Sunday, March 27, 2005

That was unquestionably the best day for college basketball since Duke/Kentucky in 1992. To say that our household was held breathless by the unfolding events would be a dramatic understatement.

The joy started with West Virginia unloading against Louisville. At the risk of raising the ire of Super Blogger Chris Hyde, I have always been a huge Rick Pitino fan. It goes back to his days with Providence, but I was particularly impressed with how he handled the Kentucky situation. Eddie Sutton has redeemed his reputation through a stellar run at Oklahoma State, but folks in my neck of the woods remember him for something else. He ruined Kentucky. And Rick Pitino was the unlikely hero who came in and saved a program with his resolve, spirit and foresight.

As Kentucky's head basketball coach, Sutton almost single-handedly undid generations of tradition. The story was described simply as "Kentucky's Shame" in a famous CNN/SI piece, and the details were simple. Eddie Sutton cheated in every possible capacity in order to keep the Wildcats winning. There were 17 violations that were proven over a period of three different investigations, but rumors abounded of more than 200 (!) more allegations. So severe was the cheating that the NCAA committee overseeing the investigation seriously considered giving one of college basketball's most storied programs the death penalty for two or three seasons. Eventually, it was decided that Kentucky would be banned from the post-season from two years, television for a year, and face reduced scholarships as punishment for their lack of institutional control. Simply put, Kentucky was punched in the mouth by the NCAA.

Desperate to quickly recover, Kentucky made the bold decision to replace the gruff Sutton with Pitino. The move was met with incendiary ire by diehard fans. Pitino was young (37 at the time) and considered a possible flash-in-the-pan despite tremendous success with a small program and a pedigree as coach of the New York Knicks. Worst of all, he was a Yankee. The other stuff was forgivable, but living his entire life north of the Mason/Dixon line was too much for Kentucky alumni to swallow. He seemed doomed to fail, but something funny happened on the way to the forum. Rick Pitino figured out how to breathe new life into a left-for-dead program.

Despite having limited scholarships and no television exposure, Pitino managed to restore the glamor and glory of Kentucky basketball by making the game fun again. The new coach embraced the three-pointer to a degree that nobody in major college basketball was doing at the time. The 1989-90 Wildcats team had a severe lack of talent caused by the transfers of recruits involved with the allegations and the inability to replace them due to the limited scholarship situation. So, Pitino decided that step one was to make the games fun to watch in person. The three-pointer accomplished that task.

The 1989 group came to be known as Pitino's Bambinos, and news of their spectacular style of play swept through the SEC. Many coaches feared the bad shots innate to the three-pointer, but Pitino's genius was to understand the occam's razor of it, that three points is better than two. Also, it is a lot more fun for a fan to watch their team drill threes on consecutive possessions. In this regard, Pitino was light years ahead of his time as a college basketball coach. The Bambinos finished 14-14, a full ten games better than the most dire of predictions had been for the team's prospects that season. Two years later, his latest Kentucky team was already in the Elite 8, losing to Duke in what has since become known as the greatest game of all time. The next year, he made it to the final four, a single graduating class after Kentucky had been given extreme sanctions by the NCAA. It's one of the best college basketball rebuilding jobs of my lifetime.

All of this went through my head as West Virginia utilized the philosophy that made Pitino a legend in Kentucky and beat up his Louisville program with it. West Virginia converted the second largest total of three pointers in NCAA basketball tournament history. Since the record is held by the freak-of-nature offense of Loyola-Marymount that was predicated upon never playing defense, an argument could be made that this was the single greatest three point display ever in a big game.

Simply consider the numbers. West Virginia converted on 18 out of 27 three point attempts. That's a .667 conversion rate, but we have not updated it to allow for the bonus in making three points instead of two. Since a three point conversion counts 1.5 times as much as a normal two point conversion, it's appropriate to multiple West Virginia's 18 conversions by 1.5 for a total of 27 to reflect the point value in normal terms. That means the Mountaineers made the two point shot equivalent of 27 shots in 27 attempts. That is a conversion rate of 100% in 27 shots! More amazingly, they missed their last four attempts. So, at one point, WVU was 18 out of 23 from three point land, a two point equivalence of 117%. Even if they had taken the same number of shots from inside the arc and made EVERY ONE, they still would have only scored 46 points rather than the 54 they earned from three. Folks, that is legendary offensive performance right there. Conveniently enough, it even comes with an instant nickname in honor of the player most responsible for the play. In the future, any college basketball team who does not lock down the perimeter is in danger of getting Pittsnogled.

But here is the most stunning stat of all. West Virginia lost that game.

When Francisco Garcia fouled out with four minutes to go, it seemed like the end of the line for the Cardinals. Their best player was gone and their second best player, the marvelously named Taquan Dean, could barely walk due to a hamstring injury. All hope seemed lost, but senior Larry O'Bannon was not ready to go end his college career quite yet. He took over in the paint, scoring 24 points in the second half. That's great on its own but it's even more impressive when we consider that he had averaged only 15 PPG on the year and had no points in the first half. How is that for clutch?

When posting my ill-fated brackets prior to the tournament, I mentioned that Rick Pitino seemed to have a special twinkle in his eye about this team. Now we are better able to understand why. West Virginia lit them up, but the Cardinals withstood the onslaught and moved into the Final Four. Coincidentally enough, Pitino took exactly one graduating class to get Louisville there, just as he had done with Kentucky. He might be more popular in the state of Kentucky now than Frank Sinatra ever was in New Jersey.

As for West Virginia, all I can say is this. The 1-3-1 zone has proven to be a defense that creates matchup nightmares for the opposition. It's so rarely seen these days that offenses seem legitimately baffled in how to attack it. West Virgina's tourney wins (Creighton, Wake Forest and Texas Tech) are as good as anybody in the Elite 8. Nobody can ever say this team was anything other than one of the best. Had they received a few more breaks at crunch time, they would be poised to match their perimeter onslaught against the disruptive Illini guard trifecta. That would have been special.

And that was just game one.

The second game was a bit more intense around here because one of us, not me, but one of us is a Lincoln kisser. That's the colloquial term I have given Illinois Kim. Since she takes her basketball rather seriously (there are times I fear for my life when they get on a cold streak on offense), Illini games are fervid affairs. Needless to say, there were moments during that game where Kim was *ahem* despondent about the situation. I actually bailed for a different room at the twelve minute mark because there were far too many potential projectiles in her general vicinity.

At the five minute mark, I was cooking dinner and resolving myself to an evening of heartbreak recovery. Then, the governor called and offered a full pardon to the best team in college basketball. The three point guard attack of Illinois went from ice cold to white hot in what felt like the flip of a switch. Luther Head and Deron Williams turned super-human down the stretch and pulled off the best comeback I can ever remember seeing in the final four minutes of a game. So stunning was the comeback that Illini coaches and players were unable to recount any of the events after the game. At least one of the coaches copped to perusing a play by play of the final minutes of regulation to try to figure out what happened.

It was a surreal series of events that led to an eight point deficit being erased in a span of 30 seconds. And while many analysts will be quick to describe Arizona as choking, the reality is that Kim and I have already watched the tape several times (God bless TiVo) and there is no evidence of it. Instead, it's a combination of the quick hands of Dee Brown leading to one steal, referees missing a call on a jersey pull by Ingram against Frye, and some devastating clutch three pointers. Neither of the two times when the Wildcats were genuinely sloppy with the ball (Stoudamire dribbling off his foot and Hassan Adams making a lazy pass) led to turnovers. This was all the disruptive nature of the Illinois guard trio forcing the action combined with Arizona's physical exhaustion stemming from playing two games like that in 48 hours.

Particularly noteworthy is the play of Luther Head. Re-watching the tape, it's clear that he was the anchor of the comeback. Head made a steal and converted a three to cut the lead to single digits. Later on, it was his defense at both the end of regulation and overtime that keyed the Illini. Head was the guy who tried to call timeout with five seconds left in regulation only to be ignored by the refs. Rather than get distracted by such a chaotic sequence, Head wound up blocking Salim Stoudamire's would-be gamewinner then ran across the arc to defend another desperation attempt. In overtime, Head was again charged with defending Stoudamire at end-game. Since he recognized his opposition was exhausted, Head watched the ball the entire sequence. When an attempt was made by Hassan Adams to pass to Stoudamire, Head both denied the shooter the ball and defended Adams as he decided to make a panicked shot. Whenever someone mentions that defense wins championships, this is exactly the sort of play which exemplifies the argument. Arizona had four total shots to win, and Head specifically defended three of them. Incredible.

So, disaster was averted and Illinois continues their amazing run. The thought of Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia matching up against Head, Brown and Williams is so tantalizing that I wish it were already next Saturday. Also, I somehow wound up getting half of my final four bracket right! Considering the fact that the other half went out in a 90 minute period on the first Friday of play, I consider that a win. March Madness is the best. The absolute best.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Okay, let's examine the carnage. Superblogger Hyde has already busted my chops over how things went, and suffice it to say that I probably won't be winning the Prophets pool. Why? Well, the thing is...

There were ominous tidings on Thursday. There have been times when I have opened with a 14-2 start. This year, I was already two losses down after four games. The rest of the day was a struggle with three more losses coming down the pike. 11-5 is not a great start but I have survived worse. Friday afternoon started out pretty well with seven of the first eight games going the way I had anticipated. Alas, my hopes were being raised before further dashing.

In a 90 minute period, I had something happen that had not occurred in four years. And it happened twice. I have historically been incredibly fortunate about my final four picks getting through the round of 64. Then, Vermont played heroically against Syracuse, a team about whom I made this quote: "I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the inside/outside combo of McNamara and Warrick. These guys have excelled in the tournament for three years running, so it's impossible for me to see them flaming out early as seniors." Err, umm, yeah. As disastrous as that was, it was a tremendous game to watch with Vermont missing an open player for a dunk at the end of regulation but Syracuse getting outplayed in overtime. I was okay with that.

Kansas, on the other hand... Well, that was a body blow. Wayne Simien has had one of the finest college basketball careers in recent memory. He even surpassed Wilt Chamberlain's career rebounds total during the opening round game. If there is one guy you want to brag about surpassing in rebounding, that one is the best. As usual, Simien was brilliant, but he got no help from his oddly uninspired teammates. Worse yet, Bucknell played above their heads. In a month, the Jayhawks went from co-favorites for the national title to out in the same round as Oakland. And I never saw it coming.

Thank God for Louisville and Illinois. That's all I'm saying.

With regards to the tournament itself, Thursday was more or less a bust. There were no buzzer beaters that will live on in our memories for a lifetime. Many of the matchups were not blowouts, but one team was clearly in control throughout. It made for dull TV. Frankly, until my teams started getting knocked off, the tourney was a bust. After Vermont and Bucknell hit the zone, though, it has been a joy to behold.

In particular, I was impressed with Southern Illinois. I don't know if this was the national game or not, but anybody who watched it would agree with me. Oklahoma State has veteran guard players, including an All-American in John Lucas. That's what made it so unexpected to see them physically whipped on the perimeter. You could see the fear in the eyes of all the Cowboys wing players. They were getting pushed off the three point line like they were sissified defensive linemen playing against the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Southern Illinois had such disruptive guards playing defense that at the end of the game, there were three different moments where but for the grace of God OSU would have thrown the game away. They only had 14 turnovers but were it not for overly tight officiation, that number could have been a dozen higher. I had no dog in the fight, yet I was getting angry on behalf of the Salukis. They were outplaying the opposition but needless whistles kept keeping them from making a run.

The one conclusion I drew from this is that Bruce Weber, former coach of SIU who now handles the Illini, has a very specific style of play he wants to run. He looks for smallish players who have the quickness and the passion to defend on the perimeter. Recognizing the way the game has moved outside, Weber's strategy is unique. He effectively accepts that if his two post players don't rebound, his team will get whipped on the boards. He considers that a fair trade-off in exchange for guaranteeing nobody has a hot night from three point land. He also assumes that his team won't actually get out-shot despite the rebounding issue because all the pressure defense disrupts to the point that TOs cancel out the rebounding edge. It's a fascinating style of play and the success of it is exemplified by the fact that Illinois is clearly the best team in basketball this year. But it's even more impressive to me that the team he built at Southern Illinois was the most impressive of the teams I saw lose in the round of 32. You would expect it to be someone like Wake Forest or UConn but no, those teams got outplayed. SIU outplayed OSU but 28 fouls killed them. Random complaint: including the 23 PFs the Cowboys had, there were 51 whistles total. No college game should ever be called that tight unless there is gunplay involved.

My other observation for the first four days is a selfish one. I had grown attached to many of the players in this senior class. On a personal level, it's disappointing to me that great kids including Simien, McNamara, Warrick and Ronnie Turiaf are already done. All of them showed the passion for the game to stay in school for their senior seasons and they each demonstrated tremendous character. Simien in particular was consistently mauled this year yet he kept his head held high. I never saw him complain about the regular beatings he took in any of the eight or so Jayhawks games I watched. Turiaf is one of my favorite college players in recent memory as well, and I hate that he was one of the first Zags to know only tournament failure rather than surprise success. The other name I should mention with this group is Travis Diener of Marquette. He broke his fingers last month. Demonstrating his value, the team was considered certain to make the NCAA tournament prior to that. After his injury, they slid all the way down to the NIT, a place where the Golden Eagles managed only 40 points in an opening round loss. Here's hoping Diener joins his old playmate Dwayne Wade in Miami next season.

With regards to the teams who are left, I think there is little disputing the fact that North Carolina has been the most impressive. As expected, their talent alone was enough to crush early opposition. The team that has exceeded my expectations the most is Washington. I still think they are overrated, but the honest evaluation is that they have been the second most consistent group out of the four number one seeds. The most surprising team is unquestionably Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They have an eight point win and a ten point win, neither of which was ever really in doubt. Illinois had better take this team seriously.

The best game from start to finish was Kentucky/Cincinnati. Both teams played as well as they possibly could. The Wildcats had one of the strangest box scores in recent memory, too. Every starter finished in double figures yet their entire bench managed exactly one basket. The best moment of the tournament thus far came down the stretch of Villanova/Florida. Once the Gators were down for the count, the Villanova band warmed the cockles of my big orange heart by serenading Gators fans with Rocky Top. The song played at every opportunity until well after the game had ended, causing needless torment to their vanquished foe. I loved it. So. Much.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Okay, let's get down to it. My final four picks are Louisville, Kansas, Syracuse and Illinois.

Out of this group, I feel the most nervous about the Redmen. Their opening night matchup is against one of the best players in the country, and a potential round two matchup against the tough Michigan State Spartans. From there, they would have to beat Duke if the one seed hasn't gotten knocked off before then. And all that would get them is a spot in the elite eight. It's a brutal run, but I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the inside/outside combo of McNamara and Warrick. These guys have excelled in the tournament for three years running, so it's impossible for me to see them flaming out early as seniors. I love the Duke team's accomplishments thus far but in the end, they are a cold night from Redick away from being in a world of hurt. In the lower half of the bracket, Utah offers the best player in the country but little else. If Bogut gets in foul trouble, I don't know how they win. That leaves Kentucky, a great bunch of guys who have the length Tubby Smith loves. They will create a series of matchup difficulties for shooters, and they have one of the best ugly basketball players since Larry Bird. His name is Patrick Sparks, and you can clearly see his is a face only a mother could love.

Sadly, I'm photogenic.

Kentucky's problem is that their half court offense is nowhere near as good as their transition game. In the NCAA tournament, an inability to score in the half court game is death. So, while Syracuse is a risky pick, I feel more comfortable with them than with anybody else out of the topline teams.

Meanwhile, in the Syracuse bracket where Syracuse will not play (way to make it obtuse, NCAA schedulers!), I just can't get on the North Carolina bandwagon. I want to preface this by saying that I believe the Tarheels are the most talented team in college basketball. Their athleticism alone will propel them to victory 80% of the time. The problem is that the last time that UNC won the tournament, the fabled Dean Smith system overwhelmed the natural talent of Michigan's Fab Five. Somewhere down the line, the Heels became Michigan. They play dumb, and I expect that to cost them in a tight matchup at some point in the tourney. But I will love watching them play until then. I already have visions dancing in my head of the Atlanta Hawks slotting Marvin Williams alongside Josh Smith in years to come. And he is the freakin' sixth man for UNC.

With UNC out, that leaves the defending champs, UConn, as the biggest horse according to the seeding. But I just don't think they have the same oomph as last year after graduating a pair of early lottery picks. Coach Calhoun sounds very confident about this bunch (and even indicated on Pardon the Interruption he thought they were good enough to repeat), but winning back-to-back titles is hard enough without graduation attrition. They'll slip somewhere down the line, and I expect it to be in the first four games. Florida's situation is a head scratcher. Historically, they have started off hotter than a supernova only to flame out down the stretch. This season, though, they seem to finally be getting it all figured out just in time for the tournament. But Donovan has never proven himself to be a tournament coach despite the single deep run to the Final. I like Matt Walsh a lot, and I think they are a matchup nightmare for UNC. So, I have them making a deep run but falling just short of the final four. An earlier exit would surprise me less than a deeper one, though. And Villanova, the trendy pick to be a sleeper, has done nothing to impress me thus far. They are 2-3 against top 25 competition with both of those games (Kansas and BC) coming at home. That leaves the team Villanova beat, Kansas, as the pick. Wayne Simien needs some help, though. The double-double machine merits consideration as the player of the year. All I kept thinking as I looked over the brackets was that he could pull a Danny Manning for the Jayhawks.

In Albuquerque, anybody who says they are doing anything other than pulling a name out of the hat is lying. This bracket is Global Thermonuclear War. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of Chess instead? All of the top five seeds save the #1 have been ranked in the top ten at various points during the season. Everyone save Gonzaga has been in the top five. How strange is it, then, that Washington, a team with no good wins save Arizona, is the one seed? They are being propped along by pounding on mediocre competition. I expect this overrated bunch to be gone fast, maybe as soon as round two if Pacific, a worse matchup, gets by Pittsburgh. Gonzaga, the team that punched Washington in the jimmy earlier this season, deserved more one seed consideration than the Huskies did. I love this team, and I have not forgotten that the reason their season ended prematurely last year was because a ref in the Nevada game had it in for Ronnie Turiaf. Hair boy and his running mate Adam Morrison are a dynamic duo who could finally deliver the Zags to the promised land. Since I will be rooting for them, my not picking them is gambler's insurance. I would hate to feel like a jinx again after picking them to win the whole thing last year (again, I apologize for that, Mr. Turiaf, sir).

As for Georgia Tech, I would go to war with Jarrett Jack any down of the week (his play in the ACC tournament championship was Willis Reed-esque), but their inconsistency this season is hard to ignore. A hot streak could propel them back to the Final Four, but it's hard to bank on that given their erratic play. With Wake Forest, I actually respect Chris Paul a bit more since he stood up for himself and groin-slapped Julius Hodges. That mean streak will serve him well at the next level. If Wake had drawn a weaker region, I would have certainly had them in the Final Four. But this region has scoring teams in it, so Wake's natural advantage of running teams out of the gym will be largely neutralized. Since I think Texas Tech is going to be distracted by the issue of Bobby Knight coming to coach my UT Volunteers (please, God, please), I don't see them winning four straight. That leaves Louisville, a team that is finally healthy at the start of the NCAA tournament for the first time since Pitino took over. Anyone who saw him interviewed on Pardon the Interruption Tuesday knows he looks loose and confident, a scary thought considering how brutal his draw is. I think Pitino feels bullet-proof at the moment, so I refuse to bet against him.

The Chicago bracket takes place in...well...Illinois. This is the best college basketball team since 1990/91 UNLV squads. Do they need to be given this sort of home court advantage to boot? A lot of talking heads on the various basketball programs are picking other teams to pull off the win, particularly OSU. Me, I'll take the overdogs. The best team playing at home should win and will win barring a Villanova-against-Georgetown type of performance. The Illini defense is superlative, all three of their wings could be an All-American PG if their coach played them that way, and they have recently demonstrated they can score in the half court offense if need be. Tossing in the emotional element from their head coach's recent tragedy, all the elements are in place. I expect Illinois to blow through their region and wind up facing the head coach who recruited them, Bill Self, in the National Final. The Illini are going to cut down the nets.

Of course, I am almost certainly wrong on most of these picks. If you want to follow how much I screw it up, my bracket is posted here. Enjoy the comically inaccurate selections over the next month! I will update this after I scan in my bracket so that you can enjoy the long list of X's signifying my incompetence. What's great about the tournament is that I really, really want to be wrong. If most of the top 25 loses tomorrow, I will be on cloud nine.

Alright, everybody, sing it with me now. The ball is tipped and there you are. You're running for your life. You're a shooting star.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

At some point in the next 48 hours or so, I plan to post my NCAA bracket here for the sheer comedy value of it. After all, there are few joys in life as pure as rubbernecking at the misfortune of others. Thus, I will attempt to bring a bit of happiness in your life by publicizing my failures when it comes to picking basketball. The beauty of March Madness is that the guy who tracks the season from Midnight Madness practices on is frequently humbled by the guy who picks based on which school names make his dog bark the loudest.

The NCAA tournament is the single greatest sports event going for a couple of reasons. Foremost among them is the fact that it's purer than professional sports. As much as I respect the New England Patriots for bringing the selfless team concept back to the forefront of the sport, any goodwill from that success is erased when I hear the guys like Orlando Pace complain about the fact that their franchise tag will only pay them a measly $8.5 million this season. The most extreme recent example of this was famed coach choker (as well as playoff choker) Latrell Sprewell arguing that he couldn't feed his family on $5 million a year. Comments like that may lead to but one logical question. What in the blue hell is the Sprewell family eating?

With March Madness, guys like Taylor Coppenrath escape the anonymity of their small schools long enough to capture the spotlight for a brief but unforgettable moment in their lives. It's the stuff of myth and legend when plays occur like we saw last season between UAB's twins. Years from now, I will struggle to remember who won the 2004 tournament (despite the brilliance of Emeka Okafor in the clutch), but I will never forget a blind overhead pass that allowed one brother to get an easy dunk thanks to an assist from his twin. And I will never get tired of watching Bryce Drew slide on the floor in celebration after putting a dagger in Ole Miss. The fact that his father was coaching the game and ran over to hug his boy makes the moment even sweeter, but that's only icing on an already perfect cake.

The other reasons the tournament is the best sporting event involve surprise, suspense and the rivalry. The surprise and the suspense stem from a formula that frequently plays out in the same fashion yet somehow always manages to manifest itself differently at endgame. The overdog has a cold shooting night, is sloppy with the ball and has trouble out-hustling the scrappy upstarts on rebounds. Even the best teams in the tournament are only an eight minute scoreless streak and a few key mistakes away from elimination if they don't catch a few breaks at crunch-time. When the game is down to the last few seconds, a single arcing shot will determine who cries tears of joy vs. who cries at the knowledge that their moment in the sun has come and gone. The opening round will see 32 finishes, and at least a dozen of those will somehow cater to this formula yet none of them will feel repetitive and tired. It's the majesty of the game exemplified in those last blips of the clock when the seasons of two teams hang in the balance.

But the best part is the rivalry. It's a month worth of calculations of the various scenarios. All of us who play the brackets have had thoughts like this. If Illinois beats OSU while Gonzaga goes out in the next round, I can win as long as somebody takes out North Carolina before the final. SOMEONE PLEASE TAKE OUT NORTH CAROLINA BEFORE THE FINAL!!! It's the purest example of group-related competition. The brackets are like no limit holdem poker in this regard. Everyone is equal at the start. Your cards are just as valuable as anybody else's even if you have no idea what you are doing. Conversely, all of the most experienced talking heads in the sport have had a year where their entire final four was gone by the end of round three. Everyone knows what it's like to see your champion wiped out by round two. There is no worse feeling than having to mark all those x spots on your bracket because your team was caught off guard by an overachieving 12 seed. It's the beauty of March Madness: it's universal.

Driving home this point is a column posted on MSNBC today. March Madness has become such a cottage industry to Las Vegas and other sports books that places like Mandalay Bay sell their rooms at $599/night this week. That is, they would if they had any space available, but all of those rooms have been booked for months. But the most staggering number is the sheer volume of dollars estimated to be spent on March Madness gambling. The guesstimate is $3.5 billion (with a b). As AP writer Tim Dahlberg sagely points out, American college basketball fans who have caught the fever of March Madness spend what is tantamount to the gross national product of Mozambique betting on the sport. On 63 basketball games. I can even support this anecdotally. As we speak, a member of the BOP staff (think A-Lists) is ostensibly in Vegas for the ShoWest convention. The real reason he never misses the movie event is that it is usually timed in concurrence with the opening weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament. The man has his priorities straight.


Monday, March 14, 2005

This should prove to be a historic week on the site. Assuming we don't run into any glaring technical issues, our latest feature will be implemented by the end of the week. BOP Today marks two changes in the way we do business around here. On the one hand, it handles all the day-to-day minutiae we detail that does not make the front page. As one of the three or four most frequently updated non-corporate movie sites on the net (okay, we're technically corporate as well, but it's our corporation), we generally have a lot of tweaks that get made that never get mentioned for a simple reason. We hate "busy" web site design. It's hard to read, oftentimes impossible to navigate and a source of general frustration all around. As such, BOP has made a stubborn decision to always keep our front page design clean and elegant.

With BOP Today, we are going to add a second section wherein folks who don't mind the "busy" look can find out exactly what we have going on in all phases of the site. Various sections that have historically not been highlighted are now going to be given their proper representation. If you want to know what release schedule pages have been introduced, enhanced, or updated, this will be the place to go. In addition, it will display all of the recent updates in the Big Board and Blog sections of the site. We are also going to add a new discussion format for the group blog as a way to take a page that had been woefully underutilized and turn it into something entertaining. This is where all of our fireside chats will take place. When there is a hot topic of debate, the staff blog will be the place where we discuss it first.

Also, and this is a personal favorite of mine, an idea I had a while back called Rank and File will finally make it debut. It's a simple concept, really (and one I expect will be quickly copied elsewhere in short order), but it turns the idea of Internet polling on its head a bit. I expect that you will find it to be a source of frequent entertainment. One other note: we are going to start adding some pain-in-the-ass trivia with the new implementation. The idea is to reward those of you who really know your stuff movie-wise. There are weeks when we will not only have no winners but we will brag about that fact. Our brand of trivia is not going to be for the weak of mind.

We hope you like the changes, both cosmetic and under-the-hood. One of the great things about the way we are handling our release schedule from here on in is that it ties all of source material together in a way that will allow us another great feature in another couple of months. In short, we are making a change for the now as well as laying the groundwork for one in the future. We feel very good about where the site is headed in 2005 and hope that you will enjoy accompanying us on the ride.



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