I suppose being a big fan of both Duke and MSU should make me upset that North Carolina won the NCAA championship last night, but it doesn't bother me at all. More than anything, I am a college basketball fan and I thought the Tar Heels were the best team all year and picked them to win it. And I've just never been able to be what I call an "uber-fan", one of those people who take rivalries so seriously that they invest too much emotion both in "loving" their team and in "hating" the other team. I guess I just reserve such emotions for real people that I know personally.
I think it's great that Roy Williams finally won a championship. I've always thought the notion that he was a "choker" because his teams had been to the final four a few times and not won it all was beyond stupid. I remember seeing an interview with him many years ago where he told the story of Dean Smith, his legendary mentor who took the same criticism for over 20 years as a coach before he won it all, after he finally won his first championship. The next day, as I recall, Roy said to Dean something about getting that monkey off his back and Dean said, "You know, I'm not better a coach today than I was two days ago." Roy Williams is a great basketball coach, and he'd be a great basketball coach even if his team had lost last night. In 17 years, the guy has won 80% of his games as a coach and taken his team to 5 final fours. That's hall of fame material, regardless of whether he had ever won it. Still, it's nice to see him win it just so people will stop making that dumb argument about him.
Sean May was the MVP, and he was clearly the most dominating player in the NCAA tournament. For that matter, he's been the best player in the game since about halfway through the season. When May was a freshman, I said then that I thought he was the most fundamentally sound big man I'd seen come into college since Elton Brand. In an age when most big men want to be guards and handle the ball on the perimeter and shoot 3s, it's rare to see someone come into college with an array of low post moves. May had the complete set of tools - drop step, up and under, jump hook, spin move, fadeaway jumper - he was just the complete package. And he has incredible hands for a big guy. The one knock on him was his conditioning, but he has worked hard to rebuild his body, much like Brand did when he went to the NBA, and turned himself into a beast on the blocks. He has also already said that he is returning for his senior year, which is great for the game. He has to go into next year as the favorite for national player of the year, especially if Chris Paul goes to the NBA as expected.
So congratulations to the Tar Heels. I know a lot of my fellow Duke fans are probably tearing their hair out this morning and finding some reason to criticize the "Tar Holes", as they like to call them. And I know it's fun to engage in trash talking with the biggest rivals (I've always loved the line "Carolina blue is just the past tense of Carolina blows"). But don't let fandom cloud either your judgement or your humanity. This was a great Tar Heel team, led by a great coach, and all in all a pretty good bunch of kids. If you can't respect kids like Sean May and Raymond Felton, kids who play their butts off every single night, just because they play for the other team, then you're taking a rivalry far too seriously.
At the same time, you have to take your hats off to Illinois. Deron Williams and Roger Powell in particular are such warriors on the court. If Williams returns for his senior season, Illinois will be a force again next year. He's just a tremendous leader who understands the game better than any other player in the country. So congratulations to both teams, and now the long off season of recruiting begins.