“NCAA Title Game-Who’s Here?”
No one could have ever imagined this.
Not when we started the season with all the attention on the ‘Blue Bloods’ of college basketball.
You know, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky etc.
We tracked Zion Williams and his Duke Blue Devils all winter long. Wins, the shoe malfunction, the injury, the tearful loss at the end.
John Calipuri ran out of miracles with McDonald’s All Americans, Kentucky not being what Kentucky was the past four years or so.
North Carolina’s Roy Williams program wilted, maybe under the glare of this lifetime academic fraud probe that resulted in a lot of dirt, but no sanctions.
Kansas and Bill Self had injury issues, eligibility issues.
Louisville and Rick Pitino died a terrible death as a team and career stained by the Adidas slush fund scandal.
Michigan State didn’t get there, beaten at its own game, the one Tom Izzo teaches, defense-defense more defense.
So tonight we tip off with two off the radar schools, Virginia-Texas Tech.
You know Virginia, Ralph Sampson, Thomas Jefferson and all. You know Texas Tech, where Bobby Knight finished up his screaming-stained career.
This will be a very different game tonight. They will scrap, they will beat on each other, they will foul each other, they will wear each other out.
Another way of saying this…they play defense to the hilt, every trip, every possession is like life and death. Every basket becomes a gift after they force you to use all your energy, either getting that shot, and stopping that shot.
It’s just relentless. No french pastry tonight. No showboating. No speed-skill. Just grit-grime-determination, and defense.
There’s nothing sexy about the Cavaliers nor the Red Raiders. It’s clamp down, in your face, body banging, body draining defense. No room to run plays. No room to breathe, it’s so physical.
You’d think someone could figure out what Chris Beard and Texas Tech do on defense, but you just cannot sustain that type of pressure on your guards all night long. Struggle to survive because they are so relentless.
You’d think Virginia would be exhausted from their roller coaster ride of a win over Auburn in the Saturday night grind-it-out affair. Not so, that’s who they are, and you better be ready to deal with 40-minutes of it. It’s a different type of 40-minutes of hell Nolan Richardson-Arkansas used to sell.
Not to say there won’t be some great matchups. The two potential NBA draft picks, Jarrett Culver-DeAndre Hunter, will put on a show on Monday night.
But there is just too much ‘ice water’ in the veins of Kyle Guy and Tyler Jerome of Virginia. Regardless of how you defend them, they get open, get their shots. Drive to the hoop in traffic, step back threes, and explosive jumps out of the corner for stab-you-in the heart baskets.
It mighty wind up 45-42 and who could ever think that possible in this day of sky jumping athletes playing above the rim.
This is not your typical NCAA championship game. Not so much style, but a lot of basketball substance. The blue-bloods of basketball are all at home watching with black eyes, the defense was so red-blooded tough.
Virginia to win over Texas Tech.