Occasionally I wonder why I'm such a total sports fanatic. Then comes along a weekend like the one we just had and I understand all over again.
Could anyone...other than fans of Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky and Wisconsin...believe that this wasn't the best weekend of sports entertainment in many, many years? Even the followers of those programs have to admit that this weekend's NCAA games were awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping spectacles that will be hard to top at The Dome in St. Louis this coming weekend.
I actually thought Louisville had a chance to come back to beat West Virginia like they did because they never seemed to be out of time. But, if anyone reading this says they didn't give up on Illinois when they were 15 points down with 4 minutes left on Saturday night, they are being less than truthful. I even went back to work on my "honey do" project about then, feeling embarassed for Bruce Weber and his team that they would bow out so uncharacteristically. But then I began interrupting my project to take an occasional peak at the game. The peaks turned into stares...and the stares turned into a long, heart-pounding, living-room jumping, shout-out-loud, sports thrill that I will never forget.
Let's be honest, that thrilling finish in Chicago could only happen in college basketball. High school kids don't have the overall skill to make something like that happen. Pro players are too skilled, used to the pressure, and blaze' to allow it to happen. That's the big reason the college game, especially in the NCAA tournament, is so much more fun and entertaining than the NBA. The NBA guys are showing up for a paycheck. The college kids are playing for their schools, their teammates, their coaches, their families, their hometowns, and all of the things for which athletes should care.
Can Illinois go ahead and win the whole thing? Sure, they could. But, at the very least, their season has now been validated by making it to the Final Four. It looks to me like the Arizona team gave them the toughest match-up problems they will encounter in the whole tournament. But, they still have to play Louisville...and if they win that one...either Michigan State or North Carolina. The biggest irony would be if they played a team from their own conference (Michigan State), a league they dominated all year, in the championship game... and lost. Oooh.. that would be another NCAA power-drama that would be hard to forget. I'm not predicting it....but I'm half-way expecting them to meet in the title game.
No matter what happens, this NCAA tournament, with it's finals scheduled for here in St. Louis, has to be one of the most unforgettable and enjoyable sports experiences this nation has put itself through in decades. And the NCAA tourney might have finally put itself right up on the same shelf with the World Series and Super Bowl in the ranks of our country's most important sports events. I know it has with me.
I guess some people were playing bingo...or watching a Kevin Bacon movie on some other channel...but look what they missed.