The Madness Continues

I suppose the two basketball games today were decided the only way they could be, with both underdogs continuing on (well, assuming you can really call Kentucky an underdog, regardless of relative rankings/seedings).

Congratulations to VCU, and especially to their coach, Shaka Smart, who definitely outmaneuvered Kansas. Actually, that was really surprising; Kansas started out playing really well, with some beautiful passing. That led me to believe that VCU was going to be sunk, and badly, but they came back pretty quickly. And they showed good defense with a lot of threes in the first half to take a hefty lead at the half. Kansas managed to cut it down to, I think, a two-point deficit at one point, but that was the closest they got.

And congratulations to Kentucky as well. Their win assured that the final four won't include any #1 or #2 seeds. It's only the third time no top seeds have made it, but I'd be shocked if either of the two previous times didn't include any two seeds as well.

Oh, and a small correction to my previous mention of the tournament. I was sure I remembered GMU being a 12 seed, but it was pointed out today that they were also an eleven seed.


Alas, RPI, It Was Not To Be

I got my undergraduate degree at RPI (Div III for all sports except hockey, hence my general lack of caring about who wins in the NCAA basketball tournament). Because of hockey being the only Div I sport, that's almost entirely the only one people care about.

The one exception to that is football, a few years ago. For a couple of years, RPI made noise in the Div III football rankings, even getting to the national championship game one year.

When I went to RPI, we had Joe Juneau and several other very good players for my freshman year. That was a really wild year; defense entirely optional. I remember one of the games against Harvard that year was 9-8, and I don't remember that being especially atypical. But I don't remember them being especially successful that year (though I didn't follow the team particularly closely that year, despite already being a hockey fan from following the Caps for years; I blame that on ROTC).

And I think I remember the year after that being really miserable, leading to a coaching change.

The remaining several years were very good for the school, with regular rankings in the national Top Ten. But we never really made it over the hump, wiping out early in the ECAC tournament each year, and never getting an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

Incidentally, I believe the only player off of those teams to make the NHL was Neil Little, our awesome goalie. Well, awesome by NCAA standards. Obviously, he was only marginally replacement level in the NHL. Actually, I'm shocked he only played those two games, because that means it's a total fluke that I even heard about him playing.

Since then, the team has been downright miserable. I don't believe they've had a winning season from my graduation until this season.

All of which is a very roundabout way of leading up to this year. They didn't start all that well, but got on quite a roll in the middle. They even knocked off then-#1 Yale. I believe they peaked at #6. But the last couple of weeks were bad and the ECAC tournament was worse. And yet, they somehow got an at-large bid to the main tournament. I was hoping they would manage to turn things around a bit.

I got home from an ultimate frisbee game, and turned on the video for the game. Two-nil already, in favor of North Dakota. Ugh. I think I watched about ten minutes, which was enough to see two more goals scored. At that point, I'd had enough. Four-nil close to the end of the second period, if you aren't a better team who's been very unlucky, is damned near hopeless. What did I end up missing? Two more goals for the Fighting Sioux. Double-ugh.

So congrats on a fine season, RPI. But I'm very disappointed about the finish. I hope things can improve next year.

Quite a Tournament

The NCAA, despite my general contempt for them, has quite a basketball tournament going on at the moment. There have been quite a number of upsets, and there haven't been all that many blow-outs. Every game of which I've watched a chunk (except the Arizona-Duke and George Mason-Ohio State games, of which I only saw a few minutes out of the first half) has been a real nailbiter, with some really wild finishes.

In fact, Butler has now had three wild finishes (the first two of which they really didn't deserve to win) in their four games. Three of the top seeds are gone, with the fourth playing their fourth game tomorrow.

One region had the 10, 11, 12, and 13 seeds all advance out of the first round, and winning a combined eight games (with VCU playing for a chance at the final four tomorrow). The one downside of that is that it has led to probably the easiest tournament ever for a #1, with Kansas playing #16, #9, #12, and #11. In fact, I'm now looking at the bracket to check on those; I had missed Notre Dame and Purdue getting knocked off by those guys.

Anyway, as one who mostly just roots for the underdog, that's pretty darned cool.

Hmm... the Elite Eight consists of a 1, 2-2s, a 3, 4, 5, 8, and 11 seeds. That's quite a mix. Disappointed that we won't get another 12-seed in the final four, a la George Mason's run five years ago, but we could still get pretty close.

What else? Well, only one region went without an upset in the first round, although that one had one upset in the second round, and both games were upsets in the third round. Three of the four eleven seeds advanced past the first, and two of them went past the second, as well.

The one thing I can't figure out is why two of the play-in games were where they were. That is, how do you end up with a play-in game for an eleventh or twelfth seed? That just doesn't make any sense. They didn't mind doing it, though, obviously.

Thinking about it, I wonder how pissed the NIT organizers were about that (the three additional teams in the NCAA tournament, that is). The NIT used to be the tournament that people followed, back when you had to win your conference to make it into the NCAA tournament. Now? Nobody really even cares about the NIT. I can't imagine that it makes a significant amount of money.


A Frozen Moment

I found myself with a little time to kill, this evening, and started browsing around free streams at Amazon. I ran across Cashback, which sounded very weird and interesting.

And it was. It's about a young man, still in art school, who breaks up with his girlfriend and develops terrible insomnia. After reading a lot of books, he finally decides to get a night shift job at the nearby grocery store.

His way of avoiding watching the clock involves imagining the people around him being frozen in time, and him painting them. It is a little weird, as he does some things that really can't be done unless he actually is freezing time, but I think that's just his imagining them happening.

In any event, he eventually realizes he's interested in the cashier at the store there. But, of course, as soon as things start going well there, his ex-girlfriend shows up.

But that's really just the bare bones of the story. The movie is very introspective, and spends a lot of time figuring out how he got to where he is. I must say, his introspections were much more interesting than any I ever did after a break-up.

The way the story is told is very... slow, I suppose, but without being methodical. In fact, much of what is told seems very random.

I'm not sure what else to say about it, but it did feel very artful. And it really felt like an unfolding, rather than a linear telling. It reminds me a little bit of Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express. I'm not sure why, exactly... It's kind of a "stop and smell the roses" kind of vibe, I guess. Maybe it's just the way both slow things down from time to time. I quite like both, although I will say that I think Chungking Express is much better (but that's one of my favorite movies, so it's hardly a slight against Cashback).

Hmm... I haven't watched CKE in a long time; must remedy that. Must see how the Blu-ray looks (since I have it).


No-IBB seasons

I was just reading Joe Posnanski's post about batters who were never walked intentionally. I can't comment on his page (something to do with noscript, I think; I just can't get the iframe in which comments are taken to show up), so I thought I'd mention it here.

I think an interesting way to look at this would be to go to baseball reference's play index and search for player seasons with 0IBB, and sort by OPS+ (or maybe wRC+ or wOBA, if those are available; I haven't looked in a while). Maybe one of these days I'll go pay for access to PI; it's definitely very cool.

Caps on the Run

I haven't been finding much time lately to blog about the caps; I keep having other things to do when I finish watching the games. But I have been watching them.

Since my last post, in fact, I've watched most of every game except the Tampa one (they aren't playing on a glacier floating on the water, so I'm not adding Bay to their name). I missed chunks of the Panthers game due to power outages (four of them, in fact), and two chunks of the Montreal game. The first five minutes or so, I missed because of installing a UPS to prevent power outage problems, and the last period because of working on my theater (hoping to finish that tonight or tomorrow night).

But I have really liked what I've seen up to the Montreal game. They're still allowing the other team to score first too much, but not getting behind by multiple goals. The effort has been there consistently. And the results of the deadline trades are quite good.

I'm going to detour a little bit here, in fact, and talk about those acquisitions. Arnott has been great; he's been productive, and, anecdotally, seems to be helping the team motivation. Wideman's also been awesome; the trade for him seems like a steal, now. And I was worried that he would have a transition like Hannan's; thank goodness I was totally offbase about that concern. The two of them together have also been great for the power play. OV's getting a lot more room with those two at the points. Sturm hasn't really produced, but he's still been good in terms of generating chances. The production will come, I'm sure.

And further, I really liked the lines that Bruce put together with everyone. Well, until Arnott and Backstrom got hurt, anyway. Laich is not a top-line center. Heck, he isn't a second-line center.

Getting to Montreal, more specifically, the team looked really good. They were keeping the puck in the offensive zone, and keeping the pressure on Price. In fact, without an outstanding game by Price, the Caps win by five. Like last game, Holtby was good, but probably not as good as his save percentage would indicate. Laich, I thought, was merely ok, although that was a great move where he scored the goal. I think Chimmer should start being a healthy scratch, regularly; maybe call up Perreault to replace him. Perreault at least generates more chances. Of course, Fehr apparently hurting himself again in that game makes that a bit tougher.

MarJo continued to play like a top-line player. He's been good enough, of late, that last night seemed a bit like a coming-out party for him. His face-offs have been bad, though not disastrous, so that's a step in the right direction. But he's doing a much better job of using his speed, and distributing the puck. He's even looking better on the boards. In fact, my only two criticisms of his play of late are the face-offs (as I said, improving, but still needing quite a bit of work) and that he doesn't look to shoot if OV's on the ice (no doubt, OV has a better shot, so that's the percentage play, but he needs to shoot occasionally to keep the defense honest). Neither of those are major problems; I'm definitely looking forward to this kid being around for a while.

Moving on to the Detroit game, I didn't have a good feeling about that one even before it started. Against Detroit, in Detroit, and the tail end of back-to-back games. Hearing the scratches did not improve my leading impression. And my feelings were pretty much born out; the Caps were pretty seriously outplayed. In fact, they could have easily been shut out, if Howard had been on his game. The skaters outplayed the Caps that much. But, given the Caps situation (particularly injuries), and that they managed to keep the game close, I wasn't terribly upset. And thank goodness Neuvy was in goal; Holtby definitely needed the rest.

Tonight in NJ was kind of similar to the Detroit game, especially early on. The Caps were badly outplayed for much of the game, but managed to capitalize on their few chances. The third goal really took the wind out of the Devils' sails; I wouldn't go so far as to say they folded at that point, but they weren't far off. Neuvy had a fabulous game; without him being so sharp, the score could have easily been 3-0 in the other direction. Carlson and Knuble also had very good games, especially Carlson. Backstrom looked like he is still hurt, and shouldn't play the next game. He looked good, compared to an average NHL player, but way off his normal game. I applaud the decision to keep him on the second line for the game. It was weird, but the right decision.

Oh, and I almost forgot to note the irony with both Steckel and Arnott being held out of this game with injuries.

Other than that, not a whole lot to say. The team trajectory looks very good (other than this being a brutal road trip). The main concern, looking forward, is player health. Backstrom and Green, especially, need to be 100% for the playoffs, and should rest until they're completely healthy.


Monotonous Thoughts

So, I've been putting together this theater for the last couple of months. Well, to be fair, a remodeling company did the large work (framing, paint, carpeting, power-level wiring, conduit for other wiring, some sound-proofing), and I did the littler pieces.

I've used/known about monoprice for several years, mostly for wiring. But in putting this theater together, I've been finding more and more stuff that they carry. In this case, I got rack-mount UPS's, projector mount, wall plates for a variety of recepticles, plus a boat-load of cables, convertors, and connectors from them.

The UPS's and projector mount were the big surprises in the last week. And I should point out that the projector mount is, literally, 1/10th the cost of the other mounts I was considering.

These guys are great.


UPS (What can brownout do for you?)

This weekend, the power decided to get a bit wonky when it was raining. It ended up going off five times over the course of a couple of hours, being off for the grand total of a second or two. Of course, this chopped my recording of the Caps game into five pieces, resulting in me missing a bit of the game.

Thankfully, it didn't kill any of the electronics, but it sure had worried about that happening. Time for several new UPS's, I guess. sigh

We were awfully spoiled at our old house. Since all the power lines were buried, there, we lost power twice in the entire seven years we lived there. One of them was a hurricane, where we lost it for only five minutes or so, while the other was a power company upgrade, which lasted several hours.

It does make me wonder... When a new neighborhood is going in, why don't they bury the power lines (and phone lines, come to that) at the same time they're burying the gas lines. Yes, it is two companies, but how hard would that be to coordinate? That should allow cutting the cost in half (maybe less, if they can get the phone company in at the same time). I know, I'm trying to apply logic in a situation where it probably shouldn't.


MPD Caps

Another bi(actually tri-)partite night for the Caps. They played great through the first ten or so minutes of the game, getting ahead ten shots to one over that span. And then they basically stopped keeping the puck in the offensive zone for more than one shot for most of the rest of the game.

They also gave up too many odd-man breaks. At one point, they gave up a 2-on-1, which Alzner broke up nicely. I had just finished commenting to my wife how good he is at dealing with odd-man breaks, when I turned back to the TV to see that they had given up another 2-on-1, which Moulson converted. *sigh*

I will say, though, with three new faces, my expectations were not all that high. After how long it took Hannan to get accustomed to the Caps system, I didn't have a particularly good feeling about ingesting three new faces. Of course, two of those three had great chances in that first ten minutes, with neither converting. Story of the season, I suppose, for the Caps.

But the Caps managed to hang around, getting some stellar goaltending from Neuvy. But it took them fifty-nine minutes and twelve seconds to finally get the puck across the line. Fortunately, that 2-on-1 was the only goal that the Islanders managed, so that last-minute goal was enough to send it into overtime.

And in overtime, OV made quite a power inside-out move to get past the defense to get off a backhander from in close to end the game. His ninth, I believe, career overtime goal (incidentally, why does it seem like everyone spells out OTGWG when someone gets an overtime goal? Is there some way that an overtime goal can fail to be a game-winner?).

I do find it odd that Wideman was, by far, the TOI leader on the team. I thought they mostly wanted him for his power-play contributions, but while he did tie (with OV) for the PP TOI lead, he also led the team in SH TOI (though only one second more than Hannan). Just seems weird to me. But I guess it worked out.

Arnott had a pretty good game, with the assist on Laich's last gasp goal, although his faceoffs better improve. But I'm really not too worried about that. In fact, if we hadn't traded Steckel to get him, I probably wouldn't have even looked.

There's definitely a lot to be encouraged about, but also a lot remains to be seen. Hopefully, Varly has missed his last game of the season. Also hopefully, Green comes back soon, although I do applaud the team not rushing him back. His long-term health should be a priority. And hopefully the team shooting percentage will get back to league average, at least; the Caps are only one off the league "lead" in being shut out, and were 48 seconds away from falling into a tie there.

I must admit, I'm not optimistic about the team come playoff time, although the new acquisitions have helped that a little bit.