WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Virginia Commonwealth Rams. Hard not to recognize a team that went from the First Four round to the Final Four, and a team that had the "experts" wringing their hands and bitching non-spot about how they shouldn't have gotten a bid (check the records and you'll see that I said they should be in multiple times - point me). Since you're about to get force fed more happy fun stories about VCU than you can handle I'm going to tell you a semi-funny story from Chicago instead. As most bars do at this time, the Dayton bar where we spent an inordinate amount of time had a bracket on the wall and an employee would hand write in each winner. This bar clearly had a female employee do it, because on the line where you would write the winner of the Georgetown/VCU game the chick wrote "VCU/USC." So now I'm picturing a bracket on the wall of the bar with four different winner lines with "VCU/USC" written down. I don't know, maybe you had to be there but it's pretty god damn funny.
2. Derrick Williams. Easily the most impressive player I saw this weekend and I don't even know if there was a second one. What an absolute monster. That dunk he threw down against UCONN in the second half where he basically powered through two dudes to throw down would have been the most impressive dunk of the entire tournament, except he eclipsed that one with the monster Shawn Kemp NBA Jam style slam he had against Duke. And it's not like he's a one-dimensional, Trevor Mbakwe dunking machine. He can shoot from the perimeter, rebound like a mofo, and he's excellent with the ball around the basket. I don't know what kind of NBA career he might have because I don't watch until the playoffs because I'm not retarded, but Williams is/was an absolute college beast. Probably has a huge crank, too.
3. Matt Howard. If Williams blew me away with his awesomeness, Howard blew me away with his improvement. Last year he was basically a chubby disaster against good teams and, although I don't want to say he single handedly lost the championship game against Duke, but he was so badly outplayed by Brian freaking Zoubek and looked so ridiculously out of place in that game that it's really just a testament to the brilliance of Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward that the championship went down to the wire.
Now, however, he's lost a bunch of that babyfat, added a jumper with 3-point range to his game, cut way way way down on his fouling, and is absolutely brimming with confidence. Which he should be because he's playing great. He's played some very good front courts so far this tournament in Old Dominion, Pitt, and Florida, and even the dainty Jon Leuer can be a challenge, and he's played well on both ends of the court against all of them. Last year's version of Howard would have gotten killed by Florida's super athletic dudes, but this year Howard scored 14, grabbed 5 boards, and most importantly only committed three fouls so he was able to play 40 minutes. His numbers might not jump out an grab you, but if you saw him this year and last you'd see what a massive improvement he's made, and he's a big, big reason Butler is heading to the Final Four.
4. Jeremy Lamb. All season long the one thing UCONN really needed was a second scorer to take pressure off of Kemba Walker who, despite being completely awesome, is not unstoppable despite what the media and announcers decided to make their running story (12-25 and 7-17 shooting in the two games this weekend doesn't make him unstoppable, it just makes him a high volume shooter and scorer). Lamb really stepped up, scoring 24 against San Diego State, tying a season high and was basically the whole reason UCONN won that game, and then following it up with 19 in the win over Zona. I still think he's a bit soft, but he's only a freshman so he can either take the good path and toughen up a bit and end up a pretty high level player and scorer, or he can go on about his business as he is, having games where he scores a ton and just as many games where he's nowhere to be found. I say that second thing like it's a bad thing, but I should point out that even that version of Lamb would be the best player on the Gophers, and it wouldn't even be close.
5. Kentucky Wildcats. Well I'm flabbergasted. It's rare of me to misjudge a team this badly. Actually strike that, because I think team's are better than they really are all the time, but it's rare that a team I think is terrible ends up doing something stupid like going to the Final Four. Calipari is a terrible game coach and a terrible game planner, generally winning games by having the most talent, almost in spite of himself. This year's Kentucky isn't all that talented, at least from a Calipari's most talented team perspective, so I figured an early exit was inevitable. Shocking that I got something wrong in this year's tournament I know, but apparently Brandon Knight is a lot better than I thought. Much, much better than Brandin Knight, who, of course, played for the world's most chokiest program in history in the Pitt Panthers, the same most chokiest program who I inexplicably chose as my national champion. Next year I'm not even filling out a bracket, it's getting too embarrassing. It's like if Stephen Hawking called you to hook up his tivo. From an understanding how to do it perspective, I mean. Not the whole "I have no movement in any of my limbs" thing.
1. Wisconsin Badgers. As enjoyable as that loss was for Gopher fans and white people haters that had to be brutal for Badger fans. Really, I mean if you lose a buzzer beater game it sucks like getting punched in the stomach by a large black man who was just helping you find your glasses in a snowbank sucks - quick, painful, unexpected, but the pain subsides quickly. It sucks to lose that way, just like it sucks to lose to a team that just blows you away because they're so much better or playing so well at the time, but you can live with those losses. The way Wisconsin lost, however, has got to just gnaw away at you for a long, long time. Butler gets credit for shutting the Badgers down, but in reality they didn't do much. It was simply Wisconsin missing open shots. Over. And over. And over. And over. In the mid-first half Jordan Taylor was fouled on a three-pointer and missed the first two free-throws, and that basically summed up the night. And I loved every damn minute of it.
2. Jimmer Fredette. Did you get a chance to watch the Jimmer? Freaking amazing when he has the ball, right? Amazing shooter with unlimited range and a hair-trigger release, ability to get buy a defender off the dribble and get into the lane, an excellent eye to find open teammates for easy hoops, and just amazing body control. Really an impressive player with the ball. But did you happen to notice him when he doesn't have the ball? I've never seen a lazier god damn player in my life. He does one of three things if he doesn't have the ball:
- Stand there
- Clap his hands and call for the ball.
- Run directly at his teammate with the ball and clap his hands while calling for the ball
3. Duke Blue Devils. hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha oh my god that was so awesome. It was like, all of a sudden Arizona realized, "hey, these guys are a bunch of nerds. More athletic nerds than the Northwestern dorks of course, but still nerds. And we aren't, so let's kill them" and then suddenly a dunk contest broke out and pasty white dorks and Jalen Rose's favorite type of brothers were their props. They could do the entire one shining moment montage just from dunks from this game. I think if Duke was playing a women's team that night those broads would have been running and jumping all over there heads. Or maybe a lay-up line would have broken out instead. I guess that's more realistic.
4. William Buford. Outside the Wisconsin duo of Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, I'm not sure anybody looked crappier than Buford. Here's my impression of his game against Kentucky: clang clang clang clang clang clang and so on and so forth. Like Billy Ho once said, "I'll tell you what. Why don't we take all these bricks and build a shelter for the homeless, so maybe your mother will have a place to stay. And your sister, too. I want your mother and sister out of my house." Damn Will, you just got played by a slow, white, geeky chump. What do you mean, black ball?
5. Colton Iverson's transfer. Of all the red flags jumping up around the program regarding player defections this one has to be the worst. The rest can all be rationalized away if you are looking for a reason to do so: Royce White was a bad egg, Justin Cobbs was homesick, Paul Carter's sister was sick (ok so that one was pretty legit), Devoe Joesph is a selfish player who only cares about himself, and on and on. If you want to have blind faith in Tubby you didn't have to try to hard. For me, however, this one is a stunner and, frankly, makes me more than a little concerned.
I mean, what exactly is the reasoning here? Iverson can't possibly believe Tubby is holding him back from a professional future playing ball, so what possible rationale could he have for leaving with only one year left to play? It's not like a playing time issue makes much sense either, because of his style of play, body type, and just overall gangliness he's not going to suddenly jump up to 36 minutes a night no matter where he goes. I just don't get this one. Colton would have been my last guess at a player who would be transferring out. I fear there are some real issues with this program, and I'm starting to think this year may not have been rock bottom. If Colton can leave, anybody could. What if both Mbakwe and Rodney end up leaving? Or hell, anybody else, I don't even know any more. I just know that I'm suddenly more fearful than ever that Tubby's style of coaching isn't just not winning as many games as we'd hoped but is now actively pushing players out. Let's just move on to baseball so a different team can let me down.
And since we're almost to baseball season (preview of some sort coming soon, maybe even this week), here's the team Snake and I put together in our fantasy baseball draft. I don't know about you, but looks like a championship to me.
C - Miguel Montero, Arizona (do you realize there are like 3 good catchers? And we weren't getting stuck with freaking Wieters again. I've done that dance twice).
1B - Billy Butler, KC (fat doubles machine)
2B - Rickie Weeks, MIL (counting on last year NOT being a career year)
3B - Evan Longoria, TB (so sexy he'll steal your girlfriend)
SS - Starlin Castro, CHC (please don't suck)
OF - Mike Stanton, FLA (not the middle reliever. We're buying the hype)
OF - Austin Jackson, DET (how about just a little plate discipline?)
OF - Delmon Young, MIN (no points for fielding)
Ut - Jason Kubel, MIN (got him very, very late. Decent upside)
SP - Jon Lester, BOS (could win 25)
SP - Justin Verlander, DET (looking even more unhittable this year)
SP - Clay Buchholz, BOS (I guess we're all in on Boston)
SP - Madison Bumgarner, SF (hoping his rough spring doesn't mean anything)
RP - Jonathan Papelbon, BOS (like I said)
RP - Joakim Soria, KC (Will probably end up saving 85% of KC's wins)
RP - Drew Storen, WAS (we can't have Strausberg, so we'll take his little buddy)
Bench - 1B Justin Smoak, SEA (Of course)
Bench - SP Michael Pineda, SEA (we hit it big with Leake last year, might as well try again)
Bench - RP Chris Sale, CHW (already unhittable, just needs to get the closer gig)
Bench - SP Carl Pavano, MIN (steady enough)