Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Your 2005 National Champs

Last night’s game appears to be my last chance to do a bullet-point breakdown for awhile, so I’ll have to take the opportunity. Let me first set up the evening for you. I went over to the apartment of my friends Kosta and The Franchise for a cookout, and game-watching extravaganza. Pre-game festivities included the cooking of approximately 50 sausages (which was kind of overkill, as there were only about 8 of us there), the enjoyment of the finals of a bowling tournament on ESPN (no one had the initiative to pick up the remote and turn on pre-game), and a 20-minute discussion by the rest of the boys over how to go about buying a bat for softball season. As we flipped over to player introductions at 8:20pm, my expectations for the game had been pushed up by the strangely enjoyable experience of mocking pro bowlers with my friends. I was also very pleased that I was not a member of the softball team, and therefore had to play no role in the debate over what the quality and weight of the chosen bat for the year should be. That such a conversation could take 20 minutes actually frightened me.

Enough build-up, though. On to my points:

1) Props for best attire on the evening went to my friend Dez, who showed up in his #23 North Carolina jersey that looked like it had a few miles on it. In fact, I would even guess that it pre-dated my attire for the evening--the UNC sweatshirt that I had bought on Franklin Street back when I was 17 and checking out the Chapel Hill campus (where I still wish I could have gone to school). I wasn’t really actively rooting for or against anyone last night, but I think that sweatshirt was the only gear which I had with the mark of either team, so I went with it.

2) Not to keep harping on fashion, but Roy Williams had to know that he was coaching in the biggest college basketball game of the year last night, yet he chose a tie that looked like something out of my dad’s closet circa 1985. Can we get a menswear sponsor for Roy, please?

3) I wanted to end the clothing talk there, but I suppose someone’s going to call me out for not ragging on Bruce Weber’s jacket after I called out Roy Williams for a bad tie. Well, Weber gets a pass from me. That’s right—the hideous orange jacket is something that I don’t mind. Outside of the context of the game, sure, Weber looked like a bad real estate agent. But the orange thing is about team pride. His players probably loved it, and were I an Illinois fan, I’d love it too. Williams’ tie, unlike Weber’s coat, bore no relation to team unity.

4) My buddy the Franchise must have said 6-8 times throughout the course of the game “This game’s over” when Carolina would get up by double digits. Normally, I’d rip on my good friend for failing to recognize over and over that Illinois is a team that never totally goes away (indeed, they didn’t). However, he at least based his repeated premature calls of the game on sound theory—if Carolina just kept dumping the ball into Sean May, Illinois would never stop him, and never make up ground, no matter how much they scored. That was almost the way that it went, though ultimately after the 3rd or 4th time that Illinois fought back from a deficit, I would have hoped that the Franchise would have realized they’d be hanging around for awhile.

5) Ah, Sean May. Finally, the rest of the country gets to see what I’ve been going nuts over for three years. The first time I saw that guy in a Carolina uniform, I knew he was going to be my favorite player to watch for a long time. His freshman year, before his broken foot, I raved “he has the feet of a ballerina, and the body of an offensive lineman.” Last season I toyed with the idea of ordering ESPN Fullcourt, primarily because I wanted to see May play an extra 4 times (luckily, sanity won out and I saved my money). This season, he finally rose to the head of his uber-talented class and came to outshine Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants. Finally, we’re exactly where I thought we’d be just three years ago.

6) With as many stellar juniors on the floor as there were last night, the question arises—who stays, and who goes to the NBA? Well, the only guy that I’m absolutely sure about is Deron Williams, who I think will be wearing a bad suit and posing with David Stern in June. Sure, he had a great season, but has anyone done more for themselves in the tournament? I have loved a lot about this guy’s game for awhile, but I hadn’t noticed until recently how automatic his mid-range jumper is. He’ll do well for himself next year in that ridiculous league that I refuse to watch. As for the others, I think that Dee Brown and Sean May will be sticking around, and Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Marvin Williams are gone. I base this on nothing but hunches, though, so don’t hold me to these predictions.

7) At the end of the game, Luther Head was named Illinois’ player of the game, and CBS noted that he had scored 21 points. Really? Was I in the bathroom or something when those points were scored? Head’s 21 had to be the quietest superb performance that I’ve seen all year. I actually thought he had sort of disappeared last night. Nice job flying under the radar, Luther.

8) Did anyone actually turn the ball over in this game? Someone in the room with me noted at the end of the game that there were no turnovers in the second half. We quickly realized that this was an incorrect assertion, but still—it seemed plausible, given the way the game was played. The two best teams around did not disappoint.

9) I am still astounded by Illinois' inability to knock down any of the numerous open looks that they got for themselves at the end of the game. I kind of feel bad that their shooting failed them during the time when they most needed it. I don't feel too bad, though, since both teams played about as well as anyone could expect. Sometimes you just go cold for a minute.

10) So Roy Williams finally got his championship. I was happy for him. Though most Wisconsin fans hate him for an offhand remark that he made about the Wisconsin-Michigan State 2000 national semifinal game setting basketball back 10 years (let it go, people!), I kind of like the guy. I still remember the first time that North Carolina came after him while he was at Kansas. I was a bit tense, since at the time, I was pretty sure that Kansas was going to be where I ended up for law school (ultimately the point was mute, as I duped Wisconsin into letting me stick around). KU would have lost a lot of luster if Roy Williams had bolted. No, I’ve never picked my schools for rational reasons.

11) Did anyone else want to punch Jim Nantz when he used the line “The Madness began in March, continued into April, and now it belongs to May,” in reference to Sean May’s excellent tournament performance? How long do you think Nantz had been waiting to throw out that weak pun?

And we’ll close out today’s breakdown with my thoughts on One Shining Moment. Though the original version of the song was not used, every other aspect of the showing made me think that CBS was directed to my letter, and took note of my requests. First and foremost, no computer graphics were used. This was truly wonderful, and needs no further comment. Second, though the song was not the original, that horrible guitar riff that I referred to yesterday was nowhere to be found. It was progress, something that hasn’t been seen so far with One Shining Moment. And finally, my favorite UWM player, James Wright, got tons of face time, as he was seen both crying and flexing his biceps for the cameras. I wasn’t as touched by this particular installment as I have been by others, but I do like that CBS seemingly produced this one specifically for me. Thanks, guys. I might even watch an episode of Yes, Dear now as a thank you gesture. That should speak volumes about how happy I was to see no computer graphics.

I’ve got probably two more updates planned before I go on semi-hiatus until next season. Hopefully they’ll be out within the next week or so, though I make no promises of diligence now that the season is over.


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