Some would say that it is the “most wonderful time of the year”, but most will call it March Madness. The NCAA Basketball Tournament is coming soon with all its pomp, circumstance, and buzzer-beating shots. Every year, the many who embrace the university culture join hands to pass along their bracket of 64 collegiate teams vying for the title of NCAA Basketball Champion.
There is a women’s and men’s side of this annual event, and both are great to watch. Considering that we talked about the future of women’s collegiate basketball last week when discussing the accomplishments of local high school basketball phenom Taylor Hill, we will glaze over to the men’s potential tournament storylines.
Even those who don’t know sports know about the fever created by college basketball. I would imagine it comes from the fact that most office buildings are filled with college graduates (kids pay attention). I also think it’s popularity has to do with the fact that it’s good fun inside, when it’s too cotton-pickin cold outside…at least here it is. Whatever it is about it, you will see a tournament bracket sheet coming to an office near you.
Most of my attention to college basketball this year has been focused on the improving Gophers team. From watching them early this season, I kind of had the feeling that they would end up coming down to earth later in the schedule, after an excellent beginning to the season. That fact of the matter is that Tubby needs one or two more dynamic athletes to add to the solid foundation he has built. Sophomore guard Al Nolen Jr. and others have all progressed nicely, but when you see teams like North Carolina, Connecticut, or Kentucky, you realize what time it is.
From the very beginning of the season my eye-popping has been mostly stimulated by the absolute incredibleness (I didn’t think that was a word) of athletic prowess demonstrated by the team from the University of North Carolina. We have seen it for years, and you have to give them credit. That team is off the hook this year! It baffles me that they have lost as many games as they have, but it’s all about what you do when tournament time comes. The whole team is equipped with monsters of different varieties. They have big monsters, fast monsters, extra-athletic monsters, and hard working scrappy monsters on their monstrous team. I wouldn’t be surprised if somehow they don’t make it to the championship game, but they are clearly my pick to win it all.
There is no bigger monster in college basketball this year than University of Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet. This fella is 7’3” 263 lbs., muscular, athletic, nimble, and hails from Tanzania, so you know he’s doing his thing. If anybody brings any weak junk anywhere near the hoop they are likely to have the ball either A. Slapped into the middle of next week, or B. Imprinted right between their eyes. That dude is not havin it! Some have been able to expose his mild lack of basketball knowledge, and incredibly yet another actually “gangstered” up and overpowered him. Nonetheless, that dude is not havin it! Unfortunately, the NCAA basketball tournament is geared towards teams that have good small guys, unless the big guys are fast like gazelles as with North Carolina. That is also the reasons that the Gophers should have special hope for the future. They definitely have a couple of great guards in Nolen and Westbrook.
The only other major ripples I expect would come from a quiet jewel of a team from Memphis, and a dynamic team from Oklahoma. It has really been a long time since a team that wasn’t a perennial power shocked the world like NC State did back in 1983. That would be great to see, but I mentioned all the teams that will likely hoist the trophy when it is all said and done. I guess I did mention the Gophers. I told you they have the guards they need. Give Tubby another year of recruiting and the U of M should be right back in the big mix.