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HeartBreak City

Heartbreak.  That’s the only emotion I can elicit after witnessing Davidson college come within two points of making the Final Four on Sunday evening.  At the beginning of the tournament, Davidson was our state’s little secret, quietly riding the nations longest win streak on the back of a local legend’s son.  The tiny school from the titular town in North Carolina flew under the national radar all year, despite valiantly fought battles and epic near-misses against a handful of the countries most decorated basketball powerhouses. This team oozed charisma, and there were just too many facets of this group not to love. From Stephen Curry’s man-sized game and pre-pubescent looks to the Old-school at-ease charm of Coach Bob McKillop; from the “that’s the guy who leads the nation in assists?” reaction one of your buddies would educe every time CBS would show point guard Jason Richards stats, to the vague Saved By the Bell-dian familiarity of Forward Max Paulhaus-Gossler’s name.  In an otherwise largely disappointing tournament, Davidson provided thrills for each and every game.  First, it was Curry’s 40 point torrent against the erstwhile Cinderella’s of Gonzaga.  Then it was the astonishing come from behind win against the much ballyhooed defense of Georgetown; followed by the systematic beat down of the major conference Wisconsin Badgers.  Our little secret suddenly became America’s Sweetheart’s, scorching through the competition with an alarming amount of confidence.  Something strange happened towards halftime of the Wisconsin game; I started to believe that Davidson truly was the better team.  I started to think, “If Wisconsin wins this game, it will be a miracle”.  Tiny Davidson was no longer the giant slayer, they were the giant.  They belonged, and they came one catastrophically designed play away from reaching immortality and the Final Four.  Of course, Curry’s performances have already become the stuff of legends, catapulting him into the pantheon of the all time tourney greats.  Ever since the first game of the season (North Carolina) I’ve been telling my buddies how much Curry reminds me of Reggie Miller. The body type, the silky smooth shot, the way he is constantly in motion bouncing off a series of screens to get open, even his unorthodox appearance is reminiscent Pacers great (although “unorthodox” is probably the most um…flattering, way I can think to describe Miller’s appearance). But after watching Curry single handedly take on college basketball’s best defenses for the last three weeks I’m beginning to think that that comparison may be selling him a little short.  I don’t want to put the horse in front of the buggy here, but it’s not a stretch to think that this guy could potentially become a truly great scorer in the NBA.  Of course, he could become just the next great college scorer to be marginalized on the bench of the Cleveland Cavaliers, clapping for the occasional bucket but rarely getting a chance to get out of his warm ups. I guess what I’m saying is, he’s either the next Reggie Miller or the next Wally Szczerbiak.  Luckily for Davidson, the NBA will have to wait at least one more year to find that out.

Despite the heartbreak, this Final Four has the opportunity to salvage an otherwise humdrum tournament, with the four number 1 seeds making it to the finals for the first time ever.  I still have the Bobcat Juniors, er… Tarheels, swaying to the tune of Luther’s “One Shining Moment” when it’s all said and done, but their match up with Kansas this Saturday should be nothing short of excellent.  Aside from the obvious Roy Williams back-story, there are probably 10 players we will see on Saturday that are likely to be shooting threes from the big boy’s line in the coming years.  As a Bobcat’s fan, it’s hard for me to watch Brandon Rush and not laugh.  The guy appears to have all the tools and size to become a very serviceable pro, but he has along way to go in my book to erase the memories of older brother Kareem clanking shot after ill-advised shot off the Bobcat’s arena rims. Now, this may come as a surprise to some, but the one guy I believe will ultimately make the best pro on either of these teams is…Denny Green.  His greatest asset is his length (still among the most coveted attributes in the league), and he has that Teyshaun Prince, all around style game that is almost vital to a championship caliber team. He’s a high energy guy (we’ve all seen the dance) with a penchant for hitting momentum shots.  You know the kind of shots that maintain, assuage, or completely sway the momentum of a game? The shots that completely rip the still beating heart out of opposing teams? Green is a master of those types of shots. One more year at Chapel Hill would really help him develop his game for the pros, but if he jumps this year, don’t be surprised.  He’s close to NBA ready. 

Speaking of NBA ready, at the end of my last article I wrote that Texas A&M big DeAndre Jordan was “mysterious and promising”.  After watching Jordan go head to head with frosh Kevin Love in the second round of the tournament I can’t help but think that “mystery” was Jordan’s greatest strength going into the draft.  The mystery is gone.  New scouting report for DeAndre Jordan: “enormously irrelevant tall guy, frightened of the ball and hustle”. Is that too harsh?  I felt like I was watching a Yinka Dare highlight reel. Love on the other hand left the complete opposite impression on me.  His footwork and range were impressive, and he appears to have a preternaturally high basketball IQ and seems to genuinely love playing the game. Plus, they showed him in practice shooting from the baseline of the opposite end of the court and draining multiple shots, like Lebron in that Powerade commercial.  Except it was real.  Yeah, exactly.

Last week I checked Marc Stein’s NBA power rankings on ESPN.com.  The Bob’s dropped from 23 to 26 place, and his commentary was on whether or not MJ would be giving Sam Vincent another year to prove his coaching mettle.  Well I’d like to chime in with a resounding hell no, please. I mean, this is the man that decided to start Jeff McInnis for over half of a PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL season at point guard.  I’m sorry, but the only way you can justify starting Jeff McInnis more than one time in any given year is if you are traveling on a west coast road trip to Oregon via covered wagon and your entire team contracts dysentery (or Typhoid, the Oregon Trail is ruthless).  Even then he’s worth a 10 day contract at best.  Now I obviously realize that the Cat’s have been hurt by injuries this year and the chemistry issues that are tacit to a team who imports a new “star” player and new coach, but come on, does anybody see this guy being a great coach at any point in the future?  I mean, if Vincent were even doing a decent job at coaching this club it would be an incredibly obvious improvement over the tutelage of Bernie Bickerstaff.  Vincent should at worst be the girl who is really only a 5 or 6  but who automatically looks fairly hot hanging out next to her chubby, unattractive friend.  But I don’t ever find myself checking Vincent out, which leads me to believe one of these two scenarios is true: either a) the chubby friend wasn’t really all that unattractive (not possible), or b)Sam really isn’t that hot after all.  We can’t wait another less than mediocre season to come to this conclusion, I’ve already had enough heartbreak for one week.