First off, I watched shockingly few hours of basketball during championship week. Part of that was because S. was on the day shift, so it was just me and the girls. By the time the games started each day, the girls had seen enough TV already, and I really needed to get them doing something active, rather than just switch to hoops. So, outside the KU games, I watched probably a total of an hour of basketball. Kids change everything.
As for Sunday, what a game. Sooner or later the national media is going to wake-up and realize that KU-Texas is as good a rivalry as any in the country. Perhaps not as heated as the more traditional rivalries based on geography and history, but since 2002 these teams have played a number of great games that went a long way towards determining conference champions, tournament champions, and NCAA seeds. Had Duke won Saturday, you know ESPN would have spent all Sunday morning touting one more Duke-UNC game. KU-Texas got a nice preview, but nothing approaching what the Carolina schools would have elicited.
I can’t imagine that there was a better half of basketball this year than the first half of the KU-UT game. Two really good teams knocking down everything, playing hard but clean, and showing the nation how good the Big 12 is.
I resolved at halftime to be happy with any outcome, because the game was so fun to watch. Things did, naturally, calm down a bit in the second half, but it was no less exciting. Teams trading runs, making adjustments (a really well-coached game on both sides), and finally KU putting up a fine defensive effort and hitting some shots to go with it to put the game away.
DJ Augustin might be my favorite player to watch in college. He’s so smooth, yet completely controls the game. Able to drill NBA threes and hit those crazy, floating runners. Surely he’ll declare for the draft.
For all Augustin did, Mario Chalmers did even more. He loves Big 12 title games. Keep to going, ‘Rio!
I had to contend with the girls during the game, and when things got really interesting late, luckily they decided to go in the front room and stare out the window for awhile. In the game’s final minute, as I was standing in front of the TV, they came back in. When I clapped, they clapped. When I cheered, they cheered. When I bent and put my hands on my knees, C. mimicked me and M. laid down and looked up at the TV through my legs. They love this game!
Fans of both schools should be excited after this game. It showed what each team is capable of when they focus and play hard. Texas’ depth will be an issue, but they should be playing deep into the tournament. Then again, I thought the same thing last year. KU just has to avoid the focus problems they’ve exhibited throughout the season, and even within games. If Darrell Arthur comes to play every night, Brandon Rush is looking for his shot, and the guards play team defense instead of gambling too much, KU is going to be very tough to beat. They’ve looked great the past two years in the title game. Sunday’s performance was probably their best of the three.
Looking at the brackets, I like KU’s. No Missouri Valley team in the first round, which is good. Quasi-home court going to Omaha. Georgetown is a tough Elite Eight match-up if KU makes it that far, but I’ll worry about that if it happens. Oh, and the potential Vanderbilt Sweet 16 game and K-State Elite Eight game would be interesting. In 1988, KU started in Nebraska (Lincoln that year), then went to Detroit and beat….Vandy and K-State. Whooooo, spooky!
If I had to pick a Final Four now, I’d pick UNC, KU, Texas, and UCLA. That may change by Thursday. I think Tennessee can knock off UNC, but I wonder about them tripping up before then. Memphis is tough to pick against, especially with Texas’ weak inside game. But UCLA’s bracket is a joke. Carolina has an easy ride, with the NCAA-approved rigged bracket keeping them in their home state through four rounds, but at least they have a decent team or two in their bracket. UCLA has no one to stop them, other than themselves. I was praying KU would get Duke as the #2. If they make it that far, Duke will be little more than a minor distraction to UCLA.
UCLA is the overall favorite. But I think KU is the best team. As I’ve said all along, though, I’m not going to let what happens over the next three weeks take away from the joy of the regular season. I figure KU has about a 20% chance of winning it all, which means the odds are well against them. I’ll be satisfied with a Final Four. I’ll be disappointed if they can’t get out of Omaha. If they end up somewhere between, well, it was a great season but it obviously wasn’t THE season. I’m going to enjoy the tournament and hope this group of players that I’ve loved watching this season has a little more magic to share with us.