From the "Talks too much" studios, let's pour one for our boy Biz Markie... "Baby you, you got what we need, but you say he's just a friend, you say he's just a friend"
There was some intriguing basketball this weekend in the NCAA tournament. It was not great basketball but it was interesting basketball. Let's review:
• Kansas blowing it against Michigan was highly entertaining. It was the game of the tournament so far. It also means there could be whispers circling about Bill Self's job security with the Jayhawks after KU snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when Trey Burke hit a game-tying deep 3 to forced overtime. Gang, this is not that hard to figure out. If you have the lead by 3 in the final seconds, foul. Period. As soon as the ball passes halfcourt. It's not that hard. How many times have you seen a team pull off the make-the-first-free-throw-miss-the-second-get-the-rebound-and-the-stick-back play? One in a generation, maybe? How many game-tying awkward 3s do you see? One a month? One every other week? That Kansas loss was Self-inflicted. (And having the Jayhawks in my Final Four has nothing to do with this mini-rant.)
• Gang, we some how lost the file of early Final Four predictions we did in January. That's on us. We do know that Michigan, Louisville and Syracuse were in those discussions. Those teams and Wichita State are your Final Four. Which begs the question do we over analyze the last three weeks of the season and the conference tournaments when filling out a bracket?
• Best college players from each of those schools? We'll take Glen Rice, Darrell Griffith, Derrick Coleman and Xavier McDaniel. Discuss.
• The story of the tournament has been the dominance of Louisville. Yes, the Shockers' run has been nice and the double-digit seeds that danced their money's worth were cool too. Still this tournament is in the cards and of the Cards. And if it was even close, Kevin Ware's gruesome injury flipped the meter so far toward Louisville, there's no going back.
In an attempt to block a shot in the final minutes of the first half of Louisville's eventual destruction of Duke, Ware broke his leg right in front of the Cards' bench. We were watching live when this happened so we saw the two or three replays of the incident, and than CBS quit showing them. (Side note: This became such a big part of the game, we thought CBS should have showed the replay again at halftime with a proper disclaimer about the gross-tastic-nature of the video. It was THE story of THE sporting event of the day. It needed to be shown for those that missed it, and for those that saw it, it needed to be shown again for the immediate reaction of the Louisville bench - it was amazing - and the emotional reaction of everyone involved.)
The bone was sticking "6 inches" out of the skin according to coach Rick Pitino, who also said that through the injury and the pain, Ware kept shouting, "Win the game. Win the game."
It was powerful stuff and the Cards came out inspired and thunder-punched Duke with a stifling second-half run that delivered on Ware's orders.
As soon as it happened, we hit the Twitter (@jgreesontfp) with this: Wow. Prayers to that kid. This goes one of two ways: Louisville gets motivated and rolls; Louisville gets emotional and rolls over.
Louisville got motivated. And the Cards rolled. Now with Ware and the Cards going to Atlanta - the site of the Final Four and Ware's hometown - they are the heavyweight and the sentimental favorite.
Not to be outdone, the Louisville Cardinals women's team topped the untoppable. They stopped the unstoppable. They bounced Brittney Griner and the top-ranked Baylor Lady Bears.
Louisville bombed 3s, played with emotion and shocked an awed Baylor team on the way to a 19-point lead midway through the second half. Baylor made a run and took a one-point lead with less than 10 seconds left.
Louisville won with two free throws with less than three seconds left. It was the type of gripping theater sports can be - it was the real-life version of the classic upset-minded sports movie, all it needed was Louisville's coach saying, "We're way past big speech time, anybody got anything they want to say..." "I wanna win this one for my dad."
Here are a few takeaways:
• If you're Baylor, and you had Griner, the combination of Jordan-Jabbar in the women's game, for four years and you only won one title, well, that's an opportunity missed.
• If you have a big-boy athletic director job open, your first call is to Louisville AD Tom Jurich, who has put the Cards on path to move into a better conference (they head to the ACC next year) and landed coaches in the three major sports that have produced an 11-2 football season with a Sugar Bowl win over Florida, a trip to the men's Final Four and a trip to the women's Elite Eight by beating the unbeatable.
• The officiating in the men's game is bad. The officiating in the women's game is straight comical. We do not watch a lot of women's hoops, but we have to assume some of the better referees were working this game considering its magnitude. And if that was the better women's referees, sweet buckets of bad calls and flops, we'd hate to see the less-than-good refs.
• The Tennessee Lady Vols are next in line for Louisville, and this is a prime spot to take on the team that took down the title favorite. If Holly Warlick gets UT to the Final Four, she deserves to be coach of the year in women's hoops and deserves consideration for the award across all college sports.
We're genuinely excited about the start of baseball. Both the big leagues and the T-Ball team that the 5-at-10 is coaching for the next couple of months. (We have practice tonight, weather permitting, and we're going to give our 5-year-olds a 30-minute dissertation on the balk rule and its origins. Hey, the devil is in the details. Kidding of course, we just going to try to make it fun and make sure no one eats too much grass.)
As for the big boys, we grew up a Dodgers fan and believe L.A. has a chance to be as good as some of the teams we remembered growing up.
We believe the Braves will be tough, too. Something that is always appreciated around these parts.
We also believe that the Yankees and Red Sox likely will be battling to stay out of the cellar in the AL East. A fact that most of the country will enjoy at least slightly and a fact that will not stop ESPN nor Fox from showing the Yanks vs. Red Sox every SINGLE time they face each other.
Finally we believe that whoever picked the Astros as the opening night fodder deserves to spend 24 hours watching NCAA women's officials decide between a charge and a block and get electroshock therapy every time they make the wrong call. The Astros? Their biggest headline everyday player is Ronny Cedeno. Their ace is some guy named Bud Norris, who at $3 million per is their highest paid player. Their left fielder wears No. 66 (of course so does the Rangers', so strike that one). This looked like the team Lou Brown was given in "Major League" ("Wish we had him two years ago... We did... Four years ago then").
Of course, the Astros won and are in first place for the first time since 2007. (Side note: One of the single best things about opening day is the "George Bell is on-pace to hit 486 homers this year. That would be a record." lines you can use after one game. Side note on the side note: You will remember that George Bell hit three homers on opening day for the Blue Jays in 1988. Side note on the side note of the side note: Bell, Dimitri Young and Tuffy Rhodes are the only three players to hit three dingers on opening day. Side note on the side note of the side note of the side note: Tuffy's real name is Karl. Yes, there is too much useless knowledge in the 5-at-10's melon.)
- RIP Mal Moore, who died last weekend. Guy must have known it was coming - stepped down as Alabama's AD a few weeks ago and then dies. Of the great what ifs of the modern sports scene, what if Mal had been able to land Alabama's first choice in Rich Rodriguez instead of Nick Saban? Wow.
- Back to the Cards' Final Four run. Louisville has won two NCAA titles and is the favorite to win No. 3 a week from today. When they won in 1980, Darrell "Dr. Dunkenstein" Griffith was their best player. When they won in 1986, "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison was doing work. So it's obvious for the Cards to win it all, they need a guy with an elite nickname. We think Russ "Russdiculous" Smith qualifies.
- On this April's Fools Day, let us pause and remember Sidd Finch, the fictional SI cover boy 28 years ago today who George Plimpton crafted as a right-handed pitcher who threw with one boot on and could throw it 168 mph.
Feel free to discuss any and all (and remember Friday's mail bag).
The Final Four - men's or women's. Baseball. Heck, there's draft news that West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith will visit with Kansas City, which has the No. 1 overall pick. We love the draft; you know this. We would not love Geno Smith as the No. 1 overall pick, however.
If you need a talking point, well, here's one:
We've never been a big fan of the TV sideline reporter in sports and think the halftime interview on the way to the locker room is should be on Crash's list with Astroturf and the designated hitter as things that should constitutionally banned. (Well other than interviewing Saban, who generally is shooting lasers out of his eyeballs, or Spurrier, who always manages to say something smart alec and cliched and still sound cool.) That said, sideline reporting was at it's best Sunday with Tracy Wolfson doing real work with tasteful yet still important news on Ware's injury. Also, ESPN's Buster Olney was aces Sunday night, especially with the Astros GM about the Houston rebuilding project. That Olney was able to go to that level of detail reflects his true excellence in his field. In fact, we have him on the Rushmore of ESPN experts (note this is not hosts or anchors or play-by-play guys). Our top ESPN experts are Kiper on the Draft, Olney on baseball, Bilas on college hoops and Herbstreit on college football. We think Gruden's QB stuff is excellent, too.