By Paul M. Banks
CHICAGO- I’m back in my hometown and I’ve now had a whole day to take in all that transpired on Championship/Selection Sunday. “The Chi” is also home to Kansas’ Sherron Collins and Ohio State’s Evan Turner, two of the five members of the United States Basketball Writers Association All-America Team. Just announced today. I voted for both in my USBWA ballot.
Turner absolutely took over the Big Ten Tournament this past weekend, and we were treated to the greatest individual performance in tournament history. On Friday, in the Big Ten quarterfinals, his 40-foot buzzer beater to eliminate Michigan was the lead national story in almost every sports outlet.
“I got 150 texts about it when I got back to my phone in here,” Turner told me Saturday. During the semis, he shut up his trash-talking Illini opponents, and told the media numerous times how much the smack talk bothered him. He also dropped 62 points in the tourney’s final 2 games, so he basically locked up every national player of the year award this past weekend.
When you’re this great, you’re inevitably polarizing. If Turner is on your side- you love him. Of course, if you’re playing against Turner, you probably don’t enjoy his body of work so much. I even heard two different nicknames for ET circulating around the BTT in Indianapolis. His admirers call him “His Royal Smoothness,” his detractors “The Velociraptor.”
-Wouldn’t it REALLY be something if the Toronto Raptors traded up in the NBA draft, to grab Turner? Beyond all that, at least I didn’t tell Evan Almighty he was “headless” at a postgame press conference. This reporter did:
Q. Evan, I don’t know if you’ve ever been asked this question, but have you heard of the term headless?
EVAN TURNER: No.
Q. That’s what you are, just want to let you know that. You started second half. At what point do you decide to put the pedal down because you’re not a selfish player.
-The next day that reporter explained the term to me with Sleepy Hollow and NBA metaphors, and I became even more confused about the term than when I heard it the first time.
-As I reported Thursday, Iowa was about to fire their Head Coach Todd Lickliter. Today it’s official. He probably won’t miss his job too much though when you consider he gets to answer questions like these: (from press conference after his last game on Thursday)
Q. Coach, three seasons ago, take me through this: If I had sat there and told you that by this point almost the entire team would have transferred out, most of them would have been guys that could start and Iowa basketball would be in the state it’s in now, would you have said I’m crazy or would you have said that’s part of the plan to begin with in the sense that you have freshmen coming in that are your guys?
COACH LICKLITER: I’m not sure I follow the question.
Q. The question is, this is the worst Iowa basketball I’ve seen in probably 35 years as far as the amount of wins. What I’m asking you is because of the style of play that you had at Butler, you knew you’d have to come in and shape this over the course of time. Has that went like you thought it would or is this beyond what you thought it would be as far as a bad season?
-Moving on to Illinois I love it when a question I ask elicits a “smiling guffaw” from the coach. Because they knew this was coming. I wanted to get things started right with the first question.
Me: “This is the first win on a neutral court. How does it feel to get that monkey off your back this season?
DEMETRI MCCAMEY: It’s great. When you keep losing away from home and things like that, your confidence gets shot down a little bit. But at the same time, we knew we could compete with a top-25 team, and we just wanted to prove on a new season and new court that we could come out and compete and win ball games.
-As for my beloved Illini, (who went 1-6 on Neutral Courts this year, 18-8 while at home or on the road) how did I take the bubble-bursting news yesterday? I joked on Friday, during the most nerve-wracking Illini game ever that if they blew that lead against Wisconsin, and inevitably landed in the NIT, I would die. And not in a joking manner either. You would actually see in the medical records of an Indianapolis hospital
Patient: Paul Maxmillian Banks.
Date/time of expiration: 3/12/10, 3:47 PM EST.
-I really have nothing more to say as my favorite team in the whole world now begins to win the Not Important Tournament and become the 65th best team in college basketball. I guess NIT Champions feel like the richest, classiest man in Joliet, IL. But hours after I found out the Illini were deservedly left out of the big dance, I got over it. And I’ll be back in beautiful Champaign-Urbana next fall because…(and I know I’m about to destroy any guy’s-guy credibility that I have here by quoting this cheesy Whitney Houston ballad)…
Didn’t we almost have it all? When love was all we had worth giving?
The ride with you was worth the fall my friend.
Loving you makes life worth living
-On a lighter note (actually heavier), in the Michigan St. locker room late Friday night, a player (who shall remain nameless) with a body closer to that of a sumo wrestler than of a top tier college basketball player inspired a team manager to say “hey, tie that towel tight!” I just wanted to tell him, it’s too late! And I thought watching this guy shoot free throws was a horrendous experience.
-The Purdue blogger for SB Nation, Indianapolis native, Travis Hiller of “Hammer and Rails.com” sometimes wore his Hickory High jacket around the tourney. Yes, Hickory High from the immortal film “Hoosiers” how cool is that? It made me wish I made the trek to the north side of the city to see Butler’s University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, the site of the movie’s climactic scene, and the inspiration for Conseco Fieldhouse.
-The Midwest Regional, the most stacked bracket of all awaits!Follow paulmbanks