Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for the real tradition unlike any other. Prepare yourselves for Jim Nantz's cheesy, post-game pun.
Don't know what I'm talking about? Every year, as the final buzzer sounds, comes an uncomfortably tacky play on words from Nantz, so oozing with cleverness that you can't help but purse your lips. You know, for added effect and all. Why say "Michigan State is the champion!" when you can over-think the whole thing and yell "You can leave it to Cleaves!" instead? Why not proclaim Connecticut "The 'meka of college basketball" when they've got a guy named Emeka Okafor? And why not trumpet a North Carolina championship by saying "It began in March, ended in April, and belongs to [Sean] May!" It'd be irresponsible broadcasting to go any other way.
So you know some kind of quip is coming on Monday night, but after a lackluster "Back-to-back and unforgettable" line last season, the question remains: What will it be?!? I've been giddy with anticipation over the last few weeks trying to spot Nantz's patterns, playing my own demented game of Guess the Jim Nantz-ism.
The first rule of thumb is to pick out a recognizable player or coach -- or, if all else fails, the team's name -- from each potential champion and squeeze it into a sentence. Nantz pulled this stunt back in '97 with Arizona's Miles Simon, gushing "A milestone victory for Arizona!" It's the oldest trick in the book. And if Bill Self were to lead Kansas to a title, it's about the only option Nantz has. "Believe in your Self!" looks like the clubhouse leader.
Secondly and equally important is to fit that popular reference, if at all possible, into another common allusion. In other words take a guy like Kevin Love, dig through some Beatles lyrics and BOOM: "All you need is Love!" Simply masterful. Or take Derrick Rose and drop the requisite Seal card with "A kiss from a Rose!" Or sing the praises of another Tar Heel championship with "Sweet Carolina! Good times never seemed so good!"
(Bonus points to Nantz if he can actually quote one of his own phrases in the process. A national championship line of "All for one, and one for the ages!" for the Xavier Musketeers would've been off the charts.)
And finally, the whole thing needs to feel as scripted and overzealous as humanly possible. Nantz might read these straight from a teleprompter, or perhaps they're pre-recorded to capture the proper voice inflection. However it's done, the line needs to be recited in a manner that makes it seem as though it's been a work in progress for at least the last five months.
That's how it's done, boys and girls. Good luck trying to guess.
There are plenty of respectable media types downplaying the novelty of the Final Four due to the "staleness" of the top four seeds reaching San Antonio. Interesting. Seeing as how this exact scenario has failed to occur in nearly 40 years of NCAA Tournament play, "stale" is not exactly the word I'd use to describe it.
Actually, the mere fact that this Final Four is even occurring is the best Cinderella story of the tournament. There's no reason anybody should be calling a four-team playoff among the nation's four best teams anything short of "outstanding." In fact, if this were college football, it'd be widely considered the dream ticket -- why should basketball view it any differently?
And in related news, the NCAA selection committee is dancing in the streets, setting trash can fires, and overturning cars after finally guessing a damn Final Four correctly. Took 'em long enough.
A few years ago, Powerade ran a TV spot showing LeBron James nailing full-court shots from a virtual standstill -- of course, with heavy editing and special effects to make the whole thing look as believable as possible. (Sorry to burst your bubble; it wasn't real.) Well, Powerade, meet Kevin Love: a guy who could've saved you a ton of money in post-production costs if only endorsing high school basketball players were agreeable with the NCAA.
CBS ran its own b-roll footage during Thursday night's Elite Eight match-up between UCLA and Xavier. In those clips, Love was shown draining half-, three-quarter-, and full-court shots with seemingly minimal effort. In fact, Love was able to do it by merely flicking his wrists. I'm not kidding. Obviously, this adds more to the allure of Love, since it previously took computer-generated graphics to make shots of such length look so easy. Mythbusters should investigate -- how it's possible to make a shot from any of these distances without either a baseball-throwing motion or a running start is completely beyond me.
Admissions officials at Davidson, I feel for you. Forfeit your personal lives now. Not only is your school back on the map thanks to dynamic sophomore Stephen Curry, but with word that your board of trustees paid, out of their own pockets, for hundreds students to travel to Detroit for Friday and Sunday's tournament games, Davidson will receive more interest from incoming freshman than a Matt Leinart house party.
With a little common sense, you'd have to expect an absolute tidal wave of applications over the next few months. Studies have already shown that success in the NCAA Tournament translates to booming interest in colleges and universities. But an even bigger factor is the tendency any undergraduate knows all too well: On a tight budget, you'd walk through fire for a free meal, let alone a free TRIP. Case in point.
(All kidding aside, this move by the Davidson trustees should be bronzed and put on display in the Smithsonian. What a fantastic gesture of generosity and camaraderie.)
Send in your choices...
1. More obvious statement? Gus Johnson is exciting / Erin Andrews is hot
2. Easier path to Final Four? Kansas / UCLA
3. Better ballpark attraction? Sausage races (Milwaukee) / President races (Washington)
4. More surprising blowout? Memphis over Texas / Davidson over Wisconsin
5. More underrated instrument? Fiddle / Triangle
6. Better Final Four first name? Tywon / Sasha
7. Worse 90s movie?Kazaam / Stay Tuned
8. Bigger Elite Eight pet peeve? Raised courts in Houston and Detroit / Commercials every 30 seconds
9. More valid TV question? When's 24 coming back? / Is CBS really 'America's most watched network'?
10. Likelier national champion? North Carolina / Memphis
According to its "play nice" commercial spots over the last two weekends, the Sheraton hotel chain would like you to believe that even the most bitter enemies -- Michigan and Ohio State fans, per se -- can become best pals while staying at one of its establishments, be it by an abundance of alcohol or laughing gas. It's all very endearing. However, was anyone else freaked out to see the guy with a Syracuse hoodie reach out and, without warning, wipe the ranch dressing from a Georgetown fan's mustache? Has this ever been acceptable behavior? There can't be an American male who didn't think to himself, "Wow, I don't know how I'd feel about that," upon seeing the ad. In real life, the offender would probably get cold-cocked and bouncers would put both guys in full-nelsons. I'm just sayin'.
Ty Hildenbrandt writes Campus Quick Slants every week. E-mail Ty at email@example.com with your comments, questions, and random observations.