Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Freakish Four

This is may be the craziest Final Four I’ve seen in my life.
In all honesty, I started following college basketball closely in 2005. As a kid, it was always on (thus the life of a child with two Kentucky Wildcats basketball fan parents), so I was always kind of aware. But in ’05, after attending the Wisconsin-North Carolina Elite Eight game at the Carrier Dome, then going back to my uncle’s house to see the drama of the Kentucky-Michigan State game unfold (Patrick Sparks shot was a 3 at the end of regulation. Refs got it right), I was hooked.
The next year, I can proudly say my 2006 DC Regional was perfect: the winner of the first round George Mason-Michigan State game went to the Final Four. I just had MSU the year Mason put the CAA on the map. Every other game was correct: don’t judge me.
This year, we have four teams few probably would have picked midseason to be here. My Kentucky Wildcats struggled on the road, and were lead by a bevy of freshmen. Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies struggled through the Big (L)East. VCU was another anonymous CAA squad (not to this guy. Freaking Joey Rodriguez.), and NO ONE thought Butler could make it back.
We were wrong.
UConn and Kentucky got super hot late, going on to win their conference tournaments with a gusto. Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker have been monsters. Those two squads will face off for the second time this year—these teams faced off at the Maui Invitational Finals, where the names to know where Kemba Walker and Terrence Jones. Jones has settled back to a human level as the season has closed, while Kemba’s a likely Player of the Year recipient. This is a must-see game.
On the other side, two “mid-majors” will face off. People tell me Butler proved they belonged last year, when they went to the National Championship. I don’t remember this: last game of the season I remember was West Virginia making the Final Four. I didn’t think there was a championship game. In any case, no one expected this team to make it back to the Final Four with lottery pick Gordon Hayward off in the NBA. Somehow, they did, out-Old Dominioning the Monarchs as well as the Pitt Panthers.
Then you have VCU, a team I despise. Granted, working two Drexel-VCU games this year, and yelling at the officiating during the third can do that. No one thought they should have made it in the tournament: Many had them out in the First Four against USC. Joey Rodriguez, Jamie Skeen, and Brandon Rozzell thought differently. The VCU-Butler game will be another classic, with two of the games hottest young coaches. 
All in all, I can't wait for this Final Four to start. Sadly, looks like I might have to skip some stuff in hopes of catching the games.

Ryan Pratt is a sophomore Sport Management major who currently serves as the Secretary for Drexel’s Sport Management Student Union. After a year with the  Drexel Men’s Basketball team, he’ll be working this spring in UPenn’s Sport Information department. Originally from Columbus, OH, he’s a huge college basketball, college football, and hockey fan. To contact Ryan, you can follow him on Twitter (@ThePrattStrikes)

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