Tuesday, April 9, 2013

NCAA Title Game Sends College Basketball Out On High Note

Louisville won a national championship Monday night in a game college basketball needed to see. (washingtonpost.com)

All year the discussion has been the product of college basketball has been down. The game lacked a truly dominant team. Scoring had been down all season. Officiating has been as big of a topic as the actually play on the court.

The college basketball season ended last night with the national championship game between Louisville and Michigan and with all the negative talk around what's wrong with college basketball, this game took the season out on an extremely high note.

The season still lacked a 2012 Kentucky-like team and officiating, even in the title game, was questionable at best. Aside from that, the championship game had everything fans love about college basketball.

In a season where games have looked to be in slow motion and teams were happy to score 70 points a game, Monday's game was played at a fast-paced tempo with enough plays to pack a highlight reel and offenses that were not missing in action. Both teams shot at least 45 percent from the floor - Michigan actually had the better percentage at 52 percent - as Louisville held on to win 82-76.

While an underdog team was missing, two bench players, Spike Albrecht for Michigan and Luke Hancock for the Cardinals, took on that role and were the talk of the first half, scoring 17 and 16 points respectively. Neither player was highly recruited, and it is these stories of players getting their chance making the most of the big moment that draws fans to the college game. Then it was the stars' turn to shine at the end, as Peyton Siva and Trey Burke traded blows and crucial shots in a highly contested game that came down to the final minutes.

It wasn't error-free basketball, but it was competitive, intense and it was obvious from the stands or TVs at home these two teams were leaving all they had on the court in this final game. Louisville climbed back from an early double-digit deficit in the first half to trail by just one at halftime. The Cardinals and Wolverines exchanged leads throughout the first part of the second half before Louisville pulled away for good. Aggressive defense, high flying dunks and clutch 3-pointers will be remembered, not the sloppy play, horrible passes and bad offensive sets that we've seen before.

Plenty of ugly games have taken place throughout this basketball season, and the NCAA has plenty of changes to think about in the offseason for next year. That is still true. But Monday night's championship game showed how beautiful, entertaining and intense college basketball can be; a friendly reminder that the product so many love is not completely lost.

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