There are few advantages to having a cracked bone in your shoulder…but there is at least one: I can be a total couch potato during the weekend of the college basketball tournament championships.
Yes, I know that college basketball has lost its soul. Yes, I despise the one-and-done culture that Kentucky has mastered so well, and for that I “hate” John Calapari almost as much as I hate Christian Laettner. (I don’t really hate either one, but you have to admit it is a great film title to kick off this season’s 30 for 30 on ESPN.)
But given all of that, I still enjoy the game. Especially this weekend and next weekend, before the elite big boys take over. On these two weekends, you can see teams that no one expects to go anywhere, suddenly get hot and destroy the best laid plans of the big boys. You can see Albany hit its only three-pointer of the game to beat Stony Brook for a one-point win, in today’s first game. My alma mater, Middle Tennessee, will play University Alabama-Birmingham later today. No college elites there.
And even elite teams can be underdogs on this weekend. UNC’s win over Virginia last evening – like Notre Dame’s over Duke – were both exciting games where the “underdog” won.
There are all sorts of key questions to be decided over this weekend. Can Harvard beat Yale in a game that never should have happened, except that Yale blew its chance to get in the Big Dance last weekend? Which part of the Atlantic coastline does Notre Dame’s home state of Indiana touch? Since when is Xavier and Cincinnati, Ohio located in the east? What will be Dick Vitale’s biggest outrage at the end of Selection Sunday? How many times will Clark Kellogg call someone “The Big Fella?” Will we spend more time debating the number one seedings than we do as a country in debating to go to war? (Okay, maybe that last one isn’t really fun.)
Next up, the SEC. Only question here is can any team in the conference get within 20 points of Kentucky by the end of the game. (Answer: N0.) I’ll probably drop Kentucky vs. Auburn to switch over and watch a bit of the MEAC Championship between Hampton and Delaware State. I’d also check out the Atlantic 10 championship between VCU and Davidson…if I had a television package that carried it. And since Purdue is now giving Wisconsin a run for its money, I’ll pay attention to the Big Ten semifinal. (Motto for the 14-team conference: “Don’t confuse us with institutions of higher learning that teach math.”) I’ll go in and out of a number of games all the way through the UNC vs. Notre Dame ACC final that no one saw coming.
So bring it on…and maybe after five tonight I’ll have a little libation to go along with my wayward ways.
Oh, and by the way. John Feinstein has the best idea of how to get rid of the one-and-done: use the baseball model.
The baseball rule: Any player graduating from high school is eligible for the draft. Once he finds out where he’s drafted and what kind of money he can make to turn pro, he then decides whether to turn pro or go to college. None of this blind guessing. One of the reasons so many underclassmen put their names into the basketball draft each year is because they have agents telling them, “Don’t listen to your coach, don’t listen to any committee, I know general managers and you’ll go in the lottery. Or in the first round.”
Are they often lying? Of course they are. They can’t make any money off players who are still in college.
Remember, everyone selected in the first round of the NBA draft is guaranteed a contract. Second round and free agency? Nothing. So, if a player is drafted in the first round and the money’s guaranteed, he will probably want to sign. If not, he might want to go to college.
In baseball, if you go that route, you can’t go back in the draft for three years. That means you have to make some effort to go to class and to make academic progress. It means if you leave school after three years there’s a reasonable chance you might come back and graduate. It means that your coach isn’t recruiting your replacement before you play a single game. It means you don’t have to face the ‘are you going or not going?’ questions until your junior year. It means you might actually get to experience college. And it takes the predatory agents out of the process for two years.
Pretty simple. For the sake of the college game, let’s do it.
More to come…