It started in Syracuse, NY, on November 8(3) Florida vs. (2) UCLA (CBS, 9:21pm ET)Florida is the younger team. They're also thinner--so why am I unable to imagine any scenario where UCLA wins going away? If Big Baby Davis and Tyrus Thomas couldn't make a dent offensively against Florida's front line (a performance emblematic of the interior D played by the Gators all season), then will we see big games tonight from the Bruins' bigs?Meaning UCLA's guards are the wild card--how they shoot and, just as important, how well they hold on to the ball. Speaking in terms we Big Ten fans would understand (wow, the Big Ten: remember them?), Jordan Farmar has a little Alando Tucker in him. He takes the most shots of any starter, yet scores with less efficiency than any starter (1.05 PPWS for the year). And unlike Tucker he turns the ball over a lot. So do the Bruins, giving the ball away on 27 percent of their possessions over the past two games. It hasn't mattered because their D has been so spectacular. But it could matter tonight.Of course, Florida faces its own challenges in going up against this UCLA D. The 12 threes against George Mason? That's not likely to recur this evening. And the Gators, while not as charitable as the Bruins, have their own struggles in holding on to the ball. (Question: how has a team that blocks so many shots committed so few fouls? Ordinarily, foul trouble would be a worry with a relatively thin young team that blocks a lot of shots. Yet no one talks about it--and rightly so, according to the numbers. Just wondering.)It should be a close game. As an Illinois fan I will be pulling for Florida so that my team didn't lose to the team (Washington) that lost to the team (Connecticut) that lost to the team (George Mason) that lost to the team (Florida) that lost to the national champion (UCLA). Go back a step and Air Force, of course, was swallowed one more time than the Illini. Each year I choose to term that unlucky team--the one that sets off a chain reaction of next-round defeats--the poison pill. If UCLA wins tonight, Air Force is this year's poison pill. If the Gators prevail, the poison pill is...Iowa. Yikes. And so the season that started almost five months ago with St. Francis (PA) facing Cornell in the Carrier Dome in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic comes to a close.
In today's less Wonk-ish venues.... Hard to believe we're here already but I'm about to put the blog on its annual hiatus. Barring unforeseen developments, Friday's post should be the last one. I will then dutifully shut the old girl down for the off-season like a Bar Harbor lobster pound.
Meantime I have many festivities planned for this, the last week: links to film clips (including classics like the Ed Ames tomahawk throw, my whipped cream fight with Burt Reynolds, and the time Don Rickles guest-blogged and broke my "For those about to Wonk" coffee mug), cameo appearances by guest stars (watch for the hilarious spoof of Munich with me, Beyonce, Ken Pomeroy, Quin Snyder, Kyle Whelliston, and Carrot Top--they were all good sports, really, and great to work with), and, of course, an obligatory give-us-a-standing-O Martin-and-Lewis-esque reconciliation moment between Billy Packer and me. Tune in all week long! Wonk back! Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!Majerus gets personalOn Friday, in the process of clarifying my stance on Billy Packer, I cited the example of Rick Majerus as someone who, while capable of being "flat-out odd," is a great analyst. The readers respond!Your mention of Rick Majerus today reminded me of my favorite quote from this season. It was on ESPN at halftime of a game between UConn and somebody. Steve Lavin and Majerus were back in the studio and the conversation turned to Rudy Gay. Majerus' quote was "I am not a big Gay guy." You could tell Lavin thought it was hysterical but Majerus didn't crack a smile. Mark D.Thanks, Mark!