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The Round Mound of Rebound… Sir Charles… Chuck… No matter the nickname you prefer, Charles Barkley’s playing and television career has spawned dozens of great quotes, commentary, and hilarious moments. To honor one of the greatest power forwards of all-time and look forward to his coverage of March Madness, we will pay homage to several of his best catch phrases in this weekly installment reviewing some of the top anecdotes and stories from around the game of college basketball, What Would Charles Say?
Let Me Tell You Something… Everyone loves March Madness, and with good reason. Nowhere else do you find such consistently compelling storylines in sports year after year after year. Whether it’s David over Goliath — Lehigh, really? — or a proud program finding its way after a long drought — welcome back, Indiana — the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend provides something for everyone. As Charles Barkley noted in our interview with him last week, the best team doesn’t always win the Tournament. But most years, frankly, it’s rather tough to figure who the “best” team is anyway — right now, among a group of UNC, Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, Kansas, and Syracuse, you might get six different opinions as to which team is the best one. The one thing that can without question be stated, though, is that whoever is left standing after six increasingly tougher games in March and early April has more than earned the national championship. The college football folks can have their polls and computer ratings to determine who their “best” teams are; we’ll take our head-to-head matchups every single time instead.
Pulling His Weight… Every NCAA Tournament gives us the gift of star players who no one has heard of before, and this year was no different. Among the latest group of unknowns, there was no player who made more of a splash both on the court and off it than Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn. On St. Patrick’s Day eve, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound senior with the million-dollar smile, dropped 26 points and 14 rebounds against No. 2 seed Missouri in an 86-84 victory that will go down as one of the greatest upsets in NCAA Tournament history. As if that weren’t enough, he then charmed the pants off of everyone in the CBS/Turner studios with his quips, one-liners, and most astonishingly, his on-air rendition of “One Shining Moment,” of which he half-sang the opening lines for Greg Gumbel and company. The beauty of March Madness are moments like these.
I Am Not a Role Model… This year’s Tournament has been marred somewhat by several games turning on high-profile officiating issues — and I use the word “issues” because there was considerable debate as to whether the howls of protest over the calls were the right ones or not. Perhaps the biggest problem came in Syracuse’s opening round game against UNC Asheville, where a late lane violation (the correct call, but rarely made) and a botched out-of-bounds call (clearly off Syracuse) allowed the No. 1 seed Orange to advance. The next night, Xavier and Notre Dame experienced the exact same lane violation call to essentially salt the game away for the Musketeers. When officiating becomes a trending topic during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, that’s never a good thing for the sport. This is especially true in the modern era of televised sports where high definition images give viewers multiple clear angles at an official’s call that someone standing on the court does not have the luxury of seeing.
That’s Turrible… This year’s March Madness has been marked more by what teams don’t (or won’t) have than what they do. It’s a part of the game, but injuries/suspensions have impacted several of the top teams already, and no doubt will continue to do so going forward. North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall broke his right, non-shooting, wrist on Sunday in the Tar Heels’ win over Creighton, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be able to play again (or how effective he will be if he does). Syracuse’s Fab Melo became academically ineligible just prior to the Tournament’s opening tip, and the Orange will have to play the rest of their season without the anchor to their staunch defense. Michigan State’s Branden Dawson tore his ACL near the end of the year and won’t be available to provide his freakish athleticism on the wing. We hate to see it for all of these individual players, but also their teams who have worked so hard to get to this point and perhaps aren’t playing with a full deck of cards at the time it matters most.
I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It… Keeping in mind that we told you in this space that Michigan would win a share of the Big Ten regular season title (they did), and that the conference would put four teams in the Sweet Sixteen (they have), here are this weekend’s Final Four picks. Ohio State will survive Syracuse to win the East Region, Kansas will beat North Carolina to come out of the Midwest Region, Kentucky will knock off Baylor to win the South Region, and Michigan State will outlast Marquette to remain standing in the West Region. If we had to pick a Cinderella out of the four regions to make a run to the final weekend of the season, we like Wisconsin to be that team. Bo Ryan is too good of a coach to never make it to a Final Four — if someone above falters, this might be his year.
Check back next Thursday for another edition of Rush the Court’s What Would Charles Say?