Today is the first of March, and so I wish you a Happy March Day. March Day is the lesser-known cousin of May Day, which is a pagan holiday celebrated on May 1. But March Day is far more important because it means we're getting close to the most essential time of year: The Madness. When 64 become one, all shall be revealed. Hail March Day, for The Madness Is Upon Us.
(If there's ever an apocalypse that wipes out most of humanity, I hope the only thing future societies recover from our time is the paragraph above, with absolutely no context.)
Time for the top 10 games of the weekend. Note that a week from Sunday, the regular season is OVER.
In case you were busy settling up with Alamo Rent A Car after just driving, man, went horribly awry, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Lakers' troubled season continued, as forward Pau Gasol has been ruled out for at least six weeks after tearing his plantar fascia. Back in the Lakers' locker room, a frustrated Mike D'Antoni was confused by the diagnosis. "Oh, first Dwight is in and out of the lineup with undiagnosable shoulder pain, and now Pau tears a damn ribbon, and he won't play?" said D'Antoni, whose native tongue is Italian. "No, coach," interjected Lakers point guard Steve Nash, "I'm pretty sure fascia in English refers to the frieze of a building. Or like, the space around a column? His home must have suffered some cosmetic exterior damage, and that can be a real pain to deal with." D'Antoni countered, "Well, that's no reason to miss six weeks; with the amount he's paid, that's one week out tops." Metta World Peace then chimed in: "I don't mean to be a bother, but fascia can also mean 'bandage' in Latin. Perhaps we should give the Spaniard the benefit of the doubt and assume that he ripped a bandage, and then got one of those antibiotic-resistant infections." A dark hooded figure then emerged from the corner of the room, and bellowed, "Stai zitto!" A hush fell over the room until World Peace asked, "What's that mean, Kobe?" Bryant, deflated, responded, "It means 'shut up,' Ron. In Italian. Man, why'd you have to ruin my badass entrance. Whatever. All that matters is that Pau is feeling pain. Do we know whether or not he's feeling pain?" At this point Gasol himself got up from the trainer's table and said, "Uh, guys, I'm right here, and it's just a foot injury. I should be back in March." But his rational explanation came too late, as Kobe had already decided he was owed pain.
In case you were back out at the karaoke bar trying to redeem last night's off-key performance with a heartfelt rendition of "Ruby Tuesday," here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
The Indiana Pacers continued their hot play at home, downing the Miami Heat, 87-77. Paul George, who led the Pacers with 29 points, matched up with reigning NBA MVP LeBron James and said after the game, "It's a chance to for me to see where I'm at, going against one of the best, if not, the best in the league." When asked to rate George's performance, James said, "The dude from The Beatles? Nah, I don't like them very much." When told that he wasn't being asked about either Paul McCartney or George Harrison, James responded, "Oh, Canadian Prime Minister Paul George? Yeah, dude has some cool thoughts on tariffs and immigration. Bet you didn't think I knew that!" It was then explained to James that Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada, and that Paul George was his opponent in the basketball game he had played less than an hour earlier. "Oh, George Paul? James responded. "That dude kicked my butt tonight."
When I was a kid, I was allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. I'd get really psyched up for this ritual, even though all the prime booty was hidden in a closet somewhere and I had to choose from the secondary tier of gifts sent by relatives, which all looked suspiciously like clothing and had been under the tree for a week. Intuitively I knew that my Christmas Eve present would be crap, but did I care? Is a starving man picky when he finds a morsel of food? Hell no. It was a terrific moment, even if it lasted all of two seconds. But when it was over, and after I had tried on the hunter green JC Penney turtleneck from Aunt Maureen, I had to be restrained from attacking the rest of the gifts in a hurricane of arms, wrapping paper, and saliva (you can open three gifts at once if you're OK with biting). Every year, as I beat a hasty retreat to my room before temptation overwhelmed me, I realized that the Christmas Eve gift had been a mixed blessing. Yes, I got my pre-Christmas present-opening high, but it was only going to make the night that much longer. I was like a shark that tasted a drop of blood, and now I was in the frenzy zone.
December basketball feels like those late-night moments, stuck in my room, shaking and knowing that sleep is a fantasy. We've already had the epic November games, which get better every year, and in a few days we'll have conference play. But now? Now we just had a stretch of four days in which the best game was unranked Tennessee upsetting barely ranked Wichita State. Or maybe it was a Big Five game nobody noticed because both teams are in a down year. Brutal, brutal stuff. Unlike the turtleneck, I wouldn't trade in the November experience, but man ... we need some real action bad.
When my wife read Friday's post, she asked me why I cared who was the beefiest or bulkiest player in the country. And I have to tell you guys I didn't have a good answer. Let's move on to this week's epiphanies and observations.
Before we get going, I want to announce that I'm taking nom-nom-inations for the 2012-13 All-BeefyBulky Team. I was inspired to do this after watching Nebraska's Andre Almeida do battle in a losing effort against Creighton last night. At 6-foot-11, 314 pounds, the Brazilian Almeida is a man of some size, and the eye is immediately drawn in his direction when he's on the floor. Like the elderly couple entranced by the painting of Kramer, we cannot look away.
I was going to put together my own All-BeefyBulky team, but frankly, I haven't done the legwork. The country's elite teams are stocked with perfect physical specimens of varying height at every position, and my mental Rolodex couldn't produce five worthy BeefyBulksters. And this is not something you want to rush. The BBs represent the real America, and we can't risk choosing the wrong men. So far, my All-BB team has just two members:
I'm one of those people who adhere to a strict famine-and-feast diet on Thanksgiving Day. I'll starve myself throughout the day, trying to not let the aromas floating in from the kitchen drive me insane, just so I can gorge myself like a crazed animal when 4 p.m. rolls around. From an informal poll of friends and family, it seems like this is a pretty common tactic. I'm ashamed to admit that I had to eat an apple to hold myself over at noon, but otherwise I held firm. And the feast was glorious. I didn't stop eating until midnight, when my wife hit me with a pan and knocked me into a deep, 18-hour slumber.
The whole Thanksgiving situation is a lot like the first two weeks of college basketball. The morning starvation is the offseason, when you want to avoid lesser temptations like recruiting updates or NCAA investigations or Tony Parker's eight-month press conference. Sometimes you need to check in on those things just to hold off the hunger, like with my apple. And then, when the season finally arrives, it's a delicious cornucopia of tournaments, amazing matchups, surprising players, and crazy upsets. I can't stop watching. I can't, and I won't! I've now binged on college basketball for two straight weeks, and from the depraved den of hoops gluttony, I bring you my 25 November epiphanies.
Yesterday we looked at the Third Team and the All-Stoppers squad, and now it's time for the best of the best. Tomorrow is opening day in college hoops, and I'll be previewing the top 10 games. For now, here are my 10 top players for 2012-13. All stats come from ESPN and Ken Pomeroy.
You can catch Harrison Barnes at 4:10 p.m. Eastern on Friday, when the no. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels face Vermont, a 16-seed. No. 8 Creighton and Doug McDermott are scheduled to meet 9th-seeded Alabama at 1:40 p.m. Eastern today. Shane Ryan profiled McDermott earlier this season.
Before we get started, I'd like to tip my cap to the slam-dunk craze that's sweeping the country. I called it a "passing fad" on my blog The Old Fashioned Chest Pass back in 1964, but it looks like it's here to stay.
So if you're into the jam culture, it's worth checking out this one from Georgetown's Henry Sims on Wednesday night. It's rare to see a dunk that definitive at the college level, and if intimidating displays of power are your thing, you'll want to take a trip to Sims City. (Came up with it on my own, don't steal it.)
And unlike Blake Griffin's jam from the other day, this one wasn't a glorified layup. (Did you just spit out your drink because things got too edgy? Well, then, I'm sorry ... not.)
So. No. 14 Georgetown took down UConn 58-44 in one of the Huskies' worst shooting performances ever. The visitors finished 18-of-60 from the field, and an abysmal 2-of-20 from 3. Their offensive efficiency, which is a measure of how many points they'd score in 100 possessions, was 68.6. For comparison's sake, the Division I average is 100.3, and UConn's usual average is 110.1. Ken Pomeroy's single-game numbers go back to 2003, and in that time UConn hasn't even approached a number as low as 68.6. In other words, they made a little bit of the wrong kind of history Wednesday.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Harrison Barnes scored 20 points as the no. 5 UNC Tar Heels bounced back from their loss against UNLV with a 60-57 win over no. 7 Wisconsin. I promised UNC coach Roy Williams that I'd let him write the joke if his team won, so here he is, folks, Roy Williams: "Em dadgern Badger fellers play 'at baskertballin ' so dang slow I 'uz fixin' to tie a randy mule to one dem sass-frass hitchin' posts and watch 'at sumbitch walk round 'til he got Gypsy tied and circle silly!" (Jesus, Roy, that's not even really a joke. Thanks for making me look like an idiot.)