|Wonderful shot selection there Jimmer!|
Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but is it possible the NCAA tournament heard me when I called the first two rounds stale and somewhat boring? Wait a second, I think I meant the first three rounds. Or maybe I meant rounds 2 and 3? Shoot, I confused myself again! It's the drugs, I swear! Either way, last night's Sweet Sixteen games were exactly as advertised; sweet! All four games were entertaining in their own way (unless you're a Duke fan); a big break from the women's high school style ball we saw last weekend. What made last night even more special was the star power involved. Anymore, we don't get many opportunities to see true "stars" in the college game; especially those that are upper classmen. Last night, however, gave us a little bit of everything. We had the freshman and sophomore sensations in Derrick Williams, Kyrie Irving, and Kawhi Leonard. For those of us old people (more on this later) who appreciate upper classmen, we had Matt Howard, Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, Kemba Walker, and The Jimmer.
The biggest "sensation" among those stars is easily The Jimmer. He's beloved, seemingly, by everyone, leading to "Jimmer Time," "Jimmer Mania," and, of course, "The Jimmer." I can definitely understand this phenomenon, given the situation. Jimmer isn't quite the typical 'elite athlete' defining most of today's stars. He's fairly small, has average to below average speed, has a well below average vertical, and looks like a guy you might pick fourth or fifth for a pick up game at your local rec center. Maybe that's the allure of The Jimmer. Perhaps, in some way, Jimmer's success makes us feel good about ourselves; as if maybe you and I weren't too far off from similar success. Whatever it is, Jimmer has seemingly galvanized an entire country of sports fans behind him. You know what? It kinda makes me sick! Look, I thought about trying to break this to you gently, but I'm just going to come out and say it...
...I openly rooted against Jimmer all season and I'm glad The Jimmer is dead!!!
There, I said it! You can call me a hater all you want! You can send me emails, tweets, facebook messages; anything you want! I'm still happy that Jimmer is gone!
There's definitely a part of me that hates Jimmer because of the hype surrounding "Jimmer Mania." I tend to be a strong contrarian and I'm certain my personality is playing a significant part in this. After all, I always end up rooting against local teams simply because I have to hear about them all the time. It's nothing personal really, it's just that I hate, hate, hate the (over)hype machine. And really, you kinda have to admit that Jimmer has been wildly overhyped. Sure, the guy is a great shooter/scorer. Here's the problem; THAT'S ONLY ONE PART OF THE GAME!
Last night's Sweet Sixteen loss to Florida painted an absolutely perfect picture of who Jimmer Fredette is as a basketball player. We've all heard about the positives (over and over and over...). We've heard about his shooting, his craftiness, his vision, and his 'magical' ability to finish against bigger opponents. Truth be told, he did all of those things against Florida, and it kept BYU in the game.
Along with the positives, we also have to mention the many negatives. I don't want to waste your time talking about his porous turnstile defense. Anybody watching the game could see Jimmer get torched repeatedly and figure out his defense is equally as ridiculous as the Chewbacca Defense. Instead, I want to focus on the negatives that have seemingly been ignored. In fact, I can consolidate my feelings for Jimmer into one statement:
"I would not want to be on a that guy's team."
Have you ever played on a team with a guy you just hate to play with? Do you know the immediate feeling of anger mixed with hopelessness you get when you find out you're with 'that guy.' I've played with several of 'those guys' and believe me, it really sucks. You know going into the game you're not seeing any passes from him and you're going to have to work extra hard to make up for all his shortcomings. I wonder if that's how Jimmer's teammates feel? I wonder if they get frustrated at his awful shot selection, at his ridiculous need to dribble for 30 seconds before jacking up a contested 3 pointer, or his lack of ability/desire to get others involved. I watched that game last night and couldn't help but feel bad for Emory and Hartsock, who did all the dirty work and watched as Jimmer shot them out of the ball game. You want to know why I hate Jimmer Fredette? That's why I hate Jimmer Fredette! He's a selfish player, he's a dumb player, and he doesn't even attempt to make his teammates better. Yep, I guess I understand the hype now...
Contrast Jimmer's performance with that Kemba Walker or Derrick Williams. Both are similar in that they are star players, the central cog on their respective teams. Neither Arizona nor Connecticut is good enough to overcome a below average performance by their star. They feel the same pressures and the same burdens that Jimmer does. Watch them play, watch them distribute, watch them play both ends of the floor, watch them crash the boards; watch all of that and then tell me Jimmer is a star.
Kemba Walker is a star because he's as good on defense as he is on offense. He's a star because he allows his teammates to make plays. Walker was the star of their win against San Diego State, but he still deferred enough to allow Jeremy Lamb to have a breakout performance. The surrounding pieces on UConn have grown exponentially from the beginning of the year and you can see Kemba's energy and drive rubbing off on his younger teammates. Kemba isn't a star because he scores a lot; he's a star because he carries his team and makes them better than they really are.
Derrick Williams is a star because he's good at every facet of the game. He's a star because he allows his teammates to make plays. Williams was the star of their win against Duke, not because of his 32 points, but because of his tireless work on the glass, his excellent shot selection, and his ability to draw double teams and find open teammates. Williams scored only two points during Arizona's big 19-2 second half run, refusing to force his offense and deferring to other players while Duke focused their defense on him.
Think Jimmer would have subjugated his offense? Think he could have settled for deferring to his teammates? Think he would have trusted his guys to carry the load while they were hot? I don't...and that's why I hate him. Basketball was meant to be a team sport and Jimmer doesn't seem to have learned the concept. Maybe he doesn't have a great supporting cast, but they're not the Bad News Bears or anything. At the risk of sounding a bit old school, I like when teams trust each other and work to find good shots. Why do you think I cheer for Butler to have success? They aren't as talented as Pittsburgh or many other teams, but they play the game the way it was supposed to be played. Ball movement, good screens, and the team concept are the keys to offensive efficiency and, while Butler seems to have mastered this, Jimmer got lost somewhere along the way. Honestly, I really wouldn't be shocked if BYU writes something into their honor code forbidding the horrible shots Jimmer was hoisting last night.
In the end, The Jimmer's career ended in a fitting way. Lots of points, a nice stat line, a horrible shooting percentage, an opponent scoring at will on him, and a loss resting square on his shoulders. For you and the rest of America, it's a sad day now that Jimmer is off to rot on an NBA bench near you. For me, it's a day of rejoicing now that Jimmer is finally out of the ever present and all consuming ESPN driven spotlight.
Other thoughts from last night's action:
--Derrick Williams is a huge stud! I've only seen him play a couple times this year, so I was really unfamiliar with his game. At the risk of falling into the dreaded hype machine, I'll try to elaborate on how I feel about him. I know most GM's aren't wild about this draft, but I fell in love with Williams last night. He has a smoothness to his game that's really rare. I don't know how to explain it, but he has a sort of Brandon Roy quality where it almost looks like he's in slow motion, but he's still blowing by everyone. Like I said, it's very rare to find that intangible quality in a player and you have to love that about Williams. Also, scouts have been knocking him on his athleticism all year.......what? Anybody else see his put-back dunk in the 1st half? Anybody else see him outrun Seth Curry to a loose ball? SETH CURRY IS A GUARD! Yeah, I wouldn't worry about the athleticism. I've been trying to think of a good NBA comparison for him, but he's a very unique player given his skill set and his size. Look, if I was a GM with the #1 pick...I'm just sayin'!
--DUKE IS DEAD TOO!!! YAY!!! I know I'm a horribly mean spirited person but it did my heart good to see Coach K's "storybook" 900th win fall apart. Throw in the brutal manner in which Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler's careers ended and I'd say it was a pretty solid night.
--Jeremy Lamb is the future of UConn basketball. I watched him at the beginning of the year (bad) and he's improved a lot. He's clearly a hard worker and a student of the game. You can see little elements of Kemba's game he's picked up over the course of this season and he has some of the same athletic qualities...except he's 6'5''! He sealed last night's game with a clutch steal and a couple fastbreak slams and I'd expect we'll see even greater things from him.
--As I mentioned before, I've made my final transition to being an old person. Don't worry about the fact that I'm only 25...I'm definitely old. Our office changed copy paper recently and I just realized today how upset I've been over it. I mumble about it literally every time I go near the copy room. Those kids better not be on my lawn when I get home tonight! A stark realization indeed...
--I'm very surprised Florida didn't blow out BYU. Given Jimmer's performance, Florida should have finished this thing off early. I thought Boynton would give Jimmer a lot of problems, and that's just about the only thing I've gotten right all tournament, but I underestimated Billy Donovan's ability to put out an extremely undisciplined and poorly coached team. They had an advantage at every position on the floor! They could get into the paint any time they wanted to! How does this go into overtime?! COME ON BUTLER! YOU CAN DO THIS!
--I would honestly rather watch a 24 hour Frasier marathon than watch Wisconsin play another game...ever.
--I would sever a limb than watch a single episode of Frasier...true story.
--I continue to have a huge problem with the officiating in college basketball. This time, I'd like to rail on the over the back call. Look, it's one of the more difficult calls to make, but you can at least be consistent in how you call it! The officials in the Florida-BYU game swallowed their whistles on this type of play for nearly the entire game, only to give Alex Tyus two completely bogus over the back fouls at the end of regulation and in overtime. Can somebody sit down with these guys and explain the rules to them?!
--I didn't see the Napa Know How commercial! Not even once!
--I am absolutely terrified about tonight's Kentucky-Ohio State game. I just wish this didn't have to happen! Why can't we be in different brackets? Why couldn't we have played Pitt? I'm starting to realize the worst thing about a Kentucky loss (fairly inevitable, right?) is hearing crappy local sports radio for the next year. Already I've had to endure a segment where local sports guy Anthony Rothman blathered on about how Ohio State's basketball program is superior to Kentucky's...right now! Seriously, if I ever meet this guy, I'm going to be forced to punch him in the larynx. WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?! Look, any time you've got a program that's made it to the Sweet Sixteen only twice in the last eighteen years, you have to rank them right up there with the Kentucky's of the world...Oh, and by the way, glad you pointed out some of Kentucky's previous NCAA violations. I mean, 1988 was only a couple years ago right? It's not like Ohio State had a Final Four vacated in 1999 and 113 games vacated from 1998 to 2002 or anything. And they definitely don't have any issues with the football program. Yep, you're not a delusional hypocrite at all...(By the way, I'm definitely not going to punch him. He seems like he's a pretty big guy. Me, not so big. Also, I wouldn't do well in jail. Let's wrap this up before I say something I'll regret!)
For anyone who cares, I think Ohio State is going to beat Kentucky tonight. I hate my life...
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