I poured over stats. Went to every website I could find. I interviewed coaches and talked to announcers. I fed hard data into Jeff Sagarin's computer, all to no avail. After all that work I still did not have a clearer idea. That is when I used the greatest piece of technology at my disposal, the Play Station 2.
I ventured to the neighborhood Blockbuster Video and rented EA Sports' March Madness 2002, the best college basketball game on the market. Despite the picture of Shane Battier on the cover, I decided to use this as the ultimate decider of all things NCAA.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the game it is a very realistic basketball game. It uses current rosters and most of the players have accurate abilities. Arizona plays up-tempo. Big-10 teams play slower. Even UCLA makes silly mistakes. The only flaws to the game I saw was the fact that Luke Jackson was just average and Jason Gardner could dunk and did so quite often. Other than that I was very impressed.
After a few practice games to get used to the controls (their was no direction book) I jumped into it. Without any more fan fare the results:
The first game was a close one. A low scoring contest. Luke Ridnour was the star pumping in 26 points. Freddy Jones added 13. Oregon led most of the way, but could not shake the Huskies. Washington controlled the offensive boards to stay close, but Oregon held Doug Wrenn to just five points. With time running out the Huskies could not get the foul and Oregon held on for the win.
Oregon 55. Washington 53
The 4 vs. 5 game did not live up to the hype. USC dominated the contest from start to finish. Brandon Granville was the star scoring 28, while David Bluthenthal added 22. Casey Jacobsen got off to a slow start, but finished with 24 after scoring 12 points in the final 6:00. Curtis Borchardt added 20 points of his own.
USC 72, Stanford 56
Arizona jumped all over their rival early, but the Sun Devils came back and tied the game early in the second half. In the end the Wildcats transition game was too much for the Devils. Gardner led the way with 21 points and 11 assists. Salim Stoudamire had 19, while Rick Anderson and Luke Walton scored 16 and 10 respectively. Chad Prewitt scored 16 and Tommy Smith added nine rebounds.
Arizona 75, ASU 61
The final game was the best. Cal started off hot, going up by as many as 14 before letting the Bruins back in. Billy Knight was the star scoring a surprising 28 points in the comeback. UCLA took the lead with 1:30 to play and held on for the win.
UCLA 70, Cal 66
Oregon had to come from behind against USC to advance to the finals. The Ducks trailed by as many as 14 in the second half but Ridnour led their way back. Ridnour pumped in 30 and Jackson added 18. Sam Clancy added 27 in the loss.
Oregon 73, USC 71
The Wildcats and UCLA resumed their storied rivalry with the Wildcats pulling away late. The Cats took advantage of some untimely Bruin turnovers to seal the win. The Cats were outrebounded by 15, but managed to outshoot the Bruins by 15%. Gardner was clutch down the stretch, scoring 28. Stoudamire added 19. Gadzuric was nearly unstoppable scoring 26 points.
Arizona 72, UCLA 63
The third time was the charm for Arizona in the finals. Arizona started out slow but used a furious second half run to finally beat the Ducks. Once again the Cats were outrebounded, but pulled off the convincing win. Once again it was Gardner and Stoudamire. The duo combined for 38 point, while holding Ridnour, who came into the game averaging 28.0 ppg in the tourney, to only 6 points.
Arizona 63, Oregon 49
The not-so-scientifically played Play Station 2 deemed Arizona the winner. According to the Play Station, Arizona should have a couple of tough games, but will win in the end. Maybe video games aren't the best predictors of college basketball games, but it did give me an excuse to play in the name of work. Shhhhh, don't tell Doug.
Next Week: We use the Sega to forecast the pennant winners in MLB.