I’m an Indiana kid. Growing up, I played 21 from the time the neighbors driveway thawed until school started. Sometimes dozens of games per day. Not to sound like a John Cougar Mellencamp song, but we played until our fingers bled. Then we’d have lunch and play until it got dark.
Where I went to school everyone went to every high school basketball game. This culminated in 1994 with Clay High School making an improbable run to the state Final Four and winning it all in a come-from-behind thriller.
That love of the game carried on into college when I played endless games of pick-up basketball and even had a little stint as student sports information director for both men’s and women’s basketball teams. I’ve sat on the sidelines, keeping score, operating the shot clock… hundreds of games. I love it.
Not quite like my love for Notre Dame football. (Or cheddar cheese) But love nonetheless.
Finally, this year I have a lot to cheer about on the hardwood.
Notre Dame is very good. At 18-4, having beaten some very good teams, they are a lock for the NCAA tournament with 5 weeks to go. I’ve watched them play on TV a bunch. They might not be the most dynamic team in the Big East but I think they may be the most feared. No one wants to try to stop Ben Hansbrough. Because if you do he’ll just pass it off to someone else who will light you up. I’ve not seem them play better, top to bottom, in the Big East than with the squad they have this year. If they keep this up they would be a disappointment at anything less than a Sweet-16 berth.
San Diego State is ridiculous. I know that many people outside of the West Coast have been able to see them play yet. The Mountain West has a horrid TV deal with its own network which keeps them off of ESPN. But they are 22-1 and easily the best team in the west. I have kicked myself since November for not getting season tickets when I had the chance. But tonight will be my third game and I have another game next week to go to… but that’s it. They are sold out the rest of the way. The thing most people don’t understand is that SDSU has no star. They have 8 guys who could each start and one of them goes off to dominate each game. I’ve seen Billy White take over a game. I’ve seen Malcolm Thomas destroy teams. I’ve seen Kawhi Leonard make teams look silly. And D.J. Gay has ruined some teams from the point. It’s the craziest thing. But Coach Fisher has somehow kept the whole thing together, kept everyone focused, and been quick to remind his team that NO ONE outside of San Diego respects them. They barely even make it onto SportsCenter!
My biggest fear is that these two teams will play in the 2nd round of the NCAA. Ideally, they will meet in an Elite 8 or (be still, heart) the Final Four. Both of them are that good. And neither would surprise me to be there.
Let’s go Irish!
S-D-S-U! Aztecs Fight!