Without the NFL, it seems America has gone crazy for Jeremy Lin. Quite the tidy coincidence that an international phenomenon would sneak into our consciousness right after the Super Bowl. The Giants won the Super Bowl, and in a matter of days, the talk of New York was a point guard who’d played 46 minutes total before February. In sports media, getting the Lin story right after Super Bowl Sunday is like the Colts bringing in Andrew Luck after Peyton Manning.
Of course, other stuff happened, too, so we’ve got a list of 10 things we saw this weekend. Anyway, since it’s the cool thing to do, let’s get back to Lin...
1. Few teams have won more games in a row with less talent than the Knicks.
The sane among us would agree that Lin-sanity is a bit overblown. Saturday was the third time in four games Jeremy Lin had six or more turnovers, all bad for a point guard. What can’t be ignored is that he’s carried a laughably depleted roster, and they’ve won five straight. Lin took 24 shots against Minnesota (and 19.4 per game during this streak). Only Iman Shumpert, who won’t be outshot without a fight, attempted more than 10 field goals. But really, what business do Jared Jeffries, Steve Novak, Tyson Chandler, Bill Walker, Landry Fields and Tyson Chandler have taking any more shots? And what business does that squad have winning this many games?
2. It’s all fun and games until penises get involved.
It’s been sad to see how freely people have made jokes about Jeremy Lin’s ancestry since his breakthrough. Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports (who, I must disclose, is a very good friend of mine) went too far with silly tweet intimating Lin has a small penis that he apologized for subsequently. He was dead wrong, but that’s what sent people to their breaking points? I’ve cringed at the jokes about restaurants and dry cleaners, just as I did that tweet. But if we’re being honest, overblown outrage over a stroke joke was nearly as childish and immature as the joke itself. The truth is that few fear repercussions from insulting Asians in public, and seeing it over and over has been the most Lin-sane thing about the last week and change.
3. Kentucky is clearly the best team in America.
It’s easy to forget Kentucky is, literally, two points from being undefeated. Vanderbilt did its best against the Wildcats, but it seems Indiana figured out the only way to beat UK -- get Anthony Davis in foul trouble. With four fouls, Davis could only play 24 minutes, the least he’s logged since November. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Amazingly, while blocking nearly five shots per game, the game in Bloomington is the only one where Davis committed more than three fouls.
4. Michigan State is a legit Final Four contender.
After Saturday’s win at Ohio State, the Spartans are third in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. They’re one of six teams in the top 20 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. The other five? Ohio State, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse. The last two times Tom Izzo’s teams were in the top 25 in both categories were 2005 and 2009, seasons that ended at the Final Four.
5. Some time in the offseason, Frank Haith became a good coach.
When Haith recruited John Wall for Miami, in his favor was that he “let his guards play,” a common euphemism for “he doesn’t run an offense.” Well, whatever offense Missouri is or isn’t running is the most efficient in America. Mizzou completed a sweep of Baylor and, with a championship in its final Big 12 tournament, would almost certainly be the No. 1 seed in the St. Louis region. Haith’s undersized team, one season removed from Mike Anderson’s chaotic system, looks sharp and crisp. It’s one of the most stunning reversals of coaching reputation in recent memory. What’s different about Haith? I have no idea. Ahhh, the joys of evaluating coaches ...
6. Tiger’s horrible final round at Pebble Beach doesn’t mean a thing.
It’s reasonable to closely watch Tiger until he wins a PGA tournament, but we’ve got to make up our minds. Is it all about majors for Tiger or not? Woods certainly looks better, but let’s not forget he was always a better frontrunner than closer. Petering out Sunday meant little, just as it would had he won. There’s nothing to talk about until the Masters, whether he misses every cut or wins every tournament until then. Tiger’s competition is 18, just as it was before his world turned upside down.
7. The Spurs might be hitting their stride.
Here’s the dilemma -- we all buried the Spurs after last year’s first-round playoff exit, but most would contend the Western Conference is wide open. So how dead is San Antonio? They’ve got the highest point differential in the West, 0.1 points per game over Oklahoma City. The Spurs have three players who average 20 minutes per game shooting 40 percent or better from three-point range. Oh, and after winning six straight -- the last three against the Thunder, Grizzlies and Sixers -- Manu Ginobili returned for a win over the Nets. Dead? How could they be?
8. There may be at least one man more delusional than Jerry Sandusky.
I’m not a lawyer, but I think I could do more for Sandusky than his attorney, Joe Amendola. My advice? STAY AWAY FROM THE MICROPHONE. Right or wrong, the public believes Sandusky is a child molester. As a result, no matter what Sandusky says, he’s going to sound like a child molester. There is nothing he can say to defend himself in the court of public opinion, because that will always be the case. Yet and still, America was treated Friday to the uncomfortable sights and sounds of Sandusky, after a pretrial hearing Friday, protesting the fact he can’t see his grandchildren until his legal troubles are dealt with. And right behind him is his lawyer, the same man who orchestrated this creep show. Please, Joe: keep that man off television. There isn’t a single positive thing coming from it. Not for anyone.
9. The NCAA says it wants to impose stiffer penalties against major violators.
Once again, rather than reassess what amateurism means in the 21st century, the NCAA wants to double down on its own foolishness. Ty Duffy clearly explains why this measure would never pass, largely because the folks at the NCAA aren’t stupid. There’s no telling how many programs would be one Yahoo! exposé from a mandatory minimum. There’s another level to this, though. That the NCAA would even grandstand as such shows its understanding that its rules are ridiculous. Such stringent enforcement happens when an institution knows monitoring. The NCAA still can’t do anything until someone snitches, leaving it few options until violations have actually been committed. If you can’t catch ‘em, scare ‘em. Chances are they’ll be scared so of these measures that they’ll never be applied.
10. Kris Humphries can’t win.
Has anyone ever messed up such a potentially good thing? He ranked fifth in a poll of the most disliked athletes, one slot above LeBron James. Hump’s sin appears to be his marriage to Kim Kardashian, whose bath water more people reading this would drink. Somehow, he managed to parlay marriage to a beautiful, filthy stinkin’ rich woman into...being booed nationwide? By comparison, Lamar Odom married Khloe, sold a unisex fragrance with a really weird commercial and cried in public over being traded. Yet no one has beef with Odom, and America hates a guy it had never heard of a year ago. Sounds like someone should have listened to more Bell Biv Devoe.