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The Links (cont.)

Posted: Monday March 21, 2005 10:10AM; Updated: Monday March 21, 2005 10:25PM
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During Georgia Tech's opening win over George Washington, I watched with amusement as Paul Hewitt made a substitution on almost every dead ball. I don't know what he was trying to pull, but it was like he was inventing a style of basketball where no team chemistry is developed. Although I didn't agree with what he was doing, I thoroughly enjoyed how odd the whole situation was and how angry Hewitt was making my Georgia Tech alumni friends.

After Louisville's Taquan Dean picked up his third foul against Georgia Tech with 4:36 left in the first half, senior and fan favorite Larry O'Bannon hopped up from the bench and began walking toward the scorer's table to check in, anticipating a call from Rick Pitino. Except he forgot to wait for Pitino to actually tell him to go in. Pitino stopped him, got in his face and said, "Sit down! Sit down! Don't you ever do that again!" He then inserted wide-eyed sophomore guard Brad Gianiny and let O'Bannon sit for a while. Pitino does not play around.

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My one complaint with the NCAA games is the stoppages. With 11:23 to go in the first half of the Florida/Villanova second-round game on Sunday, the referees called a timeout. It was probably two minutes long, but it seemed like five. Play finally resumed, and Florida came down and fired up an airball. Nova grabbed the rebound, sprinted down and guard Kyle Lowry was fouled on a drive. Another timeout, and another five minutes. I'm pretty sure it was called to sell more commercial time during the broadcasts, but all it did in the arena was lull us to sleep.

The NCAA acts like it's not about the Benjamins -- showing public-service announcements in the arena about how wonderful the NCAA is -- but we know better. The in-arena ads in Nashville were covered with black plastic sheets, but a security guard who looked like Chaka Khan stopped me from carrying a bottle of NCAA-supplied Dasani water onto the court. Instead, I was asked to pour it into a paper cup that had "NCAA/Dasani" in big print on the side. Ch-ching!!

But my favorite moment of this tournament experience? Jason Fraser coming off Villanova's bench and dominating Florida's post players on a set of knees weaker than Bambi's. Then, when someone asked Fraser about not being in the starting lineup, his graceful deferral -- "You have to have the whole mind-set of what you can bring to the team, not what the team can bring to you" -- and the look in his eyes that told us he really meant it. That look and those words are what basketball is all about, whether it's NBA or NCAA. And finding a player, no matter the level, with an attitude like that? Priceless.

Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com.


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