Brownlow: Coping with the end of basketball season with slow jamz
Posted March 31
There have been a lot of sadz around ACC basketball this year. Were it not for Florida State’s national title in football, it might be the worst year in the history of the conference. I have no idea if that’s true, and I’m not going to check, but it feels that way. We can’t Bzdelik that FSU national title away, though, and as we know, a national title means your conference is the best everrrrrrrrr so: All ACC EVERYTHING!
Okay, but seriously. We basketball folk don’t quite know how to handle it when we’re not good at our sport of choice. And what do you do when your heart aches after someone or something makes you sad?
Well, you listen to slow jamz, of course.
And it’s doubly appropriate considering the ACC is the slowest league in the nation. Yes, out of all the leagues. All of them. Southland, MEAC, MAC, WAC, B1G - THE slowest. AND BY MORE THAN ONE POSSESSION PER GAME.
Per John Gasaway of ESPN (and Basketball Prospectus), the ACC in league play only was even worse, averaging 62 possessions per 40 minutes. No other major conference team averaged fewer than 64 possessions in league play. That’s pretty slow.
My thought, particularly after watching Virginia run a shockingly beautiful version of a slower-paced offense, was that we might as well embrace it…
…With slow jamz.
Who doesn’t love a good slow jam? It can help you with your pain after a breakup, or just get you in the mood for love (or, whatever). And maybe these songs should be playing when these ACC teams are in their halfcourt offense, grinding down the shot clock before heaving up a desperation jumper (in some cases) or trying to get a good, quick shot (in a few rare others).
Either way, there’s a song for them. For instance, the slow jam for the ACC in general? Got to be “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men, yes? It does, indeed, feel “unnatural” that there were no ACC teams left after the Sweet 16 ended. You get the idea.
And so here are the ACC teams sorted by tempo with the best-fitting slow jam. Because it's the off-season and I had some time because NO ONE IN THE ACC COULD GET PAST THE SWEET 16.
North Carolina (19th in tempo, 1st): “Baby Baby Baby”, TLC. This is flirting with the edge of what constitutes a slow jam, but I could see this one. And considering it’s almost like a regular-old song because of its speed, I say perfect for North Carolina, the outlier in tempo in a league of slowness. It’s definitely one of the first TLC songs people think of when the band comes up, too. It’s pretty good, got a nice beat and is pleasant to listen to. Until you listen to the lyrics. “I can have any man that I want to, time and place that I choose to, but I think you know that I would rather be here with you.” There is so much arrogance in this song. And, well, you know. UNC FANS, AMRITE?!?!
Maryland (55th in tempo, 2nd): “Never Give You Up”, Raphael Saadiq/Stevie Wonder. It’s got everything there to be a fantastic song, but I'm not sure it's even sure what it wants to be. And that’s basically Maryland. Like, it just needs to settle in and BE something. And while I like Raphael Saadiq a lot, and I love Stevie Wonder, you don’t invite him to be on your track and then just let him play harmonica while you sing a few notes over it. In theory, Saadiq, Wonder and then some dude named C.J. (not sure what he’s doing there) sounds great. It isn’t. (Oh, and I picked the title because I feel like it’s what Nick Faust sings in his head to the basketball a lot.)
Wake Forest (87th in tempo, 3rd: “Nothing Even Matters”, Lauryn Hill/D’Angelo. Just an odd song. It’s a slow jam, but it’s a bit up-tempo for some reason and it’s filled with these random snaps. Kind of a mess, all in all, especially for what Hill is capable of doing. And isn’t that basically Wake Forest? I mean, Lauryn is hanging out on this track with D’ANGELO. SO MUCH WASTED POTENTIAL FOR SEXINESS. Again, much like the Wake Forest offense. And it includes basketball lyrics: “Now my team could score, take you to the Final Four, just repossess my 4x4, ‘cause nothing even matters no more.” Just…what? And this also applies to how Wake fans felt about Jeff Bzdelik by the end of his tenure.
Florida State (144th in tempo, 4th): “Kiss From a Rose”, Seal. This song isn’t super fast or super slow, really. It just kind of….is. A bit waltz-y, when you think about it. Since FSU is middle of the pack in tempo, it fits. We all turn up the volume when this song comes on, because it’s fun to sing. And now that we’re all old enough, when we hear the lyrics, we’re like, “What in the actual hell?” I mean, “I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the gray”? What in the name of Al Thornton does that mean? And that’s kind of how I feel when I watch FSU. But, you know what? I still turn the volume up. Even if I don’t understand.
NC State (183rd in tempo, 5th): “Rush, Rush”, Paula Abdul. See, here’s the thing. The Wolfpack was fifth in tempo, but were way slower in ACC play. And it wasn’t for lack of trying - often, they just couldn’t get the shots they wanted before the shot clock wound down. So they want to rush, rush in theory, but in practice, it didn’t quite work out that way. Kudos for trying, though. And kudos to Paula Abdul for both trying to sing (it was nice enough singing, as I rocked that album on a loop in the late 80’s) AND for her exercise video. And for just being Paula. Bless you, Paula.
Duke (190th in tempo, 6th): “Pretty Wings”, Maxwell. Oh man, when this song works, it’s fantastic. Just like the Duke offense, really. It’s slow, of course, but has a nice, bouncy beat and it makes a breakup sound like the most pleasant thing ever. It kind of builds to a crescendo in the middle a bit before it settles back down into that nice groove, adding a few more horns, before slowing back down again and sliiiiding to the end. Kind of like Duke with the slowdown offense. Plus, it’s all about setting someone free when you love them and can’t be together. And what better way to describe Duke, since they’re the new “One and Done U”?
Georgia Tech (213th in tempo, 7th): “Don’t Let Go (Love),” En Vogue. Almost power ballad-y more than R&B, but it is what it is, and the pace fits. Though now we’re getting into “ugly to watch” territory. But so ugly, it’s almost riveting. This song qualifies. There’s some serious insane woman angst in this song. “If I could wear your clothes, I’d pretend I was you, and lose control.” Oh. Okay…And, the video. Yep. Awful, but can’t look away, right? Same with the Yellow Jackets. Or maybe that's just me. But it doesn’t mean it’s not uncomfortable. Also, as with Maryland, I’m convinced this song is the way Georgia Tech guards are taught to think about the basketball. DON’T LET GO OF IT GUYS! DON’T PASS THE BASKETBALL TO A MORE EFFICIENT BIG! It's like these ladies - don’t let your mystery man go, even though he clearly wants to run away - CLING TO HIM DESPERATELY!
Notre Dame (280th in tempo, 8th): “I Miss You”, Aaron Hall. Slow enough for the plodding Irish, with a few moments of speed mixed in for good measure because why not. It’s not like Notre Dame is averse to it. And this song is mostly in honor of the Irish missing Jerian Grant desperately. After all, you can’t simply outscore teams without your best offensive player. And I’d have to imagine that every Notre Dame possession included Mike Brey singing softly to himself, “I wish you were still here, so I can see your pretty face again. Please come back and rescue me from all this pain and misery-eee-hee-hee!” This song also features plenty of 90s-R&B-style crooning, and that’s also the last time Mike Brey’s mock turtleneck was popular.
Virginia Tech (300th in tempo, 9th): “Nobody”, Keith Sweat. Very slow, and while it’s a good song, it’s almost….unsingable? Is that a word? You have to make your voice do this awful twangy thing that was only popular in the 90’s. (“Ow-ow-ow-n-and ow-wow-un.” That’s supposed to be “on and on”.) And the beat is kind of weird and unsettling, and it even starts with this weird synthesizer making awful noises. Virginia Tech’s offense, right? It’s not like it’s unsexy….but there are sexier songs, and it’s kind of a mess. So, yeah. Also, no one knows who anyone on Virginia Tech’s roster is. So, Nobody.
Pittsburgh (305th in tempo, 10th): “I’m Goin’ Down”, Mary J. Blige. This is my jam, you guys. But it’s sloooooooooow. Picks up a bit in the chorus, obviously, but even that is still sung at a slower tempo. And from what I've learned about Pitt basketball in their limited time in the ACC, it seems that disaster is never far behind the Panthers. The feeling of inevitability that they’re, so to speak, going down. (See? See what I did?) And yes, I realize it’s about losing someone you love and how everything’s been a disaster since they left. But I’ll bet Pitt fans have spent plenty of time wondering “What did I do wroooooooooong?”
Boston College (322nd in tempo, 11th): “You Remind Me of Something”, R. Kelly. This song is almost agonizingly slow. It’s fun, sometimes. But especially if you grew up in the 90’s when R. Kelly wasn’t a joke. From his self-titled album R. Kelly, this was somehow the most successful single from an album that had better songs. But really it’s a terrible song, lyrically. “You remind me of my Jeep, I wanna ride it?” “Girl you’re like my bank account, I wanna spend it baby”? Really? And so I picked this song mostly because Boston College was terrible and at the beginning of the year vaguely reminded us all of something that resembled a good basketball team. Welp.
Syracuse (343rd in tempo, 12th): “One More Try”, George Michael. A beautiful song, but sad and haunting. The slowness of it makes it even more agonizing as George Michael is like literally his ripping heart out and singing about how he hates himself. And it’s about not being able to quit something. None of us could quite quit you, Syracuse, even as your offense abandoned you towards the end of the season and watching you play a halfcourt possession was like watching a couple have a fight in public. It’s also nearly six minutes. But it can be so beautiful at times that it’s hard to stop playing it. It’s also hard to listen to without crying. So, yes. Syracuse.
Virginia (346th in tempo, 13th): “Pusher Love Girl”, Justin Timberlake. Okay, so this is personal preference. This is a throwback slow jam that settles into a nice little groove, and it’s also eight minutes long. Might seem a little fast on first listen to be appropriate here, but the main beat is slow enough that it works just fine. Slow, methodical, layered. But this is a song that will take you on a journey and leave you in various states of swoon, and by the end of it you’re throwing your underwear at the song because it’s just worn you down. That’s Virginia. Though if you’re not a Timberlake person, you probably will hate it. Or if you don’t have patience. And if you’re not a Virginia person, you’re predisposed to hate them. And you’re also the worst. It’s also about being addicted. I’m not addicted to you, Virginia. <3 <3
Clemson (348th in tempo, 14th): “Cry Together”, Prophet Jones. It starts out a hot mess - a sort of spoken-word rap with no real direction. Obviously the O’Jays version is better than this Prophet Jones dude. (Although this photo(http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/252/13096689.jpg) is incredible. Seriously.) But this is a sloooooow song, meant to set the mood, and it’s about laying in bed with your woman….and crying. And then making love while crying. What is the freaking point of that? “We start hugging each other and the tears run down my face and there was love all over the place.” So basically, a lot of buildup for a pretty poor ending that includes sex while crying. Which is basically the Clemson offense.
Miami (351st in tempo, 15th): “Any Time, Any Place”, Janet Jackson. This was a tough one for me because I love that song. It’s one of the sexiest slow jamz ever. Miami’s offense was anything but sexy. But guess what? It’s really slow. And so was Miami. This song is like guaranteed to get you laid. Watching Miami’s offense? Not so much. But hey, because it’s Miami, everyone gets laid there anyway. It’s also seven minutes long, also not unlike a Miami possession.
Now, based on watching each of these offenses/teams play for a full season, I will name them appropriately by their corresponding slow jamzzzzzzz.
Boston College: “The Beautiful Ones”, Prince. How could this team be beautiful? Well, their offense was at times. And everything about the Eagles looked beautiful coming into the season. Until it crashed and burned spectacularly because evidently, they were too beautiful to play any defense. I think Prince’s lyrics sum it Boston College’s season best, from preseason prediction until its ending: “Paint a perfect picture. Bring to life a vision in one’s mind. The beautiful ones always smash the picture. Always, every time.” Or maybe I’m just dark.
Clemson: “One Last Cry”, Brian McKnight. If you love like 50 seconds of mournful keyboard-playing before someone actually starts singing, then this is the song for you. The song itself is beautiful, because McKnight is a great singer. But it’s just him telling his ex-girlfriend that he’s going to cry about her one more time and then move on. It’s very convincing, really. He says he guesses he’s down to his last cry like 5-6 times. And that’s always what I think when I watch Clemson. Can’t possibly be anymore sads. Then, lo and behold, there are more sads. Watching Clemson on offense is about as pleasant as listening to someone telling you about crying.
Duke: “You Really Got a Hold On Me”, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Aren’t many better songs out there, period. When Duke worked well this season on offense, it was intoxicating. Magnificent. But even though the Blue Devils abused our emotions all year long, alternating dominating performances with head-scratching late-game collapses on offense, we all continued to love them. They were too good NOT to love, right? Their potential to be great was there. WE ALL SAW IT! YEAH THEY’RE MEAN TO US AND LET US DOWN BUT IT WAS THERE, DAMMIT!
Florida State: “So Anxious”, Ginuwine. The beat and general tempo would suggest patience is necessary. But the lyrics and Ginuwine’s angst-ridden, thirsty falsetto would definitely prove otherwise. It also implies a big payoff for said anxiety is imminent. That’s Florida State’s offense in a nutshell, right? Get you in the mood, tease you a little bit and then just leave you sitting there waiting for your pager to beep. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Wait, pager? That’s right Ginuwine had a pager. Because it was 1999. When that pager beeps, though, man it’s a beautiful thing. Although it’s just as likely Florida State shows up at your house in sexy lingerie and a trench coat as it is that they show up sloppy drunk and throwing up on themselves.
Georgia Tech: “Gettin’ in the Way”, Jill Scott. I kept trying to find a better choice for the Yellow Jackets than this song, because it’s not really about what the title would indicate. But all I could think of when I thought of Georgia Tech’s offense was a lot of….getting in the way. Like, Daniel Miller is getting in the way of Georgia Tech guards taking more shots as he tries to post up for 10 minutes only to be ignored. And Chris Bolden’s seven missed shots kept him from shooting 33.3 percent for the season. I mean, I could go on.
Maryland: “The Rain”, Oran “Juice” Jones. Okay, so this is less about Maryland as a team and more about the relationship between the ACC and the Terps. Mr. Juice is very sad at first, because he followed his girlfriend and saw her holding hands with another man, walking in the rain. Then he decides to confront her. He says she should be thankful he didn’t kill her, basically (okay then), oh, and he took out all the money in their joint account, canceled her credit cards and hid all her jewelry. He basically kicks her out with nothing. “I gave you things he couldn’t even pronounce!” he said in a weird talk-rap thing towards the end that is amazing. “That’s right, silly rabbit, Trix are made for kids, don’t you know that? You without me is like cornflakes without the milk! This is my world. You’re just a squirrel trying to get a nut. Now get on outta here.” So basically, this is like Swofford to Maryland. And also, the video is RIDICULOUS.
Miami: “Slow Love”, Prince. I hate to do this because I love Prince so much and I hated Miami’s offense (most of the time) this year so, so much. But here’s the thing - this Prince song is kind of like a parody of a slow jam. It’s still brilliant, mind you, because it’s Prince. A lot of his love songs seem to lack some seriousness, as if he’s poking fun at the whole genre. I would like to think that while Coach Tilde hasn’t always been Captain Fast Tempo, he didn’t want to be THIS slow on offense this year. He just had little choice with his personnel. So he decided he’d troll all of us an just be suuuuuuuuuuper slow. Like, his best imitation of a slow team. And, you know, bravo. You did it. But I see the wink, Coach Tilde. I think.
North Carolina: “Wicked Game”, Chris Isaak. Oh, man. This song and accompanying video made me feel some type of way growing up. But I don’t know if the comparison works without the video. I actually never heard the song until I saw the video, and the video then played in my head on a loop whenever I heard the song, which led to distracting situations like me totaling one of my cars while that song played (seriously). So, considering the video, the Tar Heels were basically like Helana Christiansen - either super, um, interested? Or biting their nails and staring aloofly off-screen. Or sometimes, they just had sand all over them. Not that anyone notices that in the video. But they were a bit of a tease, either way. And yes, even at the beginning of the season when they would beat Michigan State and Louisville only to lose to Belmont or UAB.
N.C. State: “Caught Up in the Rapture”, Anita Baker. A decently up-tempo slow song, surprisingly. But it feels like a slower song than it actually is. Just kind of oooooozes along with Anita’s dulcet tones. And really, weren’t we all caught up in the rapture of watching T.J. Warren play all year? I know I was. And I also know, far too often, his teammates were too. But hard to blame them, I guess.
Notre Dame: “Have You Seen Her”, The Chi-Lites. Well yes, I realize Jerian Grant is not a woman. But it still applies. Especially if you imagine Mike Brey wearing a mock turtleneck (has anyone seen THAT, by the way?) going for a walk in the park “to watch the children play” (won’t touch the weirdness of that) and as he jokes with said children, it doesn’t ease his pain. Because he’s missing his best player, the one that might have at least made Notre Dame competent this year instead of more or less a mess. At least he’s in better shape than the Chi-Lites, as Grant is almost sure to be back next season. But imagining him doing random things on a day-to-day basis and seeing Grant’s face is something I find both amusing and sweet, so let’s just roll with it.
Pittsburgh: “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”, D'Angelo. My thing is, I will never hear this song or see it written and not think of ESPN’s Bomani Jones’ usage of it on Twitter. He basically breaks out the D’Angelo video as a way to rub in a painful loss to one fanbase. All in fun, of course. So at least to me, the sight of a glistening, naked D’Angelo now at least prompts a wry chuckle. Which is better than when said came out. Worth keeping in mind that won Video of the Year. IMMA LET Y’ALL FINISH, BUT THAT’S THE BEST MUSIC VIDEO OF ALL TIME! Not really. But it was extremely racy for its time (late 90’s/early 2000’s). Anyway, that has little to do with Pitt. Basically, Pitt gets the Bomani treatment here. This is what I think of when I remember their season - heartbreak and pain. Sooooo many close losses. And D’Angelo asking them repeatedly how it feels. Well I’d imagine it feels….bad.
Syracuse: “Water Runs Dry”, Boyz II Men. I mean, that’s basically what happened to the Orange this year, yes? They were slow, but efficient, and could shoot. Until, you know, they couldn’t. Everything dried up. And thus, perhaps they shouldn’t have waited till the water ran dry. “Why do we hurt each other? Why do we push love away?” And plus, you know this was like the awkward slow dance song where you were dancing with a boy (or girl, obvi) that you kind of liked, and it’s basically a breakup song, and you’re just avoiding eye contact not only because puberty but also because OH MY GOD WHY ARE WE LISTENING TO THIS SONG WITH THIS ODD RHYTHM ABOUT BEING A COUPLE AND BREAKING UP WE’RE NOT EVEN A COUPLE YET PLEASE SOMEONE SAY SOMETHING BREAK THE ICE MAKE A JOKE DID HE JUST MOVE HIS HANDS DOWN MY WAIST????
Virginia: “Bump n Grind”, R. Kelly. R. Kelly’s best song ever? I say yes. Yes. Toes the line perfectly between cheesy and sexy, and the premise is, well, he doesn’t see anything wrong with a little bump and grind. And really, why should any of us? It’s also how Virginia plays, summed up both lyrically and with the song title. They will bump and grind you to death on both ends, but even on offense with screens and hard cuts. And the song is about basically R. Kelly convincing a woman to cheat. And eventually he wears her down (or so we assume, of course) with his proposition and naturally she is going to be a convert BECAUSE EVERYONE NEEDS A LITTLE BUMP AND GRIND. You might think you don’t need that, but you do. The Cavaliers will wear you down and you’ll be addicted to that bump and grind, too.
Virginia Tech: “I Still Believe”, Mariah Carey. Every time I think of Virginia Tech on offense, I think about the now-departed head coach James Johnson’s face whenever the Hokies launched a shot after milking every available second. He really believed it was going in and looked genuinely disappointed when it didn’t. His earnestness was real. So is Mariah’s in this remake of an 80’s ballad. Although I like Mariah’s chances with whoever her ex-flame is than I did Johnson’s chances of finding happiness watching the Hokie offense. That only brings sadness and despair. And hell, Mariah’s chances are probably pretty bad. It looks like the song’s originator Brenda K. Starr settled, too. Good news for Virginia Tech fans who hung on to hope is that they now have a very good coach in Buzz Williams. Bad news for James Johnson is all that hope and emotion he put into the Hokies this season was for naught, basically. Because time is a flat circle.
Wake Forest: “Get It Together”, 702. Well, for one thing, the last time anyone has probably ever heard that song was probably 1996 or 1997 or so. And that was also the end of probably the best era in Wake Forest basketball as it ended with Tim Duncan graduating. So that’s just a happy coincidence. But this song is basically about being stuck in limbo and there are good and bad moments in a relationship and you become indifferent. You don’t want to leave, but you don’t want to stay. Wake fans essentially reached that point anytime their team miraculously pulled out a performance like it did at home against UNC, Duke or NC State, only to go on the road and get slaughtered or lose to Boston College at home. No consistency, no hope on the horizon and just….indifference and malaise. Wake Forest basketball in the Bzdelik era, everyone!
“Emotional Rollercoaster”, Vivian Green. NC State. Listen to the lyrics, Pack fans. Trust. It fits you. “Lovin’ you ain’t nothin’ healthy.” I mean…
“5 Steps”, Dru Hill: TYLER HANSBROUGH OF COURSE AMIRITE?!?!??!!
“Butta Love”, Next: Basically every UNC fan post-Kendall Marshall until Marcus Paige took over at point guard this year. (And even opposing fans to a certain degree, albeit begrudgingly.)
“Invisible Man”, 98 Degrees. Basically every Georgia Tech big man in the last five years. Special shoutout to you, Daniel Miller.
“Do What I Gotta Do”, Ralph Tresvant. That’s for you, Erick Green. We didn’t forget about you, buddy.
“Missing You”, Brandy, Tamia, Gladys Knight and Chaka Khan. That’s for you, Richard Howell. We all miss your rebounds and beard sweat.
“Don’t Leave Me”, Blackstreet. Brad Brownell’s likely serenade to K.J. McDaniels at season’s end. Reek of desperation? Maybe a little. But, um, have you taken a glance at Clemson’s potential roster next year? “Sweet Thing”, Chaka Khan/Rufus.
“Who Can I Run To?”, Xscape. Wake fans wondering who will heal their wounds after the Bzdelik era.
“I Only Have Eyes For You”, The Flamingos. That’s another ode to T.J. Warren. Because he ended 33.9 percent of NC State’s possessions this year, the most by an ACC player in the Ken Pom era. And so clearly, his teammates only had eyes for him. Which was good coaching if you ask me.
“Red Light Special”, TLC. That’s for you, NC State football. I CANNOT see that hashtag (used whenever the Wolfpack lands a recruit) without thinking of that song.