Spring Madness

Spring break brings on two extremely different types of madness for the college world. The first is the complete anarchy that is a college kid’s week away at some distant beach with a whole lot of booze and zero physical activity. Unless of course, you count drunk body surfing as a physical activity. Now coming from a self proclaimed master of sport, drunk body surfing is no walk in the park, but that’s neither here nor there. The second of the two types is, in my opinion, the greatest sporting event of the year: March Madness. This 64 team, single elimination basketball tournament is the epitome of physical excellence as players dive for loose balls, bang it out in the post, and give everything they got just for the chance to move on to play one more game. It’s a tournament where regular season records are erased and the only thing that matters is the will to win. My anonymous blogger friend, Let’s Grab A Drink, can talk to you about the madness of college kids drinking from sun up til sun down for seven days straight, while I quickly break down what has happened so far in the greatest tournament in sports.

A bunch of drunk college kids. Image credit: springbreakguide.com

A bunch of drunk college kids. Image credit: springbreakguide.com

VS

Big Bad Kevin Love. Meanest White Dude since Larry Bird

Big Bad Kevin Love. Meanest white dude since Larry Bird. Image credit: officialtwolves.tumblr.com

Let’s start off with the game that a brought a smile to everybody’s face. Duke lost to Mercer in the first round. Say it with me, #3 DUKE LOST TO #14 MERCER. The final score was 78-71. It was practically a blow out. Mercer started 5 seniors while Coach K, the wizard/weasel of basketball, only started one. The boys of Mercer took experience and shoved it in the most experienced college basketball coach’s face. They proved that a strong core of veterans who believe in each other and their system can take down Darth Vader and his evil empire of freshman and sophomore babies just using college basketball as their ticket to NBA contracts. Its the classic backyard match-up of the dads vs the kids. The kids got all the youth and all the moves, but the dads always find a way to will their way to the bucket with sharp elbows and some silky hook shots. A great win for Mercer, but in classic Duke fashion, Coach K steals the spotlight. He immediately runs into the Mercer locker room to shout his praises. I mean seriously, Coach K brings the definition of brown-noser to a whole different level. The man’s the damn teacher, for god’s sake. Shit, this is exactly what he wants. Anyway, GREAT win for Mercer. Always love to see the Dukies lose.

I've Never Been More Happy To See A Kid Cry

I’ve never been more happy to see a kid cry. Image credit: kentuckysportsradio.com

Another big loss in the 1st round was #6 Ohio State to #11 Dayton. It was a nail-biter as the Fllyers pulled out the win 60-59. I wouldn’t necessarily have called this an in-state rivalry before, but now I will.  The game went down to the wire and there were 15 lead changes, but Dayton’s Vee Sanford put in a lay up with about four seconds left to put the nail in the coffin. Not even Ohio State’s hero, Aaron Craft,could save them as he just missed a floater with time expiring. This now brings me to the extreme joy I felt when the floater clanked off the rim. I was at a restaurant, responsibly drinking some adult sodas with my friends when he missed the shot. I jumped out of my seat, did a little fist pump and didn’t even care that I looked like a complete douche. Craft is that kid at practice who dives for loose balls, fouls way too aggressively on defense, and just plays so hard so that coaches will love him. Why do I hate Aaron Craft? Because in pick up hoops, I play aggressive defense, I talk too much, I dive for loose balls, and I take a loss way too seriously. But am I going to the NBA? No. That should be me, but instead I’ll most likely be a world renowned blogger of useless issues. However, it brings a smile to my face to know that right now he’s probably sulking about how life’s unfair and it should have been him for his senior year. Aaron, pull up a chair because for the next couple of weeks your just like us.

I Was Flashing The Same Pose Last Week On The Beach

I was flashing the same pose last week on the beach. Image credit: sbnation.com

Those were the top moments of the first round. Everything else was, to put simply, irrelevant.But sitting here, I’m starting to realize I take a lot of comfort in the defeat of people who have no relation to me. I’m starting to feel like a member of the Capitol in The Hunger Games.

The second round brought some great surprises as well. The most notable was that #10 Dayton kept the train rolling and beat #3 Syracuse. Dayton won another close game, 55-53, as Syracuse missed a shot to win at the end of the game. The key to this game? The long ball baby. If you live by the three, you die by the three. As a 5’11 white kid, I love the long ball and have been known to chuck it up every once and a while. But when it’s not falling, I get the message pretty quickly. If only I was the coach of a Syracuse. The Orange did not hit one three pointer for the entire game. You do the math. 0 for 10 behind the arc equals loss with a capitol L. Got to love the spirit of these Dayton Flyers. They’re just staying in these close games and pulling out W’s. The beauty of it is that nobody knows who these guys are. I’m pretty sure only a handful of Dayton students can name the starting line-up. Who cares, LET’S RIOT!!!!!!!

Ohio is useless, but it's colleges' know how to party

The state of Ohio is useless, but Dayton knows how to party. Image Credit: brobible.com

Another huge upset was #10 Stanford beating #2 Kansas. The wannabe Ivy league school from the West beat the Jayhawks by 3 points (60-57). The loss is a surprising one since the first coach of Kansas was Dr. James Naismith. Who’s that? Oh I don’t know, just the guy who created basketball. They’ve gone on to have legendary coaches like Dean Smith, Larry Brown, and Roy Williams. They’ve been to the big dance 25 times, the final four 14 times and they’ve won the whole thing 3 times. They’re always a solid pick to go to the Elite Eight, but not this year. Kansas’ one and done superstar, Andrew Wiggins, shot an abysmal 1 for 6 from the field. Good luck in the NBA when you can’t even beat the mighty Stanford Tree. The primarily football school shook the birds out of their nest (Oh man that was bad). The nerds from Stanford shot a better percentage from the field and out rebounded the Jayhawks. No magic secrets, just hard-nosed basketball. Even though they won, Stanford better watch out for the chainsaw that is the Dayton Flyers.

The second round brought some close games as #3 Iowa St held off #6 North Carolina (85-83) and #8 Kentucky upset #1 Wichita St (78-76). Kentucky and Wichita St. went back and forth with three ball after three ball, but the Wildcats proved to be too athletic as they gained the lead and Wichita St couldn’t hit the shot to stay in the hunt. It was a great game, but I knew Kentucky was going to win so no surprise upset for me. The round also brought some blow outs as #1 Arizona wiped the floor with the usually strong #8 Gonzaga (84-61) and #6 Baylor upset #3 Creighton (85-55) who just couldn’t get anything going. The ACC has one team left and that’s the Virgina Cavaliers. I don’t like them, so I’m not going to talk about them. Some great basketball has been played and we got a lot more left to watch. Grab a seat, crack a brew or a sprite, and enjoy. GO FLYERS!!!

 

Maryland Hoops Recap: Turgeon and Terps Shoot Themselves in the Foot

The Maryland Terrapins basketball team literally kills me. Mark Turgeon, the third year coach, is a coach who preaches defense, defense, and a little more defense. Well Mark, if you were a defensive coordinator for the football team than I wouldn’t have a problem with your mentality. However, you’re a basketball coach and the problem with this team isn’t their defense, but it’s their lack of ability to run a half court offense and do the one thing that matters: put the ball in the bucket.

In the 1st half of tonight’s game against Syracuse, the Terps shot a whopping 31% from the field. In a 20-minute time span, they made seven shots. Let that number sink in for a second…….SEVEN. In that same half, the Terps went 5 of 13 from behind the arc for a grand 3-point percentage of 38.5%. That’s not a bad number if your shooting at least 40% from the field, but they weren’t. The Terps rely way too heavily on the deep ball when the simple fact is that nobody is a consistent shooter from behind the arc. Seth Allen was the only player scoring any points. He came out in the 1st half and stroked 4 of 5 from behind the arc. Now that’s great and you got to love seeing that kind of production from your point guard. But he also had 3 turnovers, including 2 traveling violations. This is D-1, ACC basketball and you’re a starting point guard. Is it too much of us to ask that you know how to dribble the ball or properly use a pivot foot?  Unfortunately, no other player is worth talking about in the 1st half. As a team, they had 12 turnovers in the 1st and half of them came from their 2 primary ball handlers: Allen and Dez Wells. However, I got to give my boys some credit because even with all the turnovers and missed shots they only found themselves down 8 points at the end of the half. String together a solid second half and the Terps could steal a victory from the #4 team in the nation.

And what do you know?  They did, in fact, put in a better 2nd half performance.  The boys cut their turnovers in half. Allen hit a couple more big threes. Wells decided to wake up from his customary 1st half coma and figured he’d put some points on the board. Syracuse couldn’t hit a three to save their life in the 2nd, but Maryland couldn’t quite get out of the hole they dug themselves early. Maryland (I mean Allen and Wells) actually outscored Syracuse in the 2nd half 31 to 25, but it just wasn’t enough. When the third highest scorer on your squad has 6 points, you have no business winning a basketball game. Syracuse did all they could to give us possession with missed 3 after missed 3, but our inability to run a half court offense proved to be even worse. The Terps didn’t bother to try and penetrate the zone, but instead did their prototypical passing around the top of the key until they heave up a shot with about 7 seconds left on the shot clock. That only gives them one chance to make a basket and those chances aren’t good with the way the team was shooting tonight. Don’t get me wrong, the Terps have heart and they didn’t lose tonight because they didn’t want it. They gave it everything they got and took Syracuse to the wire before losing by two. Unfortunately, you win games by moving off the ball, hitting the open man, and penetrating the zone, not by just wanting it.

We expect the turnovers. We expect the spotty shooting. We know Allen will come out and play. We know Wells will struggle early but turn it on later. We know Layman and Evan Smortycz, “our sharp shooters”, will shy away from the limelight in these big games (both shot 1-4 from behind the arc and had 6 and 5 pts respectively). We know all this because we’ve seen it before and week after week, Turgeon does nothing to change it. The last 16 seconds of tonight’s game shows that it comes down to coaching, plain and simple. Maryland, down by 1, gathered in a rebound with 16 seconds left, Wells pushed it up the court with Nick Faust ahead of him. There were 3 defenders back waiting for them. Wells took one dribble too many and bounce-passed the ball to Faust, who was too deep under the basket to get a good look. He gets blocked, the ball gets turned over, Syracuse goes to the line and pretty much puts the game away. With 16 seconds left and two times out remaining, Turgeon has to make the read that we don’t have numbers, call a timeout and set up a play to get a good, high percentage shot inside. Cut down the silly turnovers, take higher percentage shots and get the ball inside more. If we do those three things tonight, we win the game. How many winnable games does Turgeon have to watch us lose before he actually changes his style of play?