as a kid, baseball was about the only thing i enjoyed more than exploring the creek that trickled past my buddy's backyard. and since baseball commands my career attention these days, the creek gets the title nod here.

planning to use this as an outlet for thoughts and observations (sports, outdoors, travel, etc.) that have no other resting place. we'll see how it goes ...

* 2012 update: one post a day. that's the goal. good luck with all that, eh?

ryan

(@ryan_fagan on twitter)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

picks

Just to get these out there, for better or worse …

round of 64
south region
1 Kentucky over 16 W. Kentucky
9 UConn over 8 Iowa State
5 Wichita State over 12 VCU
4 Indiana over 13 N. Mexico State
6 UNLV over 11 Colorado
3 Baylor over 14 South Dakota State
10 Xavier over 7 Notre Dame
2 Duke over 15 Lehigh

west region
1 Michigan State over 16 LIU-Brooklyn
8 Memphis over 9 Saint Louis
12 Long Beach over 5 New Mexico
13 Davidson over 4 Louisville
6 Murray State over 11 Colorado State
3 Marquette over 14 BYU
7 Florida over 10 Virginia
2 Missouri over 15 Norfolk State

east region
1 Syracuse over 16 Asheville
8 K-State over 9 Southern Miss
5 Vanderbilt over 12 Harvard
13 Montana over 4 Wisconsin
6 Cincinnati over 11 Texas
3 Florida State over 14 St. Bonaventure
7 Gonzaga over 10 West Virginia
2 Ohio State over 15 Loyola (doogie howser)

midwest region
1 UNC over 16 Vermont
8 Creighton over 9 Alabama
5 Temple over 12 USF
4 Michigan over 13 Ohio
11 N.C. State over 6 San Diego State
3 G’town over 14 Belmont
7 St. Mary’s over 10 Purdue
2 Kansas over 15 Detroit

round of 32
south region
1 Kentucky over 9 UConn
5 Wichita State over 4 Indiana
3 Baylor over 6 UNLV
19 Xavier over 2 Duke

west region
1 Michigan State over 8 Memphis
12 Long Beach over 13 Davidson
3 Marquette over 6 Murray State
2 Missouri over 7 Florida

east region
1 Syracuse over 8 Kansas State
5 Vanderbilt over 13 Montana
3 Florida State over 6 Cincinnati
2 Ohio State over 7 Gonzaga

midwest region
1 North Carolina over 8 Creighton
5 Temple over 4 Michigan
3 G’town over 11 N.C. State
2 Kansas over 7 St. Mary’s

sweet 16
south region
1 Kentucky over 5 Wichita State
3 Baylor over 10 Xavier

west region
1 Michigan State over 12 Long Beach
2 Missouri over 3 Marquette

east region
5 Vanderbilt over 1 Syracuse
2 Ohio State over 3 Florida State

midwest region
1 North Carolina over 5 Temple
2 Kansas over 3 G’town

elite eight
1 Kentucky over 3 Baylor
2 Missouri over 1 Michigan State
5 Vanderbilt over 2 Ohio State
1 North Carolina over 2 Kansas

final four
1 Kentucky over 2 Missouri
1 North Carolina over 5 Vanderbilt

title game
1 North Carolina over 2 Kentucky 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

shut out

kudos to alabama.

very impressive defensive display. not exactly the type of game that will win over the casual fan—or, even keep them watching into the third quarter—but it got the job done for the tide. two bcs titles in three years. 

does this mean a second statue for nick saban? 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

well …

… that didn’t take long.

on the seventh day, apparently, ryan rested. woke up this morning and realized i’d forgotten my daily entry. oops. i don’t even have a great story of partying or rabble-rousing in my holster as an excuse. went to the basketball game at gardner-webb (the runnin’ bulldogs were hosting high point), and after filing an unrelated cinesport video for sportingnews.com, i wound up getting back a little before midnight. 

i had been thinking all day about what i would post, too. went to a couple of south carolina state parks and hiked around—it was an amazing 68 and sunny, and there was no way i was going to spend the day inside—and then headed to the hoops game. and a great game it was. the host team trailed high point 55-48 with 1:02 left in the game, but mounted a furious rally (well, one guy hit a couple of 3s) to tie the game, and then gardner-webb won in overtime. every time i watch a game there, something crazy happens. anyway, took lots of pictures of the day to properly illustrate the entry. 

(shay shine, the high point shooter, missed this free-throw attempt. seems fitting. also, the pics of the state parks were much better, as you’ll see tomorrow …)

problem was, i was famished by the time i got back from the basketball game. so i busted out the automatic apple slicer my mom sent home with me after christmas, and rummaged through the cabinet to find the peanut butter (crunchy, of course) i’d bought a few months ago but never opened. to my delight, peanut butter has a long shelf life, so it wasn’t past the expiration date. i had my snack, the granny smith apples dipped in crunchy peanut butter, and it was everything i had hoped it would be. 

content, i went to bed. new habits can be hard to form, apparently.

i’ll try to be better next week. (rroy, stop snickering …)

Friday, January 6, 2012

apparently, it’s time to wash the car …

(i hope this graffiti brought jacky and ron closer together …)

i wind up renting a lot of cars for work. it’s cheaper for the company if i rent a car and they pay for that and the gas instead of just paying me mileage for the distance driven. most times, i’ll get back from chapel hill or clemson or wherever after midnight, so i’ll just drop the car off at the rental place in the morning. which means, several times a month, there will be some strange car in my driveway as the sun rises. 

my duplex neighbor asked me if this one was a rental. “i didn’t remember you having a two-tone car,” she said. “no,” i said. “it’s mine. it’s just a bit dirty.”

driving gravel roads tends to do that. and i’m not cool enough to pull off a two-tone car. 

and then the guy who towed my car (we all remember that fun, right?) asked me if i’d driven through snow earlier in the day. y’know, despite the fact that it was 60 degrees that afternoon in charlotte and the closest snow cover is approximately somewhere near lake erie at the moment. and, despite the fact that he’d towed my car a couple hours earlier and none of the “snow” had melted by the time i came to pick up my car. i squelched every single one of the smartass remarks that popped into my head. “no,” i said. “it’s just a bit dirty.”

and then, while buying raspberries and blackberries and pretzel bites and such from trader joe’s, jacky and ron used my car as a stand-in for the old oak tree down by the lake. i thought, just for a moment, that maybe this “jacky” lady was a secret admirer ofmine who just had my name mixed up. down here in north carolina, the strongest, softest of drawn-out southern accents can make “ryan” sound a lot like “ron” … but probably not. 

where’s the nearest autobell? 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

try again …

On SportingNews.com, I’m starting a new Friday feature for the rest of the college hoops season. Going to take an in-depth look at three of the best Saturday/Sunday games. Started writing this today, and just so happened that Missouri-Kansas State was the first one on my list (tips first of the three games, at 1:30 eastern on Saturday). 

So I put this preview together, only to realize that I probably didn’t pick the best categories for a standing feature. Which means that, of the 710 words in the preview, I’ll have to redo most of them. Seems like a waste to not post it somewhere, though, so here’s your Mizzou at K-State preview for Saturday … 

Note: All statistics related to points per possession (PPP) and national percentile rankings are courtesy of our friends at Synergy Sports Tech and their massive database of statistical information.

No. 7 Missouri at No. 23 Kansas State, Saturday, 1:30 p.m. 

What Missouri does best offensively: Well, pretty much everything. In terms of points per possessions (PPP), the Tigers rank in the 90th percentile or better nationally in the following situations: spot-ups, transition, isolation, cuts, offensive rebounds, post-ups, off screens and pick-and-roll where the roll man gets the ball. They’re second in the nation in offensive efficiency rating (121.9) at kenpom.com. Instead of focusing on the one area where the team excels, here’s where each of Mizzou’s top five scorers do their best work: Marcus Denmon is averaging 1.5 PPP (66 points in 44 possessions) in transition, Kim English is at 1.409 PPP in spot-up situations, Ricardo Ratliffe is at 1.679 PPP on cuts, Michael Dixon is at 1.242 in isolation situations and Phil Pressey is at 1.312 PPP in isolation.

Where Missouri needs offensive improvement: The Tigers are still good against zone defenses, but their PPP of 0.961 is much lower than their PPP of 1.105 against man defenses. Against man-to-man, for example, the Tigers run spot-up situations 16.4 percent of the time, with a success rate of 1.301 PPP. Against zones, their dependence on spot-up offense goes way up (49.7 percent of possessions) but their effectiveness goes way down (0.878 PPP). Against zone looks, the Tigers are much more effective when moving without the ball—shocking, right?—as proven by their 1.206 PPP on cuts. There are good looks to be found against the zone, but settling for just any jump shot isn’t a good idea, even when you shoot the ball as well as Missouri does.

Missouri’s weak spot defensively: Mizzou does a solid job defending against medium- and long-range jumpers—they’re in the 79th and 75th percentile nationally, defensively, against those types of shots—but their lack of true shot-blockers is evident on shorter jumpers (not including post-ups and cuts), from 17 feet and in. The Tigers are just in the 16th percent nationally against those short jumpers, an area that Big 12 opponents will look to exploit during the conference season.

 

What K-State does best offensively: Though they don’t do this much (11.6 percent of their possessions), the Wildcats are very effective (66.7 percent shooting) off cuts to the basket. McGruder, an athletic 6-foot-4 guard who has scored at least 20 points four times but has also been held to seven or fewer four times, has been much better on the move that launching jumpers. He’s averaging 1.375 PPP in these situations. Jordan Henriquez-Roberts has made 12 of his 14 shots off cuts, but he’s also turned the ball over in 13 percent of those possessions.

Where K-State needs offensive improvement: Twenty-three percent of the Wildcats’ possessions end with a spot-up situation, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. They’re averaging 0.949 PPP, which places them in the 60th percentile nationally. Even though he’s shooting just 34.6 percent (with a very sub-par 0.839 PPP) in those situations, Rodney McGruder accounts for 23.9 percent of K-State’s spot-up possessions. Will Spradling’s 1.086 PPP tops all regulars in spot-up situations, though Jeremy Jones is shooting 66.7 percent in his 15 spot-up shots.

K-State’s weak spot defensively: The Wildcats have made their name this season with an outstanding defensive effort. Overall, they’re holding opponents to just 0.724 PPP, which ranks in the 97th percentile nationally. To be picky, though, opponents have had success—though limited opportunities—on true post-up possessions; they’re averaging 1.05 PPP in those situations, which places the K-State defense in just the 18th percentile of the country.

Bottom line: Missouri leads the nation in field goal percentage at 52.2 percent, a shocking feat for a guard-oriented offense. K-State has to try and limit the number of open looks the Tigers find from beyond the 3-point line—Mizzou was 12-for-21 from distance in its Big 12 opener against Oklahoma—while maintaining their focus on the boards. The Wildcats were outrebounded 48-24 by Kansas in their conference opener. After rolling through the non-conference portion of their schedule 11-1 and earning a No. 23 ranking, K-State is in the middle of a brutal opening Big 12 stretch. The Wildcats were pounded by Kansas (67-49) on Wednesday, and they host No. 7 Missouri and No. 4 Baylor for their next two games.

 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

why don’t they …

… have tooth paste that tastes like orange juice? that way, a person could drink a glass of orange juice on the way to work in the morning after brushing their teeth. 

(and thus begins “random thought wednesday” …)

ah, south carolina …

ah, south carolina …

Monday, January 2, 2012

not helping …

i want a dog. my travel schedule makes that really tough, especially at this time of the year. spending 10 days at the folks’ place, with my brother’s dog hanging out while i work, didn’t make that desire go away … 

and away we go …

things had a way of working out for my cousin Adam as he spent more than a year traveling through asia. he’d show up in a town needing a ride to his destination, and one would appear. he’d meet amazing people and travel with them for days and weeks at a time, which would help split costs and share adventures. time after time, things fell into place. after a while, he abandoned many of his meticulous planning methods and just started assuming the universe would provide, and it always did. 

i was facing a bit of a dilemma as the opening hours of 2012 unfolded. the goal for this year is to create one Up a Creek post for every single day, but i wasn’t sure how to kick off this project. should i go deep, with some words of wisdom/encouragement (like this amazing line from an over the rhine song, for example: “you either lose your fear or spend your life with one foot in the grave.”) or maybe post a funny picture or delve into a long, rambling dissertation on how advanced statistics provide a more thorough appreciation for sports such as baseball and college hoops? 

and then, as Day One came to an end, this happened …

(this isn’t my car, but this is the offending tow truck, back with another victim …) 

i don’t remember Adam mentioning the universe providing any tow trucks in southeast asia. 

after an enjoyable afternoon of watching football with new and newer friends and an excellent late-night snack of biscuits and gravy and hash browns (they were just the perfect amount of crispy), i wandered back to my parking spot only to find out my car had gotten towed. not exactly how i’d hoped to kick off 2012, y’know? 

on the bright side, though, i had my first blog entry. as i’m writing this, after taking a cab to go snag some cash and spring my car from the impound lot, it’s well after midnight, which brings me to a point i was going to get to eventually—not every post this year will hit the interwebs before midnight. i’m defining the end of a day as “before ryan goes to sleep” …

so check back here often. daily, even. i’ll post these occasionally to facebook and rarely to twitter. the last thing you need is to be inundated with me.

well, aside from getting your car towed, that is.

(sigh) 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

the best advice i ever got …

(Dave only wishes he could catch fish this big. And, yes, that’s my foot …)

I was in fifth grade, on a camping/floating trip on the Big Piney River with a church group. We were fishing, and Dave Bullock, one of the Sunday School teachers, was getting snagged and losing a lot more lures than I was.

I brazenly mocked him.

So he asked me, “Who has caught more fish today, me or you?” I thought about it, and there was no way around it. He was clearly winning in that category. That’s where the fish hide out, he said, down in the rocks and tree roots and other things that act like magnets for wayward hooks. Then, he busted out this gem …

“If you want to catch fish,” he said, “you can’t be afraid to catch fish.”

I’ve never heard anything that made so much sense so quickly. It was one of those proverbial thunderbolts, you know? I mean, I knew that’s where the fish were living, but I had been too concerned with avoiding the frustration of getting snagged and having to re-tie, so I’d been casting more into the open-water spaces. I was letting the fear of losing a 25-cent lure rule my thought process.

Seems dumb, right?

To catch fish, I had to be more bold. I had to take more chances, to realize that the risks—even though they were definitely there—didn’t outweigh the potential rewards. I had to realize the ultimate goal (to catch more fish than Dave) and figure out the most effective way of achieving that goal (casting my lure into the trouble zone).

And I know Dave was just talking about fishing in the moment, but the theory holds for so many other things in this life of ours. You can pretty much swap in “fish” with anything else. It works for “dream job” or “pretty girl” or “cool autograph” or anything else.

I think about that all the time, even now. Best advice I ever got.

 

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