Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Quickie Thoughts on Kansas-Memphis

1. At the end of the game last night, I was hoping that the focus of the post-game analysis would be on Kansas making some terrific plays to get back into the game, capped by a phenomenal shot from Mario Chalmers to force overtime. I was hoping that the focus would not be on Memphis "choking." Based on a scan of the radio dial and the AJC sports page, I was wrong. The focus seems to be much more on Memphis losing the game than on Kansas winning it. That's pretty unfair to Memphis, who are being penalized for being good enough to have put themselves into the position to blow a lead in the first place. The Tigers played really well to go from 47-44 down to 60-51 ahead against an outstanding team. They then missed a few free throws down the stretch that wouldn't have mattered if Mario Chalmers wouldn't have channeled Scottie Thurman. If Chalmers misses, then Memphis is exalted as a great champion, a 39-1 dynamo that won the most loaded Final Four in history (at least in terms of seeds). Because Chalmers makes the shot and then Kansas keeps right on rolling in overtime, Memphis are chokers. Makes perfect sense to me.

2. I really enjoyed the game last night. I didn't do a bracket this year for the first time in about 20 years because: (1) I don't know much about college basketball anymore; (2) college basketball is a shadow of its former self in a number of respects (the best players only spending one year, the prevalence of flopping as a concerted defensive strategy, and the meaninglessness of the regular season are three reasons that come to mind); (3) Michigan sucks; and (4) I'm tired of listening to boobs in the office discuss their brackets endlessly, as if I care or am impressed that they knew about Western Kentucky all along. (The only more reprehensible behavior among men in an office environment is discussion of their golf games.) I have to say that not doing a bracket was a liberating experience. I didn't have to participate in any of the banal "I got this right!" discussions. More importantly, I was able to watch games without having my rooting interests complicated. I was able to watch Memphis and Kansas play last night without worrying about who I picked or would the result make me smarter or dumber.

I also enjoyed the game because it was played at a very high level. I've found a lot of college basketball games this year to be close to unwatchable because the level of play just isn't very high. Last night, Memphis and Kansas rolled a bunch of excellent players out onto the floor and they went at each other for 45 minutes. The defense and rebounding were especially good. Every basket was earned. The game was somewhat defensive, but not in a Big Ten/Battle of the Somme sort of way. It was defensive because the teams were really athletic and up in each other's faces. They also stayed on their feet for the most part, which I appreciate. Speaking of which...

3. Do Carolina fans realize that their team flops almost as much as Duke does? With the amount of mockery that UNC backers make of Duke players for tumbling whenever an opponent gets in the nearest area code, you would think that the Heels play defense by, you know, staying in front of their men and contesting shots. Instead, UNC is led by a 6'10 white guy who never tries to block shots, but instead flopped (by my count) five times on Saturday night. You're 6'10 and you draw charges instead of trying to block shots? How manly of you, Psycho-T. (Keep in mind that UNC was the first team I ever hated because my first sports allegiance was Virginia basketball in the early 80s when Ralph Sampson played for the Hoos, so I'm not entirely objective on this point.)

4. I might be the only person who thinks this, but Billy Packer, warts and all, isn't a bad color guy. He does go off on weird tangents, but the themes he drove home on Saturday night (Kansas's weak side defense was killing UNC) and last night (Derrick Rose needed to assert himself more, which he promptly did in the run that put Memphis ahead late) were spot on. Packer was also right when he noted that the Memphis players were leaning backwards on their late free throws. Generally speaking, Packer does not fall into the trap of deciding the story lines before the game. He actually pays attention and dissects what's going on on the court. Do the Packer haters not realize that that is actually somewhat rare these days? And isn't the fact that fans of every program consider Packer to be biased against their teams actually a sign that he's doing his job properly?

5. To my untrained eye, Kansas is a weird team. They have several good post players, several good lead guards, and relatively few dangerous swing men. They're the reverse of the Hawks. Isn't it much easier to find a swing man as opposed to a good point or center?

6. Maybe Florida has set the bar too high, but how many schools have had a better year in the two major sports than Kansas has this year? 12-1 and Orange Bowl champions in football; 37-3 and national champions in basketball.


Anonymous said...

hippi hi Hyypia!

And Anfield goes beserk..

Kanu said...

Alright, dude, I'm now the biggest Barcelona fan in the world, so Forca Effing Barca!

My 2006 SE9 blaugrana jersey will be coming out in full force over the {hopefully} next 6 weeks.

Hobnail_Boot said...

Agree with all your points except for #1.

Memphis had a 9 point lead late and missed several free throws, any of which would have won the game. It doesn't matter that Chalmers' shot was circus-like; what matters is that the Tigers allowed a scenario to develop where a circus-like shot sends it to overtime.

Caliapari choked by not calling a T.O. to ensure his guys were fully aware of the situation. The team is guilty of not making said free throws or fouling UK at the end.

Memphis should be praised for having a great season but to quote Nelly, "2 is not a winner".

Fox said...

I agree. Sure Kansas made plays but they never would have gotten the chance if Memphis hadn't collapsed like a house of cards--Memphis went shockingly cold, Douglas-Roberts gagged two trips to the line (after inviting a foul no less) and they jacked and missed a slew of thoughts.

Absolutely agree on Tyler and the level of play. People should check out an NBA game, then switch to a college one--the difference is appalling.

The problem (or maybe just my problem) with Packer is that he's a miserable old man who criticizes everyone and everything. Yes, he knows the game inside and out and his points are right on but he picks up on all the things people do wrong while rarely praising the good stuff. I'm not looking for Dick Vitale or anything but Packer acts like the people on the court are dirtying his pristine image of what a game should be or something.

So when are you going to chime in on the ugly rumors circulating re the beginning of the Rich Rodriguez era.

Michael said...

Kanu, your team got royally hosed.

Fox, what rumors? The fact that our offensive linemen never had to lift or run under the old regime and now they're leaving when they don't get coddled. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be upset about.

Jeff said...

Mostly those rumors. I took them the way you did--that Carr was running Club Med and Rich wasn't doing that.

But also the whispers about the kind of program Rich ran at WVa (read, like FSU in the '90s) now that the two biggest lawbreakers in the NFL, Henry and Chris Henry, are both proud WVa alums and they brought in someone with a track record like Devine. I guess the hope is that Rich wouldn't need to go there since Michigan is easier to recruit from but that doesn't sound like a Michigan man to me.

Michael said...

Supposedly, Henry and PacMan were model citizens at WVU and then went nuts after they left. From what I can tell, RR's S&C coach, Mike Barwis, ends up as a father figure to a lot of players, so they behave when he's around and promptly make it rain after he's no longer in their lives. Barwis and RR sure seem to stay on their players' asses, so the end of Club Med will probably be good for the team's discipline, at least for the first several years.

Before we go down this road, you might also consider acknowledging that Beamer doesn't exactly have a sterling record for producing model citizens.

Jeff said...

Oh, no question about Beamer's inability/unwillingness to discipline. But VT doesn't pretend to be Michigan.

I may be wrong on this but I think there were questions swirling around Pacman heading into the draft. (I have no clue about Henry since he wasn't a big prospect.)

I do love your new strength coach though. Those videos of his rants are hilarious.

Michael said...

As soon as I posted my response, I figured that a "we don't pretend to be Michigan" counter was coming. I opened myself up to it.

What I think happens with Henry and Pacman is that they come in as character risks and Barwis manages to keep them under control for three years. They probably have red flags from outside conduct, but they at least behave when they are under Barwis.