Game of the Century... for half a minute
Wow, what do we make of this?
The happenings of last night's Duke-UNC massacre/debacle are so varied and wide-reaching we are going to have to have a winners and losers review of that single game. Since we are contractually obligated to have Weekend Winners/Losers we need a new name for the singular event that deserves 360-degree analysis.
After consulting with the vast legal staff at the 5-at-10 home offices (original office in Smyrna, main branch now on Signal) we will use the G-B-U roundtable for moment like these.
Without further ado, the Good-Bad-and-Ugly from the sporting equivalent of almost every teenage boy's first time fumbling in the backseat with a member of the opposite sex — It was hyped up as arguably the biggest event ever, it lasted less than a minute, most everyone was left disappointed, no one wants to talk about it again, and in the moment, it feels like things have been changed forever — as Zion Williams crumbled and North Carolina destroyed Duke.
GOOD: North Carolina seizing the moment and punching the shell-shocked Devils between the horns. It was both impressive and savvy. Without Williams on the defensive end of the floor — he is top 10 in the country in blocks and steals by the way — Carolina attacked the rim relentlessly. How's this for an amazing stat: When Luke Maye — who was awesome last night with 30/15 — hit a lay-up with 6:04 left in the first half to give UNC a 30-17 lead, 28 of the Heels' 30 points were from the paint. The other two were free throws. And say what we may about Zion's injury, this exposes two serious flaws for Duke. First, their lack of depth is certainly an issue, especially in the front court. Second, if their interior defense crumbles that completely with Zion not on the floor, then what happens if he gets into foul trouble or is under the weather.
BAD: Could you imagine spending the kind of coin that folks had mentioned? Maria Taylor, the excellent ESPN sideline reporter said a family from Seattle dropped $10K to get into the game so they could see Zion in his one and only moment inside Cameron against UNC. It was a game that truly had the attention of the sports world — there were superstars from Obama to Spike Lee to Ken Griffey Jr. in the crowd. (Side question: If we just say Junior, who do you think of? Discuss.) And when Zion went down, Duke did not handle that gut punch well and the game got out of hand. Truth be told, we did not check back in on it during the second half.
UGLY: Nike execs are assuredly in hurried meetings and hush-hush conference calls. Talk about the lasting images from the biggest regular-season basketball game since Alcindor and The Big E met in the Astrodome half a century ago, and there are a few. Luke Maye's dreamy eyebrows; Brother Roy Williams' straight-up gangster pin-stripe suit; Duke clanging 3 after 3 after 3; and NO. 1, the shredded size 15 Nike that blew apart and left the most powerful college player in a generation crumbled at the foul line and the nation stunned at what just happened. Somewhere Adidas put together an immediate pitch plan for Team Zion.
GOOD: The rest of college basketball just got a blueprint on how to attack Duke and not just compete, but pound them. Because we can all agree that Zion playing 36 minutes would have made a huge difference, it was clear that UNC was going to go straight at and eventually through the Duke interior. So if you are UK or Duke or Gonzaga or even an LSU or some of the other teams with strong interior post presences, you feel way better about your chances against the Devils this morning than you did at lunch Wednesday.
BAD: Duke's reaction. Yes, losing your centerpiece changes everything. Everything. But Duke did not change much at all. Hey I understand the, "Calm down, we still have the two best players on the floor," original approach, but Reddish and Barrett were just as shellshocked. Duke's nonexistent adjustments made it quite clear that Coach K had some strange form of PTZD (post-tramautic Zion disorder) and simply tried to put in that white kid wearing 41 in the game and pretend like nothing else changed. After getting your nose that bloodied by a river of gut punches in the paint, maybe Duke could have tried one of those zone thingies. And when did Duke start recruiting white kids that can't shoot. We all know that K has three of the top five draft picks next year. So did he decide to make things more interesting by taking a random student and his racquetball partner's son to round out the starting five?
UGLY: Well, there are a slew left. We had Duke in the first half (loser) and the game (loser), which continued the full-blown Cooler we're riding. (Hey, it happens. A 1-3 showing last night moves us to 26-17-1 against the number. So it goes.) We also loved/cringed at Carlos Boozer, the former Duke star, tweeting a get-well message to Zion: "Get Well Soon @ZionNPS" A warm, and well-intention sentiment, and while we're not sure what is ailing Zion National Park, we too echo Carlos' well-intend sentiment. And then there are the TV numbers. ESPN had more invested in Cameron than Ferris Bueller on Wednesday night — from Golic Jr. and Jason Fitz from the morning shows to the simulcasts and side-court stuff — and poof, the interest, for all intents and purposes for the rest of us, was gone in 33 seconds.
One more Zion and a twist
OK, somewhere this morning Scottie Pippen is saying, "Told you, you bunch of mother bleepers!"
Pippen, remember, said that the smart play for Zion was to sit out the rest of the season because there was nothing else for Zion to accomplish for Zion. Sure he could help Duke win the whole thing, but he was the surefire No. 1 overall pick and his brand was already worth eight-to-nine figures to the shoe companies.
The only way to hurt that brand was to get hurt. Zion got hurt, and by all accounts, it appears to be minor, but what if it's not.
And what if it hurts his explosiveness? Then we are talking about serious coin.
It's worth the conversation.
Speaking of conversations, man, we are in a strange place for fandom these days. Before I got out of the rack, there were a slew of UNC fans already bemoaning what they perceive to be slights from "the bias media" that everyone was making too big of a deal about Zion's injury and not giving UNC enough credit.
When did we get to the point that winning the game was not enough, and that the narrative after the fact was just as important?
I'm not sure, but it's a puzzling trend among some very large and emotionally unstable fan bases. (And I know — and am related to — some pro-Auburn conspiracy nuts too.)
Fab 4 picks
OK, last week was more like it. A 3-1 week, aided by a cruel back-door cover that would have made the Bandit and the Snowman tickled in the Atlanta Losers (sorry, Legends) weak effort.
The AAF is two weeks in and the swirling stories about payroll and uncertain insurance for the Orlando franchise, which has to practice in Georgia to give its team a chance at some form of state-sponsored coverage, are terrible and potential league killers.
Yes, the hockey dude did pump a quarter of a billion (yes billion with a 'B') into the league and that helps, but check the simple math (numbers are rounded when needed for simpler math hey I went to Auburn gang):
Eight teams. Let's say 50 players per. Each gets $70K in year one, in a 10-week season, that's $7,000 per week. That times the 400 is $2.8 million in players salary a week, right? And the league was uncertain if it could cover parts of that in week 2? Egad. And leave it to Steve Spurrier to pull back the curtain on the league's details offering this: "I think what happened is an original investor sort of led us into believing he could come up with the money to get us through the first year, and then he sort of bailed out," Spurrier told Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. "He didn't have [the money], and we found Tom Dundon. I think [Dundon] liked the idea so much, he became the majority owner [of the league] and now we're all set to go for quite a while."
So, with the future more certain than last week, but still feeling somewhat uncertain and the past action of this league becoming more divided than the haves and the have-nots of the SEC.
(Side observation: Pay attention to the weather friends. It matters.)
(Side observation II: The traditional rounded point spread numbers are different here because there are no traditional PATs and everyone has to go for 2. It takes some adjusting to be honest.)
We'll start here. We like every under and will like every under every week that is not the Spurriers until proven otherwise. The under in non-Spurrier games are 5-1 in each of the first two weekends. That's entertainment friends. (SA-SD o/u is 43.5; Birmingham-Atlanta o/u 40; Arizona-Salt Lake o/u 46.)
San Diego minus-2.5 over San Antonio. San Diego found something late against Atlanta last week, and we expect Mike Martz and company to become the best running team in the league.
Orlando minus-15 over Memphis. In a football-playing match-up, Mike Singletary > Steve Spurrier. In a football coaching match-up Spurrier >>>>>>>>> Singletary. The Apollos are at home and here's betting that the Spurrier Show wants to roll up more big numbers.
Birmingham minus-6 over Atlanta. Atlanta gets a home game, which is a little scary because AAF teams are 6-2 against the spread at home. (Yes, I feel like a need a shower knowing that stat.) But Birmingham has the best defense in the league and if the rain consumes the city of Atlanta like its supposed to hit us this weekend, well, sloppy conditions behoove Birmingham.
Last week AAF picks: 3-1 against the spread (75 percent)
This season AAF picks: 5-3 against the spread (62.5 percent)
All-time AAF picks: 5-3 against the spread (62.5 percent)
This and that
— Mike Leach giving the snapshot of the Air Raid offense with a quote from Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" is simply put, perfect. If anyone makes Mike Leach change even in the slightest, I'm going after them. Who's with me?
— Speaking of 'conspiracy theories' from fan bases, cue the Steelers crowd and everyone else who hates the Patriots. According to this story, the Pats and the Redskins have the easiest schedules in 2019. Nevermind that it follows a formula, it's a conspiracy of course.
— Alabama added another former head coach as an intern/analyst. That's a sneaky monster advantage that Saban has crafted right there friends. His ability to out-spend is part of it, but his ability to reshape Mike Locksley or Lane Tiffin's image means Butch Jones and Major Applewhite and so many others are willing to fetch coffee and scout four games down the road or recruit sophomores and the Alabama machine continues to pick up speed and build momentum, because a former Houston or Tennessee head coach is talking to a five-star sophomore and Auburn sends a wide-eyed GA.
— Has any in-game fan base had a worse showing this year than the UGA supporters? Starting with the awful racial slurs from the UGA baseball player at Justin Fields, which in part allowed for the star QB's transfer, to last night's game-ending stuffed-animal technical, wow what a turn of events.
Who in sports, if I said Junior, do you think of first?
Who else among us wants Spurrier to be the first AAF alum to jump to the NFL?
If you are an impartial newsperson, what's the headline after last night's UNC-Duke game?
As for today, Feb. 21, a slew of talented/attractive actresses share this birthday as Sophie Turner, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Ellen Page are blowing out candles.
Billy Graham died on this day last year.
On this day, in 1878, the first telephone directory was issued in Connecticut.
Alan Rickman would have been 73 today.
Who other than Rickman, is on the Rushmore of best actors to play multiple movie villains. Go.