I haven’t gone through reading it because I have a bit of a backlog when it comes to reading. For Christmas, I received both the Hyperbole and a Half book and League of Denial. I also have some catching up to do with my reading of Kurt Vonnegut novels. I had been a bit stubborn on not picking up books unless I could find them in the “V cover” edition. A couple years ago, new editions of Vonnegut rolled out with covers more like this. Those are all fine and good, but I wanted my library to match. Sadly, this has proven to be much more difficult than imagined. So I have caved and now need to pick back up at Deadeye Dick.
So, yes, editing has not happened just yet, but I’m working my way through. I finished Allie Brosh’s book over the course of a day. It was every bit as good as I imagined and I would certainly recommend it to anybody, whether or not you’ve read her blog. I’m almost finished with League of Denial now. I was pretty upset with myself that I missed the accompanying Frontline documentary on PBS when it originally aired. I haven’t been able to catch it on rerun. It appears you can watch it online at the link provided. I don’t know if I will do that now that I have the book, but I would certainly encourage you to watch it. I will probably have more to say once I’ve finished the book, but even after reading as far as I have, I will say that the stories going into that documentary are totally in line with what the book proposes.
If you recall, just before the documentary aired, the story went that the NFL had pressured ESPN into pulling out of the project at the last minute. The NFL and ESPN deny this happened, of course, but I think you would be hard pressed to find anybody who actually believes them. After reading how methodically and thoroughly the NFL has battling the notion that professional football players suffer brain trauma at all, pressuring one of the biggest media outlets to drop out of this documentary (and then saying they didn’t do that) seems completely in-character for the league as a whole. This latest incident, along with how “protecting the shield” has gone as a whole, has gone a long way to showing that Roger Goodell is not the commissioner most hoped he would be at best, and downright incompetent at worst. His saving grace is he holds a job that, at the current moment, is literally impossible to screw up.* I’m just now getting to “The Reckoning” section of the book, though, so I’ll hold my extended thoughts until I actually finish the book.
*Not that he hasn’t tried, between the ongoing concussion crisis and the last labor dispute. Football is simply too popular to fail no matter what it bungles at this time, though.
What else has happened while I’ve been away? The Pacers continue to dominate (last night’s loss to Toronto excepted). The Blackhawks similarly have looked awfully good. Purdue continues to be maddeningly inconsistent. Actually, let me talk a bit about this year’s Purdue squad.
This, I truly believe, might be the most athletic Purdue team I have ever watched. If not the best, certainly in the top two or three. I have no doubt about that and will not back off of that point. The problem is I don’t know how many actual basketball players they have. The only player that seems to have a wealth of basketball skills beyond “very athletic” is AJ Hammons, who will likely be gone after this year.
Now, this is certainly not to say that these guys can’t develop their basketball skills into a team that could be very scary down the road. Maybe even later this year. This, after the clearing of the decks from last year’s disappointment, is a very young team. Ronnie Johnson is only a sophomore, and yet he’s certainly a veteran on this team. Freshmen (either true or redshirt) are playing major minutes and starting on this team, including Bryson Scott, Kendall Stephens, Basil Smotherman, and Jay Simpson. That’s leaning on four freshman players when a lot of teams don’t really go more than seven deep, eight max. That’s in addition to Purdue still seeing a lot of minutes out of both Johnsons,* Hammons, and senior transfers Sterling Carter and Errick Peck. That’s nine players deep and not counting Travis Carroll, who played significant minutes during the non-conference schedule,** or Rapheal Davis who seems to be having some trouble figuring out his role on this team.
*Anthony Johnson was part of the house cleaning over the off-season.
**I don’t see him getting a lot of time now that B1G play has started, and I think by the midway point of last season (if not before) he was widely considered an unfortunate bust. He had a lot of hype coming into Purdue and showed some promise as a freshman and sophomore. But his development (both skill and body) just kind of stopped.
As you would expect from a young team, this team has shown some just brilliant flashes. They honestly outplayed Oklahoma State for most of their game in Orlando. They gave Ohio State all they could handle in Mackey. They thoroughly dominated West Virginia in Morgantown.* They have looked generally pretty good against lower competition. But they also have stretches where they either seem to let off the gas or just spiral out of control, and it comes down to the single biggest problem with this team, and what will probably cost it a bid to the big dance at the end of the year.
*The score might not have shown it, but it is true. There was no way WVU was winning that game, home or not. That is part of the “basketball-skill” problem with this team. See below.
This team really struggles to score, and that’s what bit them in the butt against Ohio State. And probably Oklahoma State, too, for that matter. Their only real shooters are Stephens, who is the definition of streaky (at this point), and Carter (who I’m told was quite the shooter at Seattle, but I haven’t seen that yet). The Johnsons and Scott are good at cutting into the lane, but Terone is only one I would count on doing it consistently at this point. Scott I think will get there, he is just still a pretty raw talent. Other than that, this team needs to be playing through the post, and through Hammons in particular. But, for some reason, they seem reluctant to do that.
Without finding a truly reliable source of points, this team is going to struggle in another deep year for the Big Ten. Iowa is much improved. I’m told Nebraska should be much better. Michigan State and Ohio State are very good again, and Wisconsin might have their best team since I’ve been watching college basketball. I’ve not watched them, but I think Michigan and Minnesota are still supposed to be good. That probably leaves Purdue in a bit of a tangle with Illinois, Indiana, and possibly Northwestern and Penn State. Nebraska probably still belongs in that mess, too, though I will admit they looked pretty good against Miami. Purdue is still playing defense at an elite level, and I don’t really see that changing under Matt Painter. But the teams that win in March are the teams that score, and that just isn’t Purdue this year. During the Hummel-era, they had so many options they could turn to. That really hasn’t been the case since the E’Twaun Moore and JuJuan Johnson were at Purdue, and it’s shown. Defense does indeed live at Mackey Arena, but until they can pair it with any sort of real offense, titles are not coming to town. You can out-athlete teams in high school and win, which I’m sure is how the Johnson brothers won a state title. It doesn’t work that way in college. Not at the Division I level, anyway.
But, like I mentioned earlier, that’s at this point in the year. This team is young. By the time the Big Ten Tournament rolls around (Which really should have its permanent home in Indianapolis. Sorry, Chicago, but it’s the truth. We do it better.), maybe Stephens finds a more reliable shot, maybe Scott has polished his game to the point you can solidly depend on his slashing ability. Maybe the Johnsons finally find a jump shot. Who knows? With this many freshmen, the sky could be the limit. But, for this season, the limit is probably a game or two in March, and very likely in the NIT.