Filed under: NBA
On Wednesday night, I went to the Yankees game. The night before, I’d been present for the Nets’ home finale against the Knicks where the product put on display was a horrific affront to the good name of basketball. The Nets seemed completely disinterested in the game on all fronts, beginning from the opening tip. Sure, the assault on the purity of the game weathered some FARTDOG1 and a pair of back-to-back Plumblebum dunks to put it away. I mean…Iman fucking Shumpert got the dunk of the year, in my book, after demolishing a tomahawk that was ooped to him off the backboard. On a fast break.
It was a brutal, dispirited affair that I likened to a hostage situation. Having paid for the ticket months ago2, I felt compelled to go, which made it all the more painful to endure such a shellacking. I started to try and find silver linings, like the possibility that JR Smith would net 42 points then spend the postgame interview trying to explain that he did it on purpose since it was Jackie Robinson Day. A claim that would seem dubious, given that he still managed to jack up like five more threes before the final buzzer.
Anyway, I left almost immediately after the Shumpert dunk. Fuck that shit. Stick around to see Marquis “Black Angel of Death, in Either Direction” Teague pretend like he isn’t pissed that he’s fourth on the depth chart as his teammates punt the ball out of bounds? The problem with the game was that I realized, with the starting lineup and our inability to try to stop a Knicks team with nothing but pride on the line, what we were doing.
We were doing our goddamnest to avoid meeting up with Chicago in the first round3. Because we hate fun, I guess. Or the Raps are a better matchup. I already knew what was going to happen against Cleveland on Wednesday, which is why I went to the Yankees game with some friends. We started all bench players, only used seven guys, and got smoked. I had more fun watching some baseball than I would have watching the Nets fuck their way to a shortsighted attitude towards the Playoffs.
See, I’d much rather have taken the Bulls in the first round. Sure, the Raptors will probably be an easier matchup, one that we’ll take in fewer games than if we were to take on the Thibbedeauian Bulls4. Here’s the rub: in an effort to win a series, we’ve set fire to the forest so we can reveal the crazy army of Dothraki on the other side. I would have taken the Bulls, honestly, because I think the experience of the Nets could top the reeling, deathspiraling Pacers. Now? We get to play a fun Toronto team that we’ll top in five, probably. Then get smoked by the Heat in the second round5. The organization, from top to bottom, wants to win a single round so badly that they’re willing to completely jeopardize future rounds to that end.
Anyway, for those interested, I’m going to give short thoughts and predictions on the first round series below. I went ahead and made predictions for the entire Playoffs. If you’re a betting type, I suggest you go against everything I predict. If I picked your favorite team, I’m so sorry.
8 Atlanta Hawks v. 1 Indiana Pacers – What’s wrong with the Pacers? Probably not too much that a thrashing of the lowly Hawks couldn’t cure. That’s been the narrative around the Pacers for more or less the back end of the season. And to be fair, they haven’t looked like the same team that gave us a fucking great series against the Defending Evil Empire last Eastern Conference Finals. That said, the Hawks are fucking garbage. I’ve seen them twice and other than Kyle Korver being cartoonishly tall to be listed as a shooting guard, there’s little inspiring about them. Shit…they’re in the Playoffs and the Suns, who were a wonderful story in addition to being fun to watch and featuring both of the Morrii, are staying home this April. Bummer town. Make the Hawks pay, Indy. Do it for Markieff and Marcus.
Pacers in 5
5 Washington Wizards v. 4 Chicago Bulls – It would be just like the Bulls to make a deep run in the Playoffs after losing Rose for a second straight season. Right? I’m not crazy to see Thibbs flipping the bird to expectations and bone crushing his way to an ECF meeting with the Evil Empire. Washington’s been a kind of fun, kind of meh team all season. Too up and down, in terms of play for the Bulls who are going to keep these games to sub-165 combined points. Trust me, this is going to be a tough series to watch. Just trust me on this pick and skip the games.
Bulls in 5
6 Brooklyn Nets v. 3 Toronto Raptors – Oh, this old chestnut! How I’ve missed you experience v. youthful athleticism narrative. It’s been a while, buddy. Sit down, tell me how you’ve been. Yeah? That’s great, man. Remember the last time you came over? And we turn the sound up until it felt like we were two months in the future? Welcome to the future, man. It’s going to be loud. Because, honestly, we’re not going to have too much to cheer after we hang for the next ten days. Hopefully that whole double tax thing won’t keep you from getting stronger.
Nets in 6
7 Charlotte Bobcats v. Miami Heat – The good news: America is going to have a chance to get acquainted with cartoon stickman Chris Douglas-Roberts on nationally televised games. The bad news: you’ve got four games to enjoy that shit.
Miami in 4
8 Dallas Mavericks v. 1 San Antonio Spurs – One last showdon in the Lone Star between Dirk and Duncan. If you’re not excited to see the final act of this play, you’re missing out. There’s no way that this one goes down easy for the Spurs. But it will go down, eventually. Because when Pop talks about how he loves a little red win while diagramming plays, that’s a euphemism for drinking the blood of babies. The eternal youth their rich platelets give him, it’s what keeps his mind young and sharp
Spurs in 6
5 Portland Trailblazers v. 4 Houston Rockets – Outside of my rooting interest in the Ballers, this is the matchup I’m most amped about. Both of these teams are fun, frisky teams. Both are a treat to watch, especially if you’re really into free flowing hoops. Love this matchup so much. I’d love to call for the upset. Hell, I’m tempted to call it. But I saw the Rockets earlier this season a Barclays and it is really, really hard to put into words what they look like. It’s like a barrage of brutal, efficient shooting. They space the floor. They gun. They have little fear. And they’re fast. So. Fucking. Fast. Portland’ll make it interesting, but expect at least one Rockets curbstomping of the Blazers before Houston moves on to the next round.
Rockets in 6
6 Golden State Warriors v. 3 Los Angeles Clippers – I love Steph Curry. He enters the game in Heat Check mode. It’s really fun to watch him test the waters of 35-footers. Mostly because he hits them. I’m pretty sure this is going to be a tightly contest series, on a game-by-game basis. But the Clips are due. Like a millenium of futility? And now they have a fun, great team featuring Deandre Jordan playing like he’s been on 10x multiplier all season. CP3 is CP3. Blake’s a fucking god of dunks that’s decided to round out his game to flummox opponents. It’ll be a short series, but I doubt it’ll be short on drama.
Clippers in 5
7 Memphis Grizzlies v. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder – Did you check my totally filled out bracket up there? Did you? No way Durant is missing the inevitable match up with Harden. Not because he’s not buds with the Beard. No, this is narrative. America craves their narrative. Plus, I want Durant to face Harden, beat him, then win a title so a certain sporty guy writer can stop beating that dead horse. The beard’s a fucking monster, but Durant’s a whole other genus of basketball massacre artist. Also, the Grizz? They’re good. They’re just standing in the way of destiny.
Thunder in 6
One final thought. I know a lot of you coming here are fans of God’s Team. Maybe you fall in the camp of not watching the NBA. Maybe you only pay attention to the Playoffs. Maybe you should start watching the NBA, since it’s like college, but without the oftentimes sloppy play. That’s an argument for another day. Whatever your reason for being here, I suggest you pick a team now. I can certainly dissuade you from picking the Nets. We’re not doing shit now6. Nor in the future. Honestly, if you have no rooting interest, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Thunder. They feature Durant, riding high on an MVP caliber season in addition to being the most fascinating player I’ve ever seen in real life. They’re good. Real good. And they’re my pick to go all the way. Get on the bandwagon before it leaves you in the dust.
1 – For those unfamiliar with FARTDOG, it’s something from Seth at Posting and Toasting that essentially means that the Knicks’ guards let opposing guards drop career numbers on them. Because they’re the Knicks. And they’re terrible. On a related note, if you’re a fan of this blog and want someone who’s kind of, sort of the same caliber of writing (doom, gloom, funny nicknames, and shit), then I’d highly recommend Posting and Toasting7. I don’t particularly like the Knicks, but I read P&T pretty much every day. The best part is, I didn’t even realize I was kind of biting Seth’s style, since I didn’t even know it existed till this season! Back
2 – It was part of the Blue Nights promotion that was meant to honor the Dodgers, while giving us plebes a discounted rate to a bunch of meaningless games at the end of the season. Of course, imagine my surprise as the Knicks game started to seem like it might have some meaning, for the Knickerbockers anyway. Of course, Knicks gonna Knicks and they had the good sense to get eliminated on a night off three days in advance, robbing me of at least getting to see the possibility that the Ballers’ third unit and KG would allow pride to carry the day. Oh, well. C’est la vie. Other appropriate cliches. Back
3 – If you’re not a fan of the Association or one of these “I only watch college because it’s…something…not those gold hoarding muscles masses” types, you missed out on a fun first round series last year. I vividly remember the triple OT game where Nate Robinson went bonkers, scoring 12 points on his own to erase Brooklyn’s lead. Hell, Gerald Wallace attempted to take him out of the game on a screen in the backcourt he didn’t see coming. Nate Rob looked like he’d shit his pants afterwards. Still killed us in that one. What a fun series, even if the Ballers ended up losing. Back
4 – Who, by the way, could have punted the season after D-Rose went down. Think about it: Rose goes down, they could have just lost a shit ton of games, then gotten a Parker/Wiggins/Randle to slot into their team with Rose/Noah. Noah’s contract goes up at the end of next season (I think), but one year with those two and a touted rookie? They could have just continued their run of excellent teams. Instead, they trade Luol Deng and proceeded to finish in the top half of the Eastern Playoffs. Thibbedeau is insane. Like lunatic insane. Pride means more to that man than stockpiling for the future. It’s almost admirable.Back
5 – Anyone want to mention the Nets’ sweeping of the Heat in the regular season? Come on, raise your hand. I won’t be harsh. Okay, look, we swept the Heat. And that was fucking rad. Fun games, especially the last one where Plumbles managed to block The Best Basketball Player in the World on a game winning dunk. That was awesome, believe me. But it means nothing. If you think for a second that King James doesn’t watch a YouTube of the block every night of this potential series to get psyched up, you don’t know how embarrassed he wants to make poor Mason. I predict that the first time Plumlee checks into the game, LeBron dunks on him. Then, dunks on him every play that he’s on the court until he’s suffering from PTSD and Kidd keeps slipping him laudanum to keep him from slitting his wrist on the sidelines. Fuck…this could get brutal. Back
6 – Or in the future, for that matter. All the talk about the Ballers Down the Street having experience doesn’t mean much when we’ve built a team full of supreme flight risks. Truth is a free agent after this season (the optimist in me likes to think that Pierce would come back to Brooklyn for like two years, just to try and finish what he started). Big Ticket could retire at the end of the year. We still have Joe “Paint Drying has Waaaaay More Personality” Johnson’s albatross of a contract. Ditto Lopez, who we’re paying so much for the next seeming million years that there’s no way we stick with the crazy small ball that’s worked this season in favor of Plumbles. The future is bleak. We went all in on a team that’s going to get get cleaved in half by the vengeful battle axe of Miami. Bummer. We won’t see a rookie after Plumlee on the squad in my lifetime, since the only course of action now is to keep overpaying aging stars and unloading draft picks or try tanking in a market that’ll probably abandon the team during an extended rebuilding period (read: more than this year’s disastrous start to the season, or more commonly called “more than one season”). It’s going to be rough. Back
7 – On a somewhat related note, P&T is the SBNation Knicks’ blog. It’s incredible, top to bottom. Every post is like a Jimi Hendrix-esque, LSD-in-the-bandana “Voodoo Chile” kalidescopic journey through the tourture of a putrid season. Meanwhile, the Nets Daily is a sort of staid, boring run through of what happens in and around the Nets organization. I’m sure the writers over there are great guys, but it lacks the panache of a P&T. Back
Filed under: March Madness
[Editor's Note - Still taking questions about the previous season for a postseason recap. You've got questions, I've got answers. Send them to email@example.com.]
Here’s part 2 of the official Long Distance Jayahawk March Sadness Sweet Sixteen preview. If you missed part 1, you can check it out here. Technically, I’m writing this on Wednesday night, so this intro isn’t going to touch on how terribly I did with my picks last night. Just assume that some of my more emotion based picks were probably dogs. Ultimately, we know nothing about who will win. You can pretend like you do. You do not. Also, as with Part 1, I’m going ahead and giving you my Elite Eight picks and my Final Four. You know, since I’m writing this in the future and I don’t plan on writing anything over the weekend.
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Michigan Wolverines (7:15pm, CBS) – This would be much more fun if Bruce Pearl hadn’t disgraced his way out of college ball for a couple years. I’m glad his spray tan is going to be patrolling the sidelines again1, especially if it tranlslates to Auburn being competitive at hoops. Do I trust this Volunteers team to take care of Stauskas and the Wolverines? Am I still bitter about last year? We were, according to the win probability chart I’ve seen bouncing around Twitter, supposed to win that fucking game all the way until it went to overtime. After that, we were toast. I’m pretty sure karma exists and the god’s were pretty pissed about the Prophet cock punching our season into the ether. Yeah, I’m about to make a pick to make me feel better.
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals (9:45pm, CBS) – That 2012 Kentucky team is the exception to the one-and-done hitman squad being able to win a title. The exception. Not the rule. I don’t know that we’ll necessarily see another team like that in the next couple of years. The stars just have to align in a way that I think is 99% dumb luck. Naturally, Slimeball will be the head coach for that next team, as he was in 2012 and he was for the 2008 TEAM REDACTED2. However, I don’t think that team is going to be taking the court against a Pitino led Cardinals who returned Russdiculous and Kevin Love, Jr. They’ve been there. I think Randle’s got more talent in his left nut than most of the Louisville team. But I think experience trumps talent in this one.
ELITE EIGHT: Tennessee vs. Louisville – Tennessee can’t pull this off without their oompa loompa colored head coach. They’ve had a good run. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant’s going to be getting one step closer to adding on to that shoulder piece he got last year.
Connecticut Huskies vs. Iowa State Cyclones (7:27pm, TBS) – I teaser trailered it in the last piece, sure, but I like Iowa State. Sure, Georges Niang was a beast on the inside, but I kind of feel like they’ll be going full-on 2013 Louisville here. Sure, the Ware injury is a horrifying thing, one I hope to never have to see again. But, that injury galvanized the Cardinals. Iowa State’s winning this one for Ames is Georges.
Pick: Iowa State
Michigan State Spartans vs. Virginia Cavaliers (9:57pm, TBS) – Lupe Izzo will be furiously praying the rosary in the stands. I can feel it. The over/under on crowd shots which include her has to be 10.5, right? She’s a fixture of tournament games for the Spartans, more so even than the ridiculous Sparty mascot. However, I feel like Virginia has this one. Izzo’s squad is good, but not the brutal team they usually are. And despite pundits and announcers trying to jam the whole “peaking at the right time” narrative down my throat, pointing to Izzo being a master of getting his team to peak at the right time, I just don’t feel like that’s a real thing. If it were, shouldn’t he, the coach who gets his team to peak at the right time every year, have won literally every championship since at least 2000? He’s a good coach, but all that peaking isn’t going to help them topple the most stealth #1 seed left in the bracket.
ELITE EIGHT: Iowa State vs. Virginia – If you looked at my bracket yesterday, you’ll notice that Kansas is the only Final Four team I had that’s been bounced. Then, I picked against one of them yesterday by ejecting Arizona. Not happening this time around. Cyclones are going roll Virginia for a trip to the Final Four. Huzzah to the Real Mayor of Ames!
Pick: Iowa State
1 – I have to say that the show-cause penalty has to be the most insane thing in any employment field ever. Basically, the NCAA can’t, I suppose, bar you from being hired to coach basketball. But they can certainly kneecap your ability to effectively do it by barring you from recruiting. Which is what happened to Pearl. I’m sure I’ve discussed it here before, but it’s crazy to me because, let’s say that something came up like a coach died or had to take a leave of absence. A team could have hired Pearl to finish out the year, knowing full well that he wouldn’t have been able to continue, since he wouldn’t have been able to recruit. How crazy is that? Back
2 – Sometimes, I wonder about what it’s like to be other fanbases. Like, do they feel better about their team’s success? Do they actually have a leg to stand on, in terms of true tournament success? Specifically, Kentucky and the oh-so-lovely (read: completely irrational and, save for a lone VCU fan in 2011, most likely to take issue with literally anything I say about Kentucky, including the Kentucky Derby, which I love!) Obviously, Kentucky has the edge in championships, but keep in mind that five of them came during the easier pre-expasion era (ten of UCLA’s eleven titles came prior to ’85 expansion). I enjoy rooting for a perennially competitive team, one that wins a lot, one that excels so often, even in talent poor years. What we have is better to me than being a Kentucky fan. I couldn’t imagine having to be that defensive about my favorite team. Here’s another thing that, to me is important. Since the expansion of the tournament to 64+ teams, with the competition and the road to titles become considerably more arduous, we’ve won two titles. In title order, here are all the teams with multiple titles since expansion:
- Four Titles: Duke (’91, ’92, ’01, ’12)
- Three Titles: Kentucky (’96, ’98, ’12); North Carolina (’93, ’05, ’09); Connecticut (’99, ’04, ’11)
- Two Titles: Kansas (’88, ’08); Florida (’06, ’07), Louisville (’86, ’13)
Jesus, I can’t believe I remembered nearly all of those, including the years (did some fact checking, but I almost had UConn with two…I always forget that ’99 title and Louisville’s ’86 title). To put that in perspective, everyone’s favorite “ready for March” team, Michigan State has won one (’00) and appeared in another (’09). Outside of the above list, no one else has won more than a single title since the ’85 tourney and the 64 team field. The tournament is impossible to win. It takes skill, talent, luck, and probably a healthy does of black magic. Also of note is that only half the teams listed above did it with a single coach:
- Duke (Coach K),
- Florida (Bayou Billy)
- Connecticut (your incorrigible drunk uncle from Braintree, MA Jim Calhoun)
Benedict Williams is close, netting two for the Tar Heels (’05, ’09…and you couldn’t have thrown us a bone in 15 years?) with the ’93 title belonging to the Untouchable, Dean Smith. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant Pitino did it with two teams (Kentucky in ’96, Louisville in ’13) and Kentucky did it with three coaches (Pitino in ’96, Tubby Smith in ’98, Calipari in ’12). So, given that, in the 30 years since expansion, 19 titles belong to seven schools, speaks to their dominance, sure, but that’s still seven schools! Keep in mind none of those schools, especially Duke, has more than four alone should prove how impossibly difficult it is to actually win the tournament. If your sole motivation for following God’s Team is to see us win National Championships, it’s going to be a long, perpetually disappointing series of Marches3.
Would I love more titles? Of course. Who wouldn’t? But to have two when so many other teams (including UCLA, king shit of championship mountain) haven’t gotten more than one titles in this era, I feel like we’ve made a solid showing. If we’re measuring ourselves against all the titles in another program’s history, there’s honestly no chance we’ll ever catch up. Winning’s too fucking hard. My buddy Andrew and I have often talked about being in the tournament every year, guaranteed, or having an assured title then flaming out. For my money, some of my favorite teams failed to win it all (love, loved the 2002-03, 2009-10, and 2011-12 vintages the same as 2007-08). I’d take making the tournament and loving the team over the flip side of winning it all one year and getting punted for the Not In Tournament’s first round in the following year. That’s true embarrassment. All that said, I think Andrew put it was better thusly: “And let me tell you something you already know – I would rather swim the length of the Gowanus Canal than root for UK. There’s no program on Earth that I’d care to imitate less.” For those not in the know, Gowanus Canal is a Superfund site. Back
3 – One other, quick tangent: my parents are Carolina fans. Die hard. I was born a year after Carolina won the first championship of their lifetimes (’82, predating expansion and quite a while since they’d graduated). In my lifetime, their team has just one more than Kansas. They’ve been through some rough, rough times. Like the Matt Doherty era, when the players openly revolted after a barftastic season (naturally paving the way for Benedict to his alma mater, but hey!). They’ve spent a lot of Marches not seeing their team win it all. That’s the status quo, as long as the road is as hard as it is. The tournament is a crap shoot. It’s easier if you embrace it and enjoy the titles when they come and let the losses roll off (unless it’s UNI or VCU, in which case, never forget). Back
Filed under: March Madness
[Editor's Note - As I mentioned yesterday, I'm planning a season recap. Part of it will be a mailbag sort of thing. Maybe. I might end up running questions as part of the recap. Either way, if there's ever been anything you've wanted to know about me, my thoughts on the team, the season, or anything else, get those questions in, people! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
My DUNKTOPUS shirt showed up, finally. Unfortunately, opening it, knowing what the envelope contained, was bittersweet. I was looking forward to rocking that shit this weekend. A lot of my Jayhawk friends believe in luck very much. While I’m usually with them, I’d like to take a moment to ask for just a little restraint in hating on the DUNK-lord’s shirt. You see, High Priest of the DUNKTOPUS Tarik Black was the only guy on Sunday who played hard. At least, that’s what I remember as I went into an emotional blackout. Let’s not blame the DUNKTOPUS for the loss1. Let’s celebrate the DUNKTOPUS and the joy of wearing the shirt forever. Especially when the DUNK-lord finally comes back to earth and starts the apocalypse.
Other than that, I’d like to give a quick bracket pool update. First weekend in the books and…well, crap. I’m on pace to probably end up dead last again. Thanks a lot all you mid-majors ripping my bracket apart. Sure, I was going out on a limb picking God’s Team to go all the way2 and I deserve to lose just because it’s funnier that way3. So, right now, I’m tied for 20th place, while my buddy Patrick is on top of the bracket. Enjoy it, Patrick. Dayton’s coming for your Bayou Billy championship pick.
Despite going a woeful 21-32 in the Roundof 64 and 7-16 in the Round of 324, I’m here to give you my Sweet Sixteen (and by extension, Elite Eight) picks now. So, let’s get started with tonight’s games!
Stanford Cardinal vs. Dayton Fliers (7:15pm, CBS) – America, allow me to introduce you to your new favorite team, the Dayton Fliers! Sure, there was a heart warming story in Mercer dancing their way into your hearts. But they’re gone now, relegated to tournament trivia nights forever and ever, amen. While the Fliers have a name that’s more apt for last year’s DUNKTOPUS Approved Florida Gulf Coast5, they do boast a really, really sweet ass mascot costume. Look at him!
I’m a sucker for a solid mascot, either of the Raptor variety (all-around awesomitude) or just hilarious looking. And a buff dude in a baksetball jersey wearing Red Baron get up is right up my alley. Plus, with Albany’s bargain bin Laker unis getting deep sixed by the Bayou Billys, this is the most hideous outfit left in the tournament. It’s kind of sad that they’re a decent enough team and get such unattractive uniforms. Which will make their power blasting of Stanford funnier. Especially since Stanford needs to lose so I can feel the tiniest bit of schaudenfraude.
UCLA Bruins vs. Florida Gators (9:45pm, CBS) – No love lost from me for either of these teams. I still hold a grudge against the Bruins for knocking us out of the tournament in 2007, even though Mbah a Moute beating up on us in that one probably shamed Julian The Crazy Conspiracy Raptor Man Wright into leaving early. We all know what happened the next year without the dead weight of that prima donna. Florida also has my ire for two reasons: 1.) they beat us earlier this year; 2.) I find Bayou Billy insufferable, even if he does suffer from encephalitis. I mean, dude wins two titles in a row because he has Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer. That’s a fucking team! Of course you’ll win two titles with that lineup, especially since they all returned while adding Maurice Speights. That’s four NBA guys! I’m telling you, I could have coached that team to at least two titles. Naturally, Florida paid Bayou Billy more money than God to stick around and they promptly went to the NIT. Seems like, maybe, the coach wasn’t that good?
Anyway, I’m guessing that the Ware twins, disgraced of Carolina, manage to make some noise before finally falling to Mr. McGibblets…er, Wilbekins’ dominance.
ELITE EIGHT: Dayton vs. Florida – Just relax, America. Fliers got this. They’re your team! Love them America!
Pick: Dayton Fliers baby!
Baylor Bears vs. Wisconsin Badgers (7:47pm, TBS) – Well, well, our first Big
XII X XII team of the Sweet Sixteen. Our old nemesis, the Baylor Bears7. Going against sourpuss Bo Ryan’s interesting Wisconsin team. Wisconsin doesn’t score at an impressive clip, they have a decent but unimpressive average from the floor and they don’t do much for me from distance. Meanwhile, Baylor’s season stats look almost identical. I’m inclined to side with Baylor here, but Bo Ryan actually being a coach and Scott Drew merely dressing like one makes me feel like Wisconsin is going to win this one. Shit. Going with the heart here.
San Diego State Aztecs vs. Arizona Wildcats (10:17pm, TBS) – I have an irrational love of Steve Fisher. For obvious reasons, him being the coach of the Fab Five was a pretty formative moment in basketball history, both my own personal and, you know, basketball history at large. Though I was rooting for Carolina at the time, thanks to my parents, I still have a soft spot for what the Fab Five ushered in. Without the Fab Five, I feel like Allen Iverson, another irrational love of mine, wouldn’t have been the awesome, brash dude who went on the “Practice?” tirade. Throw in the fact that Steve Fisher went into his presser the other night not answering questions but laying down the law about how the NCAA was in the wrong to make the loser of the NDSU/SDSU matchup go home that night and Fisher’s a feel good story of college basketball redemption. Also, even though I’ve tried to pretend like it doesn’t bother me, the 40-point swing in AFH back in 2003 still pisses me off. Never forget, even if we did get revenge in the tournament.
Pick: San Diego State
Boom. That’s it for Part 1. Check back tomorrow when I break down Friday’s matchups in the East and Midwest regions.
1 – Brett, I know you were agitating for a ritual burning of the shirts, but let’s be real for a second: you picked us to lose in the second round. Sure you picked it to be New Mexico, but I’m pretty sure you’re the kiss of death, man. Back
2 – Two quick notes on that: 1.) I’ve been killed for the last five years over the fact that, back in 2006, I picked Texas to win it all; 2.) I run a blog that’s at least 87% about Kansas basketball, so I feel compelled in the blog’s pool to ride with the Jayhawks, come hell or high water10. In 2007, I picked with Durant. Given what I saw of him that year and what we know of the man now, I don’t think that was a terrible idea. The proof’s in the fact that the Sith Lord wasn’t able to fuck that one up. They made the Elite Eight, for Christ’s sake! Besides, he was so fucking good that year that Grantland, in a column about trading a guy from a losing team to a winning team, picked Durant joining LSU following the Longhorns’ exit was the most intriguing brain exercise of the whole piece. I don’t think I was wrong having Texas go all the way that year. Of course, I also didn’t run this blog back then. Back
3 – Just wait till we get to the NBA Playoffs and I predict a Brooklyn/Oklahoma City Finals! I look forward to leading you astray with my NBA picks. Back
4 – Technically, a lot of my picks weren’t even available for action in the Round of 32. Technically. But since I was picking based on my first round picks, I can’t use that as a crutch. No time like the present to reset, I say. Back
5 – What up, Doom$day? Back
6 – Also, Dayton was gracious enough to let Pony Boy get God’s Team’s first official triple-double back in 2009, so I kind of want to make up for that. Back
7 – One thing that I’ve discussed with a couple of people regarding strategies to picking your bracket is the idea of conferences. On the one hand, I don’t know that they matter all the much, especially with this ever-creeping idea of parity coming into the early rounds. However, I think they matter in as much as one should avoid any semblance of conference pride and/or belief in the strength of a conference. I didn’t look it up, but I feel like most conferences get two teams into the second weekend, at best. So, I think one strategy is to not load up on a conference. The Big
XII X XII proved that again this year. Back
8 – Also, going back to the previous footnote, I’m trying to stick to just one team per conference and, not to give away one of tomorrow’s picks, I’ve already decided who my Big
XII X XII rep is going to be in the Final Four. Back
9 – You know what’s really a bummer about this? When I did my bracket in five gut feeling minutes Sunday night, I seriously put SDSU in my Final Four. Kicking myself for not sticking with my guns there. Doubly so if Lupe Izzo State makes it to the final weekend, too. Back
10 – Though, given the provenance of most of you, I would strongly suggest that, if you participate in God’s Gift to Bracket Pools, you pick against us. Not only is it smart because there’s like a 1 in 5,268,492,198 chance that we do win it all, but doubly smart when you consider that most people joining the pool are Jayhawk fans. Worst case scenario, we end up winning it and I would hazard a guess that pretty much everyone joining up would take that over a chance to make fun of me for how goddamned bad at picking the bracket I am. Back
Filed under: Draft
According to a report by Woj at Yahoo Sports (“Yahoo does legit news?” you’re asking…yes, and Woj is usually right), Lionslayer’s headed off to the NBA to slay the big lions in the Association. Totally the right move, as other’s have said. I feel like my long ass diatribe in the footnotes yesterday is being confirmed. Listen, I don’t want him to leave. I want him to stay and play for God’s Team, not because it ensures a title, but because…well, I mean…he’s the next Olajuwan and who wouldn’t want to get a chance to watch that for at least another year? I’ll go over it again briefly, but this is the right call. He wouldn’t learn nearly enough at the college level to increase his draft stock (he’s already in the top 3 pick, maybe 5 if teams get skittish about his back problem, so best case, he’s the unquestioned number one). With back injuries, it’s the smart move to go. If he’s healthy, he starts getting reps against NBA bigs, a breed in short supply at the NCAA level. He’ll get essentially three years of experience in just one NBA season. As for the one-and-dones don’t make it, that’s a fallacy. Most NBA draftees “don’t make it” when “it” is being the next LeBron or Durant. Think about it: those guys are in a whole other realm of excellence. Sticking around for another year of college ball won’t magically make someone the next superduperstar.
Go on, JoJo. Go slay those lions, my friend. We’ll always have 2013-14.
Sweet Sixteen post will be coming shortly.
Filed under: Uncategorized
[Editor's Note - I'm in the very, very early stages of planning a multipart season recap/retrospective/look ahead. Very, very early stages...however, a part that I'm envisioning is a mailbag or at least some reader questions getting answered over the course of the piece(s). So, if you're interested in asking me anything at all, specifically about this season but not limited to it, feel free to shoot an email to email@example.com. The recap won't be for at least a week, maybe not until after the Championship, so you've got time. Again, shoot those questions in. Feel free to ask me anything, even if it isn't specifically related to the product we put on the court this year. Trust me, I'll probably answer anything you ask me.]
Since the combustion of the season, I’ve been playing Deafheaven’s Sunbather a lot. The opening cut “Dream House,” in particular, has been getting a lot of burn. Go ahead, click the link back there. Let it cue up. Maybe cut the volume down to a lower volume if you’re not into loud music. Or at work or whatever. But cue it up. Hopefully, if I time this right, the crescendo hits at the right time. Trust me, the conceit works in my head, so let’s give it a try. I’ll wait.
Let’s get to it.
Someone remind me why I find this enjoyable?
— c-bit (@longdistncejhwk) March 23, 2014
I remember doing it. I don’t remember what exactly precipitated it. No doubt it was forged in the crucible of a flurry of missed bunnies and bad decisions1. We’re not going to go over how I felt about this year’s squad, at least not today. In the future, sure. I didn’t want us to get bounced, even if I’m not a huge fan of this squad, as composed and as they performed. Of course, that tweet above could have extended to most of the weekend. Saturday started with me waking up just in time for the second half of an Arsenal drubbing, one that saw them down 4-nil at the half. Four. Fucking. Nil2. I didn’t even bother turning on the television. Unlike some x-nil scores, that’s not one that’s at all dangerous for the opposing side. Then, Sunday, of course. No need to talk about that… So, Monday rolls around. As you might be aware, I’m a Nets fan. I was NBA agnostic for years, never living close enough to a team to truly pick one3, so I’m Adidas all in on the Nets. After a brutal weekend that saw disappointment heaped on disappointment, I figured “What could go wrong?” The Nets were on a bit of a streak heading into a matchup with the otherworldly Unibrow and the New Orleans Pelicans. We’d owned them at our house, more or less, about three weeks prior and, despite it being a back-to-back following an OT thriller with the Mavs, I still felt like we’d handle the Pellies. Handle them we did. For at least 70% of the game, getting up to a 22-point lead. Twenty two points, people! Like mid-third quarter! That’s when a team decides “Fuck this, let’s get out of here.” Usually, that’s the team that’s down. But not this time, chummies. The Bums managed to let Tyreke goddamned Evans rip us apart to force an overtime Pelicans win. With a lot of sports things, the writing, sometimes, is on the wall as I continued my bleach-drinking and tweeting from the day before:
Boom. Of course, this caused a buddy of mine to reply, mentioning the freshman year Arizona game where we let the Wildcats go on some crazy run (I might be misremembering this, but I swear it was like 44-6). Like…I mean…that’s the worst thing I’ve seen. To go from up 20 and red ass beat down to down 20 and also a red ass beatdown. Fuck, that was a brutal game.
After some back and forth, I finished with this, a classic bit of sadness and deprecation:
@MooreSaiyan Robert Smith’s a little peppy for that kind of moment. More like the sound of nothingness. Or Elliott Smith.
— c-bit (@longdistncejhwk) March 25, 2014
Which was mostly true. I was certainly miffed at the Nets, but I definitely felt worse about that Kansas loss. Fucking shit show.
Anyway, back to “Dream House.” Remember that song I told you to listen to? If you went through all the footnotes en route to this sentence, then the song’s probably over. What I was going to tie back to is that song, to me aurally recreates a lot of feelings I feel, especially in do-or-die games. Chaos, sheer, utter, uncomprehending chaos. Then, a little moment’s respite. A brief feeling, be it the point you know you’ve won, or just halftime bringing an end to the chaos, if momentarily.
Then, it comes back with an over the top, epic coda, with crash, majestic guitars. It’s uplifting! It’s loud! It makes you feel unstoppable! Yet, underneath it, a lone voice screams “I want to die!” Obviously, I don’t want to die, but the juxtaposition encapsulates the feelings of a big game. You get so worked up, so panicked. Everything’s crashing around you. Then, you find some moment of zen. Then, the soaring feeling of success, but that nagging voice reminding you that not a few minutes ago, you were choosing to torture yourself.
Someone remind me why this is fun?
Because that right there, the feeling of a song like “Dream House” pulls you through so many emotions in a short period of time, similar to a basketball game, that you ultimately feel rewarded. The endorphin ripping through you makes it all worth it.
Another thought on it, one that exists in the larger context of the world, is that there are people out there that understand this feeling. Long time reader Josh4 summed it up pretty well in his comment on the Stanford re-ish-cap. For me, this really captures a lot of what I’m getting at:
“There are The Games, and then there’s everything else. Everything else that’s tangential to The Games but which makes the season that much better, more fulfilling, more whole. Meeting friends at the Yacht Club to watch the game. Twitter watch party. Buying or passing up that “ten straight” shirt when you walk into Dillon’s. Getting a random “Rock Chalk” from the guy outside the gas station in another city and chatting with him about Perry Ellis’ potential for a minute before paying for your gas…It’s the stuff that makes you feel like being a Jayhawk is part of a community, a family.”
Exactly. Sure, he praised the blog as being a part of the feeling of family, but that’s what it is for me. Maybe everyone else’s experience is a little different, but I know that there are other people out there, the Jayhawk community, that can identify with the “Dream House” analogy. That can understand the intense anxiety that happens whenever the games start to matter more.
We’re all a part of the Jayhawk family. Sorry if that song was a little to much rock for you. I promise not to play it at any family reunions.
1 – I’m never one to advocate making excuses for a team’s performance because I rip on other fan bases for doing so. How many Oklahoma fans told you that things would have been different if Griffin had played instead of looking like he was about to dye his shoes a charming puke ombre? And how many of you said things like “Well, if you drafted better and built a team…that’s what you get.” So, let’s not lay the loss at the gigantic feet of Lionslayer. Yes, I totally think that game would have turned out differently had the big man played. However, we had the talent. Tons of talent. We could have beaten that Cardinal team with or without Embiid. But we didn’t. And you can’t say “Oh, it’s Embiid’s fault.” Or I guess “It’s the fault of Embiid’s injury.” The team played poorly and we lost. Laying it at the feet of one 19 year-old5 is a cop out, if you ask me. Which you didn’t, but still. Back
2 – Retroactively, I understand there was a send off of the wrong guy, which raised some questions of racism in a league already fraught with it. I watched that clip, but I refused to watch any more. The Gunners are so fucking frustrating sometimes. Streaks…nay, weeks of brilliance…chippy, tough football and a genuine love for each other, followed by complete crap. It probably didn’t help that the end of league schedule was a brutal one for Arsenal. The only game that didn’t scare me for real, obvious reasons was Tottenham. And even that scared me since, even in a shit season, Spurs are going to come at us with all they’ve got. Wonderful. I suppose it’s time to just start rooting for a meaningless FA Cup trophy. Who’s with…me…eh, fuck it. I can’t even fake excitement for that. Back
3 – Obviously, I was a Bulls/Jordan fan as a kid. And since most of my family is from North Carolina, I was a Hornets fan for every and a day. Bogues? Johnson? My jam! But I lived in Oklahoma at the time, so I never got to see them. Tough times, the late-80s/early-90s for long distance fans. The Hornets moved to NOLA and I stopped rooting for them and the Thunder came a couple years to late, since I’d moved to Lawrence by the time they decamped from Seattle. I watched NBA, of course, but more for the aesthetic pleasure than anything. So, years later, I move to Brooklyn and not only did a frnachise open up within the cityish thing I live in, but they’re right down the street! My god, how great! So, here I am, finally with an NBA team that I can not only root for, but actually see play, both on YES and in person. Life’s pretty good, sometimes. Back
4 – Not a footnote today, my man! Back
5 – A 19 year-old who should not even pretend to consider coming back for a sophomore year. Do not pass go, do not collect 24 credit hours.The following over-long reasoning was spurred by Mike responding to a tweet I threw out there about Embiid’s looming decision. Mike, not trying to go over it again, but I wanted to touch on my thoughts and going over yesterday made for a nice summation/outline for what comes next. Deadspin did a pretty good job breaking down why college players should always choose the draft, rather than coming back, using Marcus Smart as their example. I, for the most part, agree. Aside from the skewed perception that the NBA is somehow a more greedy move (I’d call it more honest since payment’s out in the open and we all know what the motivations of the players are at that point – contracts), wanting someone to stay speaks to the selfish nature of us, as college hoops fans. We want a guy to stick around because it shows that the program is important, that “development” is important, but, most importantly, that we the fans are more important that the money of the NBA. Kansas fans will often point to the fact that Embiid’s family is financially solid, so, you know, forgo $12mm in garaunteed rookie wage scale salary. Because, trust me, my family isn’t hurting for money, but that much money? On one contract? In a heartbeat.
The other issue I’m having for Embiid’s case is that I think he’s going to develop more talent quicker in the NBA. Right now, let’s say the lottery goes according to the standings. JoJo, being a possible number two pick, would end up on the 76ers. Yes, Philly is current a franchise adrift in the league…but that’s why they’re going to be picking second! They need a superstar to join their team and since they’ve shipped out everyone of note and are fielding a D-League team right now, Lionslayer starts. Instantly. He could skip summer league and he’d still probably start. So, there you go. He gets reps in the more physical, longer NBA game against NBA caliber bigs. If he stays at Kansas, he’s still going to be the seven-foot fish in the pond, as it were. On top of that, I don’t know that he would make the jump we saw with Burrito Killah and T-Rob. With Manning gone, I don’t know how well our bigs are developing these days. WITHEY! isn’t a good case, since he got the benefit of Manning. I just don’t see him developing that much more by sticking around another year.
I’m sorry. I know it’s sacrilige, but that’s the way I see it. I love Embiid, but I just don’t see the utility of him coming out. Oh, and before you throw the whole “but one and done’s…they don’t work out!” Real talk people: most NBA picks don’t work out. McLemore is starting for the King, looks good, and might be their franchise number two after Boogie. Xavier’s had a resurgence of sorts in LA after a rockie start. Compare them to guys who were near and dear to Kansas and set records and all that jazz. WITHEY!’s a thirdish unit guy in Charlotte. Aldrich is Melo’s BFF in New York, and not much else. I don’t think there’s much correlation, in years of collegiate ball and NBA success. Back
Filed under: Recap
What you’re about to read is something. It’s going to be all over the place, not talk about the game in any meaningful capacity. It’s all the things I thought about yesterday as the reality of a Kansas-less second weekend sunk in. I hope you enjoy it more than I didn’t writing it.
I went to Whole Foods yesterday. Yeah, maybe I am a cliche. The asshole white guy who lives in gentrified Brooklyn and is totally cool with paying a premium for the same cara cara oranges I could get over at Steve’s C Town. Whatever. I’ll take my faux sense of superiority and slightly fresher produce any day. This isn’t about that, though. This is about the fact that when I came to the intersection of 4th Ave and 3rd St there was a $20 bill sitting in in the intersection. Just right there. I was so shocked and worried that the woman standing next to me would dive for the bill that I almost stepped on it, to lay claim to it. She was completely oblivious. I picked up the twenty spot quickly and shoved it into my pocket, lest the owner come running back down the street and see me do it.
That twenty was pretty crisp too.
Finding money on the ground has to be one of the cooler feelings in the world, especially when it’s a s substantial sized bill. And of course it would happen after Kansas decided to leave the tournament before the first weekend was finished. It’s like bullshit like karma actually exists1. It’s almost a blessing, honestly. This way, I can enjoy the tournament like the rest of college basketball fandom. Without that nagging sense of impending doom. Without the feeling like you’re going to vomit from nerves despite not really feeling it with this year’s vintage. Without waiting for it, right in the face. Without spending halftime preparing for the deluge of garbage that the internet trolls will put out there about your team.
As if I have any fucking control over what they do on the court. I’m a passive participant here, inextricably tangled up with a group of strangers who represent me, and I represent them. I can no more change shirts at halftime and expect it to mean victory for Kansas than Keith Langford could have legitimately believed that changing shoes at the half when he had a shit first would actually impact his play in the second half. And K was actually on the court!
It’s been documented around these parts that I’m not a huge fan of this year’s vintage. We had talent and then some, but we never really brought it all together. I hoped that we would, but we didn’t. We’d have one game where we looked unstoppable. Then, we’d run through a four game stretch of mediocre basketball that scared the shit out of you for the next game and the next game after that. There was a lot of talk about heart on Twitter yesterday as the clock wound down. I don’t know that I would call it heart, really. Heart I associated with something like Taylor’s freak out when Toupee called that timeout in the last Mizzou game. What I feel like this team lacked was a desire to win. When we got down, you felt like we just didn’t really fucking care whether or not we won or lost. And that’s really frustrating, especially as a fan. Like I said a minute ago, I have no control over what happens on the court.
Yet, despite that feeling, despite not believing in our will to win and not particularly loving the experience of watching the team this season, I watched almost every game. I wrote about the experience as I always have2 for the last four years. I tried to bring humor and insight to the proceedings, trying to make a team with seemingly no personality something other, something that people would actually like to read about. I like to think I was successful in that endeavor.
So what’s the weirdest thing you think could happen, given the last couple of graphs? Yes, that’s right, I felt something beyond uncomfortable yesterday. Before tip, I felt a feeling like vomit in the back of my throat. As we got to the final minute, I felt that feeling again, coupled with the emptiness of feeling like you know what’s about to happen. I knew that I should be feeling a sense of relief since I was getting my wish. I was done with this year’s squad and ready to move on to next year’s vintage. Then, Hinrich fucking Mathers over there starts drilling threes. I guess it was just two of them, but still…he gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe we could pull this shit off. I found myself clinging desperately to that glimmer of hope as we whittled it down to three with no time left. I had simultaneous thoughts: the relief of getting out of this season would be great; I don’t want us to lose this fucking game.
When the ball went wide, ricochetted out of the hands of Traylor3 and into some Stanford player, I realized I was standing up, hands above my head. Not outstretched, like when something good happens, but in that tense half-flexed way where it could go either way. After we didn’t get the board, I slumped back on the couch and, as with the Oklahoma State win ten days ago, I almost cried. The tears welled up a little bit. I was totally like that kid CBS showed crying, like basketball ultimately boils down to sadness porn.
I really thought that shit was going to drop.
That was it. That was the season right there. Nothing that came before can make me feel good about that loss. I just wanted to buy a little bit more time. Saturday night, one of my good friends had her 30th birthday party. Since she’s a Jayhawk, too, there were quite a few of us out last night. We had a great time, hitting up Royal Palms for a little shuffleboard, then moving on the Cherry Tree for a little hoops and beers. Maybe a lot of beers. Anyway, it was a great time. Certainly more fun than losing in the early one on a Sunday morning.
Back to the game for a minute. I’m glad it was Stanford and that it was a game that we had a chance to win all the way to the last possession. I’m glad we didn’t get sandblasted by a mid-major no one’s ever heard of. It just seems more palatable, even if Stanford isn’t always a basketball school. Less shameful than UNI or VCU. Which almost assuredly would have happened had we won yesterday. Can you imagine having to take on Dayton? Everyone and their mother would be cheering for the Flyers over us. That matchup would basically be scripted for us to lose. I’m relieved that I don’t have to find out how many Flyers “fans” there actually are on Twitter.
So, you know, I guess there’s that. Moving on.
1 – I might not actually understand karma in this situation. It’s totally when a good thing happens to balance out a totally shitty thing, right? Right? Back
2 – Though perhaps less than I would have liked this season. Sometimes, you realize you’re an adult, this is something you do in your free time. Sometimes, you realize that free time would be more fun if you read Game of Thrones instead of writing yet another 3,000 word screed about basketball. I mean, look, guys, it’s really hard to come up with more ways to say “skull fucked” after all. Back
3 – It was Traylor, I think. I honestly don’t know. I’ve tried to explain this to people, but these games, when shit gets tense like that, I tend to lose my ability to process anything about the game. Like, I watch all of our tournament games completely incapable of making evaluations like “how is our pick and roll going?” or “our switches look terrible right now.” I just can’t do it. Which is weird since I spend and inordinate amount of my basketball watching time thinking about those things. Back
Filed under: Recap
INT. CLUB CHOKE – EARLY AFTERNOON
A few people mill nervously around the room. Almost everything that can be covered in leather is. Think an old school political club, where deals were made to ram the world down the throats of the working class. Women in one-piece swimsuits and tasteful hose walk around. They’re carrying those wooden trays strapped to their chests, offering a range of items: Altoids, cigarettes, cigars, M&Ms, Xanax. At the front of the room stands a professional, quiet man. He’s just received an envelope, is reading the contents quickly. No reaction crosses his face. After finishing, he quickly rescans, then sticks it into the mouth of the hungry crocodile sitting by his podium.
PHILLIPE, THE HOST
Look alive everyone! Mike just renewed his membership and will be coming through the door in a minute. He’s probably going to be upset, so look alive! Bill, where’s Bill? Lola, my darling, would you please go find Bill. I need someone who’s been here before to give Mike a refresher on what his membership entails.
LOLA, CIGARETTE GIRL
I think I saw him in the back, Phillipe. He was shooting craps with JTIII.
Lola turns sharply and runs to the back room. Phillipe glances around the room one last time, checking to make sure everything’s in order. Of course it is. Club Choke has spent the entireity of it’s existence in immaculate order. Similarly, Phillipe checks his appearance in the mirror, but it’s just as perfect as the club. With the final moments before Mike’s arrival, Phillipe stares straight ahead, a quick breath or two. Then, showtime!
(ENTERING, MUMBLING INTO PHONE)
Woj, the goddamned…fuck….Christ, again! AGAIN! I can’t fucking…Woj…WOJ! Tell those fucking vipers I’m dizzy. Tell them I have epilepsy. I don’t fucking care what you fucking tell those fucking shitheels, just fucking tell them something. Why do I pay you if you can’t figure this out! YOU’RE A GROWN FUCKING MAN! (angriliy jabs finger into the screen of the iPhone, nearly cracking the screen). Fuck…why’d we get rid of flip phones? So much more satisfying to slam those. God, what a day…Phillipe, I really never wanted to see your smug face ever again.
Mike, charming as always. I’m sorry that we, once again, meet under such tough circumstances. Can I take your coat? Would you like a…scotch?
Don’t lick my balls, you toad faced fuck. It’s not a miracle you remember I like scotch, I was here fucking two years ago. Fucking…(trails off, stares down at his feet; after a beat, a deep breath) Why am I here again? I know the membership lasts a while, but I…I figured that I’d be hosing Mickey down with Jabari Bars in Indy. I didn’t think I’d be back at the Choke Club so soon.
No one expects to be back at the Choke Club, Mike. But that’s why we’re here, to make sure you have all the booze, stimulants, downers, whatever’s your pleasure, in your lowest moment. We’re not a place you choose to visit, despite our very convoluted membership policies. We’re just a comfortable place for you to fire your whole staff from.
I guess. I just…when I got that five year membership two years ago, I had no intention of ever coming back here. I sold a Mormon kid on the over-sexed, over entitled world of Duke by telling him that I’d help him market his idiotic dessert bars. Can you believe it? That’s all he wants in life. I keep telling him he’s the best NBA prospect I ever saw and all he wants to be is the next Little fucking Debbie. Sex didn’t work…cars, money, all of it. All he wanted was to bake those fucking bars. And look what it got me? Embarrassment.
Yes, it’s a shame that kids no longer identify with the brash lifestyle of your Allen Iverson types. Certainly made it easier to just have their grandmothers buy them an Escalade so it didn’t look like a booster was doing it.
(RESIGNATION SEEPING IN)
You know what’s the biggest travesty of this whole fucking thing? I’m about to get dragged through Hell. Hell! I’ve won four fucking titles for Christ’s fucking sake…four…and that hillbilly shit bag in Chapel Hill’s managed to miss the tournament, win half as many titles, despite having overwhelming talent at two different blue bloods…and he hasn’t been here. His teams underachieve and he couldn’t get a single drop of rain on his head. And I’m in the fucking flood over here…
Yes, it’s truly a shame that simpleton gets to enjoy his mini fridge of Coca-Cola while you have to answer to the popped-collar polo shirts in New Jersey. Don’t worry, we’ll make sure everything’s fine before you have to face the media. (looking over his shoulder) Ah, here’s Bill. I believe you’ve met each other before.
(LOUD, CLAPPING MIKE ON THE BACK)
Mike! It’s just terrific to see you, just terrific. Phillipe, you gotta get somebody to get Mike that scotch. That’s what you were havin’ in the coaches box at the United Center this year, right? How you been, Mike? It’s just terrific to see you. Terrific.
(TRYING NOT TO MAKE EYE CONTACT)
Bill, yes, good to see you.
Mike, you ol’ asshole, no need to be coy. We all been here buddy! Hell, I ended up signing up for a ten year membership in my third year at the most important program in the country. You think ‘em New Jersey doucheterias are bad? My god, they wouldn’t know James Naismith from…what’s the hideous clothing company? Phillipe, help me out? Who makes all them shirts with fucking panthers on ‘em?
That would be Ed Hardy, Bill.
Ed Hardy! Of course! How could I forget? My god, those garish shirts. I remember Sherron refused to put his jersey on unless I let him wear one of them shirts under it. The rhinestones damn near ripped a hole through that fucking jersey.
Bill, look, it’s great to see you, but I don’t plan on spending a lot of time-
Now, Mike, maybe you didn’t read the membership brochure, but it doesn’t work like that. You choke once in the first game, fine. Maybe they’ll let you go with a light slap on the wrist. You’re not necessarily a choker. Hell, you and ‘em Blue Devils win a lot of games, which’ll help. But you’ve got five years of answering for Lehigh and another five for Jabari Bars over there. Here’s the thing about Club Choke…you do it once, five years; you do it again in that five year period and your membership’s renewed for an additional five years. Additional in that it is…it’s…ah, shit. What’s that thing they say in mob movies, Phillipe?
(A SLIGHT SIGH, AS IF HE’S DONE THIS 100X)
Tacked on to the principle, Bill.
Tacked on to the principle! Of course, Phillipe! Anyway, that’s tacked on to the principle. So, now, you’re looking at eight more years of answering for the failures this year and two years ago. It’s unfair, Mike. I know it is. Jabari Bars’ll be shooting $100 bills out of one of them t-shirt cannons on the 405 en route to a game at Staples, while you’ll be sitting in a cramped room making excuses for why that team failed so mightily. I know, I’ve been there. Hell, Kansas is still labeled a choker and have you seen the waste I’ve laid to pretty much everyone since that happened? Hell, we’ve been so successful, ….And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead offered to change their name so we could use it in a marketing video. Turns out, Sheahon wasn’t too cool with it. Killing and all, not so terrific with the AD. Z’s like a scrotum hiding in a stomach from the cold. But I’m still having to answer for Bradley and Bucknell. It ain’t fair, but it is what it is, Mike. Media loves a story of powerhouses being wolves in king’s clothing.
I believe you were looking the emperor’s new clothes.
Aw, shit…one time I don’t ask you and I get it completely wrong. Thanks, ya asshole. Look, Mike, it’s been great catching up, but I gotta go. I got a game against some Kentucky team. How many teeth combined you think their fanbase has? I’m going over 12…barely. Anyway, those boys ain’t coaching themselves. Wish me luck! I’m so close to closing out that tab here and dumping my membership at Club Choke.
But who will I hang out with?
Oh, I guess, JTIII’s in the back. He likes shooting craps. Look out for that towel, though. Got it from his father. Doesn’t use it in coaching, but in craps? I think he drops it strategically to flip dice around. Anyway, it’s been terrific seeing you, Mike. Just terrific. It’s getting warmer outside. Skip the scotch. Get something refreshing, Mike. I recommend the julep. Just terrific.
Bill leaves quickly through the front door. Mike stands with Phillipe a few feet to his right. Consummate professional that Phillipe is, he busies himself with fake work, knowing that there’s no need to enrage Mike for the time being. The wound is still open, raw, and spilling spleen on all that try to soothe the bitter man. Finally, Mike begins to speak.
(SAD RESIGNATION IN HIS VOICE, MUMBLING)
Thirty-five fucking percent…Jesus, thirty-five…(sighs) Alright, Phillipe…show me to John. And grab me one of those juleps. Bill might be a gregarious twangy hillbilly, but he certainly knows his antiquated cocktails.
Absolutely. Now, let’s get you out of that blazer and into this smoking jacket.
Final Score: Eastern Kentucky 69-80 Kansas
The Good: Quick preface…the first DUNKTOPUS shirts starting showing up for people specifically in Kansas. I’m pretty sure that was an omen of what was to come. DUNK certainly thinks so. Anyway, did you see Maple’s elevation on that Ellis-Mason-Wiggins lob in the first half? He was really fucking flying on that one, angled in that goregous way that only the most athletic guys get. It was almost Langfordian in it’s body to court angle. And his eyes were rim level. Careful, Mapes! Wouldn’t want to blind yourself on a rim in the first round of the tournament. The only thing better than that one was that we ran the opposite, half court set version of the fast break like two minutes later. You’d have thought those two ass beating dunks would have been enough to break the will of the Colonels, but you’d be wrong.
No, we needed to get into the second half in a semi-tight game, one where we looked kind of shit on defense and couldn’t help but turn the ball over like TO’s counted as points. And thank god there was a second half. Because Magna came out of nowhere to take man of the match away from Gentleman Tailor. It was something to behold as Jamari romped his way to a double-double and some of the most sense-of-the-moment plays of the game. I’m glad the see someone who wants to beat the ever loving shit out of a mediocre opponent1.
One other thought, and DUNK will cover the back half of it, but I loved that we stopped forcing the three ball when it wasn’t falling. In the first half, we went 0-4. Meanwhile, we ripped them limb from limb in the interior. I feel like there’ve been a few games previously where the outside shooting wasn’t falling, yet, we continued to jack. Maybe we were under the impression, then, that regression to the mean meant that, at some point, they’d have to fall. But not yesterday. When tried three more in the second, none of which hit, so we said fuck it and fed it to the inside over and over again. Which led to a second half stuffed full of dunks. Ahem…
THANK YOU LONG DISTANCE JAYAWHERISMIST! THE DUNK LORD WAS PLEASED SATISFIED AND SATIATEDISH WITH THE COMPLETE DUNKSTRUCTION OF ST. LOUIE-LOUIE YESTERDAY! THE SECOND HALVESIES WAS FULL OF DUNKIN’ AND FUNKIN’ AND FUNKIN’ AND DUNKIN’ THAT DUNKTOPUS NEEDED TO HAVE SOME HELP STANDING UP! LIKE A SOUTHERN PERSONS IN A TENT REVIVAL, I WAS PASSING OUT FOR THE DUNK-LY SPIRIT! THE HIGH PRIEST BLACK WAS ALL OVER THE FLOOR, MAKING THE RIM SAD FOR HAVING WOKEN UP THAT MORNING! THEN, MAGNAMAGNAMAGNA BECAME HIGH PRIEST BLACK’S ACOLYTE AND BEGAN TO ETCH HIS NAME IN THE TEN COMMANDANTS OF THE DUNK! DUNKIN’, FUNKIN’, FUNKIN’, DUNKIN’! ST. LOUIE-LOUIE WAS SAD THAT THE BASKETSBALL ENDED FOR IT IMMEDIATELY BECAME ADDICTED TO DUNKS AND IS SAD WITHDRAWLING FROM LACK OF DUNKS! GET SOME DUNKADONE AND PREPARE FOR MORE SACRIFICES TO THE DUNK-LORD EARLY TOMORROW MORNING!
Always a peach, that DUNKTOPUS!
The Bad: Our defense in the first half was pretty hard to watch. Lot’s of horrific switches that led to open shots by the Colonels. There was one in the first that was particularly egregious, saved only by the fact that Knipp missed his shot. After David Foster Wallace forced one of the seemingly endless turnovers we gave up yesterday around 8:30 in the first, EKU ran a short little play. Nothing too fancy. However, Hinrich Mathers covering the corner man and Francis Mason, Renegade Cop covering the top of the key left Knipp dead center on the wing. Both of them looked at Knipp when he got the rock, made a quarter step towards him, then turned back to their own guy. Knipp, probably shocked that he was that fucking open, had the time to set his feet, getting into a perfect flow, and throw up a shot like it was shootaround. Yeah, sure, Knipp missed, but you can’t just say “fuck it” and, you know, not cover that motherfucker.
Eleven turnovers. That’s what we managed in the first half (we ended with just 14, which makes it look like we weren’t that bad). That’s unacceptable, especially when the competition ramps up. That’s a pretty obvious statement, but if we end up coughing it up that many times to Florida, we’re toast. Coming out of that funk against the Colonels is easy-ish. Coming out of it against a higher caliber opponent…well that’s a different can of worms.
Remember when we made the title game in 2012? Remember how Toupee pulled out all the stops, in terms of defensive strategy to great effect? Flipping the switch to like triangle-and-two? That sort of thing. Looks like that kind of defensive switching works really well against this year’s vintage, especially when you do different zone looks. We dribbled into the paint, despite the fact that we could see the four dude’s hanging out there, converging on the ball handler. I don’t know why we didn’t try to fake the drive and just jack an inefficient jumper. At least if we hit a few of them, it might have gotten them out of zone.
Withering Bill Self Quote of the Night: Wouldn’t want to give out positive reinforcement to the Man of the Match, would we Toupee?
“I thought we responded as a group.”
Sure, a group named Traylor.
Man of the Match Award: Magna took this one running away. Going for 17 points, 14 boards would have been enough, sure, but he had the play of the game. The kind that ends the opponent’s will to live. At about the 8:55 minute mark in the second, he grabbed the board, then put it in with a little hook (that might have been over the back…), got a foul call to shoot an and one2. That was the moment when you knew the game was basically over. The Colonels had been playing hard and they never gave up, but that moment was when you felt like there’s no way we lose that game. Someone cared enough to make a huge play, in an important game, and to have success at it. Everything after that was gravy3. So, for statistically and literally killing it, Magna’s getting the award. Keep it up, big man, and you could write yourself into the annals of God’s History.
Looking Ahead: Stanford Cardinal. Pretty sure we win, only because we’re Jayhawks and they’re a single Cardinal. What? Oh, you mean it’s a tree? I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please tell me what you’re talking about? I don’t give a shit about wood, I’m a chemist! We got this one. I think. I hope. I don’t fucking know.
1 – Also, everyone talking about how Wichita State ripped the guts out of a nobody yesterday, so did we. That’s, technically, what the high seeds are supposed to do. I don’t understand this need to belittle the Shockers from KU fans. I don’t hate, nor love WSU, but I’m also going to root for them since they’re from Kansas. Getting all high and mighty on Twitter and shitting on them and their fans makes us sound like Duke fans. I know, I know…we win a lot. And I’m as guilty as anyone of being a total dick about Kansas basketball, but let’s just stop being shit bags to Wichita State. Let’s actually be the overly proud, but generous to other fanbases group that I know we can be. Back
2 – Josh pointed out that he’s getting tired of guys yelling and one after nearly every shot. I’m with him, since the absurd factor is off the charts at this point. Literally every time a shot goes up, dudes are shrieking and one. Like, the ball’s flying ten feet over the backboard and you can set your watch to the dude bellowing “AND ONE!” Maybe you don’t understand what and one actually means, but it’s a make and one free throw. It’s not free throws, nor is it when you manage to get a layup with no contact. Let’s just cool it with the “and one.” You’re not Carlos Boozer. It’s just funny when he does it all the time. Especially when he’s on defense. Back
3 – Speaking of gravy, what’s the potential for Magna to pull off a Gravey Boat this tournament? Remember when Jeff Graves spent more time wrecking cheeseburgers than he did playing appreciable basketball? Then, inexplicably, became an unstoppable monster in the tournament? Like double-double machine unstoppable? What are the odds that Jamari manages to be that guy this season? Can you imagine if he’s coming off the bench, either spelling Black or in a three-big-man-rotation-weave with Lionslayer and the High Priest of the DUNKTOPUS? And he keeps doing what he did yesterday? We’d be unstoppable with just him and Black, but throw in Embiid and…okay, calm down. Let’s move on before I stroke out here. Back