Game 004: Syracuse 71, Mississippi State 58Thursday, November 18, 2004
Madison Square Garden - New York, NY
It's one of the more common getting-to-really-know-you questions there is. "What's the worst movie you've ever seen?"
Most will give a stock answer. It'll usually be some low-budget sci-fi thing with ridiculous alien makeup and visible fishing-line holding up the spaceships, or a cheesy slasher movie in which the real stars are the bucketloads of fake blood. The kind of motion picture that would show up on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," the old "USA Up(!) All Night," or Joe Bob Briggs' show.
But those are always such easy cop-outs. The truly bad
movies are the ones with grand aspirations and ambitious literary sensibilities. Movies that aim for nothing higher than camp, like bikini carwash flicks and Troma slapstick gorefests, just doesn't have the glorious crash-and-burnability of an "Ishtar" or a "Waterworld". To be a true flop, you have to begin with some sort of altitude and follow a hard downward trajectory.
Bad basketball can be measured on a similar sliding-scale basis. It's one thing when you're watching two teams with no talent and no dreams - your expectations as a fan can be checked at the door, and picked back up again when you run for the parking lot with 13 minutes left in the second half. But when both teams feature rosters packed with blue-chip recruits and All-Americans, and are highly placed in those bizarre poll thingies, that's when "ugly" truly has the opportunity to become uhhh-glee
I'm no old-timer, but I've seen me some horrid basketball in my day. I've recently witnessed games involving both Loyola (Md.)
, two of the worst Division I teams in the nation last season on the basis of both RPI and sheer watchablity. It's that both teams in last night's CvC semifinal capper, Syracuse
and Mississippi State
, are such good teams on paper - that's what made this game so special for me. Not good special, but why-did-I-come-all-the-way-from-Philly-for-this special.
The initial warning signs for this year's Bulldogs came last week, with too-close wins against Fairfield
and Birmingham Southern
to reach the New York portion of the tournament. Syracuse had a slightly easier path, blowing out provisional D1 Northern Colorado and slipping Princeton's
noose with a late Gerry McNamara-led burst.
The sounds of bodies knocking and thumping and smacking the floor echoed throughout the arena deep into the night. But this was no taut, muscular defensive battle - the first half saw more missed shots, falling, scratching and crawling than you're likely to see at a high-school girls' junior varsity game. The score was tied 25-25 at the half, but Syracuse outshot Mississippi State 29%-25%. Yes, those are percentages.How bad was it?
This was the first game I've ever attended where both
cheering sections booed their respective teams off the court at halftime.No, really... how bad was it?
During a break late in the first half, the Garden P.A. announcer informed the crowd of a special guest of the American Cancer Society and National Association Of Basketball Coaches who was in attendance: a Syracuse graduate who was due for cancer surgery on Friday at Beth Israel. A witty young Orange supporter yelled out, "Let's do the surgery at halfcourt... I'd rather watch that than this game!"
(Please be easy on me, I'm just the reporter here...)
One of my favorite hoops axioms is that the first five minutes of the second half is the most important stretch of any college basketball contest. The team that dictates the "first 5" usually ends up winning, or at the very least lays down the endgame's definition.
I'm fairly sure that Orange(men) coach Jim Boeheim is familiar with this idea, as he directed his players to come out firing on all cylinders. Hakeem Warrick led the charge and Syracuse stormed to a 11-0 second-half run. At the 15-minute mark, they let up.
And that's all it took on this evening. One press on the gas pedal, and the sluggish, cloudheaded Bulldogs had been salted away for good. It's probably too early to tell what kind of team Syracuse will be and if they're built for a run at the national title, but the span of three games have shown that Mississippi State is a squad with some real problems in need of immediate addressing.
Now that there is televised evidence of their recent play, are they really so dependent on their returning SEC Player of The Year Lawrence Roberts (who was playing his first game of the year with a Darth Vader mask for his broken nose)? Is the supporting cast completely useless when he has an off-game? Is 6-5 senior Shane Power the only other guy they have that can shoot the rock with any consistency? Will they ever able to crack 60 points? Will they instantly justify St. Mary's
entire season with a collapse in the CvC consolation this evening?
Was this the worst basketball game I've ever witnessed? Naw, not even close - Syracuse's second-half eruption salvaged it.
But for the record, the worst movie I've ever seen has to be the soft-porn adaptation of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" I saw about 10 years ago on Cinemax. It featured lavish sets, sweeping shots of the magnificent Dutch countryside, and a slavish adherence to the original text. The fact that English was not the first language for any of the actors was clearly not a concern for the film's director.
And during the "love scenes" between Sebastian and Olivia, Mozart piano concertos provided the soundtrack. Timeless, indeed.Photo Gallery (Games 003 & 004)