March 26, 2007

OSU-Florida II?

The Ohio State - Florida rematch isn't here yet, but SI's Stewart Mandel says it's "a mind-boggling matchup." I say if you're a true Buckeye fan, you have to want Florida. The Buckeyes either get their noses rubbed in it, or they get redemption for January 8. But you have to want the Gators.

We sit here today on the brink of a potentially epic Final Four. We've got all 1 and 2 seeds for the first time since 1993. We've got Florida attempting to become the first repeat champion since '92. We've got Florida and UCLA staging the first rematch of a previous year's Final Four game since Duke and UNLV in '91 (with Ohio State and Georgetown staging a rematch last year's second-round game as well). And we've got the Hoyas returning to the Final Four for the first time since '84 (under another John Thompson at that).

If, however, like me, you happen to be a follower of both college basketball and football, one storyline is just screaming off the page right now: the possibility of another Ohio State-Florida championship game.

Let the smack talk begin.

Pat Forde is picking Florida over Georgetown in the finals, but other than that it's a good piece on the strength of this Final Four.

Bill Simmons and his readers have a great column on the Final Four too. I love reading Simmons, but he really disses Thad Matta, noting that this Final Four features "three superb coaches (Thompson, Florida's Billy Donovan and UCLA's Ben Howland...)"

This leaves one wondering what Thompson and Howland have accomplished in their careers, or this year, that makes them more "superb" than a guy who, at age 39, is taking his third different team to the NCAA Tournament, his second to the Elite Eight, and who has reached the Final Four starting two freshmen, with only two seniors on the team, who is riding a 21 game winning streak to a 34-win season, and who in his third year at OSU has two consecutive outright Big Ten Championships.

Simmons has used Matta as one example of the "terrrible coaching" he sees today at the college level, and suggests these coaches rely on recruiting for 90-95 percent of their success. Matta apparently once stayed too long in a man-to-man defense to suit Simmons, who obviously hasn't seen the Buckeye man smother opponents all season. He must have other quibbles with the job Matta has done over the years, doubtless some heavy X's and O's unknowable to anyone not called The Sports Guy.

Yes, he's a good recruiter, Bill. But the superb Billy Donovan isn't exactly coaching chopped liver either. The Big Ten title Matta won last year (2005-06) was with a team with no Oden, no Conley, no Cook, and nobody the NBA was interested in drafting, early or otherwise.

Posted by dan at March 26, 2007 3:50 PM