Taking the Road Less Traveled to Final Four
Because of lousy wake-up call service and a serious case of allergies, today’s first-look Final Four team capsules have been provided by Shade-E-Summaries, an admittedly less-than-reputable capsule wire service syndicate working its first NCAA tournament.
In the past, Shade-E has provided Rugby Roundups and Table Tennis Tidbits for various third-world publications. Disclaimer: Second Thoughts is not responsible for the accuracy of these reports.
How they got here: Chartered a plane from Topeka’s Forbes Field. Airport security was a mess. Coach Roy Williams was pulled out of line for a random wand search. Team lost several bags en route to West Regional in Anaheim while a bus driver who once worked the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta got lost on the way to shoot-around at the Arrowhead Pond.
Skinny: Start with point guard Aaron Miles, who weighs about 175 pounds dripping wet. Any “Fatty” category would include 255-pound forward Jeff Graves. Kansas’ success will be directly related to keeping Graves away from the red beans and rice in New Orleans.
Bottom line: Go to the bank with this: If Kansas scores more points than Marquette in the national semifinal, Kansas will win and advance to the national title game.
View from opposing school’s scout: “I’m still busting a gut that Arizona let Jason Gardner take the last three-point shot in the West Regional final. We would have picked Gardner up at the airport to shoot that shot. In Gardner’s first three years in the NCAA tournament, he was 16 for 66 beyond the arc.
“In fact, Gardner got two three-point shots to tie Kansas and missed both. Shocking.
“Also, if you’re a Marquette player and you want to get into Kansas’ head, start making fun of Jayhawk guard Kirk Hinrich’s hair from the opening tipoff. The joke here is that Hinrich combs his hair with an iron.”
How they got here: It’s a long story, but it started with a French explorer and Jesuit missionary named Jacques Marquette and ended with a stunning victory Saturday against Kentucky. In between, there was a nickname change from Warriors to the politically correct Golden Eagles, a coach named McGuire, a national title in 1977 and charter membership in something called Conference USA.
Skinny: Dwyane Wade is a terrific player but we wish someone had fixed that typo on his birth certificate. As if Marquette isn’t tough enough to spell on deadline, now we have to make sure every night editor knows that it really is “Dwyane” and not “Dwayne.”
Bottom line: It’s no cinch Marquette will even show up. In 1970, miffed at his school’s regional placement, Coach Al McGuire pulled Marquette out of the NCAA tournament and won the National Invitation Tournament. That was the only sure way to avoid a matchup against UCLA.
View from opposing school’s scout: “After I saw Marquette commit 30 turnovers in a loss to Alabama-Birmingham in the Conference USA tournament, I said to a buddy, ‘Now there’s a Final Four team.’ Just shows you how little we know and how Dick Vitale knows even less. Also, with all this anti-French sentiment going on, Marquette could not have ended up in a better place than New Orleans, n’est pas?”
How they got here: Somebody knew somebody who knew somebody on the NCAA selection committee. How else do you explain Syracuse getting placed in Boston for first- and second-round games and Albany for the East Regional? We realize a lot of these Syracuse kids are freshmen, but isn’t it time they got out and saw a little bit of the world?
Skinny: School is known for its stifling 2-3 zone defense and blizzards in April. For what it’s worth, they plow the streets in Syracuse through the annual July 4 parade.
Bottom line: This is the year Coach Jim Boeheim finally gets the monkey of his back and wins his first national title. No, sorry, that parking spot has been reserved for Kansas Coach Roy Williams.
View from opposing school’s scout: “Boeheim is the best recruiter I’ve seen since Uncle Sam. Getting Carmelo Anthony to come to Syracuse was like a wolf recruiting a chicken to dinner and, frankly, it all makes me want to quit coaching and go into real estate.”
How they got here: Took I-35 from Austin to San Antonio for home-cooking hospitality in South Regional. Bus made one bathroom stop in San Marcos; players played “license plate game” but never spotted one from Vermont.
Skinny: Texas plays strict man-to-man except when it switches to variations of a 1-3-1 zone and 1-2-2 full-court trap. Other defenses include a match-up zone, box-and-one, triangle and two and (I’m making this up) Ring Around the Rosy.
Bottom line: Texas talks a big game but the only team from this football state to win the national title was Texas Western in 1966.
View from opposing school’s scout: “I always volunteer to scout games at Texas because Austin is the only city in the state worth running up an expense report in. Once in a while I will actually attend a basketball game there but most often you can find me drinking Mexican beer on Sixth Street while listening to daily offerings of rock, country, jazz, blues and tejano. Did you know that Austin is known as ‘the hot sauce capital of the world?’ When I get back to the office I file my report, which always reads the same: ‘You can’t stop guard T.J. Ford if you defended him with a Chevy.’ ”