There’s a Basketball Game Today at 5 PM ET

We received a lot of messages in response to the query as to whether or not I should wear the “Just Balls” tie to the game today. With a 2-to-1 split in favor of donning autographed neckgear, the votes against stuck out and haunted my sleep. Several people brought up the possibility of a double-reverse tie jinx, and a few brought up the Naismith-Kansas association.

But I’m wearing the tie. Repeat, I am wearing the tie.

The letter that really sold me was T. Jensen, a self-described Jayhawk fan who commented on the nervousness this morning in Rock-Chalk land. They know that they’re up against something special today.

Wear it, please. Wear that piece of nylon with the basketballs on it. And I am even a Jayhawk fan, but in respectful support of mid-major b-ball, please wear it. I have never heard Jayhawk fans talk more adamantly than now… we need to “dispose of the 10 seed Cinderella.” But still have spent moments reflecting on the pace master, the guy who has the most unique feeling for the college game, Steph Curry… who we have to have patience with, and lock-down mentality, to beat… But yes, wear the darn tie. I know it’ll be right.

I know, I know. This is a dangerous line I’m walking with the tie, but the postseason is all about danger, looming heartbreak, sudden death. It’s win or go home for not only the Davidson players, coaches and staff, but for their fans too. It’s win or go home for all the Charlotte media who sit here in the vast media room at Ford Field, biting their nails and whispering about individual matchups. It’s win or go home for everybody in America who loves Cinderella — if Davidson loses tonight to create a who-cares Final Four made up entirely of one-seeds, it’s on to baseball season.

And, of course, it’s win or go home for Bally and I. At this moment, we don’t know which highway we’re taking on our way out of Detroit tonight: I-75 south or the Canadian 401 east.

“Just Balls” could very well have been drained all of its magic on Friday night, I realize that. But in order to bolster its power, I will be wearing it with a dark green pinpoint oxford shirt to commemorate Kryptonite, the verdant hue that George Mason wore all the way to the Tournament’s last weekend two years ago. The past and present will converge to create what we hope is a continued future. Bright orange on green… it’s going to be the worst clothing combination since the University of Miami decided to dress up like fruit, but I don’t care.

Because sometimes forward progress just can’t be pretty. As longtime friend of the site Michael Litos wrote in today:

Don’t mess with karma. Wear the damn tie.

***
There’s no way to search for this that I know of, but Bob McKillop might have been the first head coach in the history of the NCAA Tournament to invoke soccer.

“I’m in the quest for the perfect game, the perfect performance, the perfect season,” said McKillop in Saturday’s press conference. “And we certainly haven’t reached that point yet. I think the Brazilian soccer team, they called it ‘The Beautiful Game.’ That’s what our system is about, the quest for that.”

Which logically led to this thought… what if the Davidson players were Brazilians? Thanks to BrazilName, we can find out what each of the Wildcats would be if they were green and yellow (the national team, not George Mason) and not red and black.

stephundo.jpgJason Richards: Jasa
Stephen Curry: Stephundo
Max Paulhus Gosselin: Felix Mardo
Andrew Lovedale: Andrimo
Thomas Sander: Thomao
Brendan McKillop: McKillcos
Aaron Bond: Beca
Boris Meno: Meneca Pau
Can Civi: Civinhosa
Mike Schmitt: Schminhosa
Will Archambault: Archambainho
Stephen Rossiter: Rossiteiro
Bryant Barr: Bryildo
Dan Nelms: Neta Santos
Ben Allison: Bildo

***
Curry’s story is legendary now, being passed over by everybody and given a demeaning walk-on offer by Virginia Tech, where his NBA sharpshooter dad built his legend.

But these past few days have been a fantastic opportunity to find out how the rest of this magical team was built — my esteemed colleague Pat Forde was able to get in a lot of great details in his story yesterday. With the much looser constraints of a notebook entry on a mid-major weblog, let’s hear some of the stories of the other Wildcats’ roads to campus.

Starting PG Jason Richards: “[McKillop] came to an open gym at my high school [in Illinois]. We were playing a pick-up game, and he didn’t say anything to me, he just sat in the corner taking notes for an hour and a half. After practice he came up to me, shook my hand and smiled and said a few sentences to me, then he left. I didn’t know what to think. After I committed, he sent me a three-page e-mail of the notes he took that day. The positives of my game, the things that needed to be worked on, and from that point on I knew he was a great coach and that he’d definitely help me out in my career.”

McKillop on sophomore big Andrew Lovedale: “The first time I saw Andrew Lovedale, he was sweeping the court at the Amaechi Basketball Centre in Manchester, England. That was part of my evaluation, to see the way he handled things other than basketball.” [Press question: How could you see it sweeping the floor, though?] “You could just see the genuine care that he had, that he took his job seriously. In order to earn money, he was sweeping the floor in the center and coaching young kids.”

Lovedale: “I grew up in Nigeria and went to school in England… my skills were raw… I wanted to play and learn basketball and I was in London but wasn’t comfortable there. So I told my brother I did not want to learn in London and wanted to go somewhere else. I happened to go to school in Manchester, and I wanted to take some of the load off my family with expenses so I talked to the guy at the academy about letting me work.”

McKillop: “Look here, you’ve got a guy from Nigeria, a guy from the rich suburbs of Barrington, Illinois, you got the son of a cheesemaker from Montreal, Canada [Max Paulhus Gosselin]. We have some diversity and we get along and work as a team. There must be something there. I think it’s balance.”

I would pay to watch this movie: a philosopher-coach wandering the world, assembling a rag-tag basketball team that goes on to strike deep into the NCAA Tournament. Part Ocean’s Eleven (the original), part Blues Brothers, and part Major League.

With some awesome slow-motion cheesemaking scenes.

***
There’s been considerable and interesting chatter about Curry and ego these past few days, in the press room and on the interwebs. A lot of it focused on his shoe quote (“I can do all things”), and I made my best effort to seek clarification yesterday in my interview with the man yesterday for the Worldwide Leader. Since then, it’s been a considerable and interesting discussion of Curry and God.

We don’t talk much about religion or politics on this site, or my own personal faith and beliefs, because there’s no real need to engage in anything that distracts from the three things that The Mid-Majority has been about since 2004 — truth, justice and college basketball. We’ve learned the hard way (repeatedly) that any sort of moral stand on anything brings in a wave of angry blah-blah-blah and a whole lot of negative energy. So we generally stick to our day topics, for our own safety.

But the way Curry handles himself and his convictions is too fascinating to pass up. One of the primary factors that has made 21st Century American sports so divisive has been the injection of in-your-face Christianity. (That’s the subject of the most engaging chapter of Will Leitch’s book, by the way.) God this, Lord and savior that. I just want to thank God for letting us beat Chicago. It was funny enough for The Onion eight years ago, and just plain tiresome now. God, God, God.

I was having breakfast this week in Bowling Green with Mr. Bracket Board, Western Kentucky professor Cortney Basham. I was telling him all about the scene last Sunday in Birmingham on Easter Sunday afternoon, an overtime game between Tennessee and Butler in the Round of 32. On one side of the impossibly loud BJCC Center, the bright orange of UT, the blue (and Dawg Pound tie-dyes) or Butler on the other. In both sections, many people could be seen with folded hands, gazing up to the high ceiling and presumably beyond.

“I wonder how God decides in situations like that,” I said. “Is it like ESPN SportsNation, where the majority team’s percentage scrolls by on the screen?”

“If only it was that simple,” he answered.

Getting God on your side in matters of human vs. human competition is complicated, and quite simply impossible. It’s also selfish.

Stephen Curry is the polar opposite of all this. He won’t talk about God unless you specifically ask him, and sometimes you have to knock a few times before he’ll answer. His shoe quote, Phillipians 4:13, in its full form, is one of the most simple, brilliant and beautiful statements of faith ever written, and it can be easily retrofit to fit any belief system there is.

Why is Curry so calm in the face of all this pressure, all these tens of thousands? Because he sees himself as a conduit, not a battery. He doesn’t store up God Credits for explosive performances later, like I collect fake metaphysical hit points in my silly tie. He stays grounded because he believes that the divine flows through him, not into him. He’s the kind of human being any religion would be proud to have as a representative.