The question, which, hear me now and believe me later, shall not be answered before that last Monday of the season in early April, is which school in the land will be able to overcome its flaws and navigate through the bracket maze for six Ws in a row?
One guy’s opinion is that this is setting up as the most fascinating NCAA tournament in, well, ever.
So far, it’s clear this is the most fun basketball season in memory. Don’t agree, tell me one that was better.
You tell me at this juncture that you know who is going to win it all, and I laugh in your face.
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I thought Kansas was playing the best ball in the land. Now they’re doing their U of L impersonation, losing at home to Okie State and on the road at TCU. TCU? You kiddin’ me.
Then I was sure Florida was ballin’ the best, beating SEC foes by something absurd, like 27 points a tilt. Then the Gators were pummeled by Woo Pig Sooey.
The Hoosiers have been rockin’ and rollin’, then were outscored 2-13 down the stretch at Champaign-Urbana. Victor Oladipo who had moved to the top of POY lists, was held to 9 points by the Illini, but only committed one turnover. Of course, that came in the final seconds and he almost saved the day by hustling back and blocking a game winner.
But, with less than a tick on the clock, Illinois won it . . . on a wide open layup off an inbounds play.
And, don’t forget the Wolverines. If the scaredy cat zebras don’t swallow their whistles on the last play of the game, the Buckeyes had one stolen in Ann Arbor. Driving the length of the hardwood for a winning tally, Aaron Craft was hammered not once but twice. Grand Juries routinely indict for felonies on lesser offenses.
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Which team is #1?
The team that’s still smiling during “One Shining Moment” while confetti reigns and Jim Nantz gushes.
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More than ever before, seeding, the luck of the draw and bracket busting are going to determine this year’s national champ.
Louisville slipped into the Final Four in ’82 because UAB upset Virginia in the regional semis on its home court, giving the Cards an easier test in the Elite Eight. Denny Crum knew how to beat Gene Bartow, when it mattered, even around the corner from Dreamland BBQ. (I know, the original is in Tuscaloosa, but there’s one in Birmingham too.)
The Cards had an easier path to the title game in ’86, facing an overmatched LSU team that snuck into the final quartet, while Duke had to survive a bloodbath with Kansas in the semis.
Which is to say this.
IU, Kansas, Florida and Michigan are still solidly in the group of upper echelon contenders.
So too, resurgent Louisville, Duke, Miami and Arizona.
But, if ever there was a year when Gonzaga could finally bust a move, this is it. Don’t bet against Michigan State, which is most always ready at tourney time. You can’t disregard ‘Cuse. Or the Buckeyes. Or that little school that could, you know, the one that hoops at Hinkle.
Or Pitt, which is still Top 10 to both Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin.
You may be counting out Creighton or New Mexico or Tubby’s Golden Gophers. Or UK. I’m not.
This is a season when a VCU might turn into the ’63 Loyola Ramblers. It might even be VCU itself.
The school that is ready, the one that can best overcome its flaws, the one which faces teams it can match up with, the one that gets the lucky bounce, the one whose sub hits an out of the blue trey, the one whose coach makes the wisest adjustments, that’s the one’s gonna win it all.
You think you know which team that is?
Good for you. Myself, I haven’t a clue.
– Seedy K