BY ALEX MULHALL – STAFF WRITER
The best time of the year officially came to an end. College basketball will not grace our hearts or TVs for another six months. It is indeed a sad time for all.
Well, almost everyone. Duke University Blue Devils fans have another six months to revel in championship bliss. Led by a trio of all-star freshmen, Coach Mike Krzyzewski outwitted Coach Bo Ryan of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Badgers down the stretch to nab his 5th NCAA Championship title, a mark that is good for second place on the all-time championships list. He’ll need another five more to pass first place John Wooden of the University of California, Los Angelos Bruins, but we’ll let him enjoy this one before he starts his quest for those five more.
The biggest story of the tournament was Wisconsin’s defeat of the University of Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four. The game was an instant classic for both better and worse. On the plus side, there was so much on the line for these teams. It was a Final Four rematch from the previous year, but this time, Kentucky held a perfect 38-0 record. The level of skill on the court was unbelievable. At any given moment in the game, there were between five and eight future NBA players playing their hearts out on the biggest of stages. Consensus National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin dominated the show with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists.
On the negative side, the officiating was atrocious. A wise coach once told me that there are three things you can’t change in a game: the weather, the referees, and the other team.
Well I don’t mean any disrespect, but these refs should have been changed out in the first five minutes. There were several terrible calls made or not made against both teams. The two biggest were an apparent Flagrant 1 on UK’s Trey Lyles when his fist made contact with Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser. That terrible no call equaled out a few minutes later when Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes scored a putback nearly a full second after the shot clock expired.
In both cases, the referees went to the monitors to review the plays. In both cases, they made the wrong call. That is horrendous. The referees have one job and they could not do it with so much on the line.
There was plenty of excitement in the other rounds of the tournament as well. The Georgia State University Pounces and University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers, both 14 seeds, upset their 3 seed counterparts the Baylor University Bears and Iowa State University Cardinals. Georgia State Coach Ron Hunter gave the tournament its most memorable moment. After he tore his Achilles tendon celebrating Georgia State’s conference championship the week prior, Hunter was confined to a stool on the sideline. During the closing seconds of their first round matchup against Baylor, Hunter’s son R.J., the star of the team, hit a deep 3 to put Georgia State up. The elder Hunter could not contain his excitement and fell off the stool in celebration. That’s what March Madness is all about.
You can’t talk about March without mentioning brackets, of course. This year, a 12-year-old boy named Sammy Holtz had the number one bracket in the country in ESPN’s online tournament challenge. Holtz, who is too young to collect the prize money, didn’t seem too analytical about his choices. “[I] just rushed right through it. I think it was all skill, some people say it was luck, but I think I studied enough,” Holtz said in an interview with WLS-TV. Don’t worry, though. His father is collecting his winnings for him.
The fact that a child picked better than every professional analyst shouldn’t surprise anyone. Those who are the most knowledgeable about college basketball often fall short in bracket pools. I know I did.