Maybe you had a relaxing Sunday night in your corner of the world. Maybe you had a nice family dinner, drank some Pinot Grigio, watched a little TV, and went to sleep in a calm state of mind.
If you did that, yeah, you’re not a Duke fanatic like me. My goodness, I’m typing this sentence a full four hours after the Blue Devils got incredibly lucky and escaped with a 77-76 win over Central Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday night, and my heart rate is still not back to normal (I’ll be OK.)
In a thrilling, frustrating, fingernail-biting, wearing-a-groove-in-the-carpet-with-my-pacing kind of game, Duke played poorly on defense, erratically on offense, but thanks to the amazing talents of Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett (pictured above in the sports photo of the year, taken by Getty Images photographer Kevin C. Cox Friday night), and some horrible officiating on both sides, the Blue Devils survived.
They survived because, in the final seconds, UCF had two game-winning shots just miss, including a final tip-in by Aubrey Dawkins that rolled around the rim for at least 35 seconds (or so it seemed), and so Duke lived to see another day.
Honestly? They were lucky. Me and every other Duke fan can admit that. UCF outplayed them, Cam Reddish didn’t shoot nearly enough (he’s the most confounding Duke player since… I can’t remember the last guy with this much talent who disappears), and Coach K’s refusal to play his bench as usual cost the Blue Devils.
But, hey, they won. As did almost all the other heavyweight programs, which is where I begin my NCAA thoughts today…
— Cinderella? Anyone seen Cinderella? So most years we get at least two or three surprise teams in the Sweet 16s, teams that no one in the world predicted would win two games. Most years we definitely get one.
But this year, Cinderella’s invitation must’ve gotten lost in the email, because the Sweet 16 has zero upstarts. Now, as disappointing as it was that we had so few titanic upsets these first four days, the flip side is we’ve got some amazing games on tap for Thursday and Friday.
Florida State-Gonzaga. LSU-Michigan State. Duke-Va. Tech. Purdue-Tennessee. Texas Tech-Michigan. Auburn-UNC. So many big-time matchups means we’ll get a lot of great games.
So yeah, no Loyola-Chicago, or George Mason, or VCU this year in the Sweet 16. But so many terrific games lie ahead.
— OK, so we didn’t get a 16 seed upsetting a 1 seed like we did last year, but three of the four 16’s sure as hell scared the bejeezus out of top seeds. North Dakota State trailed Duke by only four at the half, Iona led UNC most of the first half, and Virginia, who of course was shocked by 16th seed UMBC last year, was down double-digits in the first half to Gardner-Webb before rallying to win easily.
I tell everyone this: The difference between the best teams in the best conferences, and the best teams in the smaller leagues, really isn’t that great when it comes to just one game, for 40 minutes. Anybody can beat anybody.
— Very surprisingly we didn’t have any true, game-winning buzzer beaters in the first two rounds; the NCAA Tournament is almost always good for a few. The closest we got was LSU’s Tremont Waters hitting a driving layup with 1.2 seconds left to lift the Tigers past Maryland.
But that’s OK, if we didn’t get any crazy buzzer-beaters in the Tournament, we got this insane shot from the NBA Sunday night, as the Charlotte Hornets’ Jeremy Lamb heaved in a half-court game-winner. Obscenely great shot.
— Best game of the first four days? Besides the Duke-UCF game Sunday night that nearly gave me a heart attack? For me it was Wofford-Seton Hall, just a terrific first-round game that saw the Terriers come out on top. Great shooting, great defense, the crowd was into it. It’s what the Tournament was all about.
— I really really really wanted Wofford to beat Kentucky Saturday, and amazingly the tiny school from South Carolina almost did. But star Fletcher Magee missed every 3-pointer he took (he’s the all-time career leader in Division I) and the Terriers fell just short. Great game, though.
— I hate it when what I know about a school “in real life” stops me from cheering for them in the Tournament. Example: Liberty University scored a wonderful upset Friday night, beating No. 5 seed Mississippi State. Liberty has a terrific young team, a good coach, and … then I remembered they represent a school founded and run by Jerry Falwell and his son, a pair of gentlemen who have spent their lives being bigoted, homophobic and outright hostile to anyone who doesn’t believe what they do.
So yeah, I couldn’t feel too good about the Liberty upset. Happy they lost Sunday.
— Most impressive teams so far? Purdue just destroyed Villanova. Gonzaga hasn’t broken a sweat, either. And I’d say Florida State is playing sensational as well right now.
— Last thought: Something has GOT to be done about all these replay reviews at the end of games. I wrote term papers in college that took less time to finish. Look, it’s one call, just make it please, referees!
**Finally today, a few words about what Miss Barbra Streisand had to say over the weekend. Now, like 90 percent of New Yorkers who are Jewish, I love Babs, always have, she’s got the voice of an angel, yada yada yada.
But even for someone I love (although few have ever loved themselves as much as she does), there is absolutely no defending the comments published over the weekend that she made about Michael Jackson, and the sexual molestation allegations against him.
Commenting to a British newspaper about the “Leaving Neverland” documentary about two of MJ’s accusers, Babs said this:
The two children involved “were thrilled to be there” and that what allegedly happened to them “didn’t kill them.”
“Michael’s sexual needs were his sexual needs.”
“His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has,” Streisand told The Times. “You can say ‘molested,’ but those children, as you heard say [grown-up Robson and Safechuck], they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”
Barbra… are you freaking kidding me??? It didn’t kill them, so it was all OK??? His sexual needs were his sexual needs??? Does that excuse a rapist’s sexual needs, or anyone else who commits a sex crime?
This is reprehensible. She better walk this back, fast. Really horrible comments.