I Drove to Detroit for This?
All I have to say about the Final Four is:
72,000 people at a basketball game is crazy – in a bad way.
Especially when about 50,000 of them are rooting against your team, and their team wins.
What else is there to say about the UConn loss to Michigan State? The free-throw shooting sucked (though at about 63 percent for the game, it was higher than I thought it was, but still way too low for a championship-caliber team); they turned the ball over too much (16 , vs. 11 for MSU); A.J. Price thought he was Superman and tried some ill-advised shots.
At least those were my during-the-game observations from our seats that were farther from the court than the entire length of Gampel Pavilion, give or take a few feet. I have to say, the Huskies surprised me with their last-minute run to cut MSU’s lead to 4 or 5 with time running out. We were already so sure of the loss we had sold our championship-game tickets to the Spartan fans behind us (with a friendly “Go Tarheels!” as the punctuation).
I had said UConn was not a Final Four team after the two losses to Pitt, and I was glad to be proven wrong. But in this loss, the lack of effort/execution in the second half was more painful than in those defeats or the 6-OT game against Syracuse. And let’s give credit to the Spartans. They played like they wanted it more. And their bench just killed. That had been our weakness, I thought, even before Dyson went down. It seems weird that Haralson could not have been developed and used more. And in the course of the season, there weren’t more times when you could put in Mandeldove to eat up minutes or foul points? I know we lost a few guys to the eligibility issues, and thankfully Miles to his rap sheet, and the women have a good chance of going all the way with basically seven players, but in this kind of game, against a deep team, it would have been nice to have more depth ourselves. Or if the bench guys who did play had contributed more.
And speaking of the women: Why didn’t we go to St. Louis instead? We’d be tooling around the city right now, a vacation of sorts, making plans to watch tonight’s men’s game with other devoted UConn fans looking to see MSU get spanked and eager to see their team go for Title #6 tomorrow night. But no. We wanted to experience the men’s Finals for the first and perhaps last time (truthfully, do you think a penalized and/or post-Calhoun time will be getting there again anytime soon? And the Final Four will never be played in an arena within an easy driving distance of of our new CT home, wherever that might be). And boy, were we experienced.
Some other random thought on our time in Detroit:
* We got to see Comerica Park, which was nice, though the giant tigers and bats outside gave it a kitschy, amusement-park feel. Still sorry we never got up there to see the Sox play.
* The MSU fans, I’m sure, sabotaged the designated pregame UConn bar. When we got there, the line was dozens deep with Spartan fans, and more were already inside and on the rooftop patio, with some of the cleverer ones (haha) shouting insults about UConn’s recruiting problems. The whole city was so stinking with Spartan green that there was no way I wanted to be there any longer than necessary.
* Our search to find a place that did not have overflow capacity took us to what had to be the worst bar in the downtown area. Is there a reason why you have to play lousy music at earsplitting volumes at 4 pm when the people in the place only care about a basketball game? And then charge 3 bucks for about 3 sips of club soda? I know, I know – because you can.
* Some of the MSU female students and alums were cute – in that Midwestern slutty/white trash kind of way.
* We drove through some very unsavory parts of the city on our way in. In retrospect, I’m glad we bagged the idea of taking the bus from our hotel. Though to be fair, I know there are parts of the South Side that look just as bad. Still, I would bet we did not see the worst of the Motor City.
* Thank god for the region’s large Middle Eastern population – finding a decent vegan lunch was a breeze, and the amount of food we got for 15 bucks was astounding.
* The NCAA is hypocritical (wow, what a revelation). The game is obviously not on a campus, but they consider it an on-site event and ban alcohol sales. Unless you’re a high roller in one of the corporate suites. From our trip to the women’s Final Four in 2000, we know the booze flows non-stop up there. And of course the NCAA has no problem with all those ad dollars paid for with beer sales.
Last basketball thought here at the Crisis till next year: The women looked great last night. I don’t want to get too cocky, but with our talent and the way we handled Louisville the last two times, tomorrow’s game should be fun. Let’s hope I didn’t just jinx them…