Book Review: John Feinstein’s A Season Inside

Growing up, I used to see John Feinstein on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters and think that he looked like the dude that Demi Moore married for his monies in the Dead Right episode of “Tales From the Crypt.”

I first ran across one of his books in college when a hoops junkie friend of mine kept A Season Inside on the base of his toilet. I’d check it out on the occasions I needed his restroom to poop. I knew Feinstein was a writer, but had no idea he wasted a whole season following around that jerkfaced, bigoted bully of man, Bobby Knight, his subject for the book, A Season on the Brink. I’d give it a review, but that would mean I had to read it first. No thank you! #Hardpass

Feinstein’s writing in A Season Inside embodies every corny white sportswriter from the 1980’s as he travels across the country following various programs during the 1988 college basketball season. Every trite basketball cliche that you could possibly list makes the cut in this book. If I took a shot of Patron for every time Feinstein uses the adjective “articulate” to describe a black athlete, I’d still be too drunk to write this post.

There are moments in the book where I can’t tell if I’m reading non-fiction or one of those sports novels I would get as a middle schooler from the Scholastic Book Club. Feinstein was so intent on setting up a scene that he even purports to know what everyone is thinking in real time. Fortunately the book doesn’t always read this way (imagine reading four hundred plus pages of this type of nonsense), and it wasn’t complete shit. But I heavily skimmed through this one stopping only to read about the Duke, Kansas, UNC and Arizona chapters. It is easy to forget that Villanova was once a Big East powerhouse back when Rollie Massimino was pulling the reins as the head coach. Other notable cameos through the book are:

  • Navy’s David Robinson waiting out his obligation to Uncle Sam so that he can suit up for the San Antonio Spurs.
  • Larry “pound for pound” Brown yelling at senior All American Danny Manning on their way to a championship season. At one point Larry Brown is found contemplating if it is even possible to compete for a national title in a town like Lawrence. Also of note, KU teammates Kevin Pritchard and Milt Newton go on to become NBA general managers, as well as assistant coach R.C. Buford. Also on the KU coaching staff at this time, the infamous Alvin Gentry.
  • Current Jazz head coach Quin Snyder reportedly getting abused throughout the 1988 campaign, further enhancing his legacy as a basketball buster. Teammate Billy King would become THE Billy King who would go on to become the Brooklyn Nets GM, and we all know how that will turn out.
  • The late Dean Smith somehow getting through the brutal ACC league without a legit point guard and his best players being J.R. Reid, future Bulls forward Scott Williams and Rick Fox (of Party Down fame).
  • Rookie underachieving head coach Rick Barnes in his first year at George Mason
  • Late NC State Jim Valvano only a few years away from giving his infamous “Never Give Up” ESPY speech, and subsequent death.
  • The beginning of Lute Olson’s peak coaching years at the University of Arizona, with many juicy Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott anecdotes (anyone else Judd Buechler and Tom Tolbert?).
  • The infamous Billy Tubbs making his coaching bones at the University of Oklahoma with a solid crew of Mookie Blaylock, Stacy King, and Harvey Grant.

 

John Feinstein is a cornball, but I appreciate his attention to detail. His game notes must’ve been impeccable because he was able to recall various moments and sequences throughout multiple runs in the games he attended. Although this book is way too long (again; over four hundred pages), it is worth a good skim through–especially if you are a University of Kansas fan.

The amount of time Feinstein spends on teams in conferences no one gives a fuck about really bogs the reading down. But I think if you are a fan of the game (especially the NBA), it is interesting reading to go back and revisit the college careers of guys whose careers were washed ages ago, but continue to act as ambassadors of basketball as we know today.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

Westwood HO!!!

Despite my phobia for driving cars and displeasure for sitting in traffic, I took two trips out to Los Angeles to attend 2 Men’s basketball games at Pauley Pavilion; the December 10th game against the Michigan Wolverines, and again on January 21st; about a month later.

Los Angeles is the kind of city where neighborhood proximity pretty much dictate one’s social habits. Nothing illustrates this more than the location of USC, a little private school across town that you may or may not have heard of. Let’s just say that there aren’t an abundance of BMW dealerships, jewelry shops and banks in the surrounding neighborhood. Once you step off campus at USC you’re officially back in the real world. Trojans students and faculty work in a cocoon are in a world unto themselves, while UCLA is like more of a vacuum.

UCLA, a public university; is its own ecosystem, nestled within the exclusive section of town that is Beverly Hills. Westwood has its own choices of movie theatres, eateries (shout out to Fatburger) and banks to the point where its possible that a UCLA student to live in seclusion in relation to the rest of Los Angeles.

I made some rookie mistakes my first go around as a driver there. I didn’t give myself enough leeway and made it to the campus at exactly 7:00 PM for a 7:00 PM tip-off.  After paying for parking and jogging to the arena–located in the middle of campus, I had to wait in a yet another long ass line to get inside the frigging building (Los Angelinos are notorious for showing up to sporting events late, and now I understand why).

I typically go to sporting events early because I like to vibe the place out and watch the players get loose for the game. Driving in traffic for two hours and still being late, I walked in Pauley Pavillion irritated; rushing to sit down in my ticket section. The “Oohs” and “Ahhs”of the crowd tormented me with each passing second. I finally sat down in the 200 section (great seats) with the score already 12-14 and four minutes having ran off the clock.

That lesson prepared me for the second time around. I arrived on campus 1.5 hours ahead of the 1 pm tip-off. I had enough time to park, walk over to Kinross to grab a Fatburger, and walk back to Pauley. With about 30 mins until tip-off, I was surprised to find lines of no more than eight people. This only further proved the theory about people in L.A. unable to get anywhere on time.

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You can feel the history within the  walls the very second that you enter Pauley Pavillion. Part of UCLA’s mystique is their long and storied history of producing champions and NBA players. You can’t talk about UCLA basketball without mentioning John Wooden, the legendary coach who went on to become one of the biggest ambassadors the game of basketball has ever had.

At UCLA, Wooden won 10 national titles–once with a run of 88 straight wins that lasted 3 seasons. Wooden, arguably the greatest college coach of all time, was known as much for his words of wisdom as he was for his coaching accomplishments. The man created what is known as the Pyramid of Success (there is model replica glass display in the arena concourse), a chain of philosophical guidelines that he used to help his players. John Wooden was just as much of an instructor as he was a coach. His approach to the game was for his young men to learn the game within the game. He insisted that the true opponent was an internal one and that the only result that mattered was that one played their personal best.

At the program’s peak, many legendary players passed through Westwood. Men such as Jamaal Wilkes, Kareem Abdul Jabbaar, Walt Hazzard, Marques Johnson, Bill Walton, Baron Davis, Gail Goodrich, Sydney Wicks, and Henry Bibby (father of future Wildcat great Mike Bibby) all won under the tutelage of John Wooden.

What I liked most about Pauley Pavillion was the way they’ve meticulously preserved remnants from each era of UCLA basketball. You’re just as likely to run into a banner commemorating Matt Barnes or Reggie Miller as you would a plaque with the image of Bill Walton or Lew Alcindor.

Both games I found myself swept up in the mirth and excitement. The arena is well lit with hardly a bad location among the 13,000 plus seats. The court sports a classically simple design, displaying the blue and gold UCLA letters in cursive at half court. There is a bigger than usual student section from both behind one of the baskets and along the sideline opposite the bench. The band loudly and proudly played the UCLA fight song and the crowd took direction from the cheer team U!!! C!!!! L!!!! A!!!!!!!

I’ve gone off before about how beautiful the UCLA cheerleaders are (they look like grown ass women. One pair of beauties passed me in the concourse at the Zona game. I geeked out for a brief second before I remembering that  I was 40 yrs old.), but what equally impresses me are the complexity of their routines. I suspect that these young ladies are dancing as if they are auditioning for the Lakers dance team (in L.A. you never know who could be in the stands). Makes you wonder what the future holds for some of these young ladies. I would believe any scenario thrown out there: Doctor, lawyer, NBA dancer, Playboy Bunny, reality housewife, porno star–the whole spectrum comes into play.

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UCLA fans, both young and old, proudly wore their blue and gold strolling the concourse, looking for the nearest restroom or vendor stand. I passed many older fans for whom it was obvious that they’d had season tickets for generations. Los Angeles is a huge city full of transplants so it shouldn’t have surprised me (but it did) to see so many Arizona and Michigan fans/alums in the crowd at these games. These fans would manage to find their voices during the other teams’ runs, but would always eventually get drowned out by the chorus of “UCLA” chants.

The game against Arizona was  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Day at UCLA, and he spoke to the crowd at halftime. Jabbar was honored for winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I got chills being in the same building as one of the greatest basketball champions of all time. He was greeted with applause as he was escorted to his courtside seat–everyone instinctively stood in reverence to such basketball royalty.

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Illustration by Louis Eastman

There has been a buzz surrounding the squad this year. They have been a top 10 team all season; which explains the electricity floating in the Westwood air–and its not just the drones and cell phone towers.

The team consistently won during Ben Howland era. UCLA went to three Final Fours under Howland and put a slew of pro players into the NBA, but even with future superstars like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, their wins were from a “grind it out,” Big East style of play. They weren’t exactly a fun team to watch.

This current outfit that head coach Steve Alford is in charge of handling is easily the most exciting team since the mid-90’s Tyus Edney/Ed Obannon/Toby Bailey Bruins teams.  The up and down style of play of those teams was frenetic and above the rim (they gave the Fab Five all they could handle during the 93 NCAA tournament). I imagine their exciting run would have been even longer had they given a scholarship to local high school phenom Paul Pierce rather than center Jelani McCoy (who to be fair wasn’t a bad player, but he was no Paul Pierce)–Pierce grew up in Inglewood and wanted to play for the Bruins (I just lost my mind for a second spacing out on a 1997 alternate reality with Paul Pierce catching oops from Baron Davis and vice versa. WOW!!!!!).

Aside Note: Speaking of Baron Davis, he was in attendance at the Michigan game. Bruins games have their own version of “celebrity row” with the arena cameras zooming in on the faces of Peter Dante and “Hills Street Blues” legend Mike Warren. I was secretly hoping to run into Jalen Rose at the game, but my tardiness erased any expectations that I had concerning the game. If he was there, I didn’t see him on the Jumbotron.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at UCLA

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Coach Alford employs a run and gun system that emulates the Spurs and Warriors motion offenses. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford (Steve’s son) anchor the team with their leadership while the youngsters, Aaron Holiday (brother of NBA guards Justin and Jrue) and freshman phenoms T.J. Leaf (who kind of reminds me of an 18 year old Nick Collison) and Lonzo Ball bring flash, height and speed for defenses to contend with. 

The team relies on defense and rebounding from big men, Ike Anigbogu, (had 4 really  impressive blocks in the Michigan game), and Thomas Welsh.

Pro scouts are drooling the most over Ball. When people say that he reminds them of Jason Kidd, I see it. He is a 6’6 light skinned point guard with incredible court vision. He is a better shooter than Jason Kidd was in college (he’s a threat to shoot it from nearly anywhere on the court), but I am not sure how the form on his shot will translate in the pros (perhaps he’ll find a shot doctor like Kawhi Leonard did in Chip Engelland).

The other night against Oregon, Ball hit a dagger three from deep behind the line that I’m almost certainly would have gotten blocked in the NBA. Though I wouldn’t get too caught up on his shooting form if I worked for any NBA team scouting him. Jason Kidd could barely shoot free throws when he first got to the league, but he ended his career in the top ten of all time 3 point shots made.

My only (albeit mild) critiques was that he tended to rely on his dribble too much sometimes and would get stuck in the air because he’d penetrated too far into the paint. Somehow he’d get bailed out with a spectacular pass to an open teammate, but again, the kind of passes that are spectacular in the college game become turnovers in the NBA against better athletes and defenders. He will be a lottery pick, as there is no reason for him to come back to school (other than playing with his younger brothers again). Any development he needs for the next level will have to be gained from on the job training.

UCLA is stacked with talent, but their perimeter defense is suspect. In their loss to Arizona,  the U of A guards, Kobi Simmons, Kadeem Allen and Allonzo Trier, got to the rack anytime they wanted AND when UCLA collapsed the paint, they kicked the ball out for someone to hit an open 3 pointer. Seven Wildcats players were in double figures and Kadeem Allen was only 1 point away from it being 8 players.

The Arizona game showed what can happen to the Bruins when they don’t make their 3 pointers and can’t get any points in the paint. I’m curious what happens in their rematch later this month (‘Zona may be the most balanced team in the county right now).

UCLA has the depth to go far in the tournament. They are fast and can get up and down the court, routinely scoring in the 100’s. Their downfall will be their defense however. At some  point this season the Bruins will need to make a crucial stop in a game. The question is will they be able to?

Either way, it is good to see UCLA basketball is exciting again. It is easy to be happy for these fans and I’m glad they have a reason to be excited. Nothing connects the fanbases of different eras more than winning and tradition, and you’ll find plenty of both at UCLA.

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Lovable Losers: Remembering the Fab Five Era

2012-fab-five

91-93 Michigan Wolverines

Head Coach: Steve Fisher

Record: 56-14

Final Fours: 2

Big Ten Titles: 0

National Championships: 0

Starters: F Ray Jackson, F Juwan Howard, C Chris Webber,

G Jimmy King, G Jalen Rose

Key Role Players: G Rob Pelinka  C Eric Riley  F Michael Talley

With the NCAA tournament only hours away from starting (oh who am I kidding? By the time you read this, it may be the 2nd round), I thought it’d be fitting to give a quick shout out to the Michigan Fab Five. They changed the game of college basketball, taking what the Runnin’ Rebels started and taking it to a whole other level as far as style, flair, and image.

Unlike UNLV, they never won a championship, losing in the title game back to back years. In fact, they never even won a Big Ten title (something Bill Walton used to always bring up back in the day).

Were they overhyped? Perhaps. Were they revolutionary? Absolutely. No team dared to wear  baggy shorts, and low cut blacks socks. No team encapsulated the times like they did, coming onto the scene right around the beginning of the ‘golden age of hip hop’.

I was in 7th grade when the Fab Five formed, having no idea that only 30 miles away from my Dallas suburb was an 18 yr-old named Jimmy King, who could jump out of the gym. In fact, I’d never even watched a full college basketball game up until the 1991-92 NCAA tournament. My dad rooted for teams like  UNLV, Arkansas and Georgetown,  because they had “more brothas” playing for them. The games were always on in the background, but the only sports I liked back then were football and baseball.

That all changed after watching my first Michigan basketball game. These guys were brash, fun, and high flying. Nothing gave me a bigger thrill than watching Chris Webber throw down an alley-oop dunk, and Jimmy King in the open court was an automatic two points. After watching them play the Bob Huggins coached Cincinnati Bearcats (led by Nick Van Exel) in the semi-finals, I spent the rest of the eveing practicing Jalen Rose’s lefty leaner in my buddy’s driveway.

I made some academic mistakes that forced my mother to ground me from television, and I was stuck listening to the championship game against Duke on the radio. The first half of the game went well for Michigan, but Duke dismantled them in the second half of the game. I listened in dissatisfaction while trying to imagine what Webber’s 360 dunk must have looked like on television.

We didn’t have cable at my house. This made every televised Michigan game an event, and I sat in front of the living room tv humming the “Hail to the Victors” fight song during the timeouts. One particular conference game between the Wolverines and Hoosiers was especially memorable because it got interrupted by local coverage of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco.

I knew nothing about David Koresh, and had never been to Waco, and couldn’t care less at the time about any of it. The game was over by the time they cut back to the action. Indiana fans were cheering and the Wolverines were sulking on the sidelines as time expired.

The Fab Five run through the tournament was not a thing of beauty. They had trouble scoring at times because they weren’t a very good three point shooting team. Rob Pelinka (also known as NBA superagent to players like Kobe Bryant and James Harden) was their biggest outside threat off the bench. You could see how things opened up inside when he was in the game, as teams couldn’t sag off.

Their bench was also pretty young and thin; one that only went 8 deep at best. It goes to show just how good their starting five were because everyone (not named Ray Jackson) played over 1,000 minutes for the season.

I wonder now in hindsight if playing all five freshman (and sophomores) as starters was the best idea. Chemistry aside, I wonder just how more effective the second unit would have been had  King and Jackson led the helm.

Back then, small ball wasn’t really a thing outside of teams like FSU (with their 3 guard attack of Bobby Sura, Charlie Ward, and Sam Cassell) and sometimes Duke, but this era of Michigan ball sometimes looked unbalanced.

UCLA and Kentucky took the Wolverines to the limit before bowing out of the tournament, and a part of me wonders if they were spent by the end of that championship game against North Carolina. Mental fatigue can make people do funny things, and maybe that contributed to that ill fated timeout (causing me to lose my first ever sports bet).

There are plenty of games to watch online (courtesy of the NCAA vault), if you feel yourself geting nolstagic for the New Edition of 90’s basketball. They were not the most fundamentally sound of teams, and they rubbed a lot of old white people the wrong way, but they were still a lot of fun to watch.

You can’t look at the career paths of the Freshman Fab Five and say they were losers. Webber and Rose has gone on to have outstanding careers in the media, while Howard is an assistant coach for the Miami Heat. Ray Jackson runs an elite basketball program for Austin youth. Jimmy King is mentoring youth in Detroit.

King and Jackson didn’t do much professionally after Michigan, while Webber, Howard, and Rose played on various entertaining teams in the NBA (Howard of course got a couple of rings with the Heat).

You can bring up the off the court controversies that caused Michigan to vacate the wins, and you can always bring up the fact that Michigan never won any kind of championship. But as Jalen Rose himself says, “there is the scoreboard, and there is the score of the game of life.” I think you can say they all won in that regard–especially Rob Pelinka, that dude is filthy rich.

It’s Kentucky’s World (and everyone else is just in it)

Are you ready to read the fastest college basketball preview ever?
This year’s title is Kentucky’s to lose. Why do I say that?

Let’s start with the number 9.

That is how many McDonald’s All Americans John Calipari has playing for his team this year.
You know how many NBA teams have nine McDonald’s All Americans playing for them?
One–the Charlotte Hornets.

With a front-line of (Olathe’s own) Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee, and a backcourt of the Harrison twins (who led the team to Final Four during their freshman year–think about THAT), Kentucky is the hands down favorite to take the championship this year. People from Syracuse, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Lawrence ain’t gonna wanna hear that but it’s the truth.

If you are a hoops fan, this is the year to just watch for the players (There won’t be much drama–hate to say it). This draft could be just as deep as last year’s–if not deeper. The majority of those lottery picks will be coming from two programs, Duke, and Kentucky.

Kansas will be good of course, they reloaded after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Cliff Alexander stands to become the next Thomas Robinson, and Kelly Oubre is a great replacement at the wing. Wayne Selden will be returning to have an even bigger impact as the leader of that team. Perry Ellis will continue to quietly put up his double-doubles.

The biggest question (again) will be at point guard. Conner Frankamp, Frank Mason, and newcomer Devonte Graham will all get chances to handle the rock. I’m curious how much improvement we will see from Frankamp, Mason and former “Mr. Georgia Basketball” Brannen Greene. There is also some hype surrounding this new kid from the Ukraine, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (though I do wonder how an 16 year old from a war torn country will handle being away from his family). I’ve seen his highlights and I like what I saw from him (I was really impressed when I played with him on NCAA basketball on X-box–he was the only one who could consistently hit 3’s).

If you look at the Jayhawks roster, you’ll see that they are still pretty young, with only one senior on the team–benchwarmer Christian Garrett. If anyone other than Rick Barnes coached the University of Texas basketball team, I’d say the Horns were ripe to pluck the Big-12 title away from Bill Self. Texas will be entertaining to watch though, with Cameron Ridley, Isiah Taylor and newcomer Myles Turner as the top stars. Barnes will figure out a way to lose at least 3 games they should win this season.

If anyone is close enough to snatch that streak from KU, it is Fred Hoiberg and Iowa State. The “Mayor” always seems to get the best out of his players, and not in a Tom Izzo “scream at the players until he’s hoarse” kind of way. Iowa State will miss DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, but don’t sleep on the Cyclones. They could easily grab second place in the Big 12 standings.

I just looked at Duke’s stacked roster for the year and was tempted to write up a quick blurb about them, but then again what is there to say? They’ll blow through the ACC with that loaded roster and put up points against every team they face. They’ll win 20 plus games and lose maybe 5 (one of them to Carolina of course), and then they’ll get knocked out in the Elite Eight (yawn). Wake me up for the next lacrosse court case, otherwise I don’t wanna hear shit about Duke University.

Don’t sleep on the boys out of the Missouri Valley Conference–Wichita State. Sure they lost CleAnthony Early, but they return Tekele Cotton, Ron Baker, and Fred Van Fleet, along with coach Gregg Marshall. they won’t go undefeated this year, but they will still “play angry” and win their conference (and could go deep into the tournament depending on who they draw).

Living back on Tulsa time, I am right in the middle of things. I can catch a few Jayhawks’ games up in Allen Fieldhouse, down in Texas, or right here in Oklahoma. I’m honestly more excited about the NBA this year (again), but I have a couple of games circled this year. I want to be there in person for the KU-ISU game in Lawrence, KU-Texas is worth a drive up as well, and on December 5th, Florida visits Kansas for what should be a pretty hype affair.

Depending on what you are looking for, it will be a pretty entertaining year. There will be tons of draft hype, and there will be some good games for sure. If you are hoping for somebody other than Kentucky to win this year, you’ll more than likely be disappointed. Otherwise just enjoy it for what it is. If you saw how close Kentucky came last year to winning it all, then it won’t surprise you to see the Harrison boys and Alex Poythress cutting down the nets in April.

Next post: NBA Preview Click-Picka style!

Playing Catch Up [Originally posted at sportsblog.com on 3/20/14]

It’s finally here. Games tipped off about an hour and a half ago. I’m in a greyhound terminal in Oklahoma City, only miles away from Chesapeake Energy Arena where the Oklahoma Thunder play. I’ve been on the road for a week; catching up with old friend and family and my internet access has been spotty at best.

I had planned on writing a post-conference tournament wrap up column earlier in the week. Had things gone according to plan, I could have bestowed a congratulations to Deandre Kane (man I hope the Thunder, Pacers, Warriors or Spurs draft him) and the rest of the Iowa State Cyclones for winning the the toughest conference I have seen in years. Coach K disagrees with me I’m sure, but I think Duke would be a double digit loss team had they played in the Big 12 this year.

Iowa State was due to finally beat Kansas. They had been so close to winning against them the last couple of years (the hard fought games reminded me of those epic Duke-Maryland battles from 2000-2002). You could tell that the Ames faithful, Fred Hoiberg, and company wanted that W badly. I thought the first half of the KU-ISU game was one of the best halves of basketball I’d seen all year, and incredibly hard fought. I was wondering how they would have anything in the tank for the second half. It was a physical game and a poorly officiated one as well. Refs need to learn how to let the boys play and worry more about traveling and palming violations than calling fouls.

It sucked to see KU lose the way they did. Iowa State was too big to play small ball against them. The ball movement in the 2nd half was damn near non-existent. Besides Perry Ellis, no one on the team played well enough for the Jayhawks to win. Wiggins had scored 71 points the last 2 games, so it was unrealistic to expect an otherworldly performance against the Cyclones without Embiid to take focus away from him. I cringe every time Jamari Traylor puts the ball on the floor. Things just get ugly. He was trying to do too much(maybe he been watching too many Morris Chestnut movies?)–someone should tell him to chill on the hero ball–there’s no need for it.

Selection Sunday has come and gone. I’m sure you’ve heard all the analysis by now and I don’t need to to go back into why I think Kansas will lose to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. All I am going to say is that if i’m a Wichita State player I’m licking my chops at the challenge that is awaiting them. This is their “prove it” moment. They get to face the best in the toughest bracket to ever be set up for an undefeated team. They can silence the critics just by making it to the Final Four. Anyway, enough talk, I’m going to let my bracket do the talking for me. The madness is already upon us.