Saturday, February 25, 2006

Redick, Morrison Take Player of the Year Competition To Ridiculous Extreme

College basketball’s major storyline this season has been the stirring duel for player of the year honors between Duke’s J.J. Redick and Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison.  Both are the leaders of top 5 teams, and they are the top two scorers in Division 1.  However, both scored a season-low 11 points in their games today.  Apparently, their competition has gotten so extreme, they even decide to stink on the same day.



Redick went 1-for-6 from the 3-point line and even missed two of his six free throws attempts.  However, thanks to a strong performance by Shelden Williams, Duke turned back Temple 74-66.  More significantly, even in the midst of a subpar performance, Redick became the ACC’s all-time leading scorer, passing Wake Forest’s Dickie Hemric.  Seeing a Blue Devil supplant one of their own is the latest blow in a cruel season for Demon Deacon fans, who have seen Wake sink to the bottom of the ACC standings.  Although the loss of Chris Paul to the NBA has hurt significantly, many observers feel that the college basketball gods are punishing Wake Forest for producing Billy Packer.



Contributing to Redick’s off-day was the defensive effort of Temple, known for its troublesome matchup zone.  Also, he may have feared that Hemric supporters had contacted Owls head coach John Chaney, requesting that “some of your goons say hi to J.J.”  Indeed, Redick likely experienced some fear around the volatile Chaney.  The sharpshooter is not used to hearing a madman scream so many profanities on the sideline.  Except for every day at practice.



Morrison shot 3-for-11 from the field in Gonzaga’s 75-59 victory over San Diego.  J.P. Batista’s 26 points enabled the Zags to improve to 24-3 on the season.  The Bulldogs also increased their home-winning streak to a nation’s best 37 games, proving that teams with two nicknames are very difficult to beat.  However, this success has come at a cost.  With such rude treatment to visitors, the Spokane Chamber of Commerce is having a hard time getting people to come to the city.



Like Temple, San Diego appears to be a tough opponent for a superstar.  The Toreros held Morrison to 16 points in the teams’ earlier meeting – a 64-63 squeaker for Gonzaga.  Reportedly, the All-American was thrown off by confusion about the identity of his opponent.  Morrison apparently thought he was playing San Diego State, refusing to believe that San Diego was a completely different team.  Told that San Diego State had played in New Mexico on Saturday, he responded, “How did they get up here so fast?”



The two superstars have mirrored each other all season, usually with much higher point totals.  On January 28, Redick’s 40 versus Virginia were topped by Morrison’s 42 against Portland.  After Redick tallied 35 against Maryland on February 11, Morrison responded with 34 versus Stanford.  With the two inextricably linked, commentator Dick Vitale spent much of the Gonzaga-Stanford broadcast talking about Redick.  Making that game just like any other he works.



All season long, the two superstars have staged their duel while three time zones apart.  This competition may be the most famous cross-country rivalry since the East Coast – West Coast rap feuds of the 1990s.  Except that it’s between white guys.  Oh, and that murder thing isn’t part of it.



Some have likened this competition to the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run duel in 1998.  Like Redick and Morrison, those two captured the attention of America’s sports fans.  And like the college superstars did on Saturday, they could also perform badly on the same day.  Just remember them in Congress last March.