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March 28, 2011 - Al Stephenson
Raise your hand if you had Butler and Virginia Commonwealth reaching the Final Four. OK, now put your hand down and tell the truth. Butler? Maybe, but not likely. VCU? Not a chance.
This year's NCAA men's basketball tournament has been outstanding. We knew going in, if you listened to the pundits, that it was a wide open tourney, with no super teams. The games have been great, including buzzer beaters and near misses. There will be no #1 seeds in Houston. There will be no #2 seeds either. Is this good for the game of college basketball. You bet it is. Your brackets may be all messed up, but if you like rooting for the underdog - well, then this year is pure heaven.
I have not gotten into an office pool for several years. I don't even fill out a bracket. That allows me to root for upsets, just because it's fun pulling for the underdog not because I picked a team in my bracket. The school that represents small conferences has players that work just as hard as the big boys. It is cool to see them rewarded. I will enjoy the Butler-VCU matchup as much as a Kansas-OSU tilt.
Speaking of the Buckeyes. I am sure that many faithful Buck fans are disappointed. Don't include me among them. What an awesome season they had. Sure I would like to see local sons Jon Diebler and Aaron Craft in the finals, but gosh it was fun watching the Buckeyes have such a stellar season. Nearly everyone loses the last game of the season. No finger pointing from me. Kentucky won the game and deserved to do so. Ohio State played gamely and nearly pulled it out. Great game. Let's move on.
Another thought about this tournament. Do you suppose Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart will get feelers from the big schools. Stevens did last year and will undoubtably again this year. He stayed put, suggesting he liked it at Butler. Will he feel the same way this time around? Perhaps, but the lure of the big money may be too great to ignore. Smart on the other hand, who also has some local ties, will be coveted. His career path leads me to believe that he will likely jump to a new level. Can you say Volunteers?
The view from my seat suggests that the Final Four will be fun to watch. If you can't wait until this weekend, tune in tonight to the women's Elite Eight matchups. You will want to watch Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot. Cool, calm and collected she's a point guard that can score as evidenced by the fact that she is the only college player (male or female) to have 2,000 points and 1,000 assists in a career.
The Zags run may end tonight against Stanford, but Vandersloot is worth staying up late to see.
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