Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: You really should be watching the Women's World Cup right now...

I'm still in a little shaken by the Xavier Johnson news -- this photo of him on a scooter is especially awkward. With XJ now out of the mix (at least for the rest of 2015), the Buffs are pegged to start the season without four of the six best players from a year ago, when before they were only expecting to be without one.  Ugh!

Ski's graduation is (obviously) not a surprise, but the twist transfers of Jaron Hopkins and Dustin Thomas loom even larger now that Xavier is hurt.  Those are veteran performers that could've been counted on to eat up extra minutes.  Now, the roster is left with a number of questions that we were not expecting them to have to answer.  I still believe that the program is in store for a bounce-back season, but I'm starting to wonder how high that bounce will be...


Today in the bag, I'm talking the Women's World Cup, the NBA Draft, and Top Gear's melancholic farewell.

Click below for the bag...

US Women battling Germany RIGHT NOW! - 

Down a pair of gifted midfielders, and facing a mountain-esque molehill of questions from jerky-jerks like yours truly, the US Women's National Team desperately needed a happy result in their quarterfinal matchup with China. Thankfully, they got just that, as a beautiful header from Carli Lloyd was all that was really needed to earn a solid 1-0 victory last Friday.

What had been a very conservative, basic US attack in this tournament suddenly came alive.  Runs were made, possession was cherished, and chances were created throughout the match.  The shackles were off, and the ladies were finally playing the kind of soccer we all know them to be capable of.  The young and up-and-coming Chinese never stood a chance. With the US pressing, running at defenders, and keeping the temp high, China was never allowed off the back foot.  It was as dominating as a 1-0 scoreline can get.

The best teams show you their true mettle when pushed up against a wall.  After weeks of underwhelming results, I was really starting to doubt this team.  But, with the squad forced to deal with upheaval in the midfield, definitive changes were called for, and the team answered.  Doubt and deference were gone, and aggression reigned.  Kudos to the coaching staff for changing things up.
Lloyd's picture perfect re-direct was all that was needed last week.
Having soared through the China tilt, the ladies now have to tame international rival Germany to make the final. Essentially between the two best teams in the world (or at least two of the three), this is a monster of a game, with the winner becoming the odds-on favorite to win the tournament on the 5th of July.  Kickoff occurred at 5pm MT, so you may want to flip your TV over to FOX immediately, if you haven't already done so.

You may be asking yourself, 'if these are the two best teams in the world, then why are they meeting in the semifinal?'  A very astute question, that.  Apparently, unlike the Men's World Cup, where seeded teams earn protection from playing other seeded squads too early, the women's draw is... well, completely invented malarkey, designed more to draw ratings than provide a fair and balanced tournament.  Hence, why France and Germany met in a quarter final, with the winner forced to play the US without the trophy ever being taken out of the case.  While certainly unsporting, I can't really get too salty over this as FIFA-Related Bullshit Needing to be Fixed is the world's longest book.  Still, a title should be on the line with these two teams on the pitch.

The Pac-12 and the NBA Draft - 

Last Thursday's NBA Draft was a surprisingly fun event to watch.  Even without the Buffs fielding any expected draft prospects, I was glued to the screen from the moment I got home to the end of the first round.  What made it even better was the frequency of Pac-12 talent taken off the board.  Being rewarded for watching all season long is always a favorable experience.

While the Conference of Champions slipped a bit from their nine-pick, six first-rounder performance from a year ago, the seven total players selected in 2015 signal that the league remained full of talent.  Only the ACC and SEC had more names called out last week, which blends with my eye test.
Stanley finds a good home in Detroit.
Of note was Arizona's Stanley Johnson being selected 8th overall by the Detroit Pistons.  Yep, that's right, he'll be teaming up with CU's own Spencer Dinwiddie for the foreseeable future, making the Pistons 100% must-see TV in my household for the first time since the Billups era.  Elsewhere, personal favorite Delon Wright is headed north to Toronto, the Shimmy wound up in Brooklyn after a draft-day trade, and Stanford's Anthony Brown was picked up by the Lakers in the second round.

Beyond just Pac-12 picks, I was pleased to hear Wyoming Cowboy Larry Nance selected in the first round by LA.  A dominating player in college, I'm a little concerned about his pro prospects, thanks to his injury issues, but I couldn't be happier for a guy who routinely kicked the crap out of CU.

Top Gear Finale - 

Dipping back into this blog's roots, I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on the ending of one of my favorite TV shows of all time.  Top Gear was once a prominent feature of this space; my list of the best episodes remains the most consumed piece I've ever penned (over 10k hits), and the CU logo's appearance on a 2011 episode caused a major freakout in Rumblin' Land.  While not always strictly legal, my viewership of the program highly influenced my humor and writing style over the past decade-plus.
Not the finale I'd have envisioned.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.  The show, rumored to have been watched by upwards of 350 million people world wide, came to an unceremonious close Sunday night.  Presenter and principal rabble-rouser Jeremy Clarkson was let go from the show after an off-camera incident with a producer, and cohorts Richard Hammond and James May decided to follow him out the door.  While the trio will, presumably, pop up again, and 'Top Gear' will still have a branded TV show beaming out on a semi-regular basis, the entity that captivated the world's attention has ceased to be.

From a viewer standpoint, Sunday's finale - a hollowed-out cut-up of the two films originally to be presented over the final weeks of series 22 - was an awkward, melancholic ride towards the finish line. Without Clarkson, the Stig, or an in-studio crowd, the show was devoid of much of the good cheer that used to define it.  While a rather large elephant (helpfully named 'Jeremy') loomed in the background of most shots, no other comment was made on the situation, and the credits rolled quickly.  It was an apologetic style that was startling not Top Gear.
The elephant in the room...
That Clarkson, notoriously chaotic, self-destructed, causing the show to decline is not a surprise.  That the show itself ended with a whimper, however, is.  If you'd have asked me how the show would end, I would've painted the picture of a roller coaster of exploding caravans, testosterone-pumping vehicles, and crude jokes ushering the show on a calamitous rush to black.  Instead, a good, but demure pair of videos and a quiet farewell was all we got.  I needed more.

Regardless, farewell, Top Gear, you're gone but not forgotten.

Happy Tuesday!

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