April 07, 2006

Goodbye Indianapolis, Hello Atlanta

Like most everyone else, I love to take a peek at next year right after we crown the champion. For Florida, celebrations will carry for them for the next month. For the other 300+ schools next year began some time ago when they walked off the court after their last loss.

Before we look into the crystal ball, lets take a look back at the 2006 tournament. This tournament in my mind will be known for the George Mason Patriots and their improbable, well-documented run to Indianapolis. Sure, Florida is your champion, but years from now when my little sports geek kid will view the record book, he/she will come across the name “George Mason” and a flood of questions will ensue. The scene in Indianapolis was that of pure elation by the Mason fans. They added the electricity to the event that was sorely missing come Monday night.

This tournament will also be remembered for the outstanding game winners in the earlier rounds of the tournament. Northwestern State sinking a three-pointer to send Iowa home in the first round. Tennessee’s Chris Lofton’s fade-away 19-footer to advance the Vols into the second round. Texas’ Kenton Paulino making a 28-foot three pointer at the buzzer – only after West Virginia’s Kevin Pittsnogle hit a three to tie the game – to lift Texas to the Elite Eight. Adam Morrison of Gonzaga on the floor, crying at the enormity of perhaps his last game in a college uniform after losing a nine point lead with just under three minutes to play to UCLA.

We had our moments for sure, but its time to look ahead…

The 2007 Final Four will be at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. For starters, I am addicted. I love the Final Four, especially on “semifinal Saturday”. The host city rolls out the red carpet and fans of the four teams gather in a party. Everyone is great to be around, people offer to take your camera to get you in the picture, too. It’s just a fun event. I will be in Atlanta. I might be by myself this time because I just get so much out of it, more than any other human.

Early predictions?

I am always a sucker to make a prediction or two that usually bite me in the arse when I come back to take a look at them next year. First off, I must say that the teams that made it to Indy are all very young and could again be in Atlanta. LSU, UCLA, and Florida could return significant percentages of their team’s scoring and identity. Only George Mason loses three senior players and will more than likely struggle to even get back in.

Looking past the Final Four teams of this year, I would say North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, and Ohio State get quick mention. All are expecting great recruiting classes to hit campus. For KU, UNC, and Memphis they have a young nucleus coming back to compliment the newcomers. The young Heels and Jayhawks, especially, didn’t get a good experience in the 2006 tourney, both losing on the first weekend.

The next category you have is the “wait and see” gang. A myriad of teams fall into this group. Either they are waiting to see who will go pro, or they lose some key players but return enough to get back. Connecticut, Villanova, Gonzaga, and Texas leap forward here.

Everyone else would have to surprise during the next season to be considered threats. Maybe a good description for this group is the “don’t see it, have to believe it”.

Lastly, who wants to step into the role of George Mason in Atlanta? It could very well be a team that Mason beat twice during the regular season that returns four starters – the Wichita State Shockers.

Just remember though, with the NBA and agents pulling kids away – selling impossible dreams for some – this could all be subject to change. But it’s still fun to look like a fool in April come next March.

1 comment:

Nico said...

When do they typically let you know whether or not you got tickets for the Final Four? I applied for the lottery and after getting a confirmation, I've heard nothing.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.