Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/21/2007 01:01:00 AM
Style Archive Update: Tourney Edition
The stylish Jayhawks moved on to face Southern Illinois in the Sweet 16.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
It's been about a month since I last expanded the Style Archive, and so much has happened. Brent Petway shaved his head like a Michigan football helmet. Nike ran a questionable jersey experiment. Tyler Hansbrough was fitted for a mask. Most important, by being in Chicago on Sunday -- and lingering around the Kansas locker room, which was abuzz with talk about the diamond rims on Michael Jordan's Range Rover -- I was able to get the back-story on one of the Archive's previous entries: The shaved-in hair designs of Chicago-area products Julian Wright and Sherron Collins.
Wright, perhaps the season's best Q&A subject, was too mobbed by TV cameras to be bothered about barbers, but Collins took time out from throwing tape-balls at Mario Chalmers to answer. "Those designs are something we always used to do when we were little," he said, "so me and Ju thought it would be a real good way to bring back some Chicago flavor to Kansas."
Collins said he and Wright hit up Watson's Barber in Lawrence together "about every week and a half when it grows out," and usually let their go-to razor man, Marty, pick the designs. "They're just little graphics," Collins said. "Sometimes Marty just does them, or he draws them out for us on a piece of paper, and we go with it."
Both Collins and Wright were in need of fresh cuts. Let's hope we see something new on their domes in San Jose. While waiting for those games to begin -- and still laughing over the fact that KU's Brandon Rush actually said, "I saw [Jordan's] rims; I wanted to give him a good performance" -- we unveil 10 additions to the Archive:
(For the tourney-bandwagon readers unfamiliar with the Style Archive, this is its fifth expansion after opening on Dec. 4, 2006. It has grown to 44 exhibits, which can all be found here. Readers are encouraged to make archive nominations either in the blog comments or by e-mailing email@example.com.)
>> March 20 Exhibits <<
The Chicago Shave Julian Wright and Sherron Collins, Kansas Classification: Shaved-in hair designs Submitted by: Reader Dustin Fox Notes: It's good to now have the full scoop on the Wright/Collins barbershop work, and confirm that it was in fact "Chicago flavor." Collins also told me that his original Chicago barber went by the name of "Razor Red."
Dreadlock Duo Randal Falker and Jamaal Tatum, Southern Illinois Classification: Extra-long-dreads duo Spotted: While tearing up the Valley Notes: Falker, a Photoshop whiz and frontcourt menace, and Tatum, a clutch scorer, form the most hirsute 1-2 punch in college hoops. The Saluki is the Royal Dog of Egypt, and Falker actually appears Sphinx-like at times.
Plexiglass T Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9 forward, Soph., North Carolina Classification: Protective Face Mask Spotted: During the ACC/NCAA tournaments Notes: Psycho T went through two masks -- a god-awful one that crippled him during the ACC tourney, then a new one that he ditched vs. Michigan State -- after being clubbed by Duke's Gerald Henderson.
Nice 'Stache, Bro Jason Cain, 6-10 forward, Sr., Virginia Classification: Porn-style moustache Spotted: For about four seasons now ... Notes: The 2007 NCAA tournament was the farewell tour for the 'stache, which was such a phenomenon even back in 2004 that it inspired the creation of a UVA student group named The Assemblage of Cain.
Helmet Head Brent Petway, 6-8 forward, Sr., Michigan Classification: Winged-helmet shave Spotted: March 3 vs. Ohio State Notes: Brent isn't in the NCAAs, but the intricately-shaved Wolverine-helmet hair he sported on Senior Day at Michigan might be the single greatest style statement of the season. Air Georgia, the Tourney Blog salutes you.
The Classic Last-Name Tat Mike Nardi, 6-2 guard, Sr., Villanova Classification: Self-referential shoulder tattoo Spotted: Over Nardi's whole career ... Notes: Seeing UNLV's Wink Adams' "Wink" tattoo last weekend reminded me of Nardi's shoulder-ode to himself, which consists of a large "NARDI" somewhat crudely written over a basketball. It's beautiful.
Glitter City UNLV's Nike jerseys Classification: Numbers painted with silver glitter Spotted: On the road to St. Louis Notes: The Rebels are the only team -- to the best of my knowledge -- in college basketball with their numbers (on the front and back) displayed in glittery metallic paint. And really, why shouldn't they be?
The Rick Fox Curtis Terry, 6-5 G/F, Jr., UNLV Classification: Curly Locks Spotted: vs. Wisconsin in Round 2 Notes: Curtis is the little brother of Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason, and while he wears high, white socks like JT, he has apparently chosen to model his hair after the infamous recruiting host from Tech U.
Magic Shave Kammron Taylor, 6-2 G, Sr., Wisconsin Classification: Zig-zag curly-Q design Spotted: vs. UNLV in Round 2 Notes: Taylor, the Badgers' resident magician, usually sports a freshly shaved design in the front-left portion of his closely cropped hairdo. He also looks like a certain comedian, but that's so old by now.
Duct-Tape Shoulders Ohio State's new Nike jerseys Classification: Silver-ish shoulder flair Spotted: On the road to San Antonio Notes: The Buckeyes (along with Arizona, Syracuse and Florida) are participants in Nike's System of Dress experiment, which includes tighter tops, baggier shorts and, as far as I can tell, duct tape.
Memphis Mesa Andre Allen, 5-10 G, Jr., Memphis Classification: Mohawk-ish crop of hair Spotted: vs. Nevada in Round 2 Notes: Allen, who scored 10 points and dished out four assists in the win over the Wolf Pack, is sporting the edgiest shave by someone other than Brent Petway. It's like a mesa in the middle of his head.
Wendell White leads seventh-seeded UNLV into the Sweet 16.
CHICAGO -- All hail the tuba! Florida's basketball team may have been mediocre through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, but one of its band members is dominating.
David Wunderlich, a UF grad student who plays the tuba in one of the Gators' pep bands, is putting the rest of the Tourney Blog Pool to shame. After the first weekend, Wunderlich's "Lee For Three" entry has 70 points (on 43 out of 48 correct picks) and is not only first in our pool, but fourth in the entire Hoops Bracket Challenge. He took the time to send us a note (something I encourage all Tourney Blog leaders and near-leaders to do), not to talk smack to the other 640-or-so entrants but just to introduce himself. "Of course, now that I've sent an e-mail acknowledging my success thus far, I expect everything to promptly fall apart," Wunderlich said.
Memo to whoever runs the Florida pep band: Wunderlich said he'll be at the St. Louis Regional but is not on the list to go to the Final Four. If he's still leading our pool, that has to change, right? How else will we be able replicate last year's courtside picture from the title game with now-famous winner Bradley White -- who also happened to be a Florida fan? (White has fallen from grace this year; his Jo Noah-themed '07 entry, "It's yours against mine," is in 514th place.)
University of Wisconsin student Joe Madden, whose "Blackhawks > Illiniwek" bracket was tied with Wunderlich's after the first round -- and who hails from my original hometown of Fort Atkinson, Wis. -- flopped like Vlade Divac in the second and plummeted to 76th. Joe wrote in to say that whatever happens, he'll still provide late-night bar-taxi service when I'm home visiting my 'rents. Reader Bryan Brooks, who has not e-mailed yet, is in second with his "Pink Squirrels" entry, and as for myself, I'm tied for 173rd. Not great, but not entirely embarrassing, either.
My last act before boarding a plane here at O'Hare is to honor my eight favorite team names in this year's Blog Pool. Since there were more than 600, I tried my best catch all of them; if you had a brilliant name and I missed it, I apologize.
• Durant Durant, by Tim Louman-Gardiner. Just wish Kev had hung around a little longer. • Acie Law XXIII, by Alex Mitchell. Will the 13th Acie still inherit clutch genes? • Nigel Dixon's Spare Tire, by Brett Hainline. Before Big Greasy, there was Big Jelly. • My Morning Bracket, by Craig Chin. I'm a sucker for Jim James references. • Company In My Backcourt, by Melissa Tuttle Carr. Ditto for Jeff Tweedy references. • Peaches and Kareem, by Craig Josselyn. If that's a play on the Beck song, Craig, I like it. • Tim Hardaway's Merry Men, by John Robus. Tim ruined my retro shirt, and I'm still ticked at him for it. • RashardGriffithAutograph, by Nathan Winn. Nate's my brother. But the Rashard autograph is a classic story: In the 1994 NCAA tournament, he took approximately 20 seconds to laboriously sign his name on my game program -- and it took up about 50 percent of the page.
The Runnin' Rebels sometimes have two Coach Krugers -- Kevin (2) and Lon.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
CHICAGO -- Is it still possible, in an age when college basketball is on TV six days a week, and everyone is on a four-month hunt to identify giant-killers, that a team with Final Four potential can sneak up on the nation in March? Because that is exactly what UNLV seems to have done at the United Center.
Quick poll for readers outside of Mountain West country: How many times had you seen this Rebels team on the tube before it went and beat Georgia Tech -- and then upset No. 2-seeded Wisconsin, 74-68, on Sunday? Once? Twice? Not at all? That's what I figured. In its mid-major mania, the country was well-acquainted with Butler, which starred in the NIT Season Tip-Off and the BracketBusters weekend, and earned a No. 5 seed out of the Horizon League. Southern Illinois was no secret, either; the Mo' Valley had Cinderella cred after producing Bradley and Wichita State in '06, and its '07 powerhouse, the Salukis, were handed a No. 4 seed. Yet somehow, the scariest team out of a conference that isn't even considered a mid-major -- a school that won a national championship in 1990, no less -- was slapped with a No. 7 seed and therefore generated very little early buzz in Bracketland.
Mostly, I blame the Mountain West's TV contract; the Rebels played one game on ESPN (ESPN2, actually) all season -- and that was only because they were potentially the backdrop for Bob Knight's record-breaking victory in December (they postponed the General's party). The rest of their contests appeared on either CSTV, which isn't on standard cable in reasonably important media cities such as New York and Atlanta; The mtn., a regional subsidiary of CSTV, or Versus, which is more well-known for televising the Tour de France. UNLV was ranked No. 19 in the AP poll and was No. 10 in the RPI, but it had an exposure problem -- and it affected everything from the Rebels' national reputation to, quite possibly, their seed in the big dance. After winning the Mountain West tournament, the Rebels (30-6) deserved at least a No. 5 seed, and quite possibly a No. 4.
"People didn't watch us," said senior point guard Kevin Kruger. "It would be nice to be on ESPN every night, and have people talking about you on a little podium, but they're not, and there's nothing we can change about that. It's perfectly fine with us. We'll fly under the radar, and you can give me a ring at the end if you want."
That's the catch: The Rebels' underexposure meant much of the nation, up until this week, was unfamiliar with an astoundingly good basketball team. One that, even at this late juncture, is still in need of a proper introduction.
The first thing you must know is that this UNLV team has little in common with the final squads from Jerry Tarkanian Era, who were Vegas' last representatives in the Sweet 16 way back in 1991. The 2007 edition is loaded with veterans who are at best marginal NBA prospects, and squeaky-clean coach Lon Kruger -- who led Florida to the Final Four in '94 and was brought in in '04-05 to reshape the UNLV program -- has squeezed the renegade factor out of its rep.
"He's always been a straight-arrow guy," Kevin Kruger said of his father. "Our biggest problem as a team this year was someone sleeping through class; I don't think any other team in the country can say that. We have no selfishness issues, we don't have people getting in bar-fights, and with everything you can get into in Vegas, I think that speaks volumes."
What the Rebels have become is a crafty father-and-son operation, with Lon pacing the sidelines and Kevin, who had 16 points, seven assists and zero turnovers against the Badgers, running the show on the floor. Forward Wendell White (pronounced WHEN-dell), who led UNLV with 22 points on Sunday, said Kevin was "like another Lon Kruger on and off the court," and called him "the best point guard I've had in my life."
The NCAA's short-lived fifth-year transfer rule, which was repealed in January, allowed 23-year-old Kevin -- Arizona State's junior point guard in '05-06 -- to reunite with his father in Sin City after coach Rob Evans was fired from the Sun Devils. The Rebels would not be this deep in the NCAA tournament without Kevin's steadying presence in the backcourt, and he is well aware of the strange circumstances surrounding his family reunion. "How many times does a kid graduate in four years, happen to have redshirted his first year, have his coach get released, his dad coaching at another college -- and take that team to the tournament?" said Kevin. "The stars are aligned."
The Rebels' personnel also happened to be perfectly aligned around Kruger. In 6-foot-6 senior White, their second-leading scorer, they have a versatile wing player who calls himself a "power guard." He looked like an equal to UW's Big Ten Player of the Year, Alando Tucker, scoring in myriad ways around the basket to counter the Badgers' second-half runs. In sophomore Wink Adams (nine points) and senior Michael Umeh (seven points, seven rebounds), they have two ultra-athletic, albeit undersized, complements for Kruger on the perimeter. And in role players like Jason Terry's little brother, Curtis, a junior who drilled a dagger 3 with 0:33 left in the game to put the Rebels up 72-67, they have a formidable bench. "Different guys at different times have stepped in and contributed in more than just significant ways," said Lon. "They've done it almost weekly."
Kevin, who stepped in as a fifth-year gift to his father in the offseason, and stepped up to score 13 second-half points when they needed him most on Sunday, said there were three reasons that he decided to play his collegiate swan song in Las Vegas. The first was to rejoin Lon, whom he had once tagged along with as a 10-year-old at the Final Four. The second was to help bring the UNLV program back to glory. The third was to "make noise" in the NCAA tournament -- something he predicted would happen in November, after the Rebels were picked to finish sixth in the Mountain West and miss the dance altogether.
Kevin's words, which hardly raised any eyebrows back then, turned out to be prophetic. UNLV no longer has to worry about an underexposure problem. The revived Rebels' bracket racket has been heard nationwide, and won't easily be silenced in St. Louis.
Player Who Impressed Me: Other than Kruger? Other than White? How about Wisconsin's Kammron Taylor, who for the second straight game tried to put the Badgers on his back in the second half and keep them in the tournament. The Madison Magician was customarily cold in the first 20 minutes, shooting 1-for-5 from the field, he but turned it on down the stretch, scoring 19 in the second half and hitting all nine of his free throws. Wisconsin had been plagued by scoring troubles even since it lost Brian Butch to an elbow injury against Ohio State on Feb. 25, and Taylor was its only ballsy playmaker when it mattered.
Courtside Confidential: Last week, colleague Grant Wahl made mention of the Shelley Smith jinx, and it reared its ugly head on Sunday in Chicago. Smith is the ESPN all-access reporter who was embedded with the Badgers during the tourney; she followed Tennessee, another No. 2 seed, in 2006, and the Vols were upset in the second round by seventh-seeded Wichita State. ... UNLV, to the best of my knowledge, is the only college basketball team with glittery silver paint on its jerseys. The Rebels' numbers -- front and back -- are the sparkliest in the tournament. ... The red blazer Bo Ryan wore is much less famous than Sidney Lowe's coat, probably because Ryan's is a deeper color and doesn't make him look like a tomato. Ryan said he wore the blazer for the Badgers' alumni game, and then on Senior Night -- but caught flak from fans for keeping it in the closet during the Big Ten tourney, so he brought it back out during the NCAAs. ... UNLV's band played a song with Wisconsin ties in the second half, busting out the Violent Femmes' Blister in the Sun, and then segueing it into Viva Las Vegas, with its fans singing along.
The Big Picture: Oregon, the Rebels' opponent in the Sweet Sixteen, is far more skilled offensively than either Georgia Tech or Wisconsin, the latter of which probably peaked in mid-February. But can anyone definitively say that UNLV can't beat the Ducks? This is a team that starts four seniors, hasn't lost since Valentine's Day, and matches up well with Oregon. The fact that Kruger & Kruger & Co. managed to scored 74 points against UW, which hadn't yielded that many since an 89-75 win over Pitt on Dec. 16, bodes well for the Rebels hanging with the Ducks' high-efficiency attack. The only problem is, from here on out, UNLV won't be sneaking up on anyone.
CHICAGO -- The Blog has relocated to the Midwest. Rather than calling it a weekend after last night's overtime madness, I grabbed a flight out of Buffalo on a couple of hours' sleep, rented a car at O'Hare and made it to the United Center in time to, well, sit courtside and post these pictures. Thanks goes to good old WXRT, a staple from the Northwestern days, for keeping me awake on the drive.
This dude was guarding the media entrance, ready to blow pipe-tobacco smoke in the face of anyone without a proper credential.
Near the Jordan statue, faux Kammron Taylor seemed to be wondering, like I was, if this UCLA guy got lost on the way to Sacramento.
And finally, friend of the Blog Billy Packer was kind enough to give us a window into his game-preparation process. Packer is ultra old-school and anti-computer; he takes notes from newspaper clippings and copies them onto blank manilla folders.