Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Final Four? Why Not!

I think I'm just going to stop trying to analyze college basketball. If you would've told me a few months ago that this year's KU team would be in the Final Four, I would've been floored. All year long I've been saying they're just not that good. (Actually, I've still been kinda thinking it, but here's what I overlooked: this year's starting five has developed REALLY well. Yeah, our first guys off the bench are two walk-ons and a transfer from a mid-major, but when you have a potential player of the year, a third-team All-American, and three other starters who range from mediocre to outstanding from game to game, that's not so bad. I just got used to the KU teams from the last few years, who were legitimately 10 or 11 players deep. Just because the bench is shitty doesn't mean the team is. Maybe we're not so bad. Who needs five-star recruits when you can develop players like Coach Self and his assistants? Forget about the Xavier Henrys and Josh Selbys of the world.)

Either way, I've enjoyed this year's ride immensely. Because the Jayhawks have been so good the last few regular seasons, only to "choke" against a higher-seeded team every March, the tournament has almost brought a sense of dread for me. Every single game is a heart attack waiting to happen; I can't enjoy a thing until the final buzzer. But once the 2012 edition reached the Sweet 16, I was happy. The season was officially a success; everything after that has been gravy. True, NC State was technically an 11 seed, but should've been at least an 8, and was playing at about the level of a 3 or 4 for over a month. Beating Ol' Roy and UNC (sans Kendall Marshall, although Stillman White did have 7 assists and no turnovers) was extra salt and pepper sprinkled on top of the gravy. It's rare that I can go into a Final Four with such a flagrant "Happy to be here" vibe......but it's happening this year.

Other thoughts:

- I'm excited for the Kentucky-Louisville matchup, since it's always fun when two teams that hate each other play late in the tourney....but I think Kentucky could win by like 30. They're just at an entirely different level right now. Except for maybe Carolina in '09, no team has run through people like this since....when? UNLV in '90? That's about all I've got to compare them to in my lifetime. You know that scene from the Simpsons when Homer gets all fat and works from home and talks about not missing rush hour traffic, and does the whole "Gas, brake, honk. Gas, brake, honk" routine? I apologize for this clip, since some guy remixed it to a shitty rap beat, but it's the only one I could find. Anyway, that's what Kentucky reminds me of when they go on a run. Steal, dunk, block. Three ball, block, dunk. Steal, three ball, steal. Block, block, dunk. They're unbelievable. As much as I hate to say's Calipari's title to lose. Here's why I love Chuck Klosterman: he usually finds a way to say what I and many others are thinking, but can't express nearly as well.

- Not likely to happen, but a thought I had the other day: what happens if KU beats Louisville for the title? When I go to the Derby (37 days and counting) do I wear all KU gear and bravely face the wrath? I'm leaning towards no, since I'd obviously be wayyyy outnumbered, and that could quickly turn into a "This is SPARTAAAAA!!!!" situation. But we'll re-evaluate if it comes to that.

- An epiphany I had over the last few days: when it gets to be playoff time for your favorite team, what you're really cheering for, besides the championship and bragging rights, is time. I didn't want to be done reading articles and message boards and obscure websites. I didn't want to be done trading 35 texties a day, breaking down KU's chances and scouting Ohio St. I didn't want to be done watching youtube clips of Elijah Johnson's insane (-ly stupid) alley-oop to Tyshawn Taylor against Purdue, or Jeff Withey's 10 blocks against NC State, or the Tommy Seebach Band Apache video (unrelated but what? I still like to watch it.) I didn't want to be done getting that nervous, excited feeling randomly throughout the day, whenever I thought about this coming Saturday night. And with the Jayhawks making the Final Four out of nowhere, I'm lucky enough to have received an extra six days of this stuff. I just don't want the season to be done yet. Not yet.

- KU's chances on Saturday? I'm officially the wrong guy to ask. I've thought we were done since about three minutes left in the 2nd-round game against Purdue, when I was hunched over at the bar and barely able to look at the TV screen (what Kyle affectionately calls "Hammen Close-Game Puke Mode.") I'm just happy to be here. To borrow a phrase from the 2004 Red Sox, a phrase which I've also beaten into the ground practically every time my flippy-cup team has fallen behind at least 3 games to 1 in a best-of-seven and had to mount a drunken comeback:

WHY NOT US?!?!?!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Answers To March Madness FAQs

My Final Four? Kentucky, North Carolina, Marquette, and Ohio St. Kentucky and Carolina are easily the two best teams, and since Ol' Roy is relatively upset-proof since he left Kansas (thanks for that, guy) I feel pretty solid on that championship game. I never pick games with my heart, but I physically could not write the word 'Missouri' in the Final Four spot, even though I think they can make it. I would grab the pencil, and end up with words like 'Misfjkejf' or 'Missonniregwecnk'ff' or 'Go Fist Yourself Missouri'. So Marquette it is. They can play small ball and match up well against Mizzou anyway. No, seriously. And yes, I had Ohio St. penciled in there before Fab Melo was deemed ineligible for Syracuse. I've been on the Buckeye wagon all year.

I looooooove KU's bracket, except for the fact that the team I wanted to face the least in the Elite 8 was Carolina. Partly because they're have seven McDonald's All-Americans, partly because they're playing well, and partly because Elite 8 games are stressful enough without having to go up against your old coach and a bunch of your buddies who cheer for the opposite team. KU killed Carolina in the '08 Final Four, we got our revenge on Ol' Roy, and that was that. Let's not add another chapter to this book.

But am I terrified of KU losing before the Elite 8? Of course. Have you watched the Bill Self era? In the last seven years, KU's season has been ended by a team seeded at least eight spots lower four times. That is an insane statistic. These effing mid-majors, dude. I think I'd rather play all top-notch teams the whole tournament; KU has more success against them, and it's not a world-ender if they lose. And heads up in the first-round game-- people are calling Detroit the best 15-seed in history (so naturally KU gets them.) They have more McD's All-American's (1) than KU does (0). I will be watching this game with both hands pressed against my temples, massaging in a clockwise rotation, while hammering down nervous beers (Nervous Lites, as we call them.)

Upsets? Mini-sleepers? Like Freddy Mercury and his bad mistakes, I've made a few. (Please somebody get that one....) I've got Long Beach State in the Sweet 16, where they meet up with Memphis, who goes on to the Elite 8. I've got Montana over Wisconsin. NC State over San Diego State. I really wanted to take St. Choose Your Own Bonaventure over FSU, but couldn't quite pull the trigger. Same with New Mexico St. over Indiana, Ohio over Michigan, and Belmont over Georgetown. Don't be surprised if any of those upsets happen. And I'm not a betting man, but for those that are, you'd be doing yourself a disservice to not at least look at the money lines for KU losing to Detroit or St. Mary's/Purdue in the second round.

No, I did not get both Thursday and Friday off to watch games. Unfortunately, between not having a ton of vacation built up yet at this (relatively) new job, and needing a lot of time off later in the year, I could only take off Thursday, and even that is because I'm having a small oral surgery done in the morning and using sick time for the rest the day (RESOURCEFUL.) So between doing taxes (2008, 2009) and being at a new job that has sapped my vacation time (2010, 2012) last year was the only year I've been able to be sans work both days of the first round. After an entire lifetime of never missing those games-- my parents used to let me skip school to stay home and watch tourney games since I was never sick and never missed school otherwise-- this is unacceptable. This will be the last year of my life that I have to work during this two-day stretch. Mark that down.

My champion? North Carolina. I'm a little worried about their toughness, which is weird considering they're the tallest team in the country, but it's just easier for them to get shots than anybody else. They'll gladly run if you want to run with them, but when games slow down and it becomes a half-court game, they've got a couple of highly efficient big dudes to throw it inside to, and capable shooters to surround them. If they do meet Kentucky in the championship, it has the potential to be the greatest championship game of all time. Not that my blind hatred of Coach Calipari would let me enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sorry Dudes

I'm well aware that I'm a shitty blogger these days. To paraphrase a line from Mr. Burns from the "Who Shot Mr. Burns" episode, "There has been a shocking decline in both the quality and quantity of your blogging, Waylon. And you will fall into line, now!"

But rather than summon up the creativity needed to follow up that intro with an entertaining post, I'm just here to post links to two awesome things I've seen within the last week, both courtesy of Grantland. Just so you can kill at least a little bit of time while you're here.

1. A March Madness-style bracket of characters from The Wire, done by Grantland. One of those ideas I wish I would've thought of myself. Now I want to do one for The Simpsons, Beverly Hills, 90210, etc. etc. Endless possibilities. So awesome.

2. Anthony Richardson, an internet comedian who does little voice-overs for FIFA soccer video games, with hilarious results. And the one he did for an NBA video game (scroll down on that link) is probably even funnier. Not knowing anything about soccer, but trying to become a fan, has led me to say all kinds of nonsensical things in a heavy British accent while watching games. Basically just cracking myself up while annoying everyone around me. So maybe that's why I think this is so funny-- I'm just enjoying a funnier, more British-sounding version of myself. If Christine were to listen to these clips, she'd probably breakout in hives or seizures, as she is reminded of me when I'm at my (arguably) most annoying. I, on the other hand, could listen to Richardson all day. My kind of dude.

FYI, my blogging will probably only get worse from here. It's March Madness, I have no room in my brain for anything else. It's science.