UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Despite departures, terrific tournament is on tap

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgAn ongoing topic in the college basketball world centers on how players who leave school after one or two years have hurt the game. Critics will say the game is watered down, that many of today's first-team All-Americans would be hard pressed to make the second or third team in the old days.

Sure, it would be terrific for college basketball if the Kevin Durants and Blake Griffins of the world played a full four years, but that is not reality, and it is unlikely to change.

A critic will complain that the NCAA tournament will be lacking a great team, that it merely will be a collection of mediocre to good squads. I am not so sure about that, but even if there is some truth to the claim, it should make for an exciting March. 

In the past week, the top four teams in the AP poll took a hit. Ohio State, which was in position to perhaps regain the No. 1 ranking had it won at Purdue, instead lost for the second time in three games. Kansas, Texas and Pittsburgh also fell. At this time of year, does anybody want to be No. 1? Do rankings really matter?

The answer is a ranking in the AP or coaches polls probably means very little. At this time of year, I find myself paying much more attention to RPI rankings, and a team's record against the top 50 (FYI, the Badgers are 6-5 vs. the top 50 according to collegerpi.com). It also can be fun to look at bracket projections, such as Joe Lunardi at ESPN and Jerry Palm, who runs collegerpi.com. Both have been known for their accuracy in projecting the field.

American sports fans love a darling in March, and in the last few years there have been a few teams that fit the description. George Mason and Butler come to mind right away, and perhaps this year it will be San Diego State and/or BYU. They play each other this Saturday in a national TV game that you might want to check out.

Perhaps one of the traditional powers will end up cutting down the nets in early April, but this year there is reason to believe the tournament could be as wide open as ever. That should be an attractive thought for Badgers fans. The Big Ten regular season race is headed for the home stretch, and Wisconsin remains a strong contender. It has proven it can beat elite teams such as Ohio State and Purdue. When the Badgers shoot it well, there is reason to believe they can beat anyone.  

There could be another 20-25 teams thinking the same thing, which is what could make for a wildly entertaining NCAA tournament.

It can be easy to talk about how things were so much better in the old days. I am as guilty as the next person. But today's game is pretty strong, and rather than focusing on the star players who left their campuses early, maybe it is better to enjoy those who opted to stick around.

They put on a good show, and sometimes even a great show. Have you checked out Jordan Taylor, E'Twaun Moore and Talor Battle lately? How about BYU's Jimmer Fredette?  

There are plenty of great stories out there, and I have a feeling there will be more to come when March Madness arrives.