Friday, March 25, 2011

Blog NOT Dead, and Butler Wins!

Technically speaking, this blog is now not-dead.  And there was much rejoicing.  Yay.

Another long and tough Bradley season has ended (this time with the firing of 9-year coach Jim Les), but at least it's Butler time. My mid-major tendencies had me excited coming into March Madness with a pretty strong field of representatives. San Diego State was a 2-seed. Old Dominion and George Mason were seemingly under-seeded, but pundits thought they'd take care of business anyway. And there was the matter of the great injustice that ODU's seed saw them playing mid-major royalty Butler (who were seeded about right at an 8). My thinking filling out a bracket was that all that was probably okay... Butler was having something of a rough season, and I thought ODU would take them out and then proceed on to the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight. Oops. ODU did give Butler the toughest game of the tournament so far, but Butler won and and since left top seed Pitt and Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin in their wake to make it into the Elite Eight. GO BUTLER! Next opponent is Billy Donovan's Florida. Keep it up!

Oh yeah, and Duke bought the farm last night. N C A A YES! Down Duke! Viva Butler! And other such fanfare.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Maniscalco Lost for Season / WCU Preview

Bad news for the Braves today as team leader and tough as nails fan favorite senior guard Sam Maniscalco will miss the rest of the season with a bad ankle that's been bothering him since surgery performed over the summer break.  Combined with the earlier loss of Taylor Brown the Braves have now lost two of their three best players.  For me this means all preseason expectations are kind of shot.  The Braves are left with ten players active, with one (freshman big Andrew Davis) still appearing to be a redshirt candidate. 

So far, Coach Les has been playing lots of 4-guard alignments as he hasn't appeared confident in any of his bigs.  That seems all but impossible as the Braves only have five guards active now.  The bigs and sophomore PG Dyricus Simms-Edwards are going to have to grow up quick.  I'm mostly interested in seeing Bradley focus on working through the development of an inside game and a good gutsy effort from the team for the rest of the season.  Anything over .500 would be a great success, I think... And yajusneverknow, sometimes when a team has to sink or swim, they find out they can swim. 

Tonight's game is against Southern Conference member Western Carolina Catamounts (or Catamites as we took to calling them) who beat Bradley in Peoria last season.  They had a quality team with good seniors and caught us on an off night.  They are 3-4 and are not expected to be a tough team.  No way to predict how the Braves will handle the loss of their spiritual leader and related/necessary shift in team philosophy.  GO BRAVES.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Yuck, Bradley loses to Eastern Illinois

In my first Carver Arena action Bradley put together a real stinker to lose to NCAA bottom feeder Eastern Illinois.  The Braves have a strong tendency to make bad teams look pretty good, and while they couldn't make the Panthers look good, they made them look okay-ish.  There's nothing to say here, really, other than that the Braves looked awful and did not deserve to win.  I have a feeling this may be something like our worst home loss, maybe ever, in terms of quality of opponent lost to.

Bradley started off down 8-0 based on poor shooting and ineffective defense.  They never got over the hump despite tying it up near the end of the game.  In the last few minutes they were fouling to try to catch up, which didn't work.  Bright spots: Andrew Warren (23 pts, 8 rbs) had a very nice game... Uhhh, Dyricus Simms-Edwards showed some signs that maybe he's emerging from his slump a bit with 8 points scored in the first few minutes.  Shockingly, Sam Maniscalco had one of the worst games of his career with 8 turnovers and 3 points.  During the second half it felt like he turned it over every time he touched the ball.  I'm really starting to worry about his ankles... If he's going to be unhealthy or ineffective the Braves don't have a great shot at having anything like a decent season.

Next up: away game at Western Carolina on Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tipoff Tourney Recap

Bradley split their games in Springfield, MA, on Saturday and Sunday.  Through the magic of streaming video I was able to watch both games.  The streaming was provided by JumpTV (same as the much reviled Bradley offering B.TV), and it was relatively poor quality.  Picture was small and pixellated and the only audio was the PA announcer.  There was no scoreboard, real-time stats, or even clock.  It wasn't worth $6/game, but I'm dumb I guess.

Anyway, Bradley won their first game in Springfield against the University of Southern California in just about the most ridiculous fashion ever.  They played awfully for pretty much the entire way, but because USC also played poorly Bradley hung in there.  With time nearly expired Bradley had managed to get a two point lead and things were looking okay.  Then Will Egolf fired up one of his signature stupid fouls and put a USC post player on the line.  To make matters worse, the Bradley Bench received a technical for reasons no one has yet been able to identify.  The USC player made all four of his free throws and things looked bleak.  Bradley pushed the ball up the court and didn't score, the very same post player was fouled as USC counterattacked and he missed both free throws.  With just a few seconds left the ball was inbounded and Maniscalco tried to make space before unleashing a desperation three at the buzzer and missed.  However, the whistle blew, he'd been fouled!  A review by the referees confirmed that he got the shot off before the buzzer and that it was from 3-point territory.  Sammy proved as cold as ice and sunk all three in succession.  0.3 seconds were put on the clock and USC lobbed the ball down the court to no avail.  BU win.

Sunday's game against Texas Christian University was an interesting one.  TCU was probably the toughest opponent Bradley has faced to this point in the season and another close victory was just not in the cards.  Paradoxically, of the games I've watched, Bradley looked their best in this contest but didn't pull out the win.  They'd built up a 4 point lead at the end of the second half when TCU made a nice little run and Bradley seemed to run out of gas/luck and TCU sealed the win.  Bradley's record goes to 4-1, a nice start all things considered.

Tonight marks the first home game I'll actually be able to be in attendance for versus the hapless Eastern Illinois Panthers.  Year-in year-out EIU is one of the worst teams in Division I so Bradley must take care of business tonight.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another Day, Another Game

My unable to watch Bradley games streak continued last night (now at 2)... On the road for work, and the hotel doesn't support so I couldn't get the game.  Bradley beat Northern Illinois 66-63.  Sounds like they struggled quite a bit at times, but managed to put together a win.  In the post-Taylor Brown world that the 2010-2011 season has become a win is a win is a win.  It's going to be a tough transition for the Braves to make, though I expect them to get better together as the season goes on and they get used to missing TB.  As a side note, Will Egolf was suspended for the first half for being late to practice.

In a strange scheduling situation, Bradley has back to back games with Loyola Marymount in town tonight.  This is our first legit opponent and I hope Bradley can put together a win.  I'm still on the road but I have a shot at watching the game at a buddy's house, so we'll see if I finally get to see a game.  I have no data or reason to make this prediction, but I'm calling BU 71, LMU 59, with the Braves coasting.  Probably just wishful thinking, but GO BU anyway.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bradley Completes Signings of entire 2011 Class

Bradley had four verbal commitments for the 2011-2012 class and all four have submitted their signed National Letters of Intent.  Here are a few details of each below (listed in order of verbal commitment):

Sean Harris - SF - 6'7 - It seems like ages ago that Sean verbally committed to join Bradley after completing his freshman season at JUCO Yuba College (the path to Bradley taken by Zach Andrews and Lawrence Wright).  As it happens Sean is a Mormon and still had to complete his missionary work.  Due to timing and other factors that means that Sean will arrive on the hilltop with three years of eligibility left.  He's considered to be most like Taylor Brown, with decent perimeter skills, good rebounding, and a high motor. 

Donivine Stewart - PG - 5'10 - A popular local talent from Limestone HS of Peoria decided to stay at home over offers from power conference members DePaul and West Virginia.  He was a prolific scorer throughout his high school career, and from what I've heard the only D1 talent on his team.  I've never seen him play, but by reputation D-World (as he's known) is a lead guard who makes up for physical deficiencies with excellent skills and basketball IQ.  Been hearing about him for years, and always happy when local talent stays home.

Remy Abell - SG - 6'4 - A very exciting 3-star recruit out of Kentucky.  He's recognized as a versatile wing good at most aspects of the game-- athleticism, shooting, ballhandling, defense, and may even be able to contribute some at the point.  He's a top 5 player for this class out of Kentucky and a candidate for Mr. Basketball.  Good stuff.

Nate Wells - C - 7'1 -  A late-blooming giant who apparently may grow another inch or two, Nate Wells  was recruited as a project.  His signing confirmed also that he'd redshirt for the 2011-2012 season.  A lot of fans seem to not much like another project in the paint, but to be realistic, I just don't think there's that many giant centers ready to contribute as freshmen.  As a player, Wells plays on a terrible 4A team in Iowa, but led his league in blocks.  He didn't block or rebound much.  Reports seem to indicate he's not a bad athlete but still learning to play basketball.  He may have a long road, but Bradley's set him out with a lot of time to get ready.

2011-2012 Bradley Roster Breakdown:

Point/Combo Guards - Dyricus Simms-Edwards (Jr, 6'3), Walt Lemon, Jr (So, 6'3) Donivine Stewart (Fr, 5'10)

Wing/Shooting Guards - Jake Eastman (Jr, 6'5), Remy Abell (Fr, 6'4)

Forwards - Taylor Brown (Jr/Sr, 6'6), Milos Knezevic (Jr, 6'8), Jordan Prosser (So, 6'9), Sean Harris (So, 6'7)

Centers - Will Egolf (Sr, 6'9), Anthony Thompson (Sr, 6'10), Andrew Davis (So, 6'10), Nate Wells (R/S, 7'1)

It's an interesting roster, to be sure with five guards and eight "bigs."  It's definitely on the big side, which leaves me t wonder if all of our forwards or centers will be with the team next season.  That or Les really wants to start playing big.  It's much too early to say or speculate and we'll find out in due time. 

Taylor Brown and the TAMK game.

I missed the first official game of the season against D-II opponent the Texas A&M - Kingsville Javelinas as I was taking a long overdue vacation with my wife.  Anyway, because I am who I am she got to listen to the second half of the game over internet radio (courtesy of WMBD) on my cell phone in the hotel room.  All things considered, it sounds like the Braves adjusted to circumstances well and put TAMK down, 66-55.  It's hard to have any useful impressions without having seen the game, but I'll take a win considering circumstances.  In other news Walt Lemon, Jr. had a sweet breakout game. 

The circumstances I keep mentioning darkened my little vacation significantly.  We were spending a few days in Sarasota and had just an incredible lunch at the locally recommended out-of-the-way Star Fish Company.  Well stuffed with delicious fresh seafood, we'd retired to our hotel room for a midday siesta.  I woke up, and checked Bradleyfans to see a developing story/rumor regarding Taylor Brown.  It sounded like something was up, and the mods at Bradleyfans had started pulling posts.  I worried it was injury or suspension for bad behavior, and that's the way the rumors were tending.  I decided to go back to sleep, and drifted off a little angry.  I woke up a few minutes later and saw the official story broken, TB out for season with some kind of heart problem. 

What terrible news, for all involved.  The fan's prerogative says I was worried about Bradley going forward, and I sure am.  All that aside though, what terrible news for a talented young basketball player.  The story starts with the tragic death of Bradley baseball player Phil Kaiser a few weeks ago.  Phil died of a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and as a result the university decided to check all their players at the Mayo Clinic for any unknown heart issues.  Turns out Taylor Brown has one... Not sure even what it is, but it entails him engaging in no sports activity for three months before he can be retested.  I hope it turns out he's got nothing or can be treated for whatever the condition is.  At this point, it's uncertain if Taylor can ever play basketball again, so I wish him all the best however it all turns out.  I feel very sorry that he has to spend a season on the bench cheering on his team instead of playing.  Good luck and get well soon, Taylor!