The Most Finalisty Final Four Breakdown on the Internet
Soothsaying the final steps toward a shining moment
Horrible things happened along the way, but here we are — four teams remain. The original bracket breakdown I wrote became an immediate cause for embarrassment. My wife left me. My daughter asked that I not attend her parent/teacher conference. One of my sons publicly disowned me through an article in the local paper; which was weird because 1) it isn’t 1823 and 2) he’s only four.
My predictions regarding the tournament were not the only rotten things which happened. I crunched the numbers and found that the following items were less than desirable outcomes:
- The officiating was garbage. Sure, Gonzaga made it’s first final four (more on that later) but it may have done so because one of their players was able to reach up through the basket like my dad used to do when playing me on a nerf hoop. That move always made me try to dunk through his stupid fingers. It also made me rage-cry. All that to say, I get it Chris Collins.
- Kansas lost. I realize this may only be “awful” to a certain subset of people. However Kansas lost in a horrible fashion which contradicted their play to that point. They scored over 90 points in each of their first three games. They appeared to be the most fun team in the field. Then they pooped on their shoes. The loss wrapped up Frank Mason’s college career, who went from Towson recruit to probable POY. It also wrapped up Landon Lucas’ college career, who plays defense as though someone hit him with the petrificus totalus charm.
- Duke lost. LOL. Kidding.
- The play has not been stellar. *Charles Barkley voice* “The lack of fundamentals these kids display is turrible.” Could any of these teams hang with 2001 Duke? Or 2005 Carolina? Or 2012 Kentucky? No. They could not. Also, get off my lawn.
Somehow we are still fortunate enough to enjoy a double date featuring intriguing storylines. South Carolina made the final four! Gonzaga made the final four! Oregon presumably cheated to reach the final four! North Carolina rode the yearly “white dude drills game winner then flashes weird smile” heroics to Phoenix!
(As an aside, I was in Phoenix last week and was reminded the final four will actually be played at University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale. Couple things: Glendale isn’t Phoenix, a football stadium isn’t a basketball arena, and the University of Phoenix doesn’t deserve to be a university. The NCAA — we lie about everything!)
South Carolina vs. Gonzaga
If you aren’t rooting, vociferously, for South Carolina in this game you’re a lego duplo in a tub full of regular legos. South Carolina lost five out of seven (including the SEC tournament) heading into the dance. Frank Martin probably locked his players in a dungeon during a three game skid in February. The tournament weirdly fits the Gamecocks’ style. It’s interrupted and awkward and provides limited opportunities for scouting. It rewards mental toughness in players (dungeons will do that to you) and coaching which doesn’t become overwhelmed by the moment (are you listening Bill Self?).
Gonzaga annoys me to no end. The Bulldogs are no longer the plucky upstarts who share geography with Sasquatch. There’s no wispy-mustachioed conspiracy truther bombing threes. Gonzaga’s narrative unfolds thusly: good team wallops everyone in bad conference, wins boring games in national tournament, remains good. That’s it. What is their impressive tournament victory? West Virginia? Did you watch that game?! West Virginia set basketball back thirty years during the final possession alone. Are you impressed by the win over Xavier? Gross. Xavier starts a white kid with a bad haircut who wears a long-sleeve undershirt. They shouldn’t let you compete if that kid starts for you. If I were on the selection committee that is all I would need to see. “Does that kid have blue arms? No? Wait, is that a dri-fit shirt that’s baggy because he’s so skinny? Have fun in the NIT kid.”
South Carolina 73–67
North Carolina vs. Oregon
Who knew that Jordan Bell was actually basketball Vishnu? Bell finished the regional final against Kansas with 11 points, 13 rebounds, 8 blocks(!!!) and four assists. He was the best all-around player on the floor during his 34 minutes of game action. He was in all the places doing all the things. Performances like that feature prominently in the tournament myth-making. When a role player on “your” team has a star turn it’s profoundly satisfying. You knew he had it in him. You read about his hard work in practice. There have been flashes. The rest of the nation gapes like idiots, but you knew.
When it happens against your team you start floating PED use rumors to the internet.
Oregon is balanced, five players average double figures, six grab at least three rebounds every game. They have also found their style is less flying-v and more waddle after breadcrumbs (bc ducks). North Carolina is basically a collection of 6'8" dudes led by a point guard who looks a little like J. Cole. The story of the week is that Roy Williams has coached more Final Four minutes than the other coaches involved. Duh.
Every time I’ve watched North Carolina this year I’ve come away wondering if they only recruit guys most likely to fall asleep during a movie. It is as though watching Tyler Hansbrough so scarred the program they decided to avoid intensity all together. Remember that guy/gal you dated who was SUPER into Marx? They kept talking about communal living and reminding you that ancient Sparta didn’t even have currency beyond wooden disks. You had to lie and say your new t-shirt was from a thrift store. Well after you broke up with him/her you definitely didn’t pick the person who always had their hand up in ECON. Same thing happened to Roy, dadgummit. Handsbrough drained the well. Roy started dating mumblers instead of screamers.
Oregon’s advantage over Kansas was exemplified by Bell’s night. KU relied all year on their backcourt’s ability to control games. Josh Jackson was a power forward until he suddenly wasn’t last Saturday. Sometimes Landon Lucas plays as though he’s exerting the utmost of his physical gifts…sometimes he plays like a rhino with concrete legs. The Carolina bigs will not lumber or languish quite so much.
North Carolina 81–69
Battle for the soul of the Carolinas.
South Carolina vs. North Carolina
What an incredible contrast in styles! Baby Blue meets Red and Black. Frank Martin’s anger burning so hot crazy old coot Bob Knight gets nervous meets Roy Williams’ certainty that his wife will disapprove of his use of the word “sucked”. Pace and Space meets The Purge.
Who should you root for in this contest? Both states were original colonies (if you’re into that). Both were part of the confederacy (if you’re into that, and if so please shut up forever).
One gets the feeling that South Carolina always plays second, bluegrass, fiddle to North Carolina in most things. Petey Pablo didn’t wave his shirt over his head as though it were a helicopter for South Carolina. He did so for North Carolina. North Carolina plays pretty basketball. They have done so since Dean and the Four Corners offense and MJ and Stackhouse. South Carolina plays as though the only team they watch on league pass is the Grizzlies. I want to believe that the Timberland Boot ne glass slipper will fit.
But the heart is a liar.
North Carolina 77–59