A March Madness of Historical Proportions

Professor Jefferson Davis Futch was a history wonk of the highest order.

He loved the anecdotia, the lurid back stories that made the subject matter come alive. So taken was he by the peccadilloes of the Medici clan, which he shared with almost frothing at the mouth fervor, we never made it much past the Renaissance in History of Western Civ 101.

I couldn’t help but think of him years later, when while walking through Paris, I came upon the building where Catherine de’ Medici, the sign said, introduced the use of the fork to French society.

Professor Futch would have known which of her courtiers she would have bedded that evening.

I haven’t the slightest idea if the prof — as opposed to my longtime hoopaholic pal, the Professor — cares about hoops at all.

But, if he does, he’d know this college basketball season, and this NCAA tourney, is like no other. One for the history books, we might say.

Take for instance the David vs Goliath matchup in one of the Final Four semis, which features the biggest point spread ever.

Gonzaga vs. UCLA.

Except that the former is the undefeated biggie; the latter, the had-to-win-a-play-in-game upstart.

This is like a biblical movie, with Peter Dinklage portraying Goliath, and Andre the Giant cast as David.

There is nothing normal about this season’s normal.

Think back to the mid 70s, which I’ve always believed is when the modern era of college hoops commenced. John Wooden retired in San Diego, after winning like his 34th title in the previous 35 years. Which season was followed by IU’s unblemished run to the crown.

Duke, Louisville, John Thompson, Dean Smith — those were the up and comers.

Think about Gonzaga back then. Which you did not at the time. Because they weren’t on the radar. At all. And, if for some reason you did, it was because you heard the name and thought that was some Japanese movie monster.

In ’74-’75, the school in Spokane, under the tutelage of one Adrian Buoncrisitani, finished with a lucky 13 Ws, and an unlucky 13 Ls. In ’75-’76, the Zags, still playing in the Big Sky, were again 13-13.

Compare that to what’s happenin’ now.

It’s almost as hysterical, as it is historical.

Competing in the other semi-final are Baylor, which has not made it this far since, oh, 1950, and Houston, which ironically, since this whole affair has been played in the State of In The Indiana, is coached by one Kelvin Sampson.

Who used to man the bench of the state standard bearer, until he ran afoul of the NCAA. The Hoosiers have just chosen yet another new coach. I trust more than a few candy stripe-panted fans are wondering how many FFs/ titles might have been won by the Crimson and Cream, had Sampson been able to stay at the helm?

You following me here?

Not enough?

How about this? This is the first Final Four where all participants reside west of the Mississippi EVER.

Or this, there have been more upsets than any tournament ever. 14 times a team five seed lines under its foe has prevailed. Previous record: 13 in ’85.

To pull out my go to word in these situations: It’s cockamamie, I tell ya.

Then there are these interesting nuggetoids.

Last season, Johnny Juzaing was a Kentucky Wildcat. Something was amiss. This season residing in Westwood, leading his “upstart” Bruins to the Final Four, he alone scored 28 of the 100 total by both squads in the defeat of Michigan.

And, sitting on the bench of Michigan, who missed three shots at the end which could have won or tied the battle, was one Phil Martelli. Who, if you recall, coached an undefeated team not that long ago, which fell in its Elite Eight game when it missed a late open shot that would have propelled them.

So, OK, some things are the same as they ever was. Buuuuut, not many.

And, finally, in a mention that might mean something only to me: The best pass on a fast break I ever witnessed was Pete Maravich to a teammate during the Pan American Games trials at Freedom Hall, back in the day.

That pass Jalen Suggs made the other night, threading the needle between two defenders to a teammate ahead for a bunny was indeed PistolPetian.

I’m tellin’ ya, somewhere George Santayana is scratching his head, wondering what the foozook is going on here?

— c d kaplan



One thought on “A March Madness of Historical Proportions

  1. And you once again been with us through it all, Mr. Kaplan. You have warmed up the long winter with your posts. Thank you – really, thank you. And God willing, may we all be back for 2021-22.

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