Saturday, April 05, 2008

Playin' Like Gangbusters (A Dynamite Final 4!)

Ask yourself this:

"Wasn't Calipari a lot more fun when he was the UMess head coach and his press conference was crashed by a completely-deranged, partially-restrained John Chaney screaming, 'I'll kill you! I'll kill you!' ?"

Those were the days ...

Good times, indeed ...

Nowadays, all we get at the Calipari presser is one of his star players who goes by "CDR" slouchin' at the mike as his script-lettered Judy tattoo on his neck wiggles while he talks (although we STILL can't read which items are on that grocery-list tattoo on CDR's right shoulder and bicep).

Hot Pockets?
Progresso Lentil?

Anyway, for those of us who refused the unsolicited aid of Lumpy Lunardi -- or the so-called wisdom of Stylin' Sweater Bobby (don't worry, Joe ... when it comes to wetting the bed, you're still the "go-to" guy ... and, Bobby? We'll still root hard for that Knight tradition of taking eighth-place talent and turning it into a seventh-place finish every time we see Pat) -- we aren't exactly "blown away" that the NCAA playoff championship game is how our very own bracket had it planned all along.

Kansas vs. Memphis.

It'll be the 'Zis vs. the 'Fis (as our b-ball posse calls it ... that is, if we actually had enough homeboys to form a b-ball posse) ...

The 'Zis vs. the 'Fis should come as a surprise to no one (well, maybe it is if you're somebody who believes Lumpy Lunardi when he says that Old Dominion is a bubble team ... or if you're somebody who takes seriously anything "analytical" offered by ESPN's "Old Fart Forum" as those out-of-touch white dudes play judge n' jury w/ young, black men playin' hoops).

Deep down, they might be a little rankled/peeved/irked that America will NOT see the Biblical showdown Mon. nite featuring a Caucasian named "Hansbrough" vs. a Caucasian named "Love" slugging it out in Caucasian fashion in the low post, but, hey ... Joey Dorsey will try to do the best he can vs. Brandon Rush performing to the best of his capabilities.

Make no mistake about Calipari, though. He's resistant to ever recruit/start a white dude, but, nevertheless, his African-American squad played like gangbusters today vs. FUCLA.

(Note: "Gangbusters" is an old-school term ... from an era before gangstas did lotsa gang-banging and/or executed executions, gangland-style ... nowadays, some of us old-schoolers will remove the negativity associated with gangs by remarking that a classic contest was "a real humdinger" or "a whale of a game" or that it was "outta sight," etc ... )

We don't have the time or the resources to conduct informal polls as to whether a majority of America actually was jonesin' for Carolina Blue vs. Westwood Blue in the title game in order to restore fond images of the old geezer Wooden or the legend which America has steadfastly refused to remember (his name is "Dean Smith," Americans -- and the next time ESPN is tellin' ya that Frickin' Bobby Knight invented college b-ball, remember that Knight had eight 25-win seasons at IU; Dean Smith had twenty 25-win seasons at UNC) ...

Good gravy ... where were we again (before ESPN pissed us off for the 78th time with unending Digger/Knight/Vitale rhetoric and hyperbole ...)?

Oh, right ... we were pondering that fine kettle of fish ... Roy Williams' former team goin' to the title game by, ummm ... beating Roy Williams' current team (to be specific: that's the white Roy Williams, not the black Roy Williams who used to play for the Sooners and the other Roy Williams who was a Longhorns receiver in those few Red River Shootouts which featured Roy Williams vs. Roy Williams ... ).

Anyhow, because Roy Williams' former school beat Roy Williams' current school, we'll see if the big bucks that Roy Williams earns is justified.

That's because it is in defeat where all good Tar Heels learn valuable life lessons, such as what it means to let down the families of Jason Ray (the student who used to dress up in the UNC ram costume and jump around at games ... that is, until he was struck by a motorist and killed at last year's regional finals) and Eve Carson (the UNC student body president who was gunned down for no reason last month).

It's about "Coach" offering more than home visits and X's and O's.

It's about providing a coping mechanism in order to best manage grief and despair.

Wait a sec! Hold the phone! U

Let's all huddle up and acknowledge that while the Jaywalks scored 40 points in the game's first 13-plus minutes tonight vs. UNC, it was scarcely less than one week ago -- in the regional-final victory which got 'em here (vs. Davidson) -- that those high-flyin' Jaywalks scored a whopping 6 points in the game's first 9-plus minutes (in a delightful and joyous demonstration of exactly how NOT to put the pumpkin into the peach basket).

***(And then God spoke by stealing the voice of John Facenda and He bellowed: "Great teams aren't always great. They're just great when they have to be.")

Maybe it's a tad cliche -- and, is it our imagination, or do Roy Williams-coached teams run that axiom in reverse?

In case Digger hasn't told ya yet, Roy Williams is runnin' neck-n'-neck with Bob Stoops as the Master of the Big-Game Meltdown.

Roy Williams and Bob Stoops are the same in the sense that they guide "apparently" outstanding teams to a very high level -- and then watch (along with the rest of America) as those teams crash-land in the final game of the season.

Or implode.

Or get their doors blown off (or whatever the kids are callin' beatdowns nowadays).

For Stoops, it began with that epic, Big XII title-game baffler in '03 -- the 35-7 loss to K-State one month after the 77-0 win over A&M.

A year later, it was the horrific, 55-19 demolition in the BCS title game vs. USC (a score which would've been 85-7 if Pete Carroll hadn't shown some compassion and taken his foot off the gas pedal) before the Boise State/Fiesta Bowl fiasco to begin '07 and the West Virginia/Fiesta Bowl fiasco to ring in '08 ...

Roy Williams is cut from the exact same cloth (and, we're guessing that the cloth in question here is everbody's fave: "valour").

Williams, like Stoops, doesn't merely end his season with a hard-fought, "they-outplayed-us" showcase.

Roy, like Bob, prefers gettin' spanked for bein' oh-so-naughty.

His most-famous Kansas Kollapse was that decomposition before our very eyes five years ago -- when his Jaywalks reached the title game against the b-ball anti-Christ (Boeheim) and watched as his team hit only 4 of 20 threes and only 12 of 30 FT.

And the Jaywalks STILL only lost by 3.

Like Stoops, Roy Williams has that one national championship ring which he can wear at backyard barbecues or happy-hour engagements (remembering, of course, that Stoops won in '00 with many of John Blake's recruits while Roy won in '05 with many of Matt Doherty's recruits).

Anyway, it's up to every one of Roy Williams's gang of true believers to determine if falling into a 40-12 hole tonight was any worse than last year when, after Marcus Ginyard sank those two free throws to put UNC up, 75-65, with 7:19 to play in the regional final vs. the Hoyas, Danny Green missed a 3 with 6:31 remaining ...

Just before Wayne Ellington missed a 3 with 5:18 to play (UNC up, 75-68) ...
And then Ty Lawson missed a 3 with 4:43 to play (UNC up, 75-70) ...
Which preceded Reyshawn Terry missing a 3 with 3:03 to play (UNC up, 77-74) ... and Ellington missing a 3 with 0:05 to play (UNC tied, 81-81) ...

All of that before OT when UNC missed three 2-pointers in the first minute ... before Terry missed a 3 with 2:29 to play in OT (UNC down, 87-81) ... and Ellington missed a 3 with 1:27 to play in OT (UNC down, 89-81) ... and Green missing a 3 with 0:49 to play in OT (UNC down, 91-81) ... and Terry missing a 3 with 0:36 to play in OT (UNC down, 93-81) ... and Lawson missing a 3 with 0:26 to play in OT (UNC down, 93-81) ... and Ellington missing a 3 with 0:12 to play in OT (UNC down, 95-81) ... before Lawson MADE a 3 with 0:08 to play in OT (UNC trimming its deficit to 95-84).

Before Terry missed a 3 with 0:01 to play in OT, blah blah blah ...

Recapping the blow-by-blow "clank"-ness of that implosion remains a real treat.

A team which had been judicious and prudent with its 3-point selection (4 of 7 from "beyond the arc" through the first 32 minutes) suddenly decided to visit Dickie V.'s Brick City, USA, bayyyy-beeee.

And, it happened because, like with a lot of b-ball programs which can't shoot straight, there wasn't a coach to use his Huckleberry Hound voice to guide the children with, "The next person who takes another 3 is going to win a very special prize -- and that reward will be me busting open your skull and re-decorating this arena with your brains."

Hence, that 12-plus minutes of last year's season-ender matches up nicely with tonight's 13-plus minutes of foolishness (only, this time, the guy in the UNC ram mascot didn't pay the ultimate price).

What we continue to learn (or forget) about Roy Williams, the more we watch him (or ignore him), is that he's nearly as clumsy a game manager as His Holiness, ShuhSheffSkee ("shhhhhh ... don't tell Dickie V. or Digger or Bobby & His Sweater ...").

Tar Heels, like Blue Devils, are wired to follow "a format" or a directive prescribed by "Coach" -- which is why they look confused and disoriented (as if they've been huffing floor wax or insect spray) when it's time to make something called "adjustments."

The body language is almost always the same.
It's known as "NowWhaddaWeGonnaDo, Coach?"

This is why the Florida Gators provided some genuine enjoyment during their runs to the national championships in '06 and '07.
We saw some team chemistry (and swagger) to go along with all of that talent.

A (real) coach can help nuture that.

Some might argue that Billy Donovan could've taken a siesta in his chair and still won with the NBA-ready skills of Noah, Horford, Green and Brewer, although others might beg to differ.

With UNC (and Duke), it's a completely different look when, in the Tar Heels' case, Ol' Psycho Soft-T isn't bustin' loose for 38 points on 21-of-23 shooting from the foul line.

For those of us not into that scene, it was fun to watch -- UNC going w/o a basket from the 13:34 mark until 4:32.
It was fun in the sense that it was one of life's little guilty pleasures ... y'know, like when you're playing Spider Solitaire on company time just before ya stretch an hour lunch to 78 minutes.

Seriously, though ... when it's the No. 1-ranked team in the nation (in theory) -- which has won its four NCAA playoff games by an average of 25 points -- gettin' thumped by 28, it's a powerful statement about what kind of a nation this is (and our pussycat No. 1's).

All that was missing was Simon Cowell saying, "That was an absolute trayyyy-nnnn wreck. Dreadful ... just bloody awful."

Nine minutes w/o a basket ...

Enough with the revisionist history and genius coaches who can't get their X's to beat the other team's O's.

What made tonight's KU-UNC ballgame epic (and Biblical) was that some of us viewed it on one of those 106-inch projection TVs w/ hi-def which ya hear about all the time.

What magnificence.

It marked only the second time we'd ever seen anything on a screen the size of an aircraft carrier (the other occasion occuring in Jan. '05 ... Jets @ Steelers in the AFC playoffs).

Kinda makes ya wish that the boss-lady you're sleepin' with would OK a pay hike so that we could augment our love nest.

Of course, once ya start talkin' 'bout 106-inch TV screens, ya start thinkin' 'bout equiping it with one of those Wii systems.

With the Wii apparatus, the game gets interesting (and interactive) when the Jaywalks' Cole Aldrich slashes down the lane and then throws that dunk off the back rim -- yet, there "we" are with Wii ... grabbing the rebound of that missed dunk, spotting up near the free-throw line and then swishing the straightaway, 15-footer ... before offering a cool-and-confident look and maybe giving Billy Packer a quick wink as we hustle back on D.

Then, while the SurroundSound is providing a deafening roar from the fans, Wii would allow us to walk to the front porch (instead of to the bench) during the TV timeout, plopping down to enjoy a smoke (instead of listening to Coach rambling on and on about how we gotta stay focused, yadda-yadda-yadda ... ).

FOR THE RECORD, "yes" ... Hansborough looks so vivid and lifelike in hi-def when he's performing in his usual state of awkwardness and spasticity.

Unfortunately, the record states that, "no" ... there's simply no place to put Clumsy T on our All-Time UNC All-Star roster which exists in here (pointing to head) and in here (pointing to chest).

No, seriously ... does anyone in his right mind (by "right mind," we mean anyone whose brain hasn't been polluted by the several hundred PR fluff pieces re: Clumsy T) believe that Hansbrough should start on the front line ahead of Worthy, Perkins or Brad Daugherty? (definitely ahead of Doherty, but not ahead of Daugherty, no way ...)

How's he gonna get playing time off the bench occupied by George Lynch, J.R. Reid, Stack n' 'Sheed, not to mention swingman Walter Davis? (don't forget the Greyhound, people)

Hansbrough is a nice player -- but, a "special" player? C'mon ...

We don't know if he's better than Kupchak, for chrissakes. For one thing, there ain't a player in the ACC with Hansbrough's size who has skillz any better than a juco player from yesteryear. If Joe Wolf faced opponents this feeble, he'd've averaged 27 and 15, no lie.

So, while Hansbrough already got his #50 retired before UNC officials came to their senses and retired Pete Chilcutt's #32 or Serge Zwikker's #45, the fact remains that Clumsy T can't make the All-UNC Heroes roster.

No country for old men, so it seems ...

Oh, and for the record, "no" ... we didn't waste 106 inches of big-screen magnificence watching Coach Cal impose his anti-Love ways.

The freshman Love Child -- who seems destined to be "One And Done" rather than "Two And Through" -- had five shots in the second half, his only basket of the final 20 minutes occurring on a putback with 15:15 to play in the game.

It's a fact: Collison, Westbrook, Shipp and Mbah a Moute were all a little "iffy" and unreliable this season (as that nailbiter against an EXTREMELY ordinary Texas A&M demonstrated).

For those who watched Joey Dorsey of the 'Fis doin' his damage inside, it was mighty obvious that FUCLA needed a powerful (or violent) answer from Nikola Dragovic.

NO! ... not from Nikola Dragovic, the 6-foot-8, 215-lb., pre-business/econ. sophomore who was born on Dec. 20, 1987 in Podgarica, Serbia-Montenegro to Vitomar & Svetlana Dragovic and who wears #41 for the Bruin baksetball team -- but rather from Nikola Dragovic, the 6-foot-3, 256-lb., political science senior who was born on June 9, 1985 in Vista, Calif. to Zeljko & Adriana Dragovic and who wore #96 for the Bruin football team during his final season last autumn.

No offense to Vitomar & Svetlana Dragovic's 6-8/215-lb. bundle of joy, but Love needed somebody with the bulk and the fury of Zeljko & Adriana Dragovic's 6-3/256-lb. skull-smashing offspring.

Alas ... this is not the story of FUCLA's "Dragovictory" because, ummm ... holy crap! Joey Dorsey had 15 rebounds and zero (0) points???

That's always a difficult concept to grasp ... crashing the boards and not scoring on a putback or a follow-jam.

Because of such soft play inside by Mbah a Moute and Aboya -- his fellow Cameroonian -- those two Bruins probably cost themselves any chance of being selected to any unsanctioned, NCAA-based/Africa-oriented, 3-on-3 tournament ... which is OK, given that Texas' Alexis Wangmene, Western Kentucky's Boris Siakam and Villanova's Frank Tchuisi are probably CAMEROON's best bet to collect a third-place ribbon against MALI's trio of Mohamed Tangara (Arizona), Cheick Diakate (Va. Tech) and Konimba Diarra (Charleston Southern).

(** The title game figures to be a blockbuster pitting NIGERIA's Idong Ibok of Michigan St,. Churchill Odia of Oregon and Kenechukwu Obi of DePaul against SENEGAL's Ousmanne Barro of Marquette, Samba Fall of Gardner-Webb and Papa Dia of SMU -- that is, unless Senegal opts for it's big lineup of the two 7-footers, Bamba Fall of SMU and Mamadou Diene-Yeumbeul of Baylor teamed up with 6-11 Ibrahima Thomas of Okie State).

That's the tricky thing about college b-ball in '08 -- Samba Fall or Bamba Fall?

Nobody knows for sure.

Well, if nothing else, at least Hansbrough can wear his "2008 NCAA Playoffs National Semifinalist" T 'round Chapel Hill.

And, for the members of FUCLA's '95 national champs with the funky names -- guys such as omm'A Givens and J.R. Sakuragi (who was "J.R. Henderson" in '95 until changing it last year when he was granted Japanese citizenship) -- they can shake their heads and wonder if dumping Lavin and his 54 lbs. of hair gel was worth it.

For the rest of America, we've got #00 (Darrell Arthur) goin' against #0 (Shawn Taggart) on Mon. nite.

Yippee-kiy-yay ...

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