When I wrote about the American playoff beards, I left out what should have been the ending of the item.
"If we go back to the tournament, if we're lucky enough to go back, I'm going to shave my head," Nick Hendra told me, "and just leave this [beard]."
Then he promised to also shave his eyebrows.
I figured you only wanted to do so much "if we go back to the tournament stuff" without tempting all those mysterious powers that have beaten it into your skull not to look beyond the next blog item, or the next game. But heck, if Maryland's Gary Williams is gonna do it, I'm gonna do it too. Here's what he told Chick Hernandez, when asked whether he's talked to his team about what they need to do this week.
"Yeah I have," he said, "One game at a time" mantras notwithstanding. "I've broken a coaching rule, probably, where you don't talk about anything but the next game. But in our situation, realistically, we want to make the NCAA Tournament. So you have to do what it takes to make the NCAA Tournament.
"Obviously that's win the first game against N.C. State, but that's kind of a given where we are right now. We know we have to do that. but it's the idea that we've got to go down there and just play well. And if it's two games, three games, four games, whatever it is, we have to play well. And that's the big message."
See, the coach in him started coming out at the end, but the big message isn't "we have to play well." The big message is "we bloody well have to beat N.C. State AND Wake, or else we're gonna have to read eight zillion stories next year about how we've missed the tournament four out of five years and how this is a make-or-break year and blah blah blah blah blah."
No one wants to read eight zillion stories about that. It's ridiculous, of course, that the difference between "wow what a triumphant season of over-achieving" and "jeez this program is in major crisis" is whether they win one games or two at this tournament; this team was what this team was, regardless of whether they can squeeze out a win over Wake. But that's how things work. And it's too soon to worry about Wake, anyhow. One game at a time.
(More from Gary to Chick, concerning Greivis and his last-second three-pointer against N.C. State: "College students yell things that I don't think they really mean, but they say 'em, and they're mean things to say to people. And Greivis took that shot. If he had to do it over again, he probably wouldn't take it. But given the emotion, the situation, the fact that they were on him hard the whole game, I think he just wanted to put a little period at the end of the sentence. And unfortunately that got as much attention as the fact that he had a great game."
And here's Sidney Lowe's take: "I don't particularly like it. Like I told my players, at the same time, you play until the horn blows. It's something you take and you try to remember it, and you get another opportunity and try to win the ball game. I'm not blaming him for doing it. He did it. He wanted to score. That's the way he is."
If I'm Gary Williams, I'm handing Greivis a massive printout with the words "That's the way he is" in big red letters.)