April 9, 2007
Let me reflect on the great season that was in college basketball.
Last week we saw a historic moment as the Florida Gators won back-to-back national championships. My friends, Billy Donovan's team was so unselfish. This bunch of kids sacrificed many, many dollars to return to the Gainesville campus, to be college student athletes. Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah could have received mega-dollars from the pros, but they returned with the goal of winning another national title.
The Gators weren't really out to defend a championship because that one couldn't be taken away, it was earned and tucked away. Those kids lived up to expectations and responded in a positive way.
Some wonder where this Florida team ranks among the greatest in college basketball. Does that really matter? That's just rhetoric and words, and they are the best now. The Gators were also the best last year.
Consider this ... Florida is 12-0 in the NCAA tournament over the last two years, with an average margin of victory over 15 ppg. The Gators lived up to their billing.
This was a year where so many superstars came out of the high school ranks to make spectacular collegiate debuts. There was Kevin Durant at Texas and Greg Oden of Ohio State. Ty Lawson, Brandan Wright, Chase Budinger, Tajuan Porter and the list goes on and on, and they lived up to their hype.
What a year it was. How special was it to have Durant, a diaper dandy, carrying a bunch of young kids challenging in the tough Big 12? The Longhorns lost underclassmen like LaMarcus Aldridge, PJ Tucker and Daniel Gibson, but they were in the big dance thanks mainly to Durant. He was sensational in all aspects of the game; shooting, rebounding, passing. His performance against Texas Tech was absolutely spectacular, a masterpiece (37 points, 23 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes).
Wow, a diaper dandy went on to win National Player of the Year! Mr. Durant was simply awesome, baby, with a capital A!
Oden got his wrist healthy and he was a marvelous player. You can't just measure him on statistics as he is such an asset. His presence in the three-second area makes such a difference as he changes opponent's shots as well as blocking them.
Both are beautiful young guys who are about their teammates about being students and enjoying college. That makes them so unique and so special.
It was a year that included The General, Robert Montgomery Knight, taking over as the winningest coach in Division I. What an achievement! I remember when he was a young guy at West Point; I was in awe listening to him speak about his offensive and defensive concepts. You could tell he was heading for stardom, but little did I know then that he would become the creme de la creme, the best of the best.
Knight still has that fervor to keep going on. He loves that 94 X 50 hardwood, and he will continue to do his artistic work and get the most out of people. At Texas Tech, he has done so much with the personnel he has had.
Let's remember the job done by the NCAA tournament selection committee. They get a lot of heat, but look at this year's Elite Eight and understand the brilliant job of seeding. You had three match-ups featuring 1 vs. 2 regional seeds, and one game pitting 1 vs. 3. Gary Walters and his committee should be proud as this group had integrity plus a passion and love for college basketball. They did a phenomenal job.
It was a terrific year in college basketball. There were so many great memories, my 28th behind the microphone. I can't wait for season #29 and I am already in withdrawal as I wait for the bounce of the ball. It won't be long before we start watching teams compete for the 2007-08 national championship down in San Antonio.