Four Thoughts From Greensboro…
Posted by mpoindexter on March 18th, 2012
Looking back at Friday’s action in Greensboro, what was most illuminating was sitting only a few feet behind the bench used by Alabama, North Carolina, Duke, and Xavier. Television broadcasts have given us an intimate view of almost every aspect of the game, but they still haven’t provided an insider’s experience of what goes on in the huddle (and due to the likelihood of FCC fines, they probably won’t). Here are four observations of Greensboro’s benches up close.
- Despite losing in the last seconds to Creighton, everything is looking up for Anthony Grant at Alabama. Significantly, Grant was able to take one of the youngest teams in America from of a basketball-apathetic state to the NCAA Tournament. Even down the stretch, leading up to Alabama’s last-second shot, Grant was soft-voiced and encouraging with his team. During timeouts, Grant would briefly consult with his assistants before relaying the plan to a group of players who sat quietly hung on his every word. Of all the coaches I saw up close on Friday, Grant was by far the closest thing to a teacher. Currently, it doesn’t appear that Grant has anyone on his roster that is likely to bolt for the NBA ahead of schedule. Expect the Crimson Tide to compete near the top of the SEC very soon.
- In local media, North Carolina’s John Henson is often portrayed as a goofy, baby-faced manchild. In North Carolina’s blowout win against Vermont, though, Henson showed himself to be a cerebral and intuitive future coach. Sidelined with a wrist injury for the third straight game, Henson was constantly stepping off the bench to give freshman big men James Michael McAdoo and Desmond Hubert instructions when they were on the court. It would be easy for Henson to get down, missing out on some of the most important games he’s ever played, but he’s finding a way to contribute to the Tar Heels even without playing.
- Each March, for as long as the NCAA tournament is played, we will see Lehigh beat Duke over and over again. What is likely to go unmentioned, though, is how remarkable it is that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got his team to the position of a #2 seed. While the Blue Devils are undeniably talented, they are far from being anything close to a balanced team. Despite lacking a true point guard or small forward, Duke was able to beat teams like Michigan State, Kansas, and North Carolina. In the huddle, Krzyzewski was just as he is billed to be: in the first half, trying to wake his sluggish team up, profane and angry; in the second half, morphing into stirring motivational speeches that made me even believe I could accomplish anything. Sure, Mike Krzyzewski’s biggest advantage at Duke is that he can bring in superior talent every year. Never, however, will Krzyzewski get anything less than the optimal performance out of that talent.
- With six minutes to play in their win against Notre Dame, Xavier forward Andre Walker caught a blow to the face that laid him flat on the court. Walker eventually made his way to the end of the bench, where he received constant attention from the Xavier medical staff. At times, Walker was doubled over in pain, barely able to lift a cup of water to his lips. By the game’s end, Walker sat, head in hands, with a towel draped over his head as his shoulders shook slightly. Walker is expected to play against Lehigh, but his scary injury is a prime example of just how physical college basketball really is. Viewed up close, as opposed to on television, big time college basketball is almost violent: players are scratched, gouged, elbowed, and slapped on every single play. As fast and powerful as today’s players are, it’s a miracle that more players don’t suffer severe injuries.