What a week it was. From the loss at Can't State to the 2nd MAC Tourney title in 3 years in a matter of 8 days. I'm digging out of the short week from last week, during this short week before heading to Chicago. Thought I would put down some of my thoughts about the MAC Tourney while they remained fresh in my mind. Brevity is king here, because awesomeness needs few words. And awesome it was!
So with the customary nod to Sergio Leone, my take aways from the weekend of dreams at the Q:The Good:
- Team Tenacity: None other than Geno commented in the postgame about the ability of the Zips to remain calm when things were trending for the opposition. The Zips faced big runs at the end of the Miami game, the beginning of the Can't game .. and to a lesser extent the end of the WMU game. Teams will put forth runs, and things won't always go your way .. but it is the team that can rally itself, keep its composure and see through the storm that usually comes out on top. Our seniors this season are now 12-2 in the MAC Tournament. Are there any other MAC players who have even BEEN IN 12 postseason games, much less won 12 of them? IMHO this played a huge role in the Zips emerging victorious.
- Multiple Sources: McClanahan comes up big with a huge performance vs. Miami, and a big bucket against Western. Diggs tears western up. McNees brings the Zips back in the first half vs. Can't .. and Zeke obliterates the paint in the 2nd half & overtime in the title game. The Zips got big performances from lots of different places .. so many places that it has to be difficult to coach against, if you don't know where it's going to come from. The true essence of a team working together for a common goal. Great to see that. Thanks guys.
- The Environment: It wasn't a huge crowd by MAC Title game standards, but it was a lively one, and after watching the replay, it played well on TV for a national audience. It was a great atmosphere, and validates the conference having the tournament in a centralized, professional setting. Nice show as always.
- Boroski, Simpson & Wyman: Perhaps the best officiated game I've witnessed in the MAC. Calls were made .. and it was even. But for the first time in what seems like forever, the stripes just let them play. Both teams were able to get into a flow .. and the stripes weren't the center of attention for most of the night. Thanks for that, guys.
- Zeke! was huge, tremendous & clutch for the Zips against Can't State. He found a groove in the second half of the Can't game where he was able to keep the drivers away from his body and swat the shot without fouling. A big step for him. Keeping him on the floor really changed everything. No one expects that this will be the norm every game .. at least not right away. However, he was hugely deserving of MVP honors .. and played his best on the biggest stage he's yet faced. KD has said for awhile that a big like Zeke helps the Zips compete "when we get into the NCAA's." I for one can't wait to see the big guy's first go at in in the Big Dance on Friday.
- McKnight: comes close to earning the Jawanza Moore award for this season. On the offensive end of the floor in the title game, he put the Zips on his back late. He took and made tough shots, late in the shot clock .. when the Zips absolutely needed them. The knock on having a team like the Zips where 6 guys average between 8 and 11 points, but no one scores 20 has always been: there's no go-to guy .. no clutch player to carry a team. Brett may have come as close as we've seen on Saturday. A great performance in his last in a Zips uniform in Ohio. Tremendous effort. Brett has shown the ability to go off against high major competition. The 2nd half against Pitt being an example. Now would be a great time for another game like that. Honorable mention to Roberts & McNees as they also were clutch.
This needs no words .. just pictures.
This one credit to the Beacon Journal / Phil Masturzo
Credit to Mark Duncan / AP
This one also credit to Mark Duncan / AP.. And a few Comments More:
- Ecstatic for the team: I'm really happy for the team .. and it's great for us fans. What really strikes me is how cool it is to see a group of people excel at what they're working hard at. We witnessed a group of 15-20 people having one of the best days in their basketball lives .. for some their career. It's a cool moment I think. I couldn't be happier for the guys. They deserve this.
- Great seasons are defined in March .. but made in the summer months and early season workouts. This team has put in the work .. battled through slumps of different kinds .. and come out on top. This continues to be a great season because the team trusted themselves, the coaches and the process .. enough to be able to make the crucial plays down the stretch in 3 nights in Cleveland.
- More basketball awaits them and us in Chicago. If you're able to go .. I recommend it. During my days as a student, I had the opportunity to attend several NCAA tournament games in which my schools were participating .. and it's a whole different experience. My hope is that as many Zips fans as want to attend this can find a way to attend it. My secondary hope is that thousands of Purdue fans have purchased all session tickets. Because if they have, I can tell you that the Zips fans in attendance will have friends Friday .. LOTS of them.
Go Zips! Enjoy the moment. Play smart .. play hard .. and play together. And have fun. I know I will.