Some thoughts on the NCAA basketball title game, courtesy of our own Sean Kiley...
So I don’t watch a lot of college basketball during the regular season. I just find regular season games to be boring as hell and all very similar. I have, however, in the past, taken the day off of work to watch the first day of the tournament. (I said I was “sick with March Madness.” I actually used that when I missed a class in college. The professor was Pakistani, and thought it was a legitimate illness until the other guys in the class started snickering.) I really think that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the best sporting event of the year. No seven game series, upsets galore, and kids playing their hearts out, living and dying with every lead change. I missed out last year, not having the time to watch most of the tournament. I’ve had two reasons to get into the tournament more this year:
1.) My girlfriend, Mandy, is a HUGE Michigan fan, and we watched the incredible OT victory against Kansas at a bar, where we had to listen to a smack-talking Kansas fan, who was decked out in KU gear. He disappeared when the game was over. It was hilarious.
2.) I’m doing really well in my bracket challenge on ESPN.com. (I got the Harvard-New Mexico upset in the first round. Missed Florida Gulf Coast reaching the sweet sixteen, but so did everyone else, so it’s kind of a wash. I had both of the first day 12-5 upsets, but missed on a couple of other games. Certainly tops last year, where I missed pretty much every first round upset and was at like 40 percent by the end of the first round. I actually had the opportunity to look at the teams and match-ups this year and make more than just guesses.)
I’m also really excited about Mitch McGary, Michigan’s gigantic 6’10” freshman center. Dude is like a tree out there, and he’s only nineteen. I’m thinking he’ll top out at 7’-plus. I’ll be rooting for Michigan, since I don’t want to be beaten to death, but I really think that Louisville is the better team. (Mandy did make some excellent turkey melts on fresh Tuscan bread, so I have to be nice.) In the spirit of Bill Simmons, I thought I would do a running diary of the game. Without further ado, we’re off to the pregame show.
(Incidentally, why is this game starting at almost 9:30 EDT? It’s not going to be over until after midnight. That’s total B.S. I have to work in the morning.)
9:09: Charles Barkley says “Lewis-ville”. Charles has taken the malapropism to a new level. I can’t wait to see his halftime analysis. (“That was a turrible effort by Smith! They ought to give these people they money back.”)
9:13: Rick Pitino looks like Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman”. Seriously, he needs to finish his interviews with “Hoo-Hah!” (I half expected him to tell the refs “If the calls don’t go our way, I’m taking a FLAME THROWA TO THIS PLACE!”)
9:15: Chris Webber is in the house. Too bad he had to be berated into coming by his former Fab Five teammates. My guess is that he won’t sit with them in the crowd.
9:17-9:19: Travis Tritt butchers the national anthem. Enough with the falsetto, already, Travis. This guy may be from Georgia, but he hasn’t been relevant in country music in probably fifteen years, maybe longer. And that mullet has got to go.
9:20: Jim Nance introduces the teams, and I have to say that I wish Gus Johnson was announcing the game. Don’t miss Billy Packer, though.
9:21: My girlfriend shushes me for the first of what I will assume many times.
9:24: Louisville’s uni’s are ridiculous. I hate the white camo. Suddenly, it starts thundering outside. I inform Mandy that if there’s a thunderstorm, the cable in Edinboro WILL go out. Seriously, the cable here goes out on a sunny day if there’s a slight breeze. I really wish Time Warner or one of the other cable companies would buy them out.
9:27: Michigan gets the first score, and then follows up a Louisville miss with a LONG three.
9:28: Louisville follows with a three of its own and a block on the other end, which the replay shows was goaltending. Mandy shushes me again.
9:32: At the first break, it’s tied at 7-7. There’s a commercial for “42” which I really want to see because Jackie Robinson’s story is such a testament to the man’s inner strength. Back from the break, and there’s the Fab 5, sans C-Webb. He’s probably in a private box somewhere, being rich.
9:36: Michigan drains a three, and Spike Albrect hasn’t missed from downtown in the tournament.
9:38: He hits another for a 17-11 Michigan lead. He only 9 three’s in the entire regular season.
9:39: That was a terrible jump ball, but there’s a foul on the throw in, and Albrect drains ANOTHER THREE. Nine points off the bench in the first eight minutes. Unreal. 20-15 at the 12-minute time out.
9:44: Albrect hasn’t missed a shot in the tournament. 5’11” freshman. I’m astounded.
9:47: McGary looks completely lost out there. He’s super tentative, and practically immobile. And as I type that McGary tomahawks a block, throws it downcourt, and feeds Stauskus for ANOTHER THREE. Albrect gets tackled, and misses his first free throw. He hits the second, and it’s Michigan by 9, 26-17.
9:51: Michigan goes to a 3-2 zone, and Louisville promptly beats it for an easy two. I’m shushed for a third time.
9:57: Terrible no-call as McGary gets undercut under the rim. Albrect nails a fourth three, and its 31-21 with 5:40 to go. He’s got 15. He’s going to play himself into a lottery pick based on this half alone.
9:59: Text from Duckworth: “The black guys got them there but the white guys are on fire. Michigan looks good.” Very succinct, Johnny.
10:02: Albrect lays it off the glass for another two. If this was NBA Jam, he’d be “ON FIRE!” 17 points in the first half. He’s got a season high of 7 before tonight. I really see Louisville missing Ware right now. That might be the most grotesque thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Thank god it was on a wide shot. (John calls him a “pussy” for not playing.) They’ve gone stone cold and haven’t scored in four and a half minutes. 33-21 Michigan.
10:09: It’s possible that we could be setting up for a huge second half comeback. Michigan starts strong and fades late (except against Kansas); Louisville could come on strong in the second half. The lead is 10 after two GRIII free-throws.
10:14: Aaaand Louisville goes on an 11-3 run and it’s 36-32. Hancock is by far the best player on the floor right now.
10:16: Hancock drains another long three, gets a steal, throws down a THUNDEROUS DUNK and the rally is complete, 37-36. Michigan hits a couple of free throws, and its 38-37 at the break. McGary has been nowhere to be found in the first half. He should shave his head and grow a goatee, so he can look like what he is. Stone Cold. Mandy asks if Hancock has super powers, like the Will Smith movie. He might.
10:22: Break to take out the trash. I hate trash night. I leave Mandy on Charles Barkley ridiculous observation watch. She says that he didn’t say anything ridiculous, he just SOUNDS ridiculous when he talks. She’s moved across the room from me to watch the game. That may have been the most insane first half of basketball I’ve ever seen. Hancock and Albrect are both 4-4 from three point land off the bench. Mandy points out that Luke Hancock looks like he’s our age (35-36) with that beard.
10:40: Wayne Blackshear drains a three off the inbound for a 40-38 Louisville lead.
10:43: Russ Smith “looks frustrated” coming out for the second half, but he’s not hurt. It’s probably his 1-9 shooting in the first half. Just saying. Maybe HE should be Stone Cold.
10:45: McGary makes an appearance and gets an easy 2 for a 46-42 lead for Michigan; Pitino calls a timeout, largely due to Louisville disappearing defensively the last couple of minutes.
10:52: Man of Steel. Cannot wait.
10:53: Albrect is coming back in, and will play with Trey Burke, instead of playing in place of him. Wonder if he can keep up the 6-7 shooting.
10:57: Michigan totally butchers a fast break, and then can’t convert after a foul.
11:00: I wish Jim Nance would call the Masters like he’s calling this one. He’s very energetic tonight. I normally can’t stand him (especially during football season when he’s paired with the worst color man in all of sports, Phil Simms, whom I hate with a passion.) but tonight he’s pretty much channeling Gus Johnson.
11:03: Observation: The Chuck Liddell Miller Lite commercial is funny, but might go over some folks’ heads.
11:06: Albrect misses his first three of the tournament.
11:09: Earth-shaking dunk by Hardaway, but Hancock draws the foul on McGary on the other end. That’s four for McGary.
11:12: Michigan has totally cooled off from the floor, and it looks like Louisville might be oh-so-slowly pulling away. 63-58 Louisville. As I type that, Burke drives the lane and draws the and-1. 63-60 at the media time out. This is going down to the wire.
11:19: Burke bounces his face off the floor under the rim. Michigan’s players look pissed. 6:36 to go, 65-61 Louisville. Burke is 1-2 from the line and it’s a one possession game. Siva elevates and scores, then forces a turnover on the inbound pass.
11:22: Burke has a GREAT BLOCK on Siva BUT THEY CALL IT A FOUL. That was a terrible call. That was ALL ball.
11:27: Louisville lays it in and it’s 73-65. I think they might be able to put this away soon. Mandy will be inconsolable if Michigan loses.
11:31: Hancock drains a three, and Louisville is up by 10.
11:32: Burke gets hammered down low AGAIN. He drains both shots, 76-70.
11:34: On the other end, Burke gets called, and Louisville gets the miracle lay-in to extend it to 78-70. Michigan just can’t close the gap. Burke gets fouled again, hits both again, and it’s 78-72, Louisville.
11:36: Louisville throws the inbound pass out of bounds. Whoops. Have I noted how ugly the Louisville uniforms are? That bizarre grey on white with a camouflage pattern is just terrible. (I also think that Michigan needs to turn the yellow down a bit. (Just saying.)
11:39: 50 seconds to go, and its 78-74 Louisville. WHY ISN’T MICHIGAN FOULING? That was poor coaching. Louisville burned almost 20 seconds there. That’s got to be the coach’s fault. How can he not know what the foul situation is?
11:42: 15 seconds to go, 80-76 Louisville. Michigan needs to foul right away. Mandy falls asleep on my lap. Sleepiness overpowers love of basketball, I guess.
11:44: Burke airballs a three and it’s all over. Mandy wakes up long enough to say “Son of a Bitch. So close.” That about sums it up. I’m not staying up for “One Shining Moment”.
I thought that was a great tournament, and an awesome Final Four, capped by a couple of insane halves of basketball to wrap it up. I had Louisville winning it all in my bracket on ESPN.com, and I wound up finishing in the 97th percentile there. Best finish in several years for me. Mandy is not as inconsolable as I thought she would be, but she’s pretty down. (She’s as into Michigan sports as I am into the Steelers, so I can understand.)
I think that McGary disappearing almost completely and Albrect cooling off in the second half, coupled with Rick Pitino’s outstanding coaching job, as well as Luke Hancock’s lights out performance was what really turned the tide for Louisville.