On Selection Sunday, Indiana secured the top seed in the East Region. The program has officially been revived; after a latent period, the 2012-13 Hoosiers — with Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, and coach Tom Crean — will be following in the footsteps of former Indiana legends this March. The school boasts a remarkable basketball history, including five national championships. But one of its most famous NCAA victories came before the Final Four, in a season that ended without a championship.
On March 22, 1984, North Carolina and Indiana met in the Sweet 16 at the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta. The Tar Heels — the no. 1 team in the nation and the no. 1 seed in the East — were led by junior Michael Jordan. Their record was 28-2, and the losses had come by a combined three points. Two years earlier, coach Dean Smith had won his first national title when Jordan made the game-winning shot over Georgetown. The ’84 team was considered one of the most talented in Smith’s career, featuring future first-round picks Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, and Kenny Smith in the starting lineup. Indiana was the 4-seed, coached by Bobby Knight and led by freshman Steve Alford.
Indiana junior Dan Dakich drew the task of guarding Jordan that day. Dakich later became an assistant under Knight, and then became the coach at Bowling Green. Today, he hosts a radio show in Indiana and works for ESPN. But the events of that game — a 72-68 upset win for Indiana — would come to define his basketball legacy.
Readers, hear me out. The last thing I want to do, in the midst of a "fun" bracket, is stir your blood to mutiny. I'm here to advance Psycho T to the next round, not to praise him. The editors have made Tyler Hansbrough a 1-seed in the '00s region, and the editors are all wise, honorable people. The hatred that college players inspire lives after their NCAA careers end, while the good is often hung in the rafters with their jerseys. So let it be with Psycho T. The Grantland editors have told you that he was a hated player. If that's true, it was a grievous fault, and as a top seed, he has grievously answered it. What private griefs the editors have, I don't know. But, they are wise and honorable, and will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.
I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts. I'm no great orator. I'm the same as you've always known me: A plain, blunt man who loves Tyler Hansbrough. If I were disposed to sway your minds to rage, I would do the editors wrong. Yet bear with me, because my heart is there in the bracket, with no. 50. I must pause until it comes back to me.
I can only tell you what you already know. I can only show you Psycho T's attributes, and let them speak for me.
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.
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.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Ryan Vogelsong struck out a career-high nine batters through seven dominant innings as the Giants beat the Cardinals 6-1 to force a deciding Game 7 in the NLCS. Vogelsong's name literally means "birdsong" in German, which is kinda funny when you consider they were playing the Cardinals. But it's less funny when you learn that "Vogelsong" is a German euphemism for killing birds with poisoned food pellets. Ugh, Germany. Ugh. That's just classic you.
Last August, I sat down to interview UNC Sports Information Director Steve Kirschner in his office near the Dean Dome. We spoke about his job as the head PR rep for North Carolina basketball, his experience with the coaches and the players, and the prospects for the 2011-12 team. He was very generous with his time — the interview is comprehensive — and I couldn't help but think of one particular moment as UNC watched its season end against Kansas on Sunday. As we segued into speaking about the current Tar Heels, I told him that I expected Carolina to win a national title, and that if they didn't, the Duke propaganda angle would be that the whole year was a failure.
I hit on this Thursday in the Wisconsin-Syracuse post, but let's get lazy and just borrow our editor-in-chief's Mount Rushmore concept and apply it here. The Mount Rushmore of college towns looks like this:
Chapel Hill, N.C.
That's the list. You could argue that places like Charlottesville, Va., or Ann Arbor, Mich., have an outside argument, but I think those four are the consensus picks. Obviously, that answers our question. Chapel Hill tops wherever Ohio University is, which turns out to be Athens, Ohio.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Tim Tebow is officially a New York Jet. The Broncos traded their former quarterback to New York, along with a seventh-round pick, for two earlier picks in this April's draft. As longtime readers of this post will know, Tim Tebow and Rex Ryan are prominent figures in the About Last Night canon. The fact that they're now teamed up is just insane news for me, and I've decided to commemorate it with a spiritual sonnet called "The Glutton Tempts the Son."
The Glutton Tempts the Son
The Son has heard the Jet's seductive roar
The Glutton licks the bone and sips the wine
Of Jersey fair the Son recalls the shore
But not the Glutton's castle made of swine
"Come here my friend, it's past the chocolate oak!"
Cries the Glutton, reaching out his hand.
The Son resists — a frown — "is this a joke?
"God's heaven is the only charm'd land!"
"Philistine," the Glutton stops to mutter,
"Profane ye not my palaces of cheer.
Breaded streets proceed to lakes of butter:
Adipose Rex, I'm called, and we are here!"
"Such wonders!" cries the Son, "unhand thy fork. It truly is a castle made of pork!"
—March 22, 2012
(I don't even know, guys. I don't even know what's up right now. All I can say is that Tebow and Rex are on the same team, and one way or another a sonnet had to go down.)
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Multiple sources reported that Peyton Manning has chosen the Denver Broncos. He first discussed the possibility with John Elway in a March 9 meeting, and the deal means that the Broncos will try to trade Tim Tebow once it becomes official. "Good," said Tebow, visibly angry. "Great. I needed a Judas for my story. Thanks, Elway. He's probably my Pontius Pilate too. Definitely Doubting Thomas. King Herod. Dismas the Thief. Also, Mary Magdalene — don't ask."
The Miami Dolphins signed quarterback David Garrard to a one-year deal, and told him he'd get a shot at the starting job. "Man, the press is going to freak out when they hear this," said Garrard, as he signed the contract. "This is going to be huge.
UNC point guard Kendall Marshall underwent successful surgery on Monday, with a screw being inserted into his fractured scaphoid bone. There is still no indication whether he will play on Friday against Ohio in the Sweet 16, but when asked to hazard a guess, Roy Williams said he thought it was unlikely. "And it's a daggum shame!" Williams said. "I been coaching with crawdad parts stuck in my rear end for 17 dang years, and he cain't play with no tiny lil screw?!"
It was a drab Thursday and Friday at the ACC tournament, but the drama of the weekend atoned in a big way. First, you had Carolina riding a wave of favorable calls to a close win over NC State, then a brutal FSU win against a game but under-talented Duke team, and finally the explosive championship, with the Noles holding off Carolina (sans John Henson) for a three-point win. The weekend games were good enough to make this the best Power 6 conference tournament of 2012.
But what stuck out to me, more than the results and more than the close finishes, was the excellent pressure play of three players — Austin Rivers, Kendall Marshall, and Michael Snaer.
There are two options here. One: I can talk about them and leave it at that. Two: I can start you off with two great referee stories from Saturday. Pick your poison.
"On The Occafion of the Eve of the Firft Bracket," penned by Vice Admiral Thurston Edward Pocket IV, 1778, Cape Cod, Mass. This poem was written in captivity aboard the American clipper ship "What Madness Awaits?" The quatrain, along with a second Latin verse lost to history, briefly became the national anthem of the Falkland Islands 200 years later, set to the tune of the popular children's song "B-i-n-g-o." After being released, Admiral Pocket spent a decade selling pamphlets in Boston that were mostly charcoal sketches of George Washington's friend "Hormund the Silversmith," a bawdy character historians have no reason to believe is anything but a crude fiction. The pamphlets enjoyed some popularity among the rapidly diminishing Tory community, and were printed twice per week until Pocket was hanged for sedition in 1790.
But one Monday each year, after the conference championships are complete, we honor him with:
This would never have happened in the media room at Cameron, I thought glumly as the second ice cube hit my head. Two more landed on the bar, clattering over the ledge and leaving wet streaks on the wood.
The moment the clock on the television read zero, "Sweet Caroline" played over the loudspeakers at Four Corners in Chapel Hill, a sports bar just a few feet from North Carolina's campus. Tar Heels fans had packed it to the gills, and the story was the same up and down Franklin Street. This was one of the two biggest nights of the year for them, and the first had ended in disaster. The Carolina faithful were out for revenge, spring break and bad memories be damned. I was one of four Duke fans in a crowd of at least 250, and though I came in semi-disguise (Eli Manning jersey, Yankees hat), my cover had long since been blown.
A little less than a month ago, Duke's Austin Rivers buried a glorious 3 at the buzzer to deal Carolina a stunning 85-84 defeat at the Dean Dome. Tar Heels fans, believing rightly that they had the stronger team, had been dreaming of the rematch ever since. The world had to right itself, and one devastating loss deserved another. They had their satisfaction and then some, as Carolina dominated Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium to beat the Blue Devils 88-70 and win the ACC regular-season championship. Elation for them, misery for me.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Kobe Bryant, the Masked Mamba, scored 33 points as the Lakers avenged his broken nose with a 93-83 victory over Dwyane Wade and the Heat. "From this day forward, I shall never be seen without a mask," Kobe said after the game, "and it won't be this admittedly feminine Mardi Gras feather mask, either. I left my cool ones at home."
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 Thursday
Flu-like symptoms didn't stop LeBron James from scoring 31 points and leading the Heat to a 98-87 win over the Lakers. "It was just like Jordan in Game 5 of the '97 Finals!" yelled a sweaty, 6'8" reporter wearing a fake mustache and beard, as everyone in the press area waited for LeBron to come out.
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal both advanced to the round of 16 in straight sets at the Australian Open, where they're on a collision course to meet in the semifinals. The last time they met in Australia, Rafa made Roger cry by beating him in the finals. This time, Roger vowed to stew moodily in the background, flick wisps of hair off his forehead, and daydream about fire-bombing the whole island of Mallorca.