Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thoughts, Links, Linked Thoughts, and Unchained Melodies

As I mentioned in the morning post, the McDonald's All-American high school game is tonight at 8:00. Kyrie Irving is the lone Duke recruit, but word has it he's ready to take over from day one. He'll be playing for the east, and Harrison Barnes, UNC's stud, will be playing for the west. Irving will be teamed with two other UNC recruits: Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock. Here's an interesting video of them bs'ing with each other in a good-natured 'smackdown':


My thoughts:

1) I like Kyrie's personality a lot.

2) Reggie Bullock seems okay, but he will get his just deserts for attempting to talk shit about Baby Dawk and Sing.

3) Harrison Barnes is a control freak. Notice the way he commands the mic, and looks very uncomfortable when it's out of his hands. He also alludes to his NBA prospects twice, a sign that he may be more self-concerned than most, and is at the very least more self-aware than your average high school senior. Keep in mind, this is the recruit who held a press conference to announce his college decision, an unprecedented and possibly egotistical move for someone of his unproven stature. I'm already intrigued; it seems like he could either flame out when things don't go his way, or be the type of obsessive personality who becomes truly great. Let the Harrison Barnes era begin!

Other things:

*Pat Venditte, the Yankees switch-pitcher made an appearance in spring training yesterday, pitching an inning and a third and giving up one run on two hits and a walk. I consider this a pretty sweet novelty. He even has a special glove that lets him switch hands quickly. Now if only he were good!

*Minnesota Twin Denard Span fouled off a pitch against the Yanks this afternoon, and the ball went into the stands and hit his mother. Seriously. It bruised her chest, and after being treated with paramedics she was back in the stands (she went to the hospital later as a precautionary measure, but seems okay). This is kind of like the Greek myth of Perseus, when he fulfilled a prophecy by the oracle of Delphi by accidentally killing his grandfather, also in the stands, with a discus. Except this time, I was the oracle, and I SAID MAUER, NOT MOTHER. MAUER!

*Roy Williams is picking Duke to win it all. He also refers to himself in the third person, and calls himself a "spoiled little brat." And you have to love this quote from Marcus Ginyard, offering an alternate perspective: "Any time Duke is doing well," he said, "it hurts my heart."

*You know that douchebag Doug Gottlieb who called us "alarmingly unathletic" and said that the refs gave Duke their victory Baylor? Apparently Jim Boeheim hates him too.

It seems Gottlieb spent his freshman year of college by stealing a roommate's credit card and charging over nine hundred dollars. He was kicked out of Notre Dame for the indiscretion, and convicted of misdemeanor fraud. Eddie Sutton graciously picked him up at Oklahoma State, where he had a decent career. In gratitude for this second chance, Gottlieb was the first to call for Sutton's resignation after he was arrested for a DWI. After he decided to take Syracuse to task for an easy non-conference schedule, Boeheim made it a point to bring up the credit card scandal at every chance. Which is hilarious.

Doug Gottlieb: A Rat to the Core.



*My fantasy baseball draft is tonight, and I'm woefully unprepared. Who is considered good in baseball these days? Does Don Mattingly still play? Seriously, though, the offensive categories are HR, R, OBP, RBI, and SB. I should get mostly power guys and concede stolen bases, right? I'm terrified. See you tomorrow.

Morning: A Sneaking Glance at the Future

Living in the present is good, even great, sometimes it's fun to move your eyes down the timeline and do a bit of anticipating. A little chicken counting, as country folk are wont to say. With that in mind, let's take a quick journey into...


THE NEAR FUTURE



Here's how my weekend and early week might play out:

Saturday: Duke beats West Virginia in the Final Four.

Sunday: CC out-duels Beckett in the first game of the regular season.

Monday: Duke wins the national title.

Tuesday-Wednesday: Yankees finish their sweep of the Sox.

That would be sweet, right? And since we're on this track, let's go ahead and continue voyage through time, all the way to...


THE MIDDLE FUTURE



The year is 2010, except later. November. Duke is coming off a national title. Kyrie Irving, our top recruit at point guard, is kicking ass and taking names. (Note: Irving has dominated the AAU circuit, and tonight he plays in the McDonald's All-American game, ESPN, 8pm. You can also see Harrison Barnes, UNC's stud recruit and supposedly the best player in the country.) When the Devils take the court for the '10-'11 campaign, this is their starting five:

Point Guard:



Shooting Guard:



Shooting Guard:



Power Forward:



Center:


That is quite a squad. It's got repeat written all over it. But I'm not content to stop there. Time travel is addicting, so let's get back in our vehicles and keep this party rocking all the way to...


THE DISTANT FUTURE




The year is 2028. Russia has just begun their nuclear bomb campaign in Africa, Japan is on the verge of electing its fourth robot to parliament, and Canada is just a fond memory. But Duke basketball is thriving, with 8 straight titles and the best starting five in recent memory. Unfortunately, it's impossible to find images from the future, so I'll have to use their current photos.

Point Guard: Robin "Crazy Hands" Murphy, Freshman



Shooting Guard: Aramis "Vamos Mujeres!" Perez, Sophomore



Small Forward: Anton "Street Clown" Mayberry, Sophomore



Power Forward: Franklin "Dungaree" D'Mason, Senior



Center: Moses Plumlee, Senior



We're going to be so awesome! But enough future fun. It's time to go back to March 31, 2010, America...





Whew! Good to be back. However, I'm really scared about what kind of google hits I'll get for this post. Those baby photos might have just invited a really undesirable set of people into our little club (and I sincerely hope the IT people at my work are not monitoring my search history today). But traffic is traffic, right?!

My parents will be so proud. More later.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On A Lighter Note

(Today is the One Year Anniversary for Seth Curry Saves Duke! Read more in the morning post below.)

I watched K-State twice last weekend, and both times I was amazed by how much Dominique Sutton (#23) looked like the actor who plays Avon Barksdale on 'The Wire.'



=



I googled the two names, and was happy to learn that others had picked up on the similarity. Also, for kicks, here was Monday's back page of the NY Daily News:


Double Plumdog!


See you tomorrow.

The Adversity Kids

(Today is the One Year Anniversary for Seth Curry Saves Duke! Read more in the morning post below.)

You can't even move your mouse over a hyperlink these days without reading that the Dukies are 'tight-knit.' It's a sentiment I'm hearing over and over, and it's gone beyond a talking point; according to this report and a few others, several of the players were close to tears in the locker room after the Baylor win. And there are scads of quotes like these:

Lance Thomas: "We hang together on and off the court and like each other." "There are no separate cliques on this team, we are all in this with one another."

Scheyer: "We can tell one another anything. We’re able to confront each other and we all hold each other accountable. I have never been on a team in my life that was so close."

Coach Steve Wojciechowski: "It’s not the most talented team, but they like one another and do everything together."

Coach K: "This team will really be brothers forever. It’s as close a team as I’ve had." You want great things to happen for people who are great with us. I mean, they’ve been spectacular to coach. You can tell they’re really close and I’m ecstatic about it. I can’t tell you how happy I am about them taking our staff to Indianapolis."

The way they've played under pressure during this tournament is indicative of that closeness and resolve. The games against Purdue and Baylor were the kind they would have lost in previous years, as I said in yesterday's mammoth post. That's particularly true for the Baylor affair, played in front of hostile fans and basically amounting to a road game. But there's a new cohesiveness this season, a bond that's helped them emerge from the rough patches that would have halted their progress under different circumstances. The question is, where does it come from?

When people unite anywhere, why does it happen? The answer is usually adversity, individual and shared. This team is rich in shared adversity. Most of the players have had to deal with the following gremlins for their entire careers:

1) Duke Haters - they're everywhere. Any time the team goes on the road, they have to ignore legions of idiots who spew pure nastiness and invective. The abuse Duke takes goes well beyond what any other team in college basketball has to face.

2) Great Expectations - The program has a strong history full of championships and Final Four appearances, and every Duke team is measured by those standards.

3) Widespread Doubt - This may seem to conflict with #2, but believe me when I say the two co-exist. Along with the expectations, recent teams have had to face a nation of fans, coaches, and media repeating the idea that Duke doesn't have what it takes. They're not athletic enough, not hungry enough, not tough enough, not big enough. In the past, these critiques held some truth.

When an entire team is confronted with this kind of negative pressure, how can they react? There are three options, as far as I can tell: by cowering, by acting out to the team's detriment, or by circling the proverbial wagons and trying to shut out the distractions. To Coach K's credit, I've never seen a Duke team take the second option. We have cowered, I think. Intimidation has ended our season in the past. But this year's team has chosen to pull together, and they've followed up with intense commitment. In hindsight, the choice was probably made as far back as the summer, when players like Nolan Smith made huge improvements as a result of unsparing workouts. Or maybe they came together in the wake of the Villanova loss last season. It's hard to know.

What's easier to see is that along with shared adversity, many of our players brought their own individual adversity into the group consciousness. When you run down the list, it starts to get pretty remarkable.

Nolan Smith - Nolan's story is the most profound, and the saddest. When he was 8 years old, his father Derek collapsed and died in front of him on a cruise ship. Derek played in the NBA, and the last thing he ever told his son was that attitude meant everything in basketball. The two were extremely close, and the impact on Nolan hasn't faded. You can read more in this excellent ESPN piece from last year.

Nolan now has a tattoo of his dad's face, name, and number on his right arm. Before the Baylor game, he sent a last message on his twitter account: "This one's for you, dad. I love you!" After scoring 29 points and winning the Most Outstanding Player award for the region, he gave credit to Derek. "I always play for him, to honor him, and he's always with me, but today I could really feel him. There were a couple of times, a couple of shots, that I knew he was with me."

Andre Dawkins - Baby Dawk is just a freshman, but earlier this season, before a game to St. John's, his half-sister died in a car accident on her way to see him play. Dawkins played without knowing, and scored 2 points in a win over St. John's. Coming into that game, he'd been averaging 9.9 points. After, he took a leave of absence. Needless to say, he wasn't the same when he returned. It took him most of the season to re-gain any playing time, but slowly he worked his way into the roation. Against Baylor, he hit two huge threes in the first half.

Brian Zoubek - Coming out of high school, Ole Snowshoes was a McDonald's All-American, and many predicted he'd be a top-tier college center. Instead, he broke his foot in the summer before his freshman season, and suffered the same injury the next year. He couldn't recover his form during those years, and after last year's struggles he was officially declared a bust. Through all the negativity, he maintained his humility and work ethic. This year, his reputation is somewhat restored by excellent play, and he's the biggest reason why Duke has an inside presence they've lacked since Shelden Williams left for the NBA.

Jon Scheyer - The always-cruel fans in Maryland were the originators of the 'Scheyerface' campaign, a comic visual spectacle that blows up pictures of Scheyer's face at its most contorted. As large-scale and disconcertingly visible as it became, this was probably the tamest of the insults Scheyer had to face on the road. Like every other white Duke star, he earned the brunt of opposing fans' wrath. If someone gave him a dollar for every time an smirking undergrad called him a fag or made comments about his mother, he'd have a nice little fortune.

The knock on Scheyer in year's past was that he couldn't stand up to tough perimeter defense, and seemed to tire out by the time March rolled around. The psychological toll he suffered on the road had to play a part in that diminishment. But with his play in the Baylor game, Scheyer no longer has anything left to prove. He's faced the heat without resorting to a facade of arrogance like Laettner or Redick, and by leading Duke to the Final 4, he's triumphed over even his harshest critics.

These aren't the only four on Duke's roster to have overcome daunting obstacles. But they're the most notable, and serve as symbols for the team's trials and tribulations. So what happens when this individual and shared adversity is recognized? What happens when players use their collective struggle to merge with each other, to form a group identity whose toughness is both hard-earned and indelible?

They reach a point where the outside noise doesn't matter. No distractions will ever be quite as hard to ignore. New stress won't knock them off their stride. In the harrowing moments, they can call on memory, and they can call on each other.

Morning: One Year Anniversary

Ladies and gentlemen, today marks the One Year Anniversary of Seth Curry Saves Duke!'s first post!

It seems crazy that just a year ago, this blog started as one hopeful kid with an office, a computer, no money, and a love for sports. Today, I preside over a massive internet empire, with over 700 employees and a monthly profit margin exceeding three million dollars. I can't walk down the street without ten people yelling the name of their favorite post. Coach K and Joe Girardi have to approach me before they make any decision larger than what kind of coffee to get for the pantry. I've taken revenge against all the people who wronged me since kindergarten. It's a classic rags-to-riches tale, and in a lot of ways I am the greatest symbol and embodiment of the American dream.*

*I wrote that paragraph exactly one year ago, in anticipation of how I thought things would sit at the one year anniversary. It has not come true. In reality, things have gotten so bad that when I asked google for a picture of a "massive celebration" to represent the anniversary, it would only let me use this really sad photo from the 1967 Detroit race riots:


In all seriousness, though, it's been an awesome year. Since I started the blog, the Yankees won a World Series, and Duke made the Final Four. Did I have anything to do with that success? Who's to say? If you put a gun to my head, I'd probably say that yes, this blog was solely responsible. But that's just me. Maybe some others would disagree. Maybe they all would. It's a big world, with room for lots of opinions. If relativism is true, then you can't prove me wrong.

Time for a quick Q&A about Seth Curry Saves Duke!

Q: Seth, does it suck having to sit out while your teammates play in the Final Four?

A: I am NOT Seth Curry! Read the f&*#ing blog description at the top, man!

That being said, yes, it's kinda rough. As a player, you always want to be on the court. But I'm excited to root the team on in Indianapolis, and I hope to contribute to another great run next year.


Q: How many people visit your blog?

A: This post, my 6th ever, ensured that April of 2009 would see the highest traffic rates. Almost 17,000 people visited over those 30 days, but I'm happy to report that with March 2010 not yet in the bag, SCSD can officially announce the second highest month in pure traffic (it'll be over 7,000 by tomorrow), and the highest ever in repeat visitors (1,300). So you are part of a thriving and growing community. Hurrah!


Q: Are you inflating those numbers?

A: There are only two things I inflate: basketballs and my penis. And never at the same time. But I use special Nike pumps for both.


Q: What's in store for SCSD in year two?

A: The recent shift to multiple daily posts can now be considered permanent, and there may be some re-branding in the coming weeks. A surprising announcement can be probably expected by April 15th.


Q: How do you feel about the fact that in your first post, the three comments include one correction, one person calling you a fool, and one person offering another correction and then saying he hates you?

A: They're my family, and I stand by them no matter what.


Q: Will you ever advertise on this blog?

A: So far I've had exactly three offers from advertisers, all of which I've refused. But if anyone offers a good price and won't totally deface the blog, yes, I will sell out in a heartbeat. I need more drug money, and I don't care about my readers. In fact, my ideal blog is one with no readers and just a ton of ads, and I visit the page over and over while snorting something powdery and pharmaceutical.


Q: Do you get all kinds of chicks because of this blog?

A: God yes. They're all over me, and most of them are red-hot and just itching to be rubbed vigorously.

Oh wait, you said "chicks"? I thought you said "severe hives." My mistake. No, I don't get any chicks at all. In fact, I'm pretty convinced that if I ever get a stalker, it'll be a dude.

Later today I'll be writing more about the Dukies, and the adversity a lot of our guys have overcome, but for now let's all revel in the anniversary. Thanks very much for visiting in the past year, and please keep coming back. It's nice to know that these words are being read somewhere out in that crazy world, and that in some small way, I'm the most important part of your life.

Today is a day of complete and utter joy.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Morning: This Team Can't Lose

Unbelievable WOW oh my sweet Jaysus and hallelujah! FINAL FOUR. FINAL F*&#ING FOUR!

I really can't believe it.

First off, if you were looking for hardcore analysis of the game, look elsewhere. I was so friggin' tense that I lived and died with each possession. I was a nervous horse with blinders. Any wide-ranging perspective was utterly missing from my purview. Of the two hours of game action, I probably spent an hour of it pacing, a half hour sitting in my computer chair biting my fingernails to the quick, and a half hour screaming in triumph or horror. I know I yelled some things at Quincy Acy that I'm not proud of. I almost attacked my tv every time he got a dunk or a block and did his best impression of the Kevin Garnett scream. So my game experience was heavy on emotion, light on reason.

That being said, there are a lot of bases to touch. Let's start with history.

Baylor is exactly the kind of team who would have beat us in years past. Athletic and explosive, they had a couple shooters, tall, springy big men, and two guys (Dunn and Carter) who could penetrate at will. At the end of the first half, when they had three steals in a row and went on the mini-run, it looked like a carbon copy of Duke vs. LSU, Duke vs. Michigan State, Duke vs. West Virginia. Andre Dawkins hit a gigantic 3 to reduce the deficit before the break, but there were a lot of memories going through my head while I watched Greg Gumbel's mouth move. And those memories begot fear.

Here's what I understood during the intermission: if we played timid, they would blow us out. Not just beat us; destroy us. Just like we'd been destroyed in those other games. The blueprint was there. The last two minutes of half number one showed how it could all play out. But if we attacked the zone, shot with confidence, hit some big threes, and avoided turnovers, they would always have trouble scoring and the game would be close.

At some point just before tip, I sent a message my friend Brian. "We always knew there would be a challenge for the upperclassmen. Let's see what they've got." It marked a change in my mental climate. I went from fretting to hope. And when Scheyer came out and hit a big three to start the second half, that mindset was vindicated.

I ride Coach K to a certain extent, but I cannot emphasize how much I loved the idea to press. Did it produce a single turnover? I don't know. Not many, that's for sure. But it slowed them down, and it sent a message: you are not the aggressor. We put pressure on you, not the other way around. As a psychological maneuver, it was flawless, and it even worked on the practical side. It took Baylor even further out of their offense, and knocked off a good five to eight seconds of each possession. They forced so many shots out of their half court set, and it put the game squarely on our terms. We made the choice to stay tough, stay even, and count on our experience to carry us over the top when the pressure came. A total Krzyzewski coup.

And it worked. So, so well. Nolan Smith needs a fucking monument in K-Ville. I'm serious. How tough is he? How ballsy? He saved the best game of his life for this total slugfest. When I wrote a preview in early November, I called him "easily the most important player on the court." He'd lacked a little toughness in the past, but he worked his ass off this summer, and now it's like the dude is made of iron. He's so good and so critical to our success that at one point in the second half when he slipped on a patch of water running up the court, I thought he twisted a knee and actually screamed "NO!" a few times. My girlfriend, who'd been ignoring my antics up to that point, was alarmed enough to take her headphones out and ask what happened. Then Nolan rose, pointed at the puddle, and ran downcourt, and my heart survived another day.

Look at those numbers. 29 points, 9-17 from the field (and really, at least 5 of those misses rolled in and out), 4-6 from three, 7-8 from the line. He's a stud. He has 74 points in four games, and it would be more if they hadn't rested him after he scored 10 in the first round. As we speak, he's neck and neck with Da'Sean Butler for tournament MVP (Butler has 69 points). He carried us yesterday. Without him, we're home.

If he has the monument, Scheyer needs at least a plaque. His recent shooting struggles obviously rocked his confidence, and in the first half against Purdue he looked pretty out of sorts. But he never quit, and he adjusted his game to score on drives and free throws in the second half of that game. Together with Nolan, he brought us out of the Big-10 muck style and delivered us to the elite 8. Yesterday, like an oppressive heat wave yielding to rain, the slump finally broke. 20 points, only one turnover, and 5 threes, all of which were huge. Throughout his struggles, he never doubted, and eventually he found himself in the clear. A total warrior.

But anybody who knows anything about basketball will tell you that the ulimate difference in that game was the boards. We had 41 rebounds to their 35, and 23 of those were offensive. Zoubek and Thomas were totally lost on offense, and Baylor threw down some pretty sick dunks, but they and the Plumlees just grinded and grinded and grinded. They hit the glass hard every time, no matter what, and somehow it actually wore Baylor down. I didn't expect it; Baylor looked more athletic. They were certainly better jumpers, and I had to guess that after our battle with Purdue they had more endurance, too. But Zou and LT and the Plumdogs wiped them out. This type of punishment-by-size was missing from Duke's arsenal since 2002. We usually just conceded the interior and hoped the threes fell. Not anymore.

What's really incredible is that we did it all without Singler. He had a rough game from the start, when the ill-advised choice to put him on Dunn resulted in two quick fouls. He never found his rhythm, had some layups rim out, and finished the game 0-10 from the field. I didn't think it was his fault, and he's carried us enough throughout the season that I'm not worried. But to win without any offensive contribution from him is remarkable.

This team is so, so tough. Maybe you're sick of hearing that sentiment, but believe me, I'll scream it to the clouds. They've overcome personal tragedy, a timid past, road troubles, and in-game adversity. They're a unit. To use Coach K's metaphor, they're a closed fist. You only had to see Zoubek screaming encouragement at his teammates, especially Miles Plumlee, after he fouled out. You only had to see Scheyer take that second three without a flicker of doubt to put Baylor away. You only had to see Nolan step up and throw his icy stare at Quincy Acy after the bearded Bear shoved Scheyer. On the sidelines two minutes later, as the refs conferred, Nolan still had that look. But Acy, who'd been barking and screaming all game when times were good, wore the expression of a beaten child. Enough said.

I realize I may be rambling at this point, but for Duke fans who've had to hear their players called weak and pussies and everything else for almost a decade, this is the best kind of redemption. I can honestly say that yesterday's win was my favorite college basketball game of all time. It represented a type of personal growth, of actualization that everyone else wanted to doubt. Duke couldn't have won this game in 2009, or any of the years before. But they learned something from those losses. They learned their shortcomings, and they learned what it would take to compete with the Baylors of the world. And they worked and worked and persevered until they could beat a team of superior athletes rooted on by thousands of their home fans in the second largest regional crowd in history. They learned how to thrive, rather than wilt, on the biggest stage. Maybe you'll scoff to hear me call Duke an underdog story, but that's what we are. This run is against the odds.

Hate Duke all you want. I know people will. But I hope they understand what they're hating. It's not some kind of privileged upper middle class team of entitled dandies. Not anymore. If you hate Duke, you're hating a group of kids who were told for their entire college careers that they weren't good enough. You're hating kids who were told that because they weren't from the streets, they would never have the same passion, the same skills, could never compete with the best. You're hating a team that took more abuse than anyone in America. You're hating a team who operated with a perpetual target on their backs. You're hating players who were beaten down and humbled, and could have chosen to quit. You're hating the team who chose instead to believe in each other, and unite under the common banner of past failure. You're hating the guys who got their asses kicked by the junkyard dogs, and then became the junkyard dogs.

And you're hating a team that just made the Final Four. I don't know if they'll win against West Virginia, but I can guarantee this: they won't be scared. And that's a victory they'll celebrate forever.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday: Quick Notes

Happy weekend, Happy Elite 8.

*There was a point last night, down 17-16, when I began to lose a little faith. We were playing Purdue's style to a T. They had us right where they wanted us, in a grinder of a game that seemed like it would be ugly to the finish. "You might as well flip a coin to see who'll win this game," I said to my stepfather, and he agreed. We screamed at Coach K to let Nolan initiate the offense with drives to the bucket, rather than having Scheyer force passes to the wing, where the Boilermakers waited expectantly, overplaying everything.

I didn't need to worry. This team has toughness exceeding anything we've seen since the last title. They were confident about that toughness, confident about their superior skill, and beat Purdue at their own game. Two moments stuck out to me.

1) Zoubek's pick on Kramer. Kramer might be the toughest nut in basketball. He's the kind you absolutely hate to play against. He's tireless, unrepentant, and always verging on dirty. He plays fantastic D. He's muscular, thuggish, and confident. He dogged us for most of the first half, but we gave as good as we got. And then Zoubek rang his bell. Hard. That was a statement. When you saw Kramer sitting on the sideline, blinking and dazed, you knew the game was ours.

2) Nolan Smith's 7-point run. I was waiting for it all game. Scheyer wasn't quite quick enough to create against his man, and Singler had a valiant game and some huge shots, but Nolan was the one who could explode. He'd been very unlucky on some runners early, but you always had a feeling he was going to reel off a stretch like this. It put the game out of reach. And the difference between Nolan and someone like Gerald Henderson, last year, is that Nolan did it within the context and flow of the team's game. It wasn't a matter of "taking over," or "grabbing the reins." It felt natural, and not like he was bailing us out. It was terrific.

That being said, I still feel Coach K played right into their hands. Why did we spend an entire half trying to beat them at their own game? That was literally the one style Purdue could have won at. If we'd run more, let Nolan and even Scheyer drive from the top, or even run things through the post, I really believe that game would have been out of hand much sooner. Purdue overplayed the shit out of the wings, but for some reason we still insisted on forcing that entry pass. It was like watching a boxer walk into a left jab over and over, even though he knows his opponent's right hand is broken and useless. I couldn't understand it.

It could be harmful, too. There's one of two ways Sunday could go.

Worst case: After 40 minutes of body blows from Purdue, we're completely tired and unable to keep up with Baylor, who an easy time with an incredibly disappointing St. Mary's team.

Best case: Baylor's zone is a huge relief after the relentless man-to-man from Purdue, and we're able to hit shots and slow them down with the best defense they've seen all year (yes, even better than Kansas).

I personally think we'll beat Baylor comfortably. But I thought that about Purdue, too, and even though it kinda came true, it took a long time and may have come with a hefty price tag.

Still, as Dana O'Neil points out on ESPN, it's good to see us able to win a slug-it-out type game. Teams that win in this tournament do so because they can overcome bad shooting performances or entire halves played out of rhythm. It's the kind of game that would have buried the Dukies in the past. It's never been more clear that 2010 is the start of a different era, and the past doesn't matter.

I'm back on Monday, and hopefully by then the Devils will all be clutching pieces of a Houston net.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Am So Fucking Excited

(SCSD now has multiple daily posts. Don't miss the others below.)

'Scuse the language, y'all. But this is ridiculous. I played in my basketball league last night and didn't fall asleep until about 2:30am, and now I'm at work just aggressively tired and having to do payroll for an entire department. The state of my brain is absurd. But it's okay, because TONIGHT DUKE IS PLAYING IN THE SWEET 16.

It's hard to think of anything more exciting. Except maybe the Final Four, but that's becoming harder to remember. Right now, at this very moment, an entire universe of possibilities is open to this team. Kansas and Syracuse are done. Our region is weak. We seem to be playing fairly well. Purdue shouldn't beat us. Baylor or St. Mary's shouldn't beat us. The trip to Indianapolis is so friggin' tantalizing. It's right in our grasp. I'm jittery. I'm ready to shout words that haven't been invented. I'm off my rocker.

TRIBUTES?!

TRIBUTES!

Miles Plumlee - People have said you're overrated. By "people," I mean "I." I have said you're overrated. Earlier in the season it really seemed like you had nothing to offer. You couldn't play D, could barely rebound, missed a ton of open shots, and took jumpers you had no business taking. And you seemed to be kinda on the dumb side, too. But lately, man, you're picking your spots, playing tough, and coming away with boards that seem improbable.

Mason Plumlee - There's something about your face that puts me off a little bit, but I've grown to like you more as the season progressed. And the talent has become obvious. You're a legit threat down low, and you always play with self-belief.

Andre Dawkins - You are the man. You came out of high school a year early to fill a role for Duke, dealt with some awful shit this year that hurt your play, and came back swinging. You can't be left alone.

Lance Thomas - There's a part on The Wire where McNulty is sitting with Bodie, and he goes "you're a soldier." Bodie goes "hell yeah." You are a soldier, LT. Nothing fancy, no frills, just solid D and constant support for your teammates. Hell yeah.

Brian Zoubek - At some point this year, you became the man. Now you're beyond the man. You're the brahma, or something. After all the shit you took from everyone, and the injuries that slowed you down, and the unfulfilled potential, you've worked yourself into something new and effective. And you never hung your head. Pure humility and hard work. We're not where we are without the Zou.

Kyle Singler - The year started off about as bad as it could for you, and now you're a damn machine. You're constantly hurting yourself because you play so hard, and you never seemed to doubt that your form would come back, even when the rest of us did. You look like every kid I've ever seen in a Catholic church, but when you play you've got the look of a gleeful cheetah. You're The Sing. Keep it humming.

Jon Scheyer - The best part about you is that even when you're in a cold spell, like now, you're still undiluted danger in the clutch. And you still work your ass off to try to change things around. For four years, you've been awesome. You became a point guard out of the blue when no one else could pull it off, and you grew from a kid into a battle-tested competitor. You almost won ACC Player of the Year, and you're the man who needs the ball in his hands when it comes down to the golden marbles. This is your team.

Nolan Smith - The talent was never a question. The question was whether you could find the edge. This year, you didn't even bother looking; you just re-defined it. I've never seen one player go from weak to bloodthirsty so fast. You are the sparkplug of this team, and I love knowing you'll never enter the fray without a stone cold look in your eyes and your teeth bared. You're the hunter; God help your prey.

I LOVE THIS TEAM. PITY THE BOILERMAKERS!
LONG LIVE THE BLUE DEVILS! TONIGHT WE FEAST!


Morning: The Prediction King Does it Again!

Yesterday's picks were pretty poor, and for that I apologize. Let's go line by line from yesterday's predictions, and see exactly where I got it wrong. Today's comments are in bold.

Butler vs. Syracuse

Onuaku's not playing, but it doesn't matter (it was hugely important - Rick Jackson looked lost out there). Orange by 15 (Basketball slang for "Butler by 4"). Butler looked good in the second half against UTEP, but they snuck by Murray State in less impressive fashion (this is the last time I ever disrespect Murray State. EVER.). Their only chance tonight is to bomb away, but Cuse's athleticism and length should keep them at bay (their feisty man-to-man D just killed Syracuse, who played terribly despite Butler's pretty awful shooting performance). On the flip side, Wes Johnson is red-hot, and Boeheim's crew look like the unbeatable bunch that dominated the regular season (Johnson had an okay game, but was pretty friggin' far from red hot). They certainly didn't miss Onuaku in the opening weekend, and they won't tonight (ugh, did I have to say it AGAIN?).


Washington vs. West Virginia

Have you noticed that when people talk cinderellas, nobody mentions the Huskies? (Yes, in fact, I have noticed that. Good point. The rest of this paragraph should be dead on.) It's because they're from a power conference, and won that conference's championship. Nobody will be erecting monuments to the Pac-10's strength this season (I was wrong about this, too: Humboldt, California resident Rainbow Bennett, a Vinyasa yoga instructor and Buddhist practitioner, will be constructing a biodegradable abstract sculpture called 'Pac-10 in Ardor' using organic aluminum and range-free chicken fat), but UW still beat a good Big East team (Marquette) in round one, and dominated a supposedly tough New Mexico squad in round two. West Virginia lost their point guard, and everyone wants to ignore that their wins in the Big East tourney were all close, including one against Cincinnati. I'm gonna sack up and pick Washington (my balls are so large). I don't know if it'll come true, but I'm fairly positive this game will be close (when you consider the total amount of points scored in a single season by every team anywhere, 13 points is relatively really close. Science.).


Xavier vs. Kansas State

Xavier is coming off two wins against fairly physical opponents (Minnesota and Pitt), so K-State's supposedly superior strength and athleticism don't worry me (it won them the game, but somehow I'm still not worried...in fact, I just ate a chocolate munchkin donut as if nothing was wrong with the world). I have a feeling that Martin will yell his guys into the ground, and we'll see some player scream back, and it'll be an "incident." (In the history of long-shot predictions that were basically random guesses based on a half-assed analysis of human nature and were completely unnecessary to make, this ranks #7.) Anyway, this game is the hardest to pick. (Correct!) I haven't really seen Xavier aside from their tourney games, and it's hard to read their conference, too; Temple and Richmond lost first round, but the teams that beat them were Cornell and St. Mary's, who both look pretty awesome. And Dayton and Rhode Island are going to the NIT semis, though that little factoid is probably meaningless. (Oh, how young and naive I was! How innocent we were!) Meanwhle, the Big 12 is down to K-State and Baylor. So I'll have to go with my gut, and that particular SOB is saying Xavier by 10. (Call me crazy, but my gut STILL says this one will come true.)


Kentucky vs. Cornell

I would love nothing than for Cornell to win, and I will be rooting for them furiously. I will go nuts every time they make a basket, and fret every time the Wildcats strike back. It would be such an awesome story. That being said, Kentucky is going to drub 'em, and drub 'em good. (Got one!)

Quick other thoughts on last night's games:

*Man, Cornell stunk. How can the smartest team left in the tournament completely shit the bed like that? They weren't even on the radar. They were barely playing basketball. I don't even think Kentucky looked that good. One of the great things about not living in upstate New York anymore is that I didn't have to watch every single second of this game, including the bizarre fouling strategy by the Cornell coach that dragged the ending to excruciating lengths. The other great thing about not living in upstate New York? Getting away from all that sodomy. Yuck!

*Butler plays ferocious, tiring man-to-man, and Kansas State just had to play an exhausting double OT game. Advantage Bulldogs, right?

*West Virginia will probably beat Kentucky. Going back to the Big East tourney, they've now won six tournament games in a row against some pretty good teams. The Wildcats have run off the same streak, but the competition has been far less formidable. I mean, Wake Forest and Cornell are barely basketball teams, and they needed a miracle to take down Mississippi State in the SEC title game (a team that just lost to UNC by 2 in the NIT, by the way). I'm anxious to see how Calipari's crew responds to a physical, gutsy team like the Mountaineers. I don't think they'll have the fortitude to make it through.

On to the important stuff later today! It's a Duke Friday!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Today's Hilarious Fake Google Searches

(SCSD now has multiple daily posts. Don't miss the others below.)

We'll unleash a real google searches post tomorrow, but for now, let's give credit where it's due. Some devious reader took it upon himself to have fun with the concept, and used these google searches to reach Seth Curry Saves Duke!

1) "School for people who have sexual fetishes about the way dust smells on an old book," which, surprisingly, led to this post (go down to #6).

2) "Man, I could go for some Swedish meatballs," which led to the same post (again, #6).

Not surprisingly, this prankster was from the Berklee College of Music. That's where they send all the freaks. Dear budding musician and/or future middle school chorus teacher: identify yourself in the comments and I'll mail you a prize.

Don't miss the Sweet 16 predictions below, and some good ole' rambling even further down. Enjoy the games.

You Can Pick Your Friends, and You Can Pick Your Bracket, But You Can't Pick Your Friend's Bracket

(SCSD now has multiple daily posts. Don't miss the others below.)

Longest title ever. Done. And don't worry, it doesn't really apply to anything. It's that kind of day.

First off, a quick story. We have this guy in our office who has a completely deadpan sense of humor, and can be totally hysterical. And we have this woman who is kinda batshit crazy, and always talks about shitty movies and tv shows as if they're real, and is pretty oblivious to everything. We'll call them Chris and Lana. Today in the mail room, I overheard this conversation.

Lana: Yo! Did you see that movie "Ninja Assassin"? That shit was the bomb!

Chris: Is that the one with Jamie Lee Curtis?

Lana: I don't think so. I don't remember her.

Chris: Oh.

Lana: Another good one is "Old Dogs," that one with John Travolta and Robin Williams. It's cute.

Chris: Do they have it in 3-D?

Lana: I don't think so. (Pause) I don't like that 3-D. I heard it gives people headaches.

I almost crapped my pants laughing when he dropped that 3-D line. If I'm the only one, I'll shut up.

Let's get some picks going, baby!

Butler vs. Syracuse

Onuaku's not playing, but it doesn't matter. Orange by 15. Butler looked good in the second half against UTEP, but they snuck by Murray State in less impressive fashion. Their only chance tonight is to bomb away, but Cuse's athleticism and length should keep them at bay. On the flip side, Wes Johnson is red-hot, and Boeheim's crew look like the unbeatable bunch that dominated the regular season. They certainly didn't miss Onuaku in the opening weekend, and they won't tonight.

The Pick: Syracuse 84, Butler 69


Washington vs. West Virginia

Have you noticed that when people talk cinderellas, nobody mentions the Huskies? It's because they're from a power conference, and won that conference's championship. Nobody will be erecting monuments to the Pac-10's strength this season, but UW still beat a good Big East team (Marquette) in round one, and dominated a supposedly tough New Mexico squad in round two. West Virginia lost their point guard, and everyone wants to ignore that their wins in the Big East tourney were all close, including one against Cincinnati. I'm gonna sack up and pick Washington. I don't know if it'll come true, but I'm fairly positive this game will be close.

The Pick: Washington 62, West Virginia 61


Xavier vs. Kansas State

Xavier is coming off two wins against fairly physical opponents (Minnesota and Pitt), so K-State's supposedly superior strength and athleticism don't worry me. I have a feeling that Martin will yell his guys into the ground, and we'll see some player scream back, and it'll be an "incident." Anyway, this game is the hardest to pick. I haven't really seen Xavier aside from their tourney games, and it's hard to read their conference, too; Temple and Richmond lost first round, but the teams that beat them were Cornell and St. Mary's, who both look pretty awesome. And Dayton and Rhode Island are going to the semis, though that little factoid is probably meaningless. Meanwhle, the Big 12 is down to K-State and Baylor. So I'll have to go with my gut, and that particular SOB is saying Xavier by 10.

The Pick: Xavier 72, Kansas State 62


Kentucky vs. Cornell

I would love nothing than for Cornell to win, and I will be rooting for them furiously. I will go nuts every time they make a basket, and fret every time the Wildcats strike back. It would be such an awesome story. That being said, Kentucky is going to drub 'em, and drub 'em good.

The Pick: Kentucky 91, Cornell 68

Morning: Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum

HOLY BURNING HELL IT'S THE SWEET 16!

Rounds 1 and 2 get all the hype. This is a fact. You've got four games at a time, buzzer beaters, upsets, people skipping work, and CBS switching feeds like madmen, often screwing up in the process. It's chaos. It's awesome. You spend hours jumping around and marking things on your bracket and cursing Notre Dame for being such lily-white Catholic choke artists. Rounds 1 and 2 are so friggin' crazy they make me anti-papist. And I was baptized and confirmed in the church. Imagine what the proddies are thinking.

But if the opening weekend is your wild cousin who does rally car racing in South America and has a tattoo of a smiling iguana for every girl he's slept with, weekend #2 is your dignified but badass uncle, the one who sits patiently in the oval office and then goes "Frankly, Mr. President, I'm not impressed."

I think everyone gets my point. This is the real deal. This is where something compelling happens with the wheat and the chaff. I don't remember that metaphor. But to all the so-called "cinderellas" still hanging around, I'm calling you out:

Nobody cares if you get to the Sweet 16. It's a bullshit accomplishment. Anyone can have a couple good days. The other night, I won $46 at poker, and I'm a terrible poker player. I just kept waiting on straights, stupidly throwing out three dollars at a time while waiting for a 7 on the river. And on this particular night, the 7 kept coming. But that doesn't mean I'm a sweet poker player, and no big city newspaper man was beating down my door to check on my quirky habits as a youngster or to see which of my family members has a disability that I overcame. All that happened was the other people at the table despising me.

YOU GET ME? NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU. CORNELL, ST. MARY'S, NORTHERN IOWA: WIN ANOTHER GAME. YOU'RE IN THE BIG LEAGUES NOW. PUNK OUT, AND NOBODY REMEMBERS YOUR NAME. EXCEPT ME, AND I'LL BE ON YOUR ASS LIKE A FUCKING TERRIER FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES. I'LL SEND UNWANTED MAIL TO YOUR HOUSE AND HECKLE YOUR KIDS AT SCHOOL. I'LL JOIN YOUR WIFE'S BOOK CLUB JUST TO SAY THAT 'THE KITE RUNNER' WAS OVERRATED.*


*I don't actually believe (or mean) any of this. I'm just putting out language. I ask you, the reader, to latch onto the excitement rather than the content.

You know what I really wish? I really wish St. Mary's wasn't in our bracket. That is one hella fun team. It would be nice to root for them to make the Final 4. I think they have an awesome chance against Baylor, but no shot against Duke...the tough man to man will screw up their guards and take away the long ball. Their ideal elite 8 opponent would be Syracuse. Then they could just get hot and nail 3s and hope to stick with them.

You know who I really dislike? This guy:


That's Kansas State head honcho Frank Martin. Not only does he look like a blockhead football coach, but he basically just yells for 40 minutes at a time during games. That photo above was actually taken during a calm moment. It's the one they use in the K-State media guide, because they couldn't find anything less intense. What's really annoying is that all the ESPN analysts feel the need to praise him to the heavens, like he's some kind of messiah for being an asshole to 19 year-olds.

The whole thing reeks of old dudes who secretly despise the players, can't relate to them at all, and like to see them get treated like shit. "ALL KIDS ARE SPOILED PRIMADONNAS," you can hear them saying, sitting on leather furniture and getting angry at the too-young age of their brandy. "EXCEPT GREG PAULUS. WHAT A SCRAPPER!"

I'll bet anyone a dime and a nickel that within ten years, it'll come out that Martin is a total scuzz ball who either did something awful and abusive to one of his players or sexually harrassed a secretary or other female. He's just that type.

You know what I read this morning? This article, about Kyle Singler and how he has no concern for his body.

Tonight will be an active day on this here blog. I'll be previewing tonight's games, offering predictions that will certainly be accurate within one or two points, and generally obeying the mandates of mayhem. GET READY!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Linkeroo Jam

(SCSD now has multiple daily posts. Don't miss the others below.)

Here are some things you may find fascinating.

1 - An article from the NYTimes Sunday mag about how Tiger Woods was a kind of economic bubble for golf, and how that bubble is now collapsing. And by the way, get ready to have your mind blown: the article is from this Sunday's mag, not last week! It's from the future!

2 - Pat Forde drops some class anti-Duke humor on ESPN:

But for a sizable section of Hoopsworld, the Blue Devils win too much, are on TV too much, are celebrated by the media too much, get too many calls, got too little NCAA backlash for Corey Maggette, are overrated by the NCAA selection committee too often and are just a little too pleased with themselves.

In other words, Duke thinks it is perfect. And in this instance, it is: the perfect team to root against in the South.

Actually, don't even click on that link. The rest of the article isn't any less awful.

3 - More Zoubek talk. The national obsession continues.

4 - I was reminded today of the epic Pippen over Ewing dunk. I hated Pippen back then, and I still kinda do. But this was one of the all-timers.



5 - What's the most epic game of rock, paper, scissors you've ever played? It's not a frequent event in my life, but last night I played with my girlfriend in order to avoid a chore, and we threw out the same thing 6 friggin' times. On the 7th go, I actually went so far as to anticipate what I was going to throw out (scissors), and then changed to rock to beat myself. And it worked! Incredible. It was best-of-3, and the loss took so much out of her that she threw out a weak paper in round 2 and got cut to pieces on the first move.

Super-special Sweet 16 picks tomorrow.

Morning: Round the Way

Two more days until the Dukies take the court, amigos. For now, we're gonna hit the asterisks.

*For those few who haven't seen this story yet, an autistic 17 year-old from Chicago has picked a perfect bracket through two rounds. Thanks to Carrie and Spike for the heads-up.

Unfortunately, he picked Purdue to win the national title. Which means that if this is some kind of once-in-a-lifetime story, or if he has the strange innate ability to pick every game correctly, the Boilermakers will beat us on Friday night. And if we've learned anything from the internet, it's that you shouldn't bet against autistic teenage males when it comes to basketball.


And now Duke fans are in the unenviable position of rooting against the heartwarming story of his perfect bracket. We're like the casino boss trying to put the kibosh on Rain Man. At least we're used to being hated, I guess...might as well pile it on.

(PS just watched that YouTube video again...I dare you to watch the whole thing and not cry. I DARE YOU.)

(PPS just in case you thought I had a heart, I'll go on record as saying that I think we'll find out the perfect bracket is a hoax of some kind.)


*West Virginia's Darryl Bryant broke his foot, and is done for the year. It's not as bad as it could be, since their back-up PG has actually had more playing time recently, but it may throw off their rhythm. And the Mountaineers were not known for excellent point play anyway. Advantage Washington?


*Word from Tampa is that Joba stinks and Hughes is throwing "the best changeups he's ever thrown." The fifth spot in the rotation is down to those two, Sergio Mitrie, and Alfredo Aceves, but it's looking more and more like Hughes is the man. If that's the case, Joba is probably back to his set-up role after spending all of last season being groomed ("Joba Rules") for a starting role. And, since Hughes was mostly a bullpen man and didn't throw anywhere near 150 innings last year, there will certainly be Hughes Rules for 2010. Someday, we'll have a fifth starter who is allowed to pitch more than 3 innings per outing in August and September.


*In important non-sports news, the aforementioned Spike sent me this picture yesterday, with the following disclaimer: "I'm not sure how I feel about this." Me either, except that I find it funny.


I have a feeling that the theme of this post is "things I discovered on the internet that 95% of Americans have already seen." If that's the case, you're welcome, Lithuanian reader.

See you later on.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Closing Time

(SCSD now has multiple daily posts. Don't miss the others below.)

Before I go, a great story from the NYTimes about Zoubek, and a CBS video I can't resist that features John Wall doing his strangely hynotic dance:

Quotes

(SCSD now has multiple daily posts. Don't miss the others below.)

Here are a few quotes worthy of comment:

1. From the Glens Falls Post-Star, in the midst of an article about hometown hero and current BYU star Jimmer Fredette. Part of the story focused on how Jimmer's older brother would take him to the local prison when he was in high school in order to toughen him up. The reporter asked Kansas State's Curtis Kelly what he thought about that:

“I haven’t heard that story. That’s an interesting story,” K-State forward Curtis Kelly said. “It’s hard to respond to that, but the thing about our team is that we probably won’t back down to him because we’re all from tough backgrounds. I’m a former inner-city kid and I played against guys that got in jail or are going to jail.”

I absolutely love it. That's the ultimate response from a dude who is just not impressed. Oh, you're a suburban kid who thinks he has chops because he played with a few caged humans? Well guess what: I WAS PLAYING WITH THEM WHEN THEY WERE STILL WILD. I bet Jimmer started crying when he read that.


2. Lance Thomas on Nolan Smith's defense, from this ESPN article:

"Nolan, he just dominated that matchup," Blue Devils forward Lance Thomas said. "Randle had nothing for him. He took the initiative and picked him up from three-quarters of the court and let him know it was going to be a fight all game. And Nolan knocked him out."

Well fucking put, LT.


3. Coach K, from that same article:

"I don't know if we'll go any further, but this is a better team because it can play total defense," Krzyzewski said. "I mean, someone will say in the past, they relied on the 3-point shot. Well, what else were we going to rely on?

I would respond to this quote, but I am just bowled over by Coach K's outrageous confidence in his own team.


4. ESPN writer Andy Katz, from this article:

I'm not sure whether I'm alone here, but don't you get the sense that everyone is waiting for Duke to fall?

100% true. People are judging Duke based on past years, and willfully ignoring the makeup of the current team. Guess what, world? We can rebound now. And we're tougher. And nobody can push us around on D. Basketball fans need to come to terms with the fact that Duke is an elite team, and we're going to make the Final 4.

Insightful stuff from Andy. Of course, he went on to say that Purdue is a cinderella team by some new definition whereby you can beat lower seeded teams and still be considered a fun upstart, but you can't win 'em all.

Morning: Nolan Smith Fan Fiction

(Hello readers. I found this one on the subway this morning. Not sure who the author is. I guess the whole nation is thinking about Duke. Anyway, it was a bunch of papers strewn about, with scratchy handwriting. It looked kinda hurried, but I think there's real potential, so I decided to transcribe it for the morning post. There were notes written on the margin at certain points, and I've put these in italicized parentheses.)

The Day Nolan Smith and I Dominated the Courts

"ERIC, GET IN HERE!" shouted Ron Fariglia, the boss with the thick black mustache who liked to scream and act like he owned the whole place. "GET IN MY OFFICE NOW!"

Eric Stuart, an intensely handsome fellow in his early-to-late forties, walked in with his usual panache (think of something more sexual than 'panache'). He was dressed in competent clothing from an assortment of places like Banana Republic and The Gap. He did not feel the need to buy expensive suits and cuff links like Ron, his boss. He was so secure that he didn't even need to go to the gym or worry about having washboard abs or not being chubby.

"YOU DIDN'T MEET YOUR QUOTA FOR LAST WEEK," shouted Ron Fariglia. Eric's job was to sell computer software over the phone. His department marketed compact discs that gave the user a week of internet for free. After that, you have to pay only 40 dollars per month plus fees (insert "faster than DHL" pitch point), which is less than some major providers. "I AM SO FURIOUS WITH YOU!"

Eric did not even flinch. He did not feel the urge to cry. No tears came to his eyes, and his knees did not quiver. His shirt was tucked in all the way, even in the back where it's tough. "So what?" he asked with a confident smirk.

This unsettled Ron Fariglia. "WHAT?! HOW DARE YOU?!" He bellowed and grimaced, but you could see that he was shaken by Eric's extreme coolness. "I HAVE HALF A MIND TO FIRE YOU! AND YOU CAN CERTAINLY FORGET ABOUT THAT RAISE!"

"How about this," said Eric, without pausing or shaking. "We play for it. Basketball, the worker's game. If you win, you can fire me. If I win, I get that raise. Plus I get to be the boss, and Tabatha your secretary has to have sex with me (possibly two women? Too unbelievable?)."

Ron Fariglia smiled and his whole mustache rose. "HAHA! WHAT A JOKE! I AM A FULL EIGHT INCHES TALLER THAN YOU. I'LL DESTROY YOU!"

"So it's a deal?"

"YES. WE'LL DO IT THE USUAL WAY: EACH OF US WILL PICK A PARTNER, AND WE'LL PLAY TWO ON TWO BASKETBALL. FIRST TEAM TO 11 WINS."

Eric put out his hand, but when Ron went to shake it, he removed it and swept it back through his hair in an awesome gesture that popular people are known to do. It made Ron furious, and he smashed a window with his non-shooting fist. But then they actually shook hands, because everyone knows it's not a deal until you shake (good detail, makes it life-like).

Out on the company court, everybody from the office had come to watch. Tabatha, Ron's secretary, stood in front of the whole crowd. She didn't know who to cheer for. She bunched up her fists by her chin nervously. (think of maybe one more classic nervous girl gesture) Ron had picked his friend Magglio as a teammate. Magglio was a mean and stupid person who cheated to win sales contests. Eric chose Barry, his lunch partner who worked in human resources. Barry was useless. He had never even played basketball. He acted like having a wife was such a huge deal. (his wife is cross-eyed)

Magglio and Ron took an early 10-0 lead. They only needed one more basket to win. Then Barry broke his leg.

"WELL I GUESS THAT'S IT. YOU LOST YOUR PARTNER, SO YOU FORFEIT!" Ron yelled. He laughed and slapped five with Magglio. Tabatha on the sidelines looked sad. "THAT IS, UNLESS YOU CAN FIND SOMEONE TO BE YOUR TEAMMATE IN THE NEXT TWO MINUTES, BUT THAT CERTAINLY SEEMS UNLIKELY, BECAUSE I'LL FIRE ANYONE WHO JOINS YOU!"

Eric hung his head. (how low? be descriptive)

"I GUESS YOU'RE FIRED, LOSER!" Ron laughed again.

"Not so fast!" said a voice. The crowd spread apart, and a lone man walked through their midst, wearing a blue uniform.

IT WAS NOLAN FUCKING SMITH!

"I've been watching you for some time," said Nolan Smith, pointing an angry finger at Ron. "I don't like the way you run this company. I think it needs a new boss. And Eric, my best friend, is just the man for the job."

Then Nolan Smith did a sick crossover and fake threw the ball at Ron's head. Ron flinched and fell over, and everyone laughed. Then Nolan Smith spun to the basket, pump faked, and nailed a jumper. Total swish, like always. Everyone went fucking nuts.

The game resumed, and Nolan just dominated the shit out of everyone. He kept stuffing Ron, and spinning and doing crossovers, and nailing jumpers in everyone's face. One time just for fun he did a cartwheel and dunked it with his feet. Nobody had ever seen the likes of it. (maybe "nobody in the universe")

Soon the game was tied at 10-10. A 2-pointer would win it. Eric and Nolan Smith huddled up. "You should take the winning shot," said Eric. "It only makes sense. You are much better at basketball."

"I may be good at basketball," said Nolan, "but if there's one thing I'm really great at, it's knowing which people have heart. And you have more heart than anyone I've ever seen. Believe me, you are awesome. We will hang out for the rest of our lives. You need to take this shot."

They broke the huddle. Magglio and Ron guarded Nolan, and he did just a ton of fancy dribbling while they looked like complete idiots. They kept swiping for the ball and running into each other(talk about how they'd be stunned for a second and totter around all dumb). Then, right when they were about to get the ball, Nolan Smith chucked it to Eric beyond the three-point line. Eric did not hesitate for even one second. He threw it up, and it soared like a beautiful eagle until it dropped in the net with a splash.

PEOPLE WENT CRAZY. Everyone screamed and cheered! It was complete friggin' mayhem!

Oh man, Ron was so mad. He kept punching himself in the head, and he and Magglio stormed away. They knew they had both lost their jobs. Eric high-fived Nolan and went over to Tabatha. "It looks like it's you and me for sex," he said.

"Okay," she said.

"But I have sexual insecurities," he told her.

"Oh."

Then Nolan Smith came over, and took off his Duke jersey. He tossed it to Tabatha. "Wear this," he said. "I bet it'll help you both."

Everyone laughed, nobody more than Eric and Tabatha. Nolan's abs were awesome.

"That's true, though," said Eric in an intimate moment. "It probably will help."

Then he and Tabatha kissed (add part about how they'd get married for sure), and Nolan and the rest of the office people danced and hugged as the sun went down. It had gotten late. The End.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Introducing: The Grave Dancers

(SCSD now has multiple daily posts. Don't miss the others below.)

This is a new feature run by two of my good friends. Please say hello to Ephraim and No-Cry. Take it away, gentlemen.



Ephraim: Why thankee and thankee doubly, sir. Prithee, No-Cry, do speak the name of our newest brother.

No-Cry: TO ALL'M FOLKS SAID LOUISVILLE GWON' BEAT DUKE.


WE dance ON your GRAVE.



Ephraim: And prithee speak yet again.

No-Cry: TO ALL'M FOLKS SAID VILL-THE-NOVA GWON' BEAT DUKE.


WE dance ON your GRAVE.



Ephraim: And once anew and for the last, good No-Cry, speak thy will.

No-Cry: TO ALL AND SUNDRY WHAT SAY KANSAS CAINT YET BLEED.


WE dance ON your GRAVE.



Ephraim: Speak to them now a word of departure.

No-Cry: WE AIN'T BUT HUMAN INSTRUMENTS, PLUCKED BY THE VERY STRING. HEVINS SAVE YE FROM COARSE MELODY.

Morning: The Sweetness Scale

1 - As Sweet as a Bucket of Bile

This delightful image, which came to my brain as another of Monday morning's gifts, roughly corresponds with Jon Scheyer's play against Cal. Some of you will call me ungrateful, but allow me this one bit of Duke negativity and I promise I'll gush like a fawning fanboy later.

But 1-11 from the field? 1-8 from three? And this wasn't the typical tough tourney game for our man, where he was being dogged nonstop and had to force shots. Many of those long balls were wide open, and it seemed like all of them came at spots where they could have buried Cal. You can just feel those moments intuitively; the team is on a mini-run, up by double digits or close to it, the crowd is getting louder, the opponent is looking discouraged, and then there's that one final turnover or miss, and you're fast breaking, and your guy is wide open, and oh man, if this one just goes down those sonsabitches will not recover...

And he missed every time. When will this cold streak be out of his system? I hope it's soon. Cal is a fairly weak team, and it was possible, even easy, to survive Scheyer's bad game. It will be harder against Purdue, a team that uses unrelenting muscle to punish opponents, and damn near impossible against Baylor and everyone beyond.


2 - As Sweet as a Bucket of Mislaid Burger King French Fries

What does mislaid mean? What does it mean? This question will torture you as you examine the fries.

This goes to the Big East, who are not sweet at all. 2 teams in the Sweet 16? Prety ridiculous for the undisputed best conference in the nation. It's especially funny to me that two Pac-10 teams beat them in the opening round. When you think about it, though, only one loss should have been a huge surprise. Louisville was highly overrated, Villanova stunk at the end of the year, Notre Dame is a perennial tourney disappointment, Marquette was facing a red-hot Washington squad, and Pitt was a middle-of-the-pack team who you knew would have a close second-round game. Then there's Syracuse and West Virginia, the cream of the crop, who probably won't even be tested before the elite 8.

That leaves Georgetown, who should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for losing to Ohio. How can you possibly allow a team to make 13 3-pointers in a single game? Don't you make defensive adjustments at some point? Isn't there a line? After the 8th 3-pointer, don't you say "okay, no matter what else happens, they will not beat us with the 3." It just seems absurd to me. The Hoyas are a team who looked amazing at times this season. When they beat Duke and Syracuse, they played like a team who could contend for a national title. So why the Jekyll-and-Hyde act? If I were a G-town fan, I'd feel betrayed, and be absolutely furious with the players and coach.


3 - As Sweet as a Bucket of the Opposite of Pride

Hmmm, what's in that bucket? You don't want to look, do you? You don't want that bucket in your home.

This bucket is as sweet as all the fools who said that Louisville or Villanova were going to beat Duke. OH REALLY?! OH REALLY?!




OH, REALLY?!


Dear Duke-haters: those teams stink, and Duke doesn't. You should have noted this beforehand. You should have watched some Duke games. I am laughing at you from my mountaintop. I am holding up your flawed bracket and beaming at the camera like I'm motherfucking Harry Truman. I am dancing on your grave.


4 - As Sweet as a Bucket of Cranberry Sauce from Bono's House

You don't like cranberry sauce, you don't love buckets, but you are more intrigued than you should be by the fact that it's from the house of Bono.

This is as sweet as Michigan State. How do these guys always land on their feet? They're like nimble cats. That should be their nickname. Get it in writing. You could make Tom Izzo a #26 seed, send him to Zimbabwe to play in the jungle against a collection of hungry lions, and he'd still find his way to the Elite 8. If you looked at that bracket before, you're thinking 'okay, Michigan State is having a down year and Lucas is hurting, but they still have a fighting chance to make the Sweet 16. But after that, Kansas will annihilate them.' Well, they did make the Sweet 16 (I love that Maryland lost on a buzzer beater...if anyone has video of a large group of Maryland fans reacting adversely to this, be in touch...I'll pay extra if they have wide, annoying faces), but Izzo used his mind magic to make Kansas lose. Now they have Northern Iowa in the next round, and an awesome shot at going up against a Big-10 opponent in the Elite 8. When two conference teams meet up, that's an anything-can-happen situation. Ideal for the underdog.

*A Hilarious Photoshopped Picture of Tom Izzo as a Nimble Cat*


5 - As Sweet as a Bucket of 'Flemish' Pie

You've never heard of Flemish pie. The idea of such a dish is both appealing and revolting. It could go either way.

Sorta like Joe Mauer re-upping with the Twins for 8 years. Could be bad, could be good. Certainly ruins the fantasy of the Yanks having a sweet replacement for Jorge, but at least the Sox will keep their grimy, greedy paws to themselves.


6 - As Sweet as a Bucket of Swedish Meatballs

Man, I could go for some Swedish meatballs. Just like I could go for some Ivy League upstarts taking down Kentucky in the next round. This one goes to Cornell, who looked plainly superior to Temple and Wisconsin on their way to the Sweet 16. They only get a 6 because they're probably all uppity. But I'm struggling to remember what the Cornell stereotype. Here's what I've got for the rest of the Ivys:

Harvard: Women who act all liberal and conscientious and then marry a rich dude and smile indulgently when he swerves in his SUV to run over a cat on purpose.

Yale: Boring dudes who immediately get really rich doing boring business jobs, but have secret societies that involve strange masks and someone dying accidentally once every ten years.

Princeton: The most arrogant human beings on earth, they all become lawyers and over-aggressive youth sports coaches.

Brown: School for people who have sexual fetishes about the way dust smells on an old book.

Columbia: People who go home on Christmas break and act like they're too cool to make a snowman with their little brother because that's so not New York, and they also wear framed glasses to try to make normal people hate them.

Dartmouth: School for people who can't enjoy drinking games without making them needlessly complex.

Penn: Everyone here has a complex because half their conversations with other people include the line "nahhh...Penn's not Ivy League, is it? Really? Noooo, come on, you're messing with me...it's a state school, right?"

But I don't have a handle on Cornell. Perhaps someone can help me out in the comments.


7 - As Sweet as a Bucket of Swedish Meatballs when you were Expecting Bono's Cranberry Sauce

St. Mary's! Northern Iowa! Washington! I particularly like St. Mary's. One eccentric big man named Omar plus a bunch of Australians equals a team I can get behind. I especially love Dellavedova, the dude who wears a two-tone mouthguard that makes him look kinda feral and crazy.


And bonus points to Mick McConnell, who pulled off looking cocky and badass after a huge three pointer despite the fact that he banked it in.


8 - As Sweet as a Bucket of Increasingly Smaller Buckets

You can do anything with all those buckets. Anything in the world. Just as sweet as this year's tourney, where anything can happen. I was upstate this weekend in Glens Falls for the boy's high school championships. It's a yearly tradition outing with my dad, grandfather, and brothers. Inside the Civic Center, they have a big room called 'Heritage Hall' where you can watch the NCAA games, and on Saturday the Northern Iowa-Kansas ending happened during halftime of one of the high school contests. So everyone packed into Heritage Hall, and we all groaned and got nervous as Kansas made their comeback. Then Farokhmanesh made his crazy, ballsy three, and the whole place erupted.

And I'm sure the same scene happened in a million places around the country. Upsets like that bring everyone together on the same page, and are one of the greatest collective moments you can have. It rarely happens in pro sports or other college sports. But the true underdog story is alive and well in March Madness, and this year's bracket has really delivered.


9 - As Sweet as a Bucket of Old Snowshoes

ZOUUUU!!!!!!! ZOUUUUUUU!!!!!


Fantastic, wonderful, inspiring. Zoubek leads the nation in everything. He's the greatest college basketball player in history. He brings terror and peace at his will.


10 - As Sweet as a Bucket of National Championship Rings

That'd be pretty sweet, right? But only equally as sweet as Sweet Nolan, the stone-cold Blue Devil assassin who never heard of pressure and doesn't want to meet him. He scored 20 last night, most of them on moves so sick I actually vomited in my living room. One crossover in particular had me so nauseous that I had to ask my girlfriend to pour pepto bismol down my throat. He was just absurdly good. Last year's Nolan wasn't up to the occasion. This year's Nolan was made for the occasion.


And let's not forget that he shut down Jerome Randle, holding him to just one field goal in the entire second half.

More on Duke's sweetness later.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

ROBERTTTTTT!!!! MORRRRRISSSSS!!!

POINT THE FIRST

That post title is the plaintive cry of an upset deferred. RMU led by 6-10 for most of the game, but they got the classic underdog jitters at the end and blew the lead. They briefly regained their fire for an overtime surge, but it came up just short.

SHIT!

That would've been very nice for Duke's bracket. Plus, I hate Villanova. Double whammy.


POINT THE SECOND

Notre Dame is a university of losers. Let's not mince words. They're a bunch of dandies, sissies, and whiners. How stupid am I to forget that? Plus, Old Dominion is a badass name for a school. It's like the vicious British earl of American colleges. Why the hell would I pick against an angry British-sounding school against a team with the nickname "Irish"? SO STUPID. I have learned nothing from history.

On the other hand, this keeps up a nice tradition of me losing an Elite 8 team within the first session of games. Gotta love that.


POINT THE THIRD

Thank you, mormons. Thank you.


POINT THE FOURTH

I hate to do it, but I'm off for the weekend. No more posts until Monday morning. Enjoy the weekend. And Duke, please, please still be around when I return.

Roy Williams: The Other Perspective

(SCSD now has multiple daily posts. Don't miss the others below.)

In the midst of these ridiculous first round games, a quick break to discuss Roy Williams. After accepting the NIT bid and ridiculing the idea that he wouldn't play more basketball if it was offered, I gave him some props:

Obviously I am not a UNC fan, but the man deserves credit. Total lack of BS, total lack of pretension. Basketball is basketball, and he's not too good for a lesser tournament. Hard to hate on Roy. During all the trials and tribulations this year, he never whined, and he always took responsibility on himself. Now they've won a game, and probably put forth their best effort of the entire season. UNC fans are notoriously fickle, but they should take pride in their coach.

But loyal reader and die-hard Dukie Nick sent me a harsh and fairly convincing e-mail arguing the other side. I give him the floor, with the quick caveat that I never used the words "class act":

Nick's take:

"I don't know if you said Roy was a class act just to rile up the homers, but the quotes really don't bear your praise out.

First of all, how does accepting a bid mean you're not pretentious? All it means is that he hasn't done the most pretentious thing in the history of college basketball. Real high bar there.

Never whined? He said what he was going through was worse than the haitian earthquake.

Here's another whine, made when his team was 13-8: “My gosh, how can we go any lower?” Williams asked. “Be honest, how can it be any worse than it is right now?”

He berated his own players on his radio show:

“I asked them a question and I got Coach [Joe] Holladay over there. I don’t share things with you that I shouldn’t share, but I said, ‘Coach, what did I say about these two guys today?’ And he repeated it, because I had told the staff. So I told them, ‘At this point, the two best defensive guards I’ve ever coached were Jacque Vaughn and Jerrod Haase.’ And I said, ‘Coach, now compare these two guys right in front of us to Jerrod Haase for toughness.’ And Joe had a great line. He looked at me and said, ‘Jerrod was a 10 and these two are ones, on a scale of 1-10.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s about what I thought because I was going to say that Jerrod was a 1,000 times tougher than they are.

“So I said, ‘Guys, you’ve got to change. You have the skills, now use the skills. You have the gifts – the Man upstairs blessed you with these gifts – now use them better.’ So I’m trying to motivate them and trying to push them, but we do need to get better on the perimeter defensively and I think we can. And I hope it’s in my lifetime.”

How about when he decided supporting coaches against cancer was less important than his team's karma?

The last thing I remember but can't find online is when he outed Dexter Strickland for not knowing a play during practice number 52.

Yeah, total class act."


I think that might be an ownage. Of Roy. And me?