalled by BSU, who simply turned the tables from a 88-69 loss to Utah State at home just eight days earlier.
In the NIT, the Ags played hard in a defensive struggle, but when they got limited chances to take the lead on the road, they couldn't make a play. The Redbirds would come up with a steal, or get an offensive rebound, to boost the lead back up to two to three possessions in the last couple of minutes, before Utah State's last attempt to take the lead came up dry when Jaycee missed a good-looking 3 from the corner with 20 seconds left in the game.
Looking back, a week-and-a-half after the season ended, there were a lot of positives out of the season. The team went undefeated (17-0) at home, won the regular-season conference title, and saw Jaycee Carroll break or build on ten school records, including becoming the leading scorer, and also witnessed coach Stew Morrill become the winningest coach in Utah State history.
Not easy tasks.
Next year, the Aggies should compete for the conference championship again, despite losing three seniors, including Carroll. USU does return three starters, two that are sophomores, and five players from their rotation this past season. Nine of the thirteen players will be back, as the four leaving will be the graduated seniors (Carroll, Kris Clark, and Steve DuCharme) and a redshirt from this past season, Brad Brown, who is headed on a mission.
Sophomores Tai Wesley and Tyler Newbold will continue to play alongside upcoming senior Gary Wilkinson in the starting lineup. The open starting positions are at the point guard and wing positions. Point guard will likely be filled by upcoming senior Desmond Stephens (2.3 ppg, 1.2 apg, 11.8 mpg) or redshirt freshman Jaxon Myaer. The other wing who will start alongside Newbold will be sophomore Pooh Williams or Jared Quayle, an incoming JC transfer from Western Wyoming who will be a junior. Quayle shot 52 percent from the 3-point line in junior college this past season.
Other players in the mix are senior DeUndrae Spraggins (F/G) and sophomore posts Matt Formisano and Moduo Niang, one of whom will need to replace DuCharme's production off the bench.
The other incoming players are high school commits, one who is a point guard and the other, a center.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Extra Practice News Story 8: Business

Google makes hostile takeover bid of Time Warner
Posted: March 21, 2008 8:31 PM

SAN JOSE, Calif.- Google made a bid to take over Time Warner, Inc. in a hostile offer Thursday, wanting to buy the company despite objection from Time Warner's board of directors.
Despite the resistance of the heads of Time Warner, Google CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt feels the time is right for the takeover given the landscape and conditions of the media industry at the current time.
"Google strikes while the iron's hot, and the iron is hot right now in the media industry. This is the correct move at the correct time for Google," he said.
In Dr. Schmidt's mind, that is especially the right move considering that Microsoft CEOs also had their eye on the takeover of Time Warner Inc., an indication that Google aims to become a stronger media conglomerate before other large companies have the chance to capitalize the way that Schmidt feels his company is doing with this takeover.
Analysts, meanwhile, are hopeful that a hostile takeover by Google would enable the media industry to improve even more than it currently is, given their success as a search engine that has increasingly been pushing search engine rival Yahoo off the map, the primary reason for their diminishing presence in the media market.
Yahoo also wanted to get bought by Time Warner, but with their primary competitor aiming to make the purchase, Yahoo would be upset to be owned by their rival.
This move by Google Inc. would make Yahoo even less relevant in the business landscape.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Practice News Story 8: Business

Google makes hostile takeover bid of Time Warner
Posted: March 20, 2008 10:19 AM

SAN JOSE, Calif.- Google made a bid to take over Time Warner, Inc. in a hostile offer Thursday, wanting to buy the company despite objection from Time Warner's board of directors.
Despite the resistance of the heads of Time Warner, Google CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt feels the time is right for the takeover given the landscape and conditions of the media industry at the current time.
"Google strikes while the iron's hot, and the iron is hot right now in the media industry. This is the correct move at the correct time for Google."
This is especially the right move considering that both Yahoo and Microsoft CEOs had their eye on the takeover of Time Warner Inc. as well, an indication that Google aims to become a stronger media conglomerate before other large companies have the chance to capitalize the way that Schmidt feels his company is doing with this takeover.
Analysts, meanwhile, are hopeful that a hostile takeover by Google would enable the media industry to improve even more than it currently is, given their success as a search engine that has increasingly been pushing search engine rival Yahoo off the map. This is a primary reason for Yahoo's discontent, as this move by Google Inc. would make Yahoo Inc. even less relevant in the business landscape.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Do the majors get less bids than they're accustomed to this season?

There is no doubt that more and more parity is reigning in college basketball. This is especially evident when a conference like the West Coast could get three bids and the Sun Belt may get two. One of those two scenarios is likely to happen.
Most of the season, it was believed that the Big East would receive seven bids to the Big Dance. However, with the regular season having wrapped up, it's looking more like half of the conference may qualify for the NCAA playoffs, especially if Syracuse can beat Villanova in the first round of the Big East tournament.
Six teams- champion Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Marquette and Pittsburgh- are definitely in, while West Virginia is all but qualified. Both Syracuse (19-12, 9-7, low-40s RPI) and Villanova (19-11, 8-8, mid-50s RPI) are on the bubble, and conveniently for the selection committee, they play each other in the first round. The Orange are most definitely in with a first-round win, while the Wildcats may need to both beat the 'Cuse and possibly either show well or win the second round too.
Among the ACC, both Virginia Tech and Maryland are vying to be the fifth ACC team to make it. Va. Tech has come around strong to end the regular season, earning them consideration. Conversely, the Terrapins have been shaky down the stretch, and lost a bad one against Virginia on Sunday. Only one club will qualify, to be sure, and if both bow out in the first round, then the ACC may only be a four-bid league this season.
The SEC is intriguing, because right now it features more bubble teams than it does locks, in four to three. Arkansas (low-40s RPI) and Kentucky both can't feel completely safe about where they stand in the committee's eyes, though after a win over Florida the Wildcats can feel better if they can at least make the semifinals of the SEC tourney. As for Ole Miss and Florida, things are looking bleak, especially for the defending national champion Gators. With an RPI in the mid-60s, an SEC tourney title may have to be the key to giving them a shot to defend their championship.
The Big XII has a great chance to field six teams this season. Two are locks- Kansas and Texas- while two are near-locks- Oklahoma and Baylor- while Texas A&M (22-10) and Kansas State (19-10) are on the inside track of the bubble. I don't know if the selection committee could actually keep K-State freshman phenom Michael Beasley from the Big Dance.
The Big Ten should only get four teams in this season, unless Ohio State (18-12) can somehow upset Michigan State for a second consecutive game. If they can't, with a low-50s RPI the Buckeyes, who like Florida lost four starters last year, including three to the NBA, should be NIT-bound.
The Pac-10 has been rumored to have up to seven teams qualify for the Dance this season, but with the quality of mid and non-majors abounding this season, they really shouldn't get more than five. Four are locks, while Arizona, Oregon, and Arizona State are battling for what may be as few as one berth. Arizona (18-13, 7-9) has plenty of losses, but with a strength of schedule of #1 in the nation, they get an RPI in the low 30s. That is ridiculous. The Wildcats can hardly even win a game the last three weeks, as they have lost eight of 11. That is a fact that should tarnish their resume enough to force them out of the Dance, especially when you consider that their rivals for the bid, ASU and OU, swept them this season. Oregon most recently got a win over the 'Cats, last Saturday, to put their record at 18-12 and 8-8 in the conference. With an RPI of 49, the Ducks might be the lucky ones here, especially considering that ASU (18-11, 8-8) has an RPI of 75.

My Picks: Big East (8), Big XII (6), ACC (5), SEC (5), Pac-10 (5), Big Ten (4)

What mid-majors need to prove themselves this week to belong in the Field of 65?

There are several mid-majors that sit squarely on the bubble, including three or four in the Atlantic 10 Conference alone. With the early exits of non-majors St. Mary's, South Alabama, and VCU, will that take bids away from the mid-majors? Will it take the Mountain West Conference from three bids to two? Conf. USA from two to one? The Atlantic 10 from three to two, or even just one? We already know that the WAC will get just one team in this year, as opposed two two bids that they have received every year from 1993-2007.
The A-10 has a lock in #10 Xavier, who was clearly the cream of the crop of a very balanced league, but half the league is trying to propose a case to get in. This includes Massachusetts, Dayton, St. Joseph's, Temple and Rhode Island.
UMass is 8-4 in their last 12 games, an indication that they are playing well to end the season, and have an RPI in the low 30s. The Minutemen are a safe bet to make the Big Dance, and are a guarantee if they win their semifinal game to which they have a bye.
Dayton has an RPI in the high 30s, but at just 8-8 in the conference, putting them at the #8 seed for the tourney, the Flyers need to at least reach the championship game to receive consideration.
St. Joe's is 18-10 with an RPI in the mid-to-low 50s. They looked like they might slip in after defeating Xavier a week ago, only to follow it with a loss to one of the worst teams in the A10 just two days later. Like the Flyers, St. Joe's may need to reach the tourney final to get consideration.
Temple sits at 18-12 with an RPI in the mid 50s. With no marquee victories, the Owls will need to win the tournament at this point.
The same goes for Rhode Island, a 19-12 team whose RPI sits in the low 60s. I nearly didn't put R.I. on this list.
In its nine-year existence, the Mountain West Conference has gotten two teams into the NCAA playoffs six times and three teams in three times. If New Mexico (24-7, 11-5, 51 RPI) manages to get past Utah in the first round, and then either beat or play tourney host UNLV tough in the semifinals, then they should get in. BYU (26-6, RPI 22) is a lock and in the hunt for a #6 or possibly a #5 seed, while UNLV (23-7, RPI 30) simply needs to win their first round game against TCU to guarantee their spot.
Conference USA has been dominated all year by #2 Memphis (29-1, 16-0), but could another team in the form of UAB or Houston slip in under the radar? UAB (22-9, RPI mid-50s) could if they reach the tourney final and at least give the second-ranked Tigers a great game, as opposed to how they played against Memphis last week when they lost by 30 to badly hurt their cause. Houston, with a 66 RPI, must win the tournament and get the automatic bid.
As a Utah State student, I must give mention to the WAC, a traditional solid mid-major conference. It's really too bad that as the 20th-ranked conference out of 32, there is no way the league will get more than one bid. The best RPIs in the conference belong to the Aggies (72) and Nevada (74).
That leaves it up to the Ags, who have won 23 games for the ninth straight year and have the #1 seed in the tourney, to win it all on a floor that is hosted by fellow co-champion and #3 seed New Mexico State, who has 13 losses due to a bad 7-9 record against a brutal non-conference schedule. Both schools, and also Nevada (20-10) and Boise State (22-8), finished 12-4 to create a massive share of the WAC crown.

My picks: the Moutain West gets three bids, the A10 two, and Conf. USA one, especially since a small conference as mentioned at the start of the article may get more than their traditional one bid.

With no conference tourney title, which non-majors will be Dancing?

The past three days of conference tournaments have only muddied up the bubble picture when trying to determine Who's In and Who's Out of the NCAA Tournament just five days before Selection Sunday. After games in three conference tourneys in particular, with "early" conference exits, three teams will be sweating it out through Selection Sunday:
St. Mary's, South Alabama, and Virginia Commonwealth.
All three of these schools won their regular-season conference championships, only to bow out earlier than expected. This only serves to make the selection process even more difficult for the selection committee.
What do you do to teams who ran up impresssive won-loss records, dominated their conferences in the regular season, and possibly even spent time during the year in the Top 25, only to fall early in a tournament of a conference that traditionally only gets one bid?
Such is the case with these three. Let's examine each of their cases to get in the Big Dance:
ST. MARY'S. The Gaels (24-6) took the West Coast Conference regular-season title with a 13-1 record over #22 Gonzaga and WCC Tourney champion San Diego. Their only WCC loss was at Gonzaga. St. Mary's spent most of the season in the Top 25, only to fall out in the second-to-last week of the season.
SOUTH ALABAMA. The Panthers (26-6) spent a week in the national rankings, tied for first in the Sun Belt with a 12-2 record, and beat Mississippi State and UAB for quality wins. One thing that may work in the Panthers' case is that there has been speculation for most of the season that the Sun Belt may be a two-bid league this year, especially since the WAC, which has gotten two bids to the Dance every year since 1993, will only get one this season.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH. VCU (23-7), the darlings of last season's Dance when as a #11 seed beat Duke in the first round, won the Colonial Athletic Association, but fell in the semifinals of the tournament to William & Mary. 2006 Final Four darlings George Mason proceeded to beat W&M last night in the final. The CAA has gotten two or three teams in the Dance for a few years now, so it wouldn't be a complete shock to see VCU join Mason in the field. However, people were skeptical if VCU would make it BEFORE St. Mary's and USA bowed out unexpectedly early.

Unfortunately, I think that only one of these three teams will make the NCAA Tournament, and I feel like that team will be South Alabama. I can hardly see the West Coast Conference given three bids, and VCU has no quality non-conference win on its resume to prove they can truly compete with the big boys this year outside of the CAA. With 26 wins, USA deserves to go dancing in my book.

Monday, March 10, 2008

End-of-regular season grades for USU basketball

Post Players
Gary Wilkinson: A- Center
Wilkinson's game improved over the course of the season, especially on the road. He particularly became a better rebounder and defender, whie averaging 13.4 ppg and 6.8 rpg. This improvement was reflected in a second-team all-conference honor.
Tai Wesley: B+ Power Forward
Wesley was a pleasant surprise to become the team's starting power forward as a redshirt freshman. With averages of 10.4 ppg and 4.2 rpg, Wesley would often have problems with foul trouble, but occasionally respond with 24/9 or 23/7 games as he did against Hawaii and La. Tech.
Steve DuCharme: C Power Forward/Center
DuCharme wasn't much above average, even in a better second half of the conference season, but rose to the occasion with great games on Senior Night last week and a huge 20-point game at Boise State when the Aggies needed it from him most if they wanted a piece of the conference title. Inconsistent, but there when USU needed him.
Overall: B+

Jaycee Carroll: Valedictorian Shooting Guard
What more can you say. WAC Player of the Year, Senior Class Award Finalist, holds 10 school records, with more accolades headed his way. He averages nearly 22.3 points a game, while bumping it up to 24.5 in conference play, while averaging 6.2 rebounds per game, good for second on the team, as a 6-2 guard. Leads the nation in three-point shooting (50.2%) and is third in free-throw shooting (92.0%), while he is 12th in the nation in scoring average. Beyond the stats, he took his game to another level when USU needed some way to stay in tough games. In the second half of conference play, he routinely scored close to 20 points or more in the second half. All in all, Carroll should be an All-American and hopefully will get to display his shooting ability in the NCAA Tournament.
Tyler Newbold: B+ Small Forward
Newbold is a terrific defender, and is the consumate play-within-yourself type of player. He shoots 47 percent from the three when he does shoot them (averages about 1.5 attempts per game). To consider that he has three more years of eligibility in Logan has to please Aggie fans from anywhere.
Pooh Williams: B- Small Forward/Shooting Guard
"Excrement" made tremendous strides as a defender and even as a minor offensive contributor in the second half of the conference season. Pooh was a huge part of Utah State's amazing final-week finish of the regular season.
Overall: A-

Point Guards
Kris Clark: A-
Clark, for the most part, played well in the final handful of games of the regular season, including setting the USU single-season record for assists on Senior Night, despite turning the ball over five times in that game. He still dished out nine dimes in that game. Clark is not a good shooter, but did improve from last season. He hit a critical 3 against Boise State on Thursday.
Desmond Stephens: B+
You didn't exactly know what you would get out of Stephens, but Aggie fans got a better idea by the final four or five games of the season, when Stephens played his best basketball. He did a tremendous job playing extra minutes that he's accustomed to when Clark dealt with foul trouble at Boise. This is a welcome sign given Stephens will probably be the starting point guard next season.
Overall: A-

Team, Overall: A-

WAC CHAMPIONS!...Word on the Tournament

Jaycee Carroll is WAC Player of the Year; Gary Wilkinson makes All-WAC second team

What an amazing week for Utah State last week, going 3-0 with two road wins to make a late surge all the way to the top of the WAC standings and a #1 seed. These wins including a fantastic 79-66 win over Fresno State on Senior Night, followed by a shocking 88-69 win at previous sole WAC leader Boise State and a 78-58 victory over Idaho on Saturday to clinch the #1 seed.
Carroll played great in all three games. This included a 33-point showing with six three-pointers on Monday in his last home game, followed by back-to-back 23-point games. This last-week surge by his team helped him earn the WAC Player of the Year honor. This is indeed deserving for a player who is now just 69 points away from passing Keith Van Horn as the state's all-time leading scorer.
I must also commend Gary Wilkinson for his deserved second-team honor. Wilkinson improved, especially on the road, as the season continued, and the Ags wouldn't have been able to surge to the top of the league last week if his play hadn't improved on the road as it did.
Too bad that the WAC Newcomer of the Year award didn't go to redshirt freshman Tai Wesley; rather, it went to Nevada freshman point guard Armon Johnson.
Carroll's point guard running mates Kris Clark and Desmond Stephens also played fantastic games. I was especially proud of Stephens for picking up the load at Boise when Clark got in foul trouble early. Stephens indicated that he may actually be ready to be USU's starting point guard once next season rolls around.
Wings Tyler Newbold and Pooh Williams continued to play solid. For the week, Newbold went 3-6 from the three-point line, but more importantly was primarily responsible for stopping lights-out BSU outside shooters Tyler Tiedeman and Matt Bausche. Together, they average 24 points a game, and Newbold and Pooh held them to nine on just 3-15 shooting.
The posts struggled through foul trouble, particularly Wilkinson and Wesley, but DuCharme stepped up his play off the bench, particularly against Boise, when he scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 31 minutes of play. Matt Formisano also saw significant time in both games in the state of Idaho, and was solid. His steady play was needed when Wilkinson and Wesley both got in foul trouble in Boise.
The Aggies really are playing as well as they have all season heading into the WAC Tournament beginning on Tuesday. They shouldn't have a problem with either San Jose State or Louisiana Tech in the first round- but then again, SJSU has already beaten the Aggies this season. If USU wins that game, it will definitely be tough to beat the Broncos for a third time in the semifinals, as that matchup will happen if BSU defeats the slumping Hawaii Warriors.
At least they avoided matching up with home team New Mexico State until the championship game, assuming (hoping) both teams can get that far. With the WAC only getting one bid this year, the fact that the tourney is hosted by a co-champion of the league has huge implications. If the NewMags get the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the tourney at home, then they will probably get a low seed in the form of even a #15 seed, since their 13 losses and RPI down at 121 is not impressive. Same goes for Boise State if the Broncos win, since their RPI is 101.
On the other hand, if the Aggies or Nevada win the tourney, they can probably manage to get a better seed due to RPIs of 72 and 74, respectively. Perhaps a 12-14 seed could be in the works for USU or the Wolfpack if they can win the three-day title.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Posted: Nov. 19, 1863

Practice News Story 7: Speech
A 'Great Task Remaining before Us'
Lincoln captivates the audience in his gripping "Dedication to Devotion" speech

GETTYSBURG, Penn.- President Lincoln gave a stirring address in the dedication of the Gettysburg battlefield, yesterday, November 19, 1863.
On a hot, humid afternoon, where 1,500 people sat ready to hear the dedication given by the Union’s president, Lincoln aroused the American spirit with notes “of honored dead” that as Americans “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion” and promises “that we (American people) here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
Lincoln caught hold of the audience with these notations and promises of a greater future ahead for a fledging country that has only been developing for, as Lincoln phrased it, “four score and seven years ago”- the 87 years that has seen this continent be thrust into a Revolutionary War, only to fight itself over additional rights, in a climactic, blood-ridden three-day battle that took place at this very site four months ago.
A strong theme evident in Lincoln’s speech was his point that no matter how much dedication goes towards Gettysburg, nothing can truly amount to honor the greatness that the men and women served on a grounds that saw 7500 soldiers killed in a mere three days. Lincoln constantly noted that while the dedication “is altogether fitting and proper… in a larger sense, we can not dedicate… we can not consecrate- this ground.”
Only a man as dignified and as respectful for this struggling nation as Lincoln could address these issues in such a gripping and relatable manner. It didn’t take him much words, but it had great affect on his audience yesterday afternoon.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

WAC Title hopes still possible for Aggies

Utah State followed up a well-played 72-59 ESPN BracketBuster victory over UC Santa Barbara with a solid 86-59 dominating win over Louisiana Tech on Thursday in a return to conference play, setting their record at 20-9 overall and 9-4 in the WAC.
The Aggies are among two other teams- Nevada (11-4, 19-10 overall) and New Mexico State (10-4, 17-13) with four conference losses, behind first-place Boise State (12-3, 22-7).
I was impressed by the play of both Gary Wilkinson and Tai Wesley in both games in the Spectrum. Wesley totaled 24 points and nine rebounds against the Gauchos before following that up with a 16-point, eight-rebound night versus the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Wilkinson went 14/12 against La. Tech after going for 19/10 against Santa Barbara.
The play of the Aggies' bigs is pivotal to the final three conference games of the regular season, particularly on Thursday against Boise State, when they will take the floor against forward Reggie Larry and center Matt Nelson.
While Jaycee had a personal shoddy performance against the Gauchos with just 15 points, he followed that up with a quiet 30-point night against the Bulldogs, earning most of his points with drives to the hole and aggressive play in the open court during the second half.
Isn't that funny how, because of the standards that Carroll has said for himself, that I can actually say that 30 points can be "quiet" for him?
Kris Clark was shaky, but with nine assists against La. Tech, he set the single-season record for assists at Utah State after totaling nine against the Bulldogs.
The wings were particularly impressive in both games, especially Pooh Williams in Thursday's game, where he scored a personal career-high of six points on 3-3 shooting with two assists, a steal and no turnovers. Meanwhile, Tyler Newbold, in addition to Williams, played fine defense. What might be surprising for some people to know is while Jaycee remains first in the nation in three-point shooting percentage at 50.3 percent, Newbold is shooting at a 48.2 percent clip at 22-46.
Tomorrow's game against Fresno State is going to be packed both in the stands and in the emotions of loyal Aggie fans, especially those who have witnessed the play of Carroll over his four years in Logan. To be honest, it might be tough for me to hold it in as they introduce Jaycee Carroll for the final time. Well, at least I will be able to see him in Las Cruces at the WAC Tournament, and who knows, possibly in a home game in Logan if the Aggies fail to reach the NCAA Tournament and receive a home game in the NIT.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Practice News Story 6: Press Release

Posted: Feb. 28, 2008 10:19 AM

Feb. 28, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact Infomation:
North Logan, UT 84321
President Mary Ann Parlin
Phone: 435.767.4158

Company strives to educate patients on the conditions of their surgeries

LOGAN, Utah- A fledging company called ClearPoint Instruction aims to help instruct those who will be paying for treatment with a healthcare organization, through the means of instructional pamphlets and DVDs that do not cost anything above how much the medical treatment would require. In fact, the price is rolled into the surgery.
“President Mary Ann Parlin discovered that those who lacked additional education were slower in their recovery, while those who were more educated were quicker to recover from their surgeries,” said Senior Vice President Preston Parker. What is the reason for this slower recovery for those who lacked additional information on their treatment?
“If you show up the day of the surgery that morning, not knowing anything about the surgery, then the hospital will not be as eager to help those who do not understand what they are going into. On the other hand, those who go into surgery having read the pamphlets and watched the DVDs better understand the surgery that they are going into. That’s why ClearPoint Instruction was created: to help people better understand the conditions of going into a surgery so they will be more prepared heading into the hospitals.”
ClearPoint was founded in Jan. 2006 with this exact goal in mind. Their current clients include Mountain West Physical Therapy and Cache Valley Specialty Hospital.
The employees of ClearPoint have first-hand gone into operating rooms and areas of healthcare treatment with the intent of gathering information that they can present to their customers in order to provide better education concerning any sort of healthcare.
“We have gone into hospitals, into the operating rooms, in order to better help patients what is going to happen to the given customer at the time of their treatment,” Parker said. “This education may scare some people away, but the costs outweigh the benefits since patients will better know what is going to happen to their bodies.”
This basis of the company serves to help both the doctors or health-care providers, as well as the patient. It is an increased mutual understanding between the two parties that will help the surgeries go smoother and more efficiently, not to mention provide for quicker recovery. This endeavor is made possible through the research and education of ClearPoint instruction.
“Doctors are tired of telling patients the same information every time a patient heads into a surgery. It is that information that we at ClearPoint Instruction are putting onto the DVD and in the pamplets,” Parker said.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Project Salvage the Season begins Tonight

At 18-9 overall and 8-4 in conference play, the once-conference-leading Utah State Aggies are a measly fourth place in the Western Athletic Conference. With five games to go in the regular season, including three at home, it is time to initiate Project Salvage the Season.
With three road losses in eight days, the Aggies have fallen from nearly realizing their goal of conference champions to an ordinary team. Tonight needs to somehow spark a surge for the Ags in these last five games and the conference tournament, against UC-Santa Barbara in an ESPN BracketBusters contest.
The Ags better be able to defeat a 3rd place team in the Big West. The Gauchos are 20-6 and 9-4 in the Big West, but should not defeat USU in Logan tonight. That would frankly be just sad.
Tonight, somebody else needs to step up their play to help Jaycee Carroll. Gary Wilkinson didn't even show up for Monday's game at San Jose State. Tai Wesley was miserable whether it was fouling out or getting ejected a minute-and-a-half into the game. Tyler Newbold was off-an-on during the three games, as was Kris Clark, who had nine turnovers at Nevada but played OK in the other two games.
Don't even get me started on Steve DuCharme. Also, Desmond Stephens had an awful road trip.
Basically, what I'm saying is that players need to step up their games. Jaycee Carroll has done everything he can. His teammates need to wake up if they somehow want to get a piece of this conference title.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cleveland, Chicago and Seattle in three-team trade: Does this actually make the Cavs better?

Just an hour or so ago, the Cavaliers, Bulls and SuperSonics pulled one of the biggest trades in NBA history, swapping 11 players.
Cleveland gets: C Ben Wallace, SF/SG Wally Szczerbiak, F Joe Smith and G Delonte West
Chicago gets: PF Drew Gooden, G Larry Hughes
Seattle gets: F Donyell Marshall, G Ira Newble, future first-round pick

While a lot of talk is going around about how much this can improve the Cavs' roster, I remain suspicious whether the new version of the Cavaliers will indeed be better than the roster that has struggled to a 30-24 record.
Big Ben is a fabulous defensive player, but is a liability on offense... at least Drew Gooden could score a little. Joe Smith might be able to fill this scoring void a little, but not as much as Gooden. He won't even play for Cleveland as much as Gooden did.
Losing Larry Hughes isn't a problem when they are getting Szczerbiak, but I think Chicago benefited just as much as the Cavs by saving money in trading Big Ben's big contract, and I agree with Ric Bucher, senior writer for ESPN the Magazine- the Bulls needed to do something to shake up the roster and re-awaken the franchise, which should be having a great year right now. It will be interesting to see where Hughes fits in a rotation of guards that includes Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon and an improving Thabo Sefolasha.
Seattle? They are simply clearing cap space to make a run at a big-time player in the summer to be another cornerstone to their massive rebuilding project.

Meanwhile, Seattle got rid of an older player on the roster in Kurt Thomas, shipping him and his large contract to San Antonio for C Francisco Elson, another guard and cash. This trade really helps both clubs. The Spurs are assisted because Thomas can be a solid player off the bench who can come in for C Fabricio Oberto, or spell Tim Duncan. Thomas could also play alongside Duncan, giving the Spurs a pretty tough front line, a feature that the Spurs will need in needing to play post defense against the bigger, new-look teams of the Suns and Lakers (O'Neal and Gasol).

Then, there's the trade that went down this morning: New Orleans gave up backup guard Bobby Jackson, another player and a draft pick to Houston for guards Mike James and Bonzi Wells, the Rockets' top two players off the bench this season. The Hornets just got deeper, with James and Wells combined with Jannero Pargo gives N.O. a lot of perimeter threats off the bench to spell Chris Paul and avoid losing a step when Peja Stojakovic or Morris Peterson comes out of the game.

All of these trades have left one Western Conference contender who have not made any recent personnel changes in an attempt to improve amongst an ultra-competitive and exciting conference race: the Golden State Warriors, who you could argue have made a move with their signing of postman Chris Webber a couple of weeks ago.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Projections on NBA season's second half (uh, final third)

Jazz trade for sweet-shooting Kyle Korver!
Spurs bolster rotation by signing veteran guard Damon Stoudamire!
Warriors gear up by signing big man Chris Webber!
Lakers shake up West by trading for Grizzlies pivot Pau Gasol!
Suns will change pace after trading for 14-time All-Star Shaquille O'Neal!
Will the Mavericks be able to pull the Jason Kidd trade?

So many headlines have shaken out in the Western Conference in the past month. Several franchises in the powerful conference have made minor-to-monumental deals in an attempt to improve their team in a conference where nine teams are playing .615 ball or better.
Now, the question is, who will actually improve with all of these deals?
Will a team that made a minor move be able to move up the most? How about the Suns slowing down, despite Shaq's insistence that they won't have to? Will a team that stood firm while everybody else was shaking be able to take advantage of other teams who might take a little time trying to adjust with a new player?
Who knows. There are way too many questions to try and figure it all out. Honestly, let's just see what happens. It truly is anybody's guess.
With that said, here's my guess- uh, I mean, 'expert prediction' on who will win the West and how it will be won:
1) Phoenix Suns. Yes, Steve Nash may need to drive the Mustang a bit slower for the Diesel to keep up, but the track will still be plenty fast for the rest of the league.
2) San Antonio Spurs. As tempting as it is for me to want to believe that the Spurs franchise is slowing down, keep in mind that this is the defending champions of the league. Once Tony Parker returns from injury, the point guard position will be super-deep with Damon Stoudamire and Jacque Vaughn backing him up.
3) Los Angeles Lakers. The Pau trade has been working (the Lakers are 5-1 with him so far), and when Bynum returns from injury, it will work even better. What a great trade for the Los Angeles franchise, and bad for the rest of the NBA. (Memo to Memphis: thanks a lot for ruining the hopes of a lot of other teams in the Western Conference.)
4) Utah Jazz. While the Jazz may or may not be a couple of games behind a couple of other teams for this spot, they will get this seed by virtue of winning the Northwest Division. Winners of 12 of 13, 16 of 18 and 18 of 21, Utah is now rolling. Hopefully the All-Star break didn't cool them off too much.
5) New Orleans Hornets. I want to put the Hornets here just so I can dream of a first-round matchup involving Deron Williams' Jazz and Chris Paul's Hornets. For once, the NBA would have all eyes on a series involving Utah. Plus, I think the Hornets will hit a six-to-eight game slump, which will be enough to drop them a few spots in the uber-tight conference.
6) Dallas Mavericks. I'm not sure how much the Jason Kidd trade is going to help. They are getting him for defense, yet Devin Harris, the young point guard who they will give up in the trade, is a pretty decent defender himself. In the West, Kidd will find himself to be almost average as far as point guards go in a conference with Nash, Paul, Williams, himself, Davis, Iverson, and Parker. Yes, seven of the league's elite eight point guards (including Chauncey Billups) will now all be in the same conference. What the Mavs really need is a dominant big man, something they are no longer getting from Erick Dampier.
7) Denver Nuggets. While not a complete team, the Nuggets have enough with 'Melo and Iverson to get the club in the playoffs. Throw in Camby, Nene and Martin, and Denver has one of the league's better front lines. Rumor is that they might trade for bad boy Ron Artest. As a fan of the Nuggets' rival Utah, I say bring it on. Artest will not help their team in the slightest. Case in point: how has he helped Chicago or Sacramento? Plus, he plays the same position as Anthony.
8) Golden State Warriors. Though their style screams win-in-the-regular-season-and-then-get-shut-down-in-the-playoffs, the Warriors do have enough talent to at least make the postseason. 31-14 since Stephen Jackson returned from a seven-game suspension to open the season, the Warriors aren't that deep, but are electrifying when on the run with Davis, the much-improved Monta Ellis, Jackson, and Al Harrington. The bench? Um... Andris Biedrins, anyone? Oh, yeah. At least they got Webber. Maybe he will help in the slightest bit.

Just barely missing out:
Houston Rockets. T-Mac and Yao are proof that although two stars may be on the same team, it doesn't necessarily form a dynamic duo if they can't make each other better or play to the others strengths. Though they are hot right now, I don't think they have enough pieces on their roster to make a return trip.
Portland TrailBlazers. The Cinderella team is slipping. It should continue into March and April.

What's to say in the Eastern Conference? Boston and Detroit, who can play with any mighty Western Conference team. 'Nuff said.

Aggie season going down the toilet bowl (from a depressed Aggie fan)

The Deseret Morning News headline summed it up perfectly:

"Aggie tailspin continues"

Couldn't be better said. After three straight losses on the road in an eight-day span, the Aggies are now in a 3rd/4th place tie in the WAC with Nevada. They no longer control their own destiny in the conference race. They are COMPLETELY off the bubble with regards to the NCAA Tournament. Simply put, they are ordinary, a little overrated, and a pathetic team on the road.
What's there to hope for anymore?
It's tough to see Jaycee Carroll's senior season winding up like this. While he has had an absolutely fantastic year personally, his team is apparently just too inexperienced and lacks the toughness both physical and mental needed to win tough games on the road.
With no real quality wins, unless you want to count home victories over Boise State, Oral Roberts and Austin Peay, but plenty of bad losses (Weber State, Cal-Poly, UC-Irvine, blowout to Utah, blown 14-point lead at Hawaii, San Jose State yesterday), the Aggies are actually a fringe NIT team at this point. That's how far they've dropped in the NCAA Div. 1 totem poll after becoming the first Aggie team in the Stew Morrill era to lose three consecutive games.
How sad and embarrassing.
Though they still have three home games left among their five regular-season contests yet to come, this horrible road team must still play at Boise State, who is now the #1 team in the conference.
How sad. I expected SO much more from the Utah State Aggies this season, only to be letdown with nothing coming from it, not even the highly-expected WAC regular-season championship.
Let the swan song begin...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Posted: Feb. 15, 2007 10:50 PM

Practice News Story 5: Obituary
The world mourns as Oprah unexpectedly passes away

CHICAGO, Ill.- Having been noted as caring, benevolent, understanding of various groups of people, and someone who truly made a positive impact not just in her native country but the entire world by peers and non-peers alike, the the international network of those touched by Oprah Winfrey are mourning her passing yesterday afternoon.
Though healthy at the age of 54, Oprah Gail Winfrey tragically was mobbed by adoring fans after her afternoon talk show in Chicago. While walking to her car at 3:30 p.m. in lieu of driving home after another successful show, a large throng of fans entered the parking lot and stormed her. While the bodyguards around her tried to halt the mayhem, the sheer number of those madly wild to see her was too overwhelming. Having fallen to the ground in the onslaught of excitement, our dear Oprah suffocated beneath the pile.
Winfrey was the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which has won multiple Emmy Awards and is the highest-rated talk show in television history. Besides succeeding in the one medium in television, she was also a highly influential book critic, an Academy Award-nominated actress, and a magazine publisher. This bevy of successes has ranked her as the richest African American of the 20th century. Those who knew and spent continuous time with this remarkable woman, and even those who didn't know her on a personal level, call her the most influential woman in the world.
Oprah's time spent helping others and being accepting of those who hold preferences beliefs that may even be far from her own comes from her experiences earlier in life. She was born into poverty in Mississippi to an unwed, teenage mother. Throughout much of her child, she lived in Milwaukee. Tragically, she was raped as a nine-year-old, but fought through the trauma. Additional tragedy fell into her life when she at age 14 gave birth to a son who died as an infant.
However, her career was launched at just age 19, a young age to already be co-anchoring the local evening news, in Tennessee. The emotional impact that she made on her viewers quickly presented her with even greater opportunities until her own show eventually grew into the highest-rated program ever known to television.
Winfrey's humanitarian efforts were off the charts, especially in South Africa. In 2004, she and her crew went on a 21-day journey through the country exposing others in the United States to the poverty and AIDS that many of South Africa's citizens offer. The report was focused primarily on the children. In addition, she developed the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in the same country.
Oprah is survived by her partner of 22 years, Stedham Graham, and her four dogs. Additionally, she is survived by what she would call her 227 daughers of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, and her best friend Gayle King, who has said how touched she has been by Winfrey's work as a philanthropolist.
Millions of people in a great variety of countries could say how much Winfrey means to them in their lives, so a few quotes will not do this great woman justice. With that said, many powerful and influential leaders within this country do recognize the contributions that she has made in the world, thoughts that no doubt are reflected in the minds of many across the world:
Senator Barack Obama, current delegate leader for the Democratic nomination to be the next U.S. President, has said she "may be the most influential woman in the country," while renowned political and news analyst Bill O'Reilly has said that "this is a woman that came from nothing to rise up to be the most powerful woman, I think, in the world. I think Oprah Winfrey is the most powerful woman in the world, not just in America. That's — anybody who goes on her program immediately benefits through the roof. I mean, she has a loyal following; she has credibility; she has talent; and she's done it on her own to become fabulously wealthy and fabulously powerful."
While indeed powerful and influential, countless numbers of people in this country and beyond appreciate the love and the humility which she has shown others while she has gained such notoriety. Surely the world is losing one of its greatest contributors in its history in Oprah Winfrey.

With Kobe injured, could D-Will be an All-Star?

The big latest news in the NBA came down last night in the form of Kobe Bryant (what's new)?
The Los Angeles Lakers team doctor found that Bryant has a torn ligament in his right pinkie finger, making his appearance in Sunday's All-Star Game questionable.
Could this be the window of opportunity for Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams, whose deserving All-Star spot was taken by others?
Could happen.
However, he has plenty of competition to fill the spot vacated by Bryant, if Kobe indeed opts to sit out as the doctor and coach Phil Jackson advise. Golden State guard Baron Davis runs the high-energy, shoot-with-no-conscience Warriors offense that currently has them tied for a playoff spot.
Other would-be contenders include another Warrior, Stephen Jackson, Houston's Tracy McGrady, a five-time All-Star, and perhaps the L.A. Clippers' Chris Kaman or New Orleans' Tyson Chandler.
But honestly, we all know who deserves this possible open slot.
The doctor also recommended that Bryant undergo surgery that would keep him out of action for 6-8 weeks, but Kobe is, at the moment, with perhaps the Lakers' chances looking good in the second half with new acquisition Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum soon to return from injury, declining on that option.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' movie coming August 15th!

George Lucas, you seize to amaze.
'Star Wars' is coming back to theaters.
On Aug. 15, 2008, the world will be introduced to an innovative style in filmmaking with 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars.' It will introduce a whole new television series that will premiere in September on the Cartoon Network, and then TNT.
Both the movie and the television series of 'The Clone Wars' is being created through computer-generated images, or 'CGI' technology. The film will be one of the first of its kind to be made entirely by this style, while the TV show will mark the very first of its kind.
A slew of television networks bid highly for the series before the CN and TNT- allies under Warner Bros. entertainment- won out.
Surprisingly, this means that Warner Bros. will be the studio behind the film, rather than 20th Century Fox, who was the studio for the six previous 'Star Wars' films that as two trilogies put together make the most famous film series of all-time.
As a 'Star Wars' fan, I was shocked and amazed by discovering this previously well-kept secret this morning in one of my classes on USAToday.com. I must commend USAToday for being the first news organization to discover this news on starwars.com and release it to the public.
'The Clone Wars' will chronicle the three years of time in between 'Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones' and 'Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith," a time period where the Old Republic fought against an increasingly large group of seceding star systems known as the Confederacy of Independent Systems, led by the evil Sith lord Count Dooku. The Republic learned of a clone army created for them on the watery world of Kamino in Episode II, and used it during the action-packed and story-filled war against the droid armies of the Separatists.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker, who will become the evil Darth Vader, were heroes during this time. Both the film and the show will follow these heroes, who are already among the most famous movie characters of all-time.
There is no doubt that the characters will become even more notorious after they have been additionally explored in this movie and television show.
The Clone Wars era of the expansive and ever-growing 'Star Wars' universe has tantalized fans ever since its very first reference in the original 'Star Wars' film in 1977. Farmboy Luke Skywalker asks old 'Ben' Kenobi about fighting with his father in the Clone Wars. Ben replies that he did indeed, and 'was once a Jedi Knight, the same as your father.'
Creator George Lucas has been directly working with supervising heads Dave Filoni and Catherine Winder over the entire project, including collaborating with them over what makes good storytelling, and making sure that they get the right 'Star Wars' look so that it blends in with the six films.
The 16-person crew, in addition to Lucas, who are working on the project have plenty of source material to draw from, including six Clone Wars novels from Del Rey books and a nine-volume graphic novel series from Dark Horse comics, not to mention the 2-D animated 'Clone Wars' series created and released from 2003-2005.
However, this new movie and series will replace the cartoon as part of the official continuity of the entire 'Star Wars' storyline.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to see neither the film or the show for over two years, since I will be going on an LDS mission in May or June. But that is okay. I will have a lot to look forward to in 2010.

Monday, February 11, 2008



OK, talk about a big game. Well, I will write about it. Utah State (18-6, 8-1), as the current top team in the WAC, plays against Nevada (15-8, 7-3), who are #4 in the league but yet are just 1.5 games behind the Aggies for first place. Just nine days ago, USU defeated the Wolfpack 77-63 in Logan in their best-played game of the season, extending their win streak over Nevada to three dating back to victories over the Top-10 Wolfpack last spring.
Simply put, the Aggies win this game, and the conference is theirs. Lose, and it's up for grabs among five teams- not just the Ags and the Pack, but also Boise State (8-3), New Mexico State (8-3) and also darkhorse Hawaii (6-4).
Quite honestly, it's tough for me too see my beloved Aggies winning tonight. Their winning streak is tentively sitting at three, but it's tough for me to see it getting extended. Nevada is 10-2 at home this year and have won their last two games in the Lawlor Events Center by an average of 29 points, including a 38-point win over San Jose State, whom USU beat by just five two days ago in the mighty Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Pack followed up that victory by clobbering contender Hawaii by 29 on Saturday.
In fact, I'm so down on the Aggies' chances tonight, that if anybody actually reads this post and the Aggies win, then you can comment here below the article, or call me if you have my number, or speak to me if you know me, requesting a candy bar or something, because it's not gonna happen. Nevada is too strong at home to lose. My Aggies are good, but they aren't good enough to turn around from a lackluster win over a bad team with almost no rest and win a game that has already been postponed.
Aggie fans, remember Justin Hawkins' two games against USU this year? After getting shut down in Logan, he lit up the Aggies in Las Cruces for 30 points with nine rebounds as the NewMags very un-gracefully laid a 30-point shellacking onto the northern Aggies 16 days ago.
Well, fellow NBA prospect Marcellus Kemp similarily struggled against USU up here in Cache Valley. I would expect him to respond at his team's home court in a similar way that Hawkins did.
If the Aggies want to have a chance, they cannot get out-rebounded the way they did against the Spartans two nights ago. If somebody told me that a team would get out-rebounded by eight boards and still win, I would say to be unlike DeUndrae Spraggins and get off the pot. Utah State MUST out-rebound Nevada like they did up here if they want to win. That might be difficult considering nine of Wolfpack seven-footer JaVale McGee's 11 rebounds in Logan came on the offensive end. That shouldn't get any better from Utah State's point of view when McGee is playing in front of a friendly crowd.
All right, I'm off, and hoping for a miracle.

Midseason WAC grades for the Aggies

The third in a three-part series analyzing the play of the Utah State basketball team- preseason, halfway point of the entire season, midseason in WAC play, and the final part, after the season ends.

Post players- The '4s' and '5s'
Gary Wilkinson: A-
The Aggies' starting center stepped up his play when the conference battles began, particularly on defense and rebounding the ball. With perhaps the exception of Vanderbilt's Andrew Ogilvy and Utah's Luke Nevill, he has had to face tougher post players in the WAC compared to non-conference games- including Boise State center Matt Nelson, Nevada big man JaVale McGee, and San Jose State pivot C.J. Webster- and has, for the most part, played bigger and rebounded more consistently than before the calendar year rolled around. Webster did own him and his teammates Tai Wesley and Steve DuCharme, but in the other eight games you've got to be happy by the way Wilkinson has stepped up his game on both ends of the floor. His rebounding has increased by nearly two boards a game (4.5 to 6.3) since starting WAC play.
Tai Wesley: B
Tai has continued to be a pleasant surprise for Utah State, especially since moving into the starting role, where since that day USU has gone 13-1. He has had some monster games in conference, starting with a bang against Hawaii with 26 points. In fact, the factor that holds the 21-year-old freshman back the most is himself, since he often suffers from foul trouble. Take the very next game after he dropped 26, for instance, against New Mexico State, where he played just 6 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and finished with just four points. However, he has played well in most of the WAC games, particularly in six of the nine contests when he didn't get into serious foul trouble. Take the Idaho game in Logan, the very night that Jaycee Carroll celebrated the scoring record. Although it was Carroll's night, and he finished with 21 points, Tai scored 23 and simply embarrassed Vandal post Darin Nagle. Consistency really is the key for Tai: against Nevada, he scored 14 points and ripped eight boards, but then followed it up two games later with 13 points but zero rebounds versus SJSU two days ago.
Steve DuCharme: C-
DuCharme has struggled in conference play. He simply hasn't seemed to have the confidence that he had before losing his spot in the starting lineup. Turnovers have been a big issue with DuCharme. Against Nevada Feb. 2, he committed four straight turnovers in the first half when the ball went into his hands. In fact, Tai Wesley has probably passed DuCharme in his abilities as a basketball player. Still, DuCharme plays a pivotal role on the team, playing 20-22 minutes per game despite coming off the bench. In fact, he plays two positions for the Aggies, at power forward alongside Wilkinson or at center with PF Wesley, a true challenge indeed made even more complicated coming off the bench.
Overall: B

Swingmen- The '2s' and '3s'
Jaycee Carroll: A+
There is nothing wrong at all with Jaycee Carroll. In conference play, he has proven that in addition to being able to light it up from three-point land (over 50 percent for the season, best in the nation), he can score in a variety of ways- mid-range, running in the fast break, scoring off offensive rebounds- which he has a great knack of doing- and off the dribble a little bit. That is exactly what the NBA scouts, particularly frequent Spectrum visitor Richard Smith of the Utah Jazz- need to see from him. He is even an average defender now, or as Stew Morrill would put it early in the season, 'adequate.' Though he had slow starts in two of the nine games so far- at home against Boise State and San Jose State- he still finished with stellar games of 29 and 26 points, respectably. In fact, against BSU he turned a slow start into one of the three or four personal best games of the season, hitting six three-pointers in ten attempts in a huge, nail-biting 82-78 win that made coach Morrill the winningest coach in Utah State basketball history. Add in 92-plus percent from the free-throw line (2nd best in the country) and 54 percent from the field, and you have a guy that should be an All-American when the year is over.
Tyler Newbold: B+
The 6-4 Newbold has been a wonderful surprise, usually taking on the defensive assignment against the opponent's best player, whether they be 6-1 or 6-8. Particularly impressive on the defensive side is that he has managed to slow down a couple NBA prospects, completely shutting down 6-7 forward Justin Hawkins (well, at least once in Logan- the game in Las Cruces was a different story), and limiting Nevada swingman Marcellus Kemp, among others. When his team didn't show up to play in that Las Cruces game, at least Newbold had the offensive night of his career with 20 points on efficient outside shooting. Though he is not asked to score, Newbold can hit the 3 with regularity and is a great free-throw shooter at 84 percent. Newbold has shot the majority of these free-throws late in WAC games, as well.
Pooh Williams: C+
The 6-3 small forward has essentially taken DeUndrae Spraggins' spot in the rotation, as the 20-year-old freshman has been in the regular rotation four out of the last five games- and the one game he wasn't was when he was suspended for partying at Louisiana Tech. He has helped Newbold slow some of the conference's better perimeter players, even players who may have three or four inches on Williams. This includes SJSU's small forward Tim Pierce on Saturday. While the Aggies as a whole did not play well, Williams was a large part in the 6-7 senior going just 5-14 from the field and tiring him on offense to the point that he got too fatigued to chase around Jaycee Carroll effectively while playing defense. Williams needs to get more comfortable shooting outside when he gets the rare opportunity.
DeUndrae Spraggins: C
Spraggins has been replaced in the lineup by Pooh. While a solid perimeter defender who deserves credit for his work the first five games of WAC season, for whatever reason he can no longer crack the rotation in his first year with the Aggies- though he is a junior.
Overall: A-

Point Guard- The '1s'
Kris Clark: A
Clark has maintained his place as a member of the top tier of point guards the league has to offer, along with Fresno State's Kevin Bell and NMSU's rather plump Fred Peete. He leads the conference in assists per game (6.2) and assists-to-turnover ratio for the second straight season. He finds his teammates in all the right places for scores, especially Jaycee outside on cuts and also Wilkinson on cross-screens underneath. While not a great shooter, his jump shot is improved from last season and even non-conference play this year, and has a really good ability of finding teammates in tight spots on a fast break.
Desmond Stephens: B
Stephens has improved during WAC battles compared to an up-and-down November and December. For the most part, he has been able to hold down the fort while Clark is on the bench, playing 10-12 minutes per game. He just can't get suspended any more and put the team, who only runs a two-point guard rotation, in an uncomfortable situation.
Overall: B+

Team: B+

The improved play at point guard has made the biggest difference in the Aggies' play through the WAC so far- at 8-1 and in first place. The play of three freshman in the eight-man rotation, including two in the starting lineup, cannot be overlooked either, nor can the astounding play of Carroll. Utah State has just gelled better over the course of the season. However, they have played six home games and just three road games in conference, and now face a stretch of playing three straight road games in eight days. USU just needs to play the way they did against Nevada, New Mexico State, and at Fresno, their three best WAC performances among their eight victories, and among their five or six best-played games of the season, and they will have a shot at the end of every game.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

USU on top of league, winners of three straight

Following a 100-70 debacle at the hands of New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M., the Aggies have turned things around the last two weeks to remain #1 in the WAC. Utah State faced Nevada a week later at home, and turned in perhaps their best performance of the season in defeating the Wolfpack 77-63 in a game that the Aggies controlled from start to finish. USU took a 13-2 lead three minutes into the game, and never looked back.
Keep in mind that this Wolfpack bunch lay claim to the WAC championship four years in a row. No, they no longer have Nick Fazekas, now a member of the Dallas Mavericks organization, or Ramon Sessions, but they do have NBA prospect Marcellus Kemp and a fine freshman point guard in Armon Johnson, who commits several turnovers a game (4.2) but often delivers the ball in good places for his teammates and already knows how to score at the Div. 1 level.
In addition, seven-foot sophomore center JaVale McGee is averaging 13 points and eight rebounds per game this season, and in a couple of years, if not next year, will be as good as Fazekas. He may not have the outside touch that Fazekas did, but is already just as good if not better at offensive rebounding.
OK, enough drooling about the Wolfpack. The point is, they are a fine team, and Utah State completely took them out of what they wanted to do. In fact, they outrebounded the bigger Pack, and thanks to primarily Tyler Newbold but also Pooh Williams, held Kemp to 15 points (nearly five below his average) on 6-15 shooting, including 1-5 from three-point land.
Coach Stew said that Gary Wilkinson "played his best game as an Aggie" in scoring 21 points and nabbing 13 rebounds. USU desperately needed that type of rebounding game from Gary, particularly going against McGee.
The Aggies followed this game up with a 77-72 road victory over Fresno State this past Thursday. USU built a 22-point lead in the first half, only to see the lead slip to 3 in the final minute before holding on for the win.
Yeah, they lead a big lead get away, but you can't complain too much about a road victory, especially considering the Ags' last road outing and their 3-6 record away from the Spectrum coming into the game. It is worth noting that Jaycee shot 6-9 from three-point range in the contest, and totalled 22 points. Gary also scored 16 points and grabbed seven boards and along with Tai and DuCharme slowed down the Bulldogs' Hector Hernandez, a power forward who can also shoot from the outside.
Finally, yesterday's game. Simply put, it wasn't the sharpest game of the year for the Aggies. Hey, it was a win though. Utah State put away San Jose State 78-73 in a game that the Spartans forced to the wire. You gotta give SJSU credit for the work that they did in defending Jaycee for most of the first half, however. 6-7 forward Tim Pierce received the defensive assignment on the 6-2 Carroll, and used his length and fairly decent speed to hold Jaycee to just 3 points with 3 minutes to play in the first half. At that point, the Spartans actually held a 27-23 lead on the Aggies. However, Carroll began to get more creative in finding decent looks, and was at 10 points on the night by the time a 32-all halftime rolled around.
Finally, USU began to break away from the 10-13 Spartans after intermission, and held a 50-40 lead eight minutes into the half. In fact, the lead got up to 62-47 following a DuCharme free throw with 8:03 to go in the game.
It just occurred to me, the Spartans outscored the Ags 26-14 the rest of the way? That's no good. Good thing SJSU sent the Aggies to the line a lot from that point on- Utah State went 18-22 from the line from there with just one field goal during that time.
Happy to say that Jaycee got going, though. He came out with a lot more energy and aggression in the second half and wound up with 26 points on 8-16 shooting. He had 11 rebounds too! He's only 6-2, and the Spartans played four players who were 6-8 or taller! That's impressive.
Gary scored 15 and grabbed eight boards, and Tai scored 13, but didn't grab a rebound. Hmmm. That's really surprising, especially considering how physical Tai plays.
Every Aggie played pretty well, except for DuCharme, who went 1-6 from the floor and badly missed two three-pointers. It has been interesting but kind of sad to see him struggle in recent games.
SJSU outrebounded USU 47-39. This is a stat that makes it quite remarkable that the Ags actually got this game in the bag. It isn't very often that you win when you get out-boarded by 8. That's simply an attribute to the Magic of the Spectrum. Good job, students.
The win was not perfect, but in conference play, you sure gotta take it. In fact, the Aggies must forget about it since they will have a load to deal with tomorrow at Reno in playing Nevada again, as the game was postponed from mid-January when snow conditions were so bad in Reno that the Aggies wouldn't have been able to make a safe flight into the Biggest Little City in the World.