- DJ Gallo, ESPN.com
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Louisville-Michigan was perfect. Everything about it. Perfect.
We witnessed by far the best NCAA title game of recent memory, and that’s not even a typical modern media, hyperbolic, complete lack-of-context opinion. (Probably.)
Perfect, perfect, perfect.
Where to begin?
Luke Hancock, a skinny, bearded transfer backup who looks like a guy who might be a solid contributor on a Division II team or a career double-double guy in your local men’s rec league, averaged 21 points a game in the Final Four and became the first nonstarter to win Most Outstanding Player in Final Four history.
Spike Albrecht, a short, baby-faced freshman who looks like a guy who might be a bench player on a Division III team or a solid contributor in your local men’s rec league, took over the first half and went from no one to hero. But Louisville-Michigan was so great that by the end of the game, everyone had forgotten about the first-half performance of America’s darling, Spunky Almond, or whatever his name was.
Peyton Siva, who feels like he has been at Louisville since back when Denny Crum’s collars were at their widest, managed to appear fresh with countless acrobatic attacks down the lane. No doubt all college basketball fans are excited to welcome him back next year for his 37th and sophomore season.
John Beilein, despite seeing his team lose a 12-point lead in the final four minutes of the first half, spent halftime telling his players how awesome the game was and that they were all putting on an exciting show for the fans who had paid big money to watch them. No negativity, no screaming, no cursing, no chair-throwing, no one getting basketballs fired at them. Awesome.
Michigan and Louisville shot a combined 48.6 percent from the floor and 47 percent on 3s, and made only 21 turnovers between them. The teams matched and outdid each other possession after possession. It was a sight to behold, especially after a college basketball season in which most games looked like a bunch of uncoordinated fourth-graders wrestling over a kickball.
We got to see the Fab Five together in the same building again. We got to see Tim Hardaway Sr.'s precariously perched hat again.
Rick Pitino became the first coach to win national titles at two different schools and, more impressively, managed to not mess his wildly expensive suit pants (at least that we know of) while ducking postgame confetti cannon fire.
We got the heartwarming vision of Kevin Ware cutting down the nets and, of course, “One Shining Moment,” which is always perfect. Imagine for a moment a world in which a “One Shining Moment” montage of your personal highlights plays for you at the end of every day. There is such a world. It is called heaven.
Even the result of ESPN’s Tournament Challenge was perfect. The winner was a man named Craig Gilmore. The name of his bracket submission was “Lennay Kekua’s Entry.” No, you shut up. It was. Mr. Gilmore, take the rest of your life off. You deserve it. You beat millions of people in an NCAA tournament pool … and did it with a Manti Te’o joke. I feel like I’ve now been alive to witness a human achievement as triumphant as Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. Thank you, Mr. Gilmore. And thank you, too, Ms. Kekua; your fiction made this reality possible.
There were three -- and only three -- noticeably awful things about Louisville-Michigan, however. Yet they were perfect, too.
Awfully perfect thing No. 1: A Big East team won a national title. Except the Big East team that won is going to another conference. And the Big East isn’t even called the Big East anymore. This is perfectly fitting for college sports in 2013.
Awfully perfect thing No. 2: The NCAA is being terrible. Louisville’s players want to travel to New Orleans to see the Louisville women play in the national title game Tuesday night. But they can’t go because the NCAA says that would be a violation. The NCAA looking awful is very much perfectly fitting for college sports in 2013.
Awfully perfect thing No. 3: The officiating stunk. It mainly stunk both ways -- so it fairly stunk? -- but it was especially bad when Trey Burke’s perfect block of Siva was called a foul. Fans getting to complain about officiating is perfect for 2013 and every year. We’d have it no other way. In fact, even if the officiating in a big game was good -- and we’re deep into our imagination here -- many of us would still find a way to complain about it. Is “good” officiating “letting them play"? Is “good” officiating calling the game to the letter of the law? No one really knows. So the only solution is to call it all bad. It’s a perfect solution.
Louisville-Michigan was perfect. Everything about it. Even the bad was good. Forty years from now we may tell our grandchildren about this title game. We’ll gather them around and regale them with the tale of Luke Hancock, first-half hero Spatz Andrade, the Fab Five and the amazing man who won ESPN’s Tournament Challenge.
And in the background, on our hologram TV, Peyton Siva will be playing his senior season at Louisville while Rick Pitino tries to win a national championship at Eastern Kentucky University. And it will be perfect.