College football die hards should probably just stop reading now. Seriously, if you love the completely screwed up, corrupt, world of the 12 game football season, stop. If a season with zero playoff games but a corporate 'title' game is your thing, you're going to hate this week's column. Why? Because this week we're all about loving the 30-plus college basketball regular season.
For the No. 2 Syracuse Orange (29-1, 16-1), the curtain closes on 2011-12 Saturday at the Carrier Dome against the No. 17 Louisville Cardinals (22-8 10-7) 4 p.m. Saturday on CBS. It's the end to a long, succesful, fun season. Still, the common complaint by the college football junkie is that the hoops regular season is so long it's almost useless. Too many games until it ends with a watered down tournament. Well, try telling that to Orange fans right now. I think Kentucky fans would beg to differ. Even the Bulls of South Florida would laugh at that argument!
The college basketball regular season, with all it's days, weeks, and months, is as meaningful as ever. Teams gel and survive or fold and fail from November until March. Sitting just over a week out from Selection Sunday, we know that Syracuse and Kentucky are tops and we know there are about a handful of other teams that may have a shot. The regular season provided that knowledge and the postseason gives them a chance to prove their worth. It's really a perfect set up, especially for the fans.
Both the college football fans and a lot of fans hoops fans say they don't care about rankings, bracketology, and seedings. You may hear things like, 'who cares about February, just win in April.' Which is certainly true, but it's not completely accurate. If we as fans didn't care about rankings, why do we complain when Syracuse doesn't receive every vote for first place? Bracketology doesn't matter right? Why, then, do you know that Syracuse is locked in as a one seed in the East? Of course April matters more, but the regular season provides the ingredients for the tournament. The season is the best reality show on television. Tell me you didn't let out a sigh of relief last Saturday when Syracuse survived Connecticut? The college football die hard would say that game was meaningless. Maybe it was, but it sure didn't feel that way afterwards.
Those rankings and bracketology...brackets...are the backbone to the season. It's as much a part of the game as basketballs and backboards. If you only stop to enjoy the season after your team wins it all, then you're probably not happy about hoops too often. Look at this season, where from December SU was a top ranked team, picked by everyone to be a one seed. A team winning a lot of games and getting a lot of love from the media. If you haven't enjoyed that by looking over the rankings or the lastest tourney projections weekly, then you're missing out. Just like all those 12-game-season loving college football fans (for the record, I love college footbal, but the BCS model is just wrong).
As for the finale (this is supposed to be something of a preview)? It's the end to this amazing season and to the careers of both Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, amongst others. Although Scoop has provided way too many to count 'WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!' moments in his five years (four playing) at SU. And, yes, Joseph never turned into that take the game over star we all wanted him to become. But, they both represent why college basketball is so great. Scoop's gone through tremendous highs and lows on and off the court and handled himself, at least in the media, with pure class.
Joseph has worked hard and has taken his game to another level from his freshmen year. I really believe that if Joseph was truly healthy, he could have played his way into a late second round NBA draft pick. Either way, those two Orange men, with over 200 combined victories, aren't going out losers. Yes, you and I have been to Orange season finales that didn't go well (Gerry McNamara just shuttered) but Saturday, capping of this year, has to end with a victory (apply the reverse jinx here).
Game 31 means too much to lose now.