The National Championship game featuring Virginia and Texas Tech cements a fantastic college basketball run.
Take a step back from the Final Four and appreciate the moment.
As a 50-plus-year-old purist, I certainly did.
When Texas Tech bottled up Michigan State with its stifling defense and Virginia barely escaped Auburn in the midst of a blown double-dribble call, one of the more entertaining couple-of-weeks in recent NCAA tournament history came to an end.
It will be one tournament that certainly gains its share of barroom and water cooler talk.
For one year, the underdog was back. The game flipped back to where it was in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and even part of the 1990s. It was without the current big business dressing. It was old school.
A mere 1.5 seconds separated two Cinderella story teams from facing each other in the final Monday night. The storylines could have been numerous.
Instead, much-unheralded Virginia among the heralded factories will square off against Texas Tech. The top-rated Cavaliers have needed their own share of last-second miracles.
And it has been a refreshing moment for college basketball and the sports world.
The typical one-sided contests involving North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky weren’t there. In the age of one-year and done-players at those institutions, fans were treated to what the game always was meant to be.
This was a reminder on how college basketball was once a pure game where players stayed for four years—and mostly graduated—before they would have a longshot at the NBA.
Yes, players will leave, but this tournament sent a friendly reminder about how the game can still revert back, and how the underdog role can still have a few threads on the fabric of the sport. It goes beyond the first-or-second round upset in the brackets.
It was good to see Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo in the Final Four especially after he earlier was chastised by many for yelling and grabbing a player during a timeout in the first round.
Izzo used some old-school tactics that were overblown by the media.
Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard is an example of the boy-can-make-good analogy, as he toiled through the junior college and Division II coaching ranks before following the usual path as a Division I assistant.
When asked what kind of do he would be at a press conference last Thursday, Beard recalled a story involving his three daughters who begged him to purchase a small, fluffy dog in a pet store.
Beard complied, but he also noted, “But I’m also a guy who has bought a dog from the Humane Society, and those are those dogs more like street dogs. They’ve got about 48 (hours) to live.”
Beard got it, and he has enjoyed it. So have many, many fans.
Regardless of who wins Monday’s championship game, this tournament shouldn’t be forgotten. It was a cry back to yesteryear when the game was still a simple and pure game.
We don’t always need the familiar number one seeds to make it interesting.