Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bracketology: Day Three and Four

So, every day on ESPN, they joke about how their brackets lay in shambles. "A mostly finished to-do list." Huh. That's too bad. Mine, by contrast, are doing pretty awesomely. I'm cooking at 35-13, with 6 of my final 8 still alive and all of my Final Four. In other words, if i was in your office pool, I'd be kicking the ass of at least 80% of the field.

Huh. Just like ALWAYS.

Right now, though, comes my major period of worry. If I'm going to lose a Final Four pick, it will most likely happen in the next two days, because that's when my guys are facing their most significant tests. So, by this time tomorrow, I'll be crowing or weeping.

Here's something I can't explain. How did Prince get mixed up with Carlos Boozer? Seriously, I want to know. I have always thought of Prince as being pretty fucking cool. I mean, I saw him do his guitar hero thing playing "Fury" on SNL and I thought to myself, "No matter what syrupy nonsense this guy turns out while he's playing out a contract or divorcing his latest piece of background dance ass, in the end, he makes that guitar lay down and beg!" Now I learn that he's all entangled with Carlos Boozer, a weak-kneed punk who got his ass beaten routinely by Travis Watson every time they tussled." He's so soft going to the rim, he makes the stick legs of Manute Bol look like the Iron Giant. And Prince has got him on speed dial? Damn. That sucks. Because anyone who has got Boozer on speed dial is a loser. Except for maybe Carlos Boozer's mom. Though even then, everyone knows that the ultimate dis in the "Your momma..." universe of insults has always been: "You're momma is Carlos Boozer's mom."

That's just fact! Kelly Ripa!

Here's someone else's mom who's got to be disappointed. Billy Packer. Oh, man. He's the whipping boy. He and the haircut known as Jim Nantz. Packer's needed the beatdown ever since he dissed St. Joes back on the Selection Sunday where they got a one seed after essentially winning every game they played. He wouldn't have had the guts to do that with Phil Martelli in the room, I can ASSURE you.

It's plainly awesome to see Wichita State and Bradley step up to forcefeed Packer his ass. It's even better to see them in the next round after dispatching the overrated denizens of the so-called major conferences: two from the Big East (Hofstra stayed home so the Hall could get in? Crazy.), one from the Big 12 and one from the SEC. Of course, in the case of Kansas and Tennessee, they won their conference tournaments, and couldn't be denied their slot.

That's what kinda makes the George Mason story so sweet. Michigan State getting in the field of 64, is representative of the REAL problem with the way Selection Sunday goes down. They are the very model of a major conference team that has its seat kept warm for them despite finishing a season of no real accomplishment. Seventh place finish in the conference, 8-8 record, 22-12 overall...YAWN. A resounding chorus of SFWs. The only advantage I thought they had --and it was a significant concern--was that GMU was benching their second best player. How wrong I was! Michigan State proved themselves to be every bit the college basketball nobody I suspected they were. Mason beat them with one hand tied behind their backs!

And the truth is, if Michigan State had been left for the NIT, I promise you, outside of their students and faculty and staff, NO ONE WOULD HAVE CARED.

And, uhm, don't get me started about Maryland. Lose at home to Manhattan? I think we can all agree now that there never really was a bubble.

If you haven't seen Mason play this year, or in the tournament (where they've turned in, HANDS DOWN, the two most entertaining and invigorating performances of the entire tournament), let me tell you something important. They aren't winning on gimmickry. This is not a team that sets up from the three point line and hopes to longbow you to death. They don't have some freak ass offensive style or bizarre zone or sell-out press. They just straight up play face-to-face roundball, utterly classic and recognizable. They board you and they body you and they avoid fouling and they hit their shots and they don't care about your conference or your accolades or your mystique. They got down early to UNC in the next game, needed a reminder from Coach Larranaga (former assistant to Terry Holland BY THE WAY) that UVA beat UNC this year, so there's no reason in the world to think that the Patriots couldn't simply beat the Heels into submission, which is precisely what they spent the entire second half doing.

After Mason made the field of 64, sportwriters crushed themselves trying to be the first wag to wittily intone "no one outside of Fairfax knows much about the Patriots." Here's some truth: I'm very sorry, but circa this past basketball season, no one outside of East Lansing, Michigan truly gave two tugs of a dead dog's dick about Michigan State. Absorb it. Accept it. And accept the fact that underdog lovers have all got their radar tuned to Mason now.

Of course, we cared about North Carolina. We were forced to care about North Carolina. "Oh, me, oh, my! What will Roy Williams do? He lost all his starters to the NBA! Poor, poor, Coach Williams!" Oh, how awesome it was, wasn't it, the way UNC rebounded from losing all those players to make the tournament! You'd think it was impossible! Well, reality check: I say, fuck Roy Williams. It's not like he had to fashion a new team out of David Noel and the parts from a disassembled lawn mower. He got to basically say: "Okay, who are the twenty-five best basketball players coming to college next year? Good, I'll take seven of them." This guy won Coach of the Year? Jeezy creezy. That's like me winning a Nobel Prize for remembering how to use stairs.

Anyway, next round is the one that'll cut my bracket to ribbons. But if it comes at the hands of a George Mason or a Bradley, I'll grab the scissors with a song in my heart and a smile on my face. Go mid-majors! (Except Memphis!)


PK said...

The line that had me sputtering about Carolina during the ACC Tourney was one where the commentators were lauding Rayshawn Terry - "he's the first player ever to not start a game one year, and make 3rd-team all-ACC the next". They were acting as if this meant he had really improved, when what it really meant is: "Last year, the 11th-best player on Carolina's team was an all-ACC caliber guy." I mean, how do they NOT win games?

Jodasm said...

I think it's a stretch to say MSU didn't deserve their bid. They were a ranked team almost the whole year, they had a top 20 RPI, and they beat Arizona and BC in the preseason, the Zona win coming a day after the three overtime loss to Gonzaga. Hell, they destroyed Wichita State in December. The fact that they would even schedule Wichita State is one of the reasons they get rewarded with tournament bids - a win is expected, and as their postseason run shows, is not guaranteed.

Anonymous said...

People forget that three of the top seven scorers for Carolina were Melvin Scott, Jawad Williams and Jackie Manual, who were all solid basketball players but not exactly All-ACC caliber and absolutely NONE of them are playing pro ball. And Reyshawn Terry still didn't manage to knock any of the three of them out of the regular rotation. So yes, I do think it's a feat that the kid came on so strong after very little playing experience and two years where he couldn't boot Williams, Scott or Manual from the rotation. (Esp. Manual- the kid played solid defense, but he couldn't throw it into the ocean!)