Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Once you're in the gym, you're in range

Last night, the University of Michigan Wolverines squared off against the Louisville Cardinals in the NCAA Men's National Championship game.  Please excuse the delay of this week's Tweener, as I felt this was a prime opportunity for another retro-diary. And yes, I chose to do this at least in part because in nearly every bracket I filled out I had a Michigan-Louisville final.

8:53PM - Tip off is in one hour. I just finished my dinner of pizza bites and an apple, so my night is off to a great start.

Here's my prediction of how this goes: Early offense from both teams. Pitino asks his guys to slow things down. Russ Smith forgets that strategy in two possessions. Louisville goes into the half up two. Michigan comes out hot. Stauskas hits a couple "white-man-corner-threes"prompting celebrations from his bench like the one below. It gets close. And then.....TREY BURKE. The national player of the year shows up, goes 5-for-6 from the free throw line, hits a couple of tough drives, and then is accidentally left open for 3 on a possession where Russ Smith thought he was already on a fast-break but forgot the basketball. Dagger. Wolverines, 79-74.

9:02PM - One more pre-game note. Can I just say how much I like this match-up? For starters, it hopefully won't be some terrible Uconn-Butler most boring final ever kind of game. But both teams have two high level guards, one of which has looked like the MVP of the tournament so far. Both have white guys that shoot threes. Both have players coming of their bench that their fan base loves. Both have post players that have major impacts at both ends of the floor. Neither team turns the ball over much. Both teams make plenty of steals. Points, points, points. This. Is. Awesome.

9:15PM - Ok one more note. Louisville's shirts all have #5 on the back for Ware. I love that. CBS just showed Chris Webber arriving at the stadium. Love that as well. What I love the most? Chris is sipping on a 1/4 full water-bottle that I 100% believe is vodka.

And just so everyone knows, from here on out Louisville will be referred to as "UL" and Michigan will be "UM"...maybe that's kinda confusing but I don't want to type out those names over and over again. Especially Lousiville Liousville Loserville Louisville.

Uh oh, I just discovered that "The Voice - Auditions" is also on, as is Fantastic Four, as is Monday Night Raw, as is Amish Mafia. All of those are real things. I'm going to have quite the channel flipping task tonight. I've been training for this for years.


9:23PM/20:00 - UL wins the tip! Not quite as cool as the flashbulbs at the Superbowl. Also this is the 67th game of the tournament? Could they find a way to add in one more game so there are 68 games and 68 teams? Maybe just make a rule that says Duke always has to play one extra game?
19:25 - Burke starts things off with a floater off the top of the glass over Gorgui Dieng. "I'm here, bring it."
18:46 - TREY BURKE decides this is his game and drops a 3 from 29 feet.
17:19 - Burke drives and wonderfully uses his body to shield off Dieng as he gets two more, giving him all seven of UM's points and putting them up 7-3.
16:11 - Russ Smith, not to be forgotten, drives on a fast break and does his patented contortionist move for a lay-up.
14:59 - Spike Albrecht hits a three!
13:06 - Albrecht again! 8 of 8 for the tournament from three from Spike!
11:41 - Peyton Siva keeps it close with a couple drives, lay-ups, and free throws. I love his beard. As they go to commercial break we see a slow-mo of Albrecht mouthing "Let's f***in' go!" Indeed, Spike.
11:09 - Second foul called on Burke. We'll see how UM handles the pressure now. Also, some chick just picked a terrible song and got rejected on the Voice.
9:26 - UM commits a couple turnovers, but Albrecht puts in a floater over Dieng to keep Michigan rolling!
9:00 - Albrecht hustles for a ball - he hucks it up the floor to McGary - McGary goofily dribbles - Stauskas hits a three!
6:29 - Kind of a dull stretch. My one female roommate joins me on the couch and immediately asks, "Why did Louisville think those uniforms were a good idea?"
5:55 - Albrecht for 3 off the BOUNCE!
4:43 - How did they not call a kicked ball? No jump ball? Am I going to question the way the officiating affects this outcome?
3:53 - HESITATION DRIBBLE MOVE FROM ALBRECHT. Brian Sachtjen - "Someone absolutely needs to make an 'Erect for Albrecht' sign." This guy is electrifying.
2:53 - Hancock with a huge three. Draws it down a 9 point game. Gotta keep it close - single digits at half would be big.
2:33 - Hancock again! Down to a 7 point lead for UM! WHITE SHOOTERS ARE TAKING OVER THIS GAME.
0:02 - UM gets bailed out with a foul call. After being up by 12 with 3 to go, Michigan goes into the half only up 1. Hopefully Burke can play more and prevent more turnovers. But wow was that a fun half of basketball.
17:46 - Burke starts off the second half with a three, just to remind everyone that he was going to take over this game until the officiating got in his way.
16:07 - There's a huge scrum, Stauskas dives on the floor forcing a jump ball, and all I can think is "this looks like a pick-up game down the street from my house."
15:43 - Wow. Siva executes a brilliant spin on baseline, then creates a more difficult layup for himself than necessary, but still scores.
13:05 - Goaltending called on Dieng as the ball touches the backboard first. That was missed in the first half - I'm growing more worried about the officiating. UL up by 3 now.
12:06 - Burke drills one from so deep. GIMME DA BALL COACH.
11:09 - 30 seconds after Albrecht misses his first three, Hancock picks up his fourth foul, but they assess it to Harrell...who wasn't in the play. OFFICIATING??
9:31 - Siva with a nice finish, followed by TIM HARDAWAY JR. WITH A MONSTER JAM. Michigan is finding a way to counter every UL spurt.
9:11 - McGary picks up his 4th foul. Uh oh.
7:57 - My roommate: "Big players making big plays." Trey Burke with a fantastic finish with an "and one" as we go to commercial. Keeps UM within 3, maybe 2.
6:36 - One of the announcers just noted it's possible we're seeing "diminishing returns" on the amount of playing time Albrecht is getting. Which is a pretty complicated way to say, "Why is Spike Albrecht still in the game?"
6:24 - Siva goes UP TOP for an alley oop??? I'll let Dick Vitale take this one: He's a high riser baby!
5:09 - OHHHH NOOOO the officiating is making me cringe. Mark it down now - this is the turning point of the game. Trey Burke sized up Peyton Siva on a fast break, met him at the rim, and came up with a monster block to keep UM within 3. Unfortunately the refs make a BLOODY AWFUL CALL and assess Burke his 4th foul and grant Siva two free throws that he calmly sinks.
3:53 - UM down 8 as we go into the final TV timeout. UL's largest lead.
2:24 - Trey burke is killing himself to try and pull this one out. He's on the floor after every possession
1:20 - Robinson for two free throws. Wow this could be exciting. Michigan down 4. I mean UM. I mean...I don't care I can't keep typing!!!....!!!!
37.5 - Why didn't they foul much sooner???
14.1 - 4 point game. UL ball. Burke out so he doesn't have to foul. So close.
3.7 - Burke misses a deep 3. Nooooooooooooooooooo

Final - 82-76 Louisville.

Look, I'm not going to make excuses (even though a Michigan win would have landed me ridiculously high on ESPN's bracket board).  UM played Albrecht for too long, and they could have risked Burke at the end of the first half.  But I want to point this out: After that ridiculous block by Burke with 5 minutes to go (that would have kept it to a 3 point game), UM never got it back to a single possession game again.  That was it. Everyone kept talking about the "runs UL makes to try and knock you out." Well, Michigan did everything they could to stop those runs, but just couldn't get the help they needed via fair officiating.

This game was, however, one of the most exciting national championship games I've seen, not to mention one of the most exciting games this season (probably second in my book to the Louisville-Notre Dame 5OT thriller).  I am so glad it worked out this way, even if the team I picked ended up losing.

Second to last thought: In the post came coverage Kenny said something dumb to the effect of, "This was about stars stepping up for their teams. Russ Smith and Siva on one side, and Burke and Hardaway on the other." Outside of the cliche nature of this statement, it overlooks the fact that this isn't even true. Russ Smith actually had a miserably bad game with some miserable decisions all over the place. Siva played brilliantly, but so did Burke, and Hardaway was somewhere in between. Fortunately, Charles Barkley corrected Kenny The Jet's misstep and pointed out that players like Chane Behanan and Luke Hancock really pulled through for Louisville when they needed it most. That's the first time anyone has ever said the words "Fortunately Charles Barkley" about a broadcast...but it's true.

One last thought: I hope that some day I run into Ware on a rec court. I won't forget that smile.

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