Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Perfect end to spectacular college hoops season

How fitting.

An incredibly entertaining title game capped a fantastic Final Four which capped a sensational NCAA tournament which capped a ridiculously competitive, enormously fun season.

Yes, I'd have been happier if Marquette was the team cutting down the nets at the end, but otherwise, I can't imagine enjoying a season more than I enjoyed this one.

From that five-week stretch in December and January in which five consecutive No. 1 teams were defeated to the monumental upsets in the first couple of tournament rounds to the emotionally draining championship game, really, who could have asked for anything more?

How about that first-half stretch Monday night in which Spike Albrecht -- an unknown Michigan freshman who came in averaging 1.8 points -- scored 17 in about 17 seconds (OK, I'm exaggerating) to give the Wolverines a 12-point lead ... only to be upstaged by Luke Hancock, who came off of Louisville's bench to score 14 straight points and totally swing momentum to his team?

"Amazing" is one of the most overused words in the English language these days, but that truly was amazing.

Were I building a college roster, I'd steal Rick Pitino's blueprint and build one just like Louisville's. A shot-blocking center who worked hard to become a fine all-around big man. Two cheetah-quick guards who can get into the lane at will and produce in the clutch. A tough, talented power forward. Several nice role players, including Hancock, who can get into the kind of 3-point zone that can carry a team.

A lot was made of the gruesome injury suffered by Kevin Ware serving as a rallying cry for Louisville. Maybe, but I say to heck with that. If I'm Pitino, I'd have much rather had Ware's services as the first guard off the bench. And yet the Cardinals overcame the absence of a very important player to prevail in two knock-down, drag-out Final Four games. Kudos to them for a championship well-deserved.

Year after year after year, the NCAA tournament is the one sporting showcase that never, ever disappoints. The Final Four always was one of my favorite things to cover, and this year's edition reminded me why.

At one point near the end of the first half Monday, just after Hancock's flurry had singlehandedly rallied Louisville, Peyton Siva threw an alley-oop pass that Montrezl Harrell slammed home for a one-point Cardinals lead.

The "l" in Montrezl is silent, but I wasn't.

Sitting alone in our family room -- my poor wife has to work in the morning and couldn't stay up to watch a game that didn't end until about midnight -- I leapt out of my La-Z-Boy and hollered, "Wow!"

Think about how many times you've watched a sporting event alone in a room and think about how many times something has happened that actually made you get up and cheer. I've been in that situation thousands of times. And this might have been the third or fourth time I've reacted that way.

That's how good that moment was.

How fitting.


  1. Great game, indeed,and a really enjoyable tournament. And, my moment of hootin', hollerin', and jumping up out of my chair? Kirk Gibson, 1988 W.S. I will never ever forget that, and it still gives me goosebumps when I see it.

    1. That's a good one to remember, Belle!