2023 BASKETBALL THOUGHTS
With tomorrow being the prestigious Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, March Madness, I figure it’s time to weigh in on it, along with a couple of pro basketball situations.
I’ve watched every second of this twelve-days-over-three-weeks tourney, so, of course, basketball, in general, is front and center on my mind right now.
In the midst of all the college action, there have been a lot of interesting developments on the NBA side as the post-season play-offs approach. Between the two, I’m neglecting just about everything else in my life. I’m barely eating and sleeping, I’ve declined every invitation that would cause me to miss a game, and I’m writing mainly while I watch the games, (so if you see any weirdness in my recent work, including this one, that’s the explanation.)
So I realized that now is the perfect time to share some of my thoughts on the sport.
We’re down to the craziest Final Four in history! Ostensibly, that group should consist of all four #1s. Duh. (There are four “regions” making up the brackets. There are sixty-eight teams to start off, because four of the lower-seeded teams have to play in the “First Four,” to come up with the top sixty-four teams.) It’s hardly ever those four teams at the end, but it’s never too far afield.
But this year, the seeds in there are a #4, (which isn’t too crazy,) (UConn,) two #5s, (San Diego State and Miami,) and…a #9!!! (Florida Atlantic University.) Together, it’s just insane.
Markquis Nowell from Kansas State has emerged as my absolute favorite college player, perhaps ever. I actually started crying just watching him and even hearing him talk. The first time Mr. X saw me do that, he wondered what was wrong, and I had to tell him, “I love this guy!”
Oh, I forgot to mention that Markquis is only 5’7”, as he says, “on a good day!” But he does everything on the court! He even throws three-pointers like Steph Curry!!! (And that’s saying more than something.)
Commentator Brian Anderson deemed Markquis’ stats—one of having the most assists (19) in an NCAA tournament game ever, and the other lengthy one in the image below–to be “other-worldly.”
And the entire Kansas State program is almost equally impressive. (Almost.) Not one player on the team began at this college! Last summer, there were no coaches at all, let alone a head coach, and only two players–Nowell and Ismael Massoud–who had both transferred in earlier, to boot. And now here they were, making it all the way to the Elite Eight! (I’m so sad to say that they lost at the literal very last minute of that game, though.)
I have to also mention their graduate player, Keyontae Johnson, who has a very dramatic story of his own. On December 12, 2020, he was playing for Florida, and one day he collapsed on the court in the middle of a game, similar to what the Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin did this year. It was also an undiagnosed heart issue, and it took him two years to get back to playing basketball. In an interview, Keyontae explained that, even though he was cleared to play again by both the Mayo Clinic and the NBA doctors, he had a tough time finding a college team to let him play. And Kansas State was there for him.
I became a fan of their coach, Jerome Tang, too. He has the whole program being about love and faith. I love it! And he even went into the other locker room after his team lost the game, to tell them they’re great and they can win the whole thing! That’s class.
Also (and always) classy is Gonzaga head coach, Mark Few. His team suffered a humiliating loss to UConn in that same round, the Elite Eight. It was just a fluke loss that any team could suffer at any time; it would be okay enough during the season, but not in the tournament where if you lose, it’s all over for you. I’ve been a fan of this team for many years now, and I’ve never seen them lose like this.
The play-by-play announcer, Kevin Harlan, declared it “a complete demolition.” And color man, and former NBA head coach, Stan Van Gundy, said Gonzaga is “the most efficient shooting team in the United States!” He explained, “That’s why it doesn’t compute; it’s just hard to process.”
I give the Zags credit for still playing hard when, by the middle of the second half, they knew it was impossible to win.
But now, maybe at least Gonzaga mega-star Drew Timme can shave off that stupid ‘stache when he’s in the pros! I always think he’s kept that facial atrocity for these four years because he’s too superstitious to shave, which I totally respect. But enough already.
Actually, a bit worrying to me is that since 99.9% of college players don’t get to go pro, are Drew Timme and Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson good enough to be drafted? I wish the analysts would let me know because I can never for sure gauge those situations for myself. I’m just about positive those guys will be in the NBA next year, but you never know.
By the way, as that city has done to most of us, Las Vegas really screwed Gonzaga and UCLA. That’s where they both played last week-end, with devastating results for both teams.
Speaking of Gonzaga, I was thrilled to see their star of yesteryear, Adam Morrison, in a commercial! And doing so well. It’s been a long hard road for him, so all of that warmed my heart.
And speaking of being happy for the old guard, Charles Barkley looks fabulous since he lost a lot of weight. Good for him. (That’s his “money maker,” as he calls it, at the top of this page.)
And it’s unbelievable how young coach Marquette head coach Shaka Smart and commentator Avery Johnson look! I need to start doing the health and wellness regimens of all three of those guys!
One amusing thing—I could not imagine why the Duke players were wearing black bras over their shirts in warm-up! It turned-out that it’s some crazy new technology innovation that measures their performances somehow. Who could have figured that one out?!
My last NCAA topic is a horrible one, for all involved. The overall (meaning top of the top) #1 seed this year was Alabama. They really do have a great team, but it’s been mired in so much controversy that I’m sure the NCAA wanted them to not win the tournament, despite the top ranking. I think everyone wanted them to just lose early so they could stop discussing their star, Brandon Miller.
It’s too long a tale for me to discuss here, but he’s been investigated for being the person to have brought a gun to a former teammate, Darius Miles, who then killed a young mother with it. (Please research it if you want all the details.) No one knows what really happened, but Brandon has not been charged, and police say they consider him to be just a witness.
He’s still played all season, which could not have been easy for him, his team, or the family of the victim. He’s even had to have armed security people around him. And meanwhile, because he’s so exceptional a player, he was named the SEC Player of the Year! And he would go high in the NBA draft in a couple of months, possibly even second, but does a pro team really want to court that controversy, no matter how good a player he is? I don’t have the answer.
But I’m sure that most everyone was thrilled when ninth seed San Diego State beat Alabama in the Sweet Sixteen round. Now none of the commentators have to awkwardly discuss the super-sad story anymore.
I had soooo many other things to discuss in this tourney, (and I have the photos to prove that multitude,) but I don’t want to exhaust any of you with them, so let’s move on to the pro probs.
For years, Dallas Maverick star Luka Dončić has been creeping-up on Giannis Antetokounmpo as my favorite player. Shockingly, I have never—not even when they were age-appropriate—had a crush on an NBA player. Not even Michael Jordan, whom I loved in his heyday…until I met him. (But that’s a story for another day.)
But a couple of years ago, when I saw Luka kiddingly flirt with one of the few female refs, my heart melted. I’ve always loved him, but that made me realize if I had to have a crush on one of the players, he would be it. Even with his crooked teeth, Luka is absolutely adorbs!
Their exchange, (during a game, I might add,) went something like this: Luka: “You didn’t see that foul?” Ashley Moyer-Gleich: “What foul?” Luka: I think I’m fouling in love with you.” Smiles all around.
I’m so jealous!!! I would have blown the whistle to stop the game, and then laid the mac on him right there!!!
So, now that he’s my fave guy in the league, you can imagine my major chagrin when creepy anti-semite, Kyrie Irving, got transferred from the Brooklyn Nets to the Dallas Mavericks. Kyrie is part of the trio of my most-hated players, (along with Kevin Durant and Draymond Green,) so I definitely did not want him paired with Luka.
And now Luka has hinted that he feels the same way. After a recent game, where the Mavs got booed by their fans, Luka was absolutely miserable in his post-game presser, and said he used to have fun on the court, (intimating that he does not anymore,) while Kyrie was defiant in his press conference. He said the booing doesn’t bother him. He even invited the fans to change places with him, saying, “Be my guest.” Let me tell you, I would do it in a heartbeat. I may not score a basket, but I guarantee you that Luka would be having fun again!
Mark my words, Luka will insist on being traded next season if they keep pariah Kyrie. Nobody wants to play with the latter except for maybe LeBron James, who won a championship with him in Cleveland in 2016. So, I feel that Luka will tell the Mavs basically, “It’s him or me.” If owner Mark Cuban has any brain at all, which I think he does, he’ll choose his franchise player, Luka, of course.
Now here’s my last basketball topic for today: I’m getting such a kick out of that I feel the bottom teams in the NBA are trying their hardest to not win another game. That is correct—I feel that, even though it’s against the rules, the Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, and *San Antonio Spurs are trying their hardest to lose now. None of them have won a game for at least a week and a half!!! This is why—the team with the worst record has the best chance to procure the #1 draft pick at the end of the season. That’s always a bonus, but this year is the ultimate. The prize is nineteen-year-old Victor Wembanyama from France, who is touted to be the best player in history down the line!!! (Right now, the NBA commissioner has referred to him as a “once-in-a-generation player.”) He’s 7’2” and due to his exceptional mobility and ball-handling skills, plays like a much shorter guard!
On that tip, I can’t wait for today’s game between the two teams in the best contention to be last! They both have to try to lose without being apparent about it. Obviously, I’m not the only one who’s thinking this way—Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has warned that the league would pay “particular attention” to see if any of the teams are “tanking” any games, so they can get that best chance at acquiring Victor in the draft.
I keep chuckling with glee whenever I think about it. *[Note: Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is my favorite basketball coach of all-time, and beloved by everyone, even opponents and the media to whom he gives one-word answers. So I can’t imagine him trying to lose. But I can’t vouch for the other two teams.]
Speaking of Pop, I seriously hope for Victor’s sake that he goes to the Spurs so that he can get coached by that wonderful man.
Meanwhile, when I began this article a week ago, it was meant to be a really brief one, believe it or not. I could talk basketball all day every day, but for my readers, who enjoy the very varied topics here on INAM, I feel that this is enough.
So I’ll end now, by saying that, for once, I have no clear-cut favorite in neither the NCAA nor NBA race. So really, may the best men win for sure this time.
Hey Karen, I love your sports articles. I’m sitting here watching the Final Four pre-show and I’m thinking they need YOU on the panel. You say things that no one else even thinks of. Maybe next year? Steve