By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

It was about five years ago …

Me and my godbrother Dre were about three Long Island Iced Teas down, watching the second day of the 2000 NCAA Tournament, when the argument started.

"No school in NCAA history can put a squad together that could beat UNC if you put their best on the court."

The Great College Hoops Tournament
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Chat wrap: Scoop Jackson

Hold up.

He must have had a couple more iced teas than I realized.

"What about UCLA?" I screamed. "Cap [Jabbar] and Walton? The Tar Heels would get stomped."

"Stomped?!?" his voice got high. "Let me give you some names: Jordan, McAdoo, Worthy, Carter, Stackhouse, Phil Ford, Billy Cunningham and I'm not even going to mention Walter Davis, who was probably better than all of them when he was there."

"You want names?" I snapped. "Here: Jamaal Wilkes, Marques Johnson, Michael Warren would kill Phil Ford, Reggie Miller, Rocket Rod Foster, Richard Washington, Gail Goodrich … what?!?"

As we sobered up, the light bulbs illuminated above our heads.

For four years I tried to get the idea into print in Slam magazine. Nothing happened.

Lesson learned from Steve Jobs: never let a good idea die.

On a luxury bus en route to a Mets game in Queens from the Bristol campus half a decade later, the not-yet-named Justice League members were in a concept meeting.

"Any ideas on something special we can do on Page 2 to open the NCAA basketball season?"

Ding. Illumination.

* * * * *

Michael Jordan
AP
Before he was Air Jordan, he was a Tar Heel.

Imagine fantasy football on meth, PS2 on crack. A sports bar idea with a research department behind it.

This is make-believe basketball to the extreme. On andro.

Hoops gone wild.

Thirty-two teams. All-time rosters. All-world contests. All-out battle.

No other sport lends itself to making something like this happen. No other sport has players interchangeable by position so the great ones could play together and no other sport has a BCS-free tournament close to what March Madness has become.

So we took it there. From the seedings to the famous and infamous campus settings down to Dickie V. and Billy P. calling the big games together. And when selecting the seven-man squads (hey, there aren't enough minutes to go around for bigger rosters), both college and pro careers went into consideration.

So when you're imagining players imagine them at their peaks. When you see Kevin McHale on the University of Minnesota, don't just think of what he did in the Big 10, think of the Kevin McHale that became one of the best power forwards in NBA history. When you see Austin Carr's name on Notre Dame, think about how he changed the college game during his time in South Bend (125 points in three games in the 1971 NCAA Tournament!), not only what he did in a Cavs uniform.

When you are thinking Michael Jordan -- think Michael Jordan.

In actuality, it's the ultimate mental college basketball experience. One that could launch the greatest argument in post-One Shining Moment sports history.

And in an effort to give each game some texture, ESPN was twisted enough to put their print version of "PTI" on assignment to flush out every game. So each game, Eric Neel and I will tell the story of one team's fate. Good or bad, overmatched or even, win or lose. No draw.

Pete Maravich
AP
Pete Maravich during his wonder years at LSU.

And in the end, regardless of what is written, it will be left up to the true powers that be -- the readers, the fans, the pundits, the experts -- to determine which university is the greatest basketball mecca of all time.

For me this is one of those small moments when a concept comes full circle. Where a disagreement with your boy can jump off in a bar and turn into a three-week event discussed on "Classic Now."

This is not only a dream come true, but one about to be shared.

With the basketball world. With the sports world.

Welcome to The Dance. The Dance of Life. The greatest college basketball tournament ever.

Choose your squad. Ball or fall. And don't be shocked if LSU wins it all.

Now, if only I could find the number to the president of EA Sports …

Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines and the author of "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here. Or, join him in chat.




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THE DREAM TOURNAMENT