Can Illinois be that good again this year? No, but....Today I kick off my alphabetically sensitive preseason walk-arounds of each Big Ten team with some discussion and thoughts on that enigmatic band of orange-bedecked young men from Champaign, proud members of the Big Ten since its founding in 1896. Last year 37-2 overall, 15-1 in conference. Won Big Ten regular season title and conference tournament. Lost in national championship game to North Carolina, 75-70. Back Dee Brown (13.3 PPG, 1.31 PPWS, 5.0 reb. pct., 8.4 assists per 100 possessions) James Augustine (10.1 PPG, 1.32 PPWS, 17.4 reb. pct., 2.5 a/100 poss.) Rich McBride (2.6 PPG, 0.96 PPWS, 5.7 reb. pct., 3.2 a/100 poss.) Warren Carter (2.2 PPG, 1.04 PPWS, 13.6 reb. pct., 1.2 a/100 poss.) Shaun Pruitt (1.4 PPG) New Brian Randle (6-7 F, medical redshirt--2.7 PPG as freshman in 2003-04) Marcus Arnold (6-8 F, transfer from Illinois State--12.3 PPG in 2003-04) Calvin Brock (6-4 G, redshirt freshman) Chester Frazier (6-2 G, Baltimore) Jamar Smith (6-3 G, Peoria) Charles Jackson (6-8 F, Buena Vista, GA) Gone Luther Head (15.9 PPG, 1.22 PPWS, 7.3 reb. pct., 7.0 a/100 poss.) Deron Williams (12.5 PPG, 1.07 PPWS, 6.6 reb. pct., 12.1 a/100 poss.) Roger Powell (12.0 PPG, 1.22 PPWS, 13.9 reb. pct., 1.0 a/100 poss.) Jack Ingram (4.5 PPG, 1.06 PPWS, 11.1 reb. pct., 1.7 a/100 poss.) Nick Smith (3.3 PPG, 0.88 PPWS, 11.6 reb. pct., 3.5 a/100 poss.)Official motto for 2005-06"Please, no more opponents with four first-round picks"What we think we know in November Doh! Cursed alphabet! Placing Illinois first in line for my preseason walk-arounds when, as fate would have it, the Illini are one of the two toughest teams in the Big Ten to analyze in advance this season. (The other? Stay tuned!) For the fact of the matter is this: Illinois is about to give minutes in bulk to players who've either been out for a year (Brian Randle), have seldom played with the game on the line (Rich McBride, Warren Carter, Shaun Pruitt), or are new to the place entirely (Marcus Arnold, Chester Frazier, Jamar Smith). How will these guys play? I don't know. Bruce Weber doesn't know. No one knows. But fear not, alert readers! I'd rather light a candle than curse our darkness. And so I've helpfully crafted an Index of Leading Illini Indicators that I'll be watching like a hawk as the season develops. Doubtless I'll be called upon to offer oracular Alan Greenspan-like testimony on these indicators to the Senate Finance Committee. ("Irrational exuberance in the three-point sector continues to undermine investments in more solid long-term growth factors such as defense and rebounding," etc.) I just hope being so strikingly similar to Greenspan doesn't mean that, like the soon-to-be-retired Fed Chairman, I'll come to eerily resemble a character from the dentist's aquarium in Finding Nemo. Index of Leading Illini Indicators (ILII)1. 3FGA/FGALast year Illinois was what I've long (i.e., since yesterday) called a POT: a perimeter-oriented team. They shot a lot of threes, which turned out to be a savvy strategy on Coach Weber's part because they were the best three-point shooting team in the conference. Being a POT tends to cut down on your turnovers and the Illini took said tendency to its extreme, turning the ball over next to never. Outstanding shooting and valuing the ball: the result was that thing of beauty called the Illinois offense last year. (See yesterday's post for the numbers.)That won't happen again this year. The good news, though, is that this year's offense can be much less efficient than last year's and still be well above-average. The question is: which style will Illinois play? Weber says the Illini's style of play will be dictated by personnel on hand. But, of course, it's also true that the personnel that Weber puts on the floor will dictate the style of play. Example: assume that Brown, Augustine, Randle, and McBride are starters. Who Weber puts at that fifth spot makes a huge difference. If it's Warren Carter, Marcus Arnold or Shaun Pruitt, you have one style. If it's Jamar Smith, you have another. Wonk says: if Bruce Weber's team is devoting, say, 38 percent or more of their shots to three-point attempts, this will indicate to me that they've placed their bets on the POT style. And a rough rule of thumb for said style is this: if you're going to be in the high 30s (or higher) as far as three-point attempts (3FGA/FGA), you better be at least in the high 30s for your three-point makes (3FG pct.).Again, look at last year: --While never turning the ball over, Illinois devoted about 39 percent of their shots to three-pointers and made 41 percent of those threes. The result was spectacular. --On the other hand, Ohio State, while never turning the ball over, devoted about 40 percent of their shots to three-pointers but made only 32 percent of those threes. The result (helped along, granted, by atrocious offensive rebounding by the Buckeyes) was mediocre at best.Can the Illini again hit a sterling 41 percent of their threes in conference play? If they can then they should keep firing away. But if they can't hit something north of, say, 37 percent, they need to change their style of play. Which brings us to our second ILII....2. Oreb pct.If the share of Illinois' shots which are three-point attempts goes down, then this Illini fan would like to see the offensive rebounding numbers go up. Offensive rebound pct. (2005, conference games only) 1. Michigan State (40.5) 2. Iowa (38.0) 3. Purdue (37.6) 4. Minnesota (36.1) 5. Penn State (35.2) 6. Illinois (34.8) 7. Michigan (33.7) 8. Wisconsin (33.1) 9. Indiana (33.0) 10. Ohio State (26.4) 11. Northwestern (22.8)
For a team that was devoting 39 percent of its shots to threes, that 34.8 oreb pct. is actually pretty good. So I think Illinois has the potential to be a very good offensive rebounding team. Not Michigan State, perhaps, but very good. True, the flip side of this scenario (more orebs and fewer threes) is that turnovers are likely to increase, as well.3. Opp. PPP
The lesson of the Illinois defense last season was that doing everything on D just slightly better than average results in a defense that's way above-average, to wit:Illinois defense (all stats 2005, conference games only)Standard deviations above the meanField goal defense (opponent eFG pct.): 0.30Creating turnovers (opponent TO pct.): 0.79Defensive rebounding (dreb pct.): 0.57Nothing earth shattering there, certainly. But the bottom line was an overall defensive efficiency second only to Minnesota's. Opponent points per possession (Opp. PPP)1. Minnesota (0.92) 2. Illinois (0.94) 3. Michigan State (0.95) 4. Ohio State (0.97) 5. Iowa (0.98) 6. Wisconsin (1.00) 7. Indiana (1.03) 8. Purdue (1.06) 9. Michigan (1.07) 10. Northwestern (1.08) 11. Penn State (1.14)(The Illini's number for opp. PPP was thus a robust 1.06 standard deviations above the mean.)So: can Illinois be as good or better this year on D? Maybe. On the one hand, last year's defense had some things working in its favor that this year's D will not. In fact, last year's defense appears to have been slightly better than it "should" have been. Maybe there was a demoralization effect working in the Illini's favor as opposing teams lost heart under attack from the very efficient Illinois offense. Or maybe the oft-lauded teamwork that the Illini displayed on offense transferred over to their D. (But, if so, why was Wake Forest so spectacular on offense and terrible on defense last year?) One thing is certain, though. As seen above, Illinois' defensive strength was in creating turnovers and on that front Luther Head will be missed--even though in absolute terms Dee Brown led the team in steals.But there are also a couple points in favor of this year's D. The defensive rebounding bids fair to improve as Illinois goes with a taller and deeper front line this year. And the Illini actually led the Big Ten in defensive 2FG pct. last year. If they were able to do that with Augustine, Roger Powell, Head, and Jack Ingram getting the 3-4-5 minutes, they should be able to do it with Augustine, Warren Carter, Marcus Arnold, and Brian Randle, right?
We'll see. Brown, Augustine, question mark, question mark, etc.If you're Bruce Weber, the good news about this year's team is you have your best rebounder and your two most efficient scorers returning from last year--and one of those guys just happens to be the emotional leader of the team, a consensus first-team All-American, and the Sporting News Preseason National POY. (Not to mention the most cherished honor of all: reigning Wonk POY.) Dee BrownThe question, of course, is whether or not Brown can continue the stellar offensive efficiency he displayed last year--only this time without Deron Williams to run the show and without Luther Head absorbing a healthy plurality of the opponent's attention on defense.Indeed, Brown had arguably the most statistically advantageous situation of any offensive player in the nation last season: he had his team's leading scorer out on the perimeter with him (i.e., attracting defensive attention away from him) and he had the Big Ten's best point guard since Isiah Thomas feeding him the ball. An ideal situation, yes--yet Brown deserves credit for making the most of it. In fact, this Illini fan is less worried about replacing Deron Williams than I am about replacing Dee Brown. That is, Brown can cover Williams' role capably enough this year. But who's going to cover Brown's?UPDATE: Brown agrees with Wonk! The senior guard says playing the point this year will be no problem: "People don't understand. There were 10 or 15 games where I played point the whole game. I had 13 assists in one game, 11 in another." Brown apparently refers to games last season against Longwood and (at) Penn State, where he did indeed have 13 and 11 assists, respectively. Punctilious user of illustrative numerical data Dee Brown, Wonk salutes you! (Dee Brown: the next Ken Pomeroy? Hmmm....) James Augustine Augustine poses roughly the same kind of cognitive dissonance that an MVP candidate presents in baseball if he's a DH. On the one hand, Augustine is simply underrated: the best returning rebounder in the Big Ten not coached by Tom Izzo, the big guy is also the most efficient returning scorer in the conference. Nice combination, that. Thus Weber's expectation for Augustine this year is as lofty as it is brief: "He should dominate."On the other hand, Augustine is given less than his due because Weber chose to hide him on defense last year, putting him on the most harmless opposing frontcourt player so as to shield Augustine from foul trouble. A laudable goal, certainly, but one that was not always successfully attained--after not fouling out once in 2003-04, Augustine fouled out three times last year (including, of course, in the national championship game). And his minutes actually went down (slightly).The hope, of course, is that with the added depth of the front line on this year's team, Augustine can be more aggressive on both ends of the floor. That would mean shouldering more of the scoring load on offense and picking on someone his own size on D.Oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper has blogged that he wants to see 18 points and 10 boards a game from Augustine. Those numbers feel high to me; not because Augustine can't post them--he can--but because they would reflect a lack of balance that this Illinois grad hopes the Illini don't exhibit. The surest way to average 10 boards a game is to get no help from your teammates--ask Aaron Johnson.Brian RandleThe most impressive thing that can be said about the 6-7 Randle is that he started nine games as a freshman in 2004 on a team stocked with the same players that went 37-2 last year. What can we learn from Randle's stats that year?That we hope he's been working on his free throws. Randle posted a Mike-Thompson-bad 46.4 from the charity stripe in 2004. Amazingly, this brought his PPWS down only to a still relatively robust 1.14--indicating very efficient (if scarce) scoring from the field by the young man. When a freshman scores efficiently (e.g., A.J. Ratliff last year), I make a mental note to keep an eye on him.Keep an eye on Randle (a tri-captain, along with Brown and Augustine): he is universally acclaimed as "freakishly athletic" and, blessed as he is with both quickness and length, is reputed to be the team's best defender.Rich McBride
When McBride arrived at Illinois in the fall of 2003, he was a highly regarded recruit known for two things: shooting threes and playing on the same high school team as current Philadelphia 76er Andre Igoudala. At the time it was even thought (I am not making this up) that McBride might compete with the then-quite-pudgy and, we know now, woefully underestimated Deron Williams for quality minutes. It hasn't worked out that way. To be sure, McBride shoots a lot of threes--he just hasn't shown he can make them (posting a shield-the-children's-eyes 31.0 last season), thus putting him into that odd Tony Stockman realm: specialization absent any apparent aptitude. Will that change this season? (Thanks, perhaps, to Coach Weber's fabled Norman Dale-esque shooting drills?) Maybe. Dee Brown's progression in 3FG pct. looks like this: 2002-03: 33.6 2003-04: 34.6 2004-05: 43.4 Then again, maybe not. Deron Williams did the same drills last year and his regression looked like this: 2002-03: 35.4 2003-04: 39.4 2004-05: 36.4I fully expect McBride's perimeter shooting to improve this season (it has nowhere else to go) but the question will be by how much: McBride posting anything north of the mid-30s on his threes would be a big help to this team.
Marcus ArnoldNot to put any pressure on you, Mr. Arnold, but--zoinks!--you're apparently "one of the most important newcomers in college basketball".... Illini fans are to be forgiven if they have a slightly inflated opinion of this particular newcomer: as a member of the Illinois State Redbirds, Arnold paid a visit to the Assembly Hall on January 3, 2004, and wore the Illini out, to the tune of 23 points in just 31 foul-blighted minutes. (Illinois won in OT.)The numbers from Arnold's performances against non-Illinois opponents that year, however, paint a somewhat more prosaic picture. In 2004, at least, Arnold committed both fouls and turnovers at an alarming rate. His frequent fouling limited him to just 24 minutes a game--and yet, in good chicken-and-egg form, he managed to cram a noteworthy abundance of fouls into those scant minutes. Illinois fans have seen this movie before and it's called Augustine his freshman year. The hope cherished by Weber is that age and experience will enable Arnold, as they did Augustine, to improve his ability to stay on the floor.Warren CarterLong, skilled, and, to Illini fans, maddeningly irenic, Dallas native Carter represents the last waning vestige of the Texas recruiting empire that was to be built by then-head coach Bill Self and then-assistant Billy Gillispie. While his scant minutes last year put him just below the cutoff for inclusion in Wonk's postings of such stats, Carter's numbers suggest decent abilities on the boards (about like Michigan's Graham Brown). Otherwise, his microscopic percentages for both turnovers and assists reveal only that a team that went 37-2 didn't see much of a need to put the ball in his hands. In many ways, then, this year will be the junior's introduction to the Big Ten. And the rest...The reviews continue to come back positive on freshman guards Jamar Smith ("the best shooter on the team" (!) in Weber's words) and Chester Frazier--see my discussion with Mark Tupper (below) for the details. (Where this leaves fellow guard and redshirt freshman Calvin Brock as far as playing time is yet to be determined)....There's a hitherto little-known player creating a "buzz" in practice--and it's Shaun Pruitt? And he may even start the year as a starter? Zowie. Didn't see that coming.BONUS statistical navel-gazing! How good was Illinois' three-point shooting last season, you ask? This good: the Illini came within 0.1 of shooting as well on their threes as Penn State did on their twos:Illinois 3FG pct., 2005: 41.3Penn State 2FG pct., 2005: 41.4Wow. Penn State's shooting was simply Edvard Munch-level horrific. (More on the insistent and seemingly ontological futility of the Nittany Lions coming soon.)On chemistry....Dee Brown on this year's Illini: "Actually this team might be way tighter as far as off the court. This year everybody hangs out. It's like a real family. Last year it was, too. But this year, the younger guys, they're so 'up.' Last year Jack would have homework. Nick didn't want to do nothing."A talk with Mark TupperMark Tupper is Executive Sports Editor of the Decatur Herald & Review. Both his column and his blog are required reading for Illinois fans, thus earning him the well-deserved Wonk accolade: "oracular Illini observer." Q. Mark, I promise only the first and the last questions will be about last season: how much of the 37-2 was the NBA-level talent and how much was Bruce Weber? A. Obviously, it was both. Without NBA-level talent at the guard position there's no way Illinois could have been 37-2. But without Weber's teaching and pushing and, dare I say it, inspiration, they wouldn't have gotten that far either. I love Weber's motion offense and the relentlessness with which they played. I truly think he's a hell of a teacher. Players get better under his watch. Much better. I doubt Luther Head would have climbed into the first round without Weber's offense, teaching, and encouragement. What began as a rocky relationship melded into a happy marriage that nearly won a national title. Q. You wrote a book with Weber in the off-season and to get it on the shelves in time for Fathers Day I understand you cranked the thing out in something like two weeks, right? What do you do for an encore this May? A sequel to Anna Karenina in three weeks? A. The publishers of the book wanted it on the shelves a week before Father's Day, so we had to rush. It took 10 days to schedule the interviews with Bruce, then a few days to transcribe the tapes. I had a seven-day window in which to write the book and two of the days I was wrapped up in other matters. So I wrote it in five days. Q. Learn anything about the coach you didn't already know from covering him? A. What I learned about Bruce was really a reaffirmation of what I already knew: he's brutally honest, extremely open, a straight shooter who has been soaking up the game since he was a kid. He was programmed as a youngster to be a coach, as were his brothers. Q. I know Weber's talked a lot about using November and December as a time to experiment with different lineups. That being said, if you had to guess right now: who's the starting five going to be in the first game? A. Figuring out the starting lineup is tough right now but, if forced to guess, I'd probably say the starting five for the South Dakota State game would be Dee Brown and Rich McBride at guards, James Augustine at center and Brian Randle and either Marcus Arnold or Warren Carter at forwards. Q. I'm not much for cipherin' but I believe that's six. A. If he picks it up a little in practice, I might go with Carter. Q. Last year Illinois was perimeter-oriented: percentage-wise only Ohio State shot more threes. What style do you think we'll see on offense this year? And can Weber (and the team) really switch to a style that favors the bigs if the talent emerges in that direction? A. Their style--and, more precisely, how much they depend on the bigs--depends on whether shooters emerge. Right now, Dee Brown is the only sure-thing shooter of the guards. Jamar Smith can stroke it, but can he do it during Big Ten competition? And can he defend well enough to be on the floor much? Can McBride shoot it in games as well as he has shot it in practice? Carter can shoot and could be an instant offense guy. But I think they'll be going inside more than last season, to be sure. Randle will be a load around the basket, zooming in for tips and dunks and rebounds. And he can drive it to the hole. Augustine really needs to step up and play like a senior on a mission. Arnold looks capable and we all remember what he showed vs. Illinois when he was at Illinois State. I think Weber will tweak the style depending on their ability to shoot from the perimeter. Their ball movement sets up open shooters and he would like to find some guys who can take advantage. Q. Are James Augustine and Dee Brown completely over their offseason injuries? A. Dee looks fantastic. He's flying around the court, shooting it great and showing no signs of the broken foot. Augie, on the other hand, is still not 100 percent. They say it's more his foot than his ankle and we know he's had chronic foot troubles. I think it frustrates him a little, although he's active and playing well. Q. How does Brown feel about being back? Do you think he can come close to last year's excellent offensive efficiency without his old backcourt mates? A. I think Dee is in a great frame of mind. He's so energetic and always the leader at practice. He's hand-clapping, calling out encouragement and responding to Weber's instructions. He's helping the young guys and setting an example with his frantic pace and intensely competitive nature. Sure, he misses Deron and Luther--and he'll really miss them early in the season as this team searches for its own identity. It will be interesting to see if that frustrates him. But you can tell he's looking for new teammates to go to, much as Michael Jordan searched for guys he could rely on. When he found them (John Paxson, for instance) he didn't hesitate to give them the ball. Q. What's the coaching staff asking of/telling Augustine this year? A. They're telling him to be a senior who explodes with his best season ever. They're telling him he has the physical skills to be great and needs to stay on the floor to show that greatness. They're telling him he should aspire to be one of the best and most versatile big men in the country. They're telling him they expect him to have a breakout final season in college--rebounding, scoring and defending. Q. So are there three assistants ready to jump in front of Brian Randle this year every time he goes near a wall with an angry look in his eye? Seriously, you've written that Randle could be this year's defensive stopper. What about on offense? What can we expect from Randle? A. I would be hugely disappointed if Randle doesn't have a very, very good season. He is so explosive physically. I've written that he might be the best all-around athlete in Illini basketball history. That's saying a lot but check him out. Now, physical athleticism doesn't necessarily include great skills, and his weakness is shooting and ball-handling. How that develops will determine how good he can be. Defensively, he has the potential to be one of the best around. He can guard virtually any player of any size. And he should be a demon on the glass. I'm hoping for 15 points and eight rebounds but trying to remember that he has barely played college ball. Q. Where does Warren Carter fit in this year? A. Carter can be a starter if he proves to the staff that he wants it badly enough. He teases you with his talent level, then drifts into the background. Maybe he needs to get ticked off. He strikes me as a great kid who needs to have a fire lit to get him going. Q. I've seen more than one article quoting Rich McBride to the effect that Deron Williams and Luther Head were so good that he lost a little confidence in his own talent. What's your sense: is he ready for the minutes that could come his way? A. It did become discouraging for him going against Deron and Luther every day in practice. But he brought some of that on himself and let his weight get away from him. Now he's trimmed down substantially and looks fantastic. His shot looks better, although Weber has reminded him that one reason it improved was because of the extra time he spent in the gym. Translation: Keep putting in extra time in the gym because it impacts your shot. He's not a great athlete but he seems determined to grab the playing time he knows is out there with the loss of Williams and Head. Q. Tell me about your impression of each of the new guards: Chester Frazier and Jamar Smith. A. Honestly, I've been consistently impressed by each of the freshman guards. Frazier is quicker and more aggressive than I imagined. His shot still has a ways to go but it's not bad. And Smith is a very good athlete with a sweet, sweet shot. Smith's problem is a lack of weight and strength. He gets bounced around a lot. But he can stroke it and Dee likes setting him up. What we don't know is how they'll respond once the season begins. Q. What does Illinois State transfer Marcus Arnold have in his game that's ready to go right now? What does he need to develop? A. Arnold has a big strong body, he's experienced at this level, and he knows what it takes to do damage around the basket. There may not be anything he does great, but he can do most things fairly well. And he's a better inside scorer than Roger Powell, although not as athletic. Q. Shaun Pruitt? Calvin Brock? Thoughts? A. Weber says Pruitt has been an early surprise, although when I watched practice the other day he didn't show that much. He went to the Pete Newell Big Man Camp and said it did wonders for his confidence. He said Ike Diogu and Brian Cook were among the guys who worked with him. His teammates say he's playing with more aggression and that he has good low-post moves. He's just not very athletic. But if he can play solidly down low he can find minutes there. As for Brock, he's one of the best athletes on the team and occasionally makes a spectacular play around the basket. He looks like he should be an excellent defender, although I haven't seen him defend anyone in live action yet. But his shot is hit-and-miss (probably more miss than hit). Q. You've written that Chicago product and Kansas-bound recruit Sherron Collins was ready to commit to Illinois this past summer but was talked out of it by those around him. That still begs the question: why would his advisors, family, entourage, whomever prefer Kansas to Illinois? A. I can't answer the question about "why" when it comes to Sherron Collins. Anthony Longstreet [Collins' high school coach] says, in so many words, that Sherron "fell in love" at Kansas and it apparently was a marriage he didn't think he could or should prevent. I would like to have seen his coach encourage his player to take the remainder of his visits, then sit down and talk about his choices. But they preferred to stop the process then and there. That's OK, you move on and work on other recruiting targets like Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose. Q. Last question: single most prominent memory of last season? A. Wow, that's a tough one. I'd have to say the Arizona comeback was about as unreal as it got--just an amazing effort against a great opponent in a crazy atmosphere that allowed a team to reach the Final Four. I'd also have to say the whole Final Four experience in St. Louis was wonderful. Looking back, it went so quickly. It was victory after victory after victory and the fan support was incredible. It was the kind of thing they write books about. Q. And indeed you did. Thanks, Mark.
In today's less Wonk-ish venues.... How can you get ejected from an exhibition game? Against St. Rose?....Latest in a series....Longtime readers are already quite familiar with the first bullet point in the Wonk Declaration of Blog Principles:Send me free stuff and I will blog about you.The sagacious folks at the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook understand this foundational tenet and were kind enough to send Wonk a copy of their 25th Edition Yearbook.How good is it? If someone who calls himself "Big Ten Wonk" lavishes praise upon a publication that features Mike Krzyzewski, Christian Laettner and Chris Duhon, among others, on its cover, then trust me: it's good.This book gives detailed information on every D-I team in the country. I've had my copy for precisely four days now and I'm already wearing it out. In fact, perusing the Blue Ribbon Yearbook makes Wonk want to give Kyle Whelliston a call out of the blue just so I can impress him with my sudden detailed knowledge of Sam Houston St., Maryland-Eastern Shore, and Gardner Webb.To quote Krusty: "I heartily endorse this product or event." And if that doesn't propel you to a purchase, please note that indispensable blogger Chris West has, as usual, put it better than Wonk. Wonk back! Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!Kicking off Season Deux of Wonk back!Wonk,O frabjous day! I have eagerly awaited your return for almost seven months. It appears that, should you suddenly expire or lapse into a persistent vegetative state, your new post/novel could last me another seven. Bravo!Dave S.Thanks, Dave!Hi, Wonk,
Welcome back--nice to have you posting again. Your first post of the season was a blockbuster and I say that even though I would have been perfectly happy to go through life blissfully unaware of the accursed Doodlebops.
As for the Spartans, this is a year I've been looking forward to for quite some time. We've got some experience under Neitzel's belt, Ager and Brown should run like crazy, and Marquise Gray can apparently jump out of the gym. It should be a great season.
My project for the winter will be to make it through the entire season without hearing Paul Davis's speaking voice. As you may recall, the general public's first encounter with said voice last season during a post-game interview was traumatizing, to say the least. Is there any way you can use your newfound media connections to institute some kind of alert system, letting the viewer know when Paul is about to speak so we may have a chance to take evasive action?
Shawn M.Thanks, Shawn! As with many such traumatic events, I remember precisely where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard Paul Davis's voice. Gosh. If only I'd blogged about it (cue the harp! screen go wavy!)....