Sunday, April 07, 2013

2013 Championship Game Preview: X Factors That Are Actually Talented


OK, fuck this, I’m taking over for Bill Sou.  He got so pissed off that he finally believed in Syracuse and the Orange repaid him by fucking him over by losing to Michigan Saturday night that he just threw his hands up and he went off on me.  He asked me, “Why the fuck haven’t you written anything in months?!”  And I went, “Well, if you guys don’t fucking pay me, I’ll write something when I have the goddamn time to write something.”  But that excuse didn’t work.

So then I told him that I want to write about how I’m jerking off to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, but I can’t buy it yet because none of the comic book shops carry it anymore, and so I would have to go to a Barnes & Noble, and only chicks work there, so I’m not going to buy it because the person helping me will know that I’m a pervert, so I’m just, uh, biding my time.  More silence.

Finally I go, “Look, if you’re so pissed off that your bracket’s all fucked, why don’t you let me try and write about the final?”  And he replies with, “Great idea!” and hung up the phone.  So, I guess I’m writing about the NCAA Championship Game tomorrow night.

Both victories had similarities.  First of all were the contributions by the winners’ X factors.  For Louisville there were two, junior guards Luke Hancock and Tim Henderson.  Their playing time had to increase because the usual first guard off the bench was Kevin Ware, whose leg snapped in two last week.  Hancock, Louisville’s Great White Hope (for a university that historically catered to black players, which stemmed from Adolph Rupp stocking rival Kentucky with white players), went off for 20 points, including three three-pointers, the last of which gave the Cardinals a two-possession lead with 2:09 left.  He also iced the game by forcing a jump ball off his own free-throw miss with six seconds left.  Meanwhile, Henderson, who’s a fucking walk-on, sank back-to-buck three-pointers to start a 21-8 run in the middle of the second half to erase a 12-point Shocker lead.

Man, Wichita St. had their chance and they blew it.  When they went up by a dozen with 13 minutes left in the second half, everybody I follow on Twitter were ready to bury the Cards.  If I didn’t hate typing on my tablet so much I would’ve said, “Guys, there’s more than half the half left and Louisville’s Louisville.  Let’s hold off playing Taps, please.”  It hurts to see the underdog execute the perfect plan against the Cardinals: Tough rebounding and no turnovers that lead to easy Louisville points in transition.  But after Louisville failed to induce even one Wichita St. turnover in 26 straight minutes of the game, they got seven in the final seven.  And at the end of the game, Hancock and Henderson finally drilled threes when Louisville in the first half both (uncharacteristically) settled for them and (typically) missed them.

For Michigan, the X factor was freshman forward Mitch McGary.  McGary, who wasn’t even a regular starter until the tournament began, was absolutely vital in hitting the soft spot of Jim Boehiem’s patented 2-3 zone defense, the top of the key.  He made jump shots at that spot when he was left by his lonesome, and when the Orange finally perceived him as a threat he dished out to the arc or down low.  Not only did McGary register a double-double with ten points and twelve rebounds, he made six assists … after making only 18 all year.

X factors are so important because they are able to step up when your usually-reliable contributors have off nights.  McGary made up for AP Player of the Year Trey Burke, who had seven points on shitty 1-of-8 shooting.  Similarly, Henderson, who probably could start on a mid-major team like Wichita St., provided production after putrid performances from Peyton Siva (seven points on 1-for-9 shooting, only one rebound) and Gorgui Dieng (no points and no offensive rebounds in 30 minutes).

Both games were also similar because the games were decided late on iffy calls.  That tie-up Hancock won off his own miss was bullshit.  Ron Baker might not have had full control of it, but that whistle came in way too early.  And Syracuse has a right to bitch on that charging call that fouled Brandon Triche out of the game with 19 seconds left.  Jordan Morgan doesn’t have to have both feet set to get charging, but nearly all refs consider it a prerequisite anyway, and Morgan was still moving.  If that was a blocking foul, Triche would have been at the line to tie the game.

Instead, Michigan made one of two at the other end to make it a three-point game.  And Boeheim put the fate of his team’s season in the handle of freshman Trevor Cooney; he had to because Triche and Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse’s starting backcourt, both fouled out.  And instead of jacking up a three, Cooney drove the lane.  He didn’t even make the lay-up, and Morgan dunked for the final margin.

Bill is pissed because the Orange came back from an 11-point halftime deficit only to lose late.  But Carter-Williams only scored two points and James Southerland five in 27 minutes of play.  And unlike with McGary, no X factor stepped up for the ‘Cuse.

So who wins?  Fuck if I know; like Bill I had Indiana winning it all.  Both Louisville and Michigan have been able to improvise wins late in games when things weren’t going their way, with a little bit of luck.  I certainly think that both teams will give each other enough problems that Monday’s title game will be a bit of a slog.  But it’ll be a fun, fascinating slog.  And just because both of our brackets have gone to shit, I’ll say Trey Burke provides the winning points for Michigan in a contest that won’t be decided until the final 30 seconds.

Posted by UnforgivableWetness at 4:30 PM

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