Thursday, April 9, 2009
Behind The Scoreboard
NCAA basketball reached the end of the road this past weekend, the Road to the Final Four, that is.
And as the song goes, “once again history repeats itself” and the road was littered with broken dreams, dashed hopes and muddy tears. There were a couple of “dark horses” traveling this road. One made it all the way into the light. The other one, well, let’s just say that there is always another season.
Reaching the top of the pyramid Saturday night after the last ball went through the hoop and the last bit of hype was spread, there was just a single “number one” still standing, the Tarheels of North Carolina. The Tarheels were not too far removed from their point in history and time. They had been here (at this point) in 2005 and cleared the floor and claimed the trophy. Tarheels coach Roy Williams had waged six previous Final Four battles.
Frankly, and as it would appear late Saturday evening, yours truly had not given the North Carolina-Villanova match-up the consideration it deserved. The tendency to pull for the underdog had something to do with it but actually it was prime time for another upset. The villains of Villanova had already deposed a “one” and “two” on the brightly lit Road. And if those of you who possess that memory, the game was reminiscent of the 1985 game when the Wildcats and their coach Rollie Massimino (who always reminded me of heavyweight fighter “Beer Barrell” Tony Galento), shocked the world and John Thompson and the Hoyas of Georgetown 66-64. This was the Wildcats’ first trip back to the Final Four since then. And it was especially great to see Massimino and Thompson sitting together during the game. It suffices to say that Villanova didn’t weather the storm.
The other Final Four game was just as interesting. The Michigan State Spartans did all the shocking in that one as they sent the highly favored UConn Huskies to the sidelines for the remainder of the tourney. The Spartans also had their favorite son (Magic Johnson) sitting a degree or two behind them. Michigan State is seeking its third title, the second under coach Tom Izzo. Johnson helped the Spartans win their first one back in 1979. It is odd that the Spartans, for all their story and glory, have never had a “Player of the Year.”
By the time that you read this, it will all have been decided by North Carolina and Michigan State on Monday night (after our sports section deadline). Don’t know who your fave is, but yours truly is definitely going to remove the “dark horse” connotation from the Spartans.
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