After months of waiting on Andrew Wiggins, the best high school basketball player in the country, to make his college-destination decision and set off an aftershock throughout college hoops and beyond, we are finally (almost) there. On Sunday, his high school coach at Huntington Prep (West Virginia) announced the announcement (isn't recruiting fun?!).
Andrew Wiggins will sign Tuesday at around 12:15. He will not hold a press conference type ceremony. Just classmates, family and friends
In case you were busy planning the ultimate prank (hint: you need Krazy Glue, a dozen Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and three rubber snakes), here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
Despite a gruesome leg injury to reserve forward Kevin Ware, Louisville knocked off Duke, 85-63, to book a spot in the Final Four. "Man, that's the worst thing that I've ever seen on a basketball court," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino at his postgame press conference, "and I'm not talking about the refereeing. Zing. But seriously, I'm just gutted by what I saw today. Really soul-shaking stuff out there. And not just the refereeing — I'm sorry, I just can't stop zinging those guys. I know this isn't the time. Much as it wasn't the time for them to call a foul on every play right after Kevin hurt his leg. Damn it! Must. Stop. Zinging. Refs."
Brittney Griner and the Baylor Lady Bears were shocked by the Louisville Cardinals in the regional semifinals of the Women's NCAA Tournament, 82-81. "Can you dunk away the tears?" Griner asked her teammates after the game, before a horrifying wave of loneliness washed over her as she realized she was the only person in the room who could answer that question. Griner was later seen, alone in the deserted Chesapeake Energy Arena, yelling, "I feel nothing!" as she dunked ball after ball through the unguarded nets.
Trying to guess the legitimacy of the Indiana Hoosiers has been a season-long brain teaser, and I've consistently taken the "overrated" side of the debate. Every time it looked like I might be right, as with the near-loss to Georgetown and the losses to Butler, Wisconsin, and Illinois, the Hoosiers would do something spectacular, like decimate North Carolina or soundly beat Ohio State or Michigan State on the road. And each time they began to look like a dominant team bound for a title, there'd be a worrisome hiccup that made you think they couldn't win six critical games in March.
I got a ton of e-mails this week and most of them were worth publishing, but I decided to limit the number to 16 in honor of the upcoming Sweet 16. Let’s get down to business.
Who do you see as the favorites to win it all, and why? Also, who has disappointed you? Between Florida Gulf Coast, Oregon, and La Salle, which team is your favorite Cinderella story? Also, who do you think has the best chance of going far and why?
Never mind. I guess I’ll answer 19 questions.
Louisville is the favorite right now, with Duke and Florida close behind. They’re the only teams that have been at the top of the polls all season and also looked dominant in their first two games. The obvious omission is Michigan, which has been highly ranked all year and just thrashed VCU. But I want to see how the Wolverines handle Kansas before I jump back on their bandwagon. The VCU win was impressive, but the Rams' style of play is possibly the worst approach against Michigan. If the Wolverines dispatch the Jayhawks, they’ll be favorites, too. But if they lose, I would have a hard time considering them contenders for the national title.
The obvious disappointments are Gonzaga and Georgetown. Both have histories of getting bounced early, but I thought this year would be different because of Kelly Olynyk and Otto Porter. I was wrong.
Finally, Oregon is the best double-digit seed remaining, La Salle has the easiest path to the Final Four of the three Cinderellas, and Florida Gulf Coast is the underdog most likely to say “Screw it, let’s go get shitfaced and party on the beach” after it loses.
I tend to root for Duke University in the NCAA basketball tournament. They’re not my favorite team, but I’m happy when they succeed. People are sometimes mystified by this affinity, since the Internet has conditioned us to believe we’re ethically obligated to hate every player who has ever contributed to that particular program. As such, on days like today, I am often asked, “Why do you root for Duke? Why would anyone root for Duke?”
America rarely ever gets things wrong. It’s a country that's brought the world professional wrestling, the KFC Double Down, Kenny Powers, and America. But sometimes — daylight saving time, Taylor Hicks, pull-ups being included in the requirements for winning the Presidential Physical Fitness Award — America gets it horribly wrong. It pains me to say it, but Christian Laettner beating Tyler Hansbrough in a landslide to claim the title of the most hated college basketball player in the last 30 years is one of those times.
“But,” you’re probably saying, “Laettner winning this contest was obvious from the start. I’m not even sure why you guys bothered putting together the bracket. If Laettner had gone to North Carolina or Kentucky, there’s a good chance that they’d be the most hated team in college basketball. The man is almost solely responsible for Duke’s reputation, which is why if I were putting together a starting five of the most hated players in the last 30 years, Laettner would be all five.”
Look, I get it. Laettner's easy to hate. If you don’t hate him for being a pretty boy preppy who still somehow managed to be the best player in college basketball, you hate him for stomping on Aminu Timberlake’s chest. You hate him because of The Shot, or you hate him because this picture exists. All of these are valid reasons to hate the guy. And honestly, I might hate him, too, for all of these reasons. Except that I don’t hate him because one important thing trumps all of that: Christian Laettner was a benchwarmer for the greatest basketball team ever assembled, which makes him a demigod to guys like me.
Self-awareness is overrated, especially among the famous. Should it really be cause for celebration that some historic asshole has the wherewithal to recognize his asshole past? Should we forgive so easily, simply because a celebrity shows the common decency to admit past mistakes? Have our troll-convictions really become so soggy and desperate?
In the early part of this century, a shift in power caused the lines of ACC hate to blur. Duke and Maryland were responsible for two of the first three national championships, and as North Carolina sputtered through the Matt Doherty era, the enmity between the Blue Devils and Terrapins came to a boil. “[It was worst] at Maryland,” J.J. Redick says. “That’s when there was still a rivalry there, dating back to the Miracle Minute and Maryland winning in 2002. It was pretty heated for my first couple years there.”
There were times when the hate actually was hateful. Shelden Williams carried a 2003 incident in College Park with him for his four years at Duke, and Redick said during one game members of the Maryland crowd invoked the name of his then 12-year-old sister.
I have a confession — and that is, in most ways, I am wholly unqualified to write this. One day into our bracket to determine the most hated college basketball player of the past three(-ish) decades, and Patrick Ewing, the ’80s no. 1 seed, is done. The Grantland staff is full of Big East lifers who had a disdain for those Georgetown teams and Ewing’s college career. I did not — mostly because I was born more than two years after it ended. My sole connection to the 1985 NCAA tournament is that I count Rollie Massimino’s grandson among my close friends. That’s about where my Georgetown familiarity ends. And actually, I think that’s sort of the point.
I want to make a bold statement today, but first, let's have some fun and check out the highlights from what I'm calling "Seth Curry's Wonder-Half." In the first 20 minutes against North Carolina on Saturday night, he went 8-for-10 from the field, scored 18 points, and propelled the Blue Devils to a 42-24 halftime lead that became a blowout 69-53 win over North Carolina.
In case you were busy trying to remember Della Reese's name (it's Della Reese), here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
Despite an off night from LeBron James, his Miami Heat got their 18th consecutive win, 105-91, over the Indiana Pacers. After the game, diminutive Heat point guard Mario Chalmers, who led his team with 26 points, said, "Finally, it's my Miami Heat." Chalmers beamed and pointed at himself with both thumbs until Heat forward Chris Bosh patronizingly patted him on the head, saying, "Sure it is, little buddy." Chalmers sulked away as both Bosh and Dwyane Wade laughed at his expense. "Why won't they let me have this?" Chalmers asked himself while crouched inside of his locker.
Indiana won a thriller in Ann Arbor to take home the Big Ten championship, beating the Michigan Wolverines, 72-71. Michigan point guard Trey Burke's potential game-winning layup hung on the rim, bouncing three times before falling out, costing him and his team a share of the Big Ten title in what might be his last regular season game as a member of the Wolverines. So in case you find yourself talking to Trey Burke at some point in the next 20 years, now you'll know exactly what he's replaying in his mind while he stares off into the distance with a glazed-over look in his eye.
Confession time: I have a bad relationship with GIFs. I'm 100 percent alone on this one, I know, especially among young Internet sports types. But to me, GIFs are like "Harlem Shake" videos — hilarious visual gag at first, until you become so inundated that you go numb and begin to hate the person who bought you your first computer and sent you on this horrible, soul-killing journey into the heart of the Internet. (Important note: This is for comedy GIFs only it doesn't go for the ones that are just meant to show a sweet dunk, a great goal, or any of the other sincere uses of the form.)
Watching a GIF, I get the weird sense that I'm being manipulated, as though I'm laughing begrudgingly at a stand-up comedian whose only bit is to hit himself in the face with a baking pan. The endless repetition is supposed to be what gives the image its humor, but something about it drives me crazy. It's like we're making snark-commodities out of human moments. (Actually, pretend I just said something along the same lines, but less pretentious.)
This is my only soapbox. I only care about destroying the GIF culture. But after all that big talk, I have to admit that I still laugh at the really good ones that transcend the medium, like Ben McLemore dancing. And the reason I'm mentioning it now is that I violated my own principles and yeah, made a GIF. I couldn't help it:
I know I should have stuck to my guns, but the way the cameraman went into soft focus on Kelly and readjusted to the fan doing the White Raven arms — it's like he was begging me to make a GIF. He was my serpent, and his comic shot was the forbidden apple. I hope this isn't the start of a slippery slope, but in three months you'll probably find me lying face down in a dark Internet cafe, dead from a GIF overdose.
Nobody knew for sure whether Ryan Kelly would play against no. 5 Miami on Saturday. After Duke's loss to Virginia in Charlottesville, the incentive was certainly there. The Blue Devils were reeling; the team's perimeter defense was almost nonexistent, and Mason Plumlee had almost fully devolved into a state of Plumbledum after masquerading as a Player of the Year candidate in December. If there was any way Kelly's right foot had recovered, maybe it would mean a return to the success of the early part of the season, when Duke went 15-0 and reigned as the no. 1 team in the country. Without him, their record was 9-4, including an embarrassing 27-point loss to Miami.
When Kelly came on the court as part of Duke's starting five, there was a sense of relief and hope among Duke fans. Still, they had no idea this would happen:
There have been two really great moments for Duke since winning the title in 2010. The first was Austin Rivers's shot to beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill last season, and this was the second. The fact that Kelly put the team on his shoulders, scored a career-high 36 points on 10-14 shooting (7-9 from 3), and led Duke to a revenge win over Miami is almost too hard to believe. I watched the game in a state of anxious ecstasy, thrilled and worried at the same time. But mostly thrilled, because watching the Crazies flap their arms as the White Raven hit shot after shot, I knew that this was turning into a special moment. Kelly was so good that a loss felt impossible.
In case you were out getting back what's rightfully yours, here's what you missed in sports this weekend.
Duke avenged an earlier loss at Miami to beat the Hurricanes at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 79-76, behind 36 points from Ryan Kelly. Kelly, who had missed the previous two months with a foot injury, said after the game of Miami's NCAA title chances, "We have done far worse than killed them; we have hurt them. And I wish to go on hurting them. I shall leave them as they had left us: marooned, on the periphery of contention. Buried alive. Buried alive."
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.