Of the myriad of fundamental differences between football and basketball, none may be more glaring or more frequently manifested than a coach’s malleability in regards to adherence to a game plan. That’s a convoluted, bullshit way of saying basketball coaches change their game plans as talent dictates, football coaches generally don’t. Football coaches/G.M.’s/recruiters/scouts devise a style of play and employ the best players for said style. Often those best players are not the best players, as the current confusion regarding the Rich Rodriguez/Ryan Mallet tandem in Ann Arbor indicates. Ideally this is also the case in basketball, but because of roster size and the transcendent ability of individual talent, teams are much more willing to adjust their style to their players. Pat Riley won championships in the 80’s with the fast break, and won division titles in the 90’s with an ugly defense. Pat Riley is also a dick.
Intermittently though a good coach can play a style he’s always played and, because of said personnel and minor adjustments, that style suddenly looks a lot better in aesthetic and execution than it previously did. Case in point, the Pittsburgh Panthers. No Pitt hasn’t turned into the Tar Heels, they beat Duke last night 65-64 in overtime, and they ain’t shooting the three Brucie Pearl style, as they were 3-19 from beyond the arc. But for the first time in a long time Pitt is actually fun to watch. Last night’s game was the most exciting all season, and not just because overtime shots of the Duke bench looked like scenes from a Leni Reifenstahl film.* Pitt has always had the right kind of game plan for the tournament, but they’ve never had the type of players capable of exceeding said game plan. Gray, Troutman, Taft, Blount were just good enough to get the Panthers to the Sweet 16 but incapable of doing much else. This season should be different. Blair is a beautiful player to watch, the kind of 6’7″ 20 rebounding forward you convince yourself to take in the lottery because if he hits 3’s he’s Charles Barkley. And these guards play the passing lanes and pressuring defense better than most. It would be tempting to say last night’s game was more indicative of an overrated Duke team than it was an underrated Pitt team but to say that underrates both Pitt and Duke.
We don’t know about you, but with an entertaining Pitt basketball team and an actually somewhat likable Duke, we’re calling our agent to buttress the earthquake insurance and see if they cover locusts, famine, and plague.
*editor’s note: from time to time Woody Allen contributes jokes for our page. It’s costly but worth it.