Last night capped the end of March Madness when the NCAA Basketball Championships were completed. U Conn and coach Geno Auriemma took the women’s championship in undeniable fashion – as they went undefeated for the season – never winning a game by less than 10 points. Roy William’s North Carolina Tar Heels also played dominant ball when they needed it most to take the men’s championship.
The similarities in each championship team are noteworthy because of their play…..
…..The level of teamwork, ability to move the ball around, play tenacious defense, manage the clock and neutralize their opponent’s strengths while having their way offensively characterized just how good these teams were. Both teams had absolutely fabulous athletes to work with and yet their depth seemed to be their major strength – because the quality of play was maintained by great contributions from the bench. Led by Tina Charles dominant performance over Louisville – the Huskies absolutely shined in a yawner of a game. Ty Lawson’s 8 steals (NCAA title title game record) coupled with Wayne Ellington’s flawless play and magic touch proved to be too much as Michigan State was outclassed in every category.
The most impressive thing about these national championship teams was the level of passion they played with. The driving sense of purpose, the sense of “there’s-no-tomorrow-so-make-it-count-today” commitment was evident in every player and remarkably anchored in their coach’s exhibitions both on and off the court. I was amazed that Roy Williams didn’t have a stroke he was so animated at times during the tournament. Was there any doubt these teams were on a mission? There was no denying them. Congratulations Tar Heel’s and Huskies! You deserved it all.
One more thought. Tyler Hansbrough returned for his senior season after a heartbreaking loss to Kansas in last year’s final four match up, making a commitment to his teammates and coaches. The guy postponed his pro career because he actually liked student life! What class! If the world is coming to this – I’m all for it! Too bad Blake Griffen of Oklahoma doesn’t give it another go. Lord knows the Sooners have a promising young team and there’s no doubt they learned some valuable lessons playing UNC in their semi-final match-up. It just goes to show you there’s too damn much money in sports these days and everybody’s hell bent to get rich quick. I’d like to see what the Sooner’s could do with Griffen back – as a sophomore he was the most dominant inside man in college hoops. Too bad, so sad.
Because of the format, and the incredible opportunity each and every team had to go deep and win…is there any wonder people are hungry for a playoff system to replace the BCS in College Football? There is no greater passion in sport than in playoffs. Can you imagine what it would be like?
by Stephen Walker, Ph.D.