Archive for March, 2010

A bracket busted

March 29, 2010

I watch a lot of college basketball.

I like to think I’m a reasonably knowledgable fan of the game. I can tell the difference between man-to-man, a 2-3 zone and its hyper-active cousin, the 1-3-1.

I know the coaches. I know the players. And I spend a couple of hours every year going over schedules and statistics before filling out my bracket.

And all of that knowledge and planning this year netted me ZERO teams in the Final Four.

ZERO??!?!?!?!?!?!

It’s not my fault.

Who had Kansas losing in the second round? Who thought Butler would beat Syracuse? And let’s have a show of hands for the folks that had Michigan State and Tennessee playing in the Elite Eight?

OK, maybe I should have picked Duke out of the South regional. I thought that Villanova pick was oh-so-clever…

So, now I find myself in a bind.

It appears highly likely that a team I dislike – West Virginia or Duke – will win the national championship.

First of all, which do I root for in the semifinal?

West Virginia’s coach, Bob Huggins, is a fine Xs and Os coach and a tireless recruiter. His programs also lag behind in terms of academics. The biggest stat – and this was before the NCAA took away scholarships for this sort of thing – was during a four-year period in his tenure at Cincinnati he didn’t graduate a soul.

Not one of his players got a degree in four years.

Amazing.

Duke, on the other hand, sets the standard for academic excellence. And its fans are far less annoying than the ones fof Carolina.

But its coach, Mike Krzyzewski, irks me for entirely different reasons. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a wonderful in-game coach and his kids go to class and graduate.

He does all of that right.

It’s the brand of basketball he teaches that bugs me.

It’s a physical, on-the-edge-of-the-rules style that has won Duke many games through the years. Hand checking, holding guys coming off screens, charges that aren’t charges – that sort of thing.

Take that mentality, combined with his scowling and intimidating officials on the sidelines, and its no wonder that the Blue Devils rarely lose a game at home.

But thanks for that gold medal, dude.

I guess I’ll take Duke, and then root like hell for Sparty or Butler in the title game.

Maybe next year, I’ll skip the brackets all together.

Would a blank one be any worse?

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Final Fantasy XIII review

March 17, 2010

I wanted to hate it.

I read all of the previews on “Final Fantasy XIII,” the ones that ripped it six ways from Sunday.

The ones that accused it of shattering all that was good about the other games in the long-running series.

I won’t bore you with the details, but basically, most of the reviews read the same way — very pretty, but not much like a typical Final Fantasy game.

Well, the last time I looked at the game clock, I was about 14 hours into my experience with Square Enix’s latest incarnation of the groundbreaking and widely popular series and I can say that the reviews are dead on.

It is pretty and it is not like the other titles in the series.

Pretty really isn’t a strong enough word for the graphics on display in this game.

The cut scenes — and there are plenty of them — are captivating enough that my eight year old stops to watch when he wanders in front of the screen (again).

I’ve been playing video games since Atari’s heyday and I’ve never seen a game so visually stunning.

The music is also tremendous, shifting seamlessly with the different areas and situations you happen to be in.

But there’s no denying the chief complaint that some folks have with FFXII.

It is different.

Instead of wide open spaces, filled with towns to visit and side quests galore, you spend most of your time moving towards a dot on a very narrow path while trying to collect a few treasures and kill a few bad guys along the way.

Now, I’m told that you reach a point later in the game where you get to explore a bit, but at 15 hours, I haven’t made it there yet.

And, out of the box, this was a buzz kill for me.

There is method to the madness, however.

The game leads you along slowly, and it’s by design.

Understanding the story is paramount to enjoying the game, so they give it to in small doses, one cut scene at a time.

The much-hyped new battle and character development system is a little like opening a Calculus book when you read about it in the instruction manual, but the designers don’t throw it all at you at once.

They introduce it to you a piece at a time, and there’s always a tutorial to guide you through anything too complex.

A couple of hours in, I was still wondering if I had invested my money wisely. But, as the game rolled through its “chapters,” I found myself struggling to put down the controller at night.

For me, there came a point where I stopped thinking about what I expected FFXII to be and starting enjoying it for what it is — an incredibly beautiful game with an equally interesting, if a little complicated, story to go along with it.

Even if you never get into the spirit of the game, the graphics and sound alone make it worth a look.

Hey look!

March 15, 2010

Wow, I should really post here more.

Fact is, my paying blogs are hogging my brainpower.

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