It’s the second Monday night in April, and the NCAA men’s basketball title is on the line.
Whom do you want on the court for your team?
That’s the question the NCAA is asking fans as it celebrates 75 years of the tournament.
Jordan or West? Isiah or Magic? Oscar or Austin?
The guard roster is stacked with tough choices. Who deserves to be on the floor?
To help with the selection, the roster already is reduced to 75: 28 guards, 28 forwards and 19 centers.
Even that could spark a debate. Among 1970s era guards, for instance, Marquette’s Butch Lee makes the list, but IU’s Quinn Buckner does not.
Valpo’s Bryce Drew, who capped one of the tournament’s best games with a most memorable shot, is not on the list, presumably because his team fell short of the regional.
Still, the Hoosier state — and IU, especially — is well-represented among the guard nominees.
In addition to the obvious choices of IU’s Isiah Thomas, Indianapolis Attucks’ Oscar Robertson and Notre Dame’s Austin Carr, three others make the cut. Indiana’s Steve Alford and Keith Smart both appear from the 1987 champs. Butler’s Shelvin Mack also is on the list.
Indiana’s three guard nominees are the most from any school. UCLA (Gail Goodrich and Walt Hazzard), Cincinnati (Robertson and Tom Thacker), Michigan State (Johnson and Mateen Cleaves), Connecticut (Richard Hamilton and Kemba Walker) and Duke (Bobby Hurley and Johnny Dawkins) each have two.
The players on the 75th Anniversary Team will be announced during this year’s tournament, along with the Best Team and Moment.
Fans can vote at www.ncaa.com/march-madness.
Just selecting the guards is a challenge.
So, how do you decide? Is it a matter of who had the best college career? Who had the best tournament performance? Who raised their game the most? Should a player be one of only two guards selected if his team did not win a championship?
For me, it is a combination of winning a title and raising one’s game that should be a guide.
With that criteria, we have narrowed the 28 guard nominees to 14 by selecting those who won a championship and raised their scoring average, as well.
This seems like a fair measure until you realize who it excludes from the list.
First, great individual players from otherwise average teams don’t make the cut. That means no to West and Carr, among others.
Second, it eliminates players whose scoring average dipped even though they were key to their team’s title. Robertson, Johnson and Jordan are out on this basis.
Among the remaining 14, five players raised their scoring by 20 percent or more — Dawkins, Goodrich, Miles Simon, Smart and Thomas.
Does that mean they are the best? It’s your call to make and sure to be the subject of debate.
Who are the two guards deserving to start for the 75th Anniversary Team?
Bob Johnson is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal. His columns appear Tuesdays and Fridays. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.