Monday was the culmination of what most, myself included, consider one of the best NCAA tournaments in recent memory. That significant day means a few things in the sports world.
The first? Baseball season. That’s not good news. I hope you guys got your fix on opening day, because we’re now stuck with 161 days plus never-ending playoffs and standing in line to use cramped bathrooms at Wrigley Field.
Second, the Masters. Tiger is back. All is right in golf.
Third is the NBA playoffs, which are better than the NCAA tournament. I understand most people prefer the college game, but the NBA playoffs feature the best basketball on the planet.
Finally, the end of March Madness means the end of some almost-as-good-as-the-NBA-playoffs action.
So after a month of purely exciting basketball, I’ve got a few takeaways.
- Kentucky losing was almost as good as your team winning. I thought, at first, maybe I was just biased. As an Indiana fan, the home of the last undefeated national champion in history, the last thing you want is your heated rival, Kentucky, taking your throne.
But it turns out nobody wanted the Wildcats to win. Unless you’re part of Big Blue Nation — which a boat load of people are — you wanted Goliath to fall. Those college basketball “purists” were electric when a group of no-name goofballs from Wisconsin took down the high-and-mighty Wildcats.
Which leads me to my next observation.
- John Calipari is not ruining college basketball. Stop blaming Coach Cal for reloading every year. The one-and-done rule is an NCAA-NBA rule, and Calipari just figured out how to use it to his advantage. He nearly constructed the greatest college hoops team ever. How is that a bad thing?
We’ve already — albeit rightfully so — put Coach K on a pedestal, but he needed three one-and-dones to win the title this year. Coach Cal may have a scummy attitude and be a dislikable guy, but he’s a heck of a coach. Until the rules are changed, he’s figured out a system that works for the game, even if that doesn’t work for you.
- College officiating is horrible. Twice in the final two games of the season the officials missed a call, went to the monitor, watched 529,642 replays and still missed the call. This happened at crucial times in what were two of the top three games of the season.
I know it’s useless to complain about the officials, but they were pretty useless for the entirety of the tournament. It was on both ends of the floor. Missed calls, misuse of monitors — I read that the officials in the championship didn’t look at the best angle of the out-of-bounds call late in the game. It was a mess that made Joey Crawford look like Zeus.
- Embrace the Adam Morrison effect. We will be seeing Jahlil Okafor and all those Kentucky guys for years to come. The Frank Kaminsky’s and Kevin Pangos’ are now ghosts of Madness past. We won’t ever see those players at their best again, but their best was a thing of beauty.
- March Madness is the greatest single month in sports. We waited through months of awful college basketball. Then, in the matter of a week, we got Kentucky vs. Notre Dame, Kentucky vs. Wisconsin and Wisconsin vs. Duke. These were three of the best basketball games I’ve ever watched. That boring Virginia offense was a thing of the past come March.
We’re 225 days away from the next college basketball season. I hope those midsummer interleague baseball games are enough to hold you over.
Mike Pruden is the Sheridan Press sports editor.