Monday, March 07, 2005

Senior Freshman Day

It was Senior Day in Chapel Hill Sunday and for a group that included Jawad Williams, Melvin Scott and Jackie Manuel, things couldn't have ended much better.
"This feeling I have ... I've never felt it before,'' said red-eyed senior Jackie Manuel, one of three holdovers from the 8-20 team in 2001-02.
To which Jackie added, "well, except for that time that I 'built-a-bear' for my fiance ... " OK, Jackie really didn't say. And if not for some late game heroics by freshman Marvin Williams, Manuel would've been my "Senior Day senior of the game." Honestly, how does Duke relinquish a 9-point lead with just under three minutes to play? Or maybe the real question should be, how can college officiating actually get worse? And I'm speaking from the perspective of a UNC fan ... whose team won the game.

Honestly, for 38 minutes the refs made more inane calls (not surprisingly, the fouls were usually questionable, and almost always went against Jackie Manuel or David Noel/for J.J. Redick) than I'd seen this entire season. And then in the last two minutes, David Noel, who actually looked like he was trying to foul Daniel Ewing at midcourt, got away with it, and UNC ended up with the ball. And exactly where does it say in the rule book that if J.J. Redick falls down it's a foul, or that Shelden Williams must draw blood from his opponent before he's committed a foul?

And poor Shavlik Randolph. In addition to having what must be the world's worst haircut, he apparently is not allowed within 15 feet of the opposing team because if the whistle blows, you can bet the fouls on him ... every time.

Of course I can offer my mock support of the Blue Devils because of their inexplicable implosion. But in all seriousness, it was good to see the Tarheel seniors get to experience winning the ACC after having to endure an 8-20 season in 2001. Here are some other random thoughts I had during the game:

... The great thing about Duke is there's never a shortage of players to hate. For me, it all started with Mark Alarie back in 1986. In retrospect, he was actually one of the most harmless Dukies to suit up, but at the time, I remember having quite a dislike for the guy. Of course I quickly forgot about him as soon as Danny Ferry made his way to Durham. He was Christian Laettner before Christian Laettner was Christian Laettner (got that?). And speaking of what's his name, I had to split my hatred during the early '90s between him and Bobby Hurley. And then there was the golden age of Duke basketball -- 1994-95. You know, when they won 13 games and it was really fun to watch guys like Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins do their best Adam Boone and Brian Morrison imitations. Then of course there was Shane "I can see your brains through your scalp" Battier, Jay "don't call me Jason because he murdered somebody" Williams, and Chris Duhon to get me through the late '90s and early '00s. And now there's J.J. Redick who will soon be supplanted by Lee Melchionni. Melchionni is a much slower, much less athletic, less talented, goofier (I can't believe I'm typing this) version of Redick. Ouch.

... Speaking of Chris Collins, the funniest part of Sunday's game for me was watching the "highlights" from the 2002-2003 matchup. You know, when Matt Doherty and Collins had their chest bump nerd-off during the middle of the game. If I'm the official, I don't intervene and just hope they both beat the crap out of each other. That way it's a win-win.

... At several points during the game I remember thinking to myself, "My Shelden Williams has a hugongous head. If that thing gets much bigger he'll have to get jersey's that are button-up because he'll never be able to wear a pullover." Also, does anyone know if he can talk? I don't remember seeing him quoted in the paper or talking to reporters once this season.

... The only thing funnier than this photo (which I'm thinking about titling simply, "Williams passes kidney stone during this rebound") was watching Rashad McCants during the game. First of all, he must've borrowed one of Sean May's Sunday School shirts because it was about three times too big. Second, when Marvin hit the big shot with 17 seconds left, the camera showed McCants looking like he'd just seen a ghost ... or just got caught looking at porn; either way, I think you get the point I'm making -- he looked very surprised.

Now if we can just get Robots back on the court -- and at this point, I'd be all for letting him play in his Sunday suit and penny loafers ... let's just get him out there.

One more thing. As I re-read this silliness, I realized that I forgot to mention maybe one of the best single-game performances in the history of the UNC-Duke rivalry. Sean May had 26 points and 24 rebounds, and despite being out head-sized by Frankenstein Williams, he had easily the best game of his career. And not surprisingly, May was named first team All-ACC today. Kind of surpringly however, was that Ray Felton made first team as well. And I say "kind of surprising" only because he sometimes (or at least he used to) gets lost in the mix when talking about ACC point guards. But I guess with John Gilchrist and Jarrett Jack slumping, and Chris Paul punching people in the nuts, this was a pretty easy choice. And Ray's definitely deserving.

And finally ...

So the polls came out today and UNC is ... still #2. To this I say, who cares? Honestly, at this point in the season, the polls mean absolutely nothing to teams like UNC and Illinois. Carolina is still ACC Champs, have the first seed in the tournament and will be a #1 seed in the NCAAs; and unless NCAA basketball is moving towards a BCS-type system, I couldn't care less about the poll.