After Augusta State's thrilling double-overtime win over Central Oklahoma, I couldn't help myself. I went back to the room and watched the movie "Hoosiers" again. OK, I didn't watch the entire film, just a few scenes. On Tuesday night, I watched the end of the film when Jimmy Chitwood asked for the ball at the end of the state finals. He nailed the shot and the Hickory Huskers, a huge underdog, won an improbable championship.
I wonder how much Augusta resembles the Hickory Huskers. Probably not much at all. But now that the Jaguars are in the Final Four, they are now definite underdogs. No. 10 Augusta State faces No. 4 Alaska-Anchorage, a school with almost three times the amount of students as the Jaguars. But at this point, you can throw rankings and school size out the window.
So last night, I watched the scene in Hoosiers when Gene Hackman (what a fantastic actor) intentionally got tossed out of the game and Dennis Hopper was forced to coach the team down the stretch. With the game tied, he called for Hickory to run the old "picket-fence" play. Hopper: "Now boys, don't get caught watching the paint dry."
Of course, Hickory hit the shot and won the game. Augusta coach Dip Metress probably doesn't have the "picket-fence" play in his arsenal, but I'm sure he's got plenty of plays up his sleeve. Metress should be commended for the fine job he's done, not only this season, but the entire four years he's been with the Jaguars.
Back to the sports movies, I watched "Miracle" after getting my fill of "Hoosiers." "Miracle" is about the 1980 U.S. Hockey team, the climax being their win over the Soviet Union in the semifinal game. This is arguably the greatest sports moment of all time.
So that marked my second sports underdog film in two days. I'm out of sports films, but if the Jaguars win tonight I plan to watch Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. It's not a sports movie, but it's inspiring and has good overcoming evil and the works.
I don't know if this is an omen, but early Thursday morning, photographer Mike Holahan and I stopped at a place called, Donut Dip, an eatery that began in the 1950s before McDonald's and Burger King and the like. Two great donuts for less than $2. If Augusta State wins the whole shebang, I think Dip Metress should have his picture taken in front of the building.
From there, we ventured over to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Minutes into our tour, we looked down at the players and coaches on the basketball court. After a double take, I realized it was USC Aiken head coach Vince Alexander and assistant coach Nate Davis. They're in town coaching the East squad in a Division II All-Star Game. Davis joked Augusta State couldn't be in town without USC Aiken. Alexander said the experience is a fantastic way to cap the Pacers' breakthrough season. The All-Star Game will be held Friday night.
USC Aiken Head Basketball Coach Vince Alexander prepares to coach the East All-Star team
As for the Basketball Hall of Fame, there's plenty of history on the top floor, but the second floor is where you want to be. There's a lot of interactive items, like a rebounding machine and an arcade-style hoop. One thing I enjoyed was the machine that tested your vertical leap. At 6-foot, 175 pounds and 34 years old, I managed a 20-inch vertical leap. Take that Phil Mickelson! Holahan only leaped 15 inches. Hey, he's older than me. Once I lose 15, 20 pounds, I'll be dunking (a 9-foot-goal) like Dominique Wilkins.
So onto tonight's matchup. Augusta State seems have to an obvious advantage inside the paint with Garret Siler. The Jaguars need to keep him in the game to be successful. I'm not sure if Alaska-Anchorage can matchup with Tyrekus "A.J." Bowman's athleticism, either.
The Seawolves (great nickname) will not fire as many 3-pointers as Central Oklahoma did. On paper, Alaska-Anchorage is the fifth-best team in Division II, allowing a hair above 60 point a game. Augusta State's offense averages 78 points a contest. Of course, the great unknown is schedule strength. Some observers say, the Seawolves lost by four to Western Kentucky, a team in the Division I Sweet Sixteen. But Augusta State took Georgia, the Southeastern Conference Tournament champion, to the brink on the Bulldogs' home floor.
Alaska-Anchorage shoots the ball well from the floor and the free-throw line. The key may be for Augusta State to attack its interior defense.
The Jaguars were a bit nervous coming out Wednesday. I don't expect that tonight. Augusta State has a win, a great win, under its belt. In the Elite Eight contest, several players tried to force a lot of shots and make things happen the first 30 minutes. I expect them to settle down and play looser.
All the Jaguars need is a two-game winning streak to claim their first national championship. Of course, they have to win the first one tonight. With a win, Augusta State will be on CBS at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Tonight, they play on something called CBS College Sports Network. Good luck finding that somewhere on digital cable.
I will be providing live updates. Check back in later.