Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Gut-check Time for Bengals

Saturday night will be the real heart-test for Idaho State basketball. Can the Bengals bounce back from that awful second-half and overtime performance vs. Weber State on Thursday night when ISU takes on the Wildcats in the rematch in Dee Events Center?

All of the Bengals, even Matt Stucki and Felix Caspari who played so valiently on Thursday, have a lot to prove -- specifically, they need to come out and COMPETE Saturday night, in an attempt to overcome the half-hearted effort that cost them a critical overtime loss on Thursday night. David Busma and Chron Tatum have to try to extricate themselves from Coach Joe O'Brien's doghouse -- the Bengals two big men saw a combined total of 8 minutes of PT Thursday night and, while Coach OB wasn't using names on our post-game show, he was obviously irritated with a lack of effort on the parts of the two Bengal bigs. So irritated he didn't put either in late in the game, when the Bengals were desperate for offense from someone other than Stucki, who took 13 of ISU's 19 second-half shots from the field.

Demetrious Monroe, who started out on fire in the first five minutes of the game Thursday night, and then completely disappeared over the final 35 minutes he played also needs to redeem himself; especially after little Kellen McCoy made the play of the game when he swiped what should have been an offensive rebound out of Monroe's hands in overtime. Instead of Monroe getting a putback to keep the Bengals tied, McCoy sprinted off for a fast break bucket on the other end of the floor that led to the end for ISU.

Another Bengal who needs to make a statement on Saturday is Amorrow Morgan (above). Weber State has his number. In his last three outings against the Wildcats, Morgan has scored only 21 points and committed 16 turnovers. The quickness and athleticism of the Weber guards seem to really bother Amorrow, and the Wildcats really turned up the defensive intensity in the second half. The Bengals were initiating their offense out by the half-court line, and, unlike in the first half, were unable to get any kind of looks inside the lane. Morgan is going to have to come out with intensity and purpose on Saturday if the Bengals are going to have a shot at stealing a road win.

Even Stucki has something to prove -- he's averaged only 7 points a game in the Bengal road losses in the Big Sky. He needs to show he can take his act out of Holt Arena and still make an impact.

Yes, Saturday night will tell us alot about the competitive will of an upper-class dominated ISU team that allowed two WSU freshmen, Damian Lillard and Kyle Bullinger, to dominate the second half and overtime of Thursday night's game. Here's hoping you join the Bengal caravan to Ogden and provide the same kind of spirited support for ISU that the Weber fans brought to Pocatello Thursday night. The Bengals are going to need all the support they can get. See you all in Ogden.

--Brad B.
And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's (almost) always fun.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Start of a BIG WEEK

Nothing like three games with Weber State in three days (men Thursday, and then men and women on Saturday) to help get over the men's loss to Sacramento State.


By the way, most folks don't know this, but there were some...shenanigans going on in Sacramento on Saturday. None of this is an excuse, but they made Idaho State have a 10 am shoot around for a 7:00 pm game, meaning it was an early start. The reason was they had three alumni games, one at noon, one at 1, and one at 2. Well geez kids....have those a little later maybe? Then, our team has a routine they go through, starting with early shooting, some post drills, and whatnot. Well, our team was locked in the locker room until 6:05 pm, because Sacramento State had their closed walk through from 5:05 pm to 6:05 pm ... and probably the last 20 minutes of that the Hornets were doing nothing but jump shots.

Did it matter? Probably not, but ISU's normal routine was disrupted a little, without a lot of time to prepare for that. Anyone get the feeling that we the Hornets come to Pocatello ISU might have a "closed shootaround" from 5:30 to 6:30 pm? Conference rules say the court has to be available only 30 minutes prior to a game, and that probably needs changed. Just a little gamesmanship there that I thought was interesting.

Of course, the basketball starts tomorrow ... but today is Wednesday, which is always a conflict for me this time of year. I have to record the greatest television show of all-time LOST for my hockey game, which is'll be a nice way to wind down. Seriously LOST was insane last week.....Mrs. Hawking? Hurley giving himself up? and who are the people Ben knew in the butcher shop? Mind-boggling.....

To get this back to basketball a's something I was discussing with Kellis and Coach O'Brien separately, and they both agreed with me to a point. I saw if the season ended today, Amorrow Morgan might be the league MVP. Think about it....Portland State spreads stuff out too much to get one guy that award, although Phil Nelson would be the guy. For Weber State, only Kellen McCoy is averaging in double-figures, and he's at 13.6 points per he really an MVP candidate? Doesn't it come down to Morgan and Anthony Johnson of Montana? If Montana finishes higher than ISU, I'd personally go Johnson, and if ISU finishes higher, isn't it Morgan? That MVP race should be interesting, but we are a long ways away from that.

Different Ways To Shoot
Not ISU related, but a cool article on Montana State's Nubia Garcia was in the NCAA's Champions Magazine.

I Suppose This is Good...
Apparently, ISU is one of the top five schools in nuclear engineering, according to Dr. Vailas who is at the State Board meetings...

We Know All About It....
Interesting to see another softball program in Idaho, as the Statesman is working on a report regarding the start of the Boise State program, who ISU will be playing in March.

Great article here about former Bengal football coach Leo McKillop....a fascinating read....

It wasn't long after I had this Q&A with Pago Togafau, he of the Super Bowl Bound Arizona Cardinals, that Kelvin Ang caught up with him as well. Speaking of football, Tim Flagstad wants to give credit where credit is Jeff Tingey.

Former ISU graduate and a major play in the state of Idaho, and Idaho's history, Harry Magnuson passed away.

Need a High Paying Job?
It would help if you were an attorney, but still....

Incredible Finish....
You gotta see this finish....unfortunately, I can't link to it since it's a high school game, but go to Youtube and type in "Middleton 3 Miracles Floor Level" to see a a three to send a game to overtime, a three to give a team a three-point lead with two seconds left, and then a 3.4 court shot to tie it again, and then a buzzer beater to end it...wild stuff.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Okay, Let's Move On

So the back end of the road trip didn't work out quite as well as we had hoped. Okay, time to move on to one of the most fun weeks of the basketball season -- the Weber State doubleheader. The Bengals play their arch rivals at home on Thursday, then turn around and play in the Dee Events Center in Ogden Saturday night. Last year was a pretty good example of how much fun this rivalry can be -- the Bengals won at home by four, lost on the road by two.

In addition to just the usual good-natured animosity between these two rivals, both ballclubs have a LOT on the line as far as the Big Sky Conference race is concerned. The Wildcats are tied for first with Portland State at 6-1, and hold a tiebreaker over the Vikings by virtue of having shocked PSU in the Rose City earlier this season.

The Bengals, meanwhile, are playing for a playoff spot and a potential first-round hosting role at this point. At 4-3 in the league, ISU is fourth, a half-game behind Montana for third and a half-game ahead of fifth place Northern Colorado. If you're not going to finish in the top two in the league and earn a first-round playoff bye, you certainly want to get one of the next slots that allow you to host in the opening round.

As we head into the middle of Big Sky play this week, let's take a quick look at how things are shaking out so far:

1. Portland State--The Vikings are 3-1 at home, 3-0 on the road, and despite that hiccup against Weber State, they are still the most talented team in the league. They finish with five of nine on the road, including the rematch in Ogden.

2. Weber State--Well, as a Bengal fan you have to believe ISU will at least get a split against the Wildcats this week, and if they do, that will make it very tough on Weber to keep pace with Portland State. WSU did hold off Sac and NAU for a road sweep last week, and they finish with five of nine at home. Of course, one of those is Portland State, not exactly a gimme. WSU is 2-1 at home, 4-0 on the road.

3. Montana--The Griz are one of only two teams in the league (ISU being the other) who are perfect at home so far -- 4-0. They also got their first road win in league (1-3) last week at EWU. Montana finishes with four road games and one of their homes games is a critical one this week -- with Portland State. That game will tell us a lot about whether Montana has righted itself and is a real contender, or if they're just treading water.

4. ISU--The Bengals, 1-3 on the road, are 3-0 at home and Thursday's game with Weber is critical to positioning themselves for a first-round host opportunity. The Bengals then finish with four on the road and four at home, including Portland State, a team ISU has not been really competitive against the last season and a half. ISU needs to defend homecourt or get a road win on the Montana trip in order to have a shot at a first-round bye.

5. Northern Colorado--The Bears got a big road win at Montana State on Thursday, before getting dispatched in Missoula yesterday. They are 3-1 at home, 1-3 on the road, with four on the road and four at home remaining. Northern Colorado is in pretty good position to contend for a host role.

6. Montana State--The Bobcats lost a big one at home to Northern Colorado last week negating their earlier road win at Weber State. They finish with five at home and four on the road. They also have to play in the Bracketbuster, and one of their home games is against PSU. MSU, 2-1 at home and 1-3 on the road, clearly has the toughest row to hoe of any of the league teams at this point.

7. Eastern Washington--The Eagles, 2-2 at home and 1-3 on the road, finish up four-and-four, with the Montana road trip coming up this week. They have three fairly winnable games at home, against NAU, Sac State and Northern Colorado, although they finish with PSU. They will be in a dogfight for one of the last playoff spots.

8. Northern Arizona--The Axers, 1-3 at home and 1-3 on the road, have really dug themselves a hole. They finish four-and-four, and the good news is they really haven't been blown out in league play this year. If they get their confidence back after fumbling four, double-digit second-half leads, they can still contend for that last playoff position.

9. Sacramento State--The Hornets are 1-4 at home and 0-3 on the road and, despite the big win against the Bengals on Saturday, they face a very difficult climb to make the post season. They finish with five on the road, where they are 0-11 in all games this year.

--Brad B.

And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.