Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The End...For Now?

I've decided to close the blog for the time being.

One of the problems with Statis Pro Basketball is that you have to purchase the card sets, and if there are no manufacturers making card sets you have to make them yourself. This is a laborious process, and the return of enjoyment I'm getting on it is diminishing.

Second, I'm realizing just how many games I'm going to have to play to replicate a full college season. Not quite one a week, but fairly close to that. With my busy life, it's very hard getting a game in every week and I'm starting to resent the time the game takes out of my personal life. Once again, there's a diminishing return.

Third, there's the fear that I'm going to fall behind and when that happens, collecting these old statistics is going to become more and more difficult.

Fourth, the blog doesn't have many readers. A few people bump into the blog by accident, but in general, the number of readers - including accidental ones - I get in a day can be counted on the fingers of two hands - sometimes one hand - sometimes none. With all of the output and with so little "input", there's not really much to buoy this project during this down time - unlike with a much more successful blog I write.

Therefore, I have decided to stop putting so much energy into this project and just let it lie dormant. It might be picked up again in a new format if some of the technical difficulties can be solved. However, the project simply has too much going against it, in terms of its difficulty, in terms of the time it takes, in terms of the decreasing enjoyment and lack of interest others have in it.

I think I'm going to try something else for a while. If any part of this blog has amused you - thank you for reading.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Game 21 - UTEP 76, East Carolina 65

"We look our longest road trip of the season. I'm writing this at the airport. The minute the game was over, we packed up our crap and headed straight for the biggest place in North Carolina that had an airplane.

Actually, I didn't feel lost in Greenville. Two of my friends came to see me from high school ball. We were all on the same team. It was about a seven or eight hour drive for them, and they'd both have to ride on the interstate all night, just to get back home the next day, but it was worth it to see them again. I hope my high school coach doesn't find out. Coach, just don't notice those "Brenda is the Best" and "We Love UTEP #13" signs if you have a secret TV feed to the game that the public doesn't know about. (I really didn't want them to drive that far, but I couldn't stop them.)

Coach Ballard told me all week, "watch out for Princess Abair", "watch out for Princess Abair" and I've heard so much about what she does that I'm sick. "You lapse on defense, Dean, and Abair's going to light you up!" We've really been working on defense, because the Pirates can put the ball up.

So I say hi to my friends, we meet for forty minutes before the game. (Until Coach Ballard calls me back into the locker room.) When we come out, it's a nice little crowd, but not so big that I could lose either of my friends. "Plenty of empty seats."

Anyway, Letell Hanson hits a 3-pointer to put us up 8-6 and for a long time we never look back. We come out hard in a pure zone and they look really tentative. They say a good zone looks like a man to man and we were doing all the right switches. We started to pull head, slowly, and had a 23-13 lead early on.

But East Carolina is dangerous. Abair steps back off that 3-point line like it was electrocuted. She doesn't make use of every inch of space; she'll take those shots a foot off the line, and she hit one that must have been from NBA distance. East Carolina closed back within single digits.

We had a 10-2 run at one point in the first half and at one point we led 41-25. We were playing well enough, but East Carolina was really pushing us off the boards. We had like 12 rebounds in the first half and they had 11. The Pirates closed to within 41-29.

Coach told us straight up. "You're not dominating. It's your free throws that are keeping you in it. (We were 10-for-13.) You're still reacting to them. You have to play your game and have faith in your game. It's UTEP basketball that's going to win this. The other team never knows what's coming!"

In the second half, our faith would be tested. We got cold on the court but East Carolina was still knocking them down and made adjustments, mixing up a pressure defense with a weak side trap whenever we tried to pass the ball. East Carolina started to close in. #12 (Serena Backes) hit a couple of 3-pointers. It was a 10-0 run I was told and the Pirates closed to 52-48.

Tia Ownby was pretty good out there. She hit a little midrange jumper that tied the game 56-56. We were now just hanging in there. "Have faith!" Coach said. "Spread them out, make sure you communicate, avoid the trap."

We were up 63-61, and East Carolina just fell apart. We went up on a 10-2 run, and led 73-63 going into the final few minutes. East Carolina looked busted. They failed the gut check. We passed it and got the win.

There were three pretenders. Now there are just two. There's us, there Southern Miss and there's friggin SMU. All 8-1 in conference. We're going back home feeling better about ourselves. Maybe I can turn this into a psych paper. Abair had 15 points, but I had 18 - not that I look at such things.

--Brenda Dean

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This was a very tight game, and played out pretty much as our narrator said it did. UTEP's shooting sagged to 34 percent in the second half which gave the Pirates space to come back. But the Miners made a run as the game was down to the final minutes, and East Carolina just imploded.

Also: the head coach of East Carolina picked up two technical fouls before that final run. Maybe East Carolina didn't have a deep "coaching bench" and without the coach the team just fell apart. Whether Sharon Baldwin-Tener - the real coach of East Carolina - has ever picked up a technical foul is left as an aside.

Oh yes, and the final AP RPI rank and Coaches RPI rank.

API Poll RPI: 48
Coaches Poll RPI: 40

Up next: Marshall, back in El Paso.

East Carolina Card Set

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I wonder if I'm going to be able to keep up this project for much longer, so don't be surprised if it just disappears one day. The problem is that...well, real life is the problem. You know that. If I got paid for doing this, it would be great, but I'm not, so....

The game using these cards has already been played. One of the things I noticed about this card set - how well East Carolina was at shooting, particularly center "April James".

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Game 20 - UTEP 79, UAB 59

"Sometimes, there are games where you feel like you're going to win even coming in. We went to Birmingham, Alabama to play the Blazers. When we hit the court, the Blazers obliged us by picking up four fouls in the first two minutes. When I heard those whistles and counted the fouls, I turned to Toya (LaToya Lloyd) and asked 'do you believe this?' She said, 'I think the pressure just got to them.' And two minutes weren't up yet.

We couldn't really build a big lead on them, but we remained in control. Even when UAB worked it down to one possession, we still felt in control. We hit the half 31-28 and Coach Ballard just kept saying, 'Don't lose your focus. Play your game. They're playing quality ball, but heart is going to tell." I decided that I was just going to play with some heart, and I scored eight points as the second half got underway - a couple of threes, both from the top of the key helped.

The closest they got was 48-45. We began to pull away. We were up by 10 and Josina Costa helped us get a little run late in the second. The Blazers were gassed. They just couldn't handle our defense. We held them to like 30 percent. I even picked up four rebounds on them, and my defense sucks

--Brenda Dean

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Once again, I've forgotten to include assists-steals-blocks by half. If anyone at all is reading, my apologies.

As it turned out, Dream would score the most points of the game with 18. At some point in this process, I need to count up player stats. She had a 25 point game against SMU, a 25 point game against Tulsa...hmm, for some reason I thought Dean was fading but I think she's coming on strong. A good game all around.

With this game, we've ended eight games in Conference USA. I have a way of determining who wins the games I don't play out, but I don't think the method is working. Here are the Conference USA standings half-way through the season.

So how do you get four teams tied with 7-1 records? How do you have two teams with 0-8 records? It boggles the mind. It seems like the superior teams are just not being challenged.

The Blazers' 3-17 record, however, hurts UTEP in the rankings. They'd be ranked a lot higher if they played a tougher schedule.

AP Poll RPI: 50
Coaches Poll RPI: 41

Up next - the very tough East Carolina team, which is 7-1 in Conference USA - at least in my universe. In the real world, they were 8-8 for the year which proves that my system is broken.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

UAB Card Set

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UAB means "University of Alabama at Birmingham". Not much to say about the UAB squad.

However, when looking up some information about UAB on Wikipedia, I found out the following:

The UAB Blazers, in effect, started their entire athletics program with the creation of a men's basketball team in 1978. Setting the standards high from the start, UAB hired former UCLA, University of Illinois and Memphis head coach Gene Bartow. Known to many as the "Father of UAB athletics", Bartow led the Blazers to almost instant success.

What I didn't know is that Bartow was the successor to John Wooden at UCLA. It's amazing what you can learn when you're having fun.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Game 19 - UTEP 67, Memphis 49

"We flew into Memphis on Thursday to begin a big road trip. We play five out of the next six games on the road. Our next opponent is Memphis, and we know that Memphis isn't very good. But after we lost to SMU at home, Coach Ballard warned us about this road trip and to take every opponent seriously. So we do.

The new ESPN polls are out and I look at wherever UTEP is. I could be playing for Connecticut or Tennessee, and I wonder how things would be different if it weren't for the accident. That loss to SMU made us lose 16 votes in the Coaches' Poll. Only two coaches think we're a top 25 team. We're off everyone else's radar, and a win against Memphis won't impress anybody.

The upperclassmen say that every time we go to Memphis the coaches take us somewhere to see something important or fun if we have time. The university considers this part of a culture-building exercise. We went to see Sun Studios because it was relatively cheap - you don't think that the university is going to pay for that but the students could pay for it out of their pockets. (We had some, uh, "help" in paying for it.) Toya (LaToya Lloyd) said that she was tempted to cut a few records herself. Toya and Wilhelmina Moss started making up a blues ditty on the spot. I don't think the other tourists cared for their singing.

We got to play at the FedEx Forum. We were the first game of a double-header with the men's Memphis team. It was their last scheduled game there this year and some of the men's fans took the opportunity to watch us. I wonder how many were paying attention and how many were waiting for the men's game. (My guess: 5/95).

Seems that their coach must have told them to play hard defense and not take too many shots - to slow us down. Coach Ballard was telling us that she wanted more ball movement, and that Toya and I are were to try to find someone for the dime. So they were playing slow, we were playing slow and it was a slog.

I knew what kind of game it was #35 (Letell Hanson) hit a 3-pointer to start the game and picked up the foul too. We never lost the lead from the first basket and we charged out to a 13-4 lead. We led by 23 points at one time, 57-34.

That was when Coach told us to slow the game down even more. "Let's not blow these guys out." Coach said it because Memphis was just a bunch of slow girls. That roof would have to cave in for us to lose this game. She wanted touches after "1001, 1002". We tried to get a passing game going and Memphis scored the next 14 points because they knew we were still trying to figure it out. They closed to 57-49.

But Toya - who hadn't scored a field goal all night - woke up in the end when we were all in the bonus. She scored like 8 points in the last five minutes of the game, two baskets (one for 3 points) and some free throw shots.

Next up is Alabama-Birmingham. No plane for us, we get in a bus. I should have bought a harmonica to play on the trip so that Toya can practice her blues. How many notes can I learn before we get there?

- Brenda Dean

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Well, there you have it from the horse's mouth herself. Dean only ended up with 10 points in this game, but she shot 4 for 7 and had 3 rebounds and a steal. Letell Hanson's 20 point game was rather surprising. As for Memphis, they shot themselves out of the game - they only hit 14.8 percent of their shots in the first half and only hit 27.7 percent for the game. This game would probably lead to one of those perplexing interviews coaches give - really, what can you say when you've hit less than one of the five shots you've attempted. (Lyn Yeats had a 6-for-22 night, she took 22 of Memphis's 54 shooting attempts.)

Here are the final results in both polls - what each poll would look like if it included all positions instead of the Top 25, and if it were maintained on a game-to-game basis:

AP Poll Rank: 49
Coaches Poll Rank: 39

Not good enough quite yet to get in at-large in the NCAA Tournament. The Miners need to win a few more games to do that.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Memphis Card Set

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I've looked up the roster on the Memphis women's basketball web site, and it looks like a lot of the players represented on this card set (with phony names) are already gone. Some graduated, some just...disappeared. The big news about Memphis this year is Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a devout Muslim player who keeps her body covered. (Some Muslim sites argue about whether her dress meets Islamic standards. Some religious people love to argue about things like that.) Abdul-Qaadir will probably get more questions about her dress and her religion than questions about what she brings to the court in skill.

Anyway, Abdul-Qaadir isn't represented in this card set. Maybe next year.

P. S.: "Lyn Yeats's" free throw numbers are exactly what is represented on the card. She makes Shaq look like Steve Nash.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Game 18 - SMU 87, UTEP 74

"Everyone has gone out to do something with the rest of their day. I'm sitting in front of a psych book at the laboratory looking up some stupid statistical program. No one really knows who I am. I know they don't, because no one said something like, "bad loss". No one here really cares.

SMU was favored to be the top finisher in the CUSA and they wanted to prove it. Coach Ballard said, "For the Mustangs, this is a statement game." Last year, we won the CUSA regular season title but the Mustangs won the tournament. They came out and they played us hard. Usually, we can outrebound a team but not SMU. The way they matched up against us - that game went by like a rocket.

I got matched up against Ashlee Schuch. She said, "so you're the hillbilly senstatation."

"Bite me, bitch." We went at it. Shit, you should have seen what she got away with. You should have seen what I got away with. I was both popping elbows, shoving from the back. She wouldn't even get riled. She would just come right at me, daring me to stop her whenever we matched up in the Zone. And she came at me a lot.

We were tied in the first halff and then they started a run and we we went down by eight points. That's what Coach said, I wasn't looking up at the score. I was trying to run coach's double wing trap but Schuch slid right out of it. I couldn't run it but everyone else could and we managed to make our way back to a halftime tie at 42-42. "Defense, #13. Defense!" was what coach was telling me but I was still thinking about Schuch."

I got caught tapping Schuch's elbow when she was getting the shot off. I said something to the ref that I wouldn't want my mother to hear. I got T-ed up. They hit the shot. I was so dazed by the technical that I double-dribbled, and I don't think I've double dribbled since I was in 7th grade.

I snapped out of it and I answered with the 3-pointer. It was sweet. We began to wake up and we took the lead but they came right back at us. One of their players, #14 (Gowans) went down but SMU didn't stop.

Then...we just fell apart. I think we were up 66-63 and they went on a 12-0 run. We couldn't shoot, and SMU spread the floor on us. They started to move that ball around and whenever we were one-on-one with someone, they just had a few more inches. They could either get the midrange jumper or find the open man for the shot. I looked at everybody, and we were all just fish-eyed.

We closed it to 77-71, but they were on a roll. With about two minutes left, I fouled out. "Why aren't you talking?" Coach screamed at everyone else while I walked back to the bench. She didn't even acknowledge me. "You better learn to help each other or they're going to eat you alive in the tournament!"

It was over. SMU was high-fiving each other and celebrating on our own court. I had 25 points. I shot 10-for-30. Schuch had 24 points - she shot 10-for-14 and went 3-for-4 in 3-point shooting.

Hardly anyone was there. Coach Ballard let us have it. "Don't you dare look at me. I wasn't the one out there who wasn't communicating. I wasn't the one who let SMU shoot 56 percent on us. I wasn't the one who was out there not fighting for possessions. You better look at yourself and find the answer for that."

We're all trying to blow it off and pretend that it doesn't matter. But it does. Coach will kill us tomorrow. The season goes on. We won't go undefeated in C-USA. And I'm here stuck in the psych lab, hurting all over."

--Brenda Dean

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It was a tough game, and I was actually surprised to see UTEP lose a game. After you build up a 15-2 record with your cards - UTEP had won six straight until this game. It just goes to show you that even if you tilt the table in your direction, it is very hard to go undefeated at any level of college basketball.

UTEP now goes on the road for three straight games, playing the next four games against opponents from the eastern United States. If the tournament started today, UTEP would be in third place. Four teams in C-USA get first round byes; the rest of those teams have to play an opening round game.

Here are the new ranks:

AP Poll Rank: 50
Coaches Poll Rank: 35

Up next - the Miners go to Memphis. Memphis is 6-12 and is 0-6 in CUSA play.