|Future NCAA hero or future serial killer? You decide!|
With Selection Sunday less than a week away, there's only one thing I could possibly focus on in my weekend thoughts; COLLEGE HOOPS! I spent a good deal of this past Saturday (and Sunday) ignoring my family to catch as many games as possible. After all, if I don't feel like I'm in tune with college basketball, how could I feel completely and utterly stupid when my bracket is shot to pieces on the first weekend?
Thought 1: Thank God! Kentucky finally won a road game! No, seriously, when Terrence Jones' free throws clinched the game, I acted like we had just won the NCAA Tournament. It's been an extremely up and down season for Kentucky and, believe me, I have the increased aggression and constant crazed look in my eyes to prove it. The glass half empty side of me sees an extremely young team playing only 6 guys that have struggled mightily on the road and in close games. Currently, we are 4-7 on the road (2-6 SEC) and 4-6 in games decided by 6 points or less. Ouch. On the other hand, the glass half full side of me sees an extremely young and talented team that has had success against top competition and has begun to turn up their play as of late. And, truthfully, we do have some great wins this year; Washington (neutral court), Notre Dame (neutral, sorta), Indiana (home, IU not nearly as bad as last year), Louisville (road), Tennessee (home and away), Vanderbilt (home), Florida (home). Now, we have a bye in the first round of the SEC Tournament and, should we win it, we are still in line for a great seed in the NCAA's! Am I starting to get excited? YES! Am I ready to see my Cats play in the Big Dance? Yes! Do we have a prayer to win the whole thing? No...
Quick side note: Does Tennessee only recruit fat post players? Is Bruce Pearl still employed for any other reason other than that he actually turns a shade of Tennessee orange during games? Is there a more clear case of nepotism than Stephen Pearl getting serious playing time? Am I talking in questions too much? Is it getting annoying?
Thought 2: So, here's a shocker for you! You've probably never heard any analyst point this out! The Big East is really good! OK, so there isn't much originality here, but if we're going to talk about college basketball then I at least have to mention this. Other than the UK-UT game, Saturday's Connecticut-Notre Dame bout was easily the most fun game of the weekend. I could do a whole section of thoughts just on this one game! First, what the heck was Mike Brey thinking when he put Ben Hansbrough (whom I despise) back in the game with 4 fouls when Notre Dame was up 8 and there was nearly 9 minutes remaining? Second, what the heck was Ben Hansbrough (again, I despise) thinking when he took less than 10 seconds to drop his shoulder and level his defender for his 5th foul?! I wish I would have had a recorder running in my house for the game, Richard Nixon style, so you could have heard the exchange between my wife and I when Hansbrough checked in.
Me: What the heck is Mike Brey doing? Does he know they're winning?
Theresa: Why does Ben Hansbrough look so scary?
Me: Because he's freakin' crazy! He seriously has some issues. Guaranteed he does something dumb and fouls out within a minute.
(Hansbrough fouls out)
Theresa: So, he's not as good as his brother, right?
Me: No...no he's not.
The really crazy thing is that Notre Dame still won! Between those two teams, Pittsburgh, Georgetown (when Chris Wright comes back), and Villanova; there are plenty of legit Final Four contenders coming out of this conference. And that doesn't even include good teams like Syracuse, Louisville, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and St. John's! You have to wonder, though, if these teams will have effectively beaten the crap out of each other by the end of the conference tournament. If so, it could really give a huge advantage to one team...
Thought 3: At gunpoint, if I had to fill out a hypothetical bracket, including all 275 teams in the tourney, I would pick Ohio State to win the whole thing. Without thought. Look, it's very hard for me to come to this conclusion. It's not that I hate Ohio State or anything (Please Ohio State fans! Keep reading!), it's that I have serious domestic reasons to not want Ohio State to win. I live in Columbus, my wife is an OSU fan, my wife's entire family are OSU fans, everyone at my work is an OSU fan, everyone at my church is an OSU fan...you see where I'm going with this. My school (Kentucky) is a basketball school and it would be very difficult for me to deal with one full year of gloating because my wife's school (a football school) won the basketball championship when my school (a basketball school) did not. See! Doesn't that make sense? Do you all still hate me?
Personal feelings aside, I'm not sure how you could watch this team all year and not conclude they're the best team. It's not just about the immense talent they have; it's about their chemistry, balance, and experience. The most impressive aspect of this team is that, in an NCAA full of flawed teams, I can't find a single major flaw on this team!
The biggest knock on OSU is their lack of depth; they only play 7 players. Personally, while I think depth could be a problem in the regular season, I think the shorter rotations helps them in the postseason, but for reasons beyond my comprehension, this fatigue myth continues to persist in regards to the NCAA Tournament. Let's get this settled now! First, this isn't the same as your local city league tournament, where your dad and a bunch of other overweight middle aged men eat buffalo wings before the game and are worn out by the end of the 1st quarter. These are college kids! It may have only been 3 short years ago, but my endurance level was much higher when I was in college. I remember being able to play for hours upon hours, each and every day without getting worn out; AND I WASN'T EVEN IN SHAPE! These are 20-22 year old world class athletes who are at the height of their physical ability. I think they'll be fine. Also, there's a trillion commercial breaks during the NCAA Tournament! It's like if Thad Matta could call 30 timeouts...during the first half...of the first half! Again, I think they'll be fine. Finally, don't overlook one of Jared Sullinger's most amazing skills. He does an amazing job of staying out of foul trouble. Part of it is because he isn't a great shot blocker, part of it is that he gets fantastic position, part of it is that he gets murdered the entire game and the refs probably feel they owe him on the other end of the floor. Whatever the reason, I would be shocked if a supposed lack of depth comes into play.
So, there, I said it. Ohio State is my pick...at the moment. Real quick, I'll attempt to give a top 5.
1. Ohio State
5. Umm...uh...I guess I'll say Notre Dame (I don't really believe that)
Just to plug myself really quick, if you aren't doing so already, you can follow me on twitter: @borisdiawtime. Also, I will respond to every comment or email or tweet or message you send my way so feel free. Finally, I'm working on putting together a little non sports related project. I should have some details by tomorrow's thoughts, if not sooner.