March 23, 2007

Cruisin' for a Br...Win

"Not only are we going to win, but we're going to win by 20." These were the immortal words of a brash Trojans fan, sporting a cardinal and gold Hawaiian shirt, sitting in the front row at the USC-UNC game. "We’ve got these guys," he proudly assured the Trojans players. "You've got nothing to worry about." Up by 13, USC point guard Daniel Hackett, set to inbound the ball, heard the comment, wheeled around and winked knowingly.

We dig the more realistic mascots more than the oversized bobbleheads.

For some time life for the Trojans was looking as good as the Song Girls. On the sidelines Tim Floyd was all fist pumpy. Sitting courtside, Giants QB Eli Manning rooted for USC, explaining that USC's coach "is an old family friend of ours."

With 13 minutes remaining in the second half, the Trojans led by 17. The Heels looked sluggish, and USC couldn't miss. The guy in the loud shirt looked as if he was going to start handing out "It's a Boi" cigars at any minute.

In the stands across the court, Carolina's fans, all grumpy in their argyle sweaters, slumped in their seats. It can't be fun to travel from North Carolina to New Jersey (The Armpit State) to watch your title-contending squad get routed three games short of the final by a group of no-names. Even Roy Williams, his arms folded across his chest, was quiet, as if mentally preparing his concession speech.


YYou saw what happened next. The Tar Heels turned it on. Their defense got tighter than the lid of a pickle jar. A 17-2 run had the UNC faithful back on their feet, as the UNC prevailed 66-65. The game followed the same script as almost every contest in this year's tournament: heavily favored team comes out in cruise control, falling behind big, only to shift into a higher gear and squeak out a victory. In both of the early games on Friday, we saw that exact situation played out with Georgetown-Vanderbilt and with Florida and Butler.

Perhaps the Hoyas-Heels duel is pre-destined. This is, after all, the 25th anniversary of Michael Jordan's game winning shot over the Hoyas in the '82 Final. Somebody trot out Fred Brown. Can we set up a conference call with John Thompson and Dean Smith? It's Georgetown and North Carolina, baby. Did you really think it would turn out any other way?

Five Notes About Vanderbilt-Georgetown You Won't Find in the AP Story

It's got to be an illusion how much bigger coach looks than Matt.

1) Everyone had a reason why they thought Georgetown was going to beat the Commodores. Mine? I have a rule to always pick against the school with the most a cappella groups -- call it the Whiffenpoof Corollary. I had a high school friend who went to Vandy and came back on winter break of his freshman year raving about going to, like, nine a cappella concerts.

2) The Georgetown fans seated behind the Vanderbilt band and the Vandy student section, the Memorial Maniacs, complained to security about the standing Vandys, but to no avail. "Ice cream sandwiches, ice cream sandwiches," chanted the Maniacs obliviously, as Georgetown center Roy Hibbert shot a free throw. Why? "So he gets cold," explained a student.

3) When former Knicks center Patrick Ewing, in attendance to see his son play, had his mug flashed on the JumboTron, he gave the double thumbs up. When Hoops Odyssey requested a photo with the big fella, he responded with an unenthusiastic two thumbs down. "Man," said Ewing unapologetically, "I don't wanna take no picture."

The Hoyas celebrates their victory by getting naked.

4) We've now seen the same Georgetown fan on several occasions dressed in a full-body Scoopy Doo costume, as though he was off to solve a mystery of his own before we could get to the bottom of this one. We have noticed a cartoon renaissance with the Hoyas' upcoming opponent, UNC, as well. Aside from Brandan Wright's Mickey Mouse ears, Ty Lawson is known to sport Scoopy and Sponge Bob apparel and has attended a Pokemon convention. Recently Roy Williams compared his freshman point guard to Dennis the Menace. "And I guess," surmised Williams, "I'm Mr. Wilson."

5) When asked what his son said to him during an embrace after the game, John Thompson the elder had this to say: "When I had Charles Smith on my team I used to say, "Just get Charles the ball and get the (bleep) out of the way. (My son) said he told the team to "Just give the ball to Green and get the (bleep) out of the way."

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Posted by Matt Waxman at 11:09 PM | Comment