With the culmination of the 2012-13 college basketball season, signed, sealed and delivered with Louisville’s Peyton Siva-sparked “speed kills” act Monday night in Atlanta leaving Michigan on the wrong side of an 82-76 score, we, alas, must bid adieu to this campaign’s Mid-Week Madness.
Yes, it’s true – sad, but true. No more blasphemous statements that cast doubt the true ever-lasting omnipotent quality of powerhouse conferences the big-name schools that play in them. No more insane suggestions that maybe, just maybe, a great player or five exists who wasn’t coveted by the Big Ten, Big East, ACC, Pac-12 or SEC, and that – holy cow – one of ’em may be better than the Otto Porters of the world. No more going against the grain, and calling into question conventional wisdom such as Indiana’s obvious place atop the game’s elite, that the Hoosiers just could not be touched when things mattered and that Victor Oladipo was the second coming of not just Michael Jordan or Dwyane Wade, but an other-worldly combination of both.
Yep, there has been just some crazy thinkin’ and preachin’ in these parts. But, rest easy. That’s over … for now.
Before leaving this season altogether, though, here are a few final things we learned:
-Bobby Knight and his ilk are alive and well, now and probably forever … not just in chain-restaurant commercials, but in the form of guys such as Mike Rice and Tim Pernetti and many, many old-school fans. Whatever the role is, be it manipulator or enabler, the sad part is that these meatheads actually think abusing people is the way to motivate them to reach max potential – when they have no clue that the abused have to overcome that unnecessary crap in order to prove themselves. Meanwhile, the “tough guys” try to put the blame every place but where it belongs – on themselves – and only feign remorse and understanding once they get caught. In short, the actions are fine until the cover-up is blown. This pathetic tale of woe never, ever changes … even now, a mere 18 months after the “brand”-saving insanity at Penn State came into clearer focus.
-In a night of firsts Monday, with Rick Pitino becoming the first coach to win national crowns at different schools and Luke Hancock becoming the first bench player to be named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, it was the latter that proved most telling … and maybe more profitable. We all knew Pitino could. It’s doubtful anyone knew about Hancock’s all-around offensive skill. The guy displayed driving, dishing and dominating play that belied his previous good-shot, solid-effort label. He may have carved out a nice NBA paycheck with his performances in Atlanta. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t seen as a prospect at all before the Final Four.
-Bad officiating is part of the game. It can come and go, or factor to varying degrees, but it never, ever completely leaves the equation. Certain games were irreparably influenced by calls and non-calls, allowing the likes of Big Ten powers Indiana and Ohio State to advance to the Sweet 16 and sealing the fate for Syracuse and Wichita State that they would not be meeting in Monday’s title game. It happens. Far too much, but it happens.
-Gregg Marshall gets it. While everyone else is preaching about trusting your defense and letting things play out, the Shockers coach grasps that the No. 1 enemy a team faces when it’s down is the clock … and that you never, ever toss aside the chance to prolong the game when trailing in the final minute and not in possession of the ball. There are no 4-, 5- or 6-point shots at the buzzer. Marshall, as much as his team, was brilliant throughout the tournament and actually outcoached Pitino in the national semifinal. His team just didn’t execute down the stretch, when it absolutely had to as the officials started their innate BCS-slant on calls.
-The Big East, not the Big Ten, was the best conference in college basketball in this, its swan song season … at least in terms of what we knew as the Big East. Not only did Louisville win the whole shebang, but Syracuse joined the Cardinals in the Final Four and Marquette made the Elite Eight. Ohio State represented the Big Ten in the Elite Eight, but, really, had some serious help getting there, and Michigan was just gift-wrapped its spot there by Kansas, which inexplicably opted to ease up on the Wolverines down the stretch in a regional final with a double-digit lead, not only leaving the door wide open for a comeback but actually taking Michigan’s hand and walking it right through it.
1-Louisville, 35-5: Start to finish, you really can’t argue that Cards were the best.
2-Michigan, 31-8: Hard to believe, but considering all the NBA talent on their roster, Wolverines kinda underachieved this season.
3-Syracuse, 30-10: It’s a shame that after such a great run, the lasting memory with this Orange squad may be coach Jim Boeheim overreacting after the season finale.
4-Wichita State, 30-9: Marshall has this hard-to-pinpoint obnoxious quality to him, and, yet, if anyone showed coaching brilliance in the postseason, he did … far more than anyone else.
5-Kansas, 31-6: If Jayhawks didn’t downshift in the final 3 minutes against Michigan, we’re probably looking at a different national champ right now.
1-Wichita State, 30-9: Shockers ended up being the story of the NCAA tournament, and, in a nice twist from the likes of Notre Dame and Louisville, actually looked better in new uniforms.
2-Gonzaga, 32-3: Can’t ignore the positives with this squad, but just the same, you can’t ignore the negatives, either. The yearly hype needs to end … until the Bulldogs take that next step.
3-Saint Louis, 28-7: Billikens were quite a story following the death of former coach Rick Majerus. They dominated the best non-power conference in basketball, the Atlantic 10.
4-New Mexico, 29-6: Great regular-season story merely served as a prelim to a disappointing NCAA flop. Then coach Steve Alford bolts for UCLA. Ouch.
5-La Salle, 24-10: Explorers posted back-to-back wins against ranked opponents, then won 3 games in the NCAA tournament – their best run since the Tom Gola days in the mid-1950s.
Khalif Wyatt, Temple, senior G – Best offensive talent in college basketball, bar none. He embarrassed N.C. State and Indiana in the NCAAs, tallying 31 points against each. It says a lot about the BCS bias out there that this guy wasn’t even considered for first-, second- or third-team All-America. Season numbers: 20.5 ppg, 4.0 apg, 2.9 rpg.
Trey Burke, Michigan, sophomore G – No problem with him being named the national player of the year, especially if it meant overhyped Victor Oladipo wouldn’t receive the honor. But the idea he improved his NBA stock with that second half Monday night – are you kidding? Season numbers: 18.6 ppg, 6.7 apg.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga, junior F – Not sure his wingman skills as a 7-footer translate so well to the NBA. Would be nice to see him stay and show a more physical game as a senior. Season numbers: 17.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, .629 FG.
Doug McDermott, Creighton, junior F – Skilled, tough and productive, he’s hard to ignore. Season numbers: 23.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, .548 FG, .875 FT, .490 3s.
Jeff Withey, Kansas, senior C – Jumped off the screen in the NCAA tournament, averaging 15 points, 10 boards and 6 blocks per game. Season numbers: 13.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.9 bpg.