Tuesday, April 3, 2012

WOS Live-Blogs the NCAA Championship Game

First Off: an apology--it's been too long since I've written.  C'est la vie.

So, I once said I wasn't going to become the Bill Simmons of wineblogging, but I'm doing exactly that with this post.  Some background: I've been a Kentucky fan for as long as I can remember.  My mom's family is from Louisville (via the Hardinsburg area), and I grew up watching UK games with my grandmother when we visited.  As everyone knows, when you're indoctrinated that early, it's hard to shake.  So last night, on the advice of my blog consultant guru, I live-blogged the event.

I got home closer to tip-off than I expected, because I was at Winestone picking out wine to go with my mom's easter dinner on Sunday.  I settled on a Szigeti Sparkling Gruner Veltliner to start off, a 2009 Raffault Chinon "Les Galuches" to go with the main course of grilled butterflied leg of lamb, cheese grits, and other delicious stuff.  To finish off, a 2010 Michele Chiarolo Moscato d'Asti "Nivole" with the dessert of ricotta pie.  There was collateral damage, as there nearly always is at Winestone, and I'll write about those wines soon enough.

On to the live blog:

8:30 - 53 minutes to tipoff, and I'm watching "Live from the Masters" on ESPN.  Lack of actual pregame coverage is a huge mistake by CBS.  That being said, the Masters is one of my 5 favorite sporting moments every year, and I'd probably be watching this anyway.  (Wimbledon, Super Bowl, NCAA champ., Masters, KY Derby, thanks for asking).  This is an enormous matchup tonight.  Kentucky and Kansas, UK and KU, the two winningest programs in college basketball history, Anthony Davis vs. a giant white guy, two of the best recruiters in the game, the storylines are never ending, just like Anthony Davis' eyebrow.  I'm a die-hard Kentucky fan.  I was raised watching UK games at my grandmother's house in Louisville (she was class of '55 at UK), and used to throw shit at the TV with her as she yelled "Reeeebound that basketball."  My first sentient college basketball memory is the Laettner shot (thanks UPS for reviving that.  Don't know whether the Buckner clip or that one is worse to watch), and I was spoiled by the Pitino championship in '96, and the championship Tubby won with Pitino's recruits in '98.  I lived through the Billy Gillispie era.  This is my favorite Kentucky team to watch since the '04-'05 team with Rajon Rondo feeding Randolph Morris.  Yep, better than the Wall/Bledsoe/Patterson/Cousins/Random 5th guy team from '09-'10.  So, I'm a little nervous.

8:39 - What am I drinking tonight?  Well, right now a Victory HopDevil IPA which is a generously hopped India Pale Ale.  Really enjoying this one.  Good tropical fruit bitterness from the hops, but a solid malty core that balances it nicely.  What will I be drinking for the game? Probably some Racer 5 IPA, some Great Divide Colette Saison, and some Victory Prima Pils.  And if Kentucky opens up a huge lead and things look good, then I'll be popping a 2010 The Forager Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast or a Mystic Brewery Descendent Suffolk Dark Ale aged in Bourbon Barrels.  And if Kentucky get crushed?  I'll be drinking a shitload of Brooklyn Summer Ale and feeling much like I did after the Super Bowl (i.e. not pretty).

8:52 - Just ordered Thai food.  Getting more and more nervous about the Davis/Withey matchup.  I don't like Davis going up against someone taller than him.  That said, you could be 13 feet tall and not block Davis' turn around jump hook.  This just in: IPAs are awesome with thai food.  For the same reason that reislings and gewurztraminers are--awesome fruity characteristics play well with the spicy sweet combo of most Asian foods.

8:53 - That being said, after a close victory over Rick Pitino's hair, John Calipari's hair is a CLEAR favorite over Bill Self's hair.

8:55 - In case you were wondering, here are my 5 picks for the Masters not named Tiger/Phil/Rory: 1) Keegan Bradley (can bomb it, has won a major),  2) Hunter Mahan (won the match play and last weekend, can go really low), 3) Adam Scott (Steve Williams knows this course really, really well), 4) Bill Haas (no holes in his game), and 5) Sang-Moon Bae (My sleeper pick.  This kid can flat out play)

9:01 - CBS has kicked off coverage with a Kansas/Kentucky montage to "We are Young" by Fun.. (yep, intentional double period...the band's name is "Fun.")  Steve Kerr, Jim Nantz, and Clark Kellogg are sitting just a litttttle too close, perched on 3 tiny stools.  Can't someone just get these guys a broadcast booth to do pregame?

9:04 - CBS steals my thunder by highlighting Darius Miller's importance to the Wildcats.  If I'm Cal, I bring Miller on as soon as I can in place of Lamb, hell I might even start him.  This guy played through the Billy Gillispie era.  Think this is going to scare him? When I imagine the Gillispie era, it's just a continuous loop of a manic Gillispie drunkenly yelling at this players during practice that they'll never be as good as Acie Law.

9:09 - Charles Barkley's delivery has more hitches than his golf swing.

9:10 - According to Seth Davis, Kentucky's offense is good.  Go figure.

9:11 - Is anyone doing more to revamp their reputation than John Calipari has done with his interviews during this tournament?  He is coming across as not only genuinely likable, but as someone who really cares about his kids.  Meanwhile, Bill Self is a horrible motivational speaker.  

9:15 - 3/4 of the talking heads pick Kentucky.  The only prediction that makes me happy is Barkley saying it won't be close.  I love blowouts.  I hate close games.

9:18 - This has to be one of the worst, if not the worst, national anthem ever.  Bill Self looks so confused by it.  Also, notice that this marks the only time tonight that there will be 4 white guys on the court from the same team.  Congratulations, The Fray, you're whiter than Kansas.

9:27 - I'm so nervous I can barely watch the tip off.  I'll check in at the media timeouts.

9:36 - How do they not even look at that foul on MK-G? Looked flagrant-1 to me, but then again I'd rather they let them play in the finals.  Davis looked a little bit overawed at the start but is bringing the intensity on the defensive end. Like Cal bringing on Miller for Jones.  Teague looks awesome. Cal is super animated on the sideline. Like the early look of this.  The early pace of the game has to favor Kentucky.  How did Self let his kids come out and run a track meet.  There is NO way Kansas can keep up with Kentucky if this turns into a running game.  Don't like how dominant Thomas Robinson has been against Jones in the early going though.  Troubling.

9:46 - Love the intensity from the Wildcats.  UK survived the first time Davis had to sit down.  Wiltjer is going to be beloved by Big Blue Nation by the time his career is over.  Not since Patrick Sparks has the UK faithful had a solid white guy to cheer for, and we all know how much they secretly love that.  Thomas Robinson is playing scared on the defensive end, and Kentucky needs to take as much advantage of that as they can before the end of the first half.  MK-G is an absolute beast.  There's a 35% chance he's not even human.  We know Davis isn't a human, but I never thought until today that the same thing might be true of MK-G.  Watch for Men in Black IV starring Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist in place of Jones and Smith.  Marquis Teague can play the talking dog.

9:58 - I'm happy, I can't lie.  But I'm about as unconfident as it's possible to be with Kentucky sitting on a 12 point lead.  Why is that? UK has had to play really well to get out to this lead, and Kansas has looked sloppy.  Don't think that's going to last all night.  That said, Robinson has been ineffective against the Jones/Davis double team in the low post, which is a good sign.  I've moved on to Racer 5 IPA which is the prototypical West Coast IPA, which means it has been hopped, and hopped, and hopped some more.  This is playing more to the bitter flavors than the HopDevil was, and I like it.  Different applications require different beers.

10:08 - Refs starting to audition for NBA jobs.  Is there any other sport with more comically bad officiating than basketball?  They should just show a graphic that says "this game is required to be within 15 points at all times" before the tip, it would erase a lot of confusion.  Kentucky needs to not realize that they're absolutely dominating Kansas right now.  If they realize that, the game's back in Kansas' hands.  If it stays this way, we have about 20 minutes of game time until Coach Cal starts to have '08 flashbacks.  Wait, '08 never happened.  Right, nevermind.

10:18 - Halftime--Really bad sequence there for UK to end the half.  Davis gets his 2nd foul, plus a couple wasted possessions on offense.  That being said, I'd have taken a 14 point lead at halftime if you'd offered it to me, so I can't really complain about this one.  Kentucky seems to be going through one of their "bored" spells.  This is a team that thrives on being tested, and when they're not being tested they think they're a little better than they actually are.  Hubris kills.  I'm optimistic for the 2nd half, and one of the reasons is Davis hasn't even scored yet.  UK is up by 14 with no offensive help from one of its best offensive players.  If Davis can get some cheap putbacks or tip ins, this game could be over.

10:44 - 2 ugly blown out of bounds calls by the officials against UK to start the 2nd half.  Gotta keep this one close boys.

10:45 - Not even going to mention that sequence

10:48 - Kentucky would really benefit from getting Withey in foul trouble.  43-30 with 15 and change left.  If Kentucky can get to 65, I think they have this game won.  Need to keep pushing the pace and forcing Kansas to run with them.  Scary moment for Kansas--Teague goes out with 2 fouls and he and Cal are joking on the bench as he sits down.  This UK team is calm and playing older than it is.  There can't be anyone outside of Big Blue Nation that likes the sight of that right now.

10:51 - CBS is just as excited about the Masters as I am!

10:52 - Davis off the mark.  And despite Kansas' best stretch of basketball in the game, they're down by just as much as they were at halftime.

10:53 - Davis picks Robinson's pocket and Jones finishes emphatically.  Might be almost, almost, time to break out the bourbon barrel dark ale.  I can hear my grandmother all the way in Louisville cheering as she drinks her O'Douls.

10:54 - Wow, Tom Cruise, everyone knew your career had stalled, but you didn't need to come out and admit it like that.

10:56 - I'm really enjoying CBS' coverage of this game today.  Think both the in game crew and the halftime/pregame crew have done an excellent job throughout.

10:59 - Why, why, why, does this have to be close?

11:01 - I'm so miserable. Kentucky by 10.  Just blow it out.  How many chances do you need?  Is it that difficult?
11:03 - and Cue the UPS Christian Laettner commercial.  I almost can't take this. I might need to go to bed and just hope for the best. I've switched to Strongbow cider.  It's both happy and sad tasting, and so very appropriate.  Also, it comes in tallboys. 

11:06 - Would it be weird if I adopted Doron Lamb?  Because I want to.  His actions make me happy.

11:09 - I just want Kentucky to step on their throats.  Put it away boys, don't let them scratch their way back.  Right now Kansas is like 2 and a Half Men in the Ashton Kutcher era.  (Nice CBS reference, huh?)

11:12 - Under 8 timeout, UK 56-44 KU.  KU has tried everything it can to get the momentum back, but have been stopped every time by big shots from Kentucky (namely Doron Lamb, my son).  Kentucky is getting away from running at Kansas and has effectively said "well run out the clock, try to beat us." This might be the stupidest tactic ever.  Kentucky's a running team and they look hugely out of sync setting up in the half-court offense every time.  UK needs buckets in transition.  Badly.  Kansas has missed 11 layups and 2 dunks.  Anthony Davis is in their heads.

11:19 - Davis with a baseline jumper.  That's a pivotal shot.  The last thing Kansas needed was for Davis to wake up for the last 5 minutes of the game offensively.

11:21 - Seriously fuck my life.

11:22 - Under 4 timeout UK 59-50 KU.  9 point lead, under 4 minutes to play.  Sound familiar? I don't know if I can stomach this ending.  This feels like the 2007 super bowl except worse, and yet we're still winning.  I hope this entry makes the least sense when read afterward.

11:26 - see you at the end.

11:30 - Just kidding.  This is agonizing.  Marquis Teague with a huge (lucky) iso three at the end of the shot clock is immediately answered by Johnson for Kansas.  Teague throws up another crappy three, and misses, Thomas Robinson makes 2 free throws for Kansas, and Davis makes one of two for UK.  1:11 remaining. UK 63-57 KU.

11:32 - MICHAEL FUCKING KIDD-FUCKING-GILCHRIST.  Screw Lamb I'm adopting MK-G. Sorry bro.

11:34 - Fuck it I'm adopting the whole team and coach cal.  I love Marquis Teague and his moustache.  He and Johnson Wagner should hang out.

11:36 - I'm drinking cider so hard right now. My liver hurts. I have to pee incredibly badly, but can't miss this. To avoid cliches, I watched the last UK championship in the den in my mom's old Charlestown house.  14 years is a long time when you're 25, so this feels very special.  Well as special as a Kentucky victory can be for a UK fan who was born and raised in Boston.  HUGE up and down call on Johnson there.  Saw Davis rushing out and stalled in mid-air.  That should just about cement this.

11:40 - Final, UK 67-59 KU.  Makes me think of family.  Love the shot of Joe B. Hall sitting next to Denny Crum at the end.  Would love to think Denny was rooting for UK there, just as I know Rupp/Hall/Tubby would have rooted for UofL in the same situation.

11:41 - I have a problem with Schadenfreude...I want one of the Kansas players to trip on the streamers on the way out.  Good night people, time to get to sleep.