Ray Ratto

Check 'exhaustion' off the list: The Warriors aren't tired any more


Check 'exhaustion' off the list: The Warriors aren't tired any more

The day we narrative sluts have been dreading has finally arrived.

The Golden State Warriors aren’t tired any more.

There had been signs on the horizon that they were finding their old vim, vigor, vitality and pep before Monday, but they dealt the final blow to the “The short, busy and China-enriched offseason really took it out of them” plot line was delivered Monday when they held the Miami Heat to the new NBA minimum in points in a 97-80 victory.

Their defensive rating has risen in the past week from 28th to 18th. Their opponents’ effective field goal percentage has risen from 26th to 10th. The 80 points they allowed was the fourth lowest by any team so far this year, and on their poorest shooting night of the year, they saw to it that the Heat shot poorer still. Their last three games have seen them allow 92, 108 and 80 points (an average of 93.3 per game), and they have the second-best record in basketball.

Yeah, check “exhaustion” off the list.

Now most fans will find that development a relief because they have gotten well used to the Warriors as the Atlas holding up the rest of the NBA. Their third losses in the prior three seasons came in Games 24, 39 and 19, so losing No. 3 in Game 76 this year was a discussable point. Some people even speculated that they were struggling at home because they were 2-2 through four games and lost to Houston and Detroit.

Now that’s all gone, and the regular season is about to become the cavalcade of sameness that the previous three regular seasons have been. The only thing a Warrior fan pre-conditioned to worry has left is injury, and nobody is ghoulish enough to root for players to get hurt . . . although we haven’t polled all 29 other general managers on this.

The point is, they have another 10 to 15 allowable defeats this year, and as long as they don’t clump them in a couple of massive clots, we have nothing left to fret unnecessarily about them. Either that, or we’ll have to invent something new -- like why they can’t cover the spread more often.

After all, they’re 5-6 against the line, 20th overall. But then, they’re also 7-4 against the total, best in all of the National Vegas League.

That means their offense is doing just fine, which we already knew, and if we already knew it, that isn’t much of a narrative at all.

One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament


One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament

College basketball peaked last week, as it typically does. There were 52 games, many of them hilariously delightful, only a few of them viewing slogs, and the sturdiest pillars of the narrative temple as it relates to the remaining 16 teams are:

* A 98-year-old nun who also functions as an unpaid assistant coach.

* A head coach who curses on air, gets soaking wet after wins and confesses that he worries about peeing himself on the sideline.

* A new version of the old debate about whether your view of Syracuse’s zone defense defines you as a basketball fan.

* Your dead bracket.

The nun, the glorious Sister Jean of Loyola Chicago, is new, and so is Eric Musselman (except in northern California, where he’s had pretty much every available pro job). But Jim Boeheim’s murderous zone defense, which he has employed since the Hoover administration, remains the litmus test about how you like your college basketball served.

Think of it as your AARP ID, if you must. It’s old-fashioned, it isn’t easy to watch, but it works.

And all the fun of a bracket that has more teams below the 4-seed than at or above it . . . well, Week Two is when most of that traditionally self-corrects. Even this year, there is the very real possibility that the gutty little underdog in San Antonio could be . . .

. . . wait for it . . .


And no, this is not the proof that the selection committee got it wrong. Not that they got it right – they’re pretty much not qualified based on work experience to do the job anyway, and their ability to ignore logical criteria at will to get a desired team or result is a long-standing tradition of this three-week bacchanal.

But if there is a useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend, it is that it is not yet a sign that the revolution is underway or that the meek are inheriting the earth. If you ignore the seed math and look at the names next to the seeds, you still see the same basketball powers. In other words, the bracket will normalize as it always does, the power in the sport is never far away from the seat of that power, and those of you who root for the meek – well, your hope that charm can beat muscle rests on Eric Musselman and Sister Jean.

And the NCAA Tournament is not the vehicle to bet that prop.


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference

If you’re a progressive thinker, the only thing that can save the Pacific 12 Conference from the grossest form of humiliation is for one of the six schools it sent to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State – to make a deep run. In Stanford’s case, to become the first four-seed to win a title.

If you’re a more desperate type, it is to hope that Oregon, Stanford, USC or Washington wins the NIT. Nobody will know it, but we did say “desperate.” And if you need to get to Utah in the Women’s NIT . . .

Well, you get the point. The Pac 12 is the first conference to bow out of the NCAA Tournament before the first weekend since the Big 12 was first formed in 1996-7. And because nobody remembers this sort of stuff year to year, it wipes out last year, when the conference went 9-4 and sent Oregon to the Final Four.

And when we say “sent,” we mean no such thing. In the NCAA Tournament, and in college sports in general, teams achieve. Conferences just get their cut.

Still, as the college sports industry is still covered based on the rules of tribalism, where the keeping of scores breaks down by laundry first and then by affiliation, the Pac-12 has been historically God-awful, which for things referencing the deity is a considerable stretch. Not only did they send only three teams to the NCAA Tournament and saw them evaporate before Friday dawned, they were 1-8 in bowl games, the worst record of any major conference since forever.

Plus, there’s the FBI, plus there’s the ongoing sense that the Pac-12 is the last of the Power 5 and getting worse, plus there’s the fact that it isn’t in the Southeast or Midwest, where this stuff really matters.

But we noticed it on Thursday because people kept bringing it up, especially after Arizona was owned by Buffalo despite having the putative top draft pick in DeAndre Ayton and specifically because a Sean Miller-coached team was so poor defensively.

And now comes the fun of watching the 12 conference university presidents panic as the other presidents make fun of them in the mahogany playground in which they all play. And don’t think that doesn’t happen. College sports is a big business played by kids for the financial benefit of older kids who keep score on things like this.

So the women start Saturday, and in a just and fair society that would get sufficient attention and play enough games to make the conference members feel better about themselves. We don’t have that society yet, so for the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference, and won’t get a chance to prove otherwise until December.

But hey, at least their task force on the structural future of college basketball was received . . . well, with a tepidness unknown to mankind. So yeah, they're on a hell of a roll.