Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I Guess Talent Wins

The first thing that caught my eye when I switched to CBS right before tip-off was Roy Williams coming out of the locker room with what had to be one of the worst ties this side of 1980. Ughly ties are not good for the whole karma thing. Well, I felt a whole lot better when I saw what Bruce Weber was wearing. Apparently, Ronald McDonald had a garage sale and Weber got first dibs on the orangest sports coat I'd ever seen. Nothing quite screams "I have no credibility" like a blaze-orange sports jacket. That's when I started to feel a little better about UNC's chances (I began to feel a lot better about two minutes after the game ended -- when I was sure they weren't going to call the players back on the court).

Whatever the case, Roy Williams won his first championship at his alma mater, and Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel and Marvin Williams went from winning eight games their freshmen year to finishing their careers as the best team in the nation. Not bad. Anyway, here are some random thoughts from the game:

... First things first. Pete Thamel is an idiot. He wrote in Monday's New York Times the same crap the media has been regurgitating for the last several days -- namely that the Illini embody the true meaning of the word team while the Tarheels are so successful primarily because of their talent:
The Illini, with their cunning precision and selfless mantras, represent the ideal of a team. The Tar Heels possess the premier assemblage of talent in the tournament, but they also have the reputation for not being the most cohesive team, primarily because of McCants's volatile attitude.
Huh? Where did that come from? Did Rashad go Ron Artest on someone and I didn't hear about it? McCants is a lot of things, but volatile isn't one of them. Moody? Yes. Occasionally immature? Sure. Crazy, even? Yep. But never volatile. And since when did Carolina stop playing like a team? Uh, they led the NCAA tournament in assists, does that count for anything? And just because a team passes the ball 15 times before launching a 25-footer, doesn't make them anymore cohesive than a team who likes to fast break off missed shots. Now, if the definition of team is setting the record for most moving screens in a game, then Illinois is by far the closest group of guys on the planet.

Anyway, back to McCants. My favorite quote from the article is when McCants was informed that Deron Williams might be guarding him:
"I really don't feel like any defense out there is really going to bother me as far as one on one."
Nice. Rashad sounds like Lil' Penny in those old Nike commercials. I can hear him going around the locker room yelling to no one in particular, "You can't guard me! The Secret Service can't guard me!"

And concerning the whole team vs. talent stuff, here's what Ray Felton had to say after the game:
In a news conference the day before, Felton was visibly upset at the repeated "team vs. talent" questions. Back on the podium following Monday's victory, the point guard said, "I'm just waiting to hear what everybody's got to say at this point. I mean, we won the national championship. .... Who's going to win a national championship if they're not together?"
So either the Heels are the best team to win based solely on talent absent any of the elements that made Illinois so successful, or Thamel is a buffoon. I'll go with buffoon.

... Speaking of McCants and Deron Williams, I'm pretty sure Rashad accomplished everything he set out to in the first half, and that's why he disappeared in the second half. In the first 20 minutes he scored some big baskets, he showed that no one could guard him one-on-one, and he played good defense. If McCants had stayed in the locker room after halftime, I don't think he would've been any more invisible for the final 20 minutes. Given all this, it seems quite clear why he disappeared in the second half -- he had nothing left to prove. Actually, this is my own dopey theory, and I don't really think that's what happened, but it sure seemed that way. And honestly, would anyone be surprised if he'd said as much during the post-game interview?

... I know James Augustine left the game with five fouls after nine minutes of play, but he should've been assessed a technical foul for that haircut. I'm guessing the only reason he got away with it was because Weber's jacket was such a distraction.

... When did Sean May go from chubby, underachiever, to one of the best inside player in college basketball? He took Roger Powell Jr. to church all night long. In fact, I was hoping Powell would get a yellow card for taking all those flops instead of playing defense. Nothing says, "I give up" like fishing for charges because you're out-manned.

... I really, really hate that dopey catch-the-ball-and-turn-to-the-ref-to-call-timeout-before-hitting-the-floor routine, but Robots McCants actually pulled it off in the first half. Amazingly, I didn't mind the rule so much then.

... After Sean May was beating Illinois senseless inside, did anyone else wonder why in the hell Carolina decided to start throwing up threes from all over the court early in the second half?

... OK, I'm not original in complaining about this, but it's gotten out of control. Why in God's name does each team need 40 timeouts per half? In addition to four TV timeouts, teams get an infinite supply of 30-second timeouts too. Here's my idea: 1 timeout per game per team. You still get the TV timeouts, but other than that, you're on your own. Why do you need to call a timeout with 10 seconds left after a made free throw? Don't these guys practice, and haven't they been practicing since October? If teams don't know it by now, they don't deserve a timeout.

... Here's a headline I saw Sunday that almost caused me to fall out of my chair:

"May's Foot Fracture Has Domino Effect"

Luckily the story wasn't referring to anything that happened after the Michigan St. game, and instead was talking about May's injury from his freshman season.

... More on May. A couple of days ago Sean said he was coming back to UNC unless he was the number one overall pick. We'll, he's given himself a little wiggle room:
To date, Sean May has been adamant that he is staying at UNC next year. I just heard Andy Katz of ESPN say that May opened the door slightly to the NBA yesterday by saying that if he would be in the top 10, of course he has to go, but that he'll talk to his dad after the season. We could conceivably lose 7 players this year! The 3 seniors plus Marvin, Sean, Rashad, and Felton. Ugh, ok I don't want to think about that right now.
Hey, who can blame him. He's made himself into one of the best college basketball players in the country and he just won a national title. Unless he dying to graduate with his class, it probably makes sense going pro (that doesn't mean I want him to go pro, I'm just saying).

In addition to May, there could be six other big-minute players who either leave early or graduate. I'm already savoring the notion of a Quentin Thomas / Wes Miller backcourt, but I'll put those thoughts aside for a few months and just enjoy this.