And believe it, this one really stings.
As the forlorn attendees attired in various hues of cardinal dragged their chins and other low-slung anatomical parts out of the Halls of Maples last Saturday afternoon, they could only look back wistfully upon what their world was like a mere 48 hours before. Recall, if you will, that world:
USC's up-and-down Bibbyballers were in town to take on the resurgent Cardinal, just back from dual-triumph in Washington state. Which made it four straight wins, beginning with that season-turning (or so we thought at the time) buzzer-beating trey by Tony G. against an excellent Oregon team and a solid W in O.T.
A tough stretch lay ahead, to be sure, but beatable teams, including Bibby's Boyz, who would be looking down the barrel at a healthy C-Bo, something from which they were spared the previous month. The Cardinal's Pac-10 destiny appeared to be in their own sure hands. None other than a full-throated Dick Vitale could be heard hyping Stanford shamelessly days in advance of the USC tip-off. I mean, how could you not hear him?
Forty-eight hours later, and this forlorn outfit looks Fresno-bound for the Also-Ran Shoot-Out
It's a whole different world, today, folks. What makes it harder to take is the old truism that young talent is supposed to improve during the season. What's true about this team, at least at the moment, is that
1. Better outfits in the conference – Cal (yes, Cal), USC, U.A. and UCLA – have figured out that if you play five-on-two, and allow the other three guys in red and white to try and beat you, you're probably going to win.
2. Second, so what if you put most of these guys on the foul line?
I will admit to some oversimplification here. But no more oversimplified than the sad-sack offense Stanford threw at the Bruins on Saturday. Or at USC. For a while, the Cardinal's attempts at three-pointers against UCLA looked more like the treys heaved by hapless contestants during the silly time-out promos than the devastating weapon Stanford used to wield with impunity. Anyhow, the results were pretty much the same as the civilians' efforts.
While I'm not ready to write off the disappointing current crop of young guys, or start second-guessing Monty's lockerside manner, I will pick up my chin and hope that the Curtis-and-Casey Show doesn't take it on the road to the NBA next fall. If so, those other three guys will have a mile of slack to pick up and the only question will be not if Stanford can return to hoops glory, but which will be the first to go – Monty's fist, or that beat-up sign he's been belting with ever-greater frequency.
Email me via The Bootleg if you know any good hotels in Fresno.