Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is this Gonzaga's 'Final Four' Year?

















They've been knocking on the door since 1999's 'Elite Eight' benchmark under coach Dan Munson and four 'Sweet Sixteen' appearances under coach Mark Few.  They're in their 14th consecutive NCAA tournament.

Gonzaga has come to define the tourney underdog, then living long enough to eventually become a favorite and then back again to underdog media darling.

Their brand of basketball is that entertaining.  They play with passion, speed, defensive intensity and awesome 3-point shooting.

They made mince meat out of West Virginia in the second round (first round as it used to be called). They ran circles around them and made believers very quickly out of casual sports fans.

The Zags are in the Syracuse bracket, the weakest number one seed (due to center Melo's ineligibility status).  They play Ohio St. next and likely Florida St. one round later.

They're the team to root for along with VCU.

After a gutty, underdog win in the second round for VCU, a third round victory could produce the ultimate of matchups.  VCU and coach Shaka Smart could get their chance at Kentucky.

Big, bad Kentucky.  The same one from Glory Road and 1966, except with a different reason to despise them.

Kentucky wants to cut corners.  Calipari recruits one and done players so they can get high profile coverage and move on to making money in the NBA.  His players have no intent to earn a college degree and make their scholarships into a mockery of wink-wink play for pay later on.

Gonzaga's only opportunity to play Kentucky exists in the championship game.  If Kentucky overpowers VCU (or other opponent) and moves forward through the bracket to the championship game and Gonzaga does the unlikely and gets there too, the tournament has succeeded once again at the highest level possible.  It would be the dream final.

VCU and Gonzaga are trying to play college ball the traditional way.  They have built programs from the ground up and made them to last, like a car commercial would say.

Young men practice hard and study hard as student-athletes should while aspiring to advance to a Final Four and the chance to win it all.  For them, it's a combination of doing it for school pride and some attention from NBA scouts.

For Kentucky under Calipari, it's only about attention from NBA scouts.

If he were alive today, Don Haskins (the coach who wrote the book Glory Road) would be itching to beat Calipari's team.  Haskins built his program and coached at the same school for almost 40 seasons.

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