Soon enough I shall get to the several Shining Moments at the end of this truly championship-quality championship game, one which should have been played somewhere deserving, at Freedom Hall or the Palestra or Cole Fieldhouse or Hinkle or anywhere hoops worthy other than a cavernous pigskin palace in football country.
In a moment, maybe, maybe not, I shall join the crowd and extol the virtues of Kris Jenkins rising to the considerable occasion, Ryan Arcidiacano living out his dream, Jay Wright’s exemplary game plan and its execution, the Tar Heels’ resolve, Phil Booth’s amazing performance off the pine, Joel Berry’s opening half play, the contrasting reactions of MJ and Rollie in the stands, the Jenkins/ Britt brother against brother angle, and all the other storylines inclined to stick with us about the most exciting NCAA title tilt ever.
But first, I must admit, my thoughts the morning after are not of my resounding “Holy Shit!!” at the buzzer, or, frankly, the game itself. What I couldn’t get out of my mind were the words of a Carolina coach.
And it’s not Roy Williams, who was after the L in his cloying good ol’ Southern gentleman wish I coulda done more for kids mode. Continue reading Hoopaholic Heaven: Tit for Tat & the Title
Hopefully we are in for a treat tonight, what with the indisputably best two teams in the land vying for its One Shining Moment, whoever might be warbling that iconic tuneage when the confetti’s flying.
We should finally be able to make some sense of this cockamamie season — Remember when we were worried about the legacy of SMU, should the Mustangs have finished undefeated? And this weird tourney. You know Northern Iowa’s choke job against the Texas Aggies was as bad as it could get . . . we were so very sure . . . until Oklahoma laid down in the semis.
Through all the ups and downs since November, while filtering through wannabe flavors of the week, Villanova and North Carolina have been the most consistent. It’s far from every year that the top two are left standing to compete on the final Monday.
Didn’t happen last season, even though a couple of #1 seeds tangled for the title. Nor, certainly the year before, when a #7 beat an #8 for the crown. Perhaps the last such tussle, the two best tilting toward title town, was UK over Kansas.
No matter. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: The Best Two are Left
Of all that numbers that are of some significance during this cockamamie college hoops season in which stats have seemed less relevant than usual, that’s the one that stands out to me.
In early December, in a made for TV, made for the Pearl Harbor commemoration tilt, the Oklahoma Sooners reenacted the kamikazee bombing from WWII, the victims of which aerial attack were that day. a seemingly hapless Villanova Wildcat squad.
The Cheesesteaks fired up thirty something treys, hit but a handful, and came out on the short end of the final score by . . . 23 points.
The teams met again on the final Saturday of the season in a cavernous football stadium for a right to contest the national championship. The 44 point turnaround smackdown suffered by the Sooners made that December beatdown look like a slap on the wrist.
In a way, that December slaughter in Honolulu made a Nova W inevitable last night. Not that anybody could have possibly seen Oklahoma’s crack up coming. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Final Four Musings
What’s gotten lost in the imperative that is the historical in hindsight relevance of that culture shifting NCAA title tilt in College Park in ’66 is . . . the game itself.
For years, when the topic of Texas Western’s “upset” of Kentucky comes up, to impose some sort of hoops veneration it would seem apparent, I have lorded over those listening, my attendance in Cole Fieldhouse that night.
Then, as I did just the other day in this space, I’ll offer that I do not recall any buzz at the time about the all black starting lineup for the Miners vs. the all white squad of the Wildcats. I certainly don’t remember seeing any Confederate flags in the gym, as fictionalized in a recent movie about Don Haskins and that championship team of his.
I do remember whom I went to the game with, some frat brothers. I do remember that three of us went to a museum that afternoon in D.C. — the Phillips Collection, where I stood mesmerized by Renoir’s “Luncheon at the Boating Party” — while the our pal went to play the ponies at Pimlico.
I recall seeing Louie Dampier and a couple of teammates walking around the team hotel that afternoon in shirts and ties.
But, but, but . . . I recall very little about the actual games that weekend — it wasn’t yet called the Final Four — and how they were contested. Continue reading Texas Western/ Kentucky: What About the Game Itself?
If I didn’t know better, I’d have to believe some of these tourney games were contested in MacArthur Park.
Northern Iowa. Stephen F. Austin. Ever to the threshold but never beyond Gonzaga. The usually preternaturally resolute Wisconsin Badgers, outscored 8 zip in the last :19 seconds, not even making it to OT.
They all melted in the dark.
The biggest surprise of all choke jobs: the Charlottesville Wahoos whose game like the cake of Richard Harris was left out in the rain?
Tony Bennett’s team has Ludvig Von play mastered, they’re classicists. When they hit all the scripted notes on the staff, it’s a thing of beauty, a veritable sonata. There is a beauteous resonance when they are in control.
Such as they were Sunday evening, fiddlin’ their way to the Final Four, up 14 with ten to play, doin’ their Beethoven thing, when, well, when Jim Boeheim got in touch with his inner rock & roller — Who knew? — and the Orange went all REO Speedwagon on UVa.
The Cavaliers did not ride the storm out. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: From 16 > 8 > 4 & the Coaching Carousel
Of course, I wanted Northern Iowa to win.
Small school from Mo Valley. Double figure seed. Won their opening rounder on a mid court miracle. A W Sunday would have meant the SEC woulda been ofer the Sweet 16, not that it would matter to the league schools’ fatcats (except in Lexington).
So, yeah, I was rooting for them in their Round of 32 tilt with the Texas Aggies, for whose supporters, hoops is truly a minor diversion until spring pigskin practice.
But, gimme a break, the Panthers meltdown — Correct descriptor: Choke Job — was EPIC. Unprecedented. The worst in NCAA history?
The worst ever in the history of the sport? (There are reports that it is indeed the biggest last minute comeback ever, though that’s hard to pin down, even in this age where everything that ever happened ever is chronicled on the www.) Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Whew, What a Weekend!??!!!
And, I don’t mean just Wichita State, which has proven yet again — as if we shouldn’t have already known — how nice it is to have a senior, tourney-tested backcourt.
Especially when, like Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, the guards are really good and mesh with each other like gears on a Ferrari.
And, yeah, there’s Little Rock and the Whiffenpoofs. But more about them, and other stuff, after this public service announcement.
Which is in response to The Most Shocking Phenomenon of The Whole Opening Day of the Dance.
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After Kentucky throttled Stony Brook in its opener, setting up that delicious Round o’ 32 battle with the Hoosiers, several Wildcat players were severely perplexed by the absence of the Big Blue Nation in Des Moines.
I mean, really, what is up wit dat? Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Shockers Abound on First Thursday
Here’s what you won’t find here:
Any NCAA tournament predictions.
Consider me a spoilsport, an outlier, whatever, but I don’t fill out a bracket anymore, haven’t done so for, I dunno, five years or thereabouts. Haven’t applied for a job at Dairy Queen, in order to enter Warren Buffet’s sweepstakes. Haven’t entered the $5 pool at my old office, the one I used to run.
Truth be told, I can’t recall ever coming close to winning one of those pools, even though I watch more hoops from November on than the population of most medium sized cities.
I just love the game, love the tourney, savor the madness.
So, no upset specials. No parlays, though I’ve got a comment about one that’s intriguing.
So, what you get here are a few observations, some snarky comments, and the passing along of some interesting peripheral info about the Dance, which shall have only karmic relevance, if that, to who(m) has that One Shining Moments several Mondays hence.
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The final dance is in Houston, right? Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Bracket Babble & Other Ruminations While Dressing For The Dance
Here’s what we know for sure as Championship Week gets in full gear, these seven holy days leading to the sacrament that is Selection Sunday.
Here’s what are certainties before Sparty or Rock Chalk Jayhawk or the Canes or the Wahoos or — oh how I hate to type these words — or the Wildcats or those other Wildcats or those other other Wildcats or the Sooners or the Tar Heels or the Hoosiers or the Quack or the Terrapins or the Musketeers or the Golden Bears or some more improbable outlier has it’s One Shining Moment that penultimate Monday Night soon to come.
We know that the Whiffenpoofs are singin’ loud and proud at the tables down at Mory’s. The Eli of Yale have broken the Skelton Curse, and shall be dancing for the first time since ’62. Which annum was the year before Louisvillian Mike Skelton, Waggener High teammate of Paul Long and Keith Thomas. Skelton is the Mamie S. Wildcat who matriculated in New Haven and joined the hoops squad. Thereby casting a pall over the program that has taken 54 years to overcome.
We know that Austin Peay has already given us a great from out of nowhere story. The Governors needed to win their last couple regular season tilts to make it into the OVC tourney. Where they won four straight, including defeats of the top two seeds, to nudge their record a game above .500 at 18-17. And, punch their tickets to the Dance.
The Govs presence means there’s a chance, a beneficent Naismithius willing, that the single greatest cheer in the history of the sport will be heard. If only just one more once, so the AP Nation can honor its greatest player Fly Williams.
“Fly’s open, Let’s go Peay.”
Oh, pray that it be so.
Oh, have I mentioned how I love this time of year? Continue reading Hoopaholics Gazette: All Hail Championship Week
If you haven’t heard, sports fans, the administration of University of Louisville Athletics, or some higher school power — James Ramsey and/or Tom Jurich and/or a Secret Committee and/or Outside Legal Counsel with/without the acquiescence and/or approval of Rick Pitino — has/have seen enough evidence that he/they deemed it wise to declare the men’s basketball team out of post season competition.
It was a preemptive strike, obviously meant to circumvent any such future penalties the NCAA might impose in response to the Herricane Katina allegations, and to display some institutional contrition with the purpose to lessen any other prohibitions the governing body might declare.
The immediate effect has been to punish the current squad, none of whose members are reported to have been recruited illegally, nor feted with strip shows or paid sexual favors in Minardi Hall.
That the current young and inexperienced Cardinals have overachieved has exacerbated the emotional commotion of the fan faithful in response to the declaration. The team is led by two grad student transfers from mid-major schools, neither of whom has previously participated in the NCAA tournament, each of whom came to U of L with the firm prospect of doing so, and neither of which shall have another chance to compete in the Dance.
(Perspective: How do you think the Cleveland State and Drexel fans felt, when their seasons were skewed, eliminating any chance to fill out a dance card, because Trey Lewis and Damion Lee decided to forego their final seasons at those schools, and bring their talents to Louisville?)
So Louisville fans, for the most part, are up in arms.
There have not been torch and pitchfork parades heading to the President’s official residence on Longest Avenue . . . yet . . . but . . . stay tuned. The dialog is getting more Trumpian by the hour. Continue reading Post Season Pandemonium: One More Look at U of L’s Self Penalization