3. North Carolina

In elementary school the biggest sin was swearing. In middle school swearing was upgraded to smoking cigarettes. In high school it was underage drinking.

Don’t swear. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Follow these rules and you’re a good kid. Break these rules and beware of being labeled the “bad boy” or the “dangerous girl” in the parental gossip circles.

Then comes college and all hell breaks loose. Whether you came in as a “good kid” or “bad kid”, there’s almost no avoiding the bad, the weird, the fun, the questionable, the slightly awesome decisions out there to be made.

If you made it through college without ever doing any of the following: getting drunk, smoking, streaking across campus (nude or in your underwear), waking up in a place you didn’t remember ever arriving at, sleeping through a class, sleeping in a class, skipping a class because you wanted to go to the beach or being involved in at least two cell phone videos that you wouldn’t want to watch 10 years later, then I hate to say it, but I think you missed out.

Like that one episode of South Park said, “There’s a time and a place for everything and it’s called college.”

The college years are the four most forgiving years of life.

For example, if you are found passed out on a fraternity house lawn at age 19, your peers will post the photo online and move on. Get found passed out on the same lawn at age 45, what is wrong with this guy?

As a college freshman, it’s a hilarious story to tell your friends. At age 45 you could lose your job over it.

I feel like North Carolina is the the third grader who told his teacher, “This is bullshit” and got sent to the principal’s office. Or the seventh grader who smoked cigarettes after school. Or the high schooler who got drunk and puked at a dance party.

At the time, oh man, that kid is absolute trouble! Now? Those don’t seem that bad at all.

As life goes on and everyone has moments/decisions they are not proud of, that “bad kid” from junior high is no longer bad at all. He was just a kid.

In sports, as in life, you don’t have to be perfect or even try to be perfect. Being perfect, like Wichita State, becomes even more stressful. If they lose in the tournament, the disappointment is far more severe than having an off night back in December.

North Carolina’s “bad” losses to Belmont, UAB, Wake Forest and Miami all took place before February. These don’t look as bad now since other teams caught up with bad losses of their own. Plus Belmont ended up being a pretty solid mid-major team.

Every team, besides Wichita State, has blemishes now. What the other teams don’t have are North Carolina’s four extremely quality wins. Michigan State (when they were #1). Louisville (when they were #3). Duke (when they were #5). Kentucky (when they were #11).

That is why North Carolina is No. 3 on this list. Oklahoma State could beat any team on the bracket, UNC has beaten the top tier opponents. I was going to put them at No. 1 because of their potential, but the Pittsburgh loss in the ACC Tournament reminded me of the same frustrating truth of every other team on this list: they could lose first round.

Q: Ok, so now that I’ve received a weird lecture on why making mistakes is ok and pretty sure you just encouraged every college kid to go out and make mistakes, can I get some actual analysis on the UNC roster?

North Carolina’s motor is point guard Marcus Paige. He has been consistent all year long averaging 17.4 ppg and dishing out about four assists per contest.

James Michael McAdoo is having a decent season. He’s victim of there being huge expectations after his freshman year, not having a breakout sophomore season and putting up quality but not great numbers as a junior.

Why Pick North Carolina?

Usually with Roy Williams teams, dating back to when he was head coach at Kansas, the strategy seemed to always be, “We’re gonna get out and run, play ok defense and try and win games in the 80’s/90’s.” This year’s North Carolina team plays better defense and can win in a variety of ways. They held the Spartans to 65 points and in their win against Duke, held Coach K’s team to 66.

If you want to take the Tar Heels to the Final Four, you are absolutely validated in doing so. It’s not crazy, they have the wins to back it up. I would, however, advise against picking them to lose first round. Those early ACC losses? This team has grown up since then. Roy Williams will have them ready and I feel pretty good about a Sweet 16 run for the Tar Heels.

As for anyone going off to college, I’ll echo the wisdom of Dr. Frazee:

“It’s alright to get a little bit crazy, just don’t do anything stupid.”

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Medium Rare Bracketology

By: Chris O’Brien

Have you ever been entrusted to create a playlist?

Any kind of playlist. Background music for a dinner party. A collection of soft rock hits for the dentist. Grinding music for a sweaty dance party.

Each setting has a list of ol reliables. For example, there has never been a documented case of “Get Low” failing at a dance party. Same can be said for “All I do is Win” or Usher’s “Yeah”.

But you can’t loop the handful of reliables for two straight hours. Eventually you have to go a little riskier. Not a problem at first. You add Beyonce, Ke$ha, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and the playlist still looks great. Only problem is you don’t feel like you’ve made your own personal stamp. The list is too generic. You gotta think outside of the box.

That’s when things get weird. Sometime around 3 a.m. you take a good hard look at the following songs:

  1. Thong Song
  2. Who Let the Dogs Out
  3. Total Eclipse of the Heart
  4. Mambo No. 5
  5. Sweet Caroline
  6. Party in the U.S.A

I have seen all six of these songs work and I have seen all six of these songs fail miserably. Sweet Caroline can win over an entire baseball stadium or kill a dance party. I witnessed Mambo No. 5 clear out a basement of 80 people like it were a bad fart. I have seen Party in the U.S.A get booed and I have seen Party in the U.S.A. get an introvert to dance on a bar.

These are the songs, and there are hundreds more, that can make or break a playlist. When they connect, you’re a genius. When they fail you’re an idiot.

Just like–and here comes the loose transition to college basketball–your March Madness Bracket. This year the race is wide open. I’m two weeks away from seeing a bracket and I already feel like I’ve screwed up my picks.

Just a few minutes ago I watched Penn State beat Ohio State, Arkansas win at Kentucky and Duquesne win at Saint Louis. Yesterday I was contemplating Saint Louis to the Final Four, now I’m contemplating how to pronounce Duquesne!

This year my plan is to over-plan. I am preparing in advance, hoping to make some sense of this year’s tournament picture before I see the bracket. These are my Reliable Picks:

  1. Florida
  2. Kansas
  3. Syracuse
  4. Duke
  5. Arizona

Low chance of losing before Sweet 16, high chance of making the Final Four and if they do get upset, most of the people in your pool will go down with you.

My next group is the 16 teams I feel good about taking to the Round of 32 and almost feel safe putting in the Sweet 16.

  1. Cincinnati
  2. Louisville
  3. Wichita State
  4. Villanova
  5. Creighton
  6. Michigan
  7. Wisconsin
  8. San Diego State
  9. Michigan State
  10. Kentucky
  11. Virginia
  12. Memphis
  13. Ohio State
  14. UCLA
  15. New Mexico
  16. Oklahoma

Could they go further than the Sweet 16? Absolutely. But picking them would give me a little heartburn.

So the logical thing for me to do, I have 21 teams above, I should wait to see the matchups and try to get 16 of them to the Sweet 16. The problem is:

1) March Madness is never that simple

2) There are 16 teams, the “Bittersweet 16”, that are itching to be the bracket busting equivalent of the Thong Song. That sentence gets weirder each re-read, but what I’m trying to say is these 16 teams are a couple of beers and some ESPN.com roster searches away from looking like Final Four contenders.

They also have a high risk of losing in the first round. Or being selected to the N.I.T.

They are the teams you kick yourself for not having the guts to have picked further or ban yourself from ever picking again after they lose by 10 to some team from the MAC.

Over the next 16 days I will focus on one team a day and bring some confusion/clarity for you to consider later when the bracket is released. There are at least 275 better sources of March Madness advice than what you will receive here in my Medium Rare Bracketology, but who knows, maybe one of these 16 teams will turn out to be the sleeper pick that your bracket needs. Or they may ruin your bracket. Time will tell.

For now, here are the 16 Bittersweet teams in alphabetical order. Click the team for their article or head back to the ‘Medium Rare Bracketology’ tab above for the list.

Florida State, Gonzaga, Iona, Iowa, Iowa State, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Saint Louis, SMU, Stephen F. Austin, Texas, Toledo, UCONN, UMASS, VCU, Vermont.

Did I forget a team? Should any of these 16 teams be moved up a category? Does anyone have game film on Stephen F. Austin? Let me know. Message or tweet me @MediumRareBooks or send me an email chrisobrien30@gmail.com. 

Eurostepped in Boulder

For the second time in ten days, the Kansas Jayhawks lost to an unranked opponent away from Lawrence. Saturday’s loss at Colorado ended at the buzzer and unlike the Villanova loss down in the Bahamas, this was a true road game with the crowd being 95/5 Colorado over Kansas.

I always have three levels of reaction to a close loss. The first is the passionate fan hoping for the late whistle, some miracle to wipe away what I watched transpire. My first reaction definitely thought this was a travel.

Second reaction is acceptance. Begrudgingly seeing the play as a Dwyane Wade/Manu Ginobili Eurostep.

Third reaction is the optimistic “this will be good for our guys” wannabe coach mentality. A tough loss brings adversity, adversity builds character, character builds leaders, etc. Plus a buzzer beater loss stings a lot less in December than it does in March.

But do these types of losses really help a team? Is Kansas better off having that shot go in than say bouncing off and the Jayhawks winning in Overtime?

My theory is a championship caliber team has to develop four traits over the course of a season. These four traits are more important than the win/loss record.

1. Ability to win despite everything going wrong. Withstand an opponent shooting lights out from three, going on runs.

2. Develop a last two minutes of the game lineup with no cringe-worthy players.

3. Three players who are willing to take the last shot.

4. Reliable three point shooting

Notice there is nothing about ‘ability to bounce back from a loss.’ Come NCAA Tournament time, that trait doesn’t matter. Buzzer beater goes in, season over.

Hey, Not Everyone’s Cheering for us coach…

Neutral courts are never neutral when it comes to KU. The United Center was predominately Jayhawks. Thousands of Kansas fans took advantage of a Thanksgiving trip to the Bahamas. Last year in the NCAA Regionals, Cowboys Stadium was 80/20 Kansas fans vs. everyone else.

Saturday’s game in Boulder was the first time ever that Andrew Wiggins, Frank Mason and Joel Embiid played in front of 11,000 people all cheering for the opposite team. The Canadian Wiggins heard U-S-A chants at the foul line. Embiid was only cheered on when he stepped out of bounds. Nobody was shouting out “FOUL REF!” on Mason’s drives to the basket.

The three freshmen handled the situation well. In the first half Embiid was dominant, living up to the recent Hakeem Olajuwon 2.0 hype. It is rare for someone Embiid’s size and age to already have this much footwork, decent foul shooting, few bad habits in terms of placing the ball on the ground or not having his hands ready for the pass. He wants the ball on offense and he’s developing as a shot blocker on defense. Against Colorado he even had three steals, two assists.

Mason had an off night shooting, but did what he does best, fearlessly attacking the rim and not being afraid to take big shots. My favorite play of Mason’s was on an outlet pass from Jamari Traylor. The ball looked like it was clearly heading out of bounds, Traylor even threw his hands in the air upset, but Mason sprinted it down, turned the near disaster into foul shots at the other end. He’s my favorite player on the team right now and should be here for all four years. Sherron Collins 2.0

I was most impressed with Andrew Wiggins. THIS is how he needs to play every game. We saw a little bit of this in the second half of the Duke game, the attacking attitude, crossing half court and deciding ‘I’m going to the basket and nobody’s going to stop me.’ It amazes me how far out he can take off from and get right to the rim.

I wish he would have stuck all three free throws on the Dinwiddie foul and definitely think he needs to switch the way he rests his hands on his hips, but big steps in the right direction.

So Colorado must have played great then

Not really. Colorado hit seven threes, but put up 22 attempts. The Buffaloes only shot 41 percent compared to Kansas at 53. Turnover margin only five and the Buffaloes missed 15 free throws (five less than KU attempted).

The only two “home court moments” were Spencer Dinwiddie’s end of shot clock 3-pointer that landed flat on the rim then somehow rolled in. Then of course the final shot of the game by Askia Booker.

This wasn’t Colorado playing their best game ever and catching KU on an off night. If anything, Colorado can look at this game tape and say, “We could’ve won this by 10-12 points.”

Like Villanova, Colorado will jump into the top 25 in the next poll and possibly end the season in the top 15. The win helps Colorado’s resume, will not be a Bad Loss for KU.

End of Game Lineup

The end of game lineup of Mason, Tharpe, Selden, Wiggins and Ellis passes the “no cringe-worthy” options. All five are comfortable taking the big shot and capable of delivering. Same can be said for Embiid, but I think we will see this four ball handlers and Perry Ellis option more often closing out tight games.

Tharpe and/or Selden need to be the 3-pt guy. Mason and Wiggins are both attackers. Embiid and Ellis are reliable in the post. The potential for this team is there, still a lot of room to grow.

Final Questions

How long before Bill Self starts Joel Embiid over Tarik Black?

Why isn’t Spencer Dinwiddie higher in the NBA Mock Drafts? The 6’6” point guard has a big opportunity to shine in a head-to-head matchup against Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart in two weeks.

How long can announcers refer to Conner Frankamp  as the ‘dangerous’ ‘incredible’ outside shooter without him turning in a few Jeff Boschee type performances?

Is Frank Mason the new starting point guard?

Wayne Simien??

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This is part of the ‘Loss for Words’ series. Articles/rants/email chains less than 48 hours after a loss. Goal is to be part coping mechanism, part silver lining hunt. Ideally won’t be posting too many of these for KU… If you want a place to vent after your team’s loss send me a message @chris0brien on Twitter or email me chrisobrien30@gmail.com and I’ll post on the site.

Kevin Garnett Can’t Say No to the Honey Nut Cheerios

KGCheerios

 

 

Honey Nut Cheerios was trending on Twitter for a solid 24 hours. Why?

The rumor is Kevin Garnett said to Carmelo Anthony something along the lines of, “Your wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios” during the Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks game.

If this is true, and if it isn’t who cares, I think Kevin Garnett taught us a valuable lesson in trash talk.

Be Oddly Specific

“I slept with your wife” 

Yawn. There’s no shock factor here. Any middle school punk could say this.

Carmelo: That’s a foul ref, he’s all over me!

Kevin Garnett: That’s what your wife said last night!

Clever, a little on the Sean Connery/celebrity jeopardy side, but still, not quite there.

KG: Your wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios. 

Knockout punch. The power of being this specific is it approaches the line of, “He could not have possibly made this up.” You say this to someone and there are really only three possibilities:

  1. The wife/girlfriend does in fact taste like Honey Nut Cheerios and the trash talker knows this from personal experience or from rumors floating around.
  2. She does not, at least since the time you’ve been with her, taste like Honey Nut Cheerios, but maybe in the past she did.
  3. She has never tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios, the trash talker just has a very quick witted imagination.

Now you’re stuck weighing the percentages of each potential reality. Your brain would explode under this type of stress. Twenty thousand people booing you, screaming “you suck!” or any other standard taunt is in one ear out the other. But this? If this is what KG actually said, I completely accept Carmelo’s reaction and would understand if he can no longer go down the cereal aisle in the grocery store without losing his mind.

*This is the first of the brand new ‘Twort’ section. We break down the trending sports topics on Twitter, no matter how ridiculous, so you don’t have to. Think of it as the gutter of sports on Twitter. Or the warts of sports reporting. Or, simply, Tworts.

The Game was Over Before the Guinness was Cold

By: Chris O’Brien

Andrew Grillo sent me a text on September 1st with one simple question:

“Alright, prediction for tonight’s game?”

The game: Alabama vs. Michigan. Background: Grillo is, and has always been, a huge Michigan fan. At the time of the game, he was starting dentistry school at U of M. The good friend response would have been an optimistic, “I think U of M has a chance to win this.”

My response: A brutally honest, “Alabama: 42-17.”

Did it feel good to send? No. Was it eerily accurate? Yes.

This is how you pick an Alabama game. Throw out the sentimental stuff. Ignore the underdog story lines. Don’t factor in your friendships. Just close your eyes and picture the pure anger on Nick Saban’s face, not after a blown assignment, but post-Gatorade bath; the same moment every other coach dreams of happening at least once in their entire career.

If Saban can’t even enjoy the Gatorade bath, think about how pissed he must get over every little mistake in a practice. Now picture that anger boiling over for an entire month of practices. Now picture his team losing. Impossible right?

Winning doesn’t even interest Saban anymore. He’s grading himself against perfection. His players are terrified to look up at the scoreboard as if one little glance will result in down ups, bear crawls, tire throws, whatever the basketball wind sprint equivalent is in the football world. The result is a team that hits you just as hard up 30 as they would down three.

Having said all that, there I was last night sitting on a Red Line train heading back to my apartment thinking, “You know what, I think Notre Dame could actually win this.”

My logic was non-existent. It consisted of: I was a Notre Dame fan for a couple Charlie Weiss bandwagon years. I went to Ireland last summer. My last name’s O’Brien. Alright, let’s get some Guinness, throw on a green shirt and get into this.

I put the Guinness in the fridge and the next thing I knew Roll Tide was up 21-0. The game was over before the Guinness was cold.

I was ready to turn the game off, but Brent Musburger was on absolute fire. Easily the moment of the night came when the camera panned over to AJ McCarron’s girlfriend and ol Musburger called it like he saw it.

“You quarterbacks, you get all the good looking women. Whoa!”

Then…

“AJ’s doing some things right down in Tuscaloosa!”

Then…

“If you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with pop.”

This is just good, wholesome, old man’s meat and potatoes advice. We like to think life is more complex, that we live in a different era than the one Musburger grew up in, but look at the age old evidence:

  1. McCarron is Alabama’s starting quarterback.
  2. McCarron dates that girl.
  3. Quarterback = hot girlfriend. Equation solved.

To back up his point, Musburger later brought up Johnny Manziel’s “wow factor” with a subtle hint to his life off the field. What did he mean? Google “Johnny Manziel’s Girlfriend.” I can’t wait for the Manziel vs. McCaron game next year. Musburger might pass out by the coin toss.

For those of you who watched the game without having your Twitter feed open, you are definitely missing out. Sort of. Well, not really, but it does add like an extra bit of barbeque sauce to your sports viewing sandwich. See, Twitter for sports is like a drunk ESPN who’s finally thrown credibility out the window. Anything goes and any story is fair game.

For instance, a big story emerged about LeBron James. Apparently the King had started following McCarron’s girlfriend’s Twitter feed. This, of course, started trending. It gets interesting because LeBron stopped following her shortly after. Or did he? What message was he trying to send? I don’t know, but it’s trending so I’ve got to read a few dozen tweets from complete strangers and then figure out why kids are cutting themselves for Justin Bieber.

I picture ESPN viewing Twitter like a McRib sandwich; they know they shouldn’t, they know it can’t be good for their health, but get late enough into the night and nothing else is open… well then maybe you throw a few reporters at the LeBron following McCarron’s girlfriend story.

Alabama looked awesome, Musburger was on fire and most middle aged women have a strange crush on Kirk Herbstreit. This interaction happened in at least 25,000 households last night.

Wife: I like Herbie. 

Husband: (silently sips beer)

Wife: Herbie’s cute. 

Husband: (sips beer again, rolls eyes)

Wife: I mean he’s stayed in really good shape–

Husband: Whew, hot-diggity-damn! Look at her! Amen Musburger, Amen! Son, let’s go outside and toss the ol pigskin around.

Wife: (rolls eyes, silently sips Mike’s Hard Lemonade)

The main thing I took away from last night’s game is a deep concern for the future of any fan outside of the SEC. Why the hell did we push for a playoff?? We had a perfect system. Think about it. Alabama. LSU. Georgia. Florida. Auburn. Texas A&M. South Carolina. They’re all lumped together. We were safe! We had these schools gerrymandered away into one conference and could hold onto the realistic hope that once every five to ten years they would all beat up on each other to the point that no team would have less than two losses. This would give the rest of us in the Big Ten, the Big Twelve, Pac 12, Notre Dame, all we had to do was go undefeated and the chance at a title (against another non-SEC team) would be ours.

But a playoff? Look at what we’ve done. This will guarantee an SEC team will always be in the mix. Always. Expanding the playoff? Great, let’s put in a few more SEC teams in case Alabama has an off day.

The BCS system, as currently constructed, may have had its flaws but those flaws gave flawed teams outside of the SEC a sparkle of hope. We had the chance of roping the party off from the SEC, or at least reserving one secure spot for us to go to the party and get beat by multiple touchdowns. You stretch this thing out to 16 teams and we may never again see a non-SEC coach receive a Gatorade bath.

*Check out my debut book Medium Rare over on Amazon and stay tuned for more sports, fiction and life writings from various authors here on this site.      

NBA Playoffs: They Were Men When We Were Boys

Growing up I remember watching Midland High basketball games; cheering on iconic players like Chris Kelsey, Nathan Yopp, Ernie Sutton. I remember the guys in my older brother’s grade: Matt Brown, Tom O’Brien, Nick Butler, Rian Roberson. These were the local heroes, the legends on the court, the cool summer basketball camp counselors in the summer time.

As a young basketball player you aspired to be them.

Fast forward years later and I was on the varsity basketball team. I remember realizing, wait, our record’s the same as theirs was. Our guys are the same height. Wait, are we… equals? Are we better?

Then comes winter break. Coach Krause invites the older guys back to the gym to beat up on us right when we’re on the edge of overconfident. Ernie comes in. Nick Butler. My older brother. Matt Brown. Logic says they’re all in the 6-foot tall range but not to me. I’m back to being the kid again and these guys are the giants I cheered on.

So the first game starts. They’re physical. They block shots. They throw full court passes. They can still dunk. 5-0. 6-0. 7-0. We rush our shots. Take bad shots. Throw the ball out of bounds.

The first game’s a blowout. Second game too. It doesn’t really make sense considering we have set plays and practice every day. These guys are in college and may go weeks without stepping foot on the court.

But they have the key psychological edge: They were men when we were boys.

When Kevin Durant was 14, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade had just entered the NBA. For all of high school, Durant was cheering these guys on, hoping to elevate his game to their levels, idolizing their talents.

Likewise, when LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade were in middle school, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett were beginning their Hall of Fame NBA careers.

It’s a one-sided fandom. Pierce never rushed home to watch LeBron James’s Youtube clips and Tim Duncan certainly never went out and bought a Chris Bosh middle school jersey. Hell, Duncan racked up thousands of NBA points before Serge Ibaka had even picked up a basketball.

The Spurs and Celtics are the older guys to the Heat. The Heat are the older guys to the Thunder. Older guys are afraid they might lose, younger guys are afraid they might win.

I think we all, to some degree, set limits on ourselves. We view ourselves belonging in a certain league, category, bracket and it becomes very hard to break out of that box. It’s why our older brothers always seem to win the 1-on-1 games, or why we’re intimidated to ask our boss for more money, or why we’re hesitant to ask a girl out of our range to the prom.

Think about it. If your friend says, “Hey, I set you up on a blind date. She’s really hot, great body, she’s a good singer too,” then you go to the restaurant with a certain expectation in place. However, if you show up and that girl turns out to be Rihanna, suddenly it’s a whole different ball game. Your heart’s racing faster, you stumble over your words, voice cracks, sweat profusely.

But why? She’s technically the hot girl with a good singing voice described by your friend. Except that she’s not. She’s Rihanna and you’re you. The two aren’t supposed to go together.

Or how about when Jesus told Peter to join him on the water walk. Peter’s doing great for a while until he starts thinking, “I’m walking on the water with Jesus! Holy crap I’m walking on the water with Jesus! OH CRAP, I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE WALKING ON WATER WITH JESUS!”

This same logic is why I think Michael Jordan could beat 99.8 percent of the world’s population at basketball into his late sixties. Reasoning? Only a select few, when they’re a basket away from winning, would be able to get past the mental hurdle of, “Wait, I might actually beat MJ?” It doesn’t matter if this MJ has gray eyebrows and walks with a cane, almost everyone’s minds would picture him in his Chicago Bulls prime.

So how can the younger guys ever win? The secret: They have to believe, not only that they belong on the same court, but that it’s their turn and the older guys already had their chance. Kevin Durant put it this way:

“We never thought we were supposed to wait our turn. We just know we’re supposed to take everything.”

The Thunder’s defining moment was this year in Game 4 against the Spurs when Durant carried the team  in the fourth quarter. When your best player rises to the challenge, it’s contagious and that’s why you saw the The Thunder come into Game 5 with new confidence and were able to beat the old guys in enemy territory, something I thought would take several more years of growing pains to accomplish.

The Miami Heat had this moment last year when they finally got past the Boston Celtics in Round 2. This year they couldn’t get it done at home in Game 5 and now find themselves up against the ropes… again. They will have to beat the older guys two times in a row, once on the road, to keep their title hopes alive

Honestly, I don’t know between the Thunder and Heat who is in the better position. Mathematically, it’s the Thunder. They only have to go 1-1. But, psychologically, the Heat have no other choice than to fight, scrap, play their heart out and see if they can win two in a row. No thinking involved.

For the Thunder, they have to face the fear that they might just win one of these next two games and head to the NBA Finals. They are 48 minutes away from completing a path that involved them beating the Mavericks, Lakers, and Spurs; three teams that have combined to win 10 of the last 13 NBA Championships. Unlike Peter, maybe it’s best the Thunder don’t look down and realize they’re walking on water.

Forget the ages, by the end of the week we’ll know exactly who are the men and who are the boys.