Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Twenty Things I've Learned So Far in the NCAA Tournament: Part 1

Well, the first (though I'm not counting it) is that there's really no point in trying to predict the outcome of the individual tournament games. First off, everybody and their in-laws is doing it, and secondly, um, I'm just not very good at it, as evidenced by the two previous posts. So, with that in mind, here's the first edition of Things I've learned So Far in the NCAA Tournament:

1. Stephen Curry can/will be a good NBA player. I was of the opposite opinion going into last weekend. Simply put, because he's a small (for college) shooting guard with average athleticism, I didn't see how he could carve out a niche in the pros. However, after watching him for the last two games it's become evident that he's a better ballhandler than I'd previously given him credit for. In addition, he moves extremely well off the ball (like a smaller Kevin Martin). If he sticks around at Davidson for two more years and continues to improve his handle and strength, I could see him being similar to Jason Terry in the NBA. If not, with that jumper, he's at least as good as Jannero Pargo.

2. Duke needs to successfully recruit talented bigs. For all the talk about Duke relying on the 3 too much this year, two things stood out to me through their two tournament games. First, their inability to guard the else do you explain Joe Mazzulla (or Renfroe from Belmont) consistently driving the lane on them? Secondly, Coach K has to figure out how to recruit true big men with talent to Durham. Some may say, that he hasn't recruited for size in recent years, but that simply isn't true. In recent years, he's brought in stiffs like Brian Zoubek, Eric Boateng and Michael Thompson. None of these players have lasted/will last at Duke and the result is that Duke is trotting out players like Lance Thomas and Kyle Singler at the 4 & 5 much of the time. If Duke's going to get back to the top, they'll need at least one big time post scorer and defender (see: Brand, Elton or Boozer, Carlos) to complement the seemingly endless array of jumpshooters that Coach K lures to Tobacco Road.

3. Roy Williams is a douchebag. Actually, I've known this for quite some time. A decade to be exact, ever since Roy Boy had Eddie Fogler call out Billy Donovan for allegedly shady recruiting tactics in the recruitment of Mike Miller. Make no mistake about it, Williams is Bobby Bowden. A lying, deceitful coach who gets over on the media and gets a free pass from many fans with his "aw shucks", good ole boy antics. (Plus, he's pretty overrated when it comes to X's and O's). Was there any good reason for Roy to have his starters in while up 30 with 4 minutes left against Arkansas? Of course there was...Roy Williams is a douchebag.

4. Washington State is the one underdog who nobody really roots for. Sure, you'll root for Wazzu against UNC, but you can bet your ass that you'll be rooting against them in the regional final on Saturday. And you know what? I don't blame you. While their style may be successful and they truly are one of the few major conference teams that can be classified as an underdog, they're nearly as painful to watch as 2 Girls/One Cup. There's just not anything aesthetically pleasing about watching this team advance deep in the tourney. One Bennett coaching in the Final Four (Wisconsin, 2000) is enough for this quarter century, thanks.

5. The ACC is weak. I hate to admit it, but its true. Though I attended an SEC school and grew up in the south, I was raised watching ACC basketball. Back when ACC basketball was the very best the country had to offer. Sadly, that's not the case these days. Too many schools are up and down from year to year and too often the league gets a pass because people erroneously think that its top teams are elite nationally (Duke, UNC) and thus cause more parity in the rest of the league than we see elsewhere. Now, if Clemson doesn't blow that big lead to Villanova then maybe I'm singing a different tune this week (and my bracket looks significantly better) but there's no denying that the ACC is down, and has been since it sent both Maryland and Duke to the Final Four in 2001.

6. All assists are not created equal. To prove this, I point to the games played by Drake's Adam Emmenecker against Western Kentucky and Stanford's Mitch Johnson against Marquette. Johnson posted 16 assists in an OT win to Emmenecker's 15 in an OT loss, but to compare these two games is ludicrous. Emmenecker controlled the game and set up his teammates all day long while handling the ball 80% of the time. Meanwhile, the majority of Johnson's assists were nothing more than lobs into Brook Lopez from 20 feet away, like the pass that set up Stanford's game winning bucket. Futhermore, Johnson wasn't even bringing the ball up court during most of the second half on Saturday. Now, I'm not saying that Johnson didn't play well. He certainly did, and anytime you can notch 16 assists to just 1 turnover its certainly an impressive feat. However, Emmenecker was practically an instructional video for point guards during his brief tournament stay while Johnson was, well, a brief post feeding tutorial.

7. AJ Price sleeps with a black cat underneath a ladder. I have no idea if this is true, but it might as well be. The poor kid just can't seem to catch a break since he arrived on campus in Storrs. After suffering a brain hemorrhage that nearly killed him his freshman year, he fought through adversity and self doubt to emerge as the Big East's best PG this season. He was the reason (along with Thabeet) that UConn seemed poised to return to the national stage this March. Of course, Price tore his ACL while driving for a layup against San Diego. UConn lost and now Price has a summer full of torturous rehab ahead of him. Here's hoping he returns healthy and sans any stolen computers.

8. Its not just PAC-10 refs who want to collectively blow UCLA. I mean, come the fuck on? The no-call against Texas A&M was ridiculous. I genuinely think UCLA is a good team and have a growing man crush on Darren Collison, but, at some point I'd like to see them earn one without the benefit of a call (or no-call) during the crucial moments of a game. Furthermore, why is everyone so damned sure Memphis is the weakest #1 seed when UCLA keeps barely escaping losses in the past month? Is Memphis' free throw shooting that much more worrisome than UCLA's stagnant offense and late game luck?

9. JP Prince will never, ever play the at Tennessee point again. Bruce Pearl moved Prince, the SEC 6th man of the Year, into his starting lineup on Sunday against Butler in order to give his team more size and versatility and also because Ramar Smith has been increasingly inconsistent late in the year. And you know what? It worked out great...until the last 1:30 of the game. That's when having Prince at the point nearly ended UT's season. Prince turned it over on three straight possessions late in regulation, thereby allowing Butler to send the game to OT. Of course, Pearl chained Prince to the bench in OT (quite possibly literally) and Tennessee went on to victory. I don't think you'll see Prince running the point tomorrow night against Louisville, but I do think the lack of solid PG play will be what keeps the Vols from going to San Antonio.

10. Butler got hosed. This doesn't need much explanation. I mean, can anybody really say they think that Butler deserved to get stuck not only with a 7 seed, but also in the East? Maybe Billy Packer or Jim Nantz but those guys molest collies so their opinion ain't worth much. Sure, Butler could've won against UT if they'd made more FTs down the stretch in regulation, but they shouldn't have been in that position. They deserved at least a 5 seed, and probably higher. Its too bad one the best 16 teams in the country isn't playing this weekend because the committee didn't bother to look past RPI and SOS long enough to watch Butler play. We've come a long way in terms of the amount of respect mid-major programs receive but clearly, we haven't come far enough.


TJ said...

That's a lot of words...let me print this for my second office.

Mark said...

I figure I ought to write a lot since I write once a week, at most.

Jerry said...

Washington State really looks like a mid-major team.