Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Even though baseball season has officially begun for every team by this point, I'm still thinking more about the Final Four than anything else right now. Of the four teams that remain, I hate all four of them. But since somebody has to win this thing, at least according to the rules of logic and probability, I guess I'd rather see Kansas win than any of the other finalists.

I hate Memphis because I hate John Calipari. I never really liked him when he coached U Mass back in the day and I haven't seen any reason to change my mind since. As for this Memphis team, they are dangerously close to proving that they actually matter. They beat Texas, who was legit this season, even though Rick Barnes isn't particularly awe-inspiring as a big game coach. That said, there still is the fact that Conference USA is still going through the proverbial seven years of famine of which the Bible spoke since Louisville, Cincy and the rest fled to the Big East.

I've never been a Carolina fan. Just because they're a step above (and infinitely preferable to the Cameron Crazies) Duke doesn't carry enough weight to make me like them. I will root for them whenever they play Duke, but other than that, I have no time for them. Nor have I ever been swept away by the "romance" of Tobacco Road. Perhaps if General Sherman could have foreseen how things would turn out he would have been more harsh and not lest harsh in his treatment of North Carolina during the Civil War. Plus I'm not entirely convinced that Roy Williams and the current mayor of Boston aren't doppelgangers.

I'm not entirely sure why I hate UCLA, it's just something I've always done. It might have something to do with the light blue uniforms (like UNC). I don't think it has anything to do with the tradition, generally speaking I admire tradition (Notre Dame and the Yankees come to mind). Maybe it's the fact that I think I hate everything from LA. Or maybe it's a lingering resentment against the school that gave us Kareem and Bill Walton.

I really hate Bill Walton, by the way, and I hate him more every time he opens his mouth. Yeah, he helped the Celtics win a title and come within a whisper of another back in the good old days. But he's a long winded d-bag who looks at the world through a strange perspective wherein his contributions to the basketball landscape and the English language are vastly overstated. It's too bad that injuries derailed what would have been an epic career, and it's a shame that he stuttered till he was 30, but why should I be punished for that?

I also remember way back when, when I was still a Celtics fan and the Cs and Nets were battling in the Eastern Conference finals. Walton was in the crowd in the Meadowlands, high-fiving Nets fans as though it were cool. Even though I have stopped being a Celtics fan as long as the Ainge era continues, I'm still not forgiving Walton. I probably never will.

Before I leave the topic of Bill Walton, I still want an explanation or clarification on his relationship to the Symbionese Liberation Army. Or at the very least a good explanation on what exactly the Symbionese are or were, from whom they needed to be liberated and why exactly kidnapping Patty Hearst was supposed to advance that cause. And as an aside, even though I am fairly conservative myself, I do not include his relationship to the Grateful Dead in my reasons for hating Walton. While I do not share their ideals, I do respect and enjoy their music.

I wanted to rip Bill Simmons for picking UCLA in his bracket column because I didn't think much of this team. Even though they'd made two (and now three) consecutive Final Fours, I just wasn't sold on this team. I guess I have no faith in Ben Howland because he's bald. I didn't go ahead and do so, mostly because my own history of brackets imploding quickly and spectacularly tends to shut me up for a change, at least on this particular subject.

Watching UCLA during this tournament, I have been wondering, like everybody else under the sun, what kind of pro Kevin Love will make. He is slow, and he hasn't been tested against the type of quality big man he'll face on the next level with any consistency, but I think he'll make it. Simmons compared a shot he made in the Pac 10 tournament to Bill Laimbeer's style of three point shooting. And I think that's the model for Love.

Love probably isn't as tough as Laimbeer was, and it's very unlikely that he will turn out to be the dick that Laimbeer was. But then this isn't the NBA of the 1980s, either. Expansion and internationalization have diluted the talent pool and virtually ended the concept of the legitimate enforcer in the NBA. The days of Rick Mahorn and Charles Oakley aren't coming back. That said, I can see Love having a long career where he averages 12 and 8 against an ever-shrinking population of true centers in the NBA.

It's strange that this should be the first time all four number one seeds have advanced to the Final Four under this format. These four teams have been dominant, but they all seemed just flawed enough that at least one should have fallen by now. UCLA maybe should have lost to Texas A & M, but for the bad call in the final minute that jobbed the Aggies, and Kansas came oh so close to losing to Davidson. But these four have survived, and it should be interesting to see how they match up with one another.

Kansas and Memphis seem almost like mirror images of one another. They have similar size and speed mixtures, but I think Kansas has better perimeter shooting and there is always the specter of free throw shooting for Memphis. Yes, they've shot much better from the line in postseason play than they did earlier, but the pressure increases exponentially at this point in the tournament. I think it will come back to haunt them, so they will probably advance.

UNC has great athleticism, but Roy Williams (even though he is only 3 years removed from winning it all) still strikes me as a guy who can find a way to choke and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at any given moment. And maybe I'm just convinced of this against all logic, but I'd really rather not have to rely on Tyler Hansborough in a big moment. Yeah, he has great numbers and he's at the top of the list of player of the year candidates, but I just have a bad feeling about this.

So if you're keeping score at home, based on everything I've said so far, it's Carolina over Memphis with Hansborough as your Most Outstanding Player.

In other matters, while I was surfing the ESPN site, I came across this piece by LZ Granderson on the NFL considering requiring players with long hair to tuck their hair into their helmet on the field. I don't see what the big deal is, it's not as though the league is mandating that players get hair cuts. And if it could protect a player, then they should go ahead with it. But if the policy doesn't come in, I'm fine with that too.

I linked to the piece because I couldn't help but wonder one thing. No matter how compelling one's case may or may not be, I think the argument is undercut from jump street when you lead off with a Waiting to Exhale reference. Even if you aren't making a sports argument. Even if you are for whatever reason making a Waiting to Exhale argument. Whatever claim to legitimacy, masculinity, street cred, or whatever other term you want to use for the same concept you had is gone as soon as you drop a Waiting to Exhale reference. You might just as well get a Subaru sport utility wagon and admit you've been gelded.

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