by Adam Goudchaux, Contributing Writer
It feels like I just payed a visit to Doctor Jellyfinger…but I guess it feels like that every year around this time…
The stinking Kansas Jayhawks eliminated the stinking North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite 8 thereby ousting me from yearly NCAA Bracket. I fork over $80 of my hard earned money every year with same results. As George W. Bush once said: ” ‘Fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
Lemme me save you all some time over the weekend. The Final Four no longer matters.
I tried to get cute with my picks this year. Like an idiot I decided to go against the “safe” pick Kentucky Wildcats…went with a semi-safe pick the Tar Heels instead. I figured low risk: Kentucky with their bevy of Freshman “one and dones” would falter somewhere down the line. High reward: $404!! Come on people!! That can buy me 404 versions of “Moves Like Jagger” on iTunes!!
My plan was brilliantly working too. Only four people in my pool picked the Tar Heels to win the tourney. My early picks put me amongst the top of the standings. No others in the top 20 had the Tar Heels to win it all. My one glaring error in the early going was betting the “experts.” I had the Long Beach State 49er’s going to the Sweet 16. Yes, I went to Long Beach State so I committed another cardinal sin: don’t bet with your heart. But it seemed so logical: there was a 6-page article devoted to the 49er’s in SI’s Tourney preview entitled “Beware the Sleeper.” How can you bet against that!!?
The 49er’s were eliminated in the round of 64 errrr 68 errrr whatever they call it these days. I like to call it the 1st round. With that ding in my picks early on it was Tar Heels or bust.
So it turns out those top 20 in my bracket had brain cells and didn’t buy into the whole “one and dones” theory. Next year I’m going with brain cells. But still! Was it too far fetched for an experienced North Carolina team who was ranked number 1 overall in the beginning of the season, ranked number 1 in their bracket and with a stud at point in Kendall Marshall to get just hot enough to take the whole damn thing?
The answer is yes, it’s too much to ask. Especially when injury rears its ugly head. Kendall Marshall broke his arm against Creighton. The same Kendall Marshall that Tar Heels’ head coach Roy Williams called “our engine, our driver, the head of the thing.” Most of the time a head coach will say that injury is no excuse, but when you lose the quarterback of your offense, the one that facilitates, the one that protects the ball, it’s an excuse. Marshall’s replacements Stillman White and Justin Watts did an adequate job, but they turned the ball over far too much. It wasn’t a great sign when the Tar Heels BARELY squeaked by Ohio (NOT Ohio State) in overtime in the Sweet 16.
It wasn’t meant to be regardless of the Marshall injury. This conclusion was rudely shoved in my face as I watched Kentucky methodically, without prejudice, destroy all in their path. It is clear that Kentucky, freshman or not, are playing not unlike Terminators: “They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead…or until they cut the net down and sway to “One Shining Moment.” I’m pretty sure James Cameron didn’t write that last bit.
Coach Calipari has his Wildcats on a mission. A mission so focused that they barely cracked a smile after defeating Baylor to get their ticket punched to New Orleans. It was as if they had all been there done that. A far cry from Louisville’s Final Four celebration featuring one player mimicking Muhammad Ali’s famous “I SHOCKED THE WORLD! I SHOCKED THE WORLD!” Exchanging ‘I’ with ‘WE.’ Ali is from Louisville, so it’s an apt homage to the Greatest, but it tells me that in Louisville’s heart they know they aren’t supposed to be there.
So for me, and now for most in the country with any sense of reality, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘by how much’ Kentucky will beat Ohio State to take the 2012 NCAA Division I b-ball crown on April 2. And not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘who’ on the Wildcats will be caught in an incriminating photo with the championship net during the after-game celebration on Bourbon Street.
If you ARE heading to The Big Easy for the Final Four, check out Fanzooloo’s Final Four page for all info in and around the Superdome HERE.