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gettin' my geek on
geek
soopageek
Meet Frank.



The initial idea of building a simple "test" machine is one I've had for many years. Basically, something I could throw hardware on without having to crack-open the case, and risk the safety/integrity, of my primary desktop. This would be most useful in testing/diagnosing various hard disks and optical drives, but also for the occasional expansion card. Frank began when I found his chassis. A few years ago, I was dropping-off some recyclables at the local collection center and saw a computer chassis sitting inside the dumpster. Any shame I may have had as a younger man has all been lost since about the age of 35, so I hopped into the dumpster and fished the chassis out to examine it. The right side-panel and front bezel was missing, and it had been well stripped. All that remained inside was the motherboard, CPU sans heat-sink, a floppy disk drive and a ZIP drive. Then I noticed the chassis. Everything in it had slide-locks: the external bays, the internal bays, even the power supply! Upon further examination, even the expansion cards were held in place by a single flap which could be pulled back with your thumb then set back in place. In a nutshell, you could quickly insert and remove all hardware from the chassis without a screwdriver. As a bonus, the internal bays were facing sideways for easy access. This was the chassis for my test machine dream.

Another year or two went by, and I was at the recycling center again. This time I noticed a computer case, completely intact, sitting on the ground outside the dumpster. Naturally, I scooped it up and took it home. The people who had owned Frank's chassis were smart enough to strip it, but the people who owned what would eventually become Frank's guts weren't. At a minimum, this meant there was probably a usable hard drive inside. At best, there might be a fully functional computer with a minor hardware problem. I let the machine sit for a few days, as it had been raining all week. Once I was sure it had had a chance to dry-out sufficiently I plugged a monitor to it and flipped it on. I heard the system beep of a successful POST and I got some really bad video as I watched it boot into Windows XP, then crash & auto-reboot after about 30-60 seconds. My initial thought was that the onboard video had gone bad. The motherboard had only PCI and ISA slots and I didn't have any spare video cards that I could use to test my thought. I had a box full of old expansion cards somewhere, but as hard as I looked, I couldn't find them. One other minor issue I discovered was that the PS2 port for the keyboard was all chewed up and wouldn't seat a keyboard connector, but in this day and age of cheap USB keyboards that's no big deal. I put the machine away, but kept it in the back of my mind.

A few months ago, I was at my parent's house. Like me, my dad tends to come across the occasional computer/part that he thinks he might find a use for some day. Sitting in the floor of his office were two machines. I noticed that one of them had an expansion video card protruding from the rear of it. I also noticed that the little sticker on the front bezel said "Designed for Microsoft Windows 98" which meant it was pretty good odds that was a PCI video card sitting in there. Having never come across my missing box o' parts, I asked him about it and he just gave the whole thing to me.

I didn't have the time just then to begin testing, so I never bothered cracking the case when I got home. Out of curiosity, I fired up this new-to-me machine and was greeted with a Windows ME splash screen as it booted. I took a brief look through the system to discover it had a 600mhz processor and 256mb of RAM. I knew I would have no issues with scavenging this machine just to have the video card out of it.

Not even a week had gone by when I found that missing box o' parts, including among them 2-3 old PCI video cards.

A few weeks ago, I finally found the time to begin my project. Since I was completely unsure of the usefulness of the PCI cards in my box, I decided to start by pulling the video card from the machine acquired from my dad, since I knew that one worked. To my surpise, it was in fact an AGP card. I then began to sort through the PCI video cards in my collection, and after trying them in various slots on the board of the machine I found beside the dumpster, finally found one that worked. I had better video now, but the machine still did the same thing: crash-reboot after 30-60 seconds.

I pulled the card back out, scratched my head, and thought for a minute or two. Memory. Onboard video shares with system memory. Bad memory would cause the phenomena of system instability and bad video. So I yanked the two, 168-pin 128mb memory cards out. They weren't matching, meaning one likely came with the system and the other was a user upgrade. More telling, the one that was most likely the upgrade had a sticker on it that said VALU RAM. While there are always exceptions to the rule, when it come to computers, folks, you largely get what you pay for. I put the one back in and left the VALU RAM out. The machine fired up with clear, onboard video and didn't crash. Someone tossed a perfectly good computer over a $15 part.

I went back to the other computer I had gotten from my dad. Inside it were 3, 168-pin memory slots, containing a single 128mb and 2, 64mb cards. I put the larger of the 3 into the other machine with the single good 128mb card and fired it up again. Solid. Upon further inspection of the system I had a 1.3ghz CPU and a 30gb hard drive. Not a lot of muscle, but twice as much as the machine I got from my dad, and more than enough for what I was going to use it for. Now to get it all into the chassis that began this little odyssey.

I removed the motherboard/CPU that had been left behind in Frank's chassis. In retrosepct, I can't remember if I ever tested it, since it was so long ago. I'm assuming I must have and it was dead, but I set it aside for further examination: it could be that just one or the other is bad. I took the power supply from the working machine and seated it into its place in the chassis with a simple flip of its slide lock. AWESOME. Next I placed the motherboard inside the chassis to see how it aligned with the rear panel and ran into my first snag. Common, universal ATX cases have a pop-out aluminum panel for the various ports, this case had them cut directly into the steel of the chassis and were particular to the board I had just removed. Most ATX port configurations are fairly universal, but there are minor differences that necessitate the aluminum pop-out found in most cases. Frank's chassis was probably some mass produced product by Gateway/Compaq/etc and not intended for use in other builds, which caused me some other minor headaches as I progressed. The game-controller port on the board I was trying to fit into this case was causing me a problem. I went at the steel on the chassis with wire cutters and needle-nose pliers for about 5 minutes before I realized that if I just removed the stand-off screws from the game-controller port that it would fit. *head smack*



With the motherboard and power supply in place I began to tackle the tedious business of connecting the case wiring to the electrical pins on the board, which is when I ran into headache 2.0. Since this was a mass-produced computer, the wiring was non-standard and was particular to this machine, most notably, the power and disk indicators were a single LED that switched colors depending on the source-pin in a single connector. In other words, the indicator was powered by a single connector at the board, where the pins were grouped together to achieve this. This new board had it's power and HDD power pins in different places, so it was impossible for the single connector to work. Also, the power and reset buttons were combined in this case, causing a similar problem. While this isn't a huge deal, I wanted Frank to have lights. I stripped out the wiring from both cases and put the wiring that originally came with this motherboard into the chassis. I managed to get the power button to sit into the plastic frame in the front of the chassis, but but the reset button just hangs inside the case. Since the lights were so vastly different, the best I could do was run them through one of the holes in the steel, giving Frank a pair of glowing antennas: one red, one green.



The 600mhz WinME machine I had gotten from my dad had ultimately made itself useful by providing me with another 128mb of RAM for Frank, but it yielded something else which I decided to use in Frank as well. It had a 14gb hard drive inside. A drive that small is virtually worthless today, but it'd be perfect for holding WinXP and a few diagnostic tools, and it'd allow me to find some other practical use for that 30gb hard drive. So I shoved that into the chassis and I fired up the machine. The Windows ME screen greeted me once again and began to try to find drivers for the new motherboard it had found itself on unexpectedly. It was at this point that I lifted my hands and eyes toward the heavens and yelled "It's alive!" and where Frank got his name.

As I mentioned earlier, the "found" machine had been sitting in the rain for who knows how long. I quickly discovered while trying to boot from a Windows XP disc that both of the optical drives (one a DVD/CD-RW combo and the other a 32x CD-R) were trash. They were recognized by the system but were suffering from mechanical problems: the tray was faulty on one, and the other wouldn't spin-up at all. The machine from my dad actually had a pretty sweet Phillips CD-RW in it, in addition to a basic DVD-ROM player. I requisitioned these for Frank and began installing XP. Frank was finally complete, but at what cost?


Oh, the humanity


I've already put Frank to good use. I have a friend with a problematic IDE hard drive. It had been sitting on my desk for a long time, but I had been afraid to stick it in my own machine for fear of a virus, or using disk tools I was unfamiliar with and damaging my own system. In the process I did exactly the latter which necessitated a reinstall on Frank, but that's no big deal, that's exactly why I have Frank! But it does mean I'll probably get wise and keep an image of Frank on my desktop that I can retrieve over the network should it happen in the future.

As for Frank's immediate future, I have a SATA controller card that I bought a few years ago when I began my migration from IDE drives that I'll install for sure. I don't really need the floppy or ZIP drives (I actually have an old external ZIP drive of Welf's that I can always use should the need ever arise), but I also don't really have anything to put in a 3.5" bay. I will probably fill one of them with a card reader at some point. Maybe I'll try a do-it-yourself cigarette lighter mod in the other one, since all of the pre-made ones online seem to be for 5.25" bays.


For those of you on Facebook, you may see this again in a Note. I did it here first because some things are just best presented in a place that allows more robost in-line photograph posting and HTML markup. Yes, I have been more active on Facebook of late. If you want to add me over there and haven't yet, feel free to do so.

take me down, little Susie, take me down
dead-gay-son
soopageek
As some of you may have gleaned from various sources, I have gone back to long haul driving. There's a twist though; I'm team driving with my brother. I thought that I might return to some regular writing as a result of this, but you can blame my brother's 32" widescreen TV and Xbox 360 for that not coming to fruition. I spend most of my non-working/non-sleeping time playing various installments of the Assassin's Creed franchise.

The other big news is that I finally joined the 21st century and got a smart phone. When I stopped working over the road last spring, I canceled the air card service I had through Sprint. When considering my options for mobile internet, I decided to get a sexy Android phone that has a 8-port WiFi router built into it.



Who knows? Maybe I'll write a little more. Maybe I won't. In the meantime, what follows is a list of movies I've watched in the past 18 months. Feel free to open up a discussion on something if the spirit moves ya.

Read more...Collapse )

(no subject)
awww
soopageek

back from haitus?
back dat ass up
soopageek
Hello LiveJournal. How the hell are ya?

my two cents on health care reform
sanrafael
soopageek
I have a lot of opinions about the social fabric of our country and the politics which goes along with it. For the most part, I find fault and good with both of our two main parties and largely cast my votes for the individual rather than toeing some party line. In terms of the political spectrum, I would say that I'm a firm believer in capitalism and closest to being a Libertarian. I have a fundamental distrust of power and a belief that large government and its inherent bureaucracy is largely inept and inefficient but at the same time I can recognize many of the things which our large government has gotten right. The less that the government is involved in the private lives of its citizens the better, and what consenting adults choose to do with each other is no one else's business so long as it doesn't infringe on the liberties and property of others. But above all else, I'm a pragmatist. I also don't typically choose to use my journal as a platform for these opinions. I'm not a political analyst, specialist, or pundit. My opinions about politics carry no weight in so far as they give some insight to the way I see the world. That said, I'd like to offer my view on the issue of health care reform.

The Libertarian in me bristles immediately at the thought of it. I believe that most issues of public policy and commercial infrastructure are best left to the private sector. Also, when you consider the other government sponsored health institutions and programs (Veterans Affairs, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) and their chronic inefficiency and short-comings, the prospect of a sweeping general health care system doesn't exactly fill me with hope and promise. At the same time, there's something very wrong when the wealthiest nation in the world has a citizenry full of hard working people who have to make a choice between taking themselves and/or their children to the doctor or putting food on the table. Ultimately the pragmatist in me wins, because it's clear that something has to be done, and that for me is the bottom line. I don't know if President Obama's plan for reforming health care in this country is the right one. The way I see it, it doesn't matter if it is or not. What matters is that it's a start. Our government is a constantly evolving entity. The Civil War ended slavery, but it was just a start. We didn't even get close to getting equality for black Americans corrected for another 100 years, and we're still working on it.

And that is ultimately how I view health care reform. We might not get it right coming out of the gate, but that's okay. What's important is that we're taking these first steps.
Tags:

truck geekery
truck
soopageek
I've been getting acclimated to my new job and home life. I've been a bit discouraged about it since I'm not sure that, in the long run, I'll be able to keep doing this. I haven't been getting an adequate number of miles, and this has been with putting in 12-14 hour days, including two nights spent in the truck just because the commute didn't make much sense. If I'm going to put in that kind of time, I might as well be OTR and getting 500-600 miles per day, rather than the < 350/day I'm getting right now. I am enjoying being home more, but I have a feeling that practical circumstances are going to force me back onto the road, possibly for a few more years, but at least until January.

January will mark three years since my rollover accident. I've been denied a lot of trucking jobs because of it. Three years is the magic number that all trucking companies use to check for moving violations and accidents. In the case of my rollover, it is what is known as a "D.O.T. recordable accident" (Department of Transportation). Simply put, a DOT recordable accident is any accident in which the truck is removed from the scene by wrecker, regardless of fault. Some companies will not allow any hires of a person with a DOT recordable in the past 3 years. Some will accept them depending on the fault/circumstances and proven safe driving in the interim. To make matters worse, there is a reporting agency that all of the trucking companies use run by USIS, but known in the industry as the "DAC report". Nearly all companies report, and do background checks utilizing DAC. A company can basically report anything they want to DAC, for instance if you abandon a truck/load in the course of leaving your employment with them, accidents, altercations with customers/employees, basically anything... and they can report it however they like without any proof. The only time proof becomes necessary is if it's challenged by the driver, and the process of challenging a DAC entry is a daunting one full of paperwork and correspondence. Werner reported to DAC that my rollover was "preventable" based on their investigation. This was due largely to the citation issued me at the scene for failure to observe signage requiring high profile vehicles to exit the interstate. I never saw the signs they claimed were there. A couple of weeks later, I received a letter stating that the citation was dismissed. I guess someone else decided those signs weren't there either. Yet Werner still decided to report to DAC that it was "preventable".

As long as your 3-year commercial driving history is acceptable, you're typically offered the job. What is "acceptable" varies from company to company. Hornady obviously had a rather lax definition of acceptable, but they were a flatbed company, which notoriously has a harder time finding drivers than a dry van carrier. Online Transport hired me within two years of my roller over, but had my sign something during orientation advising me that I was on "probation" until 01/04/2011; you guessed it, the 3-year anniversary of my rollover.

As of that date in January, not only will the DOT recordable accident finally be outside of that window, but my 3-year driving history will be spotless, barring any incidents in the next 8 months. I will not just have an easier time finding a job; with my experience, I can have virtually any trucking job I want. Don't think I won't be hunting high and low for the greatest local trucking job that exists.


I have some pictures of my truck. A lot of the trucks that are in the pool of vehicles at the Georgetown terminal are relics of the old Lexington Cartage company which Online bought a couple of years ago. My truck is one of those as evidenced by the blue and green stripes on it.





It's a '99 Volvo with 935,000 miles on it. The transmission is an Eaton Fuller Super-10 Top 2 automatic. I used one of these when I first started for Werner way back in '02, for about 6 months, and have driven straight 9s/10s ever since. I like the Super-10; it's a lot easier to shift than a straight but it is taking some getting used to since I haven't driven one in so long. I was hoping to find some nice graphics to show you the difference in pattern, but this will have to do.



A straight 10-speed transmission pattern is similar to a 5-speed passenger vehicle. You shift through the first five gears, then you flip a switch on the stick (which truckers call the splitter) to put the transmission into high range and repeat the pattern. So in a straight 10, the driver is required to move the stick every single time he changes gear. On a Super-10 Top 2, the gears are paired at each position (1&2, 3&4, etc.). The splitter is used to determine which gear you are in at each position and the switch to high range is handled automatically by the transmission as you move from the 3/4 position to 5/6 position. With the Super-10, you only have to physically move the stick once through the pattern, since half of the gear changes are handled by flipping the splitter back and forth. Considering that for most applications you can begin in 3rd or 4th gear, in a Super-10 you can go from a dead stop to top end and only move the stick 3 times, as opposed to 7-8 times in a straight 10. Further, the Top 2 gears change automatically, which is great because as a trucker driver, you spend a lot of time shifting back and forth between those two gears. In a Top 2, you can get as low as 40 mph without having to touch the stick.

easter weekend with Welf
photowhore
soopageek
This weekend, welfy and I made the trip to Western PA to visit with her Mom and see some of her old friends in the area. I had to work late on Thursday night, so we left Kentucky around 10pm that night and got here around 5am on Friday morning. After sleeping-in, we drove out to Rogers, OH to large flea market there occurs there every Friday. It's one of the largest, active flea markets I've ever been to.



Welf found a used book vendor to occupy a good deal of her time. Across aisle from it was a booth specializing in reclaimed work attire, socks, and work gloves.



This gets long... but some fun picturesCollapse )

orientation, or being entertained by dead children
truck
soopageek
I'm beginning to suspect that the high turnover rate in the trucking industry has nothing to do with traditional variables like job satisfaction or fickle drivers, but that it is linked to the pure fucking entertainment value of new driver orientation. It's full of unique characters, bizarre occurrences, and everything is on the company dime. I think drivers job hop just so they can relive it over and over again.

Last Sunday, welfy and I drove to Georgetown to find the company shop near the Toyota factory. The company was going to let me use their passenger van to drive to Indianapolis. The shop is just a three bay garage sitting on a lot which is more packed dirt than gravel these days. Lots of tractors were sitting about and a few trailers. The company runs mostly Volvos and a few Internationals. As a company, they have fairly new equipment for their over-the-road fleet, but a lot of the tractors here are relatively ancient, upwards of ten years old, relics of the old Lexington Cartage company they bought a couple of years ago. A ten year old tractor is a dinosaur in this business.



I was the only new driver coming up from the Lexington/Georgetown area, so I didn't have to wait around for anyone else. The weekend shop mechanic, Dave, fueled it for me and gave me the key. I chatted with him for a while, taking the opportunity to probe one of my first regular Joes in the company about my new employer. Since he wasn't a driver though, I didn't find out a whole lot that was useful to me.

I took the van home and spent some more time there with Welf and finished packing. Around 8pm I set out for Indianapolis, just under a 3 hour drive from my house. The company had reserved me a room at a La Quinta on the east side of the city near their offices. That's some pretty swank digs for putting a truck driver up for the night. I had a king size bed with a bajillion pillows on it, an arm chair, and a desk with a high back leather office chair. The view from my 4th floor window was breathtaking; it overlooked a Steak 'N Shake.

Unfortunately for me, the night before, I had made the mistake of drinking an entire bottle of wine in about an hour, subsequently passing-out at about 7pm and sleeping until 9am that morning. Naturally, I wasn't one bit sleepy and stayed up until nearly 2am before going to bed. Unsure of exactly where the terminal was, I wanted to make sure I left myself plenty of time to get there at 8am. I got up at 7, grabbed a quick bowl of cereal at the hotel breakfast spread and drove up the interstate a few miles to the Mt. Comfort exit to search for the terminal. I initially passed it, but found it easily enough after I backtracked. It was a newish building in a commercial park across from the Mt. Comfort airport. It basically just housed their corporate offices, with a very small lot for a few trailers behind it. Their shop/yard in Indy, as I would later learn, was across town on the west side.

I went inside and found Robin, the head recruiter. She lead me to the orientation room where there were cards setup on the front row with names written on them and I sat behind the one with mine on it. The people belonging to the names on the other two cards soon arrived as well, both middle-aged guys like myself. Before long, Robin had us fill out the first few basic forms; a medical history and some releases for our upcoming DOT physical and drug screen. We then were sent out to do that. It's fairly typical to get to that as soon as possible; there's no sense in going through all the trouble of orientating someone if they can't pass their physical or drug test.

Since I was in possession of the van, I was given the task of chauffering us out to the clinic where this would be done. We waited a lot and took our turns seeing the doctor and peeing in cups. One of the two dudes, a Type 2 diabetic, had too much sugar in his urine, which caused him to fail his physical. When we returned to the terminal, he was sent packing and 3 became 2. After all of the waiting and peeing, it was nearly time for lunch, so me and the remaining dude were given some $5 gift cards for Wendy's and we took the van down the street to eat.

Remaining dude's name was Phillip, according to the card he sat behind back at the terminal. As we ate and chatted, I began to notice the more minute features of his face, in particular, the broken blood vessels in the end of his nose; usually a tell-tale sign of alcohol abuse somewhere in a person's history. Sure enough, the conversation eventually included references to "2-3 month binges" in his past and that his family had a history of alcoholism. He says he drinks some beer every now and then but stays away from the hard stuff. Phillip lived just a few minutes away and was be hired as a local driver there in Indy for the company.

We returned to the terminal and spent the remainder of the day watching dead children videos. These are truck driver safety videos about everything from vehicle maintenance, to drug abuse, to distractions, to not getting enough rest, to speeding and the end result is always that children die. Usually it's just one child with their mother and the re-enactment fades to black and white and goes into slow motion. The child's face is seen through one of the windows of the passenger vehicle the truck driver is so carelessly careening into because he was high on meth, didn't bother with his pretrip inspection so his brakes aren't properly adjusted, and is fiddling with his radio, doing 95 mph in a residential zone after having been up for 3 days and falsifying his log books. Of course, there is some variation. In one it was kids playing on the shoulder of a highly traveled 2-lane highway; just sitting there, playing with some toy firetrucks. Another involved a school bus FULL of children ripe for the killing. One had a repetitive montage of scenes from the re-enactment while a chilling country and western tune played with lyrics like "a little boy that'll never get to grow up." Another occurred during a dream sequence where the driver sits bolt upright in bed after the nightmare, and is later shown staring soberly in a bathroom mirror and splashing cold water on his face. The drug abuse one featured a poor man's Michael Madsen smoking cigarettes at a table in a prison jumpsuit while he recalled his child killing.

For added entertainment, these videos were dated between 1985 and 1997, way before the prevalence of Qualcomms and cell phones. They showed drivers stopping to use payphones to call their dispatchers, or a driver asking passersby to find a phone to call for help as a matter of accident protocol. The safety video for cornering/turning included a cab-over tractor and dialog like "since 53 foot trailers are starting to become more and more common". There were also a lot of un-ironic mustaches, polyester suits, bad sweaters, big hair, and work-place smoking.

This is basically all we did the rest of the afternoon and through the morning on the second day. At noon, we got some $5 gift cards for Subway and proceeded to head out. Phillip handed me his and told me that he was going to go home for lunch that day. When I returned from lunch, I sat in the orientation room goofing off on my laptop until things began again. After a while, I noticed it was after 1:30 and no one had ever come in there, including Phillip. I began to worry that maybe I was in the wrong place and had misunderstood something about the post-lunchtime part of the day. I hunted-down Gretchen, the chick who had been doing most of the orientation stuff. She said that they had been waiting around on Phillip. I told her about him having gone home for lunch. They tried calling him and just got his voice mail. He never showed-up the rest of the day. The safety director came in and gave about a 2 hour presentation, then Gretchen gave me a final onslaught of paperwork to fill out and presented me with a bag full of goodies like logbooks, trip envelopes, seals, and a company cap. By 4:30 it was all over with and it was time to return home.

Since Frankfort was on the way to Georgetown from Indianapolis, I was told that it was okay to take the van home for the night and simply return it when I reported for work at 9:30 the next morning. I hope to write about that, including some pictures of my truck in the coming days.
Tags: ,

more thoughts on college basketball
back dat ass up
soopageek
Kentucky Champs
A mere 9 days ago, I ended this with a question mark. The way Kentucky has been playing in the past 3 games, and with the early exit of Kansas and Syracuse, it's become clear that this is their tournament to lose. If they can play these final 3 games defensively for a full 40 minutes like they played against Cornell last night, there's no one that can stop them.

Bracket Bustin'
Despite the rampant upsets in this tournament (which reveals the biased NCAA selection/seeding for the bullshit that it largely is) my Final Four was still intact until tonight when Tennessee beat Ohio St. I actually had Ohio St. and Kentucky in the championship game. I would've loved to have seen an Evan Turner and John Wall/Eric Bledsoe matchup. I guess that will have to wait until next year in the NBA. For the record, the other half of my Final Four was Butler and Duke.

SEC Reprazent
Speaking of Tennessee and Kentucky, where are all those power-conference ACC, Big East, and Big 12 teams? Each conference sent 7 teams to the tournament, 1/3 of the field. The Big 10 sent 6 more. What's the damage? In the Elite 8, the ACC has one remaining, the Big East has one remaining, the Big 10 has one remaining, and the Big 12 has 2. The SEC sent 4 teams... two of which are still alive. Not too shabby for a "football conference". Tennessee is scary, man. They've now beaten three of the teams that finished in the AP Top 5 for the regular season. It's not unthinkable that we could have an all-SEC championship game. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

The Argument For Cousins Not To Stay
I have to recant this one, too. Cousins has been displaying a maturity and patience heretofore unseen until the post-season. There's little doubt he'll be a top 3 pick in the NBA draft this year and he'll go.

ruminations on college basketball
dave-oh my god!
soopageek
A Raw Deal
Mississippi State should've been in the tournament. They were 4th overall in the SEC, cracked the top 25 for a couple of weeks this season, and in the conference tournament put away Florida (who did get in and was 6th in the conference), Vanderbilt (ranked and 3rd in conference) and nearly knocked off Kentucky to win the whole thing. It won't surprise me one bit if they beat North Carolina in the NIT this weekend.

The Syracuse Injury
They should have no problem rolling past Vermont, but it will be interesting since Vermont and Syracuse have a history. Vermont upset them as a #13 seed to #4 seed Syracuse in the 2005 tournament. Could this be the year that a #16 seed finally beats a #1 seed? On the whole doubtful, but without Onuaku, it's not outside the realm of possibility. Losing a 65% FG completer is not something Syracuse, or anyone, can afford right now. At any rate, they will certainly have their hands full with Florida St. or perennial overachievers, Gonzaga, in the second round. There's a very good chance that Syracuse won't make it out of the second round.

Kentucky Champs?
I still don't see it happening. They certainly have the talent and coach to pull it off, but they don't have the seasoning of a team like Kansas or Duke. There are a lot of people trying to compare this team to the Michigan Fab Five. I'll grant you they may have more talent than that team, and definitely bigger, but I don't see the discipline and dedication. I'll be in front of the TV rooting Kentucky all along the way, but I see Kentucky out of it by the Sweet 16 or Elite 8.

Here's the bottom line: if a team can contain Cousins (and several have) Kentucky struggles. Cousins' inexperience begins to show. He's not used to being contained. I'm sure in high school no team could. On top of that, he's stubborn and too many times insists on trying to make the shot when he's double/triple teamed rather than dishing it off to the open man. I mean, if you have three guys on you, SOMEONE is open on the perimeter. He makes the smart play sometimes, but more often than not he a) gets fouled and struggles at the stripe, b) gets the ball tied up, or c) gets the ball stripped away. Then he gets frustrated and tries even harder and the cycle of failure and frustration continues and it begins to show on the defensive side in fouls which puts him on the bench for most of the game.

Cousins has proved all year he can't break that cycle, so I'm not really expecting him to magically start doing it now.

The Argument for Cousins and Wall To Stay
This is a) a pipe dream and b) not practical for either guy, but I think there is an argument to be made. Cousins and Wall both would benefit from the discipline and experience of another year of college ball, Cousins in particular as evidenced above. I don't begrudge either of them for taking off for the NBA. A year of earning millions of dollars in an industry where you're lucky if you have a 10-15 good years, rather than risking injury in another year of college ball, is probably the way to go. I also doubt seriously that Coach Cal is doing anything to convince either of them that they would benefit from another year. Part of what makes him such a successful recruiter for these "one and dones" is that he gives them a place to showcase their talent and facilitates a quick transition to the pros. Both players are expected to go in the first 10 picks, with Wall undoubtedly being the number one pick in the draft. It's unlikely either will pass up the opportunity.

That said, both would have a greater chance for more successful professional careers with another year at the college level. When talking about Wall, a lot of people capriciously use the phrase "next Jordan". There's no doubt the kid has a ton of talent, and when comparing freshmen seasons between the two, Wall actually has more PPG than Jordan had, and Wall is a point guard compared to Jordan's shooting guard position. Wall is also a better free throw shooter than Jordan was. But if Wall jumps to the pros he'll never have some of the amateur experiences which made Jordan what he was: namely, leading his team to a National Title and leading the U.S. to an Olympic Gold medal. Jordan went pro after his junior year. In addition to his talent, I believe it was these experiences which made Jordan as great as he was. Wall has the potential to be that great, and may very well still be. I just think that by going pro after just one year he will miss some really great character building opportunities.

Of course, there's no doubt Patterson should go after his junior year this year. He'll likely go in the top ten of the draft and the dude graduated in three years. There's really nothing else left for him to do except win a National Title. The only way I see him staying is if Wall and Cousins stayed and tried to make a run for the title next year.

Dunkadelic Phat Five
Despite the stupid name, there is royalty in college basketball. Of the 347 teams in Division I college basketball, five teams, comprised of Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, and UCLA have regular and post season traditions that are hard to deny. For the past 22 years, at least one of these teams has been in the Final Four; 40 out of the last 44 years. Of those 22 years, a Phat 5 team won the NCAA Championship game 11 times. All-time, the Phat 5 have won 29 of the 71 NCAA tournaments. Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky all have great shots at being in the Final Four again this year, so it's likely that tradition will go unbroken for a 23rd straight year. Kansas and North Carolina won the last two Championships. There's a really great chance that streak could go to 3 by the end of this tournament. Not surprisingly, the Phat 5 hold the top 5 of the top 6 spots for the most wins in the tourney:

UCLA: 11
Kentucky: 7
North Carolina: 5
Indiana: 5
Duke: 3
Kansas 3:

Of course, the greatest of them all is Kentucky. Just for fun, here's Kentucky's impressive all-time and current stats:

Number of Wins: 2020 (#1 NCAA), also the first school to reach both the 1000 and 2000 win plateaus.
All-time win percentage: 76% (#1 NCAA)
NBA draft picks all-time: 92 (#2 NCAA)
All-Americans: 50 (#1 NCAA)
Final AP Poll Top Ten: 39 (#1 NCAA)
Final AP Poll #1: 8 (#1 NCAA)
20 Win seasons: 54 (#1 NCAA)
30 Win seasons: 12 (#1 NCAA)
35 Win seasons: 3 (#1 NCAA)
Total non-losing seasons (.500): 93 (#2 NCAA)
Holds record for consecutive non-losing seasons (.500): 60 (1927-1987); current streak, 23 years.
Number of Coaches With a NCAA Championship: 4 (#1 NCAA)
Conference Regular Season Champions: 44 (#2 NCAA)
Conference Tournament Championships: 26 (#1 NCAA)
National Attendance Titles: 22 (#1 NCAA)
Consecutive games with a three-point shot scored: 744 (current, and #3 NCAA)
Holds record for consecutive home wins: 129 (1943-1955)
Holds record for largest NCAA Tournament combined point differential: +129 points (1996)