Backdoor Cuts: Vol. XIVPosted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2010
Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys debate the last two weeks of the NCAA Tournament and conclude that it should not be effed with.
MIKE WALSH: Do you guys smell that?
No, it’s not the smell of thousands of the Rock, Chalk faithful burning their brackets … their tears keep putting out the flames. It kind of smells like … chili, with a dash of victory. Can you smell it or is there a stench of defeat draped over you like a full court press? That’s right, kids, my Ohio State Buckeyes may be out, too, but at least they outlasted your sorry Temple and Maryland picks who couldn’t couldn’t even survive the first weekend. But don’t feel bad, boys, it was one of the craziest opening weekends since the Jersey Shore kids hit the Seaside boardwalk for the first time. Oh yeah, that’s a celebratory Jersey Shore reference … I’ve earned it.
At least Steve still has West Virginia to root against. Coach K and the Evil Empire took the stink I was sending Baylor’s way and sent the Bears packing. And Dave, well, Kansas is toast so I guess you’re out of luck, too, buddy. There’s always next year. I suppose you can just sit back and enjoy the Madness as it unfolds. And there’s been plenty to go around so far.
My favorite moment of this year’s tournament, hands down, was in the waning seconds of Northern Iowa’s improbable upset over top-seeded Kansas. Panthers guard Ali Farokhmanesh’s transition three-ball in the last minute of regulation took Blue-Ribbon-at-the-State-Fair-sized onions to even heave up. It was one of the shots where the entire coaching staff yells, “No, no, no, YES!” And here’s the thing, he HAD to take that shot. In any other game, it would have been the kind of shot that gets you sent to the end of the bench – after the freshman manager … but against the top overall seed, you have to go for the kill. If he didn’t make that shot, it just felt like the Jayhawks would find some way to pull it out. But Northern Iowa had nothing to lose and they played like it. It was a shot that Farokhmanesh will be able to brag to his coworkers about when he’s working at some marketing firm next year, because let’s be serious, that’s most likely where he ends up unless he ends up lighting up a pro league in Azerbaijan. Even so, it was a shot of a lifetime and made my tournament. Do you think any other desk jockeys have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated?
The way this tournament has been going, I’m going to need an oxygen mask for the Final Four. I wonder if basketball induced conditions are covered by this new health care reform? I’ll have to look into that.
So what do you guys think? What have your favorite moments been so far? What are you looking forward to this weekend? Is Butler raising a banner? And, most importantly, when can I expect my chili?
DAVE ZEITLIN: Congratulations, Mike. Your Buckeyes were just a little bit less sucky than my Terps and Steve’s Owls (though if Maryland decided to play a little defense in the final seconds, they’d be in the Final Four now instead of Michigan State.) But in reality we are all winners. Forget our friendly wagers and our brackets; the truth is this tournament is for all fans of upsets and mid-majors. And if you don’t like those things, you should be forced to watch only Coach K seminars entitled “How To Be Succesful On and Off the Court” throughout the month of March. (Do those exist? I’m betting they do.)
Northern Iowa beating Kansas the same day as Samhan and the Aussies methodically took apart Villanova was remarkable and cause for quite a few smiles and screams. But let’s be honest: the story of the tournament is Butler. I’m tired of people saying Butler isn’t a Cinderella or that mid-majors shouldn’t be called mid-majors anymore because they consistently field good teams. Oh really? Name another team from a non-power conference to make the Final Four in the last 30 years besides George Mason. People think the term “mid-major” is condescending? Then make up a new name — but don’t splash cold water over what Butler has been able to do just over the past two weeks just because you think the playing field has being leveled around the nation. No matter how good the Bulldogs are — and yes, they are very, very good — the fact remains they come from a small school that doesn’t get the best recruits and doesn’t follow the same “Live and breathe basketball” credo as other NBA-churning schools. They built a terrific program and for that they should be commended. But make no mistake: Butler is an underdog. A big one. Just ask head coach Brad Stevens, who said recently, “The worst thing I could say is, ‘Don’t compare us to Hickory.’ I love being the underog. I love being a team people think has overachieved.”
The Hoosiers comparisons should bring a chill to the spine of any warm-blooded American with cable TV. And if you’re not buying into it, then read this terrific story from ESPN.com’s Pat Forde. But whatever you do, don’t think of Butler as a favorite because of its 24-game win streak or what the Vegas oddsmakers think. Remember where they came from. And embrace it. So with that in mind, I hope you guys will be doing the same thing as me this weekend: Eat matzah, bark like a bulldog and root, root, root for Butler. Or at least something close.
STEVE MOORE: I actually just watched Hoosiers the other night for the 456th time — in HD, no less! There was even a part I didn’t remember. At the very end, while Hickory was celebrating Jimmy’s amazing shot, someone came down and said, “Congratulations guys! This is the best story in the history of sports…”
“…and next year we’re going to ruin it so we can make more money!”
Wait, that may not have been in the movie, but, unfortunately, it’s all I’ve had on my mind the last few days. With my Owls out, and my bracket in worse shape than Lindsey Lohan, I’ve been caught up in this RIDICULOUS 96-team tournament discussion, which seems like it’s pretty much a done deal. I’d love to talk about my favorite tournament moment so far (other than Dave’s dog peeing on my floor during the Day 1 liveblog), which was Gus Johnson getting to call the insane Xavier-K-State game. But I’m too upset by this whole money grab by the NCAA.
How the hell am I supposed to fill THIS thing out? Are you kidding me?
First of all, it kills all hope of a completely shocking first-round upset. Whoever wins the 16 vs. 17 game (I can’t believe I just wrote that) is now going to have two days to prepare for a big bad top seed. And the 16 vs. 17 game isn’t going to be schools like Lehigh or Pine Bluff, it’s gonna be a pair of garbage, mid-level, power-conference teams. What happens when No. 17 South Florida beats No. 16 Nebraska, then stuns top-seeded Duke? Is that gonna get you excited? Do we say that a 17 seed FINALLY beat a No. 1? No. Those teams have some athletes, and will probably pull one of those upsets sooner rather than later. And the NCAA will realize, “Wait, that wasn’t supposed to happen!”, and they’ll change the rules to make sure only the low-majors have to play in those early-round “play-ins.”
Also, how am I supposed to organize a pool, collect money, and fill out a bracket in TWO DAYS. That’s right, two days after Selection Sunday, we’re going to have real basketball that requires picking. Not some play-in game that you can just ignore. ESPN Tourney Challenge, Yahoo and office pool organizers across the country aren’t going to like this.
And since I started with a great college basketball movie, I’ll end with a (not-so) great college basketball movie. I think back to a line Nick Nolte said to Tony when he found out he had shaved points, and it applies perfectly to this ridiculous plan:
“You took the purest thing in your life and corrupted it…for what?”
Thanks, NCAA, for ruining what has been a great tournament so that you can make a few more bucks from ESPN (oh, it’ll be ESPN).
DAVE ZEITLIN: Well, with each of us going off on a tangent as usual, I think it’s time to close the book on this column. Not just for the week but also for the season. I hope you all will remember Steve as the guy who got really angry even while thinking about Hoosiers, Mike as the one who really loves Jersey Shore, and me as the really, really smart one. Oh, and in case you missed it, I also like Penn.
Don’t be sad, sports fans. With the season about to end, it’s just that time to say goodbye. At least we lasted longer than Kansas. And I’m sure our time at Rush the Court is not over. All we ask for is the same thing any John Calipari recruit asks for: a sports car stuffed with duffel bags of money and beautiful women. Also, the car should be able to fly. “You took the purest thing in your life and corrupted it … for what?” For money, Steve. For money and flying cars.
No, in reality, we are just a bunch of nerds who really like college basketball and enjoyed the chance to do a different kind of writing than some of the mundane newspaper stories we’ve written in the past. It’s been a blast and I hope you enjoyed our minor contributions to the best college basketball blog on the web.
And remember: root for Butler.