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Friday, 16 September 2005
"Ain't nothing gonna break-a my stride. Ain't nothing gonna slow me down. Oh no. I've got to keep on movin."

The Bracket Board has moved here.

Posted by cortbasham at 1:10 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 14 September 2005
Non-conference Opponent Profile: IUPUI
The Jaguars of IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) have been solid for several years in the Mid-Continent Conference. They made their first trip to the NCAA tourney in 2003 after making the jump to D-I hoops in 1998. The Jags have had four consecutive winning seasons and all signs point toward a fifth.

IUPUI returns three starters from last years 14-13 squad led by 6'6" SR G Brandon Cole (14.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg). Cole led the Jags in both scoring and rebounding last season. He also logged nearly 37 minutes per game, so this guy is primed for a huge senior campaign. Maushae Byles (6'5" SR F) and George Hill (6'2" SO G) are the other returning starters.

Will the Jags be any good this season? Well, they are probably not going to beat out Oral Roberts in the Mid-Con, but they should be right there in the next tier. UMKC lost three starters, so they are likely to fall back a bit, but Valpo is consistently in the hunt for the Mid-Con title. It's ORU's to lose this year, but IUPUI can have a solid season.

Like APSU, they are not likely to be a great team, but they are solid and they will not be RPI poison for the Tops.

Posted by cortbasham at 2:46 PM CDT
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Tuesday, 13 September 2005
Back Online, Full-time!
Today's post marks the beginning of regular posting on the Bracket Board. I will save the glorious fanfare for October 14, but it is time to commence with the preseason buildup. First, I'd like to take a look at the teams on WKU's schedule. I'll mix in some preseason bracketology at some point and compile a comprehensive list of preseason polls for you to peruse. For now, let's get to the WKU non-conference schedule.

WKU released their men's basketball schedule a couple of weeks ago, and there is much joy in Topperland. The challenging non-conference slate will bring challenges from traditionally strong programs and a few up-and-comers. The most exciting aspect of this schedule from a bracketology standpoint is the lack of RPI poison on the slate.

After Midnight Madness (or whatever it will be called with the new earlier time allowance), a "controlled scrimmage" against the Alabama Crimson Tide, and an exhibition against Bellarmine (KY), the Tops will open the season against regional rival Austin Peay. What will follow is a daily look at teams on the schedule. Today, we begin with the Governors of APSU.

Last year, the Govs finished 9-7 in the Ohio Valley Conference and 13-19 overall. They achieved this record despite starting a paltry 2-10. Last year's team lost a great deal from the 2004 team that went 21-9 and a perfect 16-0 in the OVC before losing in the conference tourney title game against Murray State. So, the poor start was largely due to the struggles of replacing some key components of a solid 2004 squad.

The Govs again will deal with significant losses. APSU lost two of their top scorers from last year in G Anthony Davis and G/F William Durden. They also lost key reserves G Levi Carmichael and F/C Eric Young. They do return two senior starters to lead this year's group. Russellville, KY, native G Maurice "Squeaky" Hampton (14.7 ppg, .417 3-pt %) and C Zac Shlader (12.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg) both averaged over 33 mins per game last year, so they will be heavily relied upon once again.

The Govs will play a whopping TWENTY OVC games this year, as the eleven-team league has opted for double round-robin schedule. In the non-conference, APSU will play home games against East Tennessee and Evansville. In addition to the game at WKU, they will take roadies to Rutgers, Kent State, Middle Tennessee State, Chattanooga, and will compete in the South Padre Island Classic (potential opponents are Illinois, Wichita State, Delaware State, Texas Southern, and Texas Pan-American.

The Tops scratched out a hard-fought, come-from-behind 87-80 victory in Clarksville, TN, last year, and this blogger is elated that the Govs are coming to Diddle this season. They always play their best game against the Tops and should never be taken lightly. However, APSU's OVC hopes look fairly slim with Eastern KY, Murray State, Tennessee Tech, and Samford all returning the bulk of their teams. But, one can never count out the Govs in the OVC mix.

Tomorrow, a look at the Jaguars of IUPUI.

Posted by cortbasham at 4:33 PM CDT
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Friday, 2 September 2005
Tops Return from Spain--44 days until Midnight Madness
The Toppers completed their tour of Spain a couple of weeks ago (going 3-2 in five contests) and have now completed their first week of fall classes. To read about the games, visit the WKU athletics page here. The Tops finished 3-2 on their tour. This means that there are only 44 days until Midnight Madness.

So, never satisfied with just the box score, I set out to find someone who went to Spain with the Tops and was willing to share some stories. Enter Ms. Cindy Jones, a faculty member in the Consumer and Family Sciences department at WKU. I asked her to give me some insight into the trip that did not show up in the meager newspaper reports that we read stateside. She was kind enough to oblige me.

When asked about the team, Cindy was quite excited about what this year holds. "These guys play FAST," she said, "and they played stretches of amazing basketball." She gushed about Mike Walker's athleticism, claiming that it rivals Wilborn's, and about Benson Callier's slashing ability and activity on defense. She also was quick to point out how Ty Rogers has become the Mini-Winchester in nearly every capacity and how impressed she was with the Matt Maresca's mid-range game. Her concerns were with consistency on defense and interior scoring. But, this team can score in bunches at times.

She also noted that in one of the losses, the Tops simply did not bring their "A" game, leading Coach Darrin Horn to chastise the team a bit. The other loss was attributed to the Tops falling victim to the "Euro-style" of hoops (and a 1.5 hour detour...more later). She noted that we had numerous traveling violations called for what passes as "normal" movements in American hoops.

The best insight from Ms. Jones was about the team's behavior. She described them as "good gentlemen that represented WKU well." She noted how willing they were to help the fans load and carry their luggage. Despite Anthony Winchester's McDonald's/Burger King/KFC obsession, she noted that the team and fans shared three dinners together at nice Spanish restaurants. Most of the guys even tried the calamari and assorted tapas. For a couple of players, the trip to Valencia was their first to a major beach.

Apparently, there was LOTS of bus time, too. In one of the games that they lost (the "Euro-style" game), the Tops arrived 1.5 hours late for the tip after the bus driver received the wrong directions. Also, they toured every city that they visited by bus with Elgrace Wilborn serving as the unofficial videographer of the trip. There is undoubtedly some valuable footage on EW's camera.

In summation, it seems the Tops not only got some extra practice, early experience in game situations, and some time to gel, but were treated like kings in Spain. She noted that the response from the Spanish people was fantastic and that they were treated to wonderful hospitality everywhere that they went. Many Spaniards do not like American government and have been vocal in their opposition at times. This proves that the human element, the interaction of people engaged in conversation, sport, music, and life experiences, breaks down a lot of superficial barriers. The 2005 Tops broadened their world view and got some valuable experience for the upcoming season as well.

John Lennon said, "All you need is love," "come together," and "give peace a chance." Maybe he was right, but basketball will usually do the trick as well.

Posted by cortbasham at 4:05 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 10 August 2005
Tops Prep for Spain with Intense Practice
On an otherwise mundane Tuesday afternoon, my email chime brought good tidings of great joy. A friend of the hoops program had extended an invite to watch a Wednesday practice before the Tops head off to Spain on Friday for a summer tour. I canceled my dentist appointment (YES!) and blocked my calendar on Wednesday. I was going to watch hoops during the dog days of a Kentucky which we are STILL languishing in the mid-90s daily!

As I approached Diddle Arena, that familiar feeling normally reserved for cold, blustery winter evenings ran through my marrow as I santered in the warm, thick, humid air. I entered the main doors and walked in the hallowed, yet refurbished, halls of Diddle. It was silent. No popcorn smell. No Outkast ringing out from the sanctuary. No Dippin' Dot carts. Just silence...until I approached the auxiliary gym wing. Then, I heard the mild sqeaking of shoes making sharp stops and starts. As I lurched closer to the open Aux Gym B doors, I heard the sweet bouncing of the ball echoing off the walls. I heard gutteral grunts followed by yelps of effort. Then reality set in: I am going to watch some Hilltopper basketball.

I turned the corner into the gym and caught my first glimpse of the 2005-2006 WKU Hilltoppers. The first event of note that I witnessed was a loose ball. All eight players went to floor, and it was obviously a jump ball...but no whistle was blown. The players pried and pulled in their efforts to bust the orange loose. No whistle. Someone started punching into the pile at the ball. No whistle. Finally, just before a WWE Royal Rumble ensued, Coach Horn stopped the action. These guys are hungry and this point was evident: PLAYING TIME IS ON THE LINE. Anthony Winchester and Courtney Lee's minutes are secure, but any PT beyond those two will go to the hungriest players.

Physically, there are several players of note. First, at the end of practice, Ty Rogers was presented with a certificate after officially completing the "Anthony Winchester Get Ripped Plan" over the Summer. OK, not really, but Rogers has fine-tuned his physique and looks to be a step quicker than last season. In one drill, Horn lambasted a defender for allowing "the best shooter in the Sun Belt Conference" to get wide open for a silky swish for Three...and he was not referring to Winchester. He was talking about Ty Rogers. This guy will get his minutes.

Secondly, Matt Maresca, listed generously at 200 lbs on last years roster, now is legitimately 208 lbs of lean muscle. He says he has gained 8 pounds, but my eyes tell me it's more like 15 since he first arrived. He played with tremendous intensity and valiantly battled Wilborn in the post for nearly 2 hours. He can help this team.

Also, Boris Siakam is a stronger, meaner man this year. He also has added some muscle and finished around the basket with confidence not seen last season. It should also be noted that Mike Walker was a beast on the glass and has very wide shoulders and tremendous strength. He finished well around the basket as well.

The Great Red Pterodactlyl (Elgrace Wilborn) and Courtney Lee were their freakish selves that we became accustomed to last year. Winchester remains in great shape and played like an animal...a controlled, stone-cold assassin of an animal. He is also the unquestioned leader of this squad.

There was no mistaking the focus of this practice. Coach Horn never stopped the action because of poor shot selection. He never stopped it for a bad pass or a turnover. He only stopped this practice to perfect the defense. He barked incessantly about three keys: 1) pressuring the ball, 2) correct positioning, and 3) jumping to the ball. He also constantly preached the "use of athleticism" to cause problems for the offense. One thing that Topper fans can look forward to is the use of the 4-man on the point of zones and presses. On the Red Team, the 6'7" Mike Walker was on the point of the zone causing all kinds of havoc for the guards. Boris Siakam did the same thing for the White Team. This team is blessed with VERY athletic and VERY long-armed bigs (Siakam, Walker, Wilborn, Maresca). Walker ran down Lee twice on fast breaks to block his shot. Defense was the primary focus and the intensity level made it extremely difficult for me to sit still.

Offensively, the message was push, push, push. Winchester and Rogers were simply lights-out from long range. Lee and Benson Callier created scoring opportunities by using tremendous dribble-drive penetration and rise and fire jumpers. Siakam exhibited confidence and strength in the post. Wilborn will never be a post-up scoring machine, but he played under control and used his athleticism effectively.

Lee did play some point guard and Adam Howard ran the point on the other side. It was more difficult to tell if the offense was smooth because nearly every drill was focused on playing defense. What I did like is that on a breakaway by Mike Walker, Coach Horn implored, "Punch it, Mike!", and Walker slammed it home. This team is going to get into people's faces and intimidate some teams with their high-flying antics.

Horn got into the players faces about playing intense, athletic defense, but these public castigations were tempered with quiet huddles beyond the earshot of the spectators. These guys were all about fiercely competing, but in huddles and after practice, they were all about team, community, and togetherness.

Topper fans, we have ourselves a basketball team.

Posted by cortbasham at 10:17 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 26 July 2005
Summertime, Indeed
After a mild summer in 2004, South Central Kentucky finds itself in a midst of a bona fide heat wave. We have been over 90 degrees for several days and the humidity levels have been through the roof. We have seen heat indices in the 105-115 range and have been under a heat advisory most days in the last week. We are forecasted to top out at 96 today with a heat index in the 105-110 range.

It seems so far away from those January walks up and down The Hill to WKU basketball games. The cruel wind whipping at faces like a cat-o'-nine-tails, causing folks to long for a nice, long Kentucky summer. Ah, but the summer also brings a veritable hoops wasteland. A neverending sea of televised Yankees/Red Sox tilts, meaningless pre-preseason NFL verbiage, and off-season arrests at various college football powerhouses. Folks become hoops-malnourished and begin to long for any tidbit regarding team pickup games, summer trips, workout regimens, or the changing hairstyles of the teams' players. They scour YOCO for any crumb of roundball news that might fall from the table. They break out tapes from seasons of yore to watch games that have long since been decided and forgotten by everyone save the die-hardiest of fans. They border on the brink of insanity.

Lo! Take heart hoops addicts! For upon this very day, a mere 79 days stand between us and Midnight Madness! By then, midterm exams will be in full swing, the college football season will be at its midpoint, and season preview mags will be popping up on shelves. Only 79 days until a Bucknell or UW-Milwaukee-type will embark on a most memorable season. Only 79 days until Carolina begins its defense in earnest. Only 79 days until some player that people know nothing about sweeps up the national media (a la Taylor Coppenrath).

So, take a run in the sweltering heat. Work up a nice, sweaty lather and breathe in the pollen, mold, fungus, or allergen of choice. Have a cookout or take a dip in a pool. Take in a Red Sox/Yankees tilt on ESPN or FOX. And know this: the time for these summerish activities are short. Soon, we can bask in the glow of college hoops.

And we can once again yearn for a nice, long Kentucky summer.

Posted by cortbasham at 2:21 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 July 2005 10:29 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 19 July 2005
The Open
The Open Championship is an awesome event to behold. For me, it may be the second most enjoyable sporting event of the year (after the NCAA Tourney, of course). Let me share my reasoning.

1. It's real golf. No perfectly uniform, flat fairways. No intricate criss-cross lines created by the mowers. No spinning your 5-iron out of the rough. There will be some crazy hops, just like at your local municipal course.

2. Most of the courses have scoring opportunities, but kick in a 35 mph wind in the Olde Country and it can get really interesting in a hurry. It's possible for a pro to play similar rounds of golf and shoot 67 or 75 depending on the wind speed and direction.

3. History. Most of the courses that host the Open have been around for a century or more.

4. TV/golf friendly. Despite the ridiculous amount of commercials on TNT, the Open is on from 6 am-1 pm in America's Central Time Zone. This means that one can watch the Open all morning, then head out for 18 holes afterward. You simply cannot do that with other majors.

5. The UK fans know golf.

Tiger Woods proved his mettle once again. It's weird, but I found myself wanting Monty to make a back nine charge. It simply was not going to happen. No one in the last few groups managed to break 70 on Sunday.

Great fun from a most enjoyable Open this year. Next year, the Open Championship returns to Hoylake for the first time since 1967.

The wheels are in motion for the new and improved Bracket Board. Keep your eyes open...I'm hoping to have it up before Midnight Madness on October 14 at the absolute latest...and hopefully before then.

Posted by cortbasham at 1:55 PM CDT
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Thursday, 23 June 2005
Long Time Gone
Wow. Sorry for the long delay between entries. Between thesis writing, a fantastic trip to Portland, Oregon for the American Democracy Project conference, running, and golf, I have slacked greatly on my bloggin'.

First some important updates.
1. Retief Goosen has been a victim of the Bracket Board curse. I banged the drum for a "Big 5" of golf over the more common "Big 4" (I added Goosen to the Woods/Singh/Els/Mickelson group), and NBC obliged me during Open week! But, the tourney after I posted my pro-Goose stance, he missed the cut. Then, after making me look smart for the first three days of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, he threw up a nice, fat 81 on Sunday. Hard to figure a guy who's game is built on consistency and coolness flailing as he did on Sunday...but it happened.

2. I set a PR in my most recent 5K race: 19:10. I now harbor hopes of breaking 19 minutes at some point this year, which seemed highly unlikely just a few months ago. I am logging consistent milage, working hard, and staying healthy and it's starting to pay off. The Bowling Green 10K (October 22) and the Rocket City Marathon (December 10 in Huntsville, AL) are the long range goals this year.

3. The basketball talk will ramp up sooner than one might think, as the WKU Hilltoppers prepare to take a trip to Spain this Summer. More coming on this.

Goofy Bracket #2 Results

1. Mary Ann over 16. Ginger. Total blowout.
9. Daisy Duke over 8. Janet Jackson. Close, but when he have an article of revealing clothing named after you, I guess the outcome was fairly predictable.

5. Daphne over 12. Scarlet. Apparently, lots of other males in my generation had it bad for Daphne as well.
4. Alyssa Milano over 13. Lisa Bonet. In a landslide.

6. Ellie Mae over 11. Helen Crump. The stereotype won going away.

14. Winnie over 3. Mary Tyler Moore. Boy, did I ever underseed Ms. Cooper from the Wonder Years. The 14 seed ROMPED over 3-seed Mary.

7. Madonna over 10. Tiffany. Pretty close, but Tiffany was poked in the eye by a pointy bra early in the second half and never fully recovered.

2. Jeannie over 15. Samantha. Easily.

1. Mary Ann over 9. Daisy Duke. They dressed in similar ways, but personality does matter.

4. Milano over 5. Daphne. Close, but Daphne IS a cartoon, you know.

14. Winnie over 6. Ellie Mae. Danica McKellar has a serious cult following out there.

2. Jeannie over 7. Madonna. VERY close.

1. Mary Ann over 4. Milano. Strong arguments were made for both sides, but Mary Ann retained her "girl-next-door" aura much longer than Alyssa did.

14. Winnie over 2. Jeannie. A huge upset, but not surprising after the way Winnie rolled through the first two rounds.

1. Mary Ann over 14. Winnie. The run had to end sometime, and it came at the hands of Dawn Wells' character. No shame in that.

More coming in not a month until the next post.

Posted by cortbasham at 3:08 PM CDT
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Thursday, 26 May 2005
Goofy Off-Season Bracket #2
Goofy Bracket #2 will take a trip into the Bracket Board's boyhood psyche. I have seeded 16 boyhood crushes here for your voting pleasure. Of course, your list would be very different from mine, and some of the names on this list will be a bit obscure, but I tried to keep it fairly mainstream. So, humor me and email your votes using the link on the sidebar.

I hope these conjure up some fun memories or make you think of your own boyhood crushes. It also might give you some insight into my warped pre-adolescent brain.

Oh, it is my 29th birthday today! That might give you some generational perspective on my choices.

1. Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island
16. Ginger from Gilligan's Island
A classic 1/16 matchup. Mary Ann is 2005 Illinois and Ginger is the play-in game winner. This should be a blowout.

8. Janet Jackson from Different Strokes
9. Daisy Duke from Dukes of Hazzard

Janet was so wholesome and sweet and pretty. Daisy was a total tramp. Somehow, there was room for both in my young psyche.

5. Daphne from Scooby-Doo. The cartoon one, not Sarah Michelle Gellar, since Ms. Gellar did not play the role of Daphne until I was long past boyhood crush stage.
12. Scarlet from G.I. Joe. I guess I had a thing for red-haired cartoon characters.

4. Alyssa Milano from Who's the Boss.
13. Lisa Bonet from Cosby Show

Seriously, if you were my age, there was a time when you actually thought about trying to find Alyssa Milano and convince her to marry you. Immediately. Even though you were twelve. Lisa Bonet had a bad girl image, but she was beautiful and she was on the Cosby Show. Powerful stuff.

6. Ellie Mae Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies.
11. Helen Crump from The Andy Griffith Show.

Many of you will not remember Ellie Mae, and I'm betting 95% of you have no idea who Helen Crump was, but they were both part of my afternoon dose of summertime television as a kid. Ellie Mae is the pure embodiment of old southern-girl stereotype: dumb, blonde, buxom, honest, and sweet. For more on the Hillbilly stereotype in American pop culture, check out WKU history professor Tony Harkins' book, Hillbilly (Oxford University Press, 2004). Helen Crump was the embodiment of the woman of the New South: professional (teacher), intelligent, articulate, and strong.

3. Mary Tyler Moore from Dick Van Dyke Reruns . A little old, but I fell in love with her as a kid watching reruns.
14. Winnie from The Wonder Years.
Great show. Every kid could identify with Kevin, so naturally you liked Winnie vicariously through him.

7. Madonna
10. Tiffany

For 1980s Mall Culture Queen of the World.

2. Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie
15. Samantha from Bewitched

Great reruns from my childhood. I did dream of Jeannie. I am fully aware of the underlying themes of female submissiveness and subserviance in Jeannie, but I was five!!! I just thought she was pretty and could do magic tricks. Ditto Samantha, although she was no match for Jeannie in my mind.

Posted by cortbasham at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2005 10:47 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 18 May 2005
Moving Forward
I have not been able to write about anything that does not seem trivial after Mr. Danny Rumph's passing. However, Topper Nation must forge ahead while remembering our fallen Topper. The autopsy has been done: cardiomyopathy was the culprit. The team has been to the funeral, and we have heard from Danny's family and friends. The team is preparing for a trip to Spain later in the Summer. Life is moving forward, and so will this blog. Still, everything that happens this season will happen with the lingering thought of how Mr. Danny Rumph would have been a part of it. We will miss #11.

I fired a personal best 76 at a local course called Crosswinds (par 71) yesterday. I had shot 77 numerous times in the last couple of seasons, but I finally broke through and shot one lower yesterday. The funny part is that I did not hit it that well. I drove it all over the place missing some fairways popping up a couple of drives. I shanked two iron shots on the front nine as well, but hit good recoveries to save bogeys. Crosswinds, as the name implies, is an open windy course with few trees. The lack of woods certainly aided in my recovery ability.

The true difference was the short game. I had 4 pars, 8 bogeys, and a double bogey, but I also managed to make 5 birdies. I did not miss a putt from 8 feet in, and I made a 20-footer for birdie and a 25-footer to save par.

Spray it around the course, shank some irons, make every putt in sight. That was the formula for my 76. That is why they call it "golf." As Ron Burgundy would say, "The term 'golf' is an ancient Viking word meaning 'adventure and unpredictability.'" Well played, Mr. Burgundy. In this instance, he would be right.

Thanks for making me look good by missing the cut, Retief. I appreciate that. At least Tiger missed, too, totally overshadowing your miss.

NBA Playoffs
YAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWN. I might watch the conference finals and Finals. Maybe.

Goofy Bracket #1
A few of you emailed bracket picks for my Eighties Songs Bracket. Here are the results.

(1)Don't You Forget About Me def. (16)Don't Dream It's Over. This one seed is a juggernaut.

(8)Walk Like an Egyptian def. (9)I Ran. VERY close, like an 8/9 game should be.

(12)Come On Eileen def. (5)West End Girls. Voters overwhelmingly selected the underdog here.

(4)Theme from Greatest American Hero def. (13)Big Country. The weight of Seinfeld was too much to overcome.

(6)Call Me def. (11)True. Blondie in a walk.

(3)Karma Chameleon def. (14)Tainted Love. Boy George and Co. were nearly toppled by Soft Cell, but held on with some late free throws.

(10)Down Under def. (7)Africa. The continental battle went to the Aussies in a mild upset.

(2)Whip It def. (15)White Wedding. There was a lot of nerdy influence in my readership. Still, this one was fairly close.

(1)DYFAM def. (8)Egytian. The Bangles are no match for Simple Minds.

(12)Eileen def. (4)Greatest American Hero. Not even George Costanza's answering machine could fend off the upset bid of Dexy's Midnight Runners. Their thoughts verge on dirty, which allows Eileen and her red dress to dance into the FF.

(6)Call Me def. (3)Karma Chameleon. Blondie, despite her heart of glass, had enought to get past the Chameleons' constantly changing defense.

(2)Whip It def. (10)Down Under. Devo was the most hot and cold representative among voters (people love them or hate them), but they had enough to slip by Men At Work.

(1)DYFAM def. (12)Eileen. Eileen's cinderella run came to a halt in the FF. A valiant effort, and a great tune, were halted by a good hook and Molly Ringwald/Judd Nelson chemistry.

(2)Whip It def. (6)Call Me. The early 80's rep in the final will be Devo. Again, a couple of voters had Devo going out to Billy Idol in Round 1, but others had Devo winning the whole shebang.

(1)DYFAM def. (2)Whip It. In a lopsided final, DYFAM took home the hardware.

Another Goofy Bracket is on the way soon.

Posted by cortbasham at 10:25 AM CDT
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