“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Victory At Last
It was a night of firsts for the NCAA Tournament. After 17 consecutive tournament appearances and three Elite Eights, the Gonzaga Bulldogs finally broke through to the Final Four. Victory was especially sweet for the Zags faithful when you take into account that Gonzaga was generally considered the weakest of the four #1 seeds playing in the weakest of the four regions. The “they had the easy path” excuse doesn’t go very far with this Zags fan, though. How many of the so-called elite programs in this tournament wanted to see that West Virginia defense in the third round? Let me answer that for you. ZERO.
The task before every team wanting to make the Final Four is to win four consecutive games against whatever opponents the outcomes give you, and that’s exactly what Gonzaga did. That cannot be taken away or diminished by speculation or endless “what-if” scenarios that are completely irrelevant. What if they had to play in the region with UNC or Duke or Kentucky or Oregon? What if they had to play Arizona instead of Xavier? What if a monkey gnawed off Mark Few’s ear in the middle of the night? That’s now how this tournament works. You aren’t asked to beat 63 teams. You only have to beat four to make the Final Four, six to win a championship, and right now I think Gonzaga has an excellent chance of winning two more games.
While this wasn’t the first ever appearance in the Final Four for the Oregon Ducks, it was the first time in a long time – 78 years to be exact. While it may not be so surprising that Oregon won, the way in which they beat Kansas was a bit surprising given that Kansas had steamrolled its first three opponents so far, scoring in the 90s in every game. It may be an unfair assessment, but it seems to me that Kansas continually underachieves in these tournaments. That was a big factor in my own decision to take Oregon in this game when I made my repicks (I had Louisville originally coming out of the Midwest). You just can’t count on Kansas in March.
And Now For The Utterly Random
- Is Kansas Under Some Sort Of Curse? – Obviously Oregon played great defense, but what Kansas team was this that we saw play tonight? The team that averaged something like 92 points per game in the first three games scored only 60 tonight, missing an incredible 20 three-point shot attempts. At times the Jayhawks just couldn’t seem to buy a basket or a break. Case in point, after pulling to within six points and getting a defensive stop, Kansas’ Josh Jackson literally tipped the rebound out of the waiting fingertips of teammate Frank Mason III right into the waiting arms of Oregon’s Jordan Bell. It was that kind of night for Kansas.
- 461 – That’s how many minions had Kansas in the Final Four. Ouch. Coincidentally, Kansas was also the most popular pick in the contest for national champion with 135 votes. The second most popular pick? Wait for it…Gonzaga with 119.
- Almost Famous – There is perhaps no more ignominious job in all of basketball than to wield one of those mops to dry the players’ sweat off the floor. Talk about an icky assignment. One poor mop girl almost became famous tonight for all the wrong reasons when Gonzaga made an unexpected steal – Josh Perkins, I think it was – and stormed to the other end for an easy layup. But first, Perkins, who looked as bewildered as the mop girl, had to wait for her to scurry off the court. Fortunately this turned out to be a case of no harm, no foul.
- And Now, A Word Or Two From Reggie – I want to thank Uncle Reggie for using one of Jordan Bell’s eight blocked shots to help us Pacer fans relive one of the worst moments in Pacer playoff history when Tayshaun Prince impossibly blocked Reggie’s breakaway layup. And speaking of Jordan Bell, when it was reported that he was frustrated with his team and coaches for not communicating to him that the shot clock was running down, Reggie produced the perfect Captain Obvious moment when he quipped, “All he has to do is look at those big red numbers up there above the basket.” Gotta love Reggie. I think he does a great job in broadcasting.
- The Best Thing I Saw On TV Today – When I first tuned in to the TBS pre-game show, I was greeted not by Greg, Clark, Kenny, and Charles, but by puppets made in their likenesses. It was excellent, creative, and extremely cute.
- ICYMI – Direct TV and AT&T have co-opted the old Aerosmith power ballad, “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” for an absurd ad campaign for their live streaming service. Greg Gumble looks completely uncomfortable next to the lounge singer dude in the awful leisure suit. This is one commercial I wouldn’t mind missing for the rest of the tournament.
- What, No Bill? – Not sure if Bill Murray was MIA at tonight’s game, or if he just didn’t get any camera time because Xavier got trounced. Maybe he was live streaming the game on his AT&T device.
- The Worst Thing I Saw On TV Today – Did anyone catch Gonzaga big man Przemek Karnowski slobbering a loogie in that gnarly beard of his as he was putting on his commemorative Final Four t-shirt after the game? As TV sports gross-out moments go, that’s right up there with Pete Sampras vomiting through his nose at the US Open in 1996.
I only have time for a couple of awards tonight. There will be more when the Final Four is complete tomorrow night.
- The I’m Only In This For The Awards award goes to all of you who just skipped everything in this commentary before the Awards heading just to see if you got a shout out by name. You know who you are. Hey, I work really hard trying to come up with all of this clever shtick. But that’s OK. Even though you didn’t read it, my feelings aren’t hurt. That much.
- The It’s Gotta Be The Beard award goes to 21st place minion Jeff Beard whose surname must be as lucky as Karnowski’s months-unshaven mane.
- The No Award For You award, given in honor of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, goes to Brad Walters for ridiculously still being in first place despite losing his last remaining team in the tournament, Xavier. There’s nowhere to go but down the leader board from here.
- The Big Mac Attack award goes to George McAtee for ascending to 16th place. George will receive a year’s supply of Big Macs along with a complementary copy of Supersize Me on DVD.
Tune in tomorrow when we will hand out the awards for the top prognosticators in each region along with other fun stuff.
The Wizard of Whiteland