Monday, February 28, 2011

Double (bye) A Pleasure for Irish

AP Photo / Joe Raymond

Notre Dame clinched a coveted double-bye in the Big East tournament tonight after dominating a lost Villanova squad 93-72 in a game that was not even as close as the final score indicates.

On senior night it was Ben Hansbrough, who transferred to Notre Dame after two seasons at Mississippi State, who put an exclamation mark on his career in South Bend. He finished with 30 points, 10 assists, and five steals to add to his Big East Player of the Year hopes. He is just the fifth player in the past 15 seasons out of the major basketball conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-10, and SEC) to accomplish that feat in a single game. For good measure, he also tacked on two rebounds.

Brother Tyler Hansbrough, the former North Carolina Tar Heels All-American, National Player of the Year, and current Indiana Pacers player was in the stands alongside Ben's parents and other brother. 

Fellow Senior Tim Abromaitis also finished with 30 points. Abromaitis is technically a senior, though he earned an undergraduate degree in finance in three years, is finishing an MBA this year, and has one year of eligibility remaining in which more schooling will follow. 

Led by Abromaitis' career high nine threes, Notre Dame hit a single-game school record 20 3-pointers on 20 of 32 shooting from behind the arc. It was one behind Kyle McAlarney's school record 10 threes against Tyler Hansbrough's Tar Heels in 2008. The younger Ben Hansbrough chipped in with seven threes of his own tonight. 

Senior forward Tyrone Nash tied his career high rebounding total with 11 on the game to pace all players. 

Thanks in part to an overtime win by Louisville over Pittsburgh the Irish have are in contention to win the regular season Big East title. With an Irish win at Connecticut on Saturday and a Pittsburgh loss in either of its two remaining games (at South Florida and home against Villanova) the Irish will earn their first ever Big East regular season title.

Notre Dame (24-5, 13-4 Big East), would finish tied at 14-4 in conference under the scenario described above, but thanks to the Irish victory in Pittsburgh earlier this season the Irish would win the tie-breaker and, consequently, the title.

Head coach Mike Brey has instructed his squad the entire year to focus on chasing Pittsburgh, rather than divert attention to the rearview mirror. Currently, his Irish sit alone in second place in the Big East and at No. 7/8 (USA Today Coaches/AP) in the country.

Check in ESPN/ESPN2 on Saturday at 2pm EST to see if the Irish can hold up their end of the bargain at Connecticut. Shortly afterwards, Pittsburgh will take on Villanova at 4pm EST on CBS.

Notre Dame has lost seven straight on the road vs Connecticut but this has been a strange season in which the Irish have defied odds time and time again. Picked to finish no better than seventh in the league by the coaches before the start of the season, the Irish are on the brink of their best season in school history.

On January 4, the Irish beat the Huskies 73-70 in South Bend. See if they can double the fun this Saturday. 

Remembering Erica Blasberg

A year after her startling suicide, ESPN's Outside The Lines program recently did a feature on Erica Blasberg and it's quite unsettling.

I'll be honest, one of my motivations in sending this around was so I wouldn't be the only one who had to watch it.

I was already pretty low before this—I find myself deeply depressed by simply being reminded of her death, let alone it being a suicide and then the other details gleaned from this report.

I've idealized her a good bit in my mind I suppose. I always enjoyed our sizzling spring days spent imbibing alongside beautiful and talented ladies back home. I always thought, perhaps foolishly, that we were at the center of the golfing world and even there, I really thought she stood out. Sure, we convinced ourselves that she was eyeing us that one afternoon (and maybe she was) but there was definitely something about her that sent my heart skipping. We had some kind of connection, however minimal it might be.

Man was she gorgeous, and she was definitely very talented, though I think it was clear in person that something wasn't quite clicking in her game. I thought it might be the stress of the tour. Unfortunately, it extended much further than that.

As Andy touched on, anything like this is tragic and senseless. Given my mental proclivities to the darker side, I can relate to the feelings of hopelessness. I cannot relate to putting a bag over my head to end my existence. That is heavier than I care to fathom.

Sorry guys. It's raining out and the bum-train just ain't stoppin'.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Virginia Tech Beats #1 Duke 64-60

I dare say I'm not surprised. For the third time in the last five seasons (tops in the NCAA) the Hokies knocked off the top-ranked college hoops squad in the land, edging Duke Saturday night in Blacksburg.

Thanks in large part to Jeff Allen's monster double-double (18 points, 15 rebounds), the Hokies took a large step towards solidifying an at-large berth in the "Big Dance".

The win puts the Hokies at 19-8 overall on the season with a 9-5 mark in ACC play.

With two games remaining against ACC foes, Tech sits poised to earn a first round bye in the ACC Tournament once again.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Brian expressed via text message following the game that he felt the Hokies still wouldn't get into the NCAA Tournament due to a "poor" non-conference schedule.

We'll have ample opportunity to point out the flaws in that viewpoint this coming week. In the meantime, I'll continue to bask in the glory of another impressive ACC victory.

Friday, February 25, 2011

ESPN's College GameDay Comes to Blacksburg

The college hoops version of ESPN's College GameDay will be in Blacksburg this weekend as the Hokies host the No. 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils in a prime time match up.

The game is enormous for Tech (18-8, 8-5) as they once again reside squarely on the "bubble" for the NCAA Tournament.

Duke (26-2, 12-1) has only lost to St. Johns and Florida State this season and sits poised to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament come March.

Tech has played extremely well against the top-ranked team in the nation, compiling a 3-4 all-time record including wins over North Carolina in 2007 and Wake Forest in 2009.

In it's last five games against the No. 1 team The cumulative score reads Virginia Tech 389 No. 1 Team 383.

This is an enormous opportunity for the Hokies and you can expect a raucous crowd in Cassell Coliseum.

The only bad thing will be how many times they'll show former Tech great Dell Curry wearing Duke stuff behind their bench.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alligator Jay-Dee!

This story (linked below) from the Globe's spring training report illustrates exactly why Boston loves J.D. Drew. Just a fearless competitor. I'm absolutely stoked that the Sox have carried on the "Cowboy-up" persona long after Kevin Millar and Derek Lowe have left Beantown.

Can you see A-Rod trying to pull this off? He'd probably hit the gator with his purse!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Speaking of Axl....

I don't want to be that guy blogging twice in a row on his first day, but sometimes the internet gods just smile upon you.

While scrolling through some of my favorite web reads this morning I came across this little gem: the most unlikely of characters performing perhaps the best impression of one of rock's most unique voices.

The only question now is: pure god-given talent or rigorous training involving a 3-pack-a-day habit and Jack Daniel's for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"I Want to Announce My Presence With Authority."

First of all, I want to start off by thanking the Founding Fathers for bringing me along. I'm looking forward to stirring and simmering our individual interests, talents and points-of-view into a hearty stew of awesomeness.

There's no better way for me to kick-off my stint with the S&S team than with some serious rock. Below is a favorite track from some of rock's most iconic figures of late, Slash and Dave Grohl. Both Slash and Grohl have built massive careers by emerging from the shadows of two insanely popular rock 'n roll figureheads.

Beginning in 1985, Slash's signature wailing, soaring guitar sound played "second-fiddle" to the mega-ego of bandanna aficionado Axl Rose. Rose would eventually destroy G 'n R in the late 2000's, but luckily for Slash it seems unlikely that rock fans of the future will be playing "air frontman" to their laundry list of hits. Slash went on to co-found Velvet Revolver with Duff McKagan (also of Guns 'n Roses, and featured on bass in today's sample track). He has also launched a successful solo career and was named #2 on Time Magazine's list of "10 Best Electric Guitar Players of All-time" in 2009.

Dave Grohl was just the long-haired kid behind the drum kit when he joined Nirvana in 1990. In reality, he was probably just a nameless face when taking the stage behind teen angst savior Kurt Cobain. Quick - somebody name Nirvana's bassist. Unless you're a true rock-head, you probably can't (Krist Novoselic has become more well-known for his political activism than his time on the four-string). When Cobain took his own life in 1994, Dave Grohl carried on the musical legacy, creating Foo Fighters in 1995. Since then, Grohl has been involved with Them Crooked Vultures, Queens of the Stone Age and over 30 other bands in one capacity or another.

On "Watch This" Slash does what he does best, grabbing the reins and steering the song into rock glory over the fueled rhythm of Grohl drumming. If you listen closely you can still hear the kicking and screaming of everything that was once good about American heavy rock: a percusive beat demanding you to bang your head and mesmerizing guitar scooping you up to carry you away. Crank it up and put the pedal down.

Welcome Andrew Sienkiewicz to Stars & Slights

In many ways it's been a long time coming.

As the readership of Stars & Slights has grown, we've looked for ways to continue to please the readership with new and exciting content.

As we continue onward in the new year, I'm pleased to announce that longtime friend and occasional contributor to the blog Andrew Sienkiewicz will officially join Stars & Slights on a regular basis—or as regular a basis as any of us keep up with.

I look forward to plenty of excellent content from Andy.

You can continue to expect contributions from Brian and myself as well as a post from the esteemed Christopher Jones.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Kings and Queens

When you combine emo with grunge and hard rock the resulting sound is bound to be nothing short of innovative and potentially epic.

In 2009, the band 30 Seconds to Mars, led by frontman Jared Leto, mixed those aforementioned genres together to create "This Is War", a contemporary and epic album demonstrating that not all new rock music has to sound the same.

Accompanied by his brother Shannon Leto (drums, percussion), Jared Leto (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, songwriter) formed the band in 1998 as what was intended to be a family project. The brothers Leto eventually auditioned other members and expanded to add a bassist and keyboard artist.

Success first beckoned the group in 2005 following the release of their second album, A Beautiful Lie. The album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and garnered several awards for the single "The Kill (Bury Me)". Featuring band members reenacting scenes from The Shining, the music video for "The Kill (Bury Me)" also received critical acclaim.

It should be no surprise that the band takes an interest in acting and music video production. Jared Leto is an actor who has played many roles throughout his career. After gaining interest for his efforts in the TV series My So-Called Life as Jordan Catalano (opposite Claire Danes) his career led him to several popular films including American Psycho, Fight Club, Urban Legend, Panic Room, Lord of War, and Girl, Interrupted.

Leto's biggest film, however, was the cult classic Requiem For a Dream in which he played the lead role of heroin addict Harry Goldfarb.

Despite on-screen success, though, Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars have not let musical ambitions fall to the wayside.

Kings and Queens was the second single to reach the top spot on the Billboard Alternative Songs. Its music video won the 2010 MTV Video Music Award for Best Rock Video.  Stunning views of Los Angeles are offered throughout the video as it features cyclists touring around the famous city.

For fellow rock fans you will probably find the closest musical similarities to 30 Seconds to Mars by comparing them to bands like Rise Against and Angels & Airwaves.

Regardless of the comparisons one can make, though, 30 Seconds to Mars will not fail to entertain ones ears or eyes.

Irish Laxers Knock of Defending National Champs In Season Opener

For the second year in a row the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Men's Lacrosse team opened with strong competition in the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils. Last season the Irish prevailed in Durham, NC with an 11-7 win. New year, same result.

For good measure, the Irish tallied one more goal than last year's game to give head coach Kevin Corrigan and his No. 6 ranked team a 12-7 victory over the No. 5 Blue Devils. Highlights can be found here.

In front of more than 8,000 fans on Sunday, February 20 the Irish and Blue Devils squared off in the inaugural Sunshine Classic in Jacksonville, FL at Everbank Stadium.

Duke had cruised in its season opener against Siena 20-6 but looked tense in yesterday's matchup against a Notre Dame team led by five pre-season All-Americans in midfielders Zach Brenneman and David Earl,  defensemen Kevin Ridgway and Sam Barnes, and longstick midfielder Andrew Irving.

After a scoreless and fairly passive first period the Blue Devils put two goals on the board early in the second with goals from Tom Rynn and Josh Offit. Notre Dame responded in quick fashion with three goals. Sean Rogers netted the first goal with a beautiful one-handed wrap-around from behind the goal to beat Blue Devils netminder Dan Wigrizer. A mere twenty seconds later Rogers added another goal to even up the score.

It was Wigrizer, a true freshman at the time, who helped the Blue Devils win their first national championship with a 6-5 OT victory over the Irish in last year's title game.

But Wigrizer was not at his best yesterday as he allowed seven goals on thirteen shots before being pulled late in the fourth period.

Notre Dame received scoring support from a veteran supporting cast and a sprinkling of newer talent. Westy Hopkins, a freshman attacker, scored two goals to help the Irish cause. Senior Andrew Irving also notched two goals for the Irish.

Star senior midfielder Zach Brenneman registered a career-high five point game on three goals and two assists. The hat trick matched his previous goal scoring accomplishments against the Blue Devils last season.

Perhaps the brightest star of the day in an Irish uniform was sophomore John Kemp, the starter in goal tasked with replacing former All-American Scott Rodgers. Kemp finished with ten saves on seventeen shots. Many of the shots were taken point blank but Kemp flashed his quickness and strength to prevent an offensive explosion from the Blue Devils.

By halftime the Irish held a 4-2 lead and managed to build on the differential throughout each of the remaining periods, netting a high mark of five goals in the final period of play.
The game was one of four televised regular season contests on the season featuring Notre Dame. Other televsied games include April 10 against Georgetown (12pm EST on ESPNU), April 30 at Syracuse (7pm EST on ESPNU), and May 6 at North Carolina (7pm EST on ESPNU).

Speaking of North Carolina, with the No. 4 Tar Heels losing to unranked Ohio State yesterday the Irish climbed to No. 4 in the Inside Lacrosse media poll released today.

After opening the season with a gritty but eventual exhibition loss against Team USA the Irish now sit at 1-0 in the regular season.

Next Sunday the Irish travel to State College, PA to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Irish Hockey Picking Up Steam As Regular Season Nears Its End

After splitting its previous three series against Alaska, Ohio State, and Miami (OH) the Fighting Irish earned a much needed weekend sweep for the first time since early January this past weekend.

Playing against CCHA bottom-feeder Bowling Green certainly helped matters, but the Falcons nearly fought their way to a tie on Friday night. Notre Dame prevailed on a late goal by standout freshman left wing Anders Lee. With 3:14 left in the game Lee lit the lamp inside a packed house at the Joyce Center to give the Irish a 2-1 lead and eventual final score. Lee added two more assists on Saturday as the Irish icers cruised to a 5-1 victory to complete the series sweep over the Falcons.

Thanks in part to his four points over the series Lee earned CCHA Rookie of the week honors for the third time this season. On the year his 19 goals and 18 assists put him at second in the nation and CCHA in points by a rookie. Additionally, with the game-winner on Friday night he now has five game-winning goals on the year, good for first place in the CCHA.

Speaking of first place in the CCHA, Notre Dame is now all alone atop its conference as a result of its weekend sweep and some help by Western Michigan who beat Miami (OH) in overtime Friday night to help give the Irish an edge over the Red Hawks.

For head coach Jeff Jackson, first place is somewhat insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

For me, it's more about how well you are playing going into the playoffs. It doesn't matter if you finish first or fifth, you're going to play a tough opponent in the second round.

Four regular season games remain for the Irish as they head to Big Rapids, MI this weekend to take on Ferris State before finishing up with a home and home series against Western Michigan.

A first round bye is already guaranteed in the CCHA playoffs but the Irish could go a long way toward earning a top seed with a pair of weekend sweeps in the coming weeks.

But, as Jackson alluded to it does not matter what place the Irish finish in during the regular season. There are more direct goals set for this team as Jackson and the Irish have their sights set on a CCHA championship and, more importantly, an elusive NCAA championship.

Shane Beamer Joins Virginia Tech's Coaching Staff

Monumental news came out of Blacksburg this afternoon when longtime Assistant Head Coach and Running Backs Coach Billy Hite announced his elevation to an administrative position within the athletic department, leaving behind his on field duties.

Hite has been Tech's running backs coach for 33 seasons, joining the coaching staff under former head coach Bill Dooley in 1978.

The move opened a vacancy for Beamer to return to Blacksburg as the new running backs coach, a position defined by Hite for so long.

During his time in Blacksburg, Hite coached 9 of the Hokies' top 11 all-time rushers and sent 26 running backs to the NFL.

Beamer returns to Tech 11 years after earning his bachelor's degree at the university.

Beamer is another in Tech's long tradition of successful walk-ons, becoming the starting long-snapper and occasional wide receiver for three seasons.

Beamer's last game as a player was the 2000 Sugar Bowl against Florida State for the BCS Championship.

As a coach, he's spent time at Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Mississippi State and most recently South Carolina.

Beamer served in several positions, including coaching special teams and as the Gamecock's recruiting coordinator, helping bring in the #12 class in the nation two years ago and helping earn a commitment from consensus #1 recruit Jadeveon Clowney this year.

“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to return to Virginia Tech,” the younger Beamer said. “I’ve been gone 11 years and during that time I’ve been around a number of great coaches and great programs and had the opportunity to learn a lot. Now, I look forward to returning to Blacksburg and helping Virginia Tech continue to win championships."

Happy Valentine's....Bleh

I'm one of the people who has an extreme distaste for "V-Day".

No there's nothing wrong with happy couples and great shows of affection, I'm just not sure what that has to do with greeting cards and chocolate.

I'll mark the day as I usually do, by listening to Weezer (it's the 19th anniversary of their first practice!) and by hoping to avoid any truly disturbing V-Day activity.

I was reminded of this terrificly bitter song today by friend of the blog (and Cutting Room Floor) Sarah Gronski. Some folks just have all the musical taste.

Enjoy the day and Reel Big Fish.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Weezer Covers State Farm Song

Most people likely have no idea that the State Farm jingle is actually just part of an entire song.

It was written long ago by a young Barry Manilow; yes the same creepy lounge singer you're thinking of.

Manilow wrote advertising jingles prior to becoming a successful recording artist. He also wrote the Band-Aid jingle.

Anyway, Weezer got their "Memories" tour from a while back sponsored by State Farm and conversely agreed to record this tune at a later date.

It's interesting because despite being about as commercial a song as there can be, it's as vintage-sounding a Weezer recording as has been released in the last ten years.

As drummer Pat Wilson said on the All Things Weezer message boards this week,

It's kind of good because =w= sounds good when we play in a room together at the same time with Rivers on gtr and me on drums. That took us about 45 minutes vs 12+ months for Raditude. This is why I'm in semi facepalm constantly!

Interestingly candid, but far from shocking observations on the dysfunctional nature of this band.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Johnny Mac Trick Shot Quarterback

Connecticut quarterback Johnny McEntee is a relative unknown, but has become a mild Internet sensation for his trick "shot" video below.

I'm not sure how many takes these took, but it's impressive none the less. The video also highlights the facilities at UConn. Pretty nice.

I think they made a really good hire in former Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni. Perhaps he'll decide to give Johhny Mac some playing time after watching this video.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jimmy Eat World: My Best Theory

"My Best Theory" comes from Jimmy Eat World's most recent release, 2010's Invented.

This was the first single on an album that featured longtime producer Mark Trombino. The sound is pretty reminiscent of past albums like Clarity and Bleed American.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Green Bay Packers Win Super Bowl XLV

The Packers now have four of those shiny trophies named for legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi.

Hopefully now we can put this game behind us. The media won't soon let us forget that it was a huge deal, but in time they'll move on to something else. I hope.

The big news is no more football. Sigh.

Zabian Dowdell Signs With Phoenix Suns

I know it's "Super" Sunday, but this bit of news made me extremely happy.

Former Virginia Tech guard Zabian Dowdell has been signed by the Phoenix Suns for the remainder of the season.

Dowdell had signed two 10-day contracts with the Suns, scoring 16 points with nine assists and five steals in five games.

Per NBA rules, the Suns then had to either sign Dowdell for the rest of the year or let him go to another team. They chose the former.

Dowdell (listed as #22) is the first Hokie on an NBA roster in quite some time. He's played on multiple NBA Summer League rosters as well as teams overseas and in the NBDL.

Best of luck to Zabian and have an excellent Super Bowl Sunday.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Here We Go Steelers, Pittsburgh's Going to the Super Bowl

We haven't run out of songs yet with affiliation to either of Super Bowl XLV's participants. My partner in crime got into the mix with a more contemporary song and took aim at the prior Back in Black and Yellow posting for it's lack of focus on this year's clash.

Thanks to the interweb I was able to uncover a more relevant song to the game at task tomorrow evening.

Here We Go Steelers is a traditional battle cry of Steelers fans everywhere and this song plays off of it while adding in references to the attempt at building on their already NFL franchise record six super bowl titles with the opportunity for a seventh in very near sight.

Regardless of your affinity for Steelers of Packers tomorrow's game will surely provide entertainment for all. Even if you aren't a fan of either team you at least have the commercials to fall back on.

Enough talk for now. Is it game time yet?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Another Super Bowl Song

I wasn't going to get involved in what has amounted to some kind of sports-fueled rap battle, but Lil' Wayne once again proved that he's the funniest man in the rap game with his "Green and Yellow" take on this really awful song.

My main critique of the "Black and Yellow" jam all the kids are rockin' is that it's not talking about anything remotely related to the game.

There are some vague Steeler references, but any song featuring a black and yellow reference to a bumblebee pretty much loses all credibility right there.

But I digress. Lil' Wayne as usual seems to have gotten high and pumped out some genuinely funny couplets. In a rare feat, I've even found an entire verse free of cursing to prove my point.

Uhh, big Gs on the helmet
Steel Curtain? What is that, velvet?
And if we win, I’mma throw a Super Bowl party
And blow a cigar like Vince Lombardi
I’m in Wisconsin, smoking Amsterdam
Yeah I’m from New Orleans, but I been a Packers fan
We knocked the Eagles and the Falcons and the Bears off
Now we ’bout to cut Troy Polamalu hair off

See? Funny. It also contains direct references to the enemy. Anyway, I thought it was enjoyable. I really can't wait for this game to be over because I can't take much more coverage on ESPN.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

EA Sports Super Bowl XLV Simulation

Prior to last year's Super Bowl, EA's Madden game correctly predicted a Saints victory.

In this season's simulation, the game predicts a 24-20 Pittsburgh Steeler victory over the Green Bay Packers.

The simulation shows an exciting game with a result that will no doubt please Mr. Chester. Here's hoping the real game lives up to the fake one, albeit with a Packer victory.


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