Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Duke-UNC and More Super Bowl Stuff!

With that pesky Super Bowl out of the way, I should have more time to talk about important stuff like why I hate J.J. Redick, and how David Noel has the worst hands on the team even though he came to UNC as a wide receiver. Sadly, I don't have quite the hatred for Redick as I probably should at this point. Watching last night's game, I didn't once yell at him, and didn't even bat an eye when he'd get that goofy look on his face after draining another three. Maybe I'm getting soft like Jerramy Stevens, or maybe I'm still making the transition from football to basketball. Or maybe this year's UNC team has so few expectations, that I wasn't, uh, expecting a whole lot.

It may have been some part of all of these, but it could also have to do with the fact that Duke has an uncanny ability to recruit Duke Guys. I could probably stop right now and every basketball fan reading would know what I meant. My first memory of the Duke Persona was Danny Ferry. Mark Alarie, and Quin Synder were also model citizens of Dukie Nation. Then Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Brian Davis; followed by Wojo, Cherokee Parks, Chris Collins (that nerd gets two stars for his Dukietude), Shane Battier (three stars), and on down the line to the present day goofballs.

Anyway, this team, in its current form, is chock full of Duke Guys. Maybe the new crop of Paulus and McRoberts, teamed with veterans like Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni cause Redick to get lost in the shuffle. Watching McRoberts act like a complete buffoon -- wrist bands and all -- was comedy gold. For as quiet and unassuming as Tyler Hansbrough is, McRoberts is the exact opposite. Imagine if Hansbrough lost 50 pounds, suddenly forgot how to shoot, grew a couple of inches, wore wrist bands, and did a lot of speed before the game. That's Josh McRoberts.

(By the way, it's worth noting that a lot of players who weren't Duke Guys -- Corey Maggette, William Avery, Luol Deng and Elton Brand, for example -- didn't hang around too long. Maybe they quit drinking the Kool-Aid and decided to get the hell out of there before they ended up in some dank basement, wearing togas and feeding Coach K grapes in some weird ritualistic Skulls-type initiation.)

Personally, I don't think Shelden Williams is a Duke Guy, but I do believe he shows up somewhere on the Frankenstein family tree, and that somehow is responsible for him staying in school. (How? I don't know, it's more of a hunch.)

With all that silliness out of the way, I guess I should talk about the game. Yeah, Duke won. Yeah, UNC had 40 turnovers. Neither of these are all that surprising. Duke is the #2 team in the country and UNC plays four freshmen regularly. What is surprising is that the Tar Heels killed Duke on the boards, and did a good job of creating turnovers. Honestly, this Duke team didn't look all that great. I admit to not watching a lot of their games this season, but this looked like their weakest team in the last few years. Of course, that's with a sample size of one, so take that for what it's worth.

And whether Duke is better or worse than they were last season shouldn't take away from the obvious fact that J.J. Redick is the best player in college basketball. (And yes, it was actually physically painful for me to type those words.) I'm not sure having Wes Miller -- all four feet of him -- guard Redick was such a hot idea. Marcus Ginyard did a respectable job, but when Redick just pulls up from anywhere and drains one in your face, it's got to be humbling.

That said, Redick is still annoying. He's taken "taking a dive" to a whole other level. If this was a FIFA-sanctioned event, he would've gotten a yellow card for some of the stuff he tries to pull. In the first half, he made a 15-footer over somebody (I forget who) and then, as he's falling away and the ball's out of his hands, he jerks both arms to the right and falls backwards, making it look like he got fouled. Except that nobody was even close to touching him. Who does this? And why? In addition to being unstoppable at times, this is why people hate this guy so much.

To start the second half, the Tar Heels turned the ball over on six (SIX!) straight trips down the court. This prompted Roy Williams to replace all five starters, and as usually happens, UNC made a little run. With Quentin Thomas running the show. And he didn't have one (ONE!) turnover.

(I should point out that I decided to watch the local feed, which featured Billy Packer and Tim Brando, instead of listenting to Dick Vitale verbally fellate Redick. I'm not a big Packer fan, but he is light years better than Vitale. At one point, however, Brando made the observation that Thomas had lost confidence this year after losing his job to Frasor, and after having a lot of minutes last season. This indicates to me that Brando hasn't watched college basketball in at least a year and a half. That is all.)

Thomas also hit a nice baseline jumper and actually looked like he wasn't about to soil his britches. I don't think the guy will ever be a starter, but being a competent backup is, for the first time in his career, a real possibility.

Somebody else who seems to get better every game is Danny Green. The only problem is that he has five minutes of great basketball followed by 45 seconds of the worst stuff you've seen since Matthew Broderick played in that pickup game in the Cable Guy. Last night was no different. In time, I think Green will be pretty damn good, but when you're down by three with a couple of seconds left and decide to take a two-pointer, you're not thinking. That's not why the Heels lost, of course. 21 turnovers and a little bad luck probably had a lot to do with it. Still, I'm not discouraged. This team played well, they won't finish 8-20, and Brian Morrison and Adam Boone aren't walking through that door.

Okey doke, here are some random Super Bowl things that I remembered over the last few days but I forgot to mention:

Brady Getting Booed
Alright, I thought this was really funny. And not in a mean way. The Steelers booed the hell out of Larry Brown when he was announced, and that's because he single-handedly beat the Steelers ten years ago. (Well, he and Neil O'Donnell). What, are they going to cheer this guy? And the same thing with Brady. Brady makes a habit out of owning Pittsburgh in the playoffs. And when he got booed, he cracked a little smile, and I can only imagine he was thinking, "Man, this is great. Getting booed in the Super Bowl and I'm not even playing. And oh yeah, I have three Super Bowl rings." He didn't seem too shaken by it. I mean, the guy had on a velvet jacket for cripes sake. Getting booed were the least of his worries.

Seattle's Theme Song
When I read Amy's comment I immediately started laughing because this is the exact conversation I had with my buddy Andy when Seattle came prancing out of the tunnel. (Is there any other way to come out of the tunnel than to prance when you hear this song? Skip maybe?) Bittersweet Symphony? Are you serious? For all the talk about the officiating, there should be some kind of inquiry into this. Who picked this song? And why? Maybe the same guy who thought it would be swell to see Mike Holmgren in a sweater vest and sporting eyeglasses that made him look like Mr. Owl. So yeah, for those people that claim the Super Bowl was decided before the first snap, you're right. The game was as good as over as soon as they started playing that song.

Holmgren & Handshakes
I know, I know. Holmgren left Cowher hanging after the game for the on-field handshake. Cowher, for 30 seconds, ended up looking like the kid who's mom forgot to pick him up after school. But according to the shortest man in television, Adam Schefter, the coaches were supposed to meet at the 25-yard line but Cowher went to one 25 and Holmgren to the other. Holmgren went on to praise Cowher during the post-game comments, and they did get a chance to talk in the Seattle locker room after the game. No biggie.

Holmgren is also catching some flak for saying that the Seahawks knew the Steelers would be a tough opponent, but they didn't realize they would also have to play the refs. First, he said this at a Seahawks pep rally back in Seattle. Second, if the Steelers had lost, and somebody had said that, I don't think I would really care. Immediately after the game, the only call Holmgren said bothered him was the Roethlisberger TD. And I didn't read any Seattle player putting the blame on the calls. To a man, I think they all took responsibility for the loss. So no biggie there either.

Breaking News on ESPN ... uh ... NEWS!
While watching the 14 hours of pregame coverage, I switched over to ESPN News about 20 minutes before kickoff only to hear Bill Pidto tell me that there's a breaking news situation down on the field at the Super Bowl. Apparently, Joey Porter has been involved in some sort of pregame altercation. A second later, Pidto gets Sal Paolantonio on the phone and the conversation went something like this:
Pidto: Sal, it sounds like there has been some sort of altercation down on the field involving Joey Porter. Can you tell us what happened?

Paolantonio: The officials have declared the 10 yards between the 45-yard lines to be neutral. From his own 45-yard line, Porter was yelling at Seahawk players.

Pidto: Is that it?

Paolantonio: Yes. Just yelling.

Pidto: Why would Joey Porter do this?

Paolantonio: Are you serious? You're an idiot if you really need me to answer that question (phone hanging up).
OK, I made the last part up, but the other stuff is all legit. So after a week of trash-talking, the fact that Joey Porter was trash-talking the Seahawks from a distance of 60 feet is breaking news. Huh. Never woulda guessed.

Ben and the Pro Bowl
Here's my feeling about the Pro Bowl: they shouldn't play the game. My biggest fear is that somebody has some dopey injury that ends their career. I'm glad Ben's not going. Let the guy go home and have his thumb fixed. No need to put him out there and take some hits for no good reason. Yeah, it's a great honor and all, but personally, I'd be fine if they just handed out plaques, and did away with the game altogether.

Two more things:

First, it looks like that whole Darrell Jackson-pylon incident was indeed the right call (although we'll know more after Mike Pereira is on Total Access tonight), and finally, this is pretty cool.