► Driving through the clusterf#ck of a roadway system that supposedly serves South Jersey this morning, heard some guy call in to a Philly sports talk radio program and preface his, umm, “brilliant” commentary with this, “I’m a BIG sports fan, but I don’t really follow college basketball …”
Uhh, stop right there, bub. Some clarity is in order – for your own edification. To start, if you don’t follow, or “really follow,” college basketball, you ain’t in any way possible a sports fan, never mind a BIG sports fan. You’re either A) a hockey fan, B) a degenerate gambler on pro sports or C) both A and B.
You got six Division I hoops options in town, half of which routinely qualify for national postseason tournaments, two of which typically compete at a national level all season long every year, and one of which will be playing in tonight’s national title game – that only now has procured your attention.
Yo, Johnny Come Lately, know your role. You ain’t a BIG sports fan, and, frankly, it’s a little late to start throwing your fake support behind the Wildcats.
► Oh, and for all the hardcore Philly tough guys who want to “out” Villanova, please spare us the geographical exaggeration of it being some oasis double-digit-mileage removed from urban-reality demarcation.
We’re already well aware of the ridiculous stretching of the truth used to emphasize points of the athletic realm here, be they shrinking Charles Barkley four inches in descriptive terms from his college height to make his rebounding acumen with the Sixers that much greater or raising a baseball player’s value by how much dirt his uniform displays.
For the record, ’Nova is located exactly 6 miles from Philly’s limits. That’s almost seven times closer than the home of Mike Trout, whom so many try to claim as the city’s own. As for dirt, who cares?
So, anyway …
A little more ’Nova and NCAA championship talk today, because the combo is bigger than the Phillies’ Opening Day or any hopes for the Flyers making the playoffs or even, gasp, some Eagles’ offseason activity. Sorry, any REAL sports fan would know that – even those who reside in or around Philly.
Know what else they’d know? That this 15th edition of a Jay Wright-coached Wildcats team is hardly the out-of-nowhere, no-chance-against-North Carolina group that far too many, both locally and nationally, are painting it as. Not for nothing, but the Tar Heels ain’t the only team taking the floor tonight in Houston that was ranked No. 1 during the regular season.
Heck, ’Nova held that spot for three weeks. The Heels only had it two.
The ’Cats also come into this one with the better record, the better RPI and, depending on which rating system you choose, the tougher strength of schedule. Yeah, UNC hails from the higher-rated conference, the Atlantic Coast, which currently checks in at No. 2. But for all the traditional-power shills who rail against the merits of ’Nova, take note: its Big East is No. 4, ahead of the Big Ten and the SEC.
Pretty comical that anyone around the country views ’Nova as a lightweight with a paper-thin history. You do realize it didn’t just join this new Big East out of the blue, that it was a 33-year member of the original Big East, which, hey, stacked up with any conference, including the ACC, during its existence, right?
This is hardly the Wildcats’ first step on the big stage. Even during Wright’s tenure. They just played in the Final Four back in 2009, and currently are in their fifth overall. They won it all in 1985, played for it all in 1971, and have reached the Elite 8 eight other times.
Truth be told, am not really sure this is the best squad Villanova has fielded. The title team 31 years ago certainly wasn’t. This one smokes that one on everything ranging from talent to toughness.
But you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that the current crop of Wildcats tops the Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye and Curtis Sumpter units from a decade ago. They peaked in 2006, riding a No. 1 seed into the regional final before falling to eventual champ Florida. Foye and Lowry continue to crank out quality minutes in the NBA, the latter at an all-star level.
Of course, the ’71 squad, spearheaded by Howard Porter, gave UCLA all it could handle in the title game, and the ’Cats had some crazy good teams as they were transitioning from the Eastern Eight into the Big East, with high-scoring Keith Herron, Alex Bradley and the incomparable John Pinone, who looked like a ’roided-up “Joliet” Jake Blues in tiny basketball shorts while playing a high-level, bull-in-a-china-shop style, combining to spark three Elite 8 runs in a six-year span.
Regardless, kinda cool to see the spirit of Pinone live on in current ’Nova senior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, albeit in a much more refined, pretty-boy way that seems better suited for today, and another title for the ’Cats would be just fine with me.
- Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
NOT ONE OF ROY'S BOY
He lost me in 2003.
Good coach. Reputed good guy.
Didn’t matter. Once Roy Williams started that spineless, “how dare you ask me about North Carolina, I would never consider such a thing while coaching my team at Kansas” crap every time a reporter stuck a microphone in his face and politely inquired about his interest in returning to his alma mater, home to one of the true blue-blood programs in college basketball, yours truly was done.
Couldn’t take it. Williams was lame. Classless. You name it.
Yeah, get it. His Jayhawks were great right then, en route to a national-title run that fell one 3-pointer shy of Syracuse in the championship game. But the high-and-mighty, don’t-bother-me garbage?
It was legit to ask him, and legit to keep asking him when he continually danced around the subject by his general indignation toward anyone bringing up the subject.
Of course, he was interested, as he eventually accepted the job as soon as he could … but, you know, not before he back-doored his AD at Kansas, Al Bohl, and got him fired. Class act there.
Thing is, all he had to do was say, yep, who wouldn’t be interested in such a prestigious position? Love Kansas, so don’t know about leaving. But kinda have to listen to my alma mater and see what it has to say. Maybe add in that he had to focus on the season at hand, and that he’d appreciate any more North Carolina questions be held over until that season was finished.
No biggie. But Roy-Boy had no clue.
Always amazing to look back on that time, and consider how Bill Self handled the same issue, at the same time, in regards to the Kansas job. Guy had a pretty good gig at Illinois – you know, when that Big Ten program was still relevant. He’d already won 78 games in three seasons, had three NCAA berths and one Elite 8 appearance, and was culling together a squad that would reach the title game two years later.
With Williams’ future in doubt, he was asked about Kansas, another blue-blood operation, and he was open and honest, stating how Illinois was great, but that, of course, he’d have to listen if KU wanted to talk to him, that it was one of the premier programs in the country for as long as anyone could remember.
Again, no biggie … only Self had a clue.
Tonight, with Williams seeking a third title with the Tar Heels, there is no doubting his greatness as a coach. But as a good guy? Nah. To me, he’ll always be an arrogant individual who believes he is forever to be treated with an entitled touch. The irony is, as good as he was at Kansas, and you could argue he was even better there than UNC, given his winning percentage and four Final Four appearances, Jayhawks fans will be forever grateful that he departed … so Self could deliver the national championship to them Williams never could.