Saturday’s action brought some unexpected flavor to the NCAA Tournament. Two heavyweights abruptly crumpled while another put an emphatic claim to the 2010 title.
The past month and a half has not been good to Jay Wright and his Villanova Wildcats. St. Mary’s, the 10th seed in the south region, finally put Villanova out of their misery. Let’s not beat around the bush. The Villanova Wildcats have been the family pet that is barely hanging on. The poor thing is miserable, can barely function, and looks like the next day will be its last. Unfortunately, you and your family love the darn thing so much that you just don’t have the heart to put it down once and for all. So you wait and hope. Hope for improvement. Hope for a comeback. Hope for relief. Sometimes, the improvement and a comeback never arrive, and long awaited relief comes only with death. That relief came to Villanova yesterday. No more scrapping. No more clawing to survive. No more frustration. No more basketball. It’s over. Scruffy died on Saturday. We can all move on now.
Watching Villanova this weekend was unbearable. It felt like the Philadelphia Eagles collapse against the Dallas Cowboys on consecutive weekends. What’s worse, nothing Jay Wright and his team did on Saturday made any sense. Scottie Reynolds was struggling. That much was obvious. But what do we all know about great players? They never stop shooting. When Kobe Bryant starts a game 1/12, he looks to get his teammates the ball more, but he never ignores an opportunity to score. The only way to fight through a slump is to keep shooting. Reynolds’ confidence was so destroyed that he passed on countless open shots. He didn’t even drive to create offense (his staple). I’m convinced he was as shocked as we were at how poorly he was playing. I couldn’t decide whether to despise him or pity him. I was as lost as he was. With that said, Corey Fisher was almost as brutal over the past two games. Scottie’s the marquee he player, so he’ll bear the blunt of the blame, and rightfully so. However, don’t forget that Fisher finished the tournament shooting 5/17 and had very little success finishing at the rim (crucial to Villanova’s success).
As for head coach Jay Wright…wow. What an abomination. Defensively, his scrappy team was abused. Way too many open threes, way too many second opportunities, and way too many breakdowns. It’s been a while since I missed Andy Reid’s coaching. That’s how bad Wright was these last two games. Nova’s shooting was horrible too. If you asked them to point to their nose, they would have poked an eye out. They were that off. Instead of sending his athletic guards crashing into the lane to create and draw fouls, Wright stood and watched as his players continually settled for outside shots. He even ran the offense through Taylor King on consecutive possessions. TAYLOR KING! It was maddening. The only success Villanova found today was driving the lane and letting their guards create. Therefore, until St. Mary’s stopped them, Villanova should have sent Reynolds, Corey Fisher, and Maalik Wayns into the lane over and over again. Instead, Villanova’s done, Scottie’s gone, and the Sixers are the only basketball left in town. Gross.
Go ahead and ask me who I had facing off in the NCAA Championship game. Don’t be shy. Go ahead, ask. …..(Waiting….Twiddling my thumbs)…. Yes? What’s that you say? Who did I have in the final? Kansas vs. Villanova, of course. That’s right. My bracket went all “Hurt Locker” on Saturday. It’s gone. No mas. I’ve already started filling out my NCAA Women’s bracket to ease the pain.
Much like Villanova, Kansas got confused about the easiest strategy in sports (and life for that matter): If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Notice how successful Kansas was every time they got the ball down low to Cole Aldrich or their other interior players? By my count, they were REALLY successful. I kept yelling, “Get it down low! Give it to him!” They didn’t listen. Until the last four minutes of the game (when they finally tied and took a slight lead), Kansas continually hoisted up threes that met iron. It’s amazing how college teams, especially favorites like Kansas and Villanova, panic when trailing. Instead of remaining calm and running their offense, they start pressing and settling for threes. It’s mind-boggling. Climbing back into a basketball game is a process, not an event. One basket won’t bring you back. Consistent offense is the only way. Bombing away from beyond the arc is hardly consistent –unless of course you’re Larry Bird.
By the way, Kansas coach, Bill Self deserves half of Jay Wright’s “Worst coach of the day” pie. They both did a lot to earn their share. With a supremely talented team like Kansas, losing in the second round is as much on the coach as it is the players. Self should have demanded that the ball go inside on every possession in the last 10 minutes. He didn’t. That’s why he’s now on vacation.
Kentucky Fried Wake … and made a statement in the process
I laugh at any of you who thought Kentucky was too inexperienced to compete for a national title. I especially laugh at those of you who thought Texas or Wake Forest would upset the Wildcats in round two. Wait, what’s that? I picked Texas to knock out John Wall and his teammates? For real? No way.
Indeed. I’m a dope. I was clearly wrong too … like, there are WMD’s in Iraq wrong. Kentucky couldn’t have looked more dominant on Saturday night. CBS commentator, Jay Bilas said it best when he declared, “Kentucky is absolutely putting on a clinic.” He was right. They were completely composed, proficient, and unstoppable. Whatever they wanted on the offensive end, they took. They looked like a D1 school scrimmaging a high school practice squad. That’s how good Kentucky can be. I knew this heading into the tournament. I just didn’t believe they would play to that level, especially because of their inexperience. So far, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Saturday night’s thrashing put the remaining 24 teams on notice, “The king (Kansas) is dead, this is our court now.” Notice received, loud and clear. If only they could hit some free throws…