I honestly believe Gus Johnson could make anything in life sound as exciting as a game coming down the wire. If you don't know who Gus Johnson is (shame on you) he was the announcer for CBS in the East regionals in Syracuse. He is probably the livest announcer in basketball, period. Imagine this...Ed this morning when he went to make his morning bagel.
"Ed gets his bagel...puts it in the toaster. He waits, he waits some more, IT POPS UP! ED WITH THE CATCH!!!! RISE & FIRE!"
I'm just saying.
So even though watching Cornell valiantly try and defeat the bluest of blue bloods in Kentucky was fun for a half, and witnessing that at least one Big East team (West Virginia) still has some balls left, the two games we were able to witness in Salt Lake City was simply mind-blowing. The basketball gods have blessed us with Gus Johnson and Lenny Elmore. Butler vs. Syracuse opened our eyes, and Xavier vs. Kansas State made me want to Shock The World for the Final Four.
(5) Butler 63, (1) Syracuse 59 - First off, a quick definition of a mid-major. I had an extensive conversation with my co-worker Scott who is a die-hard Xavier fan. Realize when we refer to someone as a "mid-major" that it does not reflect the stature of a team's college basketball program, no...being a "mid-major" only reflects the program's conference affiliation. That's it. Butler, Xavier, Gonzaga, St. Mary's, Temple, Memphis, St. Joe's, UNLV, Tulsa, UAB...all of these teams are mid-majors. Despite their continued success in the tournament, they are mid-majors. UNLV was the last mid-major to win a title back in 1990.
Now...this year, it could be Butler to make the magical run. Watch how they played against Syracuse last night. They didn't beat the 'Cuse like Northern Iowa beat Kansas. No random plays, no overwhelming amount of threes, no reckless coaching...they just got beat. Most people think you beat the 2-3 zone with a bunch of three's....nope, Butler shot a horrid 6-24 last night. Ok...well maybe they were making shots at the rim? Nope...Syracuse out Butler 44% to 40%. You know why Butler won? Because Butler didn't turn the ball over, (only 7 TOs) they played tough man-to-man defense, (forced 18 Syracuse TOs) and because player for player...Butler is just as talented as Syracuse. Yes, I said it. Wes Johnson is a top-10 pick, i get that...but Andy Rautins is a fringe NBA prospect, and I honestly can't tell you who else is relevant on their squad. Butler? Oh, they've got a projected first round pick in Gordon Heyward, and Matt Howard is probably going to make an NBA team. Butler was simply the better team, and they proved it last night.
(2) Kansas State 101, (6) Xavier 96 - Might be one of the best games I've watched in the last 5 years. Do you hear Gus Johnson's voice? Do you hear the strain, calamity, tenacity, and utter angst permeating out of him? Let me say this upfront, the same case I made about Butler/Syracuse and their talent levels is equivalent here in this game. Xavier had the best player on the floor in Jordan Crawford, who now has equivocally surpassed his past status as "the dude who dunked on LeBron" and has solidified his rep as being an awesome player. This game became a 4-man show, Xavier had Crawford and Terrell Holloway vs. K-State's Jacob "Fear The Beard" Pullen and Denis "He Holds It Down For Puerto Rico" Clemente.
All hail The Till Show for anointing Pullen and Clemente as having the best backcourt in college basketball. Job well done sir. When I watch these two they remind me of how dynamic Jameer Nelson and Delonte West were back at St. Joe's years ago. They have insane chemistry, and go out on the court and do what they want. Pullen struggled for the first 35 minutes of the game, then went into "eff you" mode and became "The Bearded Unibomber" making 6 of 12 3's in the game. Clemente's 4-point play was "Larry Johnson in '99"-esque and had Xavier on its heels.
Then came Terrell "The Last Great PG from NYC" Holloway. Dude made x-ray vision passes and dagger 3's like he was putting on for Hempstead. Plus he wears #52! What player wears that number? A player who has no fear, that's who. When Holloway wasn't making dagger 3's and getting the phantom foul call + continuation (with 3 free throws) for XU...he found the second most absurd number wear ever. The Double-Nickel aka Jordan Crawford. (#55? WTF...) Dude pretty much said, to hell with it...I'm shooting 30-35 footers and lets see what happens. K-State's winning outcome paired with Butler beating (not upsetting) Syracuse should adequately tell you something...
Anyone can win this damn thing...
Are you ready for that? Are you prepared to have your mind blown? Northern Iowa & St. Mary's continues their conquest against two teams that we wouldn't be surprised if they beat. We are living in a day when we are counting on THE BAYLOR BEARS to potentially beat Duke. BAYLOR????? Are you serious? Purdue is the biggest underdog in the tournament left, yes its true. If they beat Duke, would we beat surprised? Not at all. Do we REALLY believe in Ohio State? Tennessee has beat two #1's this season in Kansas & Kentucky, yet...got scraped by 22 to a 16-14 USC and got scraped by 15 to a 14-17 Georgia. I don't believe in anybody.
But as long as Gus Johnson is the announcer, all is well in college basketball.