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May 21, 2012

Ketch's 10 Thoughts From The Weekend

Here we go again.

If year-three of conference re-alignment was made into a movie, it might be called Big 12 Missile Crisis III: The Empire Expands. Of course, it's beyond ironic that we sit here in the middle of May finding the Big 12 face-deep in this story again, except from a position of extreme power.

The conference that gave us in-fighting, divorce, bitterness, lawsuits, the real Dan Beebe and @fakeDanBeebe suddenly looks very different. It's as if the Big 12 went to bed last night as Louis Skolnick and woke up as Rusty Ryan.

Between Florida State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Miami and seemingly a half-dozen other schools all apparently lining up to be the Big 12's huckleberry, there's a lot to process in apparently a short amount of time. But, that's the world we live in right now … the Big 12 has the juice to do a lot of things and the decisions that will be made this summer and potentially a few summers hereafter will determine exactly what kind of conference we're going to see heading into the teeth of this new century.

There's a great scene in The Social Network when Sean Parker is talking to Eduardo Saverin and the following exchange takes place:

Sean Parker: You don't even know what the thing is yet. How big it can get, how far it can go. This is no time to take your chips down. A million dollars isn't cool, you know what's cool?
Eduardo Saverin: [Sarcastically] You?
Sean Parker: A billion dollars.

Boom. That's what this is for the Big 12, it's the launch of Facebook. Just how daring do the decision-makers want to be? How competitive do they want to make things? How much are they willing to share? Are they willing to get a little blood on their shirts? Are they willing to go to a place that you just know Mike Slive will be willing to go?

The role that the University of Texas plays in this unfolding story might be the most fascinating aspect of this entire tale. Texas likes the 10-team league. Texas likes the easier path to a potential national title game that exists with 10 teams. Texas likes a conference where it's one of two alpha dog programs and the center of all things.

Texas has also already made quite a few concessions in helping create this new league and now the league has a chance to build a true super power conference, and perhaps one that can compete for the title of No. 1 with the SEC. Of all the people that likely want this to happen, I can't image that those on the 40 Acres are at the front of the line.

Every new school admitted into the conference means that a new voice is added, and every new voice has a set of needs that it cares about, and every new voice with all of those needs is supposed to have an equal say in a true conference partnership. Having 12 teams potentially waters down UT's strength of power. Having 14 teams waters it down even more.

My guess is that DeLoss Dodds and the powers that be at Texas have an open, but cautious mind moving forward and collectively they'll stress walking to the resolution rather than running to it. The world is already their oyster and creating a conference in a vision of making it bigger, tougher and more respectable might not be their natural play.

The truth of the matter is that this deal with the SEC ensures the Big 12 that it doesn't ever have to do anything if it doesn't want to. The money is there, as is the credibility.

At the end of the day, the people at Texas have to ask themselves whether they think the billion-dollar dream is a dream worth having. Is DeLoss ready to ask himself the question?

WWSPD?

No. 2 - Scattershooting on the world of Longhorn football…

… Just in case anyone had forgotten or was wondering, I'm absolutely in favor of pushing the envelope on expansion and building a conference that can truly compete with the scope of the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 10. Eventually, the Big 12 has to view itself in a 2030 light and not one in 2012. As college athletics continue to evolve into financial-monsters, things like adding TV sets, recruiting bases, prestige and glory matter. I think a billion dollars is very cool.

… Give me Florida State in a second, but I'm pausing a little on Clemson. Even if Virginia Tech and NC State are off the grid and potentially heading for the SEC, I'm not sure that Death Valley is the absolute right choice for a 12th team. Don't get me wrong, Clemson would be a fine choice and addition to the league, but what in the hell has it done in the last 30 years that would make anyone rush to add the Tigers to the league? Personally, I think the aimed play should be directed at Georgia Tech. Having connections to the state of Georgia and the heart of the South would be an important annexation point for the league.

… Also, I think a conversation can be had that Louisville is right there with Clemson in the next tier of quality that is available. For the record, in a recent USA Today article showcasing NCAA finances , Louisville generated and spent 20 million more than Clemson from 2006-11. I'm on the fence with the No. 12 possibilities.

… One stat you'd like to change about the Longhorns from 2011 to 2012 is sacks recorded and sacks allowed, as the Longhorns recorded one more sack on defense (29) than they allowed (28) on the offensive side of the ball. The 2008 team had a ratio of 1.8:1, while the 2009 team posted a 1.5:1 mark (2.1:1 if you take out the Nebraska game). Believe it or not, this number is more about the defense than it is the offense.

… From the department of "I know you didn't know this": The Longhorns are trying to replace two 100-tackle linebackers from the 2011 defense and one of the players projected to fill the void is sophomore Steve Edmond, who recorded 16 tackles as a freshman. If he were to record 116 or more tackles in 2012, he's become the first player to make a 100+ tackle increase from one season to the next since Winfred Tubbs went from 35 tackles in 1990 to 157 in 1992 (he missed the 1991 season to injury). Reed Boyd almost pulled it off in 2001-2002 when he went from 24 to 123.

… The last freshman to record 100 tackles in a season was Aaron Humphrey in 1996.

… Per Mack's site, the following former and current players earned degrees this spring: Jamison Berryhill, Mark Buchanan, John Paul Floyd, Garrett Gilbert, Ian Harris, Jeremy Hills, Ahmard Howard, Blaine Irby, Ryan Roberson, Foswhitt Whittaker, and Michael Wilcoxon. Congrats to all of those guys for finishing the deal.

… Speaking of Mack's site, check out Bryan Harsin's quarterback school

… 103 days and some change until the season opener against Wyoming.

No. 3 - The Good, Bad and the That Can't Happen from the Waco and the Disch …

The Good: Hey, the Longhorns got themselves a win against the best team in the Big 12 and given the way the first two games of the series played out, you have to chalk that up as a win. In a season short of highlights, Saturday's game has to count for something. Mark Peyton was five of seven in the final two games of the series. Corey Knebel, John Curtis and Hoby Milner played a strong brand of baseball.

The Bad: Brooks Marlow was 0 for 10, Jordan Etier was 1 of 10, Tim Maitland was 1 for 9, Erich Weiss was 2 for 10 and Jacob Felts was 2 for 12.

That's Can't Happen: The Longhorns were outscored 20-5 in the first two games of this series and never looked or felt further from the top of the college baseball landscape. Friday starter Dillon Peters lasted 1.2 innings and his replacement Nathan Thornhill got pounded (six runs and 75 pitches in 3.1 innings).

No. 4 - MLB randomness…

… Do what? Mark Ellis almost lost his leg this weekend and he'll be back in action in six weeks.

… Monday will be eight days since Josh Hamilton hit a home run. What's up with that?

… Stat of the day: The Texas Rangers currently have a +84 run differential. The American League East has four teams above .500 currently (Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Toronto and New York) that combine for a +82 run differential.

… A day after Phillip Humber threw a perfect game, I bemused that the Pirates and Phillies might be worth a couple of no-hitters/perfect before this season ends because of their listless offenses. Well, the first no-hitter from those two teams nearly occurred this weekend when the Pirates faced off against Justin Verlander. Seriously, we all should have been on high-alert for that one.

… Verlander is kind of good.

… Remember when A-Rod was juicing back in the day and was the best player on the planet? Now he's just a guy with the same amount of home runs as 87-year old … er … 37-year old Derek Jeter.

… The Cardinals sure have come back down to earth.

… Catch of the weekend: Ryan Sweeney saves Boston's bacon with this catch

… DVR Alert: Yu Darvish vs. Felix Hernandez on Monday night.

… Albert Watch: (STOCK UP!) .212/.257/.315 (1 HR) (last week: .197/.236/.277)

… Jonathan Singleton Watch: .293/.407/.493 (last 10: .263/.378/.368)

No. 5 - Thoughts on The Association (Western Conference Variety)…

(Note: I'm turning this in before the end of game four of the San Antonio/Los Angeles series under the belief that there's nothing the Clippers can do to beat the Spurs short of the Staples Center condensation wiping out half of the Spurs).

… There's nothing left to say about the Spurs until they face a big-boy NBA playoff opponent. At this point, they look like the best team in the league, but let's not crown them just yet because they've taken the Jazz and Clippers to school the last few weeks. There are about six levels that separate the Spurs from the competition they've seen thus far.

… The Spurs caught a break in not facing Memphis. The Grizz might not have taken the Spurs beyond five games, but they would have taken corn starch out of those legs with a real fight in the second round. The Clippers are simply out of gas and Chris Paul is a shell of himself.

… One of the interesting things about a Spurs/Thunder match-up is that San Antonio has been able to face off with teams with major talent deficiencies compared to them. With an injured Paul in this round, you can make a case that the Spurs have the three best players in this series, but that changes against the Thunder. If we were to rank the top 10 players in a San Antonio/OKC match-up, doesn't it look a little like this?: 1. KD 2. Westbrook 3. Parker 4. Hardin 5. Duncan 6. Ginobli 7. Ibaka 8. Leonard 9. Green 10. Sefalosha. The Thunder have three of the four best players in the series and that's quite different than the challenges the Spurs have faced thus far.

… That said, I'd still take the Spurs in seven games if forced to pick a winner right this second.

… The title belt in the NBA that belongs to "the best closer in the game" was officially handed over this weekend from Kobe Bryant to Kevin Durant. For the third time in eight games this post-season, Durant found the ball in his hands in the closing seconds of a game with his team trailing or tied and for the third time in eight games, he hit the game-winning shot. The three-point bomb he hit on Saturday night was perhaps the new No. 1 signature moment of his entire career, as drilling that shot to pull the Thunder through the final stages of a comeback win will likely ensure that his team advances to the conference finals for the second consecutive season. The title of "world's best player" still belongs to LeBron, but there can be little question that Durant is the guy you want with the ball in the closing seconds.

… Durant is so good in those now or never moments that he's taken for granted in that department. If LeBron makes any of those three game-winning shots, the world would have spun off its axis.

… Speaking of being taken for granted, how about a little love for Durant's defense? Starting with the conference semi-finals match-up from 2010, Durant has emerged as the best defender of Kobe Bryant in the world. He doesn't always get the green light to go take on the challenge, but when he does, he's incredibly effective. In the fourth quarter of Saturday's win, he swallowed Kobe up with his combination of length and athleticism.

… Little by little, Durant is moving up in the hierarchy of current NBA players. While he was not able to snag his first MVP away from LeBron this season, there seems to be little question about where the line forms for the No. 2 sport and after what we've seen early on in these NBA playoffs, Durant is closing ground in a hurry. If he can lead the Thunder to a title this season, there's going to be a lot of discussion that he'll have officially surpassed LeBron.

… I've championed Russell Westbrook for years as a special, special talent/player and I'm ready to take my comments to the next level. I think you can make a case that right now Westbrook is performing like the No. 3 player in the world. His stats in four games against the Lakers? Try 25 PPG, 6 RPG, 4.8 APG, 0.8 TOPG, 48.9% FG% and 85.2 FT%. You tell me the guy in these playoffs not named LeBron or Durant that is playing better.

… I blame Kobe Bryant for the Lakers' loss on Saturday. I thought he played a little too much hero ball in the fourth quarter, especially when Durant moved in on him. The shots got tougher and tougher and tougher, and while he hit a few that broke the law of physics, his offensive efficiency in clutch time was brutal. At least half of his volume of touches should have been in the hands of Andrew Bynum.

… On a night when James Harden shot 2 of 11 from the field, he was still +8 in +/- in 33 minutes. Only one player posted a worse +/- in Saturday's game than Derek Fisher (-10) and that was Kobe (-9).

… Kendrick Perkins is playing one hell of a blood and guts series with that injured hip. His offensive ability and athletic lift are what they are, but his brand of toughness is exactly what this team needed when he was acquired last season. That defensive rebound with the score tied at 96-96 and then his put-back of a missed Westbrook shot to give the team a 98-96 lead were as huge of plays as he's going to make.

… I don't know what to make of the Lakers. Don't know what to make of Pau Gasol. I don't know what to make with Kobe calling out Gasol … again. I don't know what to make of Andrew Bynum pretty much all the time, but especially after he played hacky sack with the basketball under the basket after Kevin Durant hit the game-winning three on Saturday.

… How sick would the Lakers have been with Chris Paul? David Stern really screwed them.

… Tony Parker vs. Russell Westbrook. I can't wait.

No. 6 - Thoughts on The Association (Eastern Conference Variety)…

… Say what you want about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, but that was a man's performance they gave on Sunday in evening their series with Indiana at 2-2. LeBron James' 40-point/18 rebounds/9 assists represented the type of performance that statistically hasn't been seen in the league for 25 years. No, he hasn't won anything yet, but goodness gracious, I dare you to find an individual performance on both ends of the floor as complete as the one we saw in game four.

… I guess that D-Wade fella isn't done just yet.

… LeBron looked physically exhausted after playing 44 minutes. Is he going to have enough left in the tank to finish the deal?

… Udonis Haslem was the closer down the stretch for the Heat and they probably don't win without his 5 for 6 performance from the field. That's how thin Miami's margin is on a night when their two superstars are other-worldly.

… How in the world did Darren Collison play only 20 minutes when he was 6 of 7 from the floor and 4 of 6 from downtown? Instead Frank Vogel rode Paul George and George Hill for a combined 66 minutes and watched them shoot 6 of 20 collectively. Nice work, Frank.

… I'm glad Tyler Hansbrough doesn't play on my basketball team. Two travels and one rebound in 14 minutes. Ugh.

… I like Danny Granger's attitude, even if it might be fake. But, if you're going to be that guy, you better be prepared to get taken to the shed and he was taken to the shed on Sunday.

… My Sixers are flawed in many ways, but goodness gracious that is one tough, resilient basketball team. Regardless of whatever happens in the next two or three games of this series against the Celtics, I'm proud of the way they've gutted their way deep into the conference semi-finals as the eight-seed. Like Oklahoma City, there's a lot of youth on this Sixers roster and they are learning a lot about life in the NBA playoffs this season. One of these days, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner will need to emerge as true stars for this franchise to take the next step and if they ever get there, we'll look at the lessons from this post-season as a starting point for both.

… The Celtics are their own worst enemy. This series should probably be 3-1 in favor of the Sixers right now and they are not the better team in this series. They should beat the Sixers with relative ease on Monday, but the longer they keep messing around with Doug Collins' team, the more potential trouble they create for themselves. I believe the Sixers can with this series. I don't think they will, but they can. In seven combined regular-season and playoff games against each other, the Sixers have won four.

… I was really proud and happy for Andre Iguodala on Friday night. To say he's been an embattled player in Philly is an understatement, and the biggest knock against him is that he's not good in the clutch. Knocking down those fourth quarter shots on Friday, including game-winner was a career-high moment for him.

… Evan Turner isn't nearly as good as he thinks he is … not yet … but I love his moxie. He needs to do nothing in the off-season but work on his game from 10-21 feet.

No. 7 - They said what?…

A look at the 10 most memorable Tweets from the last week on my timeline.

1. "OH MY.... OH MY GAWD, THAT'S ERIK SPOELSTRA'S MUSIC!"
@HPbasketball (Matt Moore, NBA Blogger with CBBSSports.com, A classic WWE "J.R. Reference" in the final seconds of game two between the Thunder/Lakers when Steve Blake took the final shot of the game.)

2. "This girl is playing patty cake.......with the wall......then she moved to the marker board......."
@tyroneswoopes1 (Tyrone Swoopes with a random in-class comment)

3. "Don't blame me, I voted for Joffrey" - cool new Game Of Thrones bumper sticker idea I just quit twitter with
@Brandamonium (comedian)

The "Don't Mess With These Girls Or Else!" Division

4. A. "To the guy that just texted me 'Im only here fr 3 mo days r we gnna hang & sex or not?' I hope a homeless man shits on your face."
‏@MelissaStetten (A better NYC blogger than Carrie Bradshaw could ever be)

B. "White trashy coworker is talking about her white trashy Mother's Day on which she & her white trashy daughter got white trashy rose tattoos."
@OhNoSheTwitnt (Part-Jewish/Part-Italian Khaleesi)

C. "Some days I wanna put on an orange vest, white gloves, and a whistle and stand in the middle of an intersection and fuck things up."
@mollymcnearney (co-head writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live)

D. "If I make you a mixtape you better know I mean f***ing business."
‏@MelissaStetten (A two-time winner from NYC this week. She could have had her own top 10.)

"In-game NBA Playoff"

5. A. "Lebron James went South, His hairline went North, His mom went West."
@RileyFreemann (Parody account)

B. "Granger reminds me of that Finnegan dude....selling all those wolf tickets ON the court, doing extra...but ain't really bout that life..."
@DonteStallworth (NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth)

C. "Is anyone else starting to wonder if Delonte West slept with D Wade's mom too?"
@getnickwright (KC radio host, who will soon be working in Houston)

6. "I'm not one for stereotypes, but Black people are WAY better at cheering for their kids at graduation than White people. Just a fact."
@getnickwright (KC radio host, who will soon be working in Houston)

7. "Isn't Florida State a bit wide right for the Big XII anyway?"
@steakNstiffarms (Foxsports blogger)

8. "Just bought my shares in MySpace, excited for the future."
@ByCasagrande (Alabama Beat Writer for The DeCatur Daily)

9. "(630): I knew it would get worse when I said I think your roommate is watching and he looked over at him and said ... So?"
@TFLN (Texts From Last Night)

10. "I bet Taylor Swift does that #TSwiftSurpriseFace when she flicks a switch & a light comes on. Or when she turns the key & the car starts."
@RembertManX (Grantland.com writer during the Billboard Music Awards)

No. 8 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.…

… Battleship sinks at the box office. I can't believe you guys didn't run out to see Rihanna on a boat.

… Movie Trailer of the week: Tom Arnold's victorious return to our attention

… WTF Headline of the weekend: Will Smith slapped a reporter who tried to kiss him on the lips

… Who dresses like this in the real world?: Rihanna in see-through.

… DECLARATION: You can't take Pamela Anderson with you anywhere, apparently .

… She's back…. In Playboy: Jenny McCarthy entering cougardom with honors? . She'll be 40 in November.

American Idol Power Rankings: 1. Jessica 2. Phillip. WGWG will prevail. (I might not watch with Joshua voted off … ok … I'll likely watch … who am I kidding?)

No. 9 -The List: Chuck Brown

Every once in a while, events will dictate the direction my music project for the week takes and that was certainly the case this week, as I was halfway into my Hank Williams Sr. project when the "Godfather of Go-go" passed away on Wednesday, which happened to be my birthday.

While I was aware of Brown, I can't say that I've ever been a connoisseur of his music, but when the following tweet made its way to my Twitter timeline on Wednesday night, I knew that I needed to dive head-first into Brown's music for the next four days in an effort to create a quality list:

"@marionbarryjr: Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, could rock DC like Chuck. Nobody."

That intrigued me. Therefore, I can't say that this is the authoritative list of Brown's music, but since I couldn't find anyone online that had a list, it's about time someone stepped up and paid some respect.

9. You Don't Know Me (with Eva Cassidy)
8. One on One
7. No Diggity
6. Fever (with Eva Cassidy)
5. Drown in my own Tears (with Eva Cassidy)
4. we Need Some Money
3. Back it on Up
2. We are the People
1. Bustin' Loose

P.S… His album collaborative album with Eva Cassidy from 1995 called The Other Side is nothing short of a masterpiece, even if it's not from the genre that made him famous.

Coming up soon: Prince, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Stevie Nicks and Hank Williams Sr.

Previous Lists: 2-Pac, Beastie Boys, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Jeff Buckley, Cartoon themes, Eva Cassidy,Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, HBO Shows, Whitney Houston, Kool and the Gang, Metallica, George Michael, Mo-Town, Bill Murray, Queen, Scarface, Sexiest Women of All-Time, Gary Stewart , George Strait, TV Themes, Stevie Ray Vaughan

No. 10 - And finally…

As far as horse racing is concerned, I'll Have Another is worth the price of admission. After yet another come-from-behind win in the Preakness on Saturday, I'm left with three final thoughts…

a. I'm in for the Belmont to say the least.
b. A Disney movie could be in the making if there's any kind of backstory worth telling.
c. I fully expect Bodemeister to pull a Tonya Harding on I'll Have Another in the days leading up to the Belmont. Talk about stolen glory.


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