The Memphis/Tennessee contest last Saturday lived up to the hype, with a truly wide open tempo for nearly the entire game. Both teams are averaging over 80 points per game for the season and while the game's 66-62 result might have cost some bettors on the over/under, it did nothing to detract from the intensity and drama of the contest itself. The Tigers began with a flurry of 3-point shots that refused to stay away from the bottom of the net and both teams ran up and down the floor like the Phoenix Suns on key bumps. Tennessee has to be elated that while Chris Lofton didn't have a huge game, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince both picked up the slack and wouldn't let the Vols leave Memphis without the win. The Tigers' Derrick Rose (a Freshman phenom that will continue to impress) held Memphis aloft as they began to flounder a bit down the stretch.
I still say Memphis's (man that doesn't look right, should it be Memphis'? No, that's right. Anyways...) free throw shooting is going to end up costing them in the tournament, and I think it will happen sooner rather than later. They will assuredly be one of the top four seeds, but I smell an upset when it comes to the Tigers. Coach Calipari continues to assert that his guys will make free throws when they need them, but against Tennessee, a 1 v. 2 game that early on presented itself as a contest where every point mattered, they still didn't manage to crack 50% made on their attempts from the line. I can see an early round opponent playing them closer than they expected and a free throw to seal the game caroming out and leading to a breathtaking last second loss. The field of 64 is built on the early round upset and I think Memphis is on its way towards such a fate.
As a side note, Coach Cal is one of my favorite coaches to watch on the sideline, the dood runs the gamut of emotions like no other from sheer exasperation to fuming rage to laughable disgust. Even though it is quite difficult to look sillier than the guy that coached against him on Saturday. I don't think I will ever get this image fully removed from my head Bruce Pearl. You haunt my dreams.
The game was a perfect example of what has been a great college basketball season thus far, and does little for me to clear up who the number one through four seeds in the NCAA tournament are going to be. Tennessee seemed to have solidified itself as the number one overall with the victory over Memphis, but after their loss to Vanderbilt on Tuesday and with the parity among the other top-tier teams, it's sort of a crap shoot for who gets the No. 1 seeds. I think a lot of teams can make the case they deserve a number one, with the four most likely to come from a field of North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee and UCLA. In fact, three or four of the aforementioned squads are vying for the overall No. 1. It should be a great tournament, can't wait to fill out my ONE AND ONLY bracket. (I'll speak more on that in March)
As an Ohio guy, I'm stoked that Lebron James finally got the Cavaliers' brass to shake things up a bit with a three team deal that landed them Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, Big Ben Wallace and Delonte West. I think West will be a more apt court general than Booby Gibson and will free the latter up to be more of a shooter and scorer, a role he is much better suited for. Szczerbiak is the kind of knock-down three point shooter that Lebron has been waiting to kick out to and Wallace and Ilgauskas are a pretty formidable interior. The Cavs look a lot better inside and out now and while the West is still stacked to the hilt with better teams than the East, Cleveland has at least brought its chances at making a run for the Finals up a bit. The Celtics and Pistons should be concerned about where they end up as far as seeding now, because neither wants to run into the Cavs in the second round. Especially Detroit, who felt the Cavs' wrath last year and will probably have unending nightmares about the one man show King James can put on when he gets in the zone.
A quick comment that it's a damn shame that Yao Ming will be out the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his foot, because he was having a career year and is one of my favorite guys in the NBA. He's as classy as he is good and the Rockets have to be wondering what the hell is in the Houston air, because neither Yao nor T-Mac can seem to stay healthy for an entire season. I titled my blog Bo Jackson's Hip as a comment on the uncertain nature of life as a pro athlete and a human being in general and Yao is yet another example of how quickly things can turn around in sports and in life. I think the Rockets are out of the West playoff picture, with a small chance to hang on to the eighth spot. Tough luck for a team that I had meeting up with the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. Now I have to worry about watching the Spurs make a finals run again. Bo-ring.
Can't really hold in my excitement about Barack Obama anymore. I don't think Clinton can catch him at this point and he is headed towards a general election that he has a great chance at winning. It's incredible how far he has come so quickly and how comfortable he is with being the front-runner now. I guess I could make this sort of sports related with an analogy, because Obama reminds me of a high-school star athlete. Surrounded by hype at a young age, ascending quickly to the top of his draft class, cashing in on his hype and honing his talent very quickly, and now poised to dominate his lane before any of the old guard saw him coming. He's making the veterans of his game look old and slow, with the Democratic debates becoming a forum for him to show off his style and oratory prowess against the continually flailing Hillary. He has revitalized a party and a country from the roots up in a way that I have never witnessed. I think this is how our parents felt about the Kennedys, Jack and Bobby alike, and I can't believe that he's moved from that bright-eyed prospect at the '04 DNC to a possibility at the presidency in just 3 years. Amazing.