I got to watch three-quarters of the first night of the tournament last night. A few quick thoughts.
The Mt. St. Mary’s – New Orleans game was fun. A couple teams flat going at each other for 40 minutes. New Orleans got some local run because their head coach and one assistant coach are from Bloomington. I thought head coach Mark Slessinger blew it by playing the last defensive possession of the game straight-up. That was a classic “go for the steal for the first 10–15 seconds then foul” situation. When you trail you have to give your team a chance to have a decent possession to close the game. He didn’t give his team that opportunity. But I’ve won a grand total of five youth league games in my basketball coaching career; perhaps I shouldn’t criticize a guy coaching in the NCAA tournament.
That little fracas between New Orleans players was something else, though. wasn’t it? Props to Slessinger for benching Travan Thibodeaux after he tried to choke his teammate. I guess. I mean, that’s terrible, you have to keep control of your team, build a certain culture within the program, etc. But you also just lost a tournament game by one point and left a kid who had been balling pretty well on the bench for the last stretch of the game. Not sure all his players or folks around the program are going to be good with Slessinger’s decision this morning.
The nightcap, Kansas State vs. Wake Forest, had all my attention. A Big 12 team vs one of the two best players to ever play for KU. I thoroughly approved of all the Danny & The Miracles references throughout the game.
Unfortunately, my man D. Manning got thoroughly out-coached by Bruce Weber. The Wake Forest kids didn’t show any interest at all on the defensive end of the court. Meanwhile K-State was usually locked in and made a number of terrific plays at the rim to keep Wake from scoring. I guess the only real surprise of the night was that the game was even close. K-State shot something like 93% from the field. They weren’t able to really pull away until the final 2:00 or so.
Here’s the thing about K-State: I really like they way they play when they are clicking. They have some really nice parts. They have a handful of guys who are getting everything out of their ability. They often look really well coached.
That last one is the rub. Bruce Weber is a whiny, petty martyr who is probably my second least favorite coach in the Big 12. He needs to get over the fact that he’s not Bill Self or Lon Kruger or whoever he’s complaining about getting more love than him this week. He needs to realize he’s coaching in a power 5 conference, does a pretty good job of it, and stop worrying about whether he’s liked or appreciated as much as his contemporaries. That garbage over the weekend from one of the K-State players about the Wildcats being “the most hated team in college basketball” is classic Weber paranoia. I’m pretty sure there are at least 50 schools more hated that K-State. I’m not saying I would like Weber and K-State if he could shut the fuck up for awhile, but I would respect them a lot more than I do now.
A quick aside, I have a friend here who knows Weber a little from when they were both at Purdue. Recently, without any prompting on my part, he asked, “Isn’t Weber just the worst?”
I learned yesterday that one of C’s classmates has an older brother who is a starting guard for Princeton. Her class recorded a good luck video yesterday that they’re sending his way before their game with Notre Dame. After school she told me the older brother was a “thrower” and one of the “25 best ones in the whole country.” Not really sure what a thrower is in basketball, and while he’s a nice player, I doubt he’s one of the 25 best in the tournament. But I liked that she’s interested and even asked me to record the game for her. And I realized comments like hers are exactly what happens when I don’t let the girls watch basketball with me.
KU feelings this morning: we’re either going to make it to Glendale or lose on Sunday. No in-between right now.