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Opinion

The worst March Madness ever ends with a yawn

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April 5, 2007

And so ends the most predictable NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament of all time.

Florida over Ohio State, in the BCS Championship Game déjà vu everyone penciled in on their brackets. This pot of mold was all that awaited us at the end of an uneventful road. If I would have known that earlier, I would have saved myself a month. If I can take some solace out of this, at least I was able to confirm some March Madness truths and identify some of the tournament’s myths.

First and foremost, I learned once and for all what has become an absolute lock of every NCAA Tournament. One of the top two NBA Draft prospects WILL lead his team to a championship game: Greg Oden this year, Joakim Noah last year; Marvin Williams of UNC in 2005 (second overall pick after Andrew Bogut), Emeka Okafor of Connecticut in 2004 (second pick after Dwight Howard) and Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse in 2003 (third pick after LeBron James and Darko Milicic).

Every other year the prospect’s team won the National Championship, but I guess having three lottery picks, including last season’s top prospect, outweighs having an Oden.

The second March Madness fact is that a well-rounded team outweighs individual stars. This may seem to go against rule number one, but it really doesn’t. It’s this fact that explains why Kevin Durant lost in the round of 32, while Oden’s squad made it to the final two.

The formula for a balanced team: a down-low presence, a ball-handling guard and someone who can light it up from behind the arc. For Ohio State, this is Oden, Mike Conley, Jr. and Ron Lewis. Florida happens to have about two of these guys at each spot, making them one of the most perfectly put together college basketball teams in recent memory.

On to the myths … First off, there doesn’t HAVE to be a power conference every year. These days, conference affiliation doesn’t mean all that much. In the end, good teams are good teams. This year, four different conferences made up the Final Four, and not one conference had more than two teams in the Elite Eight.

Myth number two is that college basketball is a guard’s game. Not anymore. With the newly-implemented NBA age limit, size can’t jump straight to the pros as in years past. Instead, these monsters will make a stop at the college level and dominate the game.

Next year should be an interesting one because, unlike this year, there won’t be an overwhelming favorite going in. If Oden, Noah and Durant all leave for the pros, there won’t be a clear-cut top NBA prospect during next year’s college basketball season. I don’t know about you, but after reinforcing this trend during March Madness, I’ll be following Chad Ford’s top NBA prospects list diligently next season. (Chad Ford is the NBA’s answer to Mel Kiper, Jr.). If one of the top two prospects is a part of a well-rounded team, I’ve found my pick for the winner of the 2008 National Championship.

Even though it seems like a long time until next March, the madness will be back before you know it. So grab a scissors, snip out this column, and tuck it into a safe place for a year before using it as a reference to win your bracket pool next year. Or better yet, toss this column into the trash and join mine.

Mark Haley is a student at UW-River Falls.