Good Is Great for College Hoops

First there was North Carolina. Then there was a brief fling with Pittsburgh that ended quicker than a Hollywood marriage. Wake Forest took over next, and the NTSB is still investigating that one-week crash. Then came Duke, which notched a stay atop the rankings that, like Eliot Spitzer's hotel bills, were charged in hours, not days.

This year, it seems, everybody is getting a shot at No. 1.

Just wait Dallas Academy, that 100-0 score won't last. Your time is coming.

But until then, the most dangerous proposition in sports this side of accepting an Evite from Pacman Jones belongs to Connecticut.

Five different teams have claimed the No. 1 ranking since the beginning of January and for four, like a Michael Phelps Saturday night, the high ended in embarrassment.

Yes, greatness, like movies about chimps in space, Charles Barkley's fave five and your retirement savings, is gone with the year 2008.

2009 is the year of good.

And nothing could be better for college basketball.

Sure, great teams are fun to watch every now and again, to see 12 guys march through the field like Patton's Third Army in a Red Rover game. But predictable dominance isn't what makes college basketball the best thing on television that's not accidentally broadcast by Comcast.

Last year was the season of wall-to-wall great. North Carolina grew into a top-flight team, and, so long as they didn't have to play defense, were a tank in a soap box derby. Memphis lost just once in the regular season and came within a free throw of the championship. UCLA went to a third straight Final Four with Kevin Love throwing sweet arcing outlet passes that would make Kurt Warner return to bagging groceries. And none was better than Kansas, which steamrolled North Carolina 40-12 out of the gate and clawed its way past Memphis.

Sure, all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four for the first time ever, but pulling for each of those teams was like rooting for IBM.

The last time there was no dominant team, we watched a George Mason run to the Final Four that did more for miracles than anyone since the 1980 U.S. hockey team and Lyle Lovett's marriage to Julia Roberts. That same year, LSU shocked top-seed Duke on a night J.J. Redick made Plaxico Burress look like a marksman shot, and marched to the Final Four behind the larger-than-the-dinner-table Big Baby Davis. Ben Howland made his first run to the final weekend and Florida's famed '04 recruiting class rebounded from a three-game losing skid in late February to bring home the Gators' first NCAA Tournament title.

And this is what makes college basketball great. Unpredictability.

College basketball isn't the neatly homogenized NFL, made up of 32 teams with all the comparative difference of the Olsen Twins. It isn't the BCS guarantee that the top two teams meet and leaves the non-blue bloods out to clean Urban Meyer's golf cleats, or the NBA's 40-games-in-40-nights death march to the NBA Finals.

It's Madness. And no year is better than this one.

And even though UConn is the latest team, let's just say there's no need to write that in chisel, unless of course you friend Billy Packer on Facebook and that's just how the cranky fella communicates.

The Huskies, who play Louisville tonight, may have the shortest actual reign at No. 1. Their best true road victory was over RPI 76 Notre Dame, losers of five straight games, while Louisville has been near perfect at home, knocking off Kentucky, West Virginia and Pittsburgh. Connecticut has done a miserable job of pressuring the basketball this season as well, ranking 325th in the nation in turnover percentage, while Louisville's early season struggles were marked by the inconsistent play of point guard Edgar Sosa.

Then again they may be the first team to hold No. 1 longer than the run of Manimal.

But they'll still be a flawed team, just like a Duke squad that's still developing its point guard play, a North Carolina team that's learning to ratchet up the defense, a Pittsburgh team that can't quite figure out how to play without DeJuan Blair and an Oklahoma team that's about as deep as a Paris Hilton rant.

They're all missing something. They're all just good.

And for college basketball, that's just great.

Good Is Great for College Hoops originally appeared on NCAA Basketball FanHouse on Mon, 02 Feb 2009 18:20:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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