Hoop Chauvinism, Canada Style, With a Side of Pangos

According to an impeccable source — some guy on Twitter who sounded like he knew what he was talking about — NCAA teams with Canadian ballplayers went 14-2 in the opening round of the men’s basketball national Tournament. (Yup, I refuse to recognize the play-in games as a “round”.) And since that was among my key variables for making my not-always-random choices for my bloody-but-unbowed bracket, I’d be doing even better than I have if only I’d had a better grasp/memory of who and where the Canucksters played.

Here’s a collection of quick and distant observations from a Canadian coach in exile in China, with not enough time and nowhere near the Internet fuel to watch more than highlight packages. I does me best, b’ys, but here follow my goofs, brain-cramps, gee whizzes, thinking with my flagpole, random basketball insights and profound apologies, in no special order. This shouldn’t take long. 

Dayton Flyers! Heck, if I’d known/remembered that a Toronto-area kid named Dyshawn Pierre was there, I’d have known for maple syrup-sure they’d upset the Buckeyes. No doubt.

No Academic All-Canadian here! I felt all brainy and academically rigorous in picking Harvard to win their 12 vs. 5 game with Cincinnati, and 10th-seeded Stanford to upset New Mexico (7), but forgot completely about Crimson gunner Laurent Rivard from Quebec, and a pair of Ontario Towers competing for the Cardinal, Dwight Powell and Stefan Nastic. (You don’t s’pose he gets called “Nasty”, do you? Me neither.) (Paranthetic and intellectually random Remark Number Two: they also start a guy whose first name is “Chasson”, who can really play, and two guys surnamed Rimmer and Bright, who never got off the bench but who, in an orderly and nomenclature-friendly universe, would have their names in lights.) I didn’t even need to know that Scarborough’s Jason Calliste gets meaningful minutes off the bench for Oregon to pick their 7-10 win over BYU, but I’m not sure whether I’m bragging or lamenting.

Delivery against Oklahoma State. Tough, smart, focussed, skilled.

But how could I write that whole friggin’ piece and hardly mention Gonzaga and Kevin Pangos¹? Um, fatigue? Lack of a proper essay outline? The nefarious activities of the Chinese state security minions? Haste?

¹ And don’t forget Kyle Wiltjer, a superb Canadian talent who got lost in the one-and-done shuffle at Kentucky, and is now a red-shirt transfer at Gonzaga. Remember what happened after Kelly Olynyk’s build-up year as a surprise redshirt for the Bulldogs? Watch for Wiltjer to do some similar mid-major blowing up next season, with Kevin on delivery, three-ball and butt-kicking service. 

Bill Pangos gave me gentle but pointed Canadian heck in an email, written while he (and wife Patty, I assume) were on their way to watch the Oklahoma State game. With Olynyk having left — a year too early, say I, but I don’t know much about millionaires — I might have just gone to sleep on the Zags, which is ridiculous. My favourite NCAA Canadian (and yes, I wavered reading stories and interviews about Melvin Ejim, admiring the obvious intelligence and perspective of an outstanding major-conference POY like him) has been young Kevin P for three seasons. (I knew Bill and Patty Pangos and an infant Kevin back in the ’90s, sharing Huntsville summer weeks at Olympia Sports Camp, long may it run.) I’m grateful that he is now shorn of the goatee he sported there for awhile, which perhaps corrupted my judgement. I also hope young players notice that there’s another route to a great NCAA career than an American prep school.

Naturally, Coach Billy was right. My whole system of choosing my bracket had inexplicably fallen apart when it came to Gonzaga. Oh, I did, I did pick them over OSU, but a failure of red-and-white nerve had me choose the number one Arizona ‘Cats over the Zags in the round of 32. Sorry, Bill. Apologies, Kevin. I cringe in remorse, Canada. Sic ’em, Bulldogs.

Pangos Portrait, as Kevin signs with Gonzaga. He made an even better choice of parents.


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