NCAA tournament 2012: The college basketball empires will strike back
By Mike Wise,
There’s no Hollywood story line to this year’s NCAA tournament — unless your tastes run toward “Wall Street.” Or “Stalin.” In this updated “Hoosiers” script, Jimmy Chitwood signs early with an agent, and Hickory High loses. By 50.
See ya, Shooter. This year, Norman Dale will be played by John Calipari:
There’s a, um, tradition in tournament play to not talk about the next step until you’ve climbed the one in front of you. But there used to be a tradition about going to college for four years, so who cares about tradition, guys?
I’m sure going to the NCAA championship game is nowhere near your wildest dreams — because your wildest dreams are about the bling you’ll be wearing to the draft in June! That’ll be a Shining Moment!
The Empire has indeed struck back. The Little Engines That Could are about to be derailed by the Exxon Valdez.
In the regular season, Syracuse buried everyone in the Big East. Kansas and Missouri conquered the Big 12. Duke and North Carolina dominated the ACC. The Big Ten is five strong and six deep. Even Indiana matters again.
There is no “This Year’s George Mason”; she’s working as a barista at Starbucks in Fairfax.
(In Dickie V. voice) Calipari’s got the diaper dandy market cornered; it’s Goliath’s revenge, baby!
You know, in the 20 years that I coached, I never met anybody who wanted to win as badly as I did. (Well, okay, John Chaney, but that’s another story.) I’d do anything I had to do to increase my advantage. Anybody who tried to block the pursuit of that advantage, I’d just push ’em out of the way. Didn’t matter who they were, or what they were doing. No program could vacate a banner like mine. But that was then. You have a special talent, a gift. Not Kentucky’s. Not Lexington’s. Not the team’s, not Ashley Judd’s and not mine. It’s yours, to do with what you choose. Because that’s what I believe, I can tell you this: I don’t care whether you play on the team or not. You’re out of here in a few weeks anyway and I saw this eighth-grader at this tournament in Vegas and his coach is one of my boys so . . .
Anyhow, back to the game plan: Five players on the floor function as a single unit. Team, team, team. No one more important than the other — well, except for Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, obviously. I mean, those guys aren’t going to be lottery picks for nothing. So get them the ball or sit, okay guys?
Homespun is out; one-and-done is in. Game-night caravans and bake sales and hoop hamlets are so 2011.
This year’s NCAA tournament is about power, prestige and basically punking the little guy. Davidson doesn’t have any stones for its slingshots to slay Philistines with — mostly because Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger ate them.
You want a tip for filling out your brackets? Sell your sleeper stocks; buy IBM.
Would anybody like to say anything before we run the table in this inferior tournament? Anyone?
“Yeah, Coach. I want to play this one for all the scouts who never got a chance to see me play. No way I’m getting picked that low. You think some dude from Weber State is going ahead of me?!? ”
Okay, that’s nice. Anyone else?
“Yeah, I want to win this for U-Conn. They never should have had to play James Madison in D.C. in 2006 . . . ”
I think it was George Mason, actually.
“For real? Well, I knew it was some dead president . . . ”
All right, all right. Everybody get in the circle and kneel. Reverend, whaddya got?
“Proverbs. Chapter 20, Verse 2: A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion; those who anger him forfeit their lives.”
Can’t you almost see the blue bloods taking tape measures to their hotel rooms at first-round sites such as Omaha and Greensboro, N.C., and declaring, “I believe you’ll find those are the same measurements as our locker stalls back in Lexington.”
Their poor coaches will have to implore their players to ignore that these sub-region sites are smaller than their home gyms — that they need to forget that their early-round opponents don’t even have Nike platinum third uniforms.
It’s still the shoes, but glass slippers are last year’s fashion. This year, it’s LeBron 9s in March and Bruno Maglis in June. Holla!
This year’s tournament is, sadly, Manifest Destiny. Save your alibis for missing work this week. Tune into the Final Four in a couple of weeks, when Kentucky and Syracuse and North Carolina and a bunch of scouts and agents and shoe-company reps get together in New Orleans and throw beads at Cinderella.
It ain’t Hollywood, but it is reality TV.
Focus on the fundamentals that we’ve gone over time and time again: five dunks before we worry about playing defense.
And most important, don’t get caught up thinking about winning or losing this game. If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game: In my book, we’re going to get paid!
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.
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