Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Best Time of the Year

Is there a better time of the year than March Madness? Seriously, I’ve been saying since about the age of 13 that this time of the year is better than Christmas. The presents are great and spending time with the family is wonderful but this is the culmination to college basketballs season all lumped into a few weeks of upsets, #1 seeds, Cinderella’s, Elite Eight Overtime Games and now the Final Four. How many times were your sisters telling you, “Mom said to come inside now” because you still had that one final play on the driveway to win the NCAA Championship? For me, it was about a few hundred.

This year we’ve had some Wisconsin-Milwaukee upsets, West Virginia’s rendition of the sharp shooting Hoosiers, Bucknell beating Kansas in the First Round, Michigan State getting past both Duke and Kentucky (In 2 OT’s) to reach the Final Four, Roy Williams taking the Tar Heels of UNC to St. Louis and Rick Pitino getting back to the Final Four with another team from the state of Kentucky. Its been incredible. To NCAA Division 1-A Football I say eat your heart out…it doesn’t get any better than this.

Illinois vs. Louisville
Illinois-Louisville is going to be a barn burner. These two teams will have more than enough fan support in St. Louis. The Illini are within a few hours of the Final Four and St. Louis is sure to be littered with orange. Louisville is also very close, only about a 4 hour drive – and let’s be honest, how many college kids wouldn’t drive 50 hours to see there team in the conclusion of the Big Dance? It should be madness at its finest. Francisco Garcia and Larry O'Bannon have been scoring points in bunches all season long and are two of the most athletic players in college ball. They will need to lift up there games to compete with the Illini pressure.

On the other side, Illinois' Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head are such an incredible 3-guard set and have had there way with everyone this year. It’s impossible to stop all three in one game that most opposition pick their poison. This game is going to come down to who wins the rebound battle and which team can get to the foul line and cash in from the charity stripe. Both of these teams can score, but which one will be clutch?

North Carolina vs. Michigan State
UNC-Michigan State might turn out to be an even better game (if it’s possible). The Tar Heels have more talent and depth than any other team in the country – and they are led by three juniors who have run the full course at Chapel Hill. Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and big man Sean May are going to have to be stellar for the Tar Heels. But the two guys that will make the most difference for North Carolina are senior forward Jawad Williams and senior guard Jackie Manuel. Call me crazy, but if those two guys don’t do a good job on defense and don’t put up significant numbers Carolina is going to lose.

The reason the Tar Heels might get bounced? Six Spartans…Maurice Ager, Alan Anderson, Paul Davis, Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert and Shannon Brown. These guys are tough and balanced – all six score between 9 points per game and 13.8 points per game. Anderson, Hill and Torbert are three seniors who are playing like there is literally no tomorrow while Brown and Ager have both picked up the scoring lately. Should have all the makings of another great Final Four game.

I can’t wait. I want both games to go into OT – and I want to see some great play from all four teams. This is the climax of college basketball and the only thing I can think of is can this Final Four be better than the Elite Eight was? Two semis final games and a title game that should have all the makings…

Whose last shot on the driveway will win the game?


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