I'm pretty sure this is the best NCAA Tournament I can remember in quite some time. I know that can't really be trusted since people have a tendency to overrate whatever is current (more on that later), but it just seems like almost every game has been great. Close games, buzzer beaters, overtime games, upsets - it seems like we're getting more of these things this year than in any other year. Maybe I'm romanticizing it a bit, but I'm ok with that - I love this year's tournament, and I'm sad to see it come to an end. Of course, the poop in the swimming pool is that Duke made the final four, and I really, really, really hate Duke, but as long as somebody else ends up winning I'll be happy. Hell, I'll even end up rooting for Butler if they end up going against Duke. That would be hilarious, talk about a bunch of white guys. I'm almost hoping for that now. Almost. Even so it's still been an awesome tournament, and it sucks that's it's basically over.
I'm pretty sure they time it so the NCAA Tournament wraps up right before baseball kicks off and end the world series just before the college hoops season starts because the powers that be know those are the only two things really worth watching. God bless you sports overlords, you have it all under control.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Butler. I considered the Bulldogs to be more getting lucky than being good, catching Murray State in the second round and getting Syracuse on a night when they seemed pretty disinterested to be there, but a weekend spent by beating both the Orange and then K-State is pretty impressive. At some point I have to stop thinking of them as lucky, overachieving white nerds and realize they are a pretty good team, and what better point than now, with them on their way to the Final Four. They really play some solid, solid defense, and it wasn't luck that Jake Pullen and Denis Clemente, the heroes last round, combined to shoot just 11-28 with six turnovers and just two assists on Saturday. With the Bulldogs being on the wacky side of the bracket, they can absolutely beat Michigan State and end up in the final.
2. West Virginia. I pretty much got almost nothing right this entire NCAA Tournament, but at least I was right about West Virginia being a Final Four team. I just love this team. Ebanks, Butler, Kevin Jones, and Wellington Smith give the team four super-athletic 6-7 to 6-9 guys who play great defense, can handle the ball, hit the boards hard, and can score inside or out. There's no real need for a point guard since all those guys can just play point forward, and they did beat Kentucky with their only real PG, Truck Bryant, out with an injury, but the good news is that in case they do need him Bryant will be back for the Final Four. This is good because the guy who filled in for him, Joe Mazzulla, had his career best game last round and there's no way he'd be able to do that again. The Mountaineers will be my adopted team for the Final Four, and if they end up being underdogs I'll be hammering that line like I was at a conjugal visit with your mom.
3. LaceDarius Dunn. Holy crap is this guy good. I remember watching a few Baylor games the last couple of years and he was always a good scorer, but with Curtis Jerrells graduated he has taken his game to a whole new level. Unfortunately, Duke conspired with Dunn's teammates and they figured out a way to take him out of his game late in that regional final, but prior to that he was doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. There was one possession where the undisciplined hyper-athletes that make up most of the Baylor team were running around like jackasses just throwing the ball wherever and doing mostly nothing except almost turning it over. The shot clock got down to under 10, Dunn finally got the ball, looked and saw Scheyer on him, and just put the ball down and drove in for an easy floater. And he could have done that all game. At least he's only a junior, so we'll get to see him play for another year. Also WVU is going to destroy Duke.
4. Durrell Summers. I've written about him already this tournament in passing, but I really think Summers has taken a leap this post-season and is going to be in the Big 10 POY running next year. He had a rough Big Ten tournament, but in the NCAA tourney he's been unstoppable, scoring 14, 26, 19, and 21 while shooting 56% from the floor and has just looked like a more confident, take over when I need to take over kind of player. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do next year, but not against the Gophers because without Damian he's going to shred them like Bogart playing me in Madden. I'm betting he ends up being close to a 20 point-per-game scorer. Believe it.
5. Jordan Crawford. I know he only played one game this week and his team lost, and I know there's a good chance you might be sick of hearing about Crawford already, but he really, really impressed me in this tournament more than any other player, even Summers or Dunn. Inside, outside, off the dribble, off the catch, rebounding, defense - he can do it all. He also seems to have matured quite a bit, and looks like he might be putting it all together. My fear is that he's going to get some really bad advice, let his nice tournament run go his head, and enter the NBA draft this year, which will just suck. I'm too dumb to know if he's going to be a good pro or anything, but I know he'll be an absolute pimp next year in the A-10 if he stays, which he should. Plus he needs to beat down Dayton again. I hate those hippies.
1. Syracuse. I still think the Orange were the best team this year, along with Kansas on a whole nother tier, but they really didn't come to play against Butler. I gave Butler their props above for creating these kind of situations, but it really seemed like the Cuse were just waiting for Butler to go away. Then, with five minutes or so left, they hadn't, and Syracuse panicked - specifically Andy Rautins and Scoop Jardine, who just started launching anything and everything, completely rushed, completely covered, and early in the shot clock and shot their come back attempt right out of the water - like Snake with a Squirrel that is in the water. Also, I think maybe at some point we should start talking about whether or not Boeheim is an epic choker or not. I'm not ready quite yet since he does have that national championship, but I really think he should be winning more than he does.
2. Kentucky. Speaking of epic chokers, hello again John Calipari. Once again Slimy John has the most talent and ends up bowing out early in what has become nearly as predictable of a rite of Spring as the salmon returning to Capestrano. 4-32 from three, which is really shitty shooting, but maybe the coach needs to reign in the chuckeration a little bit. And why is Patrick Patterson hanging out around the three-point line all day? It's like playing with Rick Rickert (or Bogart). Get your ass inside, big man, and quit it with this perimeter shit. That's on Calipari, too. As is the piss poor defense they played in the second half. Why did they continually refuse to stop dribble penetration in transition? Just a poorly played, poorly coached game by the team with the most talent in the tournament. Cal is a hell of a recruiter/cheater, but he couldn't out coach your average fifth-grade girls coach.
3. Kyle Singler. In case you needed another reason to be pissed that Duke won, and I'm sure you don't, it's that this beak-faced fake ACC player of the year (blatantly stolen from General Greivis) laid the biggest egg possible in the biggest game of the year. He shot 0-10 from the field, 0-5 from three, and turned the ball over four times while grabbing just three rebounds despite being 6-8 and playing 34 minutes. Just an absolutely brutal performance, but because the refs received a mandate from the NCAA that Duke needs to win, it's going to be ignored. I hope he chokes even harder against West Virginia. He's the embodiment of the irritation that is Duke. And he looks like a damn chicken. And a girl chicken at that. Seriously, he looks like a girl chicken.
4. Fran McCaffery. The Iowa job? Really? Wouldn't you rather coach at either Seton Hall or St. John's? They both have better recruiting bases, and St. John's especially has to be a much more attractive job. But Iowa? Iowa? Good luck, Fran. I have a feeling this is going to end up being a terrible decision on both sides, and Iowa will remain irrelevant in basketball for four or five more years before they end up firing McCaffrey. Fine by me, that's how it should be.
5. Len Elmore. And all announcers, really, but Elmore was the one who put me over the top. I'm pretty sure Vern Lundquist hasn't watched an actual game outside the tournament in years, and Dick Enberg looks like death in HD and made the wrong call at least ten times in the WVU/Kentucky game, but Elmore is still the worst. He has some speech impediment that causes him to constantly refer to time outs as "times out" as in "Xavier calls times out" which is annoying, but his constant harping on how Kansas State was "fatigued" on Saturday after their double-OT game two nights before made me want to stab my ears with an ice pick. He must have mentioned it twenty times in a ten minute span, including pointing out how "All the Wildcat players on the bench are looking down", "Curtis Kelly is breathing out of his mouth", and "Jake Pullen is shifting from foot to foot while he's standing", all as some kind of proof they were tired. I've never quite heard anything so bizarre, nor listened to somebody with such a single-minded focus on one subject before, not counting John Madden and Brett Favre.
The icing on the cake, however, was some doofus I heard on the radio talking about Wall, Cousins, and Bledsoe and how "no group of three freshman have accomplished what they have." Dude, what? A quick look tells me that Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and Juwon Howard combined to average more points and rebounds than the Kentucky trio. Carmelo Anthony, Gerry McNamara, and Billy Edelin were all major contributors on a national championship team, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a better group of freshman both stat and winning wise than Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook. And those are just three rebuttal examples I thought of in 30 seconds after that moron made his statement, I'm sure there are many more examples. Look, I understand people tend to overrate what is in the now, and the Kentucky freshman are great, but let's try to have enough historical perspective here so you don't sound like a complete jackass. I swear to god they just pluck half of these people right off the street and tell them to cover something they know nothing about. It would be like me trying to cover hockey, or Super Sioux Fan writing about high class living - it just isn't going to work.
The End. Oh, and.....