What better way to celebrate the upcoming Final Four than to bust out another mailbag? I again got a ton of great e-mails, and after sifting through all the ones that were some variation of “I’m a Kansas/Ohio State fan, and I need you to help talk me off the ledge,” I was left with these. Let’s talk a little college basketball, shall we?
While watching The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels cut a promo to hype the Brock/HHH match, I couldn't help but wonder about his self-proclaimed nickname of "Mr. WrestleMania.” Even in professional wrestling, you would think one would have to have an outstanding record to warrant such a lofty nickname. But his record is 6-11, and this includes his matches while he served as the captain of the Rockers.
Is he only Mr. WrestleMania because he has competed at 17 of them? Surely it isn't because of his win-loss record.
Yet another 1-seed found an early exit in the tournament last night. This time, it was the Indiana Hoosiers who met their fate at the hands of the Syracuse Orange and their famous 2-3 zone.
On a macro level, three things typically beat a zone defense: offensive rebounds, 3-point shots, and transition baskets. Indiana largely failed at all three in their defeat last night. The Hoosiers only made three shots from beyond the arc and had only 11 offensive rebounds (four of which came on one possession and didn’t even result in a made shot). Both of those figures actually fall below their respective season averages of 7.3 and 12.2.
Indiana found some success attacking Syracuse before the Orange could set up in their patented zone, but it was largely a mixed bag. The Orange did a fine job defending in transition last night, greeting the Hoosier break above the 3-point line and forcing wild forays to the rim, like these from Victor Oladipo that resulted in turnovers more often than they did made baskets.
In case you were busy explaining why your "flu-like symptoms" aren't just a cover for a two-day New Year's Eve hangover, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
17 year NFL veteran Ray Lewis announced that he'll retire at the end of the postseason. Lewis explained, "This will give me time to dedicate myself to the one thing I haven't accomplished after all these years: terrifying the other kind of football players." He then cracked his knuckles and recited Landon Donovan's home address and Social Security number from memory.
The Louisville Cardinals pulled the biggest upset in BCS history, topping the Florida Gators, 33-23, in the Sugar Bowl. Unwilling to abide another SEC team losing in a marquee bowl matchup, Alabama head coach Nick Saban decided to take matters into his own hands, staging a "Sugar Bowl" at his house in which he ate all of his children's candy while they watched. Saban won, 63-0, but suffered a minor intestinal injury and is listed as probable for Monday's BCS Championship Game.
The Los Angeles Clippers lost their second game in a row after a perfect December, falling 115-94 to the Golden State Warriors. Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro praised his team after the defeat: "After a tough month, it's nice to see us get back to Clippers basketball. Sloppy turnovers, blown transition D, poor shooting from the field. This is just a great example of my boys playing for the name on the front of the jersey." Del Negro then tripped leaving the stage and hit his head on a podium.
My first experience with live college basketball came on February 12, 1994, when my dad and I made the three-hour trip from the Adirondack Mountains to see Syracuse take on Kentucky. Through an old grad school connection, dad got us in to the home locker room an hour before the game, and that's where I met one of my heroes, Lawrence Moten. He was on a trainer's table having his feet taped, and he was nice enough to sign a hat I've since lost. Moten never made an impact in the NBA, but he still holds the school record for career points, and he's the Big East's all-time leading scorer with 1,405 points in conference play. (Considering the current circumstances, that's an honor he'll probably hold in perpetuity.) What stands out in my memory the most are his high white socks, his no. 21 jersey, and how he'd soar above a defender, like he had springs in his shoes, when he rose for a jump shot.
On our way out of the locker room, we passed the three biggest men I'd seen at that point in my life, all wearing Kentucky blue. I was nervous, and asked them (as a group), "Are you Jamal Mashburn?" They laughed and walked away without answering, because Mashburn had left Kentucky the year before. I remembered that fact just seconds after the words left my mouth, and my face stayed bright red through most of the first half. That night, Moten scored 18 points, sophomore John Wallace added 18 of his own, and no. 14 Syracuse upset no. 4 Kentucky 93-85.
I cared about Moten and Mashburn, and I cared about Rick Pitino, the charismatic Kentucky coach who put on a passionate show as he paced up and down the sidelines. But Jim Boeheim? The nerdy-looking man who mostly sat with his chin in his palm on the Syracuse bench? He didn't move me. There was nothing obvious about him, and when you're young, it's harder to appreciate the subtleties.
By my informal count, that was Jim Boeheim's 427th career win. And after Monday night's 72-68 win over Detroit, he became just the third D-I men's coach — after Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski — to reach the 900-win milestone. But defining his legacy isn't as simple as counting wins, and almost 20 years after that Kentucky game, there's still nothing obvious about the man.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Mark Sanchez finished with five turnovers, including three on the final three possessions, as the Jets lost to the Titans, 14-10, and were eliminated from playoff contention. "So many asses," said Sanchez ruefully. "Just so many asses out there, getting in the way of good football. This sport used to mean something. Now they just put you out there like a Christian in the lion's den, attacked by a thousand asses."
All this week (and next!), we'll be running college basketball team previews for the 20 (or so) Most Interesting Teams. Today we tackle the Title Snipers.
Why are snipers so terrifying and exciting? Whenever I think of those dashing sociopaths, with their fancy rifles and thin smiles, I think of Enemy at the Gates and Saving Private Ryan. In both films, there was no shortage of gruesome death involving knives and guns and grenades and eye-gouging. But if I had to choose between those fates or death from afar, I'd take the gut-wrenching, up-close-and-personal variety every time. At least you'd have a few seconds to come to terms with your demise, right? I prefer a little bit of begging and panic before I go, thanks. Might as well make death more like the rest of my life. With a sniper, you're just out strolling around one day and BAM, it's over. "Hey guys, I'm heading to fill up the ole canteen. Anybody want anything? Water? Kool-Aid? I'm not sure if we have any Kool-Aid left, actuall—*ETERNAL SILENCE*"
You don't even hear the gun shot. And snipers in movies are always creepy, like Ed Harris in Enemy at the Gates or the silent German guy in Saving Private Ryan. [Or Barry Pepper in Saving Private Ryan — Sniper ed.] I don't know if they started out weird, or if it's a job hazard of being a dealer of death. Either way, I bet they don't get many Christmas cards.
Before the season began, Syracuse and UConn were deemed two of the finest teams in the land. Since then, fate has flung the two powerhouse programs in very different, but equally chaotic, directions.
Coming into Thursday’s meeting in the Big East tournament, Syracuse had experienced a charmed season — on the hardwood, at least — befitting a Rothschild heir. They were ranked second in the country, had lost only once in 32 games, and were assured of entering the NCAA tournament as a top seed. The Orange are one of the few teams that wouldn’t be considered delicious ewes against the cohort of lottery picks presently devouring livestock in Lexington.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
In the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, no. 2 Ohio St. embarrassed no. 4 Duke 85-63. The Buckeyes dominated every facet of the game, and Jared Sullinger led his team with 21 points. After the game, 95 percent of Duke alumni agreed that overly strict government restraints on big business were responsible for the loss. The other 5 percent were working late on Wall Street and missed the game.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Drew Brees threw for four touchdowns and ran for another as the Saints routed the Giants 49-24. After the running touchdown, he tried to dunk the ball over the goalposts, but was forced to settle for a finger roll when his legs failed him. In related news, Drew Brees is now Jason Kapono's favorite player.