The Dance Begins

And so, last night the Big Dance started as the first 13 games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament were played. As far as I am concerned this is the greatest tournament in sports. 64 of the greatest teams playing the greatest game, single elimination, no second chances. Like the game itself, it’s a very American format.

Actually, it’s a very Hoosier thing. The NCAA didn’t invent this, the IHSAA did. Who? you ask. The Indiana High Scholl Athletic Association is who. This until just a few years ago, is how Indiana found the best basketball team in Hoosierland, who taught the world to play. Dr. Naismith himself watching an Indiana high school game remarked that Indiana had recreated a much-improved game to what he invented.

That tournament still exists although in a mutilated form. Some years ago, the age of all must have prizes reared its ugly head and they divided it into classes, and now it’s no big deal. Well, it still is, which is why the Purdue blog I read, carries the brackets and scores for the HS tourney. That’s great for us expats, but it’s not the same.

No room anymore for a Milan to beat South Bend Central, the true back story to the movie Hoosiers. Can’t happen now, and so they took away a dream, to give a few more trophies, which have far less significance now. As I’ve said before, when you watch Hickory walk into the Butler Fieldhouse in Hoosiers, that’s a venue that Hoosier Hysteria built.

No more every February, us guys in the small schools wondering how far Cloverdale, the smallest school in the state, will get. No more wondering if this is the year when we will beat Michigan City Elston, the largest school in the state. We never did, we lost every year, in the sectional finals, usually not by all that much.

But so is the NCAA, and in truth the NBA. Back in World War II, the Hoosiers involved taught the world to play a pretty simple game, and to play it our way, and to win.

Remember the UCLA Bruins when we were young, winning the NCAA 8 out of 10 years, coached by an Indiana high school and Purdue legend, John Wooden. They’re still trying to make it happen again, they just fired Steve Alford, from New Castle and an Indiana Mr. Basketball in high school, before playing at IU under the great Bobby Knight. Who was a bit mercurial though, throwing a chair across Purdue’s court is frowned upon. Now there are rumors they are trying to poach Purdue’s Matt Painter, nobody seems overly worried though.

If your curious IU won last night, and my Boilers will play later this week, showing off their record 24th Big Ten championship, although they didn’t manage to win the tournament.

But my favorite memory of the tournament remains Indiana State versus Michigan State, Larry Bird from French Lick against Magic Johnson.

And so the dance cards are filled out and the music has begun  And after the last dance on April 8th, only one will remain standing.

Meanwhile, how about the trailer from Hoosiers, the original March Madness.

B-Ball and the Chaos Before the Storm

In one of those unpredictable things, last night turned into movie night here, first with Hoosiers and then with Darkest Hour. It is an interesting pairing.

In the first, we have the eternal American story of the underdog, the Milan Huskers, overcoming the big city South Bend Central Bears, a quintessentially American story of the underdog overcoming the big city favorite. And all the better for being true.  See this post. But it carries over to the Darkest Hour as well.

Here we have Britain, holding firm alone amongst the Europeans against the Nazi Germans. When all the others buckled, there was Britain, standing alone, as it had against Napoleon. The nation of shopkeepers standing alone, waiting for the new world to step to its rescue.

And here again, a half-century later it becomes true again. The ruling class in the UK has sold out to the left and left the real conservatives without representation, but we know many proud Britons remain. And so. once again the New World prepares to rescue the Old World.

We know what they do not wish to acknowledge, and we are OK with that, but that is the situation. I always wonder if the situation would have worked out if Winston Churchill’s mother hadn’t been Jennie Jerome, an American. It’s an interesting point to ponder.

And we see it once again, the British establishment unable (or unwilling) to confront the leftist tide in their own society, the right taking their cue from their own daughter society, the United States. That is not a bad thing, when necessary we too have taken inspiration from our British forebearers. As I’ve said before, the difference is that we wrote it down.

//players.brightcove.net/2540076170001/rJV2FUU4G_default/index.html?videoId=5722737494001#t=2s

You know as I continue with these subjects, increasingly it strikes me that only Americans recognize the difference between good and evil as opposed to what sounds good, feels good, but is in reality not good at all.

As for the movie, Darkest Hour, I liked it. Yes, the scene in the underground that so many have talked about is jarring and unbelievable but is there to make the point about the differences between normal and those in the ruling class, who then and now, existed in a bubble.

But do see it, in truth since both are out, pair it with Dunkirk, they portray nearly the same week, and the difference between the calm of London with the chaos of the evacuation beaches is important itself.

No movie is really historically accurate, and that is true for all three we’ve mentioned here. But movies can make a point that is hard to convey in written words, and all three do here. Hoosiers remind me of much of what I loved about growing up in Indiana, some of which is lost forever, as it always is.

The other two speak of a time just a bit before mine, when the entire world was chaos, and a very few people took the duty to lead us through the storm and did it without thinking overly of the effects it would have on them. For all of us today, these are the people who built the world we live in, and it behooves us to try to understand them, as once again chaos threatens us.

In any case, see the movies, you’ll enjoy all three.

Full Steam Ahead

I think most of you know I’m a Purdue alum, and a fan. I have been since I was a kid, and Duncan Meter gave dad tickets to a game every year. Nor did it hurt that my Brother in law whom I idolized to a large extent was an alum. While I applied to a few schools, including Notre Dame, and was accepted by them all, my heart was set on Purdue (likely to dad’s relief since it is a state school). I’ve never regretted it.

But being a Boiler has its downsides. We often have teams that are good, but not good enough. We are the school that graduated Len Dawson, Bob Griese, and Drew Brees, not to mention The Coach, himself, John Wooden, but we often fall short of quite being as good as we should be. This fall the first year of the Jeff Brohm era assuaged a lot of angst, but being from Indiana in the glory years of the no classes high school tournament nothing quite stirs the blood like basketball, remember Rick Mount? – we all do and the ‘Hurrying Hoosiers’ be damned.

And so, Matt Painter’s Boiler basketball team this year has been a dream. 27 and 8, 14 and 4 in the conference, including this weeks victory over Michigan, also one of the top 5 teams in the country, well the sky has become the limit. Anything less than a second consecutive Big Ten championship would be a letdown, and a win in the NCAA looks possible.

Purdue fans have low expectations, we are a lot like Cubs fans, we expect the worst and barely dare hope for anything better, but this may be our year. I’m not the only one either, Travis Miller over at Hammer and Rails is thinking like I am.

For 37 years we have seen nothing but failure in March on some level. We have failed to reach the promised land of a Final Four, let alone a title. In a way, the NCAA Tournament is, indeed, a crapshoot. If Connecticut can win a championship as a 7 seed in 2014 while dozens of better overall teams have not. Being excellent over 35 games is certainly a better barometer of greatness than having one bad night in March, but the system is what it is.

And this team is good enough to finally break through.

Last night convinced me of that. I don’t know what will happen in the final 9 games, the Big Ten Tournament, or the NCAAs. We have anywhere from 11 to 18 games left to watch this team, but it is a special team and these remaining games need to be savored. We could hit a tailspin, lose the Big Ten, lose the first game in New York in the Big Ten Tournament, and get bounced in the NCAAs in round 1 for a disappointing final 11 games. We could win all 19 and go down as one of the greatest teams in NCAA history.

Yes, that is on the table. We’re that good, and that is what I want to talk about.

There is a sense of “if not this year, will this thing ever happen?” with this team, but last night I finally started to let my guard down. I think it happened because Michigan is one of the few teams in the country that has the personnel to challenge us matchup-wise. Mo Wagner’s ability to play on the perimeter and their offensive scheme to run screens and switches to draw our bigs from the basket create a unique problem. Last night I said they were laying the blueprint in how to beat Purdue. For a 10 minute stretch of the second half they were scoring at will. They negated Purdue’s size advantage on defense by pulling Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms away from the basket. This created open looks from three for a team that loves to shoot threes and it created driving lanes for Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Michigan shot 60% form the floor, Abdur-Rahkman had a monster game of 26 points and hit 6 threes. The Wolverines scored 88 points and were so good offensively they knocked Purdue from the top 5 nationally on KenPom all the way to 10th.

Think about that for a moment. Purdue is one of the best defensive teams in the country. They do this without turning the game into a quagmire like Virginia. Through 21 games we had a top 3 defense and one game against Michigan was enough of an outlier to cause a seven spot drop. Michigan has figured out how to score on Purdue and they even did it in the dungeon of noise that is Mackey Arena. During that ridiculous stretch the crowd was trying to ramp higher and higher to will a stop and Michigan had an answer. If you watch the replay you heard this several times:

Crowd: “(ramping up as Michigan took possession after Purdue scored) hrrrrrrrrRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!! AWWWWwwwwwwww (ramping down as someone, usually Abdur-Rahkman, hit a three.)

Michigan was one of the few teams to answer Purdue and figure out our defense. Dylan over at UM Hoops explained just how good they were:

Michigan and Purdue are two teams that are completely ill-equipped to guard each other and that was never more clear than the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Michigan played its best offensive game of the season* on the road against the No. 3 ranked defense in the country. The Wolverines posted an impressive 72% effective field goal percentage, making 63% of their twos and 57% of their threes.

It’s hard to complain about turning the ball over on 17% of possessions, but Michigan’s giveaways seemed to come in the most critical spots. The Wolverines also rebounded 36% of their missed shots for 19 second chance points.

The offense might not have scored every possession down the stretch, but Michigan should beat any team in the country if it scores 1.35 points per possession. Prior to this game, the best offensive performance by a Big Ten team in a losing effort this year was Illinois scoring 1.17 points per possession against Iowa.

Big Ten teams that score 1.15 points per possession or better are 27-1 in league play. Before tonight, only three teams — Michigan State vs. Maryland, Ohio State vs. Maryland and Purdue vs. Iowa — had scored more than 1.35 points per possession in a league game.

Think about that. Michigan’s offense was so absurdly good it was in the top 5 of any offensive performance in all Big Ten play this year. They just happened to do it against one of the other top 5 offensive performances in conference play, and it was by far the best effort out of a losing team. It did this on the road against one of the nation’s best defenses, in one of the toughest road environments in the country. They scored 88 points when Purdue hadn’t given up more than 70 against anyone anywhere since December 1st at Maryland.

All that says Purdue probably should have lost this game, but it didn’t because the Boilers had an answer every time, and an already excellent offense got better. The first 10:50 of the second half was an absolute joy to watch if you’re a basketball fan. The teams didn’t just trade baskets, they traded haymakers. Purdue’s first two possessions of the half were made threes by Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson. The teams scored on a combined 13 of 15 possessions in the first five minutes alone. By the 9:10 mark the lead had changed hands 13 times on 13 straight possessions where a team made a basket. Michigan was playing out of its mind, much like how Minnesota (and specifically Nate Mason) played last year when the Gophers won in Mackey. It was basketball at its highest level and it was punctuated by a three from Vince Edwards with 9:10 left that tied the game 68-68.

Well, we’ll have to wait and see, but in watching Purdue since about the time of the Rose Bowl trip with Griese as quarterback, I’ve rarely been as hopeful. What a fall and winter it has been.

And the best part, in my opinion, is that there is no real star, it’s a team effort every time. The way it should be.

The Coach would be proud, I remember those UCLA teams, sometimes they had a star but they were always a team. just as the Franklin Wonder Five was that The Coach idolized.

Boiler Up

In the Rear View Mirror (Redux)

Speaking of the UChicago and such things always makes me a bit nostalgic for the Region, and I’m just going to go with it today. It seems we run this article every once in a while, and I like it. As Mary Hopkins sang long ago, “Those were the Days”.

Well, it’s been an interesting week, hasn’t it. But it’s Saturday and we’re going to forget about it for now. Remember back when we were in school, and the closest we came to paying attention was hearing that somebody’s older brother had been drafted and hoping they wouldn’t be off for the Nam? Pretty good days they were. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, yeah the part of the state called the Region, Yup, like a few other bloggers you might know of, I’m a Region Rat, and we were and are damned proud of it too.

It was called that because of our heavy industry, you wouldn’t be wrong if you read that as the steel mills. We all knew people who worked at USS, or Inland, or even at the new Bethlehem works. I can still smell it in memory and I can still see the flaring stacks lining the lakeshore, there was little like it west of Pittsburgh. Where I grew up you could watch the coal drags come in on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and if you knew where you could see the ore ships come in from the Missabe on the lake. If you didn’t know, that what the Edmund Fitzgerald was.

And that was what a lot of our folks did for a living, steel, American steel. Most of it went to Detroit, to make American cars, first by rail and finally by what were called Michigan Trains, semis (doubles and triples, mostly) that couldn’t go anywhere else other than that piece of I 94 between Gary and Detroit, because they were so heavy that they would destroy any other road. Out where I was, was a bit too far out to commute, mostly though in those days.

My first ride

My first ride

Most of my buddies were and are farmers, the other great Indiana industry, once clay tile had been invented and the swamps drained. Before it was dredged the Kankakee river had occasionally flooded itself 20-40 miles wide, and it made wonderful farmground in the floodplain, once it dried out enough to work.

But none of that mattered to us kids, sure most of us worked, usually for our parents at least from junior high on, but there was time for sports, girls, and fun. Given that this is Indiana, the sport was basketball, and specifically high school basketball. Texas may love high school football but, Indiana high school basketball was the closest thing to a secular religion any body was ever going to see.

My high school was a good example, we were one of the waves of township consolidations in the early 60s, when I was there, our enrollment was about 250 or so in high school, our gym seated 2300 and had never not been sold out for a home game. Of course, it helped that we were pretty good, in the first four years of that gym, we lost two home games, both in overtime, by a total of four points. And every year we were the Sectional runner-up to Michigan City Elston, the largest school in the state, one year by 15 points. they won the State that year, Indiana didn’t used to do effete snobbery like classes in basketball.

If you’d like to know more about that, find the movie Hoosiers, it’s based on a true story, the 1952 Milan team, who beat South Bend Central. By the way, if you do, that fieldhouse they’re paying he final in, it’s the Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, and it was built mostly for the State finals. Once the tournament moved beyond the Sectionals, it was all held in College venues, Purdue, Indiana, and Notre Dame among them. Tickets were simply unavailable. And if that wasn’t enough, there was always Branch McCracken and the “Hurrying Hoosiers” or Purdue alum John Wooden, out at UCLA.

And after those games there was often a sock hop, and while sometimes there was a DJ, there was always a live band, and some of those DJ’s you’re going to meet here today. Why? Because Chicago was a huge music center in the 60s. You see in those days we all listened to AM radio, FM barely existed, and even 8 tracks were uncommon (and expensive). By the way did you know that for a few years you could buy a record player that mounted under your car dash-they actually worked pretty well, too.

But those AM radio stations, in Chicago there were two who did what we would call top 40 now, although then it was more just plain current rock, both 50,000-watt clear channel stations. Anybody that was around can tell you about WLS and WCFL even all these years later. They were part of our life, back and forth we went, second button on the car radio was usually LS and third CFL. Like all the early American call letters, they meant something, WLS stood (originally) for the World’s Largest Store (Sears Roebuck and Co.) and WCFL for the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The clear channel thing meant that in North America there was no other station on that frequency, 890 and 1000 Kilocycles/second (hertz) respectively. Especially at night, you could hear them from Pittsburgh to Denver, and down to the Gulf of Mexico, depending on some variables. And those bands I mentioned, I’ll be you’ve heard of some of them, here, let’s let them talk for themselves

But like Bob Sirott said there, it didn’t last all that long, when I was in college we started listening to the FM album-oriented rock stations, although like he said, Chicago came with us, that was about it, although that was a lot.

This is what it sounded like

But like all good things, one afternoon the music died, here’s Superjock, Larry Lujack himself to officiate

Good days they were

 

In the Rear View Mirror (Redux)

Yesterday was nice around here, a post wich turned into pretty much nostalgia amongst friends, although with some lessons. We will be referring to some of the comments later, but for today let’s stay in the past a bit longer. They were good days, and we deserve to remember them, and learns some lessons from them, as well. Enjoy!

Well, it’s been an interesting week, hasn’t it. But it’s Saturday and we’re going to forget about it for now. Remember back when we were in school, and the closest we came to paying attention was hearing that somebody’s older brother had been drafted and hoping they wouldn’t be off for the Nam? Pretty good days they were. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, yeah the part of the state called the Region, Yup, like a few other bloggers you might know of, I’m a Region Rat, and we were and are damned proud of it too.

It was called that because of our heavy industry, you wouldn’t be wrong if you read that as the steel mills. We all knew people who worked at USS, or Inland, or even at the new Bethlehem works. I can still smell it in memory and I can still see the flaring stacks lining the lakeshore, there was little like it west of Pittsburgh. Where I grew up you could watch the coal drags come in on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and if you knew where you could see the ore ships come in from the Missabe on the lake. If you didn’t know, that what the Edmund Fitzgerald was.

And that was what a lot of our folks did for a living, steel, American steel. Most of it went to Detroit, to make American cars, first by rail and finally by what were called Michigan Trains, semis (doubles and triples, mostly) that couldn’t go anywhere else other than that piece of I 94 between Gary and Detroit, because they were so heavy that they would destroy any other road. Out where I was, was a bit too far out to commute, mostly though in those days.

My first ride

My first ride

Most of my buddies were and are farmers, the other great Indiana industry, once clay tile had been invented and the swamps drained. Before it was dredged the Kankakee river had occasionally flooded itself 20-40 miles wide, and it made wonderful farmground in the floodplain, once it dried out enough to work.

But none of that mattered to us kids, sure most of us worked, usually for our parents at least from junior high on, but there was time for sports, girls, and fun. Given that this is Indiana, the sport was basketball, and specifically high school basketball. Texas may love high school football but, Indiana high school basketball was the closest thing to a secular religion any body was ever going to see.

My high school was a good example, we were one of the waves of township consolidations in the early 60s, when I was there, our enrollment was about 250 or so in high school, our gym seated 2300 and had never not been sold out for a home game. Of course, it helped that we were pretty good, in the first four years of that gym, we lost two home games, both in overtime, by a total of four points. And every year we were the Sectional runner-up to Michigan City Elston, the largest school in the state, one year by 15 points. they won the State that year, Indiana didn’t used to do effete snobbery like classes in basketball.

If you’d like to know more about that, find the movie Hoosiers, it’s based on a true story, the 1952 Milan team, who beat South Bend Central. By the way, if you do, that fieldhouse they’re paying he final in, it’s the Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, and it was built mostly for the State finals. Once the tournament moved beyond the Sectionals, it was all held in College venues, Purdue, Indiana, and Notre Dame among them. Tickets were simply unavailable. And if that wasn’t enough, there was always Branch McCracken and the “Hurrying Hoosiers” or Purdue alum John Wooden, out at UCLA.

And after those games there was often a sock hop, and while sometimes there was a DJ, there was always a live band, and some of those DJ’s you’re going to meet here today. Why? Because Chicago was a huge music center in the 60s. You see in those days we all listened to AM radio, FM barely existed, and even 8 tracks were uncommon (and expensive). By the way did you know that for a few years you could buy a record player that mounted under your car dash-they actually worked pretty well, too.

But those AM radio stations, in Chicago there were two who did what we would call top 40 now, although then it was more just plain current rock, both 50,000-watt clear channel stations. Anybody that was around can tell you about WLS and WCFL even all these years later. They were part of our life, back and forth we went, second button on the car radio was usually LS and third CFL. Like all the early American call letters, they meant something, WLS stood (originally) for the World’s Largest Store (Sears Roebuck and Co.) and WCFL for the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The clear channel thing meant that in North America there was no other station on that frequency, 890 and 1000 Kilocycles/second (hertz) respectively. Especially at night, you could hear them from Pittsburgh to Denver, and down to the Gulf of Mexico, depending on some variables. And those bands I mentioned, I’ll be you’ve heard of some of them, here, let’s let them talk for themselves

But like Bob Sirott said there, it didn’t last all that long, when I was in college we started listening to the FM album-oriented rock stations, although like he said, Chicago came with us, that was about it, although that was a lot.

This is what it sounded like

But like all good things, one afternoon the music died, here’s Superjock, Larry Lujack himself to officiate

Good days they were

 

In the Rear View Mirror

Well, it’s been an interesting week, hasn’t it. But it’s Saturday and we’re going to forget about it for now. Remember back when we were in school, and the closest we came to paying attention was hearing that somebody’s older brother had been drafted and hoping they wouldn’t be off for the Nam? Pretty good days they were. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, yeah the part of the state called the Region, Yup, like a few other bloggers you might know of, I’m a Region Rat, and we were and are damned proud of it too.

It was called that because of our heavy industry, you wouldn’t be wrong if you read that as the steel mills. We all knew people who worked at USS, or Inland, or even at the new Bethlehem works. I can still smell it in memory and I can still see the flaring stacks lining the lakeshore, there was little like it west of Pittsburgh. Where I grew up you watch the coal drags come in on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and if you knew where you could see the ore ships come in from the Missabe on the lake. If you didn’t know, that what the Edmund Fitzgerald was.

And that was what a lot of our folks did for a living, steel, American steel. Most of it went to Detroit, to make American cars, first by rail and finally by what were called Michigan Trains, semis that couldn’t go anywhere else other than that piece of I 94 between Gary and Detroit, because they were so heavy that they would destroy any other road. Out where I was, was a bit too far out to commute, mostly though in those days.

My first ride

My first ride

Most of my buddies were and are farmers, the other great Indiana industry, once clay tile had been invented and the swamps drained. Before it was dredged the Kankakee river had occasionally flooded itself 20-40 miles wide, and it made wonderful farmground in the floodplain, once it dried out enough to work.

But none of that mattered to us kids, sure most of us worked, usually for our parents at least from junior high on, but there was time for sports, girls, and fun. Given that this is Indiana, the sport was basketball, and specifically high school basketball. Texas may love high school football but, Indiana high school basketball was the closest thing to a secular religion any body was ever going to see.

My high school was a good example, we were one of the waves of township consolidations in the early 60s, when I was there, our enrollment was about 250 or so in high school, our gym seated 2300 and had never not been sold out for a home game. Of course, it helped that we were pretty good, in the first four years of that gym, we lost two home games, both in overtime, by a total of four points. And every year we were the Sectional runner-up-to Michigan City Elston, the largest school in the state, one year by 15 points. they won the State that year, Indiana didn’t used to do effete snobbery like classes in basketball.

If you’d like to know more about that, find the movie Hoosiers, it’s based on a true story, the 1952 Milan team, who beat South Bend Central. By the way, if you do, that fieldhouse they’re paying he final in, it’s the Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, and it was built mostly for the State finals. Once the tournament moved beyond the Sectionals, it was all held in College venues, Purdue, Indiana, and Notre Dame among them. Tickets were simply unavailable. And if that wasn’t enough, there was always Branch McCracken and the “Hurrying Hoosiers” or Purdue alum John Wooden, out at UCLA.

And after those games there was often a sock hop, and while sometimes there was a DJ, there was always a live band, and some of those DJ’s you’re going to meet here today. Why? Because Chicago was a huge music center in the 60s. You see in those day we all listened to AM radio, FM barely existed, and even 8 tracks were uncommon (and expensive). By the way did you know that for a few years you could buy a record player that mounted under your car dash-they actually worked pretty well, too.

But those AM radio stations, in Chicago there were two who did what we would call top 40 now, although then it was more just plain current rock, both 50,000 clear channel stations. Anybody that was around can tell you about WLS and WCFL even all these years later. They were part of our life, back and forth we went, second button on the car radio was usually LS and third CFL. Like all the early American call letters, they meant something, WLS stood (originally) for the World’s Largest Store (Sears Roebuck and Co.) and WCFL for the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The clear channel thing meant that in North America there was no other station on that frequency, 890 and 1000 Kilocycle/second (hertz) respectively. Especially at night, you could hear them from Pittsburgh to Denver, and down to the Gulf of Mexico, depending on some variables. And those bands I mentioned, I’ll be you’ve heard of some of them, here, let’s let them talk for themselves

But like Bob Sirott said there, it didn’t last all that long, when I was in college we started listening to the FM album oriented rock stations, although like he said, Chicago came with us, that was about it, although that was a lot.

This is what it sounded like

But like all good things, one afternoon the music died, here’s Superjock, Larry Lujack himself to officiate

Good days they were

 

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