Wednesday, April 2, 2008

"Well, no matter which way you look at it, the tape's still winning. Make sure you don't lose it..."

Round 3 and 4 Tourney Recap: Sweet 16 participants (along with their original rank in my 65 to 1 posts).

48. Western Kentucky: File this under "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished": as a reward for making the Sweet 16, WKU....loses their coach to a marginally better program (South Carolina) in a much better conference (the SEC). I can't say I really blame Darrin Horn for doing this (I'd be lying if I said I'd say no to more money and more exposure if it were me), but, goddamn, is that ever disheartening...

44. West Virginia: Don't have much to say here, aside from: (a) I'm astounded that they only hit one three (on eleven attempts) against Xavier, yet managed to stay in the game; (b) Joe Alexander is an absolute freak--it actually scares me how athletic he is...I can't see how, Chad Ford be damned, he isn't, ultimately, a lottery pick; and (c) if Alexander doesn't foul out--on what can only be described as a dubious blocking foul--I'm convinced WVU wins that game.

34. Michigan State:
THERE's the MSU stinkbomb we were all waiting on. My question: this couldn't have happened during the Temple game, thus making me seem like a genius??

27. Villanova:

19. Washington State:
the team that couldn't shoot straight all year....couldn't shoot straight against UNC (31.6% from the field, including 2 of 16 from 3 point range). And yet, against Notre Dame (my sleeper Sweet 16 pick) they looked like the '96 Bulls. Bastards.

17. Xavier:
Great run for these guys.

16. Davidson:
This year's Cinderella. A wonderful st--


They fought valiantly against a far more talented Jayhawks squa--


Even though they came up just a little short against Kansas, it's hard to be disapp--

screw it

Godfuckingdammit, Davidson. You should have won that game! What the hell happened on that last possession? Let's count the ways it was defective. (Scroll to the 1:40 mark for the final sequence....though it does leave out part of it). Here's what went wrong (in chronological order):

a. Curry should not have taken the ball up the court. (That's Jason Richards's job. You may have heard of him as he lead the nation in assists this year! GOD!)

b. Curry definitely shouldn't have walked the ball up the court. Among my issues with college basketball, acting like you're in a tie game with under fifteen seconds to go instead of acting like you're trailing, is one of my biggest. I hate this. Why waste half of the 14 precious seconds you have walking the ball up? I was actually concerned that he'd be called for a backcourt violation.

c. They should not have played for the last shot. Again: you're down two points. I don't mind going for the three, but why take it with under two seconds, when you have no conceivable chance of getting an offensive board and a cheap basket...or a foul...or anything? Yes, scoring too soon is a bit of a risk (and tying it up only to have Kansas hit a buzzer-beater would be devastating), but settling for a terrible shot is infuriating.

d. They should have run some sort of play for Curry. An isolation play is fine, but Mario Chalmers (who was covering Curry) is a ridiculously good athlete (plus, Curry, who had played something like 78 minutes in 48 hours, was no doubt exhausted--note: this is why I'm not annoyed that they called a timeout with 15 seconds to go). Why not try something exotic like a double screen? I swear this would've worked.

e. No matter what happens, Curry has to take the last shot. I don't blame him for passing (he was double-covered), because it never should have come to that. That we were deprived of Curry throwing up a shot (which may well have been a prayer) with time running down and every single fucking person in the arena and every single person watching at home thinking that it would somehow go in is....nothing sort of crushing.

Taylor called me roughly 40 seconds after the game ended, and before he even said hello, blurted out "so what the hell did they talk about in the huddle during that timeout?" I don't know, spaz. I don't know.

That said: thank you, Davidson, for an amazing run. Stephen Curry made himself a whole lotta money these past two weeks.

11. Louisville: I'm no expert, but I think that the sequence from 6:20 left in the second half to 0:46, where Louisville scored two points, surrendered eleven, missed five shots (including a layup!) and committed three traveling violations (amazingly, by the same guy--Earl Clark--each time...on the same broken move--an out of control back down in the post) is where it went very wrong for the Cardinals. Also, I'm pretty sure that your star player (first team All-Big East player David Padgett) is supposed to take more than five shots. May want to stew on that one, Pitino.

10. Stanford: Aside from Brook (who was sensational in the tournament) and Robin (who's a dynamo on defense but probably couldn't score ten points if you locked him in the gym by himself for two hours) Lopez, this team is secretly (well...not anymore) atrocious.

ETA: there are rumors swirling that the Lopez twins, both sophomores, are going pro, which--how can I put this delicately?--strikes me as an impossibly bad idea. Arguably, Brook is ready. Robin, who did, in fairness, come on strong late in the Pac-10 season, but also had a stretch where he went for 8, 2, 8, 9, 6, 2, 9, 6, and 9 points (for a less than impressive 6.5 ppg average) in nine consecutive conference games in December and January and essentially bricked (3-9, 6 points, 5 boards, and 4 fouls in 21 minutes against an undersized Texas squad) his final tourney game? Not so much. (Note to Brook: no matter how you edit it, if you show NBA scouts the tape from your signature game--8-11 from the field, 24 points, 12 boards, and 5 blocks in 31 minutes--they're going to figure out pretty quickly that it was against Yale. Trust me.)

This move strikes me as especially shitty because the brothers are apparently joined at the hip. There's no doubt that if one stayed in college, the other would follow...and, if they stayed for their junior year, even with their mediocre recruiting class thus far, there's a decent chance they'll be a Top 5-10 squad in the fall and will vie for a one seed in next year's tourney, so the question becomes: why rush? I'm chalking this one up to Brook's selfishness.

8. Tennessee: gah...what a mess. When your star player (Chris Lofton) goes 7 for 33 in the tournament, you're very lucky to win two games. (And as for Lofton, his draft stock--asuming it existed at all--couldn't have gone down more swiftly. It probably would've been more efficient for him to hand his money directly to Curry.) My favorite part of the UT-Louisville game is that Lofton was 3 of 15 from the field, but 7 of 7 from the FT line. To borrow a line from The West Wing: why the hell are you fouling him? Just let him shoot!

6. Kansas:
There's still time for me not to look like a fool, just not as much as two weeks ago. Nevertheless, until I see Bill Self cutting down the mesh (note to Self: this is customary when a team wins a National Champio--never mind, I don't want to spoil it for you) in San Antonio, I'm sticking to my guns: they're not going to win.

5. Texas:
They just didn't look good at all against Memphis. I wonder if they watched any tape (note to Rick Barnes: this is generally a good idea.) As much as I like D.J. Augustin, he pretty much shit the bed (4-18, 3 assists, 4 turnovers) on Sunday.

4. Wisconsin:
Yuck, yuck, yuck. I feel dirty having picked them to make the Final Four. Final tally: 3 games played, 2 strong halves (the 2nd half vs. Cal State Fullerton and the 2nd half vs. K-State), and 38 turnovers. Let's move on.

3. Memphis:
Wake me up when they shoot 79% from the line (they were a combined 56 of 71 versus MSU and Texas) in a game where they're not up by twenty the entire time.

2. North Carolina:
Thought Louisville had a shot, but UNC (Hansbrough in particular) was too tough. Good for them.

I found the following quote in a Grant Wahl article from a couple of days ago:

During one of our walks on the UNC campus in 2003, I asked [UNC Head Coach Roy] Williams if he would ever think about scheduling a game against the Jayhawks, the team he led to four Final Fours before his famously angst-ridden departure in '03. He looked at me as if I had suggested he become a Buddhist monk. "Nope," Williams said. "And if we do make the tournament and someone were to schedule us in a first-round game -- just one of those "miracles" that happen in the tournament -- then I'd strangle everybody on the committee."

He's not my favorite guy, but you have to admire him for being brutally honest here. Awesome.

1. UCLA: Still not wild about how they're prone to lapses, but, when they're on their game, it is a sight to behold. My man crush on Kevin Love continues to grow.

Other Thoughts:

1. Gambling:
Going back to my previous post, I was 5-3 on my spread picks (missing--foolishly--on all the 1 seeds except for Kansas); Curry covered the over by, oh, 9.5 points; UCLA did not make good on my infinity bet; Big 12 did end up with the most teams in Elite 8; 1 seed bet is still up in the air. So, all told, 7 of my 11 bets game through (with one pending). So...I would've made $75 on my $60 spread bets, turned the $15 on Curry into $33.75; dumped $5 on UCLA winning by 21+; and turned my $10 on the Big 12 into $37.50 (damn!)--resulting in me turning $95 into $146.25 (a miraculous--at least for me--54% return on my investment). This annoys me, since when I lose imaginary money, I'm relieved that I didn't bet. But now...I don't know what to think.

2. Chalk vs. Me:
Picking all faves would give you 103 points (i.e. something that MS Excel could, if properly instructed, do in roughly one-one thousandth of a second) under the Yahoo! format, good for a preposterous 3rd place out of 583 competitors in the Canadian Law School pool...and tantalizingly close to the 16 GB iPod touch first prize. I, on the other hand, continue to languish in a tie for 140th, behind not one, not two, but three people who somehow neglected to select a National Champion--that's right, Jesse Halperin of UVic and Struan Smith of UNB (and an Osgoode student who will remain nameless), I'm calling you out.

3. Lousy games: While there were a couple of entertaining tilts that got a little one-sided near the end (Louisville-UNC, Louisville-Tennessee), only two games (WVU-Xavier and Davidson-Kansas) of the twelve played could truly be considered great. That's disappointing.

4. Refs: my new pet peeve is that college refs will fly in from off-camera (literally: sprinting and pointing) and absolutely nail every time whether a player has inadvertently stepped on the baseline while tracking down a loose ball (it's like a human version of shot spot), even though there is no competitive advantage gained the vast majority of the time, yet routinely fuck up: blocking vs. charging (totally inconsistent here); whether it's a jump ball or the bench called a timeout; failure to call cheap reach-ins, both in the halfcourt (I'm looking at you, Hansbrough) and from behind in transition); failure to call moving screens (watch for this when the point guards are bringing it up this weekend, as you'll probably see a big man acting as sort of a roving blocker); inexplicably ignoring obvious goaltending calls; putting too much stock in defenders flopping/too rigorous in their application of the "if an offensive player lowers his shoulder or moves his arm away from his body at all while dribbling then it's an offensive foul" rule; ignoring the obvious fact that a deadball foul late in a close game almost has to be deemed intentional (as addressed in my previous post)...

...all of which play a way bigger role in determining the outcome of games. (And there goes my blood pressure again...)

5. Picks: I picked UNC vs. UCLA as the National Championship match-up roughly two weeks ago, and I see no reason to change my mind now. UNC over Kansas, UCLA over Memphis.

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