March 25, 2009
Your bracket may be worthless and your favorite team might not be playing anymore, but that doesn't mean you should enter the next four days without rooting interests. If you don't know who to root for, The Dagger's here to help you sort out the good guys and the bad guys from the Sweet 16 field. Previously, we highlighted the good guys. Now, we highlight the bad guys.
UConn. The Huskies are too physically-gifted. Say you had the ability to build human beings, and you set out to build a basketball team, what would you build? A center who was about 7'3", had crazy long arms, and a natural instinct for blocking shots? A power forward built like a brick outhouse who rebounds like the basketball is his birthright? A 6'9" swingman with crazy athleticism who can play inside and out? A point guard with size, speed, court vision, and the ability to shoot the three at over 40 percent?
That's about what I'd build. And that's exactly what UConn has. Too perfect. No fair.
Oh, and there's also this little issue, which just popped up today. That doesn't do anything to help a team seem friendly and likeable.
Arizona. More than a dislike of Arizona, for me, it's that they bring a sense of discomfort. They don't fit easily into a category. I like things to make sense, to easily fit in Box A, B or C. When something doesn't, I don't like it. Enter Arizona.
We all love 12-seeds, right? Do we want a 12-seed to beat a 1-seed? Why, that sounds terrific! But what if that 12-seed is basketball royalty? What if they won a national championship just 12 years ago, appeared in the championship in this decade, have made four Final Fours since 1988, and have made the tournament twenty-five consecutive years?
I feel tremendous discomfort. And it's not a conference issue, either. The 12-seed doesn't have to be the Southwestern New Hampshire Tech Fighting Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Repairmen. If it was some other big conference team that didn't have such a proud basketball history, they'd certainly be on the good guys list. But it can't be Arizona. Fit into a box, dammit.
North Carolina. Proof that Carolina is college basketball's ultimate goliath: They piled up 30 wins against four losses, and this season was actually considered a bit of a disappointment. Back in November, there was more than a little bit of talk about Carolina possibly going undefeated, and it didn't seem totally crazy at the time.
They were the preseason favorites to win the national title, they mowed through the ACC for the most part, and here they are with a one-seed in the tournament. They've got four guys who average more than 13 points a game, one who was the ACC player of the year, and the other who seemed to break every record in college basketball this year.
Even when they're not national champions, they still wear the crown. They're the best program out there at the moment.
Kansas. They fit a lot of the imaginary criteria I have for a good guy, actually. They're a young team, I like their coach, I like their style of play, they've sort of flown under the radar ... but they won the whole thing last year. I can't root for a repeat. No one fanbase deserves to be that happy. We need to spread the joy around.
Other than that, though, I don't have anything but minor quibbles with Kansas. I'm really not a fan of the "Rock, Chalk" chant, because I just don't get it, and because Coke Zero has opted to put it in one of their commercials, and I hate Coke Zero.
Syracuse. Devendorf. It's really that simple. I like Jim Boeheim and his never-ending overly dramatic whining, I like Otto the Orange, and I like Jonny Flynn. One look at Devendorf, though, and I'm sorry, but it's into the hate category you go. I'd root against Devendorf if he played for the Salvation Army.
And I've noticed the rash of pro-Devendorf columns that Extra Onions pointed out the other day. And those are all fine, and you can write down 45 reasons why Devendorf might be a wonderful man, and they might all be true.
But I'm talking about Devendorf the basketball player, not necessarily Devendorf the guy, and when I see him preening after making a three, with his stupid little sculpted beard, and the cross tattoo with the basketball in the middle of it (that must have been very uncomfortable for Jesus's back), and I'm sorry, but fondness is about the last thing I feel.