Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey or Basketball?

I choose basketball.

CBE Championship Game: Kansas vs Syracuse

Why do I deny myself sleep to watch basketball? Yep, this is why. Big stops, big shots, and overtime.

This was a game in several distinct sections. Early on, Syracuse tried to force the tempo but ended up missing a lot of shots in the paint. I think this was partly because Kansas has decent length, and partly because Syracuse was not judicious in its shot selection. The Orangemen wanted to push the tempo whether the shot was there or not. And by early in the second half, Kansas had built a big enough lead that I posted a column and started packing.

And then Syracuse came back. I'm still not sure how it happened, but I looked back over and saw Andy Rautins make a three pointer to give Syracuse a one point advantage. We've got a game folks. I don't know how it happened, but we've got a game.

But that's when the home court advantage really kicked in for Kansas. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich scored for Kansas and then Tyrel Reed , who has a weird resemblence to Kirk Hinrich, hit a big three to give Kansas a 61-57 lead and take back all the momentum.

At this point I had written in my column how Syracuse still doesn't have the depth to play an elite team on back to back days, and how the Syracuse jumpers were destined to come up short in crunch time. But not so fast my friend.

There was Arinze Onuaku getting back to back blocks that seemingly took the heart out for Kansas. And there was Paul Harris making one of those "probably should have been goaltending" but it was "too amazing to call it" blocks moments later.

And that's when Jonny Flynn, knowing his team was down by three, exhausted after playing two days in a row, calmly caught the ball on the wing and drained a three pointer to tie the game in the final seconds.

After an Onuaku hook shot in overtime, it was over. Syracuse went on the road and made a statement that they will not be an NCAA bubble team this year. With wins against Florida and Kansas, Syracuse is clearly one of the most exciting teams to watch this year, and that's hard to say as a Hoya fan.

Just a great basketball game all around. And while Kansas may be disappointed in the loss, I saw enough good things from players like Cole Aldrich and the Morris twins to make me believe this team will still be fighting for the Big 12 title this year. Even if this supposedly is a "down year" for Kansas.

CBE Third Place Game: Florida vs Washington

The game was on ESPNU, but wait… ESPN News is bringing us bonus coverage.

“So Bob Knight, Washington is down by 2 points and has the ball, what would you do here? Do you give it to Jon Brockman even though he’s a terrible free throw shooter?”

Knight responds, “I’d have Isaiah Thomas drive the lane and take the shot with about 7 seconds left and I’d have Brockman go to the opposite side.” Note: One of Bob Knight’s big themes is how most rebounds go to the opposite side of the basket.

What happens: Thomas drives the lane, misses the jumper, Brockman collects the weakside rebound, puts up an open lay-up, and misses.

Bob Knight has a long way to go to be a good color commentator. He often describes obvious stuff in painful detail. But he’s also one of the few announcers who cares enough about how teams play to predict a play like that before it happens.

Truthfully, there couldn’t be a bigger contrast in styles than Knight and Dick Vitale. Whereas Dick Vitale cannot bring himself to even call the action in these early season games, Knight is fretting about all the details. Do you want to hear Vitale gushing about Coach K again and ignoring the action, or hear Knight break down the minutiae of how a team should align defensively to stop the out-of-bounds play? I guess the truth is, I’d like something in the middle. But with some polish, Knight has plenty of potential.

Speaking of people getting distracted on tangents, the game was not quite over after Brockman’s missed lay-up. Brockman fouled Florida’s Allan Chaney who went to the line and made only one of two free throws meaning Washington had a chance to tie with a three. But Florida didn’t let Washington get a shot off. Florida gave the foul with 2.5 seconds left and that foul allowed Florida to preserve the win.

Maui Semi #1: Notre Dame vs Texas

Meanwhile, down in Maui, Notre Dame had only 4 team fouls but absolutely refused to get in the face of the Texas shooters and give a foul in the final minute. Jay Bilas spent the final minute of commentary telling them to do so, but Notre Dame was oblivious.

Besides making the other team inbound the ball again and waste time, the great thing about giving a foul in the final minute is that you can go for a steal. And defensive pressure can lead to problems for the other team. But instead Notre Dame sat back and watched Texas calmly make 3 three pointers in the final 40 seconds. Texas almost came back to win, but a final three at the buzzer fell short and Notre Dame won by a point.

Is there a more fun team to watch in the final seconds than Texas? (OK, possibly Baylor). But Abrams and Mason showed that even without DJ Augustin they can still make some clutch shots at the end of the game.

By the way, what was up with the Notre Dame free throws in this game? Notre Dame was just 10 of 21 at the line, and the Irish were the best free throw shooting team in the Big East last year. This led to the following unintentionally hilarious exchange in Luke Harangody’s post game interview. “Luke, what do you have to say about your desire to want the ball in your hands so you can go to the free throw line at the end of the game?” “Uh, well I missed those shots tonight, but we hung on to win anyway."

Is anyone not drooling at the prospect of Harangody and Hansbrough battling it out for a rebound tomorrow night? I sure hope Tyler Hansbrough is healthy enough to play, because I’ve been contemplating whether the universe might explode if Harangody and Hansbrough both want a key rebound late in the game.

Maui Semi #2: Oregon vs North Carolina

Oregon won the tip and Oregon’s Michael Dunigan found himself wide open for a dunk in the lane to open the game. This was possibly the only highlight for Oregon. North Carolina led 51-22 at halftime. I want to point out that UC Santa Barbara only trailed North Carolina by 8 at halftime of last week’s game.

What else can I say here? Why aren’t Jay Bilas and Sean McDonough wearing Hawaiian shirts? Why did Luke Harangody’s dad dye his hair for the early game?

Wednesday Schedule

Notre Dame vs UNC, Title Game
Texas vs Oregon, 3rd Place Game
Alabama vs St. Joe’s, 5th Place Game
Indiana vs Chaminade, The “Indiana can’t lose to Chaminade can they?” game

NIT Semis
Purdue vs Boston College
Oklahoma vs UAB, The “One of my only chances to see Robert Vaden” game

Thursday - Sunday
Old Spice Classic
Anaheim Classic
Legends Classic

I’ll be attending the Old Spice Classic live, but since I’m not getting paid to blog, I’m treating it as a vacation. I need one of those “Out of the Office” icons. Look for some great details in about 10 days or so.