Monday, April 1, 2013

Shocking - And The Shockers

TigerBlog was watching "Monday Night Football" that night in 1985 when Lawrence Taylor sacked Joe Theisman, snapping Theisman's leg and ending the quarterback's career.

It was a graphic and gory and horrific and puke-inducing moment, one that looked even worse the second time around, when ABC showed it in slow-motion from a reverse angle. If you saw it, you know exactly what TigerBlog is saying; if you haven't, don't, because it's not pleasant.

Theisman's injury was the most gruesome TB had ever seen in a game, and it still ranks No. 1, though not by much, not after Louisville's Kevin Ware's broken leg against Duke yesterday.

Ware's injury came in the first half of the regional championship game yesterday, and CBS chose not to do what ABC did back in 1985, which is show it from every conceivable angle over and over again.

In fact, it was hard at first to realize what had happened.

The play started when Duke's Tyler Thornton hit a three that Ware tried to contest, and when Ware landed, he did so at an awkward angle. The CBS camera followed Thornton down the court, and it was obvious to the viewer that something wasn't quite right.

Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg didn't immediately say what had happened, and all that was visible on the screen was the three Louisville players who had collapsed to the court, after they had seen Ware's exposed bone breaking through his leg.

At first, TB thought that there had been some sort of collision on the court between the Louisville players. Instead, it became clear that it was Ware who was hurt.

The reaction of the Louisville bench told the whole story, as the Cardinal players and staff couldn't bear to look. Head coach Rick Pitino was in tears. There was a report that one or more of the players on the bench had thrown up.

When Theisman had gotten hurt, there was no internet, no Twitter, no instant national discussion of whether or not ABC had handled it right.

This time, it was instant analysis of CBS, which got generally high marks for not dwelling on the footage of the video itself, instead choosing to capture the moment through the reaction of everyone there, including the equally stunned Duke bench, which didn't know what to do, between seeing the opposing player on the floor and trying to figure out if it was okay to use the break to adjust its gameplan.

Ware, before leaving for the hospital, told the Louisville players to win it for him, and that's exactly what the Cards did. After going the next three minutes without a point, Louisville overwhelmed Duke the rest of the way.

The result is a Final Four of Louisville vs. Wichita State and Syracuse vs. Michigan. According to ESPN, only 43 of 8.15 million online brackets filled out had the Final Four correct.

TigerBlog assumes that it was the Wichita State part of the Final Four that kept that number done. Michigan and Syracuse, while No. 4 seeds, are hardly upstarts. Louisville is the No. 1 overall seed.

But Wichita State is the party crasher.

This is the second Final Four for the Shockers. The first?

Well that was back in 1965. During that 1964-65 season, Wichita State actually reached No. 1 in the polls, led by Dave Stallworth, who averaged 25 points a game for the 1965 Shockers and who would go on to play for the Knicks and the Bullets.

Wichita State defeated SMU and Oklahoma State to win the Midwest Region and advance to the Final Four in Portland, where the Shockers lost to UCLA 108-89.

The other side of the draw? It matched Princeton and Michigan.

The Tigers didn't get a first-round bye and so had to win three games to get to the Final Four, and the first one would be the closest.

Princeton opened with Penn State and won 60-58, as Penn State "held" Bill Bradley to "just" 22 points. Next up was North Carolina State - and a 66-48 Princeton win as Bradley had 27.

The other game in the regional, held in College Park, Md., was between Providence and St. Joe's, and after the Friars - led by Jimmy Walker, a future NBA player and the father of Jalen Rose - defeated the Hawks 81-73, they cut the nets down, much to the amazement of the Tigers.

Princeton was a complete underdog in the regional final, which would prove to be no contest, just in the other direction. The Tigers romped past Providence 109-69, led by 41 from Bradley.

Just as it had in the Holiday Festival in December, Princeton would lose to Michigan, this time 93-76. Back then, there was a third-place game, and Princeton would get a great deal of consolation from it.

Bradley would go off, making 22 of 29 shots and 14 of 15 free throws for a school-record 58 points, still the most in a Final Four game. He also had a game-high 17 rebounds. The Tigers made a school-record 48 field goals as a team and scored 65 points in the second half. The result was a dominating 118-82 win over the Shockers that gave the Tigers a national third-place finish.

TigerBlog is going to go out on a limb and say Bradley's 58-point record will 1) not be broken at the Final Four this weekend and 2) will never be broken at Princeton.

Unfortunately, Ware will not be able to play this weekend for Louisville, but he has certainly left an inspirational mark on his team.

TB sees it Louisville vs. Michigan for the title, with Louisville as the winner.

Of course, his original prediction was Georgetown vs. Gonzaga, so what does he know?

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