As if you couldn't see it coming, newspapers and online publications have run the gamut of clever, Stephen Curry-related headlines over the last couple days, ranging in subtlety from "Curry heats up in Davidson's win" to my personal favorite, "Hot Curry continues to spice up NCAA Tournament recipe." Simply brilliant. Pan-Asian cuisine hasn't gotten this much attention since the British colonized India.
Regardless of the headline, everybody's writing about Curry -- the basketball player, that is -- and for good reason. The Southern Conference's Player of the Year averaged 35 points in two come-from-behind wins last weekend, landing Davidson back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1969. The media has taken the cue, yapping all about his father (Dell Curry), his emotional mother and how he looks like he could be your younger brother.
But there is one thing nobody's mentioned a whole lot about: the NBA.
For whatever reason -- perhaps because of his smaller stature -- people seem more fascinated with Curry in the context of a college game than a professional one (at least with bracket pools and prize money on the line). That's not to say Curry won't make it on the next level -- he's clearly got a strong pedigree -- it's just an anomaly nowadays to watch a star player for an entire game and NOT see a stray NBA draft projection during the broadcast. Can't say I understand it. At this point, it's a novel, refreshing concept to the average college hoops fan. And it's the polar opposite of what's becoming commonplace, with one-year wonders treating college basketball as if it were red tape, and the media taking every opportunity to talk about big bucks and the grandeur of the next level.
It seems inevitable that Curry will take his sharp shooting to the NBA one day. But, by some strange twist, it's nice to know you can enjoy a game without listening to how it'll be next season.
Of course, it's appalling any time the coach of college basketball team gets ejected in the middle of a closely-contested tournament game. And if we're looking to harp on a point, we could call it irresponsible or senseless or whatever adjective makes Stanford's Trent Johnson look the worst. However, I think I'm most offended by his lack of intensity. Johnson was so mild-mannered and stoic in his exit from Saturday evening's game that you have to wonder why he even bothered walking on the court. Somebody needs a lesson or two from Lou Piniella.
Folks, if you're going to get booted from an NCAA Tournament game -- usually a pretty rare occurrence -- you'd better make it worth the trouble. You don't have to throw a chair or drop an F-bomb, but at least act somewhat disgusted. Throw up your arms. Raise your voice. Put on a dirty look. Do something to get people fired up. Fans expect at least some irrational behavior once a coach goes past the point of no return.
But Johnson is a true gentlemen and a class act, and essentially did nothing. There was so much potential here. Instead, it proved one of the most underwhelming ejections in sports history.
To quote myself from Jan. 23:
"I'm nominating Connecticut as this year's 'Team That Will Torch Your Bracket.' Every year there's one; if you can identify the team, you're instantly smarter than everyone else in your pool."
So what does it make you if you correctly identify the team two months before the tournament, go against your own judgment and pick it to the Sweet 16, and consequently, find your bracket setting itself ablaze in a secluded corner of your pool? Sigh ...
Weren't all the warning signs in place for a UConn loss in the first-round, regardless of opponent? An experienced coach? (Check.) A shaky start with no quality wins? (Check.) A torrid winning streak around the time people start paying attention (Check.) An early exit from a power conference's championship tournament? (Check.) A team people pick based on name only? (Check.)
And yet most of us went with the Huskies in round one anyway. Go figure.
Given the whole Kelvin Sampson debacle, I guess I'm supposed to cut the Indiana basketball team a break. And I would ... if the Hoosiers' collapse wasn't so ridiculously outrageous. As it stands, I just can't get past the way they fell apart down the stretch.
Consider the following: Indiana won 17 of its first 18 games this season and climbed to a mark of 22-4 while Sampson was still coaching. Since his official dismissal on Feb. 22, the Hoosiers finished out their season with a 3-4 record, including a 29-point loss to Michigan State and an unceremonious, first-round exit at the hands of Arkansas last Friday. A strong testament to the coaching of Sampson? Perhaps. But what's it say about Indiana's team character?
You'd almost expect a few losses in the wake of all the turmoil in Bloomington; however, the way Indiana's season flat-lined is borderline embarrassing. I'm not saying the Hoosiers don't deserve any slack. Not at all. But I am suggesting that the Indiana players deserve at least some of the blame. Say what you want -- this team went in the tank and showed almost no heart in its final seven games. Let's hope that's not reflective of future NBA prospects like Eric Gordon and D.J. White.
Send in your answers and rationale...
1. More surprising upset? West Virginia over Duke / Anybody over Tiger Woods
2. Better invention? Wireless Internet / TiVo
3. More likely Sweet 16 upset? Davidson over Wisconsin / West Virginia over Xavier
4. More impressive first round showing? UCLA / Small school cheerleaders
5. Better drinking holiday? St. Patrick's Day / Super Bowl Sunday
6. Better wedding gift? Item from registry / Straight cash, homey
7. Stranger mascot name? Toreros (San Diego) / Hilltoppers (Western Kentucky)
8. Catchier commercial character? "Sven" (ATT Wireless) / Dancing Lizard (SoBe Life Water)
9. More impressive second-round? Louisville / Wisconsin
10. Smarter national championship pick? UCLA / North Carolina
To the rabble-rousers sitting in the bottom level of Washington D.C.'s Verizon Center: Yes, we did see you waving at the television cameras ... every single time the television cameras showed a close-up of a player shooting a foul shot. Apparently, getting on national television was just that important? Nearly every time somebody was at the line, there were at least a dozen people BEHIND the play -- and in view of the camera -- making strange gyrations and acting foolishly. So congratulations, people, if your goal was to make it into an up-and-coming sports column; you've done it!
Ty Hildenbrandt writes Campus Quick Slants every week. E-mail Ty at email@example.com with your comments, questions, and random observations.