The Locker Room
By Dan Callahan
Much of the conversation since Monday’s national championship basketball victory by North Carolina over Gonzaga has been about how ugly the game was, about how it had no flow, and the teams didn’t shoot well, and on and on. It seems to be like this every time the Tar Heels win the crown. That’s number six, the most of any ACC team. Only UCLA and Kentucky have won more.
Actually, what does it matter? To win is the goal. How it looked and if you thought it was pretty is not relevant. The issue is to win. It was like a 70s and 80s game of hoops. These days a good game seems to be did the two teams make 70 three-point shots and were there 25 dunks. And flow, did the game flow? I don’t care. I thought it was a very hard fought, competitive battle. Carolina made the plays down the stretch to win, and had a couple players battle through injury and step up when it mattered most. There were big people on the court. They banged into each other and because of that, it was tougher to score. There was great defense. Carolina only turned the ball over four times, the least ever in a national championship game. Gonzaga won the rebound battle 49-46, but the Tar Heels blocked eight shots. It was tough, hard-nosed. There was no give. The two teams kept coming at each other to the end.
Sure there were a lot of fouls called. Big people were clashing into each other. Sure, there was some missed calls, both ways. Mark Few and Roy Williams did not say a word, and complained little during the game, neither did the players. There was contact on the court. It wasn’t a game of “horse.” It was not a good place to be for snowflakes. If you like NBA games, then you didn’t like this game. They play zero defense in the NBA, and it’s horribly boring. I loved it. I liked the physicality of the game, and just ask yourself this, if Kennedy Meeks hadn’t banged on the bigs of Gonzaga, would Carolina have won? I doubt it. It was beautiful.
The last two years have been terrific for the Tar Heels. The overall record is 66-14, two ACC season titles, two number one seeds in the NCAA, a tournament record of 11-1, two Final Fours, two championship games, and one national championship. Not bad at all for a team that was not the most talented in the country either of those two seasons, no one and done players, but a team that matured together, got better, and could win, pretty or ugly. The Heels played a great defensive game vs. the Zags.
Williams now has three national titles to his credit at Carolina, and he is now appropriately rated among the finest coaches in the game, and he learned under Dean Smith, one of the absolute finest ever to coach basketball, and the builder of the program in Chapel Hill. Great name for a college town. So much better than a city. But Carolina could win on the gallop, win with the three-point shot, win with power inside, win going fast, going slow, win pretty, win ugly. The team that can do that, is the best team.
Questions, Gripes, and Applause:
*Some people do not like the fact that the Raiders in two years will move to Las Vegas. The reason is simple. The facility in Oakland is the worst in the NFL and the city had done nothing to help the Raiders who share the stadium with the MLB Athletics. Oakland is also not a tourist attraction. And to cap it off, revenue flow for the Raiders has ranked 32nd in the league for the past three years. It’s money.
*Just like the State of North Carolina changing their bathroom law. Some people will say it’s a victory for this or that or whatever. It’s not any of those things. It’s a victory for money. Forget what you believe in, do what you have to do to get the money. The NCAA will now allow major events in that state. The rest of it is just the unsavory world of politics.
*It seems one of the officials had to get protection following Kentucky’s loss to Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. UK hit a three with seconds left to tie the game, then Luke Maye hit a shot just before the buzzer to win it for the Tar Heels. No official had anything to do with those things. Some people need to assess themselves, or be locked up. But then another Kentucky fan, Ashly Judd, that grand lady is now demanding “safe space” when she goes to games. Maybe she shouldn’t go.
*I’m not big in women’s golf, but this just seems weird to me. Lexi Thompson was surprised to learn the LPGA was penalizing her four shots because a television viewer emailed in a complaint and said Thompson had moved her ball an inch on the green the day before. Thompson asked, “Are you kidding.” Apparently not. A viewer used an email to complain about a one inch violation from the day before, and it results in a four-stroke penalty and the leader of the tournament is now a loser. Question, who’s running the show?
*The JMU softball team just swept Virginia Tech a few days ago and has now moved to an overall record of 31-6. JMU has already defeated four ranked teams on the season. Pitcher Megan Goode leads the nation in wins and ERA, and the team has the 7th highest overall batting average in the nation. It looks like the JMU girls are headed back to the NCAA again.
*The following should cause concern about the public education system, and just what are the priorities. Kevin Knox is being heavily recruited by all the top basketball programs in the nation. Presently, he’s making the rounds on the all-star circuit. Last week he was at McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago, this week he is in Portland, Oregon for a big Nike shindig, and next week he will be in New York for the Jordan Brand Classic. That’s three weeks and three all-star games in Chicago, Oregon, and New York. I guess somebody is going to explain to me about who is playing the kids expenses and all the others too, but the most amusing thing to me is in an interview Knox said he couldn’t wait to get back home to Florida because after three weeks traveling the country, he would get to rest for a week on spring break. That’s three weeks all over the country and then spring break. How about class time? I guess somebody is going to tell me there’s a tutor involved. Hope it’s a real good one.
*And by the way. Following the all-star game in Chicago there was an argument outside the facility about who was the best player that turned into a brawl, knifes, guns, you name it, young people involved too. Ain’t it a great life? My solution. Stay out of Chicago. The “Windy City” doesn’t appear to be terribly safe these days. And just what are these all-star games for in the first place. If you’ve ever tuned one in you can’t watch for more than five minutes to realize the game is a joke. All of the players are already secure in their college destination. So why the game? Because McDonalds, Nike, and the Jordan Brand turn it into money in the marketplace. Awe yes, we’re back to the money. As they say, just follow the money. It never seems to change does it?