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Why We Watch: 2005 - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
Why We Watch: 2005
I feel terrible for my dad, who essentially paid $60 to watch a game that he will always want to forget. And I've been rooting for Syracuse since 1978 myself, so I can't say I'm happy with the way things turned out either. But the Vermont-Syracuse game was wonderful theater. Vermont is clearly better than a 13-seed, as their media-friendly coach Tom Brennan told ESPN earlier in the day. Rather than complain, though, they conquered.

Taylor Coppenrath gave the Orange plenty of trouble. In the end, though, it was Cameroon's Germain Mopa Njila and Pawtucket's T.J. Sorrentine who made the difference. Sorrentine's three-pointer from far beyond where an NBA arc would have been was mind-blowing. Had Vermont been playing anyone other than a Pac-10 team or WCC team, I would have been on their bandwagon without reservation. Now I get to climb aboard in the hope that they do the same thing to Michigan State that they did to my father's alma mater.

Luckily for me, my disappointment over the Syracuse result and the way that Stanford got plastered was offset by one of those NCAA tournament experiences that make the whole event worthwhile: 14-seed Bucknell beating 3-seed Kansas. I was on my knees in front of the television for the last several minutes. Every time it seemed like Kansas would close the deal, Bucknell made another great play. Astonishingly, the underdog Bison survived a two-shots-and-the-ball intentional foul in the last minute, scoring with three seconds left after Kansas had taken the lead. That play was remarkable with German -- or is it "German," since his dad went to Lafayette in my birthplace of Easton, Pennsylvania? -- sophomore Chris McNaughton getting the ball in the paint and arcing a shot over all-everything Kansas senior Wayne Simien. It's a sad irony that Simien, who played superbly, couldn't get the stop on McNaughton and then missed a Christian Laettner-style turnaround on the final play. What a game!

The lesson in the madness thus far is not only that the teams from power conferences are no longer as good as they once were, thanks to early departures to the NBA, but that teams from lower-ranked conferences are often much better than they would have been five or ten years ago because of the influx of foreign players. Pacific and Gonzaga are excellent examples. Tonight Vermont and Bucknell joined them in that category. Despite what many commentators are saying about the mediocrity of college basketball as a whole. I'm seeing lots of fundamentally sound play that is greatly helped, as is now the case in the NBA, by the different experiences and skills that foreign-born players bring to the court.

Mode: divvied
Muse: the tinkling of the cat's ID tags

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Comments
From: jodi3425 Date: March 19th, 2005 05:53 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

ncaa b-ball

While I was not one of those who thought that 'Cuse could win it all, I did think that they stood a chance at beating Duke. Nevertheless, at the end I think deep down I was rooting for Vermont. While in general I agree that non-US players are increasingly better skilled at the fundamentals than US players (like the mid-range jump shot) and improve the level of play in the NBA and increasingly the NCAA (as the last Olympics clearly demonstrated), what I took from last night was simply that this is why we watch college basketball. On one night an underdog team comes through with the best game of their collective lives and upsets the favored team. On a less starry-eyed note, in those games where there was an upset, it seemed that we saw the underdog team come out strong and the favored team was caught sleeping or caught with sloppy play at the beginning of the game. Seems they didn't respect their opponent.

Paul
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: March 19th, 2005 08:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: ncaa b-ball

Thanks for writing! It's always fun to inhabit another's internet identity.

Yes, the starting slow/lack of respect thing is a big part of the underdog factor. The best teams seem to get over it sooner, a la Wake. Games are shorter than you think, so waiting around is unwise.

The more I think about the Vermont game, however, the more the conspiracy theorist in me rises up. The game was called pretty tight on the perimeter and astonishingly loose inside. This played right to Vermont's strengths and Syracuse's weaknesses. Hakim Warrick was just beaten to death in the paint. Vermont was pegged long ago as one of those "special" stories that CBS and the other media love. I'm not suggesting that there really was a conspiracy, mind you, but I can't help but feel that the narrative was helped a long a little bit by the style of play.
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