There are some years in college basketball where you simply tip your cap and admit another team will win the national title. As a Memphis fan, it is deeply painful for me to say this before Memphis even tips their season. Especially these two teams. Kansas because….ugh…and Duke because…dammit…Duke. If it wasn’t apparent by the time Parker and Wiggins got to college, if any person had any doubt about the “hype,” there is no reason to dispute it now. Kansas and Duke are so much more talented, so much more skilled even at this early stage than any other college team can be expected to be in a given year, that it’s clear they will meet for the national title.
Jabari Parker is the closest we’ll ever get to understanding what would have transpired had LeBron gone to college. He’s not as explosive, but far, far more skilled than LeBron was as an NBA rookie, even if only by virtue of his effortless outside shooting stroke. All you have to do is realize that no college kid should be able to do what Parker did with about 4:30 left in the first half. Steal guarding on the post on one end, coast to coast, Euro step/jump stop hybrid against 2 defenders, double pump…layup. Wiggins’ smooth lightning spin move is a close second in terms of preternatural skill at this age. Duke and Kansas are already playing at a level that the Anthony Davis Kentucky team was at mid-season, when I realized they were head and shoulders above their competition. This will be reminiscent of the 2007-2008 season, where Memphis, Kansas, UCLA, and North Carolina were so obviously the best teams that it was a relief they all made it to the Final Four
And here’s the part that hurts more than praising a Duke player. If I had to call it, I would say Kansas beats Duke in the national title game. Wiggins, Embiid, Selden, combined with experienced players like Perry Ellis (and yes, I see you Tarik Black….smh), are already so polished, and will be so much more so by the end of the year (with Embiid breaking out as a force) that as a unit they will be superior. Parker, however, is the best player in college basketball since Kevin Durant. He has more help than Durant, but not as much help as Wiggins. I swear, if the committee messes up and puts these two teams on the same side of the bracket.
I will root for my Memphis Tigers with barely contained insanity as usual. But I can’t ignore my eyes. It’s just one of those years. Let’s all enjoy it, at least. Dammit.
(*Universal caveat: Barring injury, of course. As a college basketball fan, I hope like crazy this season isn’t marred by it. It’s too special this year.)