As the curtain closed on the 2007 NCAA tournament with top-seeded Florida triumphing easily over the number two overall seed Ohio State, the average college basketball fan couldn’t help but feel a little upset. Perhaps the tournament did go a little too much according to plan. Maybe fans were disappointed that the prodigious Kevin Durant was escorted to an early exit by USC or that Greg Oden seemed to spend almost as much time on the bench in foul trouble as he did on the court. Finally, a lot of disappointed fans will be reviewing their bracket for the final time and wondering, “Why the hell did I not pick Florida after they returned the same exact starting five that won the championship last year?”
To call this year’s tournament a big disappointment would be largely inaccurate because it provided the many thrills and unforgettable moments that have become synonymous with March Madness. However, it seems fair to say that this tournament did not live up to its great potential. There were six elite teams in the tournament that had a legitimate shot of winning it all: Florida, Ohio State, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, and Georgetown. The talent pool in the tournament, led by the highly touted Oden and Durant, was undoubtedly one of the best of the last decade. It was not necessarily the lack of upsets that landed this tournament in mediocrity, although the absence of a true Cinderella team, usually a staple in the tournament, was somewhat of a disappointment. What really hurt the tournament this year were the last three games, all of which had the potential to be some of the most memorable of the last decade. Unfortunately, they all ended up being rather ordinary.
The Ohio State-Georgetown match-up was centered around a battle between Greg Oden and Roy Hibbert, two of the best centers in college basketball. Both men will be top ten picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Ohio State’s Mike Conley Jr., the best point guard in college basketball, matched up with the clutch Jonathan Wallace. What we got was hardly the classic that the game was projected to be. Georgetown’s Jeff Green, who was a good bet to be a top-ten pick in the NBA Draft before the game, put up a measly nine points. Less then three minutes into the game, Greg Oden somberly sauntered to the Ohio State bench with two quick, unnecessary fouls. The Oden-Hibbert match up simply did not occur due to foul trouble. Luckily for the Buckeyes, Conley Jr. outdueled Wallace, scoring 15 points and dishing out five assists as he carried the Buckeyes to an ugly 67-60 victory.
On the other side of the bracket, UCLA and Florida were set to do battle in a match-up that some experts thought included the two best teams in the tournament. UCLA came off an impressive win against number one seed Kansas due to an outstanding defensive performance from star guard Arron Afflalo. In a rematch of last year’s championship game, Florida left no doubt in anybody’s mind that they were the superior team, winning 76-66. The sight of Afflalo crying in the locker room after the game pretty much sums up the game. UCLA simply lacked an answer for Florida’s depth and explosive scoring ability. Big men Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Chris Richard combined for 33 points and 32 rebounds. Florida was simply dominant in all facets of the game.
In the National Championship game last Monday, Florida catapulted into history. The Gators made a profound statement with its convincing 84-75 victory over Ohio State. Not only did the team clearly define itself as the best team this year, Florida emerged as one of the best teams in College Basketball history. The collection of talent on this year’s team is unparalleled by any lineup in recent memory. Florida had three legitimate top-10 picks in Horford, Brewer, and Noah, college basketball’s best three-point shooter in Lee Humphrey, and a future second-round pick in Taurean Green. Despite the great talent on the team, no player attempted to shine above the rest. Florida played as a team and won as a team. Florida won their Final Four and title games last year by a combined 31 points. Due to the trend of star players staying for only one year and the selfish nature of the next great player in college basketball, O.J. Mayo, it is unlikely that we will see a team with the talent or the attitude that Florida possessed for a long time unless the Gators sans the graduating Humphrey and Richard come back for one more year.