Wow. What an incredible, amazing, heart-stopping weekend for the sport of college basketball that I love so dearly.
If you hate sports, or college basketball, you have my permission to stop reading now and skip to “The Princess Bride” photo below.
Because I have A LOT to say about the most incredible Elite 8 weekend I’ve ever seen, and I say that even though I’m super-depressed typing this, since Duke lost in a nail-biter for the second straight year in this round, coming agonizingly close to the Final Four then falling short.
— OK, first of all, I can’t remember an Elite 8 weekend that saw all four games be awesome and come down to the wire. Texas Tech, who I saw live at MSG against Duke in December and was super-impressed by, just played unbelievable defense against Gonzaga and scored just enough to pull out a win. Jarrett Culver and Co. were so tenacious, and played so well, that I think they might just win the whole thing.
— The next Elite 8 matchup, man, we’ll be talking about that one for years. Purdue and Virginia, both desperate to make the Final 4 for the first time since the 1980s, played a spectacular game. In the second half I was screaming with glee at my TV many times, as Purdue star Carsen Edwards and Virginia’s Kyle Guy went shot for shot, draining ridiculous 3-pointer after ridiculous 3-pointer.
It was thrilling, it was exhausting, and it was capped by a sensational play by Virginia’s Kihei Clark, who tossed a magnificent pass to his teammate Mamadi Diakite in the final second for a game-tying basket. Check this out, what a pass.
Such a cliche when you see a spectacular game end and say “It’s a shame someone had to lose.” But in Purdue-Virginia, it really was. It helps that these are two clean programs with no scandals attached to them, and there was great sportsmanship shown throughout the game. Carsen Edwards, I salute you. Just an amazing performance.
— On to the Sunday games, where the “Cheater’s Bowl” matchup of Auburn (coached by notorious cheater Bruce Pearl) took on John Calipari and Kentucky. As you know if you read this space, I loathe Kentucky and was thrilled to see them go down. Auburn’s guards, Harper and Brown, were sensational, and I was surprised at how little resistance the Wildcats gave in overtime, P.J. Washington excluded. Sometimes, freshmen play like freshmen. Tremendous accomplishment for Auburn, and I believe alum Charles Barkley may have wept on the CBS air after the win.
— And now, time for my therapy. All year, despite the incredible talent of Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, I knew Duke was a little bit fragile, and not quite as good as it should be. They couldn’t hit 3’s, they couldn’t make free throws, and as always, Mike Krzyzewski never developed his bench guys so the starters were often exhausted at the end of games.
And all three of those problems showed up Sunday. Look, Michigan State is a fantastic team, led by an all-time great coach in Tom Izzo, and the better squad won Sunday. I’m happy for Izzo because he’s a good dude and has been trying for a long long time to finally beat Duke in a big game.
But man, the Blue Devils shot themselves in the foot so many times Sunday. From R.J. missing that free throw at the end, to no reliable outside shooter to take the pressure off Zion inside, to once again Duke’s players looking totally wiped out at the end because K refused to play his bench, there was so much self-inflicted damage here.
Part of me (the rational part of my brain) realizes it’s ridiculous to ever complain when a Duke season ends, this team has given me so much joy and titles over my past 33 years as a fan, that anything they win now is just greedy.
But the other part of me, the irrational sports fan side, still takes these losses hard, because every Duke team is good enough to win a championship, and the margins are so thin, and two years in a row to come thisclose and come up short… ugh. I know I’m spoiled. But man, just once I’d like to see K use his bench more, and have Duke have gotten the ball to Zion more down in the final minute… Ah, to hell with it. Congrats to Michigan State. Go Sparty.
— Finally, sportswriter Jon Rothstein echoed my exact sentiments a few minutes after the Duke-Michigan State game ended, when he Tweeted this:
“Dear Zion Williamson, Thanks for being the best player college basketball has seen in an awfully long time. It was one hell of a ride. Best of luck in future endeavors. Sincerely, America.”
It was a privilege watching that young man, on and off the court. What an incredible talent. Please, basketball Gods, don’t put Zion on the Knicks. He doesn’t deserve that miserable fate.
**Finally today, now for something completely different. More than 30 years after it was released in movie theaters, when I first discovered it and laughed my ever-loving tuchus off watching it, “The Princess Bride” may be about to get another life… as a musical.
Yes, that’s right, the movie that I love as much as any other, ever, the movie that gave us Princess Buttercup and “As you Wish” and ROUS’es and “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die,” is now set to be a musical.
According to this story on People.com, writers have been hired to turn the classic movie into a musical, and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it.
On the one hand, it sounds like blasphemy. “The Princess Bride” is so many things: funny, smart, emotional, wise, tender, and just an incredible piece of art. But what it’s not? A film with singing. I mean, I guess you could make a musical number out of Fezzik’s rhymes on the boat (“Are there rocks ahead? If there are, we’ll all be dead.”), and maybe the adventures in the Fire Swamp could be entertaining through song. But I’m terrified it would be terrible.
But on the other hand… maybe they’ll honor the movie and the songs will be terrific and the acting is great (is there a 500-pound Broadway star who can -recreate Andre the Giant’s Fezzik?) and it’ll be wonderful.
I dunno. I have a feeling I’ll be buying tickets to see it. Unless I’m in a land war in Asia at the time…