Smile Politely

Spartan spanking

Hey, how about that Tyler Griffey!

Let’s be optimistic. Some good came out of Illinois’ drubbing at Breslin. Bruce Weber was forced to use more players. One of them even got enough playing time to help the team.

After the game Tyler was upbeat. He talked about his new regimen and work ethic. Maybe he was indirectly encouraging his teammates to follow his lead.

Illinois lost Saturday, pretty much as everyone predicted. The reasons they lost were also predictable. Everyone knew they’d be outmuscled. Maybe some people also knew the Illini would shoot horribly because they’ve lapsed, as a team, into poor shooting habits.

The shot selection was ridiculous, and nobody got squared up. Oh, nobody except Tyler Griffey. He was 5 of 8 from the floor.

Practice plus fundamentals. It’s amazing how that works, isn’t it?

Bill Cole thinks so, too.

What I do? He’s not even bleeding!”

The reason Tyler got tic is that Mike Tisdale got tackled.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo threw his bigs at Tisdale, and they ate him up. Izzo’s brilliant move, I thought, was inserting Garrick Sherman early in the game.

Sherman is a 6’10” 235 lb. freshman center. He played only a couple of minutes, but I think it might have been the most significant unnoticed 2 minutes in the game.

Sherman spent the entire time wrestling Tisdale to the ground. In the live online game thread, I wrote “Dahlman is pummeling Tisdale underneath … hard.” I got the wrong name, but the right analysis.

Sherman draped him self over Tisdale and started pushing, shoving, beating — anything he could get away with … or not, for that matter. That’s the beauty of throwing a reserve big man at the opponent. Even if he fouls out in three minutes, he’s going to affect his adversary.

Sherman earned one personal foul, his only contribution to the stat sheet. He also drew a foul from Tisdale. It was Mike’s second.

Tisdale was relegated to the Illini bench, and Sherman returned to his own, job accomplished.

Tisdale returned eventually, but he never really got involved in the flow of things. Enormous Spartans — the bulbous Draymond Green and the behemoth Derrick Nix — moved Tisdale wherever they wanted him moved, collecting caroms in the meantime.

As strategy goes, this is a simple one. It works.

Whether MSU got in Tisdale’s head, or merely all over his body, they completely neutralized him. Tisdale finished the game with one rebound, one field goal attempt (missed) and four fouls.

Don’t everybody start patting ourselves on the back for our ability to predict Tisdale’s meeting with brute aggression. Let’s not congratulate ourselves for anticipating the results, either. It’s not rocket science.

Holy shit, it’s Richard Semrau.


Tisdale’s foul trouble may have paved the way for Tyler Griffey’s opportunity. But that’s not all. It even got Richard Semrau on the floor.

Semrau entered the game at 6:02 in the first half.

Semrau checks the board to verify that he’s been inserted into the game.

Moments later, it was all over. Semrau was pulled again, having tallied no stats.

Although he checked out at 4:53, the official scorekeeper credited Semrau with only 1 minute. Just his luck, I guess.

Richard’s teammates all stuck out a congratulatory hand. His face seemed to say “yeah, whatever.”

I wonder what Stan Simpson thought after watching Semrau earn minuscule tic, watching Griffey play meaningful tic, watching Tisdale majorly ticked, and adding all of it up in his head — then dividing by 40 minutes — and coming up with a final sum of MSU 42 rebounds, Illinois 34.

We assume that Simpson can play basketball, right? I mean, he’s got an athletic scholarship and everything.

“Hey, what’s it like … you know, playin’?


Tom O’Neill has had enough.

Enough of what? Well, just about anything. O’Neill averages 28.6 assessed technical fouls per year.

Over the 15 seasons documented at, only one guy called more games as a college basketball referee. No wonder he’s frustrated.

But in that same period, Steve Welmer — basketball’s most-working if not hardest working referee — averaged only 19.7 per annum, while also pulling up his pants a lot.

On the other hand, O’Neill doesn’t like calling regular fouls at all. Depsite all the games he works, he’s not even in the top 100 refs for most fouls called.

Yesterday, O’Neill didn’t call two consecutive hatchetings of Brandon Paul. First Brandon was mangled on a drive to the bucket. Subsequently, he attempted a diving save as the ball bounced out of bounds — only to be pushed out himself by those big, butch Spartans.

Fuck this!” cried Paul, from his prone position on the Breslin baseline.

O’Neill contemplated the cry for a while. The teams moved to the other end, and play continued.

Then O’Neill realized it had been a long time since he blew his whistle. He huffed, and he puffed … and so on.

Tom O’Neill doesn’t want you to read his lips.

Here are the figures. Technical fouls divided by games worked:

345/1136 — Mike Kitts: .30369718
244/1131 — David Hall: .21573828
374/1246 — Tom O’Neill: .30016051
231/987 — JD Collins: .23404255
180/989 — Ed Hightower: .182002022
327/1090 — Ted Valentine: .3
263/1315 — Steve Welmer: .2

Brandon had to sit with teacher.

Among officials who regularly work Illinois games, only Ted Valentine approaches O’Neill’s numbers. But you have to admit, Ted Valentine has called some fantastic technical fouls in that time.

Look on the bright side; Illinois rarely sees Mike Kitts. That dude will assess a T just for lookin’ at him funny.


It was reunion weekend at Breslin. Spartan greats were everywhere. I spent a few minutes catching up with Steve Smith and Mateen Cleaves.

Smith is working for NBA-TV and the Big Ten Network. It’s not because he needs the money. Smith played 14 years in the NBA, and has already donated $2.5 million to his alma mater. He also earned a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Mateen Cleaves was all bubbly about being back in Breslin.


More Articles