Did you realize...that you were a champion? (In their eyes)
You don't see just how wild the crowd is?
You don't see just how fly my style is?
I don't see why I need a stylist
When I shop so much I can speak Italian
For as many times as I've "Shocked The World," I don't think I've ever came into one with as much uncertainty as when I touched down in Houston, Texas. I mean, think about it; my ace-boon-koon, aka The Bearded One, was unavailable. I didn't have any secured credentials/tickets for the Saturday session, and Houston can well...be Houston. However, when you Shock The World with good intentions....good things will undoubtedly happen. Now watch me work... *flex* *flex* *flex*
Let's talk about the homie Big KRIT real quick...
On Friday night, I had the opportunity and the pleasure to partake in the "Return of 4 Eva" tour at Warehouse Live, with the homie Tavares, and for as much as folks have spoke the gospel about Big Krit (for those not in the know...a self-made rapper/producer extraordinaire out of Mississippi who sounds a lot like Pimp C aka "SWEET JAMES JONES" and a twinge of T.I., the man's following has started to grow like wild fire), his live show was a joy to watch.
See, I was just as hype about going to this show as potentially going to the Final Four. That's how much I like Krit; dude is real. It is now at this point that I must tell you a quick story. During the concert, while Freddie Gibbs was performing, I received a notification on the phone from "Words With Friends." Never one to back away from a challenge, I opened up the phone and replied with "refute; 34 points". During this time, a really attractive Eritrean chick named "Mez" peeped over my shoulder and looked me in my eyes and said...
"You don't want it with me in the Words With Friends." (smile)
So after engaging in a bit of dialogue during the concert, which is damn near impossible but somehow the woman was feeling me out, Gibbs ended his show and Krit came on stage. About four songs in, the crowd swelled and folks got real bunched up. "Mez" and yours truly were a bit close, but I was really vibing and not paying too much attention. Then Krit performed "Hometown Hero" and ole buddy decided to lose his damned mind.
Krit jumps into the crowd and essentially starts flexing with about 35 of us in the area. Pushing ensues, crowd starts swanging, chaos is ensuing. If you went to an HBCU, this might be normal. Hell, I felt right at home when this was occurring. However, it is at this point for me to tell you that "Mez" was about 4-foot-12 and 105 pounds...maybe. Well, the crowd pushing ensued and Mez caught a YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUULE right to the chesticles. The woman flew about 15 feet and was discombobulated to no end. No one really cared, because we were hype as hell.
We never saw that fine-ass Eritrean chick again. Damn you, Krit. (daps)
Anyway, onto Saturday...
Shoutout to Katherine and the good folks at Nike for getting me credentialed for the House of Hoops event they hosted at the Galleria. I got the chance to chop it up with Sheryl Swoopes, the Texas Tech legend, the Houston Comets 4-time champion, the Gold-medal winning Olympian, and now....a 40-year old who's coming out of retirement to sign up for work with the Tulsa Shock. I'll say this: she looked like she could give anyone 22 and 6 right now. WNBA, be ready.
After that, Stephen Bardo strolled in and got to chop it up with him for a good 20 minutes; real cool cat. Bardo was a member of the fabled Illinois '89 Flying Illini squad that featured Kendall Gill, Marcus Liberty, Nick Anderson, and Bardo. Plus, Bardo now does work as an ESPN commentator/analyst. I'll have a full interview up on SLAM Online here later in the week. Here's the thing about Bardo that helped me take this weekend in perspective:
"What these teams are doing right now could be the new future of college basketball or the singular exception to the powerhouses of this sport." - Stephen Bardo
It just got real.
So after leaving the Galleria, and enjoying the biggest smoothie in life from the mall, I made my way to Reliant Stadium.
With no ticket. With no credential. With only my hopes and dreams in tow.
Luckily, a contact through a contact of one more contact got me in with VCU's media staff. There was a catch: only able to stay for the VCU-Butler game.
That's no catch. That's just space and opportunity. LETS DO WORK.
The scene inside Reliant was unreal, very reminiscent of the national championship game I attended last year at Lucas Oil with Duke vs. Butler. Couple of things...
1) VCU's band might as well be an HBCU band. They go hard in the paint.
2) There was a distinct difference in the type of folks that were rooting for VCU compared to rooting for Butler. Just weird.
3) Shaka Smart is live as hell, and I know I know...we should've came up with "Shaka The World" first.
Sitting next to the homie Frank from VCU was a blessing. The fact that VCU was openly putting together scouting reports for potential NIT foes, only to turn around and construct a whole new plan in twelve hours is unreal. Frank informed me that he thinks Shaka might stay in Richmond, because his players will run through a wall for him. The gospel spoken by Frank about Shaka made me immediately more upset that Oklahoma hired Lon Kruger instead of potentially making a pitch to Mr. Smart.
However, I had to stop listening to Frank, because watching Butler execute in person for the first time since Xavier dealt with Butler a couple of months ago is like sending your kid to boarding school and having them return as a complete stranger. Butler plays the toughest man-to-man defense I've seen in a long time. They stayed in VCU's chest and at the end of the game when VCU had chances to make bunnies, they kept missing, because they were looking for someone to elbow them in the ribs or challenge the shot. Seriously, there was not a point in the game when a VCU player would take a jumper that an elbow wouldn't fly into homie's ribcage. Looked painful as hell.
Butler reminds me a lot of that '97 Arizona squad, where they have 2-3 guards who can multi-task, and Shelvin Mack effectively turned into Miles Simon for the last 5-6 minutes of the game. Step-back jumpers, drives to the hoop, and rainbow threes reminded me of Chauncey in '04, and although the homie Jamie Skeen put in yeoman's work for the Rams, The Mack wouldn't let 'em lose.
Now Butler faces UConn, a UConn team who Kenny and I saw earlier in the year. Kenny said that UConn would probably lose in the first round. I said UConn would make it to the Elite Eight. Both of us looked at each other like we were out of our damned minds.
We were both off the mark. UConn disposed of UK and now we have our final. I do find it quite interesting that Ken or I saw both Butler play (vs. Xavier) and UConn play (vs. Cincinnati) this year, and just like the rest of the world we didn't see this happening...so what do we have in front of us?
Fear The Kemba.
Return of the Mack.
The Butler Way.
National Championship tonight...who's gonna win?
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!