Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dear NCAA: Are you freakin' kidding me?

As generally happens every year, there has been an uproar over the selection process for this year's NCAA tournament. So in an attempt to provide some transparency, the NCAA decided to provide a helpful Q&A to address some of the general public's more pressing questions regarding this year's "decisions."

Sounds like a great idea, right? Put out some solid P.R. to generate good will amongst the volleyball faithful, right?

Well, you'd be wrong.

In what can only be described as the greatest example of of direct answer-dodging since whatever U.S. Senate hearing occurred last week, writer Jerry Trickie sat down with committee chairperson Terry Gawlik to present... this.

Question #1:
Please tell me how the Pac-10 only had six teams selected and the Big Ten had eight? Do they really think that Northwestern and Indiana are better than Oregon?

Ooo, I like it! Hard-hitting, specific... good stuff. I imagine the answer will speak to Oregon's schedule, what it was that Northwestern and Indiana did right, etc. Terry, take it away!

When selecting the 64 teams in the tournament, the Division I Women's Volleyball Committee reviews the selection criteria, which includes head-to-head, win/loss, common opponents, results of the RPI and input from regional advisory committees.

...what just happened. Did I black out? Did I miss the answer? 'Cause surely that vague generality posing as an answer wasn't the complete response given, right? RIGHT?! It is?! Oh wow.

Question #2:
Why are some of the regional finals placed in cities that do not draw the fan support? It seems to make better sense to leave the regional finals in places like Palo Alto, Calif., Omaha, Neb., Austin and Los Angeles.

OK, different direction. I didn't realize this was a problem after the absolute debacle at Texas A&M a few years ago (for shame!). Let's hear the answer.

The committee reviews all bids from schools/cities that choose to bid. When making the decisions on future sites the committee looks at attendance, facilities and providing a great experience for our student-athletes. The committee is conscious of growing the sport by expanding to cities that haven't hosted and bringing great college volleyball to new areas of the country.

OK, they do understand that the second half of that answer kinda negates what was said in the first half? Decisions are made based on attendance... yet "the committee is conscious of growing the sport to cities that haven't hosted."

And that's a terrible phrase, "the committee is conscious of growing the sport." It's corporate double-talk for saying that while they consider attendance, they will go out on a limb and try different, unproven cities in an effort to grow the sport. All that's missing is the word "incentivize" and "vertical integration." SHEESH.

The next two questions really weren't that interesting, then they had another good, specific one:

Any thought originally given about Cal being seeded higher?

Excellent. Cal is the #7 seed, they just won the PAC 10, so the question makes sense. Answer?

The committee is continually evaluating the top 16 teams throughout the weekend and looking at them with regard to the criteria.

[exhale] Really? That's it? That's your answer? You don't want any extra time to think it over? What in the wide world of sports is a-goin' on?

Is the NCAA getting full course credit for this? I hope not. How do you answer a specific question about where Cal was seeded without using the actual words "Cal" or "seed" in the so-called answer?

Why not just say "I have no recollection of that conversation, senator"? I mean, if you're going to go with vague, indirect non-answers, why not go all the way in?

I don't even want to read this last question.

What went into keeping Kentucky in (the field) despite its early season struggles?

Another excellent question, but, honestly? I'm not expecting anything at this point. If the answer was "garbanzo cul de sac catamaran," I wouldn't bat an eye.

The committee looks at the whole body of work when evaluating the teams selected to the tournament.

Bingo. Way to go.

Look, NCAA, as Jon Stewart would say, meet me at camera three: Don't bother publishing a Q&A if you're not going to provide actual A's to the Q's. Don't ask us to give input if you're not going to respect us enough to give cogent answers.

This is like a man asking his mechanic, "Why do I need to replace my spark plugs?" and the mechanic saying, "Car parts make the car go 'vrooom.'"

Well, duh.


Monday, November 29, 2010

The "Northern Iowa Situation" analyzed for your amusement

"We're 5th seed! Haters: to the left."

So the inevitable backlash against Northern Iowa has started, raging like a wild fire across the internet. And the UNI backers have arrived in force to cast the backlashers as "hatas." To all of which we would like to offer the immortal words of...someone, who said: "Don't hate the playa; hate the game."

And what game is that? The committee, the RPI, the parameters, the whole kit-and-kaboodle of the selection process. It's a game that doesn't make sense, just like the reasoning behind Paper beating Rock.

According to the bylaws of Rock, Paper, Scissors, we're supposed to believe that Paper beats Rock by wrapping around it, when everyone knows that Rock would fly right through Paper any day of the week (unless we're talking about a whole ream of paper, stacked together like some paper-based shielding system). But the parameters of Rock, Paper, Scissors, inexplicably dictate that Paper beats Rock.

But you don't hate Paper because of that, do you? You don't start using cloth napkins and and fine china at picnics, do you? No.

In a similar fashion, according to the RPI (Random Process of Indexing), and via the committee's particular alchemy based on selection parameters and prevailing trade winds, we're supposed to believe that Northern Iowa is the #5 seed in the tournament.

But most people don't believe that Northern Iowa is the 5th-best team in the nation. And that's not a swipe at Northern Iowa. They're good, very good. People love them, just as they love Paper. And just as it's not Paper's fault that they beat Rock, it's not Northern Iowa's fault that they're the #5 seed.

Which brings us back to "Don't hate the playa; hate the game."

Adding to the frustration of volleyball fans and Rock, Paper, Scissors enthusiasts across America is that they have no recourse. There's no appeals process in the NCAA tournament, just as there's no governing board for Rock, Paper, Scissors to which you can present your Paper-based arguments.

And, BTW, don't turn your back on Paper, just because they're Paper. Ever had a paper cut? There you are, casually handled a bunch of paper, not knowing that unbelievable pain is lurking around the corner, when SLICE! Paper cut!

You see where this is going, right? Northern Iowa could be the paper cut of the NCAA tournament. If you think you're going to casually shuffle the Panthers around, then when you're not paying attention you're going to incur a searing, agonizing slice across your team's fingers.

...or something. That got kinda confusing.

What they said, what they meant

What he said: Oregon's Jim Moore - “It’s terribly disappointing for our players, and I truly thought we deserved an opportunity to play in the tournament again."

What he meant: "Let's all focus on the players and their disappointment, not our weak pre-conference schedule."

What she said: Mary Wise - "I think the team looks at the draw and thinks there’s some really, really tough first and second round matchups."

What she meant: "Our first round match is not one of those really, really tough matchups."

What he said: Brian Gimmillaro - "Everyone who follows that stuff told me we would get in."

What he meant: "I'd like you to believe that I don't follow 'stuff' the way everyone else does."

What she said: Holly McPeak - "I think (Florida has) the best chance to make it to Final Four out of the Austin (Texas) region."

What she meant: "I think Tuesday has the best chance of following Monday out of all the days of the week."

What he said: Mark Rosen - "We are excited to be in the tournament again this year. We have a tough task ahead of us."

What he meant: "Dude, if we don't have Hunt, we are soooo screwed."

What she said: Butler's Sharon Clark - "Everything has been fun and the girls are excited to play close to their friends and family. We should have a nice crowd following us."

What she meant: "If I know you, and you don't show up at this match, I will end you."

What he said: Joe Sagula - "I am excited for this team and opportunity to continue to play."

What he meant: "Whew! I didn't think we were going to get in! Did you think we were going to get in? I didn't think we were going to get in. I need a vacation."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

So, Penn State's headed to the Final Four...

Honestly, if these brackets were any more lopsided, they'd tip over and fall on their face.

No intended disrespect to UNI or LSU or anyone else, but... PSU just unwrapped a Wonka Bar, and there was a big, fat Golden Ticket inside. Sure, Penn State still has to avoid Slugworth to redeem the ticket, as well as the candy-based pitfalls in the factory, but they should arrive in the glass elevator at the end.

And about UNI... - Yes, they're #5 in the country... I'm just not sure which country. And I love UNI. Love 'em. They are a mid-major that makes the world go 'round. But the RPI does not compute here.

Remember the Alamo? - Sure, we all do. But that's not going to help UTSA against Texas.

San Diego screwed by geography, again - Toreros are gonna have to move into top 15 status apparently to avoid having to play USC in one of the first two rounds. Of course, Washington and Michigan don't wanna hear it.

Welcome to the tourney, Coach Zimmerman - First time in the dance for Coach Zimmerman, but it doesn't look like she's eligible for Prom Queen, playing Hilbert's Harbingers of Doom in the first round, and if she wins that, facing Dunning's "14 Ladies".

Favorite first-round cage match? - Chan! Versus Rubio! Dosty vs. Moffett! Desert Wildcats vs. Suburban Chicago North Side Wildcats!!! Arghghghgh!!!

Next favorite - Missouri State vs. Auburn. Forget volleyball. Let's throw Benson and Stokes into the Thunderdome. Two enter. One leaves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meanwhile, in DIII volleyball...

Hobbes University finished a distant third. (I'm sure they've never heard that one before.)

Totally Unfair Picture Captions with Tim Horsmon

"So NO ONE took my snickerdoodles, is that what we're saying? They just DISAPPEARED! POOF!"

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey! Let's make fun of things people said!

"I don’t think less of Jerritt Elliott, I just see less. The Texas women’s volleyball coach lost almost 40 pounds since last season when he gave up all caffeine, all sweets, all anything that tastes good." - from The Statesman. Translation: Jerritt Elliott has been in a bad mood since sometime last season.

"Our focus wasn't on ruining the great season Ball State had." - Toledo's Greg Smith. I dunno... ruination is an awfully good motivator, Smith. Seems like a missed opportunity.

"Tied for the 2010 Ivy women's volleyball title, Penn and Yale face off in a playoff Sunday, with the winner earning the League's NCAA Championship automatic bid." - from IvyLeagueSports.com. A tie in the Ivy League is broken on the court? That's kinda disappointing. I was hoping it was some kind of cage match involving slide rules and pocket protectors.

"We play it clean!" - new slogan of the FIVB, which sounds like it belongs to some kind of intramural shower nerf. But in actuality it's a result of every player that competed in the recent World Championships testing negative for performance-enhancing drugs. No wonder we lost.

"We had middle blockers making pancakes, defensive specialists and outside hitters." - Cal's Rich Feller. The misplaced modifier strikes again, because I'm sure Rich didn't mean that in addition to grilling up some flapjacks, his middles were also creating people in the form of defensive specialists and outside hitters.

"We ran into a buzzsaw last night." - Purdue's Dave Shondell on his team's match with Michigan. How come no one ever runs into other kinds of saws? "Boy, I tell ya', we ran into a real miter saw last night," or other members of the industrial arts? "We had a good week of practice, then just ran into an absolute Phillips head screwdriver." And what happens when you throw a monkey wrench at a buzzsaw? Is that like an immovable object meeting an irresistible force? Do you open a wormhole to a parallel dimension?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Conference tournaments have no respect for your bracket predictions (and other revelations)

Welcome to full-contact volleyball.
Ohio, are you kidding me? - Drag yourself through the regular season, losing to everyone and their mom, and then win the MAC tournament? Talk about taking the hard route.

Borrrrring - American returns the Patriot League to its boring pre-2009 status, winning another conference tournament. Zzz.

Answer your own front door. Butler's going to the dance - I don't know what happened to UWM, regular season champs, but they folded up the tents and went home against Valpo, as Butler went on to claim the tourney title by beating that same Valpo outfit.

Oh, USD. So close. - Toreros miss out on perfect conference season as they get snake-bit by Pepperdine, who, cripes, might make the tournament now.

Cal is soo over Stanford - The Murrey Monster had 24 kills and hit .356 to lead the Bears over Klineman & Co. Joining in on the Monster Mash were Gehan (.355), Johnson (.458), and Hawari (.500).

Penn State loves Minnesota right now, might hate them soon. - The 5-game upset of the Illini leaves Penn State alone in first place. But the Nittany Lions have to play at Minnesota next weekend after gorging on turkey. Oh and they're at Iowa, too.

Life detected on cold, desolate planet BYU. - Four in a row, including wins TCU and Los Lobos.

Big East final made up of teams not actually in the East - Louisville, the Omsk of northern Kentucky, sweeps Cincy, the... Dayton of southwestern Ohio.

Keylor Chan would like to voice his displeasure over that call - Unfortunately, he voiced a little too, uh, enthusiastically, and got a red card on match point against Ohio State. Buckeyes, a Thank You card is standard protocol in this situation.

It's a brand new day in Lubbock - Boy, you fire one coach, and the next thing you know you're beating Colorado in 5 games. Progress!

[insert comical double-take] - Northridge beats Long Beach. Coley Kyman's legacy lives on.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quotes: You know what? More people need to say funny stuff.

"I thought we played well for a long period of time. That was one of our goals. We have this phrase, ‘we want to be good over time,'" - Utah State head coach Grayson DuBose. It's no "Team work makes the dream work," or "Ruuu-dy," but I guess it'll do.

"Make no mistake, I’m very proud of what we’ve done so far in 2010." - Northern Illinois' Ray Gooden. Alright, which one of you clowns was making mistakes?

"Notre Dame volleyball: Delay sparks Irish" - South Bend Tribune. Hm, I wonder what kind of delay would spark the Irish. Power outage? Clerical error?

"Junior Kristen Delay’s 20 kills helped Notre Dame post a 25-23, 25-20, 25-17 Big East Conference volleyball victory Sunday over host Seton Hall (13-17, 7-7)." - Ohhh! Kristen Delay! I love her. She's my favorite player since Kelly Postponement.

"I forgot what it feels like to win." - Iowa's Becky Walters on snapping their 12-match losing streak by beating Michigan. Let's hope that's not their slogan for next year.

"The hardest thing was [Katie Zulandt's] energy on the court, and we lose her hitting percentage. Hannah [Stuart] did a marvelous job, but Hannah is not Katie." George Washington head coach Jojit Coronel. Aw. I bet Hannah puts this in her scrapbook, don't you?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh no, Senior Night! It's a trap! RUUUNNNN!

Charlotte upends Duquesne! - I mean, wow, right? 'Cause, like, Duquesne is, you know, and... yeah I got nuthin'. I should probably pay more attention to the A-10 before I write these things, huh.

Defense optional on Senior Night, apparently - Duke falls for the oldest trick in the book -- playing a decent team inspired by Senior Night -- and loses to the Terps, despite hitting .243 for the match. Which would be great except Maryland hit .338.

What home court advantage? - Advanced physical being Kindra Carlson collects 42 kills on the weekend, at home, but Cal, Stanford, both win in 4. Klineman, Murrey, counter with 24 and 23 against Huskies.

Another Senior Night victim - There's apparently something to this whole "making a big deal of the last time you play with your team in your home gym" that gets people fired up. This time it was Kentucky's Senior Night (OK, Senior Sunday Afternoon) propelling the Wildcats to a HUGE 5-game win over LSU. Fran Flory last seen headed back to her Winnebago.


Well lookie who's back in first place again - How crafty is Penn State? Lose those matches early on, make everyone think that they're not any good, and then when no one's looking, sweep the Illini to move into a tie for first place in the Big Ten. Russ is like a modern-day Henry Gondorff. [intro Joplin]

Is that the Law of Diminishing Returns? - San Diego, smoking their way through the conference schedule, beat Santa Clara 21, 14, and 8. It also might be The Reverse Fibonacci (Da Vinci Code reference for 8 points).

Pardon? - Iowa beat Michigan. I don't know where to go from here.

Pop quiz, hotshot - What happens when Pepp hits .500 in a game and John Stockton University hits -.238? 25-4, people. 25... 4. Waves were up 17-1 at one point.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ray Bechard digs Fitty

Don't just stand there, bust a move.

"This one hurts worse than the Kansas match." - Iowa State's Jamie Straube on the loss to Missouri. Must have been a tough one.

"I had a flashback to Kansas in the locker room.” Iowa State setter Alison Landwehr, about the same loss to Mizzou.

"This one hurts. It’s already sinking in." - Straube again. Jeez, was this a match or a tax audit? It's not like they were forced to watch "Surrogates" or anything.

"What an unbelievable match from start to finish." - Northwestern coach Keylor Chan on the sweep over Illinois. Yeah, we don't think it's believable either.

"The chess moves in women’s volleyball involved Beach boss Brian Gimmillaro, who talked his kids into ignoring the Tigers' three-match Stockton win streak over Long Beach and enjoyed the town that time forgot in a 3-1 victory." - from LBPOST.com. Honestly, I've read that sentence five times and I still don't get the chess connection. Aren't most head coaches involved in "moves"? And why is Stockton "the town that time forgot"? Is there no Internet there? No Chili's?

"This is kind of a hard place to play to be honest. It’s kind of an intense place and I think our team has always had a little trouble in the beginning." - UW-Milwaukee head coach Susie Johnson on playing at Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse. Well, did Susie bring her tape measure? I think if she did her team would find that the court measures exactly the same as their gym back at UWM. (Hackman reference. NAILED IT.)

"(Lauren) was customizing the set to each person to make them most successful and she was mixing it up a lot." - Oregon's Kat Fischer explaining why some of Lauren Plum's sets came with mud flaps, others with air-brushed flames, some with fancy rims.

"The Air Force Falcons got off the ground, but the Colorado State volleyball team quickly shot them down." - Rocky Mountain Collegian. Well that's certainly... vivid. Not sure I would have gone with analogy quite so -- what's the phrase -- on the nose.

"He put Michelle (Smith) in and he leaves her in the front row. That’s like the most epic thing you could ever dream of." - Colorado State's Jacque Davisson on Hilbert's decision to leave DS Michelle Smith in the front row against Air Force. "Most epic thing you could ever dream of"? Obviously Davisson has never seen "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo."

“I guess she wanted to party like it was her birthday." - Kansas skipper Ray Bechard on Taylor Tolefree... quoting 50 Cent. He also wants someone to teach him how to dougie, t-teach him how to dougie.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sebastian Janikowski is still in the league?

Sorry for another non-VB headline, but seriously, isn't he like 49? And doesn't he co-star on "Sons of Anarchy"?

Northwestern, yay! - Wildcats continue to have Illinois's number, sweeeeeping the Illini in Evanston, thereby sweeping them on the year. I think they're still looking great for the post-season, and now they're on a roll and...

Northwestern...yay? - Of course, I could be wrong. Keylor's Cubbies then lost in 5 to the Badgers, 21-19 in the fifth.

SoCal 1, NorCal 3 - Stanford sweeps, Cal splits. Discuss.

UW-Milwaukee shows Mr. Belvedere the door - See, 'cuz, they beat Butler, and Mr. Belvedere was a butler, FUN WITH HOMONYMS!

Tobacco Road is closed, y'all - And Duke closed it, with an emphatic 3-0 win over the now-second place 'Heels. Amanda Robertson, 11-1-19 for .526. Ker-POW.

Not that it would've really mattered. - Sure, Mary would've been pretty sore if her Gators hadn't pulled out their 5-game win at Auburn, but they're up 4 games in the SEC East. Unless they're, you know, taking this "national ranking" thing seriously.

Villanova bounce Irish in 4, no one blinks - How about Villanova? With the win they secure a spot in the Big E Hoedown for the first time since the fall of Aught Seven.

Maybe the high school gym was better? - Iowa State loses to Missouri in 4 games in their first match back in their home gym since The Great Flood. Perhaps there's a debilitating mold still lingering somewhere? You've gotta steam-clean those carpets. (...or maybe Missouri just played really well.)

945? - The Hoosiers only draw 945 people to a match with Minnesota? Something else going on in Bloomington on a Friday night? And it's too bad, because the Hoosiers held Gibby the Gopher in check (well, OK not Gibby, but the rest of the Gophers), and won the match in 4.

Banwarth into record books - The Husker libero -- perhaps best known for the photo at right (sorry Huskie faithful) -- became Nebraska's career dig leader in sweep of newly Knight-less Texas Tech.

Hey, it's Todd Kress! Todd! Over here! - Yes, Buffalo is 4-10 in the MAC, but what a foursome: Miami twice, Ball State, and now Ohio in a five-gamer.

SDSU can't make up their minds - Lose to Air Force, beat BYU. That, my friends, is a dichotomy. But I'm sure the Aztecs will take the win -- at BYU BTW -- and ruuunnnn back to the warm beaches of San Diego.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Totally Unfair Picture Captions with Volleyball Legends

"So... any reaction to leaving Irvine mid-season?"

"Not now, Karch."

"Yeah, OK."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Totally Unfair Photo Captions with Texas' Volleyball Staff

The Texas staff reacts with pain after Edgar Renteria hit a three-run home run in last night's Game 5 of the World Series.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The things people say

"It was weird. If we had played a sixth set, ASU would have won that one." - Dave Rubio. I'm sure Jason Watson feels better now.

“I think the girls are getting tougher. And the coaching staff does a good job of kind of pouncing on them when it looks like they’re showing signs of weakness." - Mike Sealy, channeling Doug Neidermeyer.

“[Juliann Faucette] along with Amber took the team on their backs in the third and it was impressive to watch." - Jerritt Elliott, referring to some bizarre Cirque du Soleil-inspired inverted human pyramid.

"Colorado State’s volleyball team must feel like a bunch of janitors lately." - Rocky Mountain Collegian. Boy, there's about 231,752 different directions they could go from here. I'm almost afraid to read on. Is this going to be some kind of complicated analogy involving an industrial cleaner?

"...as the Rams have now swept their last four opponents." - Oh. That's, that's actually not too bad.

"We didn't play our best volleyball of the season, but we didn't quite need to." - Rich Feller on the team's win over Oregon, which apparently wasn't that big a deal.

"There was no magic in McGonigle Hall on Sunday, as the volleyball team lost its eighth straight match to Charlotte on Halloween Day." - From Temple student newspaper. Wait, isn't McGonigle Hall at Hogwarts?

"Some teams have the ability to do great things and some teams don’t. Obviously, if you can’t serve the ball, then you qualify for the second one." - Another nugget of delicious wisdom from Russ Rose. Ya' think he's talking about anyone in particular? Think that person knows it?

What the hootenanny is going on?


So, the third mid-season firing has occurred, with McCartney now out at Georgia. THIRD. Is this a new record? Why are these A.D.s suddenly trigger-happy?

Wait. I know what it is. Don't you see what's going on here? College volleyball has officially hit the big time.

We did it! We're huge! Congratulations! We should look forward to players getting arrested with guns and pictures of coaches drunk at frat parties aaaany day now.

Oh the fun we'll have.