2012 Tournament Preview | By Jim Gavin
Earlier this year, during halftime of a Long Beach State-Lousiville game, I got up from the couch, intending to microwave some more taquitos, when, out of nowhere, I experienced an abject terror, without ostensible cause, and only to be accounted for, to my perplexed imagination, by some damned shape squatting invisible to me within the precincts of the room, and raying out from his fetid personality influences fatal to life. Later, I would realize that this maleficent being was only Digger Phelps, filling the room with his deranged analysis, but at the time my world collapsed, and like Henry James Sr., I realized that I had come to the dark precipice of a Swedenborgian vastation. Basically, I lost my mind, and having perceived the grotesque illusion of reality, I chose to dedicate my life, or, at least, the remainder of this year’s college basketball season, to attaining those invisible realms ruled by Ibis-headed Thoth, who sometimes appears under the turban of Mercurius Tristmegistus, thrice-greatest Hermes. Now let’s talk hoops!
Just as the Gnostics abhorred the corruption of the physical body, I’ve come to abhor the Pac-10 and its continued slide into darkness. How bad was the Pac-10 this year? Well, for starters, their conference tournament was won by Colorado, who’s NOT EVEN IN THE PAC-10! They’re in the Big 8 Conference. This is madness!
(Note: my editor just informed me that the Pac-10 is now the Pac-12, which includes Colorado and Utah. I should’ve known that, but in a way my lack of knowledge is the truest knowledge of all. To quote Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite: “Through the inactivity of all his reasoning powers the mystic is united by the highest faculty to That which is wholly unknowable; thus by knowing nothing he knows That which is beyond knowledge.” That’s SO me!)
The turmoil at UCLA is well documented. Ben Howland has recruited not but knuckleheads for the last four years. Most of the better knuckleheads have transferred and are thriving in hell holes like Las Vegas and Albuquerque, and the ones who have stayed are either semi-effective lunatics who piss on their teammates’ beds (Reeves Nelson) or spoiled brats from Orange County (Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb, and the atrocious Wear twins). Meanwhile, you have a guy like Michael Snaer, a local kid from Moreno Valley now playing at Florida State, who is one of the toughest and steadiest guards in the country, and exactly the type of guy that Howland used to be able to get. Elsewhere, you have Kevin O’Neal burning another program to the ground at USC; Cal barely sneaking into a play-in game, led by their best player, Jorge Gutierrez, of Chihuahua, whose luxurious locks inspired me to write a cycle of erotic rondels, now available in a limited vellum-bound edition; you have Washington treading water, as so many great Seattle area players go elsewhere, and Washington State, all shriveled up after the departure of Tony Bennett, now leading Virginia to their best season in ages; you have Arizona State, still waiting to get the hang of Herb Sendek’s esoteric offense, and the less said about the Oregon schools the better. Only Arizona feels like a program on the rise, and that’s based solely on Sean Miller’s reputation as a recruiter. They didn’t even make the tournament this year. So here we are: Go Colorado! It’s up to you to redeem the Pacific coast!
Syracuse probably has their best team ever. They’ve also had their most unsavory and potentially felonious year ever, which is saying a lot, considering the fact that Jim Boeheim has always had a shady recruiting record, and he has always ignored behavior problems on his team, as long as the players were effective. Now, after the horrors of the Bernie Fine allegations, there are new allegations of the program knowingly ignoring positive drug tests over a number of years. Basically, all this depravity is going to boil over, but in the meantime, the Orange might just win the tournament. One shining moment, before all the trials and suspensions and Paschal sacrifices.
According to the Corpus Hermeticum, the universe is an emanation of living beings arranged in hierarchical order. Same with the tournament. Selection Sunday used to be exciting and full of surprises, as we watched the Archons take their rightful place among the Hebdomad, but now ESPN devotes all its time to Joe Lunardi, a twisted eunuch who uses that giant WOPR computer from War Games to predict, with mind-numbing accuracy, all sixty-four seeds in the tournament. I divine the field my own way, consulting the old grimoires and finding answers in the Enochian Aethyrs of John Dee, so that on Thursday morning, when the tournament tips off, I may go forth with confidence to Hooters, wearing the mask of Osiris, a dirk of cold steel, and my MacGregor tartan.
Every year he steers the top recruits in the country to his program, but how? Basically, from what I’ve heard, he sits them down in a candle lit room, amid red damask and flaming pentagrams, and at the stroke of midnight, his assistants lead into the room a draped figure, and after an interval of unholy chanting, Calipari commands the draped figure to dance the dance of Syrinx and Pan, and when the dancing reaches a fever pitch, Marcus Camby enters the room, arrayed as Baphomet, and he undrapes the figure, revealing her to be The Sacred Whore of Babylon, with whom the recruits are encouraged to make sport. It all ends with Calipari combing back his hair and shouting to the heavens, “I am the Beast and my number is 666!”
More and more the NBA draft is becoming a country club for the scions of the basketball elite. Mike Dunleavy Jr., Dajuan Wagner, Kevin Love, Gerald Henderson, Al Horford, Patrick Ewing Jr., Ronnie Brewer, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Austin Daye, Steph Curry, Nolan Smith, and bunch of others I can’t remember – they all had fathers who played in the NBA or overseas. This year we have another crop, and it’s no surprise that two of them are at Duke, everyone’s favorite bastion of evil and privilege. Austin Rivers, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, was the top recruit in the nation and now he’s the best one-on-one player in the country (though it pains me to admit it). His teammate, Seth Curry, is the son of Del Curry, but he’s not nearly as good as his brother, Steph. The sons of Paul Pressey, the former Milwaukee Bucks great, both play huge roles for Missouri, as does Tim Hardaway Jr. at Michigan. There’s also a MacAdoo at North Carolina, and even Michael Jordan’s miserable kids played college ball. My point is this: rich kids always win. If you’re father made a lot of money in the NBA, it’s fair to say that you begin life with a distinct advantage. They were born rich and they will die rich, and though I’ve rejected the claims of the material realm, I would encourage all of you, my dear comrades, to torch the country clubs and feast on the entrails of all of those who can afford an SAT prep class. Or maybe just befriend them and hope they give you jobs.
Now to the Brackets
Seeking hidden truths about this year’s tournament, I joined the Order of the Golden Dawn (I saw their ad in the back of Poets & Writers). My initiation was a dark and splendid affair. With my satin robe held fast by three chords representing the Three Supernals of the kabbalistic Sephiroth, I was led into the consecrated Temple and given my mystic name, Frater Lux e Tenebris, which is Latin for something. After a strange Templar ritual which involved the consumption of various illicit pharmacopoeia, all the First Order Zelators encircled me and began throwing tennis balls at my head. After this ordeal, the Magister Templi kissed me long and hard on the mouth and sent me to the distant Isle of Tristan da Cunha, where I was supposed to spend three weeks performing a magical operation that would allow me to understand the mysteries of the Orphic Wheel. I spent the first two weeks watching episodes of Justified on my laptop, but eventually I took pen in hand and waited for inspiration. What I’ve written below comes not from me, but from STEVE, an astral Being of subtle intelligence who occupied my room for the rest of the week, whispering in my ear the diabolical laws of the New Aeon, and eating all my food. Later, he stole my wallet and all my pharmacopoeia. Unless you have attained the rank of Lord of the Paths in the Portal of the Vault of the Adepts, none of this will make any sense to you.
Players to watch:
Anthony Davis (Kentucky): unibrowed and willowy beyond belief, Davis has dominated college basketball in much the way that Ralph Sampson did a million years ago. Unlike a lot of recent freshman big men – Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Beasley – Davis is a true gamer and he can dominate without having the ball in his hands
Jeremy Lamb (Uconn) – had a disappointing year, but he still has Ray Allen-esque tools and when he wants to turn it on, he has the smoothest perimeter game in college basketball.
Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons (Xavier): one of my favorite quotes of the year came from Holloway, after Xavier beat Cincinnati and then got into a brawl. “We’ve got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room…We went out there and zipped them up.” Not good PR for the university, but that’s the kind of attitude I want in my point guard. Holloway and Lyons will control their fire, like the Chaldean necromancers of old, and they will bring down Duke in the second round.
Cody Zeller (Indiana): Tom Krean’s rebuilding project at Indiana is way ahead of schedule, thanks in large part to Zeller. He and his brother, Tyler, of North Carolina, could become the best brother duo in NBA history.
Shaka Smart has VCU peaking at the right time, again, and even though they lost just about everybody from last year, they still play with the same intensity and belief. They’ll beat Wichita St. in round one. I’m taking Colorado over UNLV, and Xavier over Notre Dame – as always, the Society of Jesus reigneth supreme – and then Xavier will beat Duke in the second round.
Kentucky has by far the toughest road to the Final Four, but I still don’t see anyone beating them.
Players to Watch:
James Ennis (Long Beach State): another local kid that USC and UCLA missed the boat on. Ennis compares nicely to Eddie Jones, one of my all time favorites, and he will be a steal late in the first round of the draft.
Kyle Kuric (Louisville): another in a long line of Louisville dunk artists – Darrell Griffith, LaBradford Smith, Alvin Sims – who will never pan out in the NBA.
Mike Scott (Virginia): his game is as exciting as name! Led Virginia to a solid season, finally. It’s always baffled me why Virginia isn’t more consistently dominant. Great school, with access to one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country, and the architecture is rich in Masonic symbolism.
Kim English (Missouri): despite his name, the do everything senior guard will play a major role in Missouri’s march to the Final Four.
I’m taking Long Beach State to the Elite Eight. They played Louisville tough earlier in the season, but came up short after a terrible shooting night. I think they’ll get past them in the second round, and then past Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen.
Missouri. I’ve loved watching them this year. Much of the credit for their success has to go to former coach Mike Anderson, who left last season to return to Arkansas. He recruited all these guys and they still play with the 40-minutes-of-hell mentality that he brought from his days with Nolan Richardson. Credit to current coach Frank Haith for building on what Anderson started. Haith and Anderson have helped Mizzou crawl out from the long and odious shadow of Quinn Snyder, the former Duke golden boy who turned out to be, surprise, a total fraud, just like Madame Blavatsky.
Players to watch:
Dion Waiters (Syracuse): the most dominant and NBA-ready guard in the country, Waiters happens to come off the bench for the Orange. He has Iverson-like athleticism, and though he’s considered undersized, I think he sees the floor and passes well enough to play point in the NBA. Will have one or two insane highlight dunks in the tournament.
Jeff Taylor (Vanderbilt): one of the most frustrating players in college basketball. He has all the tools, and few players look more like an NBA player, but he tends to drift out of games. Vanderbilt had the talent to win the tournament, but there’s just something off about them; Coach Kevin Stallings just can’t seem to figure out how to make them work.
Jared Sullinger (Ohio State): aesthetically, he’s only slightly more appealing than Tyler Hansbrough, but he has amazing hands and always gets good spots in the paint. Helps that he has a fine point guard in Aaron Craft, who I like to describe as “Crafty!”
West Virginia over Gonzaga, who continue to get way more credit than they deserve based solely on a flukey tournament run twelve years ago. Florida State over Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen. The Seminoles are another team, like Missouri, with a great mix of toughness and experience.
Just heard on the radio that Syracuse center Fab Melo is suspended for the tournament. And so the prophecy has come to pass. I’m now taking Florida State to the Final Four.
Players to watch:
Henry Sims (Georgetown): hardly played his first three years, but has taken over the role of playmaking center and helped the Hoyas have a better year than most people expected. It’s like he went from being a First Order Neophyte directly to Third Order Ipsissimus!
Thomas Robinson (Kansas): one of my favorite moments of the season was watching Robinson single-handedly destroy Baylor’s frontline. Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day I can tell you! Anthony Davis will be the first pick in the draft, and could become an MVP-caliber player, but Robinson is a lock to become a great NBA power forward.
Not much here. I’m going to live dangerously and take NC State over San Diego State in the first round. Otherwise I see UNC sneaking past Kansas in the regional final.
UNC. Once they sorted out their point guard position, dropping Larry Drew Jr. (another kid who’s dad played in the NBA), and handing the ball to Kendall Marshall, they’ve been excellent. Much depends on John Henson’s injured wrist.
Kentucky vs. Missouri/Florida State vs. UNC
Missouri vs. UNC
As above, so below. Tetragrammaton!
Jim Gavin divides his time between home and Del Taco.