If you can't get Big Ten Country into the Final Four, then bring the Final Four to Big Ten Country. In a year where the conference flamed out in the first two rounds of the tournament, and the state of Indiana is riveted with debate over the controversial hiring of Kelvin Sampson as the next IU coach, the rest of the nation will hone in on Indianapolis starting late Saturday afternoon when college basketball's showcase tips off at the RCA Dome.
I haven't had the chance to see the four teams in action, other then what's taken place the last couple weeks here in March. So I can't offer any real informed commentary, and I won't be the latest writer to just take the easy storyline of extolling George Mason's Cinderella run (though it is the most incredible thing I've seen in college basketball). But the one thing that jumped out at me this past weekend was just how good LSU was.
On my bracket I had Texas coming out of the Atlanta regional, and theoretically should have been thrilled when Duke was knocked out. But after watching the Tigers front line of Tyrus Thomas and Glenn Davis just dismantle the Dookies, I was convinced the 'Horns would have been better off just taking their chances trying to stop J.J. Reddick in the regional final.
LSU looks simply unstoppable in the low post. Not only are both Thomas and Davis immensely talented, but they complement each other perfectly. The former is a lanky shot blocker, the latter a bulky lane-eater. And this front line is orchestrated by veteran senior guard Darryl Mitchell. If the Tigers play to their capacity, I don't see how they can lose this weekend.
But there is one problem and it's analagous to how one feels when they meet a good-looking single person. There's the temptation to ask--something has to be wrong with this package, why are they still single? Well, with LSU, I've been asking--something has to be wrong, how did they only earn a #4 seed? I haven't extolled the ability of coach John Brady, I've been wondering why his team didn't jump on the national stage much sooner.
In watching the regionals, the best I can guess is that LSU is a young team. They've shown a tendency to take dumb three-pointers at key moments, rather then pound it inside. Perhaps that hindered them during the season and they lost games they shouldn't have. If this is the case, Brady can be pardoned, for there are few coaches that can make kids play like veterans when the money's on the table.
And therein lies the key storyline of the weekend--the ultimate money is on the table now. If LSU plays its game, they are going to win it all. But there is considerable doubt as to whether they will, and a very consistent UCLA team stands ready to move into the breach on Saturday night if the Tigers act their age.