During the month of March, my television and the TV’s of most of America are going to be turned to college basketball. That’s just how it is, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The day the tournament started and I overheard two sorority girls (who by the looks of it were not sports junkies) talking about a potential Ohio St-Arizona second round matchup in the cafeteria line was one of the happiest of my life.
But if there’s one thing that young Americans like more than wasting time watching basketball, it’s wasting time watching Netflix. I have never been an appointment television guy (other than sports), and had never followed a show before Netflix, but now I have binge-watched more complete shows all the way through than I’d care to admit (double digits).
And spring is the peak time of year for excellent television, giving us new seasons to the shows we have been addicted to for years. So why not combine these two world-enhancing pastimes on the eve of the Final Four in Indianapolis, the pinnacle of the sport?
WARNING: SPOILERS. BIG TIME. IT’S YOUR FAULT, YOU SHOULD’VE WATCHED THESE SHOWS.
Kentucky: Breaking Bad
I dare you to try and have a conversation with someone about Netflix without either of you mentioning Breaking Bad. I dare you to try and have a conversation with someone about college basketball without either of you mentioning Kentucky. It’s undoubtedly the most newsworthy, if-not-popular, show in Netflix’s lineup, and most people would tell you it’s the best by far. The same sentence applies to the Wildcats.
There are episodes however, like an entire episode dedicated to a fly in the laboratory (gonna get flame comments about how it was symbolic, stop it I know, that doesn’t make it any less boring), where doubts creep into one’s mind, “is this show over rated? Is it really as good as everyone says?” but you’re afraid to say something because all of your friends will yell at you. And then you get moments like Walt running over the dudes who Jessie was about to shoot, where you just kneel at the altar of Breaking Bad and bow at how awesome it is.
In the same way, Kentucky has had a lot of games and moments where those thoughts come up, “this team sure doesn’t look good enough to go undefeated” or “they have had some very lucky breaks in 50/50 games,” no matter how often ESPN shovels their propaganda down our throats. Ol’ Miss, Texas A&M, LSU, Florida, Georgia.
But you quickly forget all of those when you see games like UCLA or West Virginia. In those games they are so impressive and dominant that you immediately forget any doubts and hand them the championship trophy prematurely (just take it, take it, you deserve it).
Calipari is obviously Walter White. Everyone on the outside sees an innocent and brilliant chemistry teacher. But hmmm something makes you wonder when a suburban car wash is turning out millions of dollars per year. Calipari went to the Final Four with UMass, erased from the history books. Calipari went to the Final Four with Memphis, erased from the history books. Those were the moments when Heisenberg struck (for those unfamiliar with the show, first of all shame on you, but Heisenberg is Walter White’s alter ego for when he goes into bad-guy mode).
Wille Cauley-Stein is Jessie Pinkman. Think about it. Walt tried to bury Jessie, and despite his repeated efforts to hold him back, Jessie was a survivor and much smarter than Walt gave him credit for. Cal wrote off Cauley-Stein (can I start the nickname WCS? Probably not, it’s not even catchy), and to be honest I don’t think he was expecting much from the 7 foot wide receiver.
He was recruited in that 2012 class of freshmen (who had to follow up the Davis/Gilchrist/Teague class) that produced Cal’s worst year at UK (first round NIT loss to Robert Morris), and undoubtedly Calipari was looking to was his hands clean of those players, bringing in what many claimed to be the best class since the Fab Five in 2013. Some called it the “best ever,” and it included 6 fresh faces who were practically handed starting jobs on a silver platter (WCS’s included).
That didn’t stop Jessie from cooking meth so pure that many people thought it had to be Heisenberg’s. Similarly, Cauley-Stein fought through and has become the most NBA ready prospect on Kentucky’s entire roster (there I said it, whew). His ability to guard 1 through the 5 and protect the rim at an elite level is something that every team is craving.
Karl Anthony Towns is Hank because he’s incredibly effective but hard to root for, Devin Booker is Mike because he gets no credit for being one of the best characters, the Harrison twins are like Skylar and Marie in that I hate them and they are mostly useless except that they come up clutch in some big moments, and Dakari Johnson is like Huell…because well…
Michigan State: House of Cards
Both are the absolute favorites of educated (and maybe older?) white people around the country, who care more about fundamentals and cerebral play than flashy alley oops. Let’s be honest, the first season of House of Cards was pretty meh, in that it was decent and worthy to be on Netflix but far from being wildly popular. Then there was a certain moment in episode 1 of season two (don’t want to spoil it but it involves a train…) which was the single biggest “hook” moments in Netflix history. As horrified as everyone was when they watched that shocking and extreme moment, that was the moment where we were all hooked on the show and had to watch every episode.
I was at the Champions Classic, and I can tell you that the early part of Michigan State’s season was meh. Sure they belonged in big games, but they really didn’t have the firepower to do anything this year. Then when Denzel Valentine hit that game winning three on Valentine’s day, suddenly the Spartans were relevant. They had beaten a top 25 team and suddenly everyone remembered that Izzo coached this team and that they were going to be tough in the post season.
Where would the House of Cards show be if Kevin Spacey didn’t play Frank Underwood? Would anyone watch it? Would it be any good? No and no. The same can be said for Izzo. Sure there are some good pieces surrounding Spacey/Izzo, with Trice, Valentine, and Dawson (Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Kate Mara), but without one of the best in the business at the helm then there is no show.
So Izzo is Frank Underwood, brilliant and always coming out on top. Travis Trice is like Peter Russo, a guy that really wants to be a macho man and a hero but isn’t ready for the role (hopefully he doesn’t end the same way). Denzel Valentine is like Claire Underwood, beloved by the public but I feel like he’s ambitious enough that he kind of wants people to to give him the credit for the tournament run instead of Izzo.
Brandon Dawson is like Doug Stamper or Remy Danton (was going to say Remy before realizing that it may look like a race thing), because he’s just a straight soldier who goes to work every game and doesn’t need the credit (can you believe Dawson is only 6’6? I still can’t, he’s too much of a beast).
We can all see three of the four Final Four teams winning this thing, but can you imagine the reaction if Michigan State somehow wins it all? Tom Izzo walks slowly to half court (like Frank when he finally reaches the oval office) and…..
We can all admit that Friends was a really good and really successful show, but in the back of our minds we are kind of mad that it is still relevant and popular on both TV and Netflix. And yet, without fail, in every friend group there is one guy or girl who is just an absolutely huge fan and has seen every episode.
The same can be said for Duke. Sure we respect them and can’t deny that they are one of the most successful and consistent programs in college basketball, but at the same time it’s kind of annoying that they are so good every single year.
Justise Winslow (yeah it’s spelled with an “s” not a “c” despite the fact that it’s misspelled 99% of the time) is like Chandler, who can be awesome sometimes but is neurotic and can psych himself out when things aren’t going his way. This applies to Winslow’s jump shot, which can either be money (see last 3 tournament games) or also absolutely awful. When you watch Duke this weekend, look and see if Winslow hits his first shot, because it will determine whether he is going to have a good shooting game or not. In the Utah game he hit a three after a whistle that set him off (I’m all for the guys who jump up and goal tend a shot after the whistle).
Tyus Jones is like Joey because no matter what he does we give him the benefit of the doubt, and we love him. The “we” in this case can definitely be the refs, because I have never seen a player who gets more calls than Tyus Jones, it’s honestly ridiculous.
Okafor is like Rachel, the main reason being that the only reason most people are still watching the show is because a young Jennifer Aniston is HOT. Same reason people like watching Duke, not because Okafor is hot (far from it) but because he’s really really good and is talked about as being the No. 1 pick.
Wisconsin: Turn: Washington’s Spies
This is a bit of a homer pick. I love Turn and I really just want more people to watch it and like it the way I do. Oh wait, that’s how I feel about Wisconsin as well! Wisconsin is SO GOOD, and so talented, how can they possibly be under rated? They have two first round draft picks and maybe a third guy who is second round! People see them as “team of guys who aren’t great individually but play like a team,” but other than Kentucky and Duke this team has more studs than anyone!
Abraham Woodhull is an American hero, just like Sam Dekker will be if he leads Wisconsin to a title. You’re talking about a guy who was Mr. Wisconsin in high school and hit a game winning shot in his high school state championship game, then went to the in state school and now has led his state university to a Final Four (basically the same resume as one Mr. Gordon Hayward of Butler in 2010, and think about how America thinks of him).
Frank Kaminsky is like Ben Talmadge, the reliable “mainstream” guy who the enemy knows about and prepares to face, Bronson Koenig is Caleb Brewster the crazy wildcard, and Bo Ryan is just like Judge Richard Woodhull with his utter dedication to the letter of the law and order.
Don’t sleep on Wisconsin, because it has a chance to take on Kentucky beat them by just being better which is something that very few teams can say. Season 2 of Turn begins on April 13th, and it has a chance to beat out Breaking Bad as the best show on Netflix before it’s all said and done.
(P.S. Wisconsin is my pick to win it all..) And look at this inside look at season 2 of Turn and tell me it doesn’t look amazing.
Arizona as Game of Thrones aka “that one show that everyone says is really good but most people have never actually seen it because it’s on HBO.” Wildcats were really really good, but not enough people got to see them because they were on the west coast and tipped at like midnight on the east coast. Only the nerds (like me) watch Game of Thrones religiously and tell everyone how good it is, and only basketball nerds and analysts (like me) watched a lot of Arizona and tried to tell everyone how good they were.
Gonzaga as The Office mostly because the employees of a paper supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania are almost all white, plus Gonzaga had a ton of interesting characters that were kind of out-there.
Louisville as Sons of Anarchy because I wouldn’t want to see either group in a dark alley…
Notre Dame as Better Caul Saul because it will never get enough credit for being really good, because it walks in the shadow of Breaking Bad aka Kentucky.