A Trip to the Vault: North Carolina and Michigan State Face Off in the 2005 Final Four

Posted by mpatton on October 7th, 2011

Until the season kicks off, we’re going to be taking weekly trips to the ACC and NCAA Vaults to look at classic ACC games of yore.

Rashad McCants

Rashad McCants' college career is sometimes overshadowed by his failed stint in the NBA.

In honor of the upcoming Carrier Classic between Michigan State and North Carolina, here’s a look back at the 2005 Final Four game between the Spartans and Tar Heels. Watching the game was also a great reminder of just how good Roy Williams‘ 2004-05 squad was (especially with regards to depth). The 2005 national championship team probably had a talent advantage over the current team at every position:

  • Point Guard: Raymond Felton over Kendall Marshall
  • Shooting Guard: Rashad McCants over Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock
  • Forward: Jackie Manuel, David Noel, Jawad Williams and Marvin Williams over Harrison Barnes, John Henson and James McAdoo (this is the most up-in-the-air position, but I’d give the 2005 team a slight advantage for going four players deep)
  • Center: Sean May over Tyler Zeller

See highlights and analysis after the jump.

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Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #1 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2010

Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

#1- Where Mere Inches From Immortality Happens

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RTC (Sorta) Live Championship Game Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 5th, 2010

You guys ready for some Duke-Butler tonight? Only 6.5% of Americans in ESPN’s National Bracket picked either the Devils or Bulldogs to be playing tonight on the game’s grandest stage, yet here they are (we can safely presume less than 1% had both). You already know the key matchups and what each team likes to do, the question is which team will bend first tonight. Will it be Duke with the pressure of the favorite and an estimated 50,000 vociferous fans pulling against them; or will it be Butler who finally senses the gravitas of the sitaution and gets out of their game. Both teams are so well-drilled that it’s difficult for us to believe either of them, but someone will have to lose tonight. Who’ve you got?

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Breaking Down ESPN’s Prestige Rankings

Posted by nvr1983 on August 4th, 2008

Ed. Note:  Don’t like ESPN’s Prestige Rankings?  Provide your comment on how to improve them here.  We’re going to take this information and create a new set of rankings based on additional factors (and getting rid of the moronic NIT appearance = NCAA appearance (1 point) criterion). 

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that ESPN was trying to fill the dead space between the NBA Finals and the Olympics with yet another list. Normally I wouldn’t have even bothered to look at it because ESPN’s lists have been getting progressively more ludicrous (hitting its peak–or nadir–when John Hollinger put Dwayne Wade’s 2006 “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” performance above every single one of Michael Jordan’s masterpieces). However, when I noticed that ESPN was trying to rank the most prestigious programs for college basketball in the 64-/65-team era, I was intrigued and figured it was worth some analysis.

Your #1 team of the era
Your #1 team of the era

The first thing I always do when looking at any list is to see the scoring system used and ESPN sure picked an interesting system. I’ll break it into segments with some analysis:

• National title … 25
• Title game loss … 20
• National semifinal loss … 15
• Elite Eight loss … 10

- All four of these things seems pretty reasonable. I think that most fans would value the post-season performances in a way that is pretty close to the points awarded although it seems like a Final 4 berth is considered a great accomplishment for any program (even for the Duke’s and North Carolina’s of the college basketball world). I probably would have bumped up the national title, title game loss, and national semifinal loss by 5 points to give a 10 point spread between an Elite 8 loss and a national semifinal loss.

• Best W-L record in conference’s regular season … 5
• 30-plus wins in a season … 5
• Sweet 16 loss … 5

- This is where the scoring starts to get questionable. I’m assuming the “Best W-L record in conference’s regular season” is lawyerspeak for regular season conference champion. I’m glad that ESPN has decided that the America East regular season champion deserves more points for their in-conference performance than the regular season runner-ups in the ACC, Big East, and SEC. The 5 points for the 30-plus win season may seem like a lot, but in fact they are very rare (Duke leads with 9 such seasons and I could only count/remember 16 programs with any 30-win seasons since the start of the 1984-85 season) so that seems reasonable (as does the 5 points for a Sweet 16 loss although 16 programs achieve are awarded this each season while approximately the same number have achieved it for a 30-win season during the entire era). My main question with the 5-point awards is if they really consider all regular season conference titles the same as it is easier to win certain titles than others. One interesting note about this methodology is that Princeton with 10 regular season Ivy League titles is awarded 50 points with this methodology while Duke with 9 30-plus win seasons is only awarded 45 points for that feat (ignoring the fact that Duke probably won the regular season conference title most of those years).

• Conference tournament title … 3
• AP first-team All-American … 3
• Losing in NCAA second round … 3

- I’m assuming that the Ivy League regular season champ automatically gets the 3 points for winning the conference tournament title since they don’t have a post-season tournament. This only further skews the points Princeton and UPenn get in this system as they receive 80 points and 96 points respectively for their Ivy League titles not to mention the 20-win seasons they racked up beating up on Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, and Brown. I’m perfectly fine with the AP 1st-team AA points as at most 5 teams a year will have a player earn that distinction. Perhaps they should have thrown in a National POY bonus as that player is the one who usually defines the season (Ralph Sampson, Christian Laettner, etc.). Likewise, I’m in agreement with the 3 points for the 2nd round NCAA tournament loss.

• Player in top 10 of NBA draft … 2
• NCAA first-round win as a 12-16 seed … 2
• NIT title … 2
• AP second-team All-American … 2

- This is where it starts to get really weird. Let’s get the reasonable things out of the way first. Top 10 pick worth 2 points? Ok. That seems fine even if the draft was dominated by high schoolers and Euros for a few years. In the future, the one-and-done rule might make this benefit the schools that are willing to take the one-and-done guys even if it does hurt their APR. That is unless those guys start going to Europe. Cinderella getting 2 points for a 1st-round upset? Fine with this too even if we will all remember the Hampton upset of Iowa State more than we will remember the annual 5-12 upsets. AP second-team AA worth 2 points? Ok with this one too even if I think once you start getting to the 2nd team the players selected start getting more dependent on the voters. I’m too lazy to check this out (perhaps rtmsf can do it), but I’d be willing to venture there is a lot more variation in the guys selected to the 2nd team by various publications/groups than there is with the 1st team. Now for the crazy one. . .Awarding 2 points for a NIT title? Maybe in the 1950s, but today winning the NIT only makes you the butt-end of every more successful team in your conference. How many message board threads have trolls made mocking the 65th (now 66th) best team in country? I’ll admit that the NIT champs would probably beat the 13-16 seeds most of the time, but is there really any pride in being the small fish (mediocre team) in the big ponds (power conference) that can beat up on the plankton (13-16 seeds)? I’d give the NIT champ 1 point overall, which leads into the next big problem. . .

• 20-29 wins in a season … 1
• NCAA tournament berth … 1
• Postseason NIT berth … 1
• AP third-team All-American … 1

- Let’s get the easy ones out of the way. No problems here with the 20-29 wins or AP 3rd team AA getting 1 point. I would probably differentiate between 20-24 wins, which is usually a solid season, and 25-29 wins, which usually will put you into consideration for a top 4 seed if you’re from a power conference. Like I said before the further down the AA list you go, the more variation you will have by publication/group, but it’s not really worth arguing about for 1 point. The thing worth arguing about is giving the same number of points for a NCAA tournament berth and a postseason NIT berth. To borrow an over-used phrase from John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!” While I recognize that in this system the NIT team can only receive 2 points from the tournament (if they win), it is ridiculous to even consider invitations to the 2 tournament similar when the entire selection special is based on camera crews camping out in rooms with bubble teams to see if they got into the NCAA tournament. Maybe the ESPN stat whizzes have access to different camera feeds than I do, but it seems like the players, coaches, and families are happier when they get into the NCAA tournament than when they find out they are going to the NIT (even if Madison Square Garden is a slight upgrade from Boise, Idaho–unless we’re talking NBA). That’s just one man’s interpretation of the reactions I see although I could probably point out that a few years ago Georgetown declined an invitation to the NIT because they wanted to give their players more time to study for exams. . .in March. I wonder why Georgetown didn’t turn down its #2 seed this year. Do John Thompson III and the Georgetown AD not care about those same exams any more?

• NCAA first-round loss to a 12-16 seed … -2
• Losing season … -3
• Ban from NCAA tournament … -3

- No problem with the first two although I wonder if a losing season is counted against you if you have it expunged from your record and throw your long-time assistant coach under the bus? Also, I’d consider a 15-16 season a disappointment while I would consider 8-20 a complete embarrassment, so I’d probably make the less than 10-win season a significantly bigger penalty. I think the NCAA tournament ban should be a much larger penalty in this scoring system as the public (and press) reaction tends to be pretty bad (see below).

This is only a 3 point deduction per year?
This is only a 3 point deduction per year?

>> Minimum 15 seasons in Division I
** Ties are broken by overall winning percentage since the 1984-85 season

- After all the issues with the scoring system, I’m not going to complain about these minor qualifiers and tiebreakers. Both of them seem reasonable and none of the top 50 teams were tied.

Now that we’ve looked the methodology it’s time to pick apart the rankings to see what ESPN got right and what they screwed up. Duke is the run-away winner as even the most ardent Duke-hater (feel free to chime in here rtmsf) would agree that Coach K’s Blue Devils have been the most dominant program of the era even if their results have been underwhelming the past few years. The Blue Devils are followed by the Jayhawks in 2nd and the Tar Heels in 3rd. I’m not going to argue much with this although I would have UNC in 2nd just because I consider Kansas a team that historically underperforms in the tournament (Mario Chalmers’ shot and Danny and the Miracles not withstanding). Now onto the rankings I am utterly confused by.

Overated:
UNLV: 8th?!? I loved Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebs, who may have been one of the best college teams ever even if they lost/threw the 1991 national semifinal against Duke, but there is no way this has been the 8th most prestigious program in the country over the past 20+ years just like Memphis isn’t in that category. ESPN provides a pretty clear summary of why UNLV shouldn’t be in the top 10: “2 NCAA sanctions; 10 coaches since 1984-85; 0 NCAA tourney wins between 1992 and 2007″. I’d keep UNLV in the top 20, but they definitely don’t belong in the top 10 with that track record.
Xavier: The Muskeeters (at #17) have a nice Atlantic-10 program, but the fact that they have never made a Final 4 should automatically keep them out of the top 25. The Musketeers are buoyed by 21 combined conference titles, but have not really been a threat in the NCAA tournament having only racked up 15 NCAA tournament wins. Interestingly, Xavier came in 2 spots ahead of Cincinnati even though Xavier is widely considered the red-headed stepchild in the city.
Temple: I don’t mean to sound like Billy Packer ripping on the mid-majors (sorry, if you’re not a BCS conference, you’re a mid-major in my eyes), but the Owls never made the Final 4 despite five trips there under John Chaney. I think they’re a very good program, but like Xavier, Temple shouldn’t be in the Top 25 without a Final 4 appearance.
Murray State: Now this is the point where I rip the little guy. I was absolutely stunned when I saw this one. The Racers always seem to be one of those teams you see at the bottom of the bracket and maybe every once in a while you decide to take a chance on them to pull off the huge upset. Unfortunately, if you’re one of those people, you’ve only been rewarded once (1988 against 3rd-seeded NC State). The Racers piled up the points by dominating the Ohio Valley Conference racking up 22 (or 24 depending on your addition skills) conference titles and twelve 20+ win seasons (thanks to an easy conference schedule). Somehow this manages to put them above Villanova, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest.

Underrated:
Maryland: The Terps (28th) are killed by the fact that they play in the ACC and have lost out on a ton of points thanks to playing in the same conference as Duke and UNC. Although Gary Williams hasn’t had good teams the past few years, the Terps run especially in the Juan Dixon era should have been enough to propel them into the top 20. How does this program only rank 2 spots ahead of Murray State?
Utah: I don’t think the Utes would be able to move up much higher, but it would be interesting to see how high they would be on this list if they didn’t have the misfortune of playing Kentucky so many times in the 1990s. While the Utes benefited playing in a softer conference than some of their peers on the list (SEC and ACC), the Mountain West has been a fairly strong conference in recent years.
Florida: I’m not sure how much higher the Gators could move up because of their relative lack of success (not counting Lon Kruger’s 1994 Final 4 run) before Joakim Noah and company ran off back-to-back titles, but it seems like that alone should be enough to crack the top 20 especially when programs like Xavier and Temple are ranked ahead of them despite not making a single Final 4 appearance. The Gators probably belong in the top 15 although that may be more of a recency effect, but it just seems that there recent run puts them at a level that isn’t that much different than UNLV with its run with Larry Johnson.

Other points of interest:
– Coach K’s current program (Duke) ranks #1. The program he left (Army) comes in tied for 298th, or as it is more commonly referred to “DFL”. Hopefully the Duke athletic department program has a better succession plan in place than Army did when Coach K decides to leave the sidelines.
– I found this rather amusing from personal experience. Boston University comes in at 108th ahead of programs such as Clemson, Providence (with a Final 4 appearance), Washington, and USC.
– In the current SportsNation voting, Kentucky is in the lead (good work out of the Sea of Blue crowd) with Duke in 4th even though they have the most #1 votes (something tells me they were left off a lot of ballots or voted 25th). The three teams I singled out as being overrated in the top 25 were moved down quite a bit. Note: I thought they were overrated even before I saw the online voting.

No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
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National Championship LiveBlog

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2008

We kinda suck at this, but what the hell, it is the national title game after all. So here goes it…

Pregame – we kinda enjoyed Bill Self’s little pregame speech there. It wasn’t Vince Lombardi or even Norman Dale, but the point he made about tonight being a night the players will remember for the rest of their lives was a good one. We also enjoyed seeing the Memphis warmups stating “March is a Brotherhood” thing – first time we’ve seen those (apologies to MU fans everywhere). The KU fans are ready to explode – they’ve been waiting for tonight for twenty years. As an elite program, they need that validation another championship brings – whereas the Memphis fans want it. Fwiw, Memphis definitely looks looser through warmups.

18:15 – wow, who had Joey Dorsey at +1200 for the first basket prop?!?! Arthur was short on his first attempt and Rush missed a FT – are they tight? Sloppy so far – already four turnovers… KANSAS IS TIGHT.

15:36 – that stat CBS threw up is telling – these teams really are mirror images of each other. Another KU turnover, but Memphis isn’t looking much better on offense. Derrick Rose AND 1… Robinson is a great defender but he’s going to have his hands full tonight. Memphis is so far doing to KU on defense what KU did to UNC the other night – absolutely getting their hands on everything. Blocking a Rush three – are you kidding?

14:53 – KU down 9-5 isn’t too terrible yet; we think that they’ll settle down and start going inside soon. Packer takes credit for something he really hadn’t said yet (Collins to Kaun backscreen).

13:40 – 71% in the Tourney from the line is amazing for this team. Does that mean Shaq just needs to concentrate more also? Packer busily making up words – nondefensible.

12:17 – guess Billy meant the second one:

No results found for nondefensible.

Did you mean indefensible (in dictionary) or Non-diffuse nebulae (in encyclopedia)?

12:05 – 2 on Taggart and 2 on Dozier – well, that was predictable. KU has recovered nicely from its opening nerves, going inside the last several possessions. That’s where they’ll win or lose this game.

9:42 – great kickout to Chalmers for a wide open 3. Memphis has to know they’re not going to win this game with their inside people. Rose and CDR have to get going. Right now Kansas looks in great shape.

9:11 – Saturday hero Aldrich comes in and immediately makes two mistakes. Lucky for him, Chalmers stole it back and got two. Big momentum-changer there.

7:50 – we loved Rose not going 1-on-4 there and finding the open Anderson for three. That’s maturity in a point guard. Another 3 for Dozier keeps it close.

7:22 – wow, Roy with the olive branch there. Guess he wants to be loved at both schools after all. Memphis with a nice 11-2 run here to stay in this game. This game is starting to have the earmark of being a fantastic one.

4:44 – CDR’s game reminds us a lot of Tayshaun Prince. It’s awkward, kinda ugly, but completely effective. Already with 13 pts, KU is going to have to figure out how to handle this guy.

3:50 – KU is hitting 60% and is still tied. That can’t be a great sign for Self at this point.

2:31 – not sure how that was a block on Dorsey there, but it means Dorsey has 2 to go along with his frontcourt mates. KU is much faster to the loose balls right now.

1:02 – before that foul, Arthur was playing great. 10/4 already for him. Packer’s point about their big men getting tired appears to be the case – KU almost has as many offensive rebounds (6) as Memphis does total rebounds (9) at this point. This is a key last minute and Calipari knows it – Memphis is playing tired and he doesn’t want to go into the locker room down 8 or even 10 after playing mostly even this half.

0:32 – a near turnover for Rose leading to a rushed brick – Rose doesn’t look comfortable, but we’re not buying the illness thing (gummy bears don’t make you that sick). We think Nantz is on to something with his comment that Sherron Collins has gotten into his head a little bit. Will he take the challenge in the second half?

Halftime – who had the under 146 tonight – that’s looking like a LOCK right now. Unless Derrick Rose takes over this second half, we’re not sure how Memphis can win this game given what we’ve seen thus far. Kansas can get points almost any time it wants by going inside – so long as the Jayhawks don’t forget to do that, they should be able to avoid any major scoring droughts. They had 8 turnovers, but at least half of those were in the first five minutes and were probably due to jitters. And they’re playing fantastic defense on everyone on Memphis, with the possible exception of CDR (5-8 for 13 pts). But CDR cannot beat Memphis by himself. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to Rose. If he steps up his game in the second half, Memphis has a shot to win; without him playing to his abilities, however, this game is already over (h/t to Billy Packer). Still, we really like Kansas to win this game and the title (same as earlier today).

19:33 – Rose with a great move to start the half, leading to a dunk. He’s gonna have to do plenty of that. Quick three for Anderson – tie game. Chalmers FTs and Anderson And1… Memphis appears a lot more aggressive than Kansas right now.

15:15 – Now the Kansas D is swarming again, but here’s Rose with a lob to Dorsey to counter. Foul on Dorsey for his third. Kansas has to keep going inside on nearly every possession. If they do, they could have every Memphis big in foul trouble by the 8-min mark.

14:00 – As much as we’re harping on Kansas going inside, they’re only 1-7 from three so far. Packer noted that they didn’t shoot well from 3 in their losses this year. They’re going to have to hit a few (~4) of these looks to win this game. Wow, the rim was unkind to both teams on what appeared to be sure twos there.

11:35 – 0-2 for Anderson from the line – is this the close game where it finally bites Memphis? CDR with another one of those Tayshaun-esque one-handers. We love this kid. Rose with his first bucket of the second half… wow, these Ds are fantastic. There are no uncontested passes at either end.

9:31 – what kind of offense was that – KU ran the weave through six passes, and finally Chalmers stuck a 15-footer. Here comes Rose with his strength – another basket. KU misses another three – 1-8 isn’t going to get it done, Jayhawks.

8:08 – Kansas switches defense and immediately gives up an And1 to Dozier. Another brick from the line, though (now 4-7). Not sure we like this defensive strategy by Kansas here – CDR wasn’t killing them this half, so why change up the D? Now you give a guy like Rose open looks to start getting it going. This may have been a disastrous decision by Self. Can someone explain that???

6:19 – Rose is starting to show signs of feeling it. Kansas can’t seem to find the openings anymore. Another missed 3 from Collins – still only 1-9 from outside. KU is starting to look really tight offensively. Scoreboard watching? Why are they not going inside anymore???

5:10 – WOW – what a finish! Rose is taking over this game!!

3:57 – Sherron Collins with some brass ones on that move. And Rose throws one off the glass for three. Ridiculous. A 13-2 stretch led by Rose has effectively put Kansas away in this game. They already look defeated out there.

2:22 – Rose’s ridiculous shot was only a two, but somehow we knew that it was going in when he shot it. Wow, Rush babied that one when he should have dunked it. This team is TIGHT right now. We’re not sure they have enough left to make one more run. Self changing defenses again (1-2-2 zone), let’s see how this one works out. Rose very nearly hit another desperation long-range jumper there.

1:54 – KU is starting the fouling strategy (2-2 FTs). It’s probably too little too late here. KU just isn’t getting anything out of its offense, and hasn’t for about the last ten minutes. Arthur hit an 18-footer, which is not really what they needed there.

1:44 – HUGE steal and three for Kansas there. Only down four now. If the fouling strategy starts working, this could get interesting…

1:23 – 4-4 FTs for Memphis since the fouling strategy started. And Dorsey fouls out 25 feet from the basket on a hedge. Pretty stupid play, actually.

1:15 – Chalmers gets both, and CDR is fouled again. He MISSES. Interesting! Arthur down to 2… now they don’t have to foul….

44.0 – gotta believe Rose is the man here to make something happen. Shot clock different is 25 so KU will have plenty of time… VERY dangerous play there by Rose. What was Collins DOING there?!?!!?

14.0 – he misses BOTH and KU is killing themselves by not getting the rebound! Unbelievable! Then CDR slammed the ball to the ground – another extremely dangerous play – after the foul. Jumping back a bit, Packer was all over Memphis for not pulling the ball out on CDR’s drive, but we can’t believe that 5’11 Sherron Collins thought it was a good idea to go 1-on-3 against the Memphis shotblockers there.

10.8 – Memphis has missed FOUR in a row!!!!!!!

OT – What an amazing sequence there. Collins almost pulled a Trajan Langdon by dribbling himself into falling down, but he managed to just be awkward enough to give Chalmers an slight opening, where he drilled it fading slightly away. What an unbelievable finish! Last OT – 1997 and what, 1989 before that one??

4:21 – KU’s first lead since they effectively starting choking it away. Is Memphis feeling the pressure now? Sure looks like it. If KU wins this game, Memphis fans will never get over missing four of the last five FTs to give Kansas a sliver of hope.

3:38 – where has that been (lob dunk)?? Without Dorsey, Memphis must rely on offense from Rose, and instead Anderson bricks a three.

2:32 – After another inside score from KU, Calipari calls timeout and looks like a guy who just lost the national championship. KU has ALL the momentum here. Rose is going to have to try to use his talent to put this team on his shoulders, b/c they’re reeling right now.

1:48 – good stop there by Memphis. They’re not out of this game yet, but Rose is going to have to do something.

1:00 – two misses by KU and a putback followed by a leakout where it appeared that Brandon Rush’s knee gave out a little bit (scary), then an ENORMOUS three by CDR to cut it to one possession. Kansas is still in control of this game, because they’ll hit their FTs under pressure (we think).

45.1 – not sure why you foul Collins there. He’s a good FT shooter, and KU is stroking them (last 11 from the line). He got both with no problem whatsoever.

29.9 – hahahaha, as soon as we’re thinking it’s over, one of these teams does something completely stupid, like oh we dunno, slipping and falling out of bounds to give Memphis life.

12.8 – another miss by CDR, and now we’re starting to hear the haunting sounds of Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk… this is Kansas’ game to lose now. They make FTs and they’re the champs. Memphis’ lack of FT acumen makes them the chumps.

FINAL – Kansas is the 2008 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS – what an UNBELIEVABLE comeback thanks to the Memphis free throws! And Nantz gives us his obligatory “Rock, Chalk, Championship” phrase. Thanks, Jim. We don’t remember the F4 having fireworks before – or are all the Memphis fans erupting in random acts of gunfire?

Postgame – we’re not sure what to say here. This game reminded us a little bit of Arizona’s comeback against Kentucky in the last OT game in 1997, but we can’t remember a national championship game decided by four missed FTs in the final minute. Self won this game with his strategy of fouling at the end, but we still believe he made a mistake by changing up the defenses that were working in the mid-second half. For the two of you that were reading along, thanks for indulging us… More later…

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