Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Congrats to the new king of college hoops -- Florida!

I would like to congratulate the University of Florida for achieving their first ever NCAA Basketball Championship with a victory in Monday night's finale against UCLA (the most championships in NCAA history). Although I cannot say I even watched the game for any significant length of time, Florida did appear to win in convincing fashion with a 73-57 crushing of the southern California bunch.

The analysis of the game that I have seen is not surprising (and consistent with my own lack of interest in the Final Four this year): there are no dominant players and/or teams worth watching. Yes, fans love to watch the underdogs take on the big guns and pull out a win here or there, but a Final Four without any #1 seeds (Duke, Memphis, UConn, and Villanova failed to get there, with Duke failing to reach the Elite 8 as well) doesn't speak too highly of the upper ranks of college basketball. UCLA was the highest-ranked team there with a #2 seed, but I personally picked them to exit the tourney at least two rounds sooner than they did (they overachieved to make the final game in my eyes).

Florida touted the "powerhouse" player of Joakim Noah, who averaged a respectable 14.2 ppg and 7.1 rpg during the season. At 6'11", he certainly has the size as a team's big man to take advantage of the opposition. Florida appeared to get the job done with balanced offense, though, with all five starters averaging in double figures (10+ppg). They had only one close game in the tournament, against Georgetown (a team with tall players, including a seven-footer). Defense wins championships, and the Florida defense was key to theirs.

The transition of talented high school players as well as some number of college underclassmen directly into the NBA has probably diminished the talent pool in the NCAA, but it is hard to say if the NBA-style of game itself (predominance of the big men and little emphasis on defensive tactics and teamwork) has been a bad influence on the college game as well. When the talent is spread more uniformly across teams at all levels (from the big-name schools to the mid-majors as well), it is easy to see why parity of performance occurs. It is also easier to see how teams at the mid-major level develop more as teams with emphasis on ball control and teamwork that has helped them be more successful in tournament play where some bigger names rely on individual play more.

Accepting the college game for what it is worth (with a level of "purity" in the play that is lost when the players become pros) is still the major consideration for why I have interest in the sport. Players at the college level seem to still remember their *fundamentals* -- which they hopefully will never lose.

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