Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rockin' In The N-C-Double-A

Look out golf, you have competition for the title of "Whitest Sport in America."

In a season where J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison have emerged as the flagship players for the NCAA, and the most heralded Freshman in the land is a gangly white kid from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, the key players in the NCAA have turned just about every stereotype about the sport of basketball on its head.

Adding to this image is the recruitment of John Mellencamp to perform at the NCAA finals in Indianapolis. It's fitting, since he's an Indiana boy, but also indicative of the image the NCAA puts forward and the demographics it tries to cater to.

Mellencamp has also been spotted in the 'Rockin' in the NCAA' commercials, where he performs a reworked version of his classic song "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.". Of further note to hoops fans, Mellencamp's performance scenes were filmed in the same gym as some scenes from the movie "Hoosiers". And you thought that with Jim Nantz and the "One Shining Moment" video montage, CBS' coverage couldn't get any whiter.

Much has been made of the story of Redick and Morrison. Not only do they look retro (the former is straight out of the cast of Happy Days, the latter looks like one of The Allman Brothers), but they play retro too. When I see them out on the court, I keep expecting to see them suit up in short shorts, Chuck Taylors, and start practicing bounce passes and layups.

This isn't meant to be a post about race in basketball, but rather just to highlight what will be a dominant story over the next three weeks. Everyone will be focusing on the potential Final Four Semi-Final matchup of Duke and Gonzaga, while also monitoring the play of white superstars like Hansbrough, and West Virginia's Kevin Pittsnogle. This is not meant to diminish the skills of Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Randy Foye, or any of the other countless talented black players in the tournament. But in a year where they excelled, and a number of retro (looking and playing) white guys stole the spotlight, it feels like basketball has come full circle as a game. There are no suspensions, fights, or posses causing problems. It's been all about the game this year.

And with that, I'll stop. Fire away in the comments section with your thoughts on March Madness.

I love Mellencamp, and I'll be stoked if they broadcast his concert as part of the Final Four coverage. I only hope that Hootie & The Blowfish is opening. That would be awesome.

7 Comments:

At 8:42 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I'll reiterate what I said in an email exchange with you and Sacamano today:

1) The Washington bracket is the most worrisome to me, at least in terms of who I pick in my league. How do you choose between UConn and North Carolina? And that assumes that UConn beats Kentucky, which under normal circumstances would be no guarantee. I may change my mind about ten thousand times before Thursday.

2) How can you not cheer for Oral Roberts University? I mean, seriously.

3) It is unfortunate that if Duke and Gonzaga meet, it will be in the semis, not the final. Couldn't they have rigged it so that I could watch the second coming of Bobby Hurley and Basketball Jesus shoot the lights out? And for the record, I only think Reddick looks like Hurley. I don't think he plays like him.

4) I expect Gonzaga to go very deep. The vengeance factor cannot be underrated here. They looked CHOKED to be the picked as the 3 seed. CHOKED. I expect Morrison to score 80 a night, then have sex with the opposing team's cheerleaders at centre court.

5) One the one hand, teams like Duke like can shut down if a team focuses on shutting down their star player. See NC's upset over Duke a few weeks ago. On the other hand, a hot player can carry a team all the way through the series. See Glenn Rice in 1989. So which will it be this year?

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Oh yeah,one more:

6) Which 12 seed will beat a 5 seed? We know it is gonna happen.

 
At 9:50 PM, Blogger Alex said...

The field looks wide open to me. Even Duke, the overall Number 1 team, has given me cause for concern in the past few weeks.

1) As for the Washington bracket, I worry that I'm underestimating Michigan State, which I frequently do. They'll be a very difficult matchup for UNC if those two face off in the second round. I think that both the 4 and 5 seed, Illinois and Washington, have the talent and experience to knock off UConn in the Sweet 16, so a Connecticut/North Carolina matchup is not a sure thing.

On the other hand, how Tennessee got the second seed in this region, or any region for that matter, is beyond me. I'm picking them to lose just because they are overvalued by the Selection Committee.

The region that's giving me the most trouble is Minneapolis. I can envision dozens of scenarios as to how that will shake down. Even as an 8th seed, Arizona terrifies me. And UW-Milwaukee is a sleeper; they looked solid in the tournament last year.

2) It would be better if Liberty University had also qualified.

3) Do you think Duke Freshman sensation Josh McRoberts has more Christian Laettner in him or more Cherokee Parks?

4) I've been burned picking Gonzaga to go deep before, but like with Duke, I probably haven't learned my lesson. With that being said, Xavier is far and away the best 14 seed in the tournament, and probably deserved to be an 11 at worst. The Zags are not a lock to move on past the first round, and with Indiana and UCLA likely looming as their next two opponents, it will be a tough task for the Bulldogs to make it as far as the Elite Eight.

5) I don't see many players capable of stepping up and carrying their team to the championship (a la Rice or Danny Manning or Carmelo Anthony). Morrison could, and as Redick goes so does Duke, but most of the other top players in the tournament have never stepped up and established themselves as "the guy" on their team.

Can you see Rudy Gay putting UConn on his back and carrying them to the final four? Ditto LaMarcus Aldridge in Texas?

There's two guys I see with the potential to do it - Dee Brown in Illinois and Tyler Hansbrough in UNC. Funny enough, both of them are in the Washington bracket.

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Oops, didn't see your second comment.

6) Kent State is the only one I'm calling right now.

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger sacamano said...

Texas A&M is the 12 seed to win. The Orange Magic is worn out.

My Hoosiers will not lose to Gonzaga. Their coach is gone after the season anyway, so they are going to be playing loose. That's if the Zags make it past Xavier. Let's face it, Gonzaga is a Cinderella Team -- they have never, and will never, play well as favourites.

I HATE the Pac-10. They screw me every year by alternately choking in the first round (see Arizona, UCLA, California) or going way deeper than they should (see Arizona, UCLA, California). It is one of my general principles to never bet on the Pac-10. Hence, UCLA loses to IU in the third round - if they make it past Marquette.

Florida might as well be in the Pac-10 for all of their tourny consistency. Which team shows up this year? It's killing me.

My most anticipated game: W. Virgina vs Iowa. It's gonna be a ring a ding dong dandy

 
At 1:56 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I just wish the damn thing would start, now. Between everything I have read, and my own feelings, I must have changed my picks about 17 times.

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Same here. I'm changing my mind about some games every hour.

 

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