Saturday, March 26, 2005

We Have A Winner

I've seen Villanova play one time this season and that was enough. When their starting lineup was announced and they had one player over 6'3" I figured it would take a few times down the court before the game was unofficially over. Well, after a few times down the court it was 21-9 Villanova and the Tarheels looked lackadaisical, out of sync, and a step slow.

Villanova's Jay Wright looks like Steve Lavin but coached that game like Norman Dale. They controlled the pace of play, worked the shot clock and continually dropped three's while UNC stubbornly refused to come out of their zone defense. I equate watching the first half of this game to getting Chris Pauled in the nuts while simultaneously being made to watch Kevin Millar interview Curt Schilling. It was that painful.

In fact, this is one of those instances where the game was so bad for so long that it's a prime candidate for TiVo deletion. I never keep games around when my team loses. It was bad enough having to see it live, so I don't see any point in reliving the agony (yes I'm talking about you AFC Championship game). Victories are another story. I still have four or five of the Steelers games and bust them out occasionally. But tonight's game was frustratingly bad. When your team wins in the ugliest, most unsightly way imaginable, the chances of you revisiting that debacle anytime soon are J.J.-Redick-getting-his-own-show-on-BET type odds. That's when re-watching a game is actually worse the second time around -- you end up catching things you missed during the first run, or seeing things you had forgotten, and it just makes matters worse.

Still, despite Carolina playing like they were drunk for the first 30 minutes, Villanova was awesome. For the Big East to get such a bad rap this season, it's pretty funny that West Virginia is still in it and Villanova probably should be too. I think Kyle Lowry and Randy Foye could have done just as well if they were the only two Wildcats on the floor. These guys played their hearts out and it would've been fun to watch if it wasn't my favorite team they were out-hustling.

Anyway, here are some random thoughts from the game:

... OK, I can't keep quiet about this any longer. What the hell is wrong with Jawad Williams? I know his hip has been bothering him, but I'm more concerned about his mental game. I've heard people question why he seems to disappear during big games, but I've dismissed them in the past. Well, it was kind of hard to dismiss the fact that Jawad played like he was scared against a decidedly undersized Villanova team. I don't know if his hip was a factor, but he didn't see the floor near the end of the game. I like Jawad, but the guy has to play with more of a mean streak.

... I say this every game, but every game it gets worse (and therefore it bears repeating): NCAA officials suck. And I'm not even talking about the six or seven phantom calls against UNC. The most egregious call of the night was a *walk* whistled on Villanova's Allan Ray with 9 seconds left in the game and the Tarheels up by three points. First of all, Ray took two steps before he shot the ball. To make matter worse, Bill Raftery watched the replay on two different occasions and inexplicably he counted three steps -- even in slow motion! If I was a Villanova fan I would have thrown the television out of the window at that moment and sworn off basketball until they technology reached a point where officials would be robots along the lines of Rosie from the Jetsons. I could go on for several more paragraphs about all the silliness that passes for officiating, but I'll save it for now.

... If there was any question that Marvin Williams might be the best player in the country (at least in terms of making the leap to the NBA) going into the NCAA tournament, I think he's removed all doubt. That said, I think it's very important that he stay in school for four years and get an education -- you know, just in case that whole basketball thing doesn't work out, he'll have something to fall back on.

... After Felton picked up his fourth foul, I love how Quentin "Isaiah" Thomas made one of the briefest appearances in Sweet 16 history (and yes his middle name is Isaiah; which based on his play leads me to believe that he was named for Isaiah Thomas the GM, not Isaiah Thomas the point guard ... just kidding ... I think). He came in long enough to dribble the ball up the court, drive to the basket out of control, get called for charging, and then promptly taking a seat on the bench next to Felton. Which means ...

... that Melvin Scott was running the point. Wait, Melvin's running the point?! I forgot how bad he was at bringing the ball up the court. My Pavlovian response is to shield my eyes because I'm taken back to the good old days of 8-20 whenever he's running the show. The fact that Felton fouled out and the Heels were still able to win actually says a lot about this team.

Well, the good news is that despite being outplayed for most of the game by a really impressive Villanova team, Carolina will get to play Wisconsin for a trip to the final four on Sunday. And the cherry on top? Duke lost.