Tuesday, March 11, 2014

#1bid4wmtribe Perspective

Marcus Thornton elevated with the ball in his hands and a chance to send William & Mary to the NCAA Tournament.

If you give any one of us that scenario before the season starts, we take it without hesitation. In fact, we'd take it with giddy enthusiasm.

He rose from the right wing, taking a shot he makes with regularity, a shot he'd basically just drilled two minutes prior, not an easy shot, but one less difficult than the one he made to beat Drexel.

He said if felt good coming out of his hand. His coach said it looked good in the air.

It was thismuch too long, bounding off the back rim and away.

Sports, man, they'll gut you.

In the pain and disbelief of that last moment, it was easy to forget that this team fought back from a 12-point second-half deficit against the league's clear regular-season champion. That they earned a champions victory over Towson in one of the greatest semifinals in league history. That they came back from the brink in the quarterfinal against Charleston.

It was easy to forget Omar Prewitt driving for a layup that all of a sudden became a one-handed throwdown that sparked the second-half comeback. Easy to forget Tim Rusthoven's 8-for-10, 16-point performance, and Daniel Dixon's stellar defensive effort. Easy to forget the brilliant Thornton's efficient 22-point effort, and Terry Tarpey's gritty work on the boards.

Perspective, in the moment, was hard to come by.

Much will be made of the Tribe's 3-for-11 performance from the free throw line, and much probably should be made of that number. And W&M's inability to stop Delaware's mammoth Carl Baptiste inside was probably the single most important factor in the game. But the Tribe shot 52.5% from the field (to the Blue Hens' 43.5%), and they outrebounded Delaware, 36-34. The Hens' explosive guard trio of Davon Usher, Devon Saddler, and Jarvis Threat combined for 42 points, but they missed 21 of 36 shots, and the defense of Brandon Britt, Dixon, Thornton, and Tarpey held the three well below their overall scoring average.

It says something to me that we're so disappointed, and that the team seemed to feel the same way. None of us were just happy to be there like we were in 2008 and 2010. We thought we should win. The Tribe went toe to toe with the league's two best teams over the past two nights, and they found themselves equal to the task.

Or perhaps, a quarter of an inch less than equal.

There's another place in which a little perspective might be in order. We've placed so much emphasis on the bid, that we've forgotten how far this program has come. As we walked out of the Baltimore Arena last night, Delaware celebrating on the court, we passed John Leone, a member of the Tribe teams that went 9-45 my first two years in Williamsburg. I made eye contact, and shook my head. He looked stricken, just gutted by the moment.

But W&M has made three finals in seven years after a recent history devoid even of hope. We're brutally disappointed today, but there will be a tomorrow. As Tony Shaver said last night, "The thing I get angry about is people trying to define whether or not you made the NCAA Tournament as whether you had a good year. If our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament, we can move into a conference that has the same academic restrictions we have. We choose to play at a higher level. I think that's admirable to be honest. We're not going to let the NCAA Tournament define our team." (We're grateful to Defiantly Dutch for finding us that quote.)

In 2003, the New York Yankees came from behind to beat the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on an Aaron Boone walkoff homerun. That's the worst I ever felt after a sporting event. Second worst, I guess. But one year later, that pain was long forgotten.

Shaver closed his press conference with something I hope I'll being to feel better about soon, saying, "We had a great year, and the future is very bright."

It's a simple game.

So why does it hurt so much?


T.J. said...

what he said

nice post, tiny

Marls said...


Good times last night gents. So close to great times...

zman said...

Boone's homerun was pretty dope, actually.

Mark said...

If you don't read Stephen White on SB Nation you should start. Former NFL player who writes about football. Lots of in season film breakdown. He's been doing tape study on draft prospects recently and wrote about his personal free agency experience today.


mr kq said...

Not to open any wounds but... Anyone else think the last drive by their big man could have been a charge? Guess one could make a case of a good no call at that point but I don't know.

Sam Partridge said...

I hate to do this, but I'm throwing out a black with reason on these comments.

I appreciate Squirrel's words about what it means and how far the program has come and I hear what coach Shaver is saying but guys, the Tribe had a 6 point lead with 90 seconds to play. It doesn't get any better than that! Those kinds of opportunities don't come along often, especially for a program that is trying to go dancing for the first time.

There's no way to sugarcoat the fact that it was an epic collapse in the face of history.

And yes, I understand the connections to the 2003 Sox, I had the same thoughts after the game ended last night, but it's a flawed comparison for the simple reason that Shaver can't decide who he wants to bring back next year and maybe add Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke to the mix. THe Tribe loses six seniors and they are critical players. No, this was an opportunity that needed to be seized and it simply was not.

What makes it all the more painful was how inspired an effort it was. I don't think I've ever been prouder of a Tribe team. The comeback over Charleston, the gutty win over Towson and the resolve in the 2nd half to fight back last night are almost unrecognizable for a team from the Burg, but it was a treat to watch. It was also the toughest I've seen a Tribe team play on the boards and helping each other on defense. And Thornton, who has a shot to be the leading scorer in Tribe history and may be the best player in school annals, was tremendous last night in spearheading the comeback.

However, and I hate to say this, but Thornton was the key factor in losing the lead in the final minute. First, after the Tribe goes up 6, he allows his man to blow right past him for a layup. Then, as the Tribe tries to beat the press, he turns passive and lets the 10 seconds almost run out before throwing a heave to Rusthoven. THe ball eventually got to Prewitt who was fouled and missed a free throw but Thornton needs to be smarter there in attacking the press and has to hustle up court to try to get the ball back in his hands because he is the guy the Tribe wants at the line.

Sam Partridge said...

Next, after Delaware cuts the lead to one, what is Thornton doing taking a quick jumper with 20 seconds left on the shot clock?

On the winning Delaware hoop, Thornton is between Baptiste and the basket and tries to draw a soft charge that was never going to be called instead of fouling the big man and making him earn it at the line.

And finally, I know Squirrel wanted the ball in his hands on the final shot, but the leading scorer in Delaware history gave it up on the last possession and when Thornton effectively drew three defenders, Rusthoven was standing in the middle of the lane wide open with noone between him and the basket.

The nice thing is that I expect this Tribe team to play again this year, considering that there are now 148 postseason spots in college basketball and with 20 wins and a solid RPI plus their performances on TV the last two nights, I have to imagine they get picked. But that doesn't change the fact that the opportunity they had last night will never come along again.

As Marlin and I said repeatedly yesterday before he headed to the game, "Just one time." Just give we one Selection Sunday in front of the TV wondering where the Green & Gold were heading. It was right there, and frankly, the way this team has come together and with their ability to shoot, I think they could have had some fun against the right team in a first-round matchup. But now we'll never know. And that's what's lost. It's not about pride, effort, program integrity or anything else. It's about showing everyone that we finally belong. That we finally made it. That William & Mary has shown it can be done.

Am I confident that we have a better chance to win a CAA title now than in the past? Sure, because the three best programs left the league. But there's a reason that the Tribe hasn't won 20 games in back-to-back seasons since the Reagan administration or that Shaver is one of our most successful coaches yet 135-201 in his time in Williamsburg.

Players like Thornton and moments like last night don't come along very often. When they do, you need to grab them, because sometimes they don't come around again.

My hope is that the 'stache is right and we should all be wearing shades, but I really wish the bells of Wren were ringing today and that the hoops ghosts from 1904 forward were toasting history.

Ebirt Og

Danimal said...

I thought the same thing initially, but in the end I think a pretty good no call. Was interesting that the announcers didn't even mention the possibility of that (or a block) being called during the replay.

I thought, as I said last night, that the last play lacked urgency. It seemed as if Thornton? thought there was more time on the clock than there was. In any event, a very good game & season. I actually felt for you people last night. Going to be a nice squad for a year or two.

Shlara said...

That was a Norman Dale "I love you guys" game last night.

Sam Partridge said...

There wasn't enough contact to make the charge call on that play. The bigger calls were the fouls that were whistled on Delaware's two previous possessions, neither of which appeared to involve much contact, especially on the three point play that cut the lead to 1.

Mark said...

In more pleasant (for me at least) CBB news, Florida won SEC Coach, Player, Defensive Player and 6th Man of the year awards today. Not all that surprising considering the season Florida had but impressive.

Ill probably write about it at some point but its amazing that Scottie Wilbekin was SEC POY in the context of the type of career he was projected to have at Florida when he arrived on campus at 16 years old.

TR said...

And you KNOW Baptiste had stinky body odor. Important to mention that.

zman said...

Careful what you say about Baptiste, Miss Claudette might cut you.

rob said...

i hear you intellectually, sam, but i'm not there. to nitpick the final few possessions loses the context of the entire thing.

i don't think it was a collapse. i think delaware made plays and we didn't. prewitt missed a free throw. it happens. thornton missed a jumper, but it was a good shot within the context of the offense when up a point. if we bleed time and have to shoot a pressured late-clock shot, that's no better. delaware's guards are really fucking good, and they got to the rim twice. and nobody in that gym was stopping baptiste.

rusthoven was open, but there were two defenders who would've closed on him - it wasn't a gimme. you and i both know that we want thornton taking that shot. and he got a decent look. no complaints there from me.

you're dead right that the tribe's effort makes it more painful. they deserved to win that game. they deserved to go to the tournament. that fucking sucks.

mr kq said...

Must say it's very similar to supporting the Ireland Rugby Team. Who play for a chance this "Super Saturday" to win the 6N in Paris. Where they never win.

Clarence said...

It was definitely a collapse. Not the Blazers, not MD to Duke with a minute left, not the Mets in '07 or the Sox a few years ago, but it was a final sequence or four that reeked of choking dog.

Does that mean the Tribe had anything less than the best season I've ever seen them play? Nope. It was amazing.

What it means is that since about 9:30 last night it's been misery, sports fan style. It sucks to get so close and be denied. Shaves' presser notwithstanding, next year is a million miles away and watching the tournament is going to feel a little like sitting on your nut.

I watched the game at the home of one of our board members, a Tribe footballer from the early 80's. He has a beautiful home on the river in Newport News. Somewhere in the conversation among a few of us earlier, he mentioned that Mark Kelso is one of his best friends. After the game, all I could think of is that either Kelso knows what denial near the mountaintop is way more than we do... or that this is fucking bullshit to pile on the guy at this point.

rob said...

we can argue semantics all day, i guess. it stinks and it sucks and it stinks.

rob said...

did clarence complain about deleting a comment that he didn't delete and then delete the complaint? 'cause that's a collapse.

Clarence said...

Also, I am drinking at the Yorktown Pub with an Englishman. My jokes are being met with many a smirk. Last couple of horrible gags lobbed up: Hey, John, surrender some of those nachos. Are those tortillas flour or Cornwallis? No, really. He loves it. Any suggestions for terrible puns welcomed.

Clarence said...

Yes, Rob. Me not work computer telephone good.

rob said...

have a limey with your corona? that's a crowd-pleaser.

rob said...

could ask him if he wants to play rochambeau

rob said...

blaine gabbert, gone, danimal. weep for him no more.

rob said...

hey garden staters, why would jersey ban tesla dealerships? what kind of crooked nonsense is this?

zman said...

Standard Jersey crookedness.

rob said...

but what's the story?

T.J. said...

Jamion Christian and The Mount going dancing. He's about to be one of our Unit M pal's most sought-after clients

rob said...

jamion is the guy who recruited marcus to williamsburg. one more reason to root for him.

zman said...

NJ law requires cars to be sold by franchises not the manufacturer. AZ and TX have similar laws. Not great company to be in but that's the story. Tesla doesn't have any franchises in NJ so they're shut down. Confusingly, NJDMV licensed Tesla's two NJ retail outlets to sell cars.

zman said...