Monday, March 26, 2007

MATH Update, and Georgetown Mania

The last Mondays at the Hoy of the first quarter went down last night, a much shorter version than usual for this event as there were some interesting things going on that helped the usual 18-player field be eliminated early and often in this thing. Some of it was donkey play, but for the most part there was just some incredible card-racking going on the likes of which I have not seen in some time. In fact, we didn't even get to see the usual ATC-type of foolishness that has dominated the end game play in some instances in this event, because the one particular player's card rackishness extended all the way from the first hand to the final table, through the bubble and right up to the last hand of the entire tournament. And that card rack of a player was none other than....

Sir Waffles.

I mean it. I've never seen card rackage like this from start to finish in a blogger tournament in my entire life. No exaggeration. But hey, at least Waffles didn't waste his big early lead like he has at some points in the past. He made some good plays with his great cards, and managed to get a lot of donkeys to call his allin moves, and to push in on him when he was holding the best hand (almost all the time last night). After Waffles spent the entire first 30 minutes or so of the tournament promising to eliminate Iakaris when he got the chance, Iak threatened to ruin that possibility while at the other table when he dropped down to I believe just 18 chips left after a particularly bad run. Nonetheless, Iak, the Jack Strauss of the bloggers, managed to double up, then triple up, and then double up a few more times to build a good-sized stack by the middle of the final table, and in the end it was Waffles, myself and then Iak entering three-handed play as the tournament's three cash winners for the week, with me getting the benefit of a huge chip-up nearing the cash bubble after Columbo's limp with AA fell victim to my limped KK when a King hit the flop and then, of course, all hell broke loose after the flop on that hand.

So yes, that makes five cashes in ten MATH tournaments for me so far this year. And more importantly, I spent the better part of the night hoping, helping and praying for Fuel55 and Bayne to get eliminated before me, my two closest competitors heading into this week on the 2007 Hoy moneyboard, and when Fuel finally went down around the middle of the pack, and then Bayne in the middle of the final table, I felt a huge sense of relief and was able to open up my game. I have a lead to protect after all, and the bragging rights on my own blog are hard to put a value on as far as I'm concerned. In the end, Iak was the first of the three cashers to fall victim to a big flopped hand by Waffles, leaving me at a more than 4-to-1 chip deficit heading into heads-up play with the luckbox of the night. I played it pretty smart I would say given my short stack, making good reads on Waffles, meaning that most of the times I laid it down, he would show a set, top two pairs, top and bottom pairs, or at worst just plain old top pair. While I was busy getting 74o and J3o dealt to me time and time again, Waffles' luck continued as he flashed several Ace-high hands to go along with his consistent hitting of flops in a way that is highly rare during heads-up play. In the end I got just what I wanted, getting Waffles to call my allin raise on the flop with him having just middle pair middle kicker (just about the worst hand he saw in maybe 20 or 25 heads-up hands) while I had a flush draw, but that flush draw was not meant to be against Waffles on this night. In fact, just for good measure, Waffles ended up runner-runnering a full house on that hand anyways (just that kind of night for the donkey guy), so the flush would not have been any good anyways even if it had filled. So by the time the smoke had cleared, Waffles had smushed everyone in his path, eliminating probably a good half of the total Hoy field on the night to take down his first-ever Mondays at the Hoy title and climb his way onto the 2007 moneyboard with a $180 first-place cash, followed up by myself in 2nd place for $108, and Iakaris in 3rd place for $72, also making his first appearance on the annual leaderboard:

And here are the updated annual MATH moneyboard standings, as of the end of the first quarter of 2007:

1. Hoyazo $580
2. Fuel55 $458
3. Bayne_s $410
4. Zeem $330
5. VinNay $310
6. Wigginx $288
7. Manik79 $252
8. Byron $234
9. Omega_man_99 $210
10. Waffles $180
10. bartonfa $180
12. Santa Clauss $170
13. Smokkee $162
14. Chad $120
15. Ganton516 $114
16. NewinNov $90
17. Shag0103 $84
18. Columbo $80
18. PhinCity $80
18. jeciimd $80
21. Iakaris $72
21. l.e.s.ter000 $72
23. Julius Goat $60

So, back to this past weekend, one of the most enjoyable weekends I can remember in a long time. Not only did I win my WSOP seat in the full tilt bracelet race on Friday (see yesterday's post for details), but just before that on Friday I also got to watch my alma mater Georgetown University steal a victory in the Sweet 16 from Vanderbilt on a last-second shot by Big East player of the year Jeff Green to turn a 1-point deficit into a 1-point victory for my beloved Hoyas. Yes on the replay I would say it is fairly clear that Green traveled before scoring the winning basket, but #1 this violation was not at all visible except on the replay, and #2 and more importantly, I am of the camp that does not believe that violation should have been called in any event. Jeff Green made a great play, nobody thought it was a travel until seeing the replay, and in the end I do not think anyone is to blame for Vanderbilt's loss other than Vanderbilt. I know that is a hard line to take when I say on the replay that I fully admit to Green pivoting on both of his feet in the process of taking that last shot. But, all I can say is that I liken it to watching a slow-motion replay of Jordan going in on a fast break and counting three steps after he picks up the dribble. Or, maybe an even better analogy, like watching a game-winning touchdown pass on slo-mo and seeing an obvious tug on a jersey by one of the offensive linemen during the replay, one that was not visible in real-time from normal sight angles. Just like in that football analogy, Vandy had one clear and easy way to win that game -- stop Jeff Green from getting the ball, stop him from marching his way into position for an easy 4-foot bank shot, or stop him from taking that shot and getting it off cleanly.

So that was how the weekend began in Hammer Land. Georgetown in to the Elite 8 for the first time since Allen Iverson's last year in DC in 1996, and I'm going to the WSOP. Already a kickass weekend. But then, as I had alluded to in my posts late last week, my Vanderbilt friends who had purchased tickets to both the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games at the Meadowlands had already agreed to give me a ticket to the Elite 8 game if Georgetown managed to beat Vanderbilt, which we did. Thus, Sunday afternoon could not come fast enough for me, and as the hour got closer and closer, the clock seemed to be moving slower and slower and slower. Finally, after spending the morning playing inside with the kids, and then a nice spring afternoon at the park outside our apartment, 3pm on Sunday afternoon rolled around, and I hopped in the car to head over to East Rutherford, NJ for without a doubt the biggest game in Georgetown basketball in the past 20 years. For the first time in this year's NCAA Tournament, my Hoyas were actually the underdog, receiving 3.5 points playing as a #2 seed against the top-seeded North Carolina Tarheels.

Now I don't know about youse guys, but I watch a whole lot of college basketball. Maybe not quite as much as I did in my college days, before wives and kids and family obligations kinda took things over, but I still manage to watch a good little bit. So I know about Carolina, and all the talent they have on this team. Carolina seems to me to be the most raw-talented, purely athletic team in the country this year if you go player for player. They may not have the best big man in the country, and they may not have the best overall player in the country, but as far as top 5 or 7 players in terms of pure athleticism, UNC is just about as good as it gets this year. And they showed it early and often in the game aganist Georgetown on Sunday.

There were a lot of Carolina fans at the game. A lot. Part of the reason for this is that as a rule Carolina tends to travel very well as far as the basketball program goes. That's what happens when you make like 25 straight Sweet 16s, and something like 8 Final 4s in the last 20 years or whatever the stats are. They're sick, that's all you need to know. If my team always won at least 4 games in the tournament, and always won at least one title every 7 or 8 years it seems, I would probably follow them around every year in the NCAA tournament too, at least whenever they were playing somewhere within my immediate vicinity. In fact, one reason for the number of Carolina fans way up outside of New York City is that the Carolina fans are so confident that, even when their team was down 16 points to USC late in the first half of their Sweet 16 game, even at that very moment, the Carolina fans over at the Meadowlands were frantically offering to buy the Sunday tickets from anyone who would offer them up, for way more than face value. They were just that sure that their team would come back and overpower the less talented, less experienced USC team. And they were right, UNC used their athleticism to completely donk out USC in the second half, taking that game from a 14-point deficit to about an 8-point led seemingly in just minutes, going on a couple of different amazing shutout runs to put USC away early in the second half despite having been so far behind just a short while earlier.

Anyways, back to the Georgetown game. The atmosphere in the Continental Airlines arena was pretty electric right from the getgo, unfortunately led more by the louder Carolina fans, all dressed in their shitty Carolina blue shirts and shorts. And they really were loud. It didn't hurt that most of what there was to cheer for in the game was in favor of Carolina until the very end. Even when Georgetown took an early 22-15 lead, the Carolina fans were definitely more vocal, more into it and just generally more confident than the Hoya faithful, and with good reason. I remember first thinking we might really stick it to UNC when Hoya freshman DeJuan Summers hit a long jumper to put us up 22-15, but from that point on, UNC used its extreme athleticism to go on an 11-0 run that could not have taken more than 90 seconds to rattle off. That game went from 22-15 Georgetown, to 26-22 Carolina in the span of maybe two minutes of real time, as every time Carolina's guards got the ball, they pushed it upcourt using their extreme speed, dribbled right by half of the Georgetown team, and usually found toothless big man Tyler "Hillsbilly" Hansborough or freshman sensation Brandon Wright for dunks or layups, with the occasional jumper from a guard outside just to keep Georgetown honest. The fact that the referees were calling the game in the first half as if they had each dropped 100 large on Carolina minus the points didn't help matters either, as Hillsbilly could do no wrong on the inside on either side of the court, and the Hoyas were in the team bonus at around the 10-minute mark, while UNC did not make the bonus until the final minute or two of the half.

For the next 30 minutes or so of game time, from around 5 minutes into the first half until around 8 minutes left in the second half, Georgetown would make a little run here or there, but in contrast to Carolina who probably had 3 or 4 runs of 6 points or more during the game, the Hoyas' runs would be 4-0 and 5-0 at most. And the end result was that the Hoyas never got closer than 5 points, and spent most of the middle portion of the game closer to 8 or 10 points behind the simply faster and more athletic Tarheels. But one thing Georgetown was doing very well was using the back-door cuts to get easy layups. In a brilliant example of the "Princeton offense" at its best, there had to be no fewer than 13 baskets (not 13 points mind you, but 13 baskets) for Georgetown that were straight-up wide-open layups. And I'm not talking on fast break opportunities, which Georgetown had about zero of during the game. I mean in the half-court offense, with our big men setting beautiful back-pick after beautiful back-pick, and our guards and forwards repeatedly streaking to the hoop and getting themselves open for easy putins. And in doing so, Georgetown never let the game get completely out of hand. I recall looking up at the scoreboard around halfway through the second half and seeing it was an 11-point UNC lead. But that's as high as it got.

And then, mercifully, UNC finally went cold. After shooting I think about 145% from the field during the first 30 minutes of game time, finally they stopped hitting every shot they took and some that they didn't even take just for good measure. The referees stopped calling the fouls completely biased in UNC's favor, and even let Georgetown big man Roy Hibbert make some contact without calling fouls that they could have. And most of all, Georgetown kept doing its thing. And the best part was, as we hit the last 5 or 6 minutes of the game, Georgetown brought the lead back down to 6 points, the closest it had been early in the first half, and the nature of the crowd began to change. Those Carolina fans who had been standing through most of the game thus far weren't standing anymore. The clowns yelling "TAR" and "HEELS" on opposite sides of the stadium were replaced with similarly alternating chants of "HOYA" and "SAXA", and "Let's Go Georgetown!". At first these chants started slow, but as the minutes progressed, and the Hoyas first cut the lead to 4 and then 3 points with just a few minutes left, they grew louder. UNC would use their athleticism to bring the lead back up to 5 or 6 points, and the Carolina fans in the house would cheer, but it wasn't the same as earlier in the game. The fans were scared, for the first time all night. And you know what?

The Carolina players were scared too. You could see it in their eyes, in the way they handled the ball, more deliberately, with a little more care than they had been using previously. Always thinking about every shot, in retrospect I think they were thinking a little too much even. They stopped going to their bread and butter from all game which had been Hillsbilly on the inside, and instead opted again and again for 3-pointers or long 2-point jumpers, and they were not hitting them as Georgetown always had a hand in their face. Momentum had clearly shifted the Hoyas' way, and everyone in the stadium, from the fans down to the players themselves, knew it.

With a minute left, the game that we had all been sure was over just 5 or 6 minutes of game time earlier was once again brought back to 3 points thanks to a Jeff Green jumper from the baseline. Then when Carolina missed another shot and Roy Hibbert grabbed the rebound for the Hoyas, Georgetown coach John Thompson III called a timeout, and the play was drawn up that JTIII would later explain in the post-game conference was always designed for a quick 3-pointer from Georgetown junior sharpshooter Jonathan Wallace. The whistle blew to begin the play, and suddenly the entire stadium full of fans were on our feet, witnessing Georgetown's first opportunity to tie this game since early in the first half. The play worked to perfection, as the inbounds came to Wallace, who passed briefly to Jeremiah Rivers before Rivers kicked it quickly back to Wallace for the long-distance shot. Swooosh! Nothing but net, and the game was tied.

Hoya Paranoia was on now in the house. You could hardly hear a peep coming out of any of the Carolina sections. The stadium, which had seemed decidedly pro-UNC for the majority of the game, suddenly sounded more like a Hoyas homegame than a neutral-court Elite 8 game in the NCAA tournament. With the game tied and the shot clock turned off, Carolina took a time out and then ran a play that ended, amazingly, in yet another 3-point attempt for Carolina. It missed, as did most of Carolina's shots after the halfway point in the second half, and Patrick Ewing, Jr. went sky high and grabbed the rebound. With just two seconds left and the crowd going crazy, Jonathan Wallace could not get a shot off in time, and to overtime we went.

Despite the fact that the teams started off overtime on equal footing, with equal scores and each with no players fouled out of the game, it just didn't seem that way when you were there watching it live. The Carolina players (and their fans) were utterly dejected. They had held a comfortable lead for almost this entire game, and then here in the final minute of play the Hoyas had tied it up for the first time since about five minutes into the game, and Carolina had even missed a last-possession chance to win it and cut down the nets. The fans that had been so smugly supportive of Carolina all through the game were almost inaudible to start the overtime session, while the Georgetown fans were going crazy, having completely taken over the atmo in the stands and on the court. If you watched the game, you know that this overtime period was over even before it started, as Georgetown scored almost every possession down the court, grabbed just about every single rebound, and meanwhile Carolina didn't hit a single shot or even score a single point in overtime until a meaningless bucket from Hillsbilly with just 30 seconds left with his team down double-digits. It was incredible. It was obvious from just a minute or two into the OT that the Hoyas were going to win. Carolina was beaten. Emotionally. Physically. And on the scoreboard, it was done. Georgetown shut Carolina out completely in the overtime until the game was all but put away, outscoring the Heels 15-3 in the extra session to put the icing on a huge 96-84 win. I had absolutely no voice whatsoever by the end of the game, as I'm sure most of the Hoya fans in attendance didn't, because we were loud as hell and had a whole lot to cheer about as the game wore on. It was a great example of what playing all 40 minutes of a basketball game can do to an opponent, and how you can wear them down with a number of easy backdoor baskets while you make them push hard for every single shot, and work hard for every single shot, from the second the ball is first tipped until the final whistle is blown.

A few key stats really highlight just how bad the late-game collapse was for Carolina in this game, stats which being there live we didn't even realize the magnitude of until we got in our cars to head home and heard these numbers over the radio:

Over the final 12:18 of game (UNC led 75-65 with 7:18 left in regulation, plus the 5-minute overtime), Georgetown outscored Carolina 31-9, with Georgetown making 10 of 17 field goals while Carolina shot an abysmal 2 out of 22 field goals (yeech!). Georgetown made just 1 of 3 3-point attempts, the one make being the shot by Jonathan Wallace to tie the game with under a minute to play, while UNC shot a John Starksian 1 for 13 from 3-point land. In the end, thanks to all the backdoor layups for the Hoyas as well as some strong play from Hibbert on the inside, Georgetown outscored UNC in points in the paint by a 56-32 margin, including 7 blocks from 7-foot-2 Hibbert who picked up I believe 6 of those blocks in the second half and the overtime session.

In the end, Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green shot 17-28 field goals over the Hoyas' last two games, and the team as a whole had a +12.7 points-per-game differential in the second half and OT over its last 3 games against UNC, Vanderbilt and Boston College. Very strong signs of the excellent coaching that this team is experiencing under JTIII. In fact, after watching this comeback, and the way the team has fought back throughout this tournament, and seeing all those backdoor cuts and well-designed plays in key spots where we need to hit big shots to stay in games, I am ready to state, for the record, that John Thompson III is hands-down the best coach in the entire country. I mean it. It's too early for the public at large to quite agree with this sentiment yet, but you heard it here first. Look at what he is doing with this team that probably has, realistically speaking, maybe 5% of the talent that a team like Duke or Carolina or UCLA gets every single year. Every. Single. Year. Who was the last top recruit who went to Georgetown? Can you name even one? Sure, Hibbert is a big guy at 7-2. But was Duke knocking down his door to go there? Did he pick Georgetown over scholarship offers from Kansas, UCLA and UNC? Not. What JTIII has done with this team is nothing short of phenomenal, and I'm telling you guys he is the best coach there is in college basketball today. Do yourself a favor and go watch his team play live one of these days. Watch how they execute the Princeton offense to perfection. Watch how smart they play the game -- something I would never have said in a million years when his daddy was the coach of the team while I went to school there. It's true. As long as JTIII is the coach, Georgetown is so back on the map of the college basketball landscape. And I couldn't be happier about it.

Going forward, I'll write much more about this later in the week I'm sure, but I think Georgetown has an excellent chance of beating Ohio State. I didn't think this when the tournament began, but after watching this whole tournament, I believe Georgetown is a better team than OSU, despite the fact that the best individual player on the court will clearly be OSU big man Greg Oden. The Hoyas enter their first Final Four in 22 years clearly as the hottest team in country, having won 20 of 21 games including wins over 8 ranked teams in that streak, and our only losses this entire season were to five teams that made the tournament, plus Syracuse who got jobbed worse than any team in history (literally) to go 10-6 in the Big East, 22 wins overall, and beating Georgetown in the last week of the regular season but still somehow missed out on a bid. Don't get me started on the Selection Committee and their sexual practices with respect to the ACC, let's not go there again.

In closing, my favorite part of being at the game on Sunday was with 10 minutes left and his team up double-digits, some fuckdink UNC fan in the row behind me made the comment loudly to his neighbor that "this Georgetown team only has two players". And see, that's exactly the thing that makes this Hoyas team so great -- in reality, they have at least five solid players, all of whom are capable of taking over for portions of a game and of carrying the team with huge contrubutions when it's needed. If this team only has two solid players, fuckbag, then who were those five Georgetown players in double digits that helped take this idiot's beloved Tarheels down on Sunday? With a very solid starting five players, some great size in the middle in Roy Hibbert, confident and cocky ball-wanting forward Jeff Green, and sharpshooting guard John Wallace, along with the best coach college basketball has to offer right now, I think Georgetown is not only set to go at least a bit further in this year's NCAA tournament, but the future looks bright for this team that has just two seniors -- our two lowest-scoring players who you've never heard of, averaging together exactly 0.4 points per game for the team. And I can't wait to watch it all unfold under JTIII's leadership over the coming days and the coming seasons.

I love this game!

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Blogger SirFWALGMan said...

HAHAHA! Jealous Much? If you ever send me my payout for knocking you out I may just play the Hoy again next week to prove it was not a fluke, lol.

11:57 PM  
Blogger BigPirate said...

My hatred of UNC knows no bounds. Once, when asked if I seen a UNC-Duke game, I responded 'Why? Did the building fall down?" "No." "Then I don't care."

I once pulled for UNC. In 2005 or so, when they had the monster team of Carter, Jamison, et al, I found their name under my Mountain Dew cap. Now, this was when MD was still giving a pretty nice prize if your team won the tournament so I gritted my teeth and quietly rooted for UNC to win. Despite having the best team in the tournament, they went home early. Yes, UNC screwed me again. I had a five team North Carolina parlay this football season. East Carolina, Wake, Duke, and NC State all covered. Who screwed me? UNC, which couldn't cover against the weakest Miami team in years. I'll stop the litany now but be assured it covers years of losing when I pick UNC and losing when I pick against them (thank YOU Tim Floyd).

When cable TV first came to our town, WTTG was part of the basic package. That year was 1981. I watched the Hoyas every game that season until the last game when Bwrown threw the ball to Worthy. I pretended to be Patrick Ewing for years as I swatted away the shorter neighborhood kid's shots in our driveway.

I enjoyed the game Sunday very much.

3:15 AM  
Blogger TripJax said...

Be sure and read my latest post about my experience with the game..doh!

8:22 AM  
Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

awesome...finally made the to begin my assault on the top tier...

9:05 AM  
Blogger DOUBLE DADS said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:03 PM  
Blogger DOUBLE DADS said...

You should write more about sports, btw WSU was ready to ruin georgetown.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Who the F is WSU?
Ha ha I assume you mean Washington State? They are an embarrassment compared to my boys in blue and grey. Sorry, the truth can hurt I know.

7:54 PM  

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