A couple of quick hits…
1) If the postseason started today, San Antonio wins the West. In the past few weeks, the Mavs have been dismantled by the Suns, struggled to defeat mediocre Atlanta, New York, Milwaukee and Sacramento, and bottomed-out by scoring only 71 points against Denver last night. The Suns only seem to be capable of playing well against the Mavericks. In the meantime, the Spurs have been quietly kicking everyone’s ass. I didn’t want to believe it, and I have been angry at ESPN’s John Hollinger for consistently putting the Spurs at #1 in his Power Rankings since mid-season, but I’m afraid it’s true. If you watched San Antonio dismantle Phoenix on Thursday night, you know that game was not nearly as close as the Spurs’ seven-point margin of victory. Duncan owned Stoudemire. Nash turned it over at a JV-point-guard rate against the Spurs’ defensive pressure. The good news for the Mavericks is that San Antonio must now be viewed as the favorite to knock off Phoenix in the second round. Assuming the Mavericks can beat the 8th seed and then survive Houston, they would much rather see the Spurs than the Suns in the Western Conference Finals. Stoudemire is a matchup nightmare for Dallas, and even as great as Duncan is, the Mavs have a chance at containing him. Stoudemire is in their heads, and I don’t want to see Frightening Amare roll into town on a mission in late May. Hate to say it, but Go Spurs Go, at least until the second round. The Mavs have two weeks to get it in gear. Earn your money, Avery.
2) After some late disappointments in the recruiting class of 2007, Notre Dame is off to a great start for 2008. Before someone else points it out, I’m aware that the Irish are nowhere near the recruiting pace of UT or even A&M. But for us, six early commits = a big deal, since we have no built-in regional recruiting base like either of the aforementioned schools, who rarely leave the state of Texas to fill out their entire classes. To recap: late in the ’07 signing season, a few big defensive recruits who were expected to commit to Notre Dame instead committed to SEC schools. Then, a Notre Dame verbal commit (defensive end) switched his commitment and signed with Florida. If you’ve watched Notre Dame football in the last two years, you know that defense needs to be a major priority in recruiting, and the failure to lure a strong defensive class last year was very frustrating to the Irish faithful.
Notre Dame’s first defensive verbal commit for 2008 came on board a few weeks ago: Sean Cwynar, a D-lineman from Illinois. Yesterday, we received a verbal from linebacker David Posluszny, the younger brother of Penn State graduate Paul Posluszny. Paul is a two-time All-American, two-time Bednarik Award winner, and 2005 Butkus Award winner. He says that his brother David is better than he was as a high school senior. With more linebacking commits expected soon, and a switch to a 3-4 defense, it looks like there is reason for optimism.
The other commits are local boy Braxston Cave (OL), WR John Goodman from Fort Wayne, TE Kyle Rudolph from Cincinnati (one of the top recruits in the country at his position), and legacy OL Mike Golic, Jr., whose presence will hopefully help raise our profile a bit with the folks at the Worldwide Leader.
As an ND alum, I am encouraged for several reasons.
a) 4 of our 6 recruits are from Indiana or its neighboring states. As mentioned previously, we need a regional base in the worst way. As a student at ND, it seemed like everyone I met was from Illinois, Michigan, Indiana or Ohio. The football team should reflect that as well. Notre Dame is the dominant football program in the state of Indiana, and should keep the best players in state. “Stealing” a few from OSU, UM and UI will hopefully become an annual event.
b) Charlie Weis has toughened his recruiting policy by borrowing a page from Mack Brown. As I understand it, recruits are asked not to commit unless they are ready to tell the whole world, and are absolutely certain they will keep their word. “Silent” commits are no longer accepted. If the player reneges after a public verbal commit, his scholarship is pulled, no questions asked.
c) Weis has apparently hired a hell of a recruiter in new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown. Brown is a former high school athlete in the Chicago Public League, so his ties there are a huge asset. His NFL experience (playing and coaching) also gives him credibility with recruits, several of whom have already mentioned him as a major factor in their decision to commit to ND.
d) We are recruiting good players who have grown up dreaming of going to Notre Dame. In my opinion, there should always be a few slots for kids like that in each class, even if they are not the highest-rated prospects at their positions. They are a lock to stay committed, and their enthusiasm can only help as they recruit their peers. Cave and Goodman grew up rooting for Notre Dame. And if Mike Golic, Jr. ever de-commits, I fully expect the sun to go out shortly thereafter.
I guess neither of these hits ended up being quick. Oh well. Happy Easter.