Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Championship Night Thoughts

This entry is cross-posted on TNR's March Madness blog, Posting Up:

-- Not a very dramatic game, but compelling nonetheless. The Buckeyes gave a good account of themselves, and it was nice to see a group of players (the Gators) that seemed to enjoy being together--both on and off the court.

-- OSU did almost everything right--stay relatively close in the first half, keep Greg Oden (25 points, 12 rebounds) out of foul trouble, give itself a chance after halftime. Especially with good execution coming out of halftime, you felt the Buckeyes might get themselves in position to steal a close game against a seemingly superior opponent. But OSU couldn't get the lead down to the point where the pressure shifted onto Florida, and Florida had too much Corey Brewer (named Most Outstanding Player), Lee Humphrey, Taureen Green, and Al Horford at crunch time. (In fact, Florida is so deep that the Gators were able to survive a sub-par championship game from Joakim Noah, last year's MOP.)

-- So where do the Gators stand in the all-time great list? Florida showed a lot of balance and depth against OSU--not only the five starters, all of whom scored 1,000 or more points while getting all the publicity, but also big men Chris Richard and Marreese Speights, who ate up minutes and fouls against Oden on the low post. In the modern era (post-1979), only Duke has repeated, and the intervening years have shown the difficulty of keeping a team together--and healthy. The closest analogy is probably UNLV (1990) but the Rebels were famously defeated by the Duke team that went on to win the first of two straight championships (1991 and 1992). With the depth, balance, and versatility the Gators have shown, they have to be considered among the best college teams ever.

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