And for your viewing pleasure: a power-packed Final Four
SAN ANTONIO -- Don't know whether you've noticed, but the NCAA tournament television ratings are sucking more air than an Oreck upright. Turns out the road to the Final Four is a dozen lanes wide and surprisingly TV-traffic free.
(Pause here for hyena-like scream from CBS's Billy Packer, who believes more in UFOs than Nielsen ratings.)
Anyway, it seems the only people watching these games are me, Best Buy sales associates, and friends and family of the participating teams. This is, to steal the word UCLA freshman Kevin Love used after junior point guard Darren Collison had a four-point, five-foul game against Western Kentucky, "unacceptable."
Yes, there have been blowouts. Forty of them, to be exact. I was there for UCLA's 70-29 first-round win over Mississippi Valley State. The national anthem wasn't done, and the Bruins already were leading by 20.
But we're done with that. There will be no more garbage time, no more double-digit wins. The parents of all walk-ons should take photos during layup drills. Believe me, if your kid isn't a legit baller, he's not getting into any of these final three games.
This is the adults' basketball table now. A field of 65 has undergone a distillation process that has left us with four No. 1 seeds: Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA. This has happened, well, never.
So, people, you have no more excuses. Zero. You must watch. And I'm not saying that just because Jim Nantz gave me his CBS blazer with a hundo pinned to the lapel.
Consider the hoops pedigree. Carolina, KU and UCLA are Nos. 2, 3 and 9 in all-time victories. It's like The Stones, Pink Floyd and U2 of college basketball are here.
And in every meaningful NCAA tournament historical category -- all-time appearances, all-time games, all-time wins, winning percentage, Final Four appearances and national championships -- KU, UCLA and UNC rank in the top six. Compared to those numbers, Memphis, sort of the ABBA of the group, looks like an absolute slacker with just three Final Fours on its résumé.
Of course, the Tigers are the only team in San Antonio with just one loss this season. Plus, Digger Phelps and his color-coordinated magic marker like Memphis to win it all. So there.
More onlys: Memphis' John Calipari and UCLA's Ben Howland are the only coaches in college basketball history to go back-to-back-to-back with 30-win seasons. They will face each other in the first game of the national semis Saturday night. That work for you?
You have Calipari, Howland and Kansas' Bill Self on the list of Best Coaches Never To Have Won A National Championship. Carolina's Roy Williams used to be on that list. He needed five Final Fours to win his first title. When it finally happened in 2005, he got emotional. Then again, Williams gets emotional watching Chuck Norris on Total Gym informercials.
But Williams is one of my favorites because of that passion. The guy has had more regular-season and tournament wins during the past seven seasons than any other NCAA coach. And he's just the third coach to lead two different programs to the Final Four.
The other program? Kansas.
Yeah, you know what that means: the possibility of Roy-related postgame teardrops. That's OK. He spent 15 years at KU before bailing to coach at his alma mater. We'll cut him a break. Jayhawks fans ought to do the same.
If the coaches angle isn't your particular brand of vodka, then, fine, no hard feelings. There are a dozen other story lines worth your undivided viewing attention.
First of all, we have three of the five first-team All-Americans here. There's Memphis junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, UCLA freshman center Kevin Love and North Carolina junior forward Tyler Hansbrough. Memphis freshman point guard Derrick Rose is a third-team selection.
Depending on how it shakes out Saturday night, as many as three of those players could play their final college games. One way or another, they almost certainly will end their college careers in San Antonio.
Love and Rose are likely one-and-dones. CDR and Psycho T are expected to be three-and-dones. If so, you can say you saw some singular talent.
Love spent part of Friday's "practice" session at the Alamodome shooting two-handed full-court shots. He made one, too. It looked sort of like those old LeBron James Powerade commercials.
The freshman will face Memphis senior center Joey Dorsey, who is built like one of the Alamo's walls and is playing, Calipari said, the best basketball of his career. See, this is a matchup you can put your arms around.
About a year ago, Dorsey was busy insulting a freshman center from Ohio State. You know, what's-his-name, Greg Oden. He called the future No. 1 NBA draft pick "overrated" and said Oden "might be as good as Joey Dorsey."
Ohio State beat Memphis by 16 to reach the Final Four. Oden scored 17 points. Dorsey took the oh-fer.
Maybe that's why Calipari said Friday that he loves Dorsey like a son, "but he does some of the dumbest things I've ever seen in my life."
This time, Dorsey is keeping his insults to himself. He praised Love (for his passing, that's it) but made it clear he's not looking to make friends.
"I'm an angry person on the court," he said.
Dorsey's anger versus Love's old-school style The prodigy Rose versus UCLA's Collison or Russell Westbrook, the Pac-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year Memphis' chip on its shoulder versus UCLA's considerable basketball legacy. All compelling stuff.
UCLA-Memphis is being treated as the semifinal undercard, which is a mistake. That said, it's virtually impossible to ignore the wattage generated by the Carolina-Kansas game.
There's the Roy angle. The Self angle. The Hansbrough-is-a-basketball-god angle. There's also the gentlemen-start-your-engines angle, what with the way the Jayhawks and Tar Heels burn rubber on the court.
Kansas will rotate four guys on Hansbrough. Self could rotate all of Lawrence and the greater Salina area on Hansbrough, and it wouldn't matter. But it will be fun to watch KU try.
This also could be the first semifinal game in which oxygen tents are used. That's how much Kansas and Carolina like to run.
"There's going to be some defense played, and hopefully we're the ones playing it," KU guard Russell Robinson said.
Not me. I hope it's a Denver Nuggets-Phoenix Suns game. I hope they run until we all drop.
Anything for ratings.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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NCAA Tournament 2008
Get caught up with all the news, notes, insights and analysis from the 2008 NCAA tournament.
Bracket• Updated Bracket | Tourney Challenge
Championship Analysis• Forde: Chalmers fulfills promise
• Wojciechowski: Self's big-bucks decision on OSU
• Katz: Memphis pays for free throws
• O'Neil: Collins makes heroics possible
• ATR: Quite a collection of talent in title game
Final Four Analysis• Experts: Who has the edge in the title game?
• Forde: Self on a wild ride, and it's just starting
• Wojciechowski: A quieter Joey Dorsey reflects
• Griffin: Rush thrives after knee injury
• O'Neil: CDR, Rose fuel Tigers' machine
• Katz: Calipari has chance for vindication
• Wojciechowski: Final Four duds
• ATR: End of the road for Love, Hansbrough?
• Forde: Good Kansas throttles UNC
• Katz: Williams takes blame for stunning UNC loss
• O'Neil: Rose leads Memphis to title game
• Wojciechowski: Power-packed Final Four
• Forde: One-and-dones hardly an academic issue
• O'Neil: Not Memphis vs. the world? Yeah, right
• Katz: KU ready for Arthur's breakout game
• Low: Don't forget about UNC's "other" guys
• Griffin: UCLA needs Shipp to shoot straight
• Forde: Williams torn between KU and UNC
• Expert picks: Who wins it all?
• Gottlieb: Rose vs. Collison matchup pivotal
• Fraschilla: Breaking down Kansas-UNC
• Glockner: Which Kansas team shows up?
• Griffin: Calipari battles for repsect
• Glockner: Memphis can win slowdown games, too
• Schlabach: Recent Final Four flameouts
• O'Neil: Collison a key point for the Bruins
• Glockner: Can UCLA's offense be more efficient?
• Katz: Lawson's injury may have helped UNC
• Glockner: Can UNC's defense hold up?
• Forde: Power prevails as Elite becomes Four
• Bilas: Tourney has "Wowed" so far
• Katz: Four unique stories shape Final Four
Video• Bill Self among KU coaching greats
• Kansas on being national champions
• Calipari: Costly mistakes down the stretch
• Chris Douglas-Roberts on Memphis' loss
• Bob Knight on Memphis' loss to KU
• Memphis gearing up to face Kansas
• Memphis, KU to meet for title
• Analysis: Kansas' win over North Carolina
• Analysis: Memphis' win over UCLA
• All the coaches talk Final Four
• Davidson's McKillop previews Final Four
• Who Are These Guys: Memphis
• Final Four Sitdown: Roy Williams
• Final Four Sitdown: Bill Self
• Final Four Sitdown: John Calipari
• Final Four Sitdown: Ben Howland
• Katz: Small window for UCLA, Memphis
• Vitale: Previews Final Four matchups
• Bilas: Likes the look of the Final Four
• Gottlieb: All No. 1 seeds reach Final Four
Audio• Bill Self on the title and Oklahoma State
• Podcast: Gottlieb on Kansas' national title
• Podcast: Gottlieb on title game X factors
• Roy Williams on Final Four return
• Podcast: Katz on Final Four coaches
• Bill Self talks Davidson game, Final Four
• Podcast: Gottlieb talks Final Four, Davidson
Photos• Championship game photo gallery
• Final Four photo gallery
• Elite Eight Day 2 photo gallery
• Elite Eight Day 1 photo gallery
• Sweet 16 Day 2 photo gallery
• Sweet 16 Day 1 photo gallery
• Day 4 photo gallery
• Day 3 photo gallery
• Day 2 photo gallery
• Day 1 photo gallery
NC State's 25th anniversary• Dinich: From star to one minute in title game
• Dinich: Kay Yow still fighting Valvano's fight
• Bob Valvano remembers brother's team
More• Rank the last 10 national champions
• Rank Chalmers' 3 vs. other big-time shots
• Vote: Memphis vs. Kansas for the title
• Vote: Which team will win it all?
• Vote: Test your Final Four team knowledge
• Tournament Challenge | Bracket Master
• Insider tourney guide | BracketCaster
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