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Archive for the ‘college basketball’ Category

Christmas

No doubt we’ll hear more and more about the “war on Christmas” as the day approaches. I responded to this last year, and here’s a post by Diana Butler Bass over at God’s Politics blog about this year’s war on Christmas, although it’s from a different angle than usual.

Speaking of Christmas, Shaun Groves answers the age-old question of what to get the person who has everything. Good answer.

Also, Greg Taylor offers 10 tips for a simpler more meaningful Christmas.

Why God invented highlighters

I’m currently reading Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistable Revolution. I hope to post about it soon, but I wanted to share a quote he included from Rich Mullins. I love Rich’s work and the example he left us. He came up with some great quotes from time to time and here’s one worth repeating:

You guys are all into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you just have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too…[And he paused in the awkward silence.] But I guess that’s why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.

I suspect that’s often true. I was reminded of a recent post by Scott Freeman in his series on non-violence, where he listed numerous passages from the gospels where Jesus speaks to non-violence. Some who commented (either on that post or others in the series) seemed to easily dismiss them, citing examples where violence was clearly (in their eyes) the only way to resolve the situation (i.e., the popular “intruder breaks into your home and attacks your family” argument.) Many others would feel the same way. I think we do this in many areas, non-violence and wealth being just two examples. “Yes, Jesus meant what he said…but only up to a point.” It makes for an easier Christianty if we can highlight the things that are easier to live out while ignoring the hard stuff. It’s easier to talk about the cross than to pick up our own. And I know because I want to use the highlighter, too.

Not-So-Wide World of Sports

Many things in the last week. First, obviously, was a disappointing loss by the Hogs to LSU. I thought they would pull that one out, but fell a little short. Too many big plays given up by the defense, and a lack of accurate passing seemed to be too much to overcome. Arkansas did score more points on LSU’s top-rated defense than anyone else has, plus they had 2 backs (McFadden and Jones, of course) with 100+ yards. No back this season had run for 100 yards on LSU. Now two have. In the end, the game was meaningless, except that it would’ve been great to be undefeated in the SEC. Next up is the game that really matters – Florida in the SEC championship. I think the Hogs are better than Florida. We’ll find out Saturday, though.

I watched the roundball Hogs three times during the holiday weekend. They had a shaky game with Southern Illinois, but pulled out an OT win and then a win over Marist, both in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. Last night, they looked much better in the finals against West Virginia, eventually winning the game and the tournament. Sonny Weems appears to have the most potential on this team. I see him being a star in another month or so. Upcoming games with Missouri, Texas Tech and Texas should provide some good experience for a team that lost several key players from last season.

Duke lost it’s first game this season in the finals of the CBE Classic against Marquette last Tuesday. It was called an upset by ESPN, but that’s only due to the rankings at the time. Marquette is probably a better team right now than Duke. I complained about Notre Dame last week, but Duke is also gets the benefit of the doubt, too. They are not a top 10 team right now, but could very well be by season’s end. That remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it was a loss they’ll likely learn from, and with upcoming games against Indiana, Georgetown and Gonzaga, they too will be tested and get some good experience heading into conference play. And they’ll need it – the ACC will be very good this year.

Other stuff… USC hammered Notre Dame as expected. They’ll still end up in a BCS bowl despite not having beaten any decent teams this year. Best football games I saw this weekend (besides Arkansas-LSU, despite the loss) were Clemson-South Carolina and Georgia-Georgia Tech. Great games with a great finishes. Florida and Kansas played what apparently was a great game on Saturday night, although I didn’t see it. Last year, Florida played nobody until conference play, when they finally lost. They do have decent non-conference teams on their schedule this year, which could provide additional experience for an already great team. UNC also lost this week, to Gonzaga in the NIT in New York. Tyler Hansbrough was invisible during the game, which was highly unusual. I still believe they’ll be the best team when March rolls around, but sometimes having too much talent is a detriment, so I guess we’ll see.

Finally, a little humor from The Onion, focusing on Ohio State-Michigan, the Indianapolis Colts, and John Madden.

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Since March Madness is upon us, I’ve started reading Last Dance : Behind The Scenes At The Final Four by John Feinstein. I’m several chapters in now, and enjoying it quite a bit, as I expected. There’s been a lot of great information so far, including a good amount that I’ve heard before, but it’s still fun to read it again. If you love college basketball, this is a good read so far and I would already recommend it. (The introduction, written by Mike Krzyzewski, is currently featured here.)   

In chapter 3, “Getting There”, he talks about the difficulty in making it to the Final Four and winning it. He includes the following story, which I’ve also read before in other books, about Mike Krzyzewski’s frustrations early in his career, having to live in the shadow of Dean Smith, and even Jim Valvano, after Carolina and State won national championships in 1982 and 1983, respectively, while Krzyzewski, in his first few seasons at Duke, was losing more than winning.

Krzyzewski and Smith were bitter rivals when they coached against each other. Smith was a godlike figure in North Carolina when Krzyzewski arrived at Duke in 1980. His shadow grew even longer when he won his first national championship in 1982 while Krzyzewski was struggling to a 10-17 record in his second season at Duke. A year later, when Jim Valvano won the national championship at North Carolina State while Duke was going 11-17, Krzyzewski appeared to be completely overwhelmed, surrounded on Tobacco Road by an icon and a rock star. Smith was only fifty-one and had the best program in the sport. Valvano was thirty-seven and was the most popular and in-demand person in the sport. Krzyzewski was 38-47 and had most Duke people screaming for his head.

To his credit, he never panicked and he never lost his sense of humor. During his second season at Duke, he made a recruiting visit to the home of a talented six-foot-ten kid from Oklahoma named Mark Acres. As he made his pitch to Acres and his parents, Krzyzewski quickly became convinced that he wasn’t getting through, that what he was selling they weren’t buying. Still, he had to go through with the ritual, make the best effort he could, especially since Acres would probably be the best player on his team the day he arrived on campus. Throughout the evening, Acres’s mother never once opened her mouth, never asked a question, never made a comment. Finally, Krzyzewski turned to her and asked if there was anything she wanted to know about Duke or if she had any questions at all. Mrs. Acres shook her head and said, “No, I don’t need to ask any questions because the only thing that matters is that Mark go to school someplace where he can be close to God.”

Krzyzewski paused a moment and then, feeling pretty certain he wasn’t getting the kid regardless of how he responded, said, “Well, you know, if Mark comes to Duke, God will be coaching eight miles down the road at Chapel Hill.”

The Acres family didn’t get the joke. It didn’t really matter. Mark went Oral Roberts.

I still love that story. I know that many people consider Krzyzewski a Smith-like figure these days. Many people consider him the guy that gets all the talent, all the calls, and all the attention from media. And to some degree that’s true. In the age of ESPN and the internet, Krzyzewski is everywhere. But North Carolina is a state school, and Smith will always be God in North Carolina. That’s something Krzyzewski will never be. However, when it’s all said and done, he may very well be considered – if only by a slight margin – the better coach (except, of course, for 99% of the state of North Carolina.) Only time will tell.


Duke awards watch   

The awards are starting to pile up for Duke players, especially J.J. Redick, who now has two national Player of the Year awards, as voted by ESPN and The Sporting News. That thing I mentioned about Shelden Williams’ work on the court often being overshadowed by Redick’s oustanding year and Shelden often not getting the credit he deserves? TSN proved my point. There’s no doubt Tyler Hansbrough has had a fantastic year, especially as a freshman. I personally think he’s great. But, for him to make first team and Shelden Williams make second team is ridiculous. Look at the whole season, guys. Look at all Shelden does on the court – on both ends. There’s no way he should be behind Hansbrough. Nevertheless, the Duke awards watch is found here.


Early picks   

By the way, I’ll go ahead and pick Monmouth over Hampton in tonight’s play-in game. I won’t go into how stupid I think the play-in game is – and how it shouldn’t even exist. I’m not going to fill out my full bracket until tomorrow, but since it officially starts tonight, I figure I should go ahead and pick that game. Also, it will in no way affect my pick in the wniner’s next game. The winner will lose it’s next game to Villanova. Okay, so only 62 more games to pick, now.

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2557

A number of things happened tonight in the Duke-Miami game. First of all, Duke beat Miami 92-71. That was the most important thing of all. Miami is a dangerous team with some very good guards. They’re capable of biting you if you’re not ready to play them. They won earlier this year in Chapel Hill against a young, but very good, North Carolina team. They weren’t going to be afraid of playing at Duke. But Duke won rather easily (despite a lot of silly turnovers in the first half), and should now be #1 again in the polls this week after UConn’s loss this week.Secondly, Duke won at least a share of the ACC regular season title (one more win, or an NC State loss, and it will be theirs alone.) This is their seventh regular season title in the last ten years (finishing below first in 2002, 2003, and 2005). They have also won the ACC tournament six times during that stretch – hoping to make it seven this year. At 13-0 in conference play, they’re also looking to match the 1999 team’s feat of a perfect record in conference play at 16-0 (and 19-0 including ACC tournament games). I believe it will be difficult for them to match that with their remaining schedule, and especially the tournament. They play at Georgia Tech and Florida State, before finishing at home against Carolina. (They also play out of conference at Temple this weekend – so they have three straight road games ahead of them.) So, we’ll see.

And, the most celebrated thing that happened, of course, was J.J. Redick’s 30 points, which meant he passed Johnny Dawkins’ Duke record of 2556 career points and made him the all-time leading scorer in Duke history, with 2557 points. Redick set yet another record, just one game after breaking the NCAA record for 3-point baskets made. He needed 30 to pass Dawkins, and 30 he got. He started off the game with 11 points in the first four minutes, and it looked for a while like he might get the record by halftime. He ended the half with 22 (which put him on pace to match Adam Morrison’s 44 points from Saturday), but Miami’s defense slowed him down in the second half. He was often double-teamed when touching the ball and did not get very many shot opportunities. But he did make them count when he did. With a little over four minutes remaining in the game, Redick hit a 3-pointer from the corner to break the record. Cameron erupted. Associate head coach Johnny Dawkins stood briefly at Duke’s bench, smiling and applauding Redick’s accomplishment.

Redick’s next record to set will come this week – either Wednesday at Georgia Tech, or this weekend at Temple. He is now 30 points away from becoming the all-time leading scorer in the ACC as well, and he shouldn’t have trouble reaching that quickly. I’ll be a little surprised if he doesn’t drop 30 on Georgia Tech, but even if he doesn’t, it should happen early in the Temple game. He’s scored 30 or more in five straight games now, and seven of his last nine – including games of 40 and 41 in that stretch. It amazes me that he continues to put up these numbers in ACC games. Everyone knows he is the first man they need to stop, but nobody can stop him.

It’s just been incredible to be able to watch him this year, and I will miss watching him play for Duke when this season is over. He’s gone from being a good freshman, to a better sophomore, to a very good junior, to a great senior. I honestly thought he might not be able to get 30 on Miami’s guards – whose defense was much better in the second half – but that just shows what kind of player he is. He knows how close he is, and everyone is asking him about it, but the pressure doesn’t affect his play. He went out and did it anyway – not because he wanted the record, but because he wanted to win the game, and he played his game the way he always does, and the record came because he did.

One thing that has come up in recent commentary on this record, and came up in the post-game interviews tonight, is whether or not we’d be having this conversation if Johnny Dawkins had had the 3-point shot available to him when he played. When asked about it in a post-game interview, Dawkins sort of laughed and then didn’t answer the question, instead saying that nothing should detract from J.J.’s accomplishment. It was a good answer, but considering the question, I would say that I’m not sure how much difference it makes.

If you wanted to compare them, you could take all of Redick’s 3-pointers and count them as 2-pointers. As of now, he has around 420 for his career, so you could take away 420 points from Redick’s total. He’s still close. Then, you consider he still has games to play and points to score, and at his current average of 29 ppg, he could end up with another 300 or more by years end. You could also consider that, without the 3-point shot, Redick’s shot selection would be different – probably fewer long-range shots – and he might actually have scored as much as he has, or more.

On the other hand, you give Dawkins a 3-point shot, his shot selection would’ve been different as well. He would’ve taken the three’s and probably hit a lot as well, but being a lower percentage shot, he might not have any more points than he does now. Some of those 2-pointer’s he made may have turned into missed 3-pointers. And, considering again that Redick might score 300 or more additional points in the coming weeks, they would still likely be neck and neck anyway. On top of all of that, you consider the game overall is quite a bit different than it was 20 years ago. So, in the end, it may or may not be a valid comparison, but the record is based strictly on points scored, not on how they were scored, and so we have what we have. Dawkins was proud of the record while he held it, and he’s also proud of J.J. – having coached him for four years – and what he’s done to set the new record.


In related news, freshman and Melbourne, Arkansas native Jordan Davidson (whose older brother Patrick is also on the team) scored his first Duke points, hitting a 3-pointer in the final minute. It was nice to see a fellow Arkansan get in the books for Duke.


I watched Arkansas beat Florida in overtime on Saturday. Arkansas was in desperate need of a good win if they have any chance of making the NCAA tournament (and Stan Heath was equally desperate if he has any chance of keeping his job.) It was a good, exciting game which was at times ugly, but it was still nice to see the Hogs win a big game again. It’s been a really long time…


Evidently the NBA All-Star game was this weekend. I had no idea. Is there anything more irrelevant these days than All-Star games? I haven’t watched an All-Star game of any kind in years. I remember in college the NBA All-Star weekend was always a big deal. We watched Dominique and Michael compete in the slam dunk contest. And watched Spud Webb win it one year. We watched Larry and everyone competing for 2nd place in the 3-point contest. It was great.But those days are past. I have no idea who won the contests – assuming they still exist. And could care less who won the “game” – if you can call it that. From the few highlights I saw, it looked like any other NBA game, except with less defense (if that’s possible.) Any time you have a guy throwing a pass off of the backboard so that a teammate can catch it and dunk it – with a defensive player standing in the lane watching it – there can’t be much of a game going on.

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One of my goals for 2006 is to get our finances in order. We started visiting The Church at Rock Creek this past Sunday and Mark Evans was just starting a series on Financial Freedom, which was good timing. One of the things I’ve become disgusted about is my desire for “stuff”. I’ve spent up too much money on things I want but don’t need. I realize the good I could be doing with that money instead of spending it on myself and I have to feel Jesus is probably even more disgusted. I think it’s hard in this country to avoid the temptation to buy more “stuff” but just because the tempatation is there doesn’t mean I must give in to it. Maybe it’s time to watch Madame Blueberry again.A few years ago we went through Dave Ramsey‘s Financial Peace University. One of the things Dave recommends is paying cash for everything, even cars and homes. I was reminded of his advice when I read a story the other night. I’m reading Rob Bell‘s book Velvet Elvis : Repainting the Christian Faith right now, and he tells the following story.

I was traveling in Turkey awhile back and kept noticing that a large number of the homes there seemed unfinished. Piles of wood and brick beside the house, half a foundation built construction equipment everywhere. It looked like a lot of homes had been started and then the workers went to lunch . . . for a year. I asked my friend, who has spent a lot of time in Turkey, about it. He said the reason is that the Muslim culture doesn’t allow for financial debt, so people only build with cash. They work for a while, run out of money, save up, keep working, and eventually get the house done, which they own, debt-free. I was struck with how different Western culture would be if we had a similar aversion to debt. How many people do we know who are crippled with financial debt? Having less debt is a better way to live.

I’m not sure leaving a house half-completed is a good idea – Jesus words in Luke 14 come to mind:

Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? (The Message)

However, the idea of avoiding debt and only buying things you can pay for is obviously the ideal plan. It seems that sometimes those of other faiths do a better job living out some of the principals we find in scripture than Christians do. Sounds to me like this is one case where at least some Muslims may be doing a better job of financial management than most American Christians are.


More on College BasketballFound this quote here and thought it was pretty funny.

Duke went to Wake Forest and routed the #23 Deacons. JJ Redick had 32 points for the Blue Devils, who are now one of only three remaining unbeaten teams. I’d like to hate on Duke, but I just can’t since I have reassurances from Coach K and American Express that he’s not just teaching the Dukies how to be better basketball players, but better people as well.

UConn got back on the winning track last night, after having a rough week last week. I thought having the point guard back was supposed to make them better, but last week they went 1-1, and were one shot away from 0-2. Both against unranked teams, by the way. However, sometimes getting a player back after an absence disrupts for a few games before everyone gets used to it. Although Duke seemed to have no problem with DeMarcus Nelson back in their blowout of (ranked) Wake Forest Sunday night.

Kentucky dropped out of the polls this week after the embarrassing loss to Kansas Saturday. Kentucky had been ranked for 88 consecutive weeks – the second longest streak behind Duke’s 176 weeks – but now that’s over. If they don’t pick it up soon, they may be working on a streak of weeks unranked. I suspect Morris coming back will help. I don’t think he can make them look worse than they did Saturday.

Duke and Maryland renew their rivalry tomorrow night in Cameron. Duke should be ashamed that they’ve lost 3 in a row to Maryland. They lost in the ACC tournament in 2004, then lost both regular season games last year. They should be ashamed because they were the better team both years – and by quite a bit. I suspect Maryland’s streak will end tomorrow night and I expect Duke to win easily. I also believe they’ll go to College Park next month and do it again.

Speaking of Duke, there’s an article here on J.J. Redick and Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison in regards to who will be the player of the year in college basketball. I have an opinion at this point, but there’s more basketball to be played, so I’ll wait and comment later in the year – maybe late February.


Bumper StickerA friend of mine was telling me about a bumper sticker he saw recently. He said he drove up behind a car and saw this:

Where are we going? And why am I in this handbasket?

Classic.

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Perhaps it’s not just a coincidence that this has been on my mind so much recently, and the Beyond The Gates Of Splendor DVD was released last week. I posted a couple of quotes from Spencer Burke’s book the other day and mentioned I would try to post some comments about it later. I’ve been thinking about them a little more. Also, I posted them on a message board I sometimes visit, just because I thought they were worth sharing. One person asked this in response: if living within God’s will should involve high-risk, does that mean one living without much risk is possibly living outside of God’s will?

I suppose to begin with, you have to agree with the idea that living within God’s will involve great risk. If you do, then the above question might follow. Is it true? If we’re living lives that are not involving some type of risk, perhaps even great risk, are we then living outside of God’s will?

Certainly the early Christians lived with an enormous amount of risk. Their lives were continuously in jeopardy, and indeed many lost their lives because they lived out their faith in a society that was hostile to it. And there are certainly many, many examples today of those around the world living out the Christian faith and, because of that, living in great danger.

As I considered this, my thoughts were this – it seems to me that the American church lives without much risk at all. There are, no doubt, individual Christians and individual churches in this country that risk much more than most. However, as a whole, I’m not sure we have to sacrifice that much, or risk that much, to live out our faith, or at least live it out in the way that we do. I believe its no coincidence that we have religious freedoms in this country like no other. It has made it much easier for us to live out our faith in relative safety.

I mentioned atheist Michael Newdow in a recent post, and the cases he brought against the schools in California over the phrase “under God” being used in the Pledge of Allegiance. Every time I see something like this on the news, every news talk program on television – Chris Matthews, Larry King, Bill O’Reilly, etc. – brings in conservative folks of all types (but mostly Christian) to give their opinion, and you hear all about the Christian heritage of this nation, about the Christian principles it was supposedly founded upon, etc. Then you hear people like Pat Robertson and Sean Hannity going on and on about how, to borrow from R.E.M., “it’s the end of the world as we know it.” Our religious liberty is being taken away, and we’re not going to stand for it.

Should we even be concerned about it? That’s a question I’m beginning to ask myself. I don’t recall Jesus having the disciples lobby in Rome for a more Christian-friendly empire. In fact, he told them it would be worse for them than it was for him. Should we be more concerned about what the government will and won’t allow in terms of religious activity and expression, or rather more concerned with living like Jesus and being the church, regardless of what that might mean for our safety and comfort?

What would happen if suddenly all of our religious freedom was taken away? How many people would continue to show up at church buildings every week if it suddenly meant harassment and danger? Perhaps that’s the real fear of those who object to the Michael Newdow’s of the world – maybe they fear having to live out their faith in an “unsafe” environment. Maybe we as the American church have had things too easy, being able to go about our daily lives without fear of anyone challenging us or persecuting us, and the thought of risking all that we have and are for the sake of Christ is actually too frightening to consider. It would be better if we could keep the government on our side so we can go on with business as usual.

Maybe I’m way off here. Maybe the fact that my Christian existence (to my shame) has meant little risk is skewing my perspective. Perhaps things are not quite the way I see them. I’m just thinking out loud with all of this, but I wonder what God thinks of us? Are we really “in the middle of God’s will”, or is He expecting much, much more from us?

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A couple of quotes from Spencer Burke’s book Making Sense of Church, which I mentioned in my last post. Both are from a chapter called “Consumer To Steward : A Conversation About Ministry.” No commentary for now, just a couple of quotes I thought were worth thinking about. I will try to comment as I have time.

I think AIDS is one of many issues that the world will look back on and ask “Where was the church?” Like it or not, I think we will be judged on how we handle the crisis. At present, our actions don’t match up with our words. Our silence on the issue – and our lack of concern for the growing number of widows and orphans – is deafening. We talk about having love and compassion for the people of the world, but continue to pour the vast majority of our resources into ourselves – our church buildings and our programs. While we’re paving parking lots and building auditoriums, African children are literally lying next to the corpses of their parents. It’s tragic.

And this one, not by Burke himself, but a post he addressed from theOoze.com:

At a recent leadership luncheon, Erwin McManus boldly challenged the myth that “the safest place you can be is when you’re in the middle of God’s will.” To the contrary, McManus asserted that living in God’s will is a dangerous proposition, often involving great risk. One might conclude that the lack of such risk-taking has been one of the factors contributing to the modern church’s decline.

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