April 16 - The Right Way
Some people thought that George Mason’s miraculous run to the Final
Four was THE story of this year’s NCAA Tournament. Others thought it
might have been the Old Spice Red Zone dancer (you know, the one who
glistens). But for me, it was all about the Florida Gators and the way they
played in the two most important games of the season.
In this part of the country, we don’t pay a lot of attention to the SEC, but the
Gators did win their first 17 games and were ranked quite highly in
mid-January. So we knew this was a talented group to begin with.
However, except for the previous run to the Final Four in 2000, Billy
Donovan’s teams, for the most part had underachieved in March. But in this tournament, the Gators
checked their egos at the door and played ‘the right way’ (sorry, Larry, but you should have
copyrighted that the way another coach copyrighted ‘three-peat’). And for this, hundreds of college
coaches and thousands of high school coaches, plus countless AAU coaches, are grateful. Because
it wasn’t about the stats, it was about WINNING.
We have tons of talented basketball players all over the country who believe they can play at the
highest levels, but as a good friend of mine once told me, “Lots of guys can play at this level, but how
many can WIN at this level?” And that, my friends, is the difference. The teamwork, the passing, the
defensive work of Florida’s guys, on the most prominent stage we have, hopefully will leave a lasting
impression on all the players who still think it’s all about the talent.
Don’t you think Corey Brewer would’ve liked more shots in the first half of the championship game?
Instead, he dictated the flow of the game by 1) removing Arron Afflalo from UCLA’s offense (ruined any
chance of my coming in second in my NCAA Fantasy League) and 2) creating havoc in the open court
with several steals and near-misses, allowing his team to get out to a fast start. Do you think Al
Horford minded not getting the ball in the post at the start of their offense? Doubt it. I don’t know if they
keep statistics on points per dribble, but I’ll bet he and (Joakim) Noah scored the most points ever
without even dribbling the ball. How many times did a dunk result from a great PASS in that game vs.
a great move? Although Noah’s dribble into the post and pivot for a slam was quite impressive, I
must say. Lee Humphrey barely broke a sweat as Taurean Green had him set up all night for
jumpers. And how about Green? This guy is incredibly talented, and played beautifully the whole
night. Know what he shot? 1-9. But, how about 8 assists and 1 turnover in 36 minutes? He was the
coach on the floor. Maybe some point guards out there (including a certain NBA guy who refuses to
buy into this stuff) will now understand how to manage a game.
The bottom line is there are many groups of talented players out there who believe they are Final Four
level caliber. But unless you commit to working as a team, it’s not going to happen. And that’s what
every player on every team needs to understand. This beautiful game is meant to be played as a
group. So while many people thought the Final Four was anti-climactic, I thought the two hour
basketball clinic put on by the Gators, with hopefully the whole basketball world watching, was the
best thing that could have happened.