Thursday, March 25, 2010

Electing Herb Pope

I was originally going to put together a post for the first couple days of the tournament. Then I started drinking with my Dad at 10 am on St. Patrick’s Day. Then I decided it would be a good idea to eschew my mid-afternoon drunken nap and meet up with some of my degenerate friends (Ask Greg about these people, I’m the most responsible and respectable person among this group of friends…by a WIDE margin) for more drinking. And then I was in bed by 7:45 pm on St. Patrick’s Day. All in all, it was a great day. Just not a day that was very conducive to getting anything productive done. So, with that in mind, here’s my take on the NCAA Tournament so far as well as some thoughts on the upcoming slate of games.

- I've said it in the comments before, but take a look at Tennessee PG Bobby Maze when he's at the foul line tonight. I've never, ever seen a high level athlete who wanted to be another athlete so badly (save for Kobe Bryant). Maze dribbles like Allen Iverson, wears his hair like Iverson. He even has multiple tattoos that are identical to Iverson. It's kind of creepy.

- It’s no secret that I’m in the bag for Ali Farokmanesh, but just in case you aren’t, here’s something you might not know about him that should (repeat, should) make you love him more: He used to babysit Idaho Football Coach Rob Akey's kids in Washington. G:TB obtained a copy of the list of requirements to submit an application to babysit Rob Akey’s kids. There was only one requirement: BIG BALLS.

- While we’re on the subject of juevos, there is something that’s really bothered me since Saturday night. The notion that the shot by Farokmanesh that effectively sealed the Kansas game, was a terrible shot. Ummm, no. It wasn’t. I understand why people are saying that (time and score), but ask yourself this question: If Farokmanesh pulls the ball out and Northern Iowa sets up their offense, are they getting a better and/or more wide open shot than what Farokmanesh had? I say no. In fact, with the way Kansas had turned up the heat defensively (and the way Northern Iowa’s poise seemed to be melting away), there’s a very real chance that Northern Iowa wouldn’t have gotten a shot off at all. Was it a ballsy shot? For sure. A bad shot? Nope.

(One more thing: The shot that Farokmanesh hit to beat UNLV was a tougher, more pressure packed shot than the clincher versus Kansas. The shot against UNLV came with under 6 seconds left, the scored tied and UNLV’s defense set. The shot against Kansas looks better/tougher because of who it helped beat.)

- Speaking of NCAA Tourney stars whose names most people can’t correctly pronounce, maybe it’s time for all those people who killed Joakim Noah’s game during Florida’s second tournament championship run to acknowledge how unbelievably, totally and completely wrong they were about him. If you re-did that draft today he definitely goes in the top 5 and probably the top 3. Say what you want about him personally but the guy is already one of the league’s top rebounders, plays hard every night, does all the little things and is a proven winner. There was a point when people compared his game to Anderson Varejao (and it wasn’t really that far off). Other than hairstyle, I don’t think we can make those comparisons anymore. Noah could be a starter on a championship team. Shit, Noah may even make an All-Star game or two before it's all said and done. Neither of those are ever happening for Varejao, certainly not without LeBron involved.

- This has been a great tourney. One of the best that I can remember. But TJ’s right, a few more nut punches would really put it over the top.

- You know what’s going to be a great game? When Greivis Vasquez and Sherron Collins’ teams face off in the Spanish League Playoffs next year.

- With all the upsets during the first two rounds, there’s been a lot of talk about how the NBA’s age limit rule has changed the college game and the dynamics of the tournament. This is true. However, the effect of this rule that I find more interesting is the long term effect its had on a number of so-called mid-major programs(Butler, Xavier, Gonzaga...even Vanderbilt (technically not a mid-major but definitely not your typical power conference school). What we are starting to see with many of these mid-majors is a run of continued excellence, not only in their conference but also out of conference and in the tournament that establishes them nationally.

These teams are building sustainable programs by using their national success to gain greater exposure to recruits (where before they could only recruit regionally, at best) which allows them access to a wider range and higher level of recruit than in ever before. And while these recruits are higher level recruits than these schools once attracted, they are still the kinds of kids who are going to be in school for 4 years. This allows coaches to mesh young talent with experienced talent and (in the cases of Butler and Xavier) while incorporating their systems which only serves to further raise the profile of their program through consistent tournament success. This sustained success then leads to the ability to create a brand for their programs in much the same way high-major schools like Duke, Kansas and North Carolina have created brands for their programs. Gonzaga built their brand prior to the age limit rule but both Butler and Xavier have seen a significant boost to their programs in the 3 years since the NBA's age limit was instituted. This model is obviously still in its infancy but we could eventually see a school like Butler, Xavier or even a CAA school use this model to build their program past the level of high-mid major (I need a better name for these programs) and up to the point where their program joins the nation's elite. While this will take many years, and some luck, its a real possibility in basketball due to the relatively small amount of money needed to run a successful, high level program as well the low number of players involved.

One potential offshoot of this model: With the current model in place, one could make the case that's its best for a mid-major coach to stay at his school for the long term (10+ years) and build a brand for his program before (maybe) taking a high profile job at an established basketball power, as opposed to taking the first high major job that comes along because, as we've seen with Dan Monson (Gonzaga to Minnesota) and Todd Lickliter (Butler to Iowa), if they end up at a school that struggles to meet the administration's expectations then the coach will end up fired and working back at a mid-major school with 4-5 years. Only now, they've downgraded to a downtrodden mid-major school and are left with an even bigger rebuilding project then they ever had at their original school.

- Now, that The Wire has been off the air for so long, it’s just nice to have a guy named Omar back in my life.

- Did you see Hoop Dreams? If you did, you no doubt remember William Gates’ prick of a high school coach, Gene Pingatore. Yeah, well, he’s still coaching. In fact, he coached Evan Turner (and Demetri McCamey) in high school. Is it just me or did that guy look like he was in his 60s during Hoop Dreams (which was filmed almost 15 years ago)? Does he prowl the sidelines with a walker now? Or is it just his cryogenically frozen head propped on the scorer’s table?

- Is Ekpe really any more of a name than LaceDarius? And while I'm talking about Baylor, how can you not root for a team whose backcourt consists of a Tweedy and a LaceDarius?

- There's a popular sentiment that the Carrier Dome is going to be overrun with Cornell fans tonight due to the close proximity of Syracuse and Ithaca, therefore giving Cornell a huge homecourt advantage over Kentucky. I couldn't disagree more. Kentucky fans travel. I mean really, really travel. Like midwestern College Football fans travel to warm weather bowl games. Additionally, I don't get the feeling that the majority of Cornell alums still reside in upstate New York. Certainly not enough to paint the Carrier Dome red tonight. I think you're going to see more blue in the crowd tonight and, at least in the early going, are going to see the Kentucky faithful make their presence felt in a very real way. Listen, I hate Kentucky's irrational, mouth breathing, hillbilly fanbase as much as anybody, but I also respect their irrationality and dedication. The only way that Cornell's going to gain a homecourt advantage tonight is if Big Red can keep it close late and get the neutral fans to get behind them down the stretch.

- Obviously, I love the first weekend of the tournament. Everybody does. It's a basketball orgy. However, if I'm being truly honest with myself I'd have to admit that the second weekend of the tournament is better. The teams are better, the stakes are higher and, ultimately, the games are more memorable. Sure, there are memorable moments during the first two rounds but the truly memorable games (Nova-Pitt last year, UConn-Washington '96, Duke-Kentucky '92 and many, many more) come from the Regional Semifinals and Finals. In fact, during Florida's back-to-back title runs the moment I remember most comes from the regional semifinals during their first title chase.



(I couldn't find just the clip of the shot so you're getting a 2006 NCAA Tournament/Florida highlight video. The shot appears at about the 1:19 mark. Well, not the shot but the aftermath of the shot...Noah's reaction to the shot. You'll have take my word for it, it was a great game changing shot. TJ and I looked everywhere for it with no luck. We did find a bag of farokmanesh I thought my dog ate though.)

- Finally, we finish off in the only appropriate way I could think of. With the All G:TB Team, of course.

G: Jacob Pullen, Kansas State - Awesome beard (not as good as mine) and he looks just like the guy having a picnic with his girlfriend from the Miller Lite commercial that's been running all tournament long.

G: Ali Farokmanesh, Northern Iowa
- Big balls, fun name, breakout star of the tourney so far.

G: Joe Mazzulla, West Virginia - Murdered Duke two years ago in the tourney, suddenly thrust into the spotlight with the injury to Daryl Bryant and (this is important) he's basically got the same last name (save for one vowel) as my fiancee which allows me to make any number of inappropriate jokes about her and her Italian ancestry.

F: Chris Kramer, Purdue - Because he told me he'd kick my ass if I didn't put him on the All G:TB team.

C: Omar Samham, St. Mary's - He's half Egyptian and half Irish. He used to be a fat kid and he plays basketball in low tops just like me. Need I say more?

96 comments:

TJ said...

No guy has done a 180 more on Noah than this guy. Just had to be noted.

And thank you for showing Kramer some love. Apparently he basically told Matt Painter to fuck off in the huddle last weekend before the final possession, and then just decided "hey, what the fuck, I'm winning this game" before the game winning drive/layup.

Dan said...

watching the no iowa game in a cabana poolside, with little volume, i said that farok must walk about with a wheelbarrah to carry his nuts in.

on your mid-major coaches - no. iowa fella just gut a 250K'ish bump today and a 10-year extension, with an automatic 25k bump per year. he was making 230'ish...not too shabby

urban meyer- wtf?

mark is to uf & noah as rob is to tribe hoops....hey, that's okay, don't take the wrong way - i'm just jealous.

roethlisberger - somethin shady happenin down there in joja.

i'm now at hard rock casino in tulsa - no sports book. wtf X 2.

TR said...

The Ali F trey was the correct play, as Mar states, but also b/c it was a play designed to WIN the game. If NI gets fouled, KU gets the ball down 3 or less with a lot of time left. It's the equivalent of going for it on 4th and short leading late in the game - grab your stones and go out and win the game. Not sure if Ali F was processing all of this, but his play was tremendous. That said, the game was not really clinched at that point. KU's spirit was broken, but they were only down 4 w/ 30 seconds left. A quick trey makes things interesting again. But the Jayhawks bageled as soon as that three went through the hoop.

TJ said...

I'm not sure if being at the Hard Rock in Tulsa is a good thing...or a horrific thing.

Dan said...

sorry....urban meyer....WTF?????
what a douchebag. sorry. used to be okay with him despite my envy and jealousy. he's a big f'n douchebag. whaaaaaa!!!

TJ said...

Dan, didn't you read the script? Urban pulled the penultimate season of Magnum move. It was all a dream. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

Dan said...

tj - on the hard rock, well, my options were, shall we say...limited. it's actually pretty nice hotel - the clientele leave a little to be desired but the hotel is...real naaace.

rob said...

mark, though a tattooed meth freak, dropped some quality hoops science. that analysis of the potential mid-major megaprogram is like galileo dropping an orange.

TJ said...

Wait a second...I'm only going to get that Cuse game for 20 minutes, aren't I?

We are not a West Virginia market!!!!

Dan said...

got the cuse at -6 and wv at -4....
'cuse is in the house. oh my god.
oh my god.

Dan said...

tj - hard rock tulsa not seemin so bad now is it?

rob said...

teej, no computer?

TJ said...

The email machine?

TJ said...

How 'bout we score a bucket, eh Cuse?

TJ said...

Four minutes, thirty-five seconds.

Zero points.

rob said...

syracuse knows the ball needs to do more than hit the rim, right?

rob said...

the ncaa must be thrilled with all the empty seats in the carrier dome.

zoltan said...

Very strong commenting by roberto so far.

zoltan said...

Using that length on the weak side ... silky smooth. Can you say that on TV?

rob said...

time to put the kidlets to bed, z. radio silence for a few.

rob said...

butler's really, really patient, which i expected. but they're more athletic than i thought they were.

rob said...

rautins putting the orange on his back

rob said...

teejay's decision to stop commenting because he was jinxing the orange is paying off.

rob said...

march madness on demand is one of the top 5 inventions of our time. i feel like jerry with all these screens going.

rob said...

howard and johnson both with 4 fouls. more trouble for butler than for cuse.

rob said...

man, another terrific game.

zoltan said...

I bet the Teej is paler than normal.

zoltan said...

No way.

zoltan said...

I'm older than Butler's coach? How the hell did I get so old? And accomplish so little?

rob said...

brad stevens looks like a monchichi. a young monchichi.

Dan said...

wow. wow. wow. well, come on wv. i just lost $100 playin craps...with no dice. and no, it wasn't a slot machine. it was a craps table. no shirts. no shoes. and no dice.
i wonder if that coach even has pubes yet.

zoltan said...

I don't even know where Butler University is. Texas?

TJ said...

Well, that sucked balls.

And I owe rob lunch.

TJ said...

Indianapolis. They're one win away from having a Final Four home game. Fuck me.

rob said...

aw, yeah. dubbity dub dub. mark, you can join us. i'll bring the jameson.

rob said...

z, butler plays their home games in hinkle fieldhouse, where the climactic scene in hoosiers was filmed. i don't expect to hear that factoid more than 30 dozen times over the next few days.

Mark said...

I'm on the next flight.

Seriously though, Butler's the officially the best mid-major program now, right? They've had much more tourney success than Gonzaga the latter half of this decade.

Oh yeah...sorry, Teej.

Mark said...

And Dan, yes, Urban Meyer is a douchebag. Most College Football coaches are. I'm okay with him being a douche because he wins SEC and National titles whilst doing so. Charlie Weis was a douche too and he never won shit.

zoltan said...

When did Passion Pit become ubiquitous?

Thanks for the movie/sports trivia. Why do some guys wear their headband across the top of their head instead of across their forehead? How does that help keep sweat out of your eyes?

Mark said...

And you're right. I'm completely in the tank for Noah. For any of the guys from the top 6 from those title teams really.

Dan said...

huggins is a snappy dresser

rob said...

butler's pretty close to being the megamidmajor you predict. no reason why they won't keep getting good players after this run, and if stevens stays, why wouldn't they be back?

zoltan said...

Like George Mason?

rob said...

they're unorthodox jews, z.

zoltan said...

Most folks at Mason are libertarians, actually. Very few Jews at Mason and in NoVa in general.

rob said...

butler's built more of a program than mason, and the horizon's not as tough to get through as the colonial.

Dan said...

yeah but mark, look at weis now.

rob said...

and mason caught lightning in a bottle. butler's run isn't nearly as surprising.

zoltan said...

My friend worked as a videographer the University of South Carolina. He worked for Holtz and Spurrier, and Dave Odom. Holtz is apparently the meanest man ever. Spurrier is exactly what you think he is.

zoltan said...

I agree rob. But when I was at Mason there was talk about how the Final Four run would lead to a sustainably good program with consistent sweet 16 appearances.

rob said...

what is dave odom? other than short.

Mark said...

Rob's right. Mason and Butler aren't even comparable. In terms of sustained tournament success, VCU is probably closer. Unfortunately for them, the CAA is much tougher and they've been a stepping stone for young coaches.

Mark said...

I know many people who've worked or played for Spurrier. He makes no illusions about who he is, from what I hear. And honestly, why should he?

zoltan said...

Odom's a good guy. Spurrier apparently isn't a bad guy, just ... very ... Spurrier.

Mark said...

Rob brings up a good point. It's easier to build a mega mid-major in an average mid-major conference like Butler and Gonzaga have done. When you have to play in the CAA or the MVC there are too many other good teams that bubble up when they get the right mix of talent and experience to always be the absolute best team in your conference. Though, I think its still doable if you can (at least early on) stay a top 3 team in a really competitive and highly rated mid-major conference that has a solid RPI. With those circumstances you still put yourself in the position for a tourney bid even if you don't win your conference tourney.

rob said...

this second game, somewhat less terrific.

zoltan said...

Game theory applied to mid-major college hoops. Only at G:TB. You would think they'd be all over this at Mason though.

zoltan said...

Huggy Bear with a little dap!

Dan said...

does anyone else have a dis-affinity for the courts that are used in these games? have they been uniform like this for a while? i don't remember. no panache.

TR said...

Chris Mack needs to work on his pep talks. Gene Hackman he ain't.

zoltan said...

K-State isn't effing around.

rob said...

i hope we're getting the cornell/kentucky game here, because this one's gonna be over before halftime.

Mark said...

Jacob Pullen is playing in the game AND on the commercials.

TJ said...

Why can't we get Gus Johnson to work Amen Corner? Could you imagine him on Sunday?

Mark said...

So, uhh, yeah, maybe I was wrong about this Carrier Dome crowd.

rob said...

ridiculous shot by wittman

Mark said...

Hi Teej!

TJ said...

It's Demarcus Cousins as Ogre vs the Nerds.

Mark said...

Xavier, down 4.

TJ said...

The MLS decided to kick off their season tonight? Great idea fellas.

TR said...

Isn't Cornell-Kentucky going to end well past Enberg's bed time? I hope he's wearing his Depends.

Mark said...

Wall's passing is very underrated. He's a much better passer than either Rose or Evans.

TR said...

First Kenny Walker reference of the night. I'm gonna bet it's the last as well.

TJ said...

Patrick Patterson...who knew he had range.

rob said...

too many empty trips for cornell

TJ said...

Bledsoe with "a scooper".

rob said...

unless kentucky loses their intensity, they're gonna run away with this.

rob said...

too much

Mark said...

Seems that way. Wall's making me look smart. I love Evan Turner, but with the way the NBA is currently constructed I can't see how you don't take Wall with the first pick.

TJ said...

Game
Over

zoltan said...

Game. Blouses.

zoltan said...

Perhaps they should switch to the other game...

rob said...

that was a man-sized block

Mark said...

Xavier-KSU is getting Gustastic.

Mark said...

Wow. Enormous fuck up by Kansas St.

zoltan said...

How did all that happen?

Mark said...

Big FTs by Holloway. And I disagree with Elmore, Clemente didn't try hard enough to foul Holloway initially.

zoltan said...

Jordan Crawford looks scared.

zoltan said...

But I guess he isn't.

zoltan said...

Ridiculous.

zoltan said...

No way.

rob said...

oh. my. god.

Mark said...

Holy Shit! This game us phenomenal. Jordan Crawford has huge balls and Gus Johnson may have just wet himself.

Mark said...

Gus is on fire.

zoltan said...

Crawford has serious cajones, but his facial expression is the same as my cat's en route to the vet.

zoltan said...

I can't wait to see the boxscore tomorrow. I feel like I've only seen one missed 3-pointer since the final minute of regulation.