Let's look at some the more memorable quotes from my columns this basketball season. Like the one, or was it plural, about the SEC being down in roundball in 2006. An off year, I think I said.
Then there was the recent one analyzing the NCAA Tournament prior to its start. As I remember, and I'm trying my best not to, I said our conference teams could win a few games but they didn't have a chance of winning the national title.
And then there's the University of South Carolina. I conceded they would get an invitation to the NIT but it was the result of an overall disappointing season because as defending NIT champion you had to figure they'd be good enough to go to the Big Dance in 2006.
There were others too, negative, if not dispiriting.
So how come we still have three SEC teams playing basketball, two in the Final Four of the NCAA and one in the semi finals of the NIT?
As for the office pool, I am now 0 for 4, the Final Four that is.
Of course that's no worse than Billy Packer and Jim Nance who badmouthed the Mid-Major teams the selection committee said were entitled to be in the field and voiced support and pity for those from the major conferences who were passed over.
With LSU and Florida still standing we could have an All SEC championship game. Wouldn't that be something? At the same time if the Gamecocks can get by Louisville we could also have a conference representative in Madison Square Garden playing to win the NIT.
If that's ever been done before it has escaped my memory.
Sunday night when Florida was taking out Villanova Nance asked Packer how he rated this year's tournament since he has seen and worked them all. Give Billy credit. He said it was the best ever, and that's something I agree with. It is the best basketball tournament, start to finish, that I have ever seen.
The ability of these kids to make 3-point baskets from downtown when they absolutely have to have one to stay alive or to win is amazing. This time I can safely go back to last week's column and know I was right. The big men are rebounders or inside the paint shooters. The real damage is being done by the guards who are absolutely shooting the lights out.
Florida is ten or 12 points up with two minutes to play and I'm sitting there biting my nails to the nub because I'm convinced ten or 12 points is not a safe lead with that amount of time still on the clock.
I yell at LSU's Big Baby from the distance of my living room when he flips a 3-point effort at the basket late in a tense and exciting game and I'll be darned if it doesn't go in. It was only his sixth of the entire year but it was the clincher the Tigers needed.
I pick up the morning paper to see what South Carolina did and discover they won again, their eighth straight win in the NIT the past two years. At least I can watch them play this week on ESPN2.
I'm not the only one to downplay our representatives. LSU was a 4 seed in the same side of the bracket as Duke, Memphis, Kansas, Gonzaga, UCLA and others who commanded more respect. Yet the Tigers are still standing.
Florida was a 3 seed and the critics thought that was too high. They were bracketed with Connecticut, North Carolina, Tennessee, Villanova, Ohio State and Boston College among others. The others have all been sent home. Florida has a date next weekend.
Then there's South Carolina, a number 3 seed in with a pair of number 1s, Louisville and Michigan. The Gamecocks are still sticking around.
Today's basketball is a strange game. It is being played in the gyms the way the kids play it on the playgrounds and that means scoring and shooting is what it's all about.
It's also the easiest game to influence with one or two players. You can't turn a football team around with that few, even though an outstanding quarterback, can you say Eli Manning, is an absolute necessity.
But take a bad basketball team, let's say Ole Miss this season, recruit just a couple of kids who can run, shoot and rebound and you can turn a loser into a winner literally from one year to the next.
That's why the ability to recruit is as important as the ability to coach—and I think even more so. It's the first thing Ole Miss mentioned when they signed Andy Kennedy as their new leader just as it was the reason Ed Orgeron got the football job. He's proven his reputation as a recruited was deserved. If Kennedy can do that for the Rebels they could be competitive next season. And if Dave Odom can do it at Carolina he may be playing in the NCAA next season rather than the NIT.
Meantime, enjoy the coverage of this year's national championship. You'll never see the game played any better. Differently, perhaps, but not better. Take my word for it. I've already proven I'm an expert on the sport. Or didn't you read the first few paragraphs of this column.
I'm 0-4. . . Final Four, that is
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