I hate that state. I hate their retirees. I hate their businesses. I even hate South Beach and their ridiculous bars, clubs, and really lousy pice o’ crap convention center. Y’all are on crack – you’ve got nothin’ on LA. Hell, I had to support the Walt Disney Company for 6 years as a vendor, and besides making some of my better friends at the "Great Mouse", I had to travel out to Orlando… a hot, sticky, muggy, locale that was prone to flash torrential downpours that would last exactly 10 minutes: The exact 10 minutes in which you as a vendor are moving your demonstration gear from the Walt Disney parking lot to the building, arriving with whitepapers soaked, and equipment waterlogged.
BUT I REAAAAAALLLLLY HATE THE FLORIDA GATORS. This isn’t just a small level of hatred. We’re talkin’ Duke Blue Devil levels. We’re talkin’ Sacramento Kings levels. We’re talkin’ USC Trojan levels.
Florida beat UCLA – again – in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four to win the National Championship. And I am forced to admit:
You friggin’ Gators have a hands-down better team.
It’s said that on any given day, one team can beat another. The standard deviation in play & luck is so wide that it’s conceivable that one big team can get beaten by a little team. But that just wasn’t in the cards for us this year. UCLA had a great team without a doubt carried through the tournament not on the wings of a single unstoppable player as in 1995 with Bruin great, Ed O’Bannon (all Bruins should at this time bow their heads in reverence for the great Eddie O) but on the backs of their nearly impenetrable defense. Even Florida will admit that they were stymied in the first part of the game by our absolutely raucous 40-minutes-of-hell defense in which there were nearly 10 turnovers committed by Florida with crowded passing lanes and panic-inducing double teams that we’ve become known for.
But we had to play a perfect game to beat Florida. The inside out talent of Florida was frankly astonishing. They don’t have the same quality defense at UCLA does, even though they do slow down opponents.
What they have are better players.
Lee Humphreys, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green… in order to stop these guys, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison & Josh Shipp would have to play stick-um defense. Instead, Arron got into foul trouble with 3 fouls each after only 5 minutes of play in the first half, effectively taking him out of the game. So naturally we had only two on-ball defenders to cover 3 lights out 3-point shooters. Big surprise: Corey Brewer, the player Arron Afflalo our best defensive player was supposed to cover, had a team high 19 points with 6 three-point field goals.
Meanwhile the inside would have to be dominated by a combination of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alfred Aboya, and Lorenzo Mata against the all-star group of Al Horford, Chris Richard, and Joakim "Butthead" Noah. And for most of the game, they did. They did a very admirable job locking up the inside, keeping Joakim Noah in particular, below his season average – a stark improvement over last years final game where Joakim Noah ran roughshod over the Bruins.
But again, the referees called 3 fouls after again only 5 minutes of play on both Lorenzo Mata & Luc Richard taking them out of the game for the most part. Ben Howland literally started playing players like Ryan Wright to get some breathing time for Alfred Aboya and the remaining other players.
It could be asserted that after a measly 5 minutes of play, when you call 3 fouls on 3 starting players of a given team, leaving 35 minutes left in the game for each player to accrues 2 fouls before they’re ejected, that’s a little slanted. It just cripples a defense from making good blocks and solid defensive moves.
To put this into perspective, 3 of UCLA’s 5 starting players only played for 1 half of basketball. The other 20 minutes, they had to sit down while other 2nd & 3rd stringers played for them. Ryan Wright, James Keefe, and Michael Roll… reasonably good players, yes, but they’re not starters for a reason.
YOU GOTTA OVERCOME… YOU JUST GOTTA
But the bottom line is that the best team simply has to overcome these obstacles no matter what the issue. And UCLA, while I believe they performed admirably, couldn’t do that against a Florida team that just plain executed flawlessly. When their interior got locked up, their backcourt shot – AND MADE – 3 point shots. I mean, they really made them: What do you do when the opposing team shoots 41% from the arc when your team doesn’t shoot more than 39% OVERALL, and that includes 3 point shots?
So I tip my hat to the University of Florida Gators Basketball team. They’re the best team in the nation, and I told my friend from Ohio State, "I’m sorry buddy – but your Buckeyes are gonna flatout LOSE."
And lose they did. To a team that we proved could be stopped in one area, but they’d just change their game to play better in another area.
Oh yeah… and Arron: Please come back.