Ten-year old girls dream of the bouquet arrangements they will have at their weddings. They fantasize about the place-settings and the way their bridal party will playfully pose for pictures.
But when that wedding day finally arrives, the bride is almost always a wreck. She reeks of whiskey sours and, as the service makes way for the reception, her over-the-top make-up fades into a stream of mascara tears.
The future is never quite as nice as we dream it to be.
And, just like those naïve little girls, college basketball fans can’t wait to meet their true love.
Some of those fans actually saw their “perfect man” last Wednesday.
Today, 64 of the 65 teams from this NCAA Tournament are wistfully wishing for what might have been. Only players from Florida will have national championship rings and the – rarely mentioned, but always in-style – accompanying national championship hats and national championship tee-shirts.
Hundreds of other Division I colleges and universities will be praying for grander fortunes next season. Those prayers exist in the form of recruits. And the elite were on display at the McDonald’s All-American game.
What seemed like a monotonous, two-hour dunk contest to the casual observer, meant so much more to basketball lovers in places like Manhattan, Kansas, Memphis, Tennessee, and Los Angeles. For those fans, the game represented hope.
Future Kansas State star Michael Beasley will likely spend just one season wearing purple, but much like Kevin Durant and Greg Oden – and Carmelo Anthony before them – Beasley should immediately vault the Wildcats into the national championship picture.
Winning and excitement are synonymous with USC football, but O.J. Mayo will give those things to the school’s basketball supporters. Jerryd Bayless may help Arizona fans forget Mustafa Shakur and make them remember Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, and Khalid Reeves.
Nolan Smith, Taylor King, and Kyle Singler aren’t just fascinating talents, they are suicide prevention specialists for the Cameron Crazies. Johnny Flynn and Donte Green are doing the same for all the Orange-clad folk who still don’t understand why Syracuse wasn’t even invited to the Big Dance.
With so much anticipation surrounding these high school sensations, it is easy to forget how young they are. Zealous alums don’t see them as teenagers; they see them as tickets to the Final Four. And it’s easy to understand why. The NBA ravages college basketball each June, ripping the preeminent players in the country from their scholarly wombs.
The NBA rule allowing non-seniors to test the draft waters has resulted in more players declaring for the draft than ever before. With so much junior and senior talent noticeably absent from the college hoops cupboard, underclassmen have the opportunity to excel quicker and more effectively than ever before. This is especially true now that all high school seniors are forced to spend at least one year in college before entering the draft.
The college basketball landscape has essentially tipped over. The best players in the college game are now freshmen.
Think about it. The top three picks in the upcoming draft will probably be Ohio State giant Greg Oden, Texas phenom Kevin Durant, and the immensely gifted Brandan Wright of UNC. And they won’t be alone. Wright’s teammate Ty Lawson, Oden’s teammate Mike Conley, Arizona’s Chase Buddinger, Georgia Tech’s fantastic duo of Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton, and a handful of other youngsters could also find first round love if they decide to declare.
This was an abnormally gifted first-year class, but even in down years, the freshmen will possess more talent than their elder statesmen. Talent typically equals success, which is precisely why so much is riding on these young men. Gate revenue, conference crowns, tournament bids, and NCAA titles are dependent on them.
Because, of course, no happy marriage is complete without a ring.