Hoopaholic’s Gazette: It’s Championship Week

Bucknell, Boston U, Colgate — Oh how I love watching you ball when a trip to the Dance is on the line.

But, I gotta start with some quotes.

Including my perennial favorite from Bill Raftery, who years ago was asked what it was like prepping for the NCAA tourney when he was coaching Seton Hall.

“I don’t know. We never made it to the tournament.”

Insert Buddy Rich rim shot here.

Along the same lines, Seth Greenburg offered his own personal take on his experiences with Selection Sunday, during a halftime interlude recently.

“48 times my teams were on the bubble. 48 times we were left out of the bracket.”

Buddy, hit it one more once.

OK, this back and forth on PTI between Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon doesn’t have anything to do with the bubble or Selection Sunday at all, but it should bring a smile to Louisville Cardinal fans everywhere.

Talking about a certain ability of Denver Nugget pivot Nikola Jokić, the conversation went like this.

MW: “Jokić is the best passing big man since . . .”

TK: “. . . Wes Unseld.”

MW: “Wes Unseld, the best passing big man of all time.”

Rare is anything agreed upon unanimously by aficionados of any sport, any craft, any discipline. But . . . Unseld as best big passer is universally accepted as a given.

Butch Beard is most grateful.

 * * * * *

OK, so John Beilein is seen in an Austin real estate office, closing on a mansion at the edge of town, in advance of his being named Shaka Smart’s replacement as coach of the Texas Longhorns.

Then, after five straight Hook ’em Horns Ws, including road victories at Texas Tech and Oklahoma, Beilein was seen at the local Lowe’s purchasing “For Sale” signs.

Then, in their regular season closer, the Burnt Orange were firebombed at home by Okie State, 81-59. After which, Beilein was spotted on his new front lawn, removing the signs, and trying to return them for a credit.

Ah, life on the bubble.

Oh yeah, the Longhorns meet Chris Beard’s Red Raiders in their Big 12 tourney opener.

I’m expecting a tightly contested game, to say the least.

 * * * * *

Lest you for a moment fail to understand how serious matters are between now and 6:00 pm this Sunday next for teams unsure of their post season situation, consider this quote from Indiana Hossier coach Archie Miller from theathletic.com:

“When I was in the Atlantic 10, Joe Lunardi was my best friend,” Miller said, referring to his time coaching at Dayton. “He used to help me all the time. Now I’m at Indiana and he needed to crap on Indiana the other day just to get people to watch Sesame Street. Go back in the trash can where you came from.”

Sounds like Archie’s a little nervous, and might I opine, a bit testy.

 * * * * *

I’m now of the belief there are two types of Bracket Thieves.

Felonious. Misdemeanious.

Take the A10, for example, where the nation’s darling Dayton Flyers are now slotted by most bracketologists as #1 seed after San Diego State fell in their league tourney to Utah State. None of Dayton’s conference mates is slotted for the Dance, though Richmond is considered close.

So, let’s say the Spiders win the league conclave. That would be a misdemeanor bracket theft, since they mighta coulda made it otherwise. But, were LaSalle’s 15-15 Explorers to get on a roll and magically win the tourney title, that would be Felony Bracket Theft in the 1st Degree.

Stay tuned, my fellow hoopaholics. This college basketball season has been so psychedelic — Some would blame the brown acid — we know something we’ve never experienced from an alternative universe is going to happen.

 * * * * *

Consider Northern Iowa.

In the Panthers regular season finale, they battered Drake in Des Moines by the not so close score of 70-43.

The league rivals met again six days later during Arch Madness, the Mo Valley’s magnificently dubbed league tourney, Drake won by 21. That would compute as your run of the mill everyday 48 point turnaround.

Now N Iowa is slippin’ and slidin’ on the bubble.

 * * * * *

Providence has a major push to goin’ on.

Yeah, Ed Cooley is working his late season magic again. But I’m giving credit to the Friar mascot.

Have you seen this guy? He’s the antithesis of Loyola Chicago’s Sister Jean. He’s the Grim Reaper in a frock. Think Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” trolling the sideline.

He’s enough to freak even the most confident baller on the other team.

Yeah, there’s the late season emergence of grad transfer Luwane Pipkins, who tallied 27 when the Friars upended ‘Nova, and 23 in their W over the Musketeers. But, just sayin’, don’t look at that Friar mascot too long. Nightmares will ensue.

 * * * * *

I know a lot of my readers are tired of even hearing the actual name of former Cardinal coach, He Who Is Now Known As Coach #2.

So, I’ll just make mention of this and move on without further comment.

There’s a most interesting article at theathletic.com about his tenure with the Boston Celtics.

 * * * * *

We know the game has changed, right? Become threeball-centric.

Yet, every once in awhile some visuals put it in perspective.

In advance of the NC/ Duke game last week, the World Wide Leader showed replays of vintage matchups in the series each afternoon as a leadup.

At one point early in the 2d half of the ’97 game, when the three point line was still that short one initially used, Duke had only attempted 9, making 6. In Dean Smith’s final season, his Tar Heels at that same juncture had netted 0. In 0 attempts.

It is fair to note that Dean did not have guys fanning out to the corners on fast breaks.

 * * * * *

For reasons having to do with my addiction to college hoops and a peripheral connection, I’m also following the DIII fortunes of the top-seeded Swarthmore College Garnet.

I recently read an article how the program has ratcheted up, how they fell in the national title game last season to Wisconsin-Oshkosh — Am I required to insert “b’gosh” here? — and how they were undefeated this regular campaign until falling to Johns Hopkins in their finale.

Plus I recalled that my oldest rival (and good pal) on the hardwood — I’m talking 6th grade Biddy Ball — noted local attorney Jon Fleischaker, who started for the ’63 Seneca HS state champions, played collegiately at the small Philly school, known for its academics.

From such tenuous associations, does fandom spring.

The Garnet gemstoned opening weekend of the DIII tourney. 85-51 over Brooklyn. 86-78 over Ithaca. Next up: Whitworth in the Round of 16.

 * * * * *

Alright then, I’m back to wrap this baby up.

Just took a break to watch the end of Iowa at Illinois in Sunday’s last college game.

Winner gets a double bye in B10 tourney, loser doesn’t.

With 11:00 or so to go, the Fighting Illini had an 16 point lead. Or, was it 18? Anyhow, the Hawkeyes cut their disadvantage to a deuce. And had the ball out of bounds under their own hoop with :01.6 on the clock.

Illinois survived when rookie pivot savant Kofi Cockburn blocked the shot of national POY wannabe Luka Garza.

Whatta game.

Whatta a month to come.

Whatta a sport, this college hoops.

Wash your hands.

— c d kaplan