Friday, April 3, 2009

And Then There Were Four … Links

The Final Four is tomorrow. Villanova, North Carolina, UConn, Michigan State. Nothing more really needs to be added to that. Oh, and the Phillies start Sunday, so there's that too, and the Bears decide to mortgage their future to get Jay Cutler. Seriously, the Broncos received two first round picks, a third rounder and Kyle Orton. Wow. Now the links.

-Classic, the Norm MacDonald ESPY monologue:

-The Phillies prop bets.

-USC linebackers love the roids.

-Some love for Dante Cunningham.

He'll definitely be a big key, but all of the Wildcats are going to have to play a near perfect game to beat UNC.

-Shoals offers his five non-stories from this year's NBA season. Guess who's mentioned first:

Brand on the Run: Baron Davis' relocation was an unquestioned disaster; Jermaine O'Neal's, a little less cataclysmic, but a major failure that proved he had forever dropped a tier or two. On the bright side, Ron Artest has been absolutely crucial to Houston's late season resurrection, and Corey Maggette has played quite well for a team from outer space.

But perhaps no offseason acquisition was a bigger deal than Elton Brand to the Sixers. Here, a young, uptempo team was getting one of the league's most steady, productive post players. But this ideal pairing never came to fruition. Brand struggled, the Sixers struggled, Brand was hurt, the Sixers went back to their old ways without him, and it was a mercy killing when in February Elton decided to undergo surgery and sit for the year. Now the Sixers are the fifth seed in the East, and Brand is a distant memory who might as well have never happened.

-Joe Juliano talks about Scottie Reynolds' difficulty adjusting to life at Villanova.

-Dick Jerardi had a great piece on Jay Wright earlier in the week.

The best line in the article, however, is delivered by Rick Pitino:

I will never forget Rick Pitino saying at the 1997 Final Four: "If it's not broken, break it," not the old cliché "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

This line came from a man who had won the 1996 title and would lose the 1997 title game in overtime. Stand still, he was saying, and you will get passed.

-NBA scouts should not only be looking at the players on the floor at the Final Four, says Kevin Arnovitz, they should be looking at Jay Wright:

Jay Wright, 47 years old, Head Coach, Villanova
On a team full of marginal pros, the one name from Villanova that NBA fans should be aware of is actually that of their head coach, Jay Wright. Watch the difference in his offense this weekend-chock full of NBA friendly isolation plays, heavily focused on outstanding spacing-compared with that of Michigan State, UConn or North Carolina, and notice the difference. His team doesn't shoot particularly well, and they aren't very big, long or athletic. They lack a true point guard, a real center, any kind of depth at all in the frontcourt, and may not have even a single future NBA player on their roster.

So what are they even doing on this stage?

The answer to that is their head coach: Jay Wright. When NBA GMs go to scout the Final Four this weekend, they'll obviously be taking notes on their star players, Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds. But they should also be keeping tabs on the man running the show from Villanova's bench.

Wright looks like the most likely head coach in the NCAA right now to be able to successfully make the transition to coaching in the NBA. Even though his team runs a traditional 4-out 1-in motion offense, he gives his players an unbelievable amount of freedom to go out and make plays on their own if they feel like they have an advantage. Even if they aren't the most talented group of players, Wright has made them into an extremely disciplined, unselfish bunch who are about as well-prepared a team as you'll find.

Everyone who has been around Wright mentions his charisma and ability to build and maintain relationships as the key to his success. Even if he obviously looks the part, he's much more than just a smooth talker. He knows how to manage his players and get the absolute most out of them, often by making quick changes on the fly, and is not a control freak, an ego-maniac or a disciplinarian, like many other failed college-to-pro experiments. When he asks his team to go out and spit blood in order to get him stops on the defensive end-a huge key to their success-- they do it, because they have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Would NBA players respect his authority in a similar way? There's only one way to figure that out.

-Johan Frazen is Superman:

-Just an absolutely incredible trick shot:

-Here's another one, via MLJ:

EMBED-Amazing Off-the-Wall Bball Swish - Watch more free videos

-It has to be fun having Fred Smoot and Gilbert Arenas in the same town. Check out some brilliant quotes by Smoot and Gilbert from the Bog:

"Fat boys wins my game," he said. "I know football, and in December, in the playoffs, fat boys win. Whoever's got the best fat boys is gonna win, so I'm gonna collect fat boys. I can find Fred Smoots--not a dime a dozen, but I can find cornerbacks that can make plays. I can find that. I can't find a big boy that can push this line for four quarters."

Fred Smoot, if you haven't noticed, is actually pretty smart, underneath all the jibba jabba. So is Gilbert Arenas; his "a broke clock's right twice" line, concerning the sorry Wizards recording two wins this year against the dominant Cavs, was probably the smartest five words anyone uttered about last night's game, and he delivered it spontaneously, without a second's thought.

-Finally, someone is is talking some sense:

Since we're both picking the Phillies to win this division for a third season in a row, can we safely say that we're employing a "fool me once ..." stance toward those Mets?

David Brown: The Mets just ain't that good, 'Duk! Daniel Murphy might be OK in left field. Ryan Church is OK in right. Luis Castillo is barely OK at second. Brian Schneider is OK behind the plate. The starting pitching is OK after Johan Santana. The bullpen will light you on fire just as soon as they pitch, and that includes Francisco Rodriguez. Just start the count 2-1, because K-Rod usually gets there anyway. The Mets have great players at third, at short, in center and on the mound every fifth day. The rest of them make me shrug my shoulders. Heck, can I put the Marlins second?


-Just please, go over to Big Five Post and read all the great work Dom is doing, for instance, a look back at '85, Dante, Dionte and Ahmad receiving All American Honorable Mention honors, and an exhaustive list of Villanova links from the week.

Oh, and it would be nice if the Flyers came out and won 6-0 or something tonight, seeing as they completely shit the bed against Toronto on Wednesday.

BallHype: hype it up!

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