Finally, More NCAA Tournament
Last night I headed down to my friendly neighborhood tavern with a couple of friends and took in what I could of last evening’s games. As usual, bar game-watching isn’t as conducive to my game observation skills as watching a game at home in my chair is (the difference being attributable to lack of TV sound, and lots of basketball banter with other patrons), but I tried to pick up what I could. Tonight’s observations may be skewed towards the later games, since I actually did head home after the first half of the Gonzaga-UCLA game. Seems that as my friends and I get older, staying out at a bar and sucking down Pabst until 11:30pm doesn’t seem quite as appealing. Who knew this feeling would ever come? Game thoughts below:
1) I feel completely derelict about the fact that I can’t name a single player from either Memphis or Bradley (which probably means that Memphis will win the national championship). Billy Packer would be proud. How the local CBS affiliate decided to make this their primary game over Duke-LSU will always be a mystery to me.
2) I don’t count myself among them, but was there ever a better night to be a Duke hater? If I had to compare end-of-game meltdowns last night, I’d say that Duke’s was even more painful to watch than Gonzaga’s. After all, Gonzaga just lost the game. Duke completely fell apart in every facet of the game and embarrassed themselves during the final minute. How often do you see a free-throw shooter get a rebound over four opposing players like Glen Davis did last night? I can guarantee two things after seeing the final minute of that game: Duke will never have a stretch like that again, and the audio of Coach K in the locker room after the game was something that was not fit for children.
4) Good to see Adam Morrison wearing the big floppy t-shirt last night. The logical explanation for this fashion move, I assume, was that he was keeping warm and protecting himself after his bout with the flu earlier this week. However, I’d like to continue thinking to myself that he was trying his best to make himself more likable by attempting to look more like West Virginia’s Mike Gansey.
5) Speaking of Gansey, whenever I look at the guy, I see two potential things in his future: a career as an accountant, and a starring role as Billy Hoyle in a remake of White Men Can’t Jump.
6) Call of the night came from my dad around 7pm. I looked down at the phone, saw who was calling, and I figured a work emergency had come up (which is odd, because that’s never actually happened at 7pm) and I would have to stop watching hoops. Instead, he was calling to let me know that Time Warner had continued broadcasting multiple games this weekend, and that I could get both of the games on my TV. Even if I had already decided to go out to watch the game, I appreciated the call. In my mind, that’s one of the things that a good father should do–keep his son informed of all possible game-watching options.
7) I know that in the past I’ve praised players for going with outlandish hair and facial hair choices because college is the time in one’s life when they have a license to look stupid for awhile, and everyone should explore that option. But with regard to David Pendergraft and Sean Mallon, I take that back. Those two guys have some of the worst looking facial hair that I’ve ever seen. It’s not even funny in a college-guy-trying-to-look-stupid kind of way, since I think both guys are serious about the look.
8) Big thanks to the production crew at CBS for a phenomenal close up shot of Kevin Pittsnogle as he was on the bench trying to stop a nose bleed in the late minutes of the game so that he could re-enter. It’s moments like these that I feel reassured that I made the right choice in upgrading to the high definition TV last summer.
9) The finish to the Texas-West Virginia game might be the best finish to a game that I’ve ever seen. First, Kevin Pittsnogle, with a hand in his face, drains a three-pointer to tie the game with 5-seconds left. I stand up in my living room, adorned in my replica Pittsnogle jersey, screaming at the TV "You’ve just been Pittsnogled!" (Yeah, it wasn’t one of my cooler moments, standing there alone in a fake basketball jersey, yelling at my TV...) Then Kenton Paulino gets the ball on the other end and, with a hand in his face, drains a three-pointer as time ran out, giving the win to Texas. That was perhaps the only time that the final 13 seconds of a basketball game that was that close took no longer than 13 seconds to complete. Great move by Texas not taking a timeout and letting West Virginia set its defense (and similarly great move by Jay Bilas, the best commentator in the business, for pointing this out).
10) I know one of the most painful things in life is hearing other people talk about their NCAA brackets, but here’s my moment to do just that. Texas’ last-second win, and Duke’s end-of-game collapse just makes me feel worse about my bracket, since I wanted to pick Texas to win the entire tourney, but didn’t have the guts to pick them getting past Duke. Had I played my hunches, rather than using logic, I would be in great shape right now. And maybe that feeling of safety would have only lasted another day (LSU certainly isn’t a push-over), but I’d feel a lot better for that one day. I think that’s the last of my weird hunches that I suppressed, though, so I’m done belly-aching about it. (And the crowd releases a sigh of relief...)
11) There’s something very freeing to losing my third Final Four pick. Now that I know that there’s basically no plausible way for me to win either pool that I’m in, I’m free to start rooting for teams that I like, rather than teams that will propel me to a win. That said, I still want Washington to take down UConn tonight.
12) A lot of people are going to take shots at Adam Morrison for crying after UCLA took the lead with 1.9 seconds to go in the game. And if you saw the game, Morrison clearly had the face of a guy that was crying. You can’t fake that look. I’m not going to rag on him, though, because I was sort of happy to see him crying. It’s not that I wanted Morrison to be upset. Rather, it was just kind of neat to see that he cares that much. Here’s a guy who’s got a bad mustache, looks like a serial killer, talks trash to opposing players, and takes dives at the drop of a hat to try and draw fouls on his opponents. Yet for all that’s seemingly wrong about Morrison, at the end of the game, he’s also a guy that’s so emotionally invested in his team that he’s fighting unsuccessfully to hold back tears after the opponent hits a shot to pull ahead. Until tonight, I know I found it easy to dismiss Morrison as a nothing more than a cocky gunner. Now I know that he’s a cocky gunner that cares as much about the game as anyone else on the floor. It’s a fine distinction, but it’s a distinction that means a lot in my book.
13) Here's the thing that blows me away most about the Gonzaga-UCLA game. All year, Gonzaga has been caught in close games, and found ways to pull out a win in the end. Then, at the most important time all season, they can't seem to do one of the things that they do best--close out a game. Such is the NCAA tournament.
14) Well, Memphis vs. UCLA playing for a trip to the Final Four. I can honestly say that I didn’t see that one coming, which is sort of odd, given that they were the one and two seeds in their region.
More basketball tonight, and over the rest of the weekend. I certainly don’t expect anything quite as dazzling as last evening, with two ridiculously entertaining finishes, but it should be good.