“I just feel bad for Stephen A. Smith,” Jerome deadpanned to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples. “He said he hated watching us. And he had to watch us every single round of the tournament. I feel so bad for him. It must have been so hard for him."
On Wednesday, Jerome took on WFAN radio host Mike Francesa, who told a caller earlier this year that Virginia Coach Tony Bennett’s squad didn’t have the offensive chops to win a title.
“He will never win a championship with this team, though,” Francesa said in February. “They can’t play offense. Here’s the bottom line: There’s going to come a game in the tournament where they need to make a shot and get a shot and they can’t get it.”
The caller mentioned Jerome and fellow Virginia guard Kyle Guy, who combined to average nearly 30 points per game this season, but Francesa wasn’t swayed.
“I think they’re very defendable,” he said. “I don’t like them offensively. I don’t like them offensively at all.”
After Virginia cut the nets Monday, that clip, which was originally tweeted by the @BackAftaThis account dedicated to sharing snippets from Francesa’s show, was posted on the @FreezingColdTakes Instagram page. Jerome saw the clip and sent it to Francesa, who invited his fellow New Yorker to call into Wednesday’s show.
During the course of their 20-minute interview, Francesa told Jerome that he, like many pundits, expected the championship game to be a defensive struggle.
“I thought your offense probably played better in the first 30 minutes of the Texas Tech game than it did probably the rest of the tournament,” Francesa said. “You guys executed really well in the first 30 minutes of that game.”
“Our offensive numbers, offensive efficiency, I think were in the top five in the country,” said Jerome, who grew up in New York City and moved to Westchester when he was in fifth grade. “We have been all year. I’m sure a lot of people don’t do their proper research of college basketball before they speak.”
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“That’s for me, but the bottom line is it’s not about that, because that’s about beating bad teams,” Francesa replied. “It’s about making big shots, and you guys did have some lulls, though. You had a five-minute span there where you didn’t score in two different games — the Auburn game and that game, where you guys couldn’t buy a point for five minutes in each one, and that’s where you look for guys to knock down shots. That’s why you guys lost two big leads at the end of those games and then came back, which is remarkable. I don’t worry about what you do against some team that you beat by 40. Those numbers are all skewed. I want to see it in the big games, and you guys miraculously made some shots."
Jerome wasn’t about to let Francesa’s insinuation that Virginia’s offensive efficiency numbers were inflated by weak competition slide.
“Real quick, we also play in the ACC, so we don’t beat all those teams by 40,” Jerome said.
The rest of the call was uneventful. Boring, even. Which is to say it was nothing like Virginia’s march to the title, something Francesa said couldn’t be done a few short weeks ago.
Read more from The Post:
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For Charlottesville, a championship and a chance to rewrite its story
Hunter shines like a star for Virginia after quiet NCAA tournament stretch
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