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If College Basketball is Broken, At Least It's Entertaining

There’s a growing and frustrating contingent that will stop at nothing until we’re convinced that there’s something endemically wrong with college basketball. They’re put off by the recent spate of top-ranked teams relinquishing their place atop the polls by way of upsets. They’re left wanting for a dominant team and name recognition. It ain’t what it used to be, they lament. For them, parity is a four-letter word.

They’re missing out.

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Sure, the college game faces myriad problems. An overly physical game has become the norm as officials all too often choose to swallow whistles. Scoring has reverted back to 1950s levels. Championship teams filled with one-and-dones quickly become won-and-duds. The regular season is structured such that individual games rarely match the urgency of March.

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But are you not entertained?

Complaining about tightly-contested games and wide-open conference races is a pastime far less enjoyable than actually appreciating the unpredictable ride this season’s become. It’s pouring water out of a glass until it’s half-empty.

Take this past week for example. At the same time the sky-is-falling faction blasted away, we were treated to a bevy of contests that were all the neutral fan could hope for – and more.

Michigan-Ohio State. Kansas-TCU. Michigan-Wisconsin. Louisville-Notre Dame.

The greatness of these matchups reminds us that all is not lost.

Night in and night out, no sport provides the type of head-scratching results and unexpected performances like college hoops. While individual games are rarely season-enders for any team, there is absolutely no doubt that the efforts are there, that the sole focus is winning. Suggesting otherwise is silly.

“I think this could be the year where a 16 beats a one,” Rick Pitino said a few days ago. “It could happen. It could happen. If it’s going to happen, it’s this year because there’s no Number One that’s totally dominant.”

He’s not losing any sleep over the anything-goes landscape, either.

“It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun to be like this.”

And at no time was it more fun than last night, when Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant turned into Reggie Miller, an easy Cardinals win turned into overtime, and one overtime turned into five.

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Grant, barely a blip on the national radar before the final minute, burned his way into the zeitgeist. Garrick Sherman, a transfer from Michigan State who had seen his minutes all but disappear, slapped his way into Irish lore.

Yes, there were mistakes. Louisville’s Russ Smith put on a one-man clinic demonstrating how not to handle end-of-game situations. Peyton Siva was more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll.

But you got the feeling everyone involved knew just how special the night had become. Along the way, both Mike Brey and Pitino shed their jackets and coached in their shirtsleeves. They made themselves comfortable and stayed awhile.

Those deriding the current climate should do the same.

Relax. Enjoy the moment. Stop searching for things to dislike and notice the compelling theater that’s being served up.

It’s right there in front of your face.

[Photo via USA Today Sports]

 

 

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