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Three Teams To Respect, One To Disdain

The fight for the Final Four has really been pretty impressive: only UNC ran away from their opponent, beating Oklahoma easily, 72-60.  Michigan State beat Louisville 64-52, but much of that came later in the game.  UConn was lucky to beat Mizzou, and of course the Villanova win over Pitt was a classic.

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If you want what CBS is going to push in Detroit, though, isn't it obvious?  And also compelling? Michigan State will be playing at home with the heart of that state's economy imploding as the auto industry staggers.   The Spartans will be asked to offer an urgency and relevance that no one else will be asked to match.

They were magnificent against Louisville, of course, with their traditional formula for success:  tough-nosed defense, efficient offense, and pounding the boards.  They're an immensely admirable program, and they carry the hopes of their state like no one else.  It's hard to pull against them.

Villanova, too, has been magnificent in this tournament, and you'd have to be blind and pigheaded to not acknowledge the near-greatness they have already achieved. They're a superb team.

UNC has overcome a great deal this season and deserves respect for doing that.  They're not our choices, but they do deserve immense respect for their grittiness. Finally, after four years, they are taking on Tyler Hansbrough's personality.  On-court anyway.

And then there's UConn.  How to put this...UConn at times plays superb basketball.  They're smart, they're fast, they shoot well, they're sound in almost every area.  And yet they've been dislikable for some time.

They beat Duke in 1999, of course, and knocked Duke out again in 2004. Losing isn't the worst thing in the world.  Duke's had tremendous games with Michigan, for instance, for years. There's still respect there.  But with UConn? Not so much.

It began when UConn coach Jim Calhoun, instead of celebrating his own team's win, bragged that UConn had "kicked some ass and broken some hearts" or words to that effect.  It was kind of a stupid thing to say, and not particularly good sportsmanship, but that's who he is.  He's a tremendous coach.  He's also cranky, obnoxious, and prone to shoot off his mouth at times when he could just as easily shut up.  That whole deal with the overreaction to the reporter who was questioning his salary - it was a setup, but his reaction was perfectly in character.

Then of course there were the hints that not all was right at UConn.  First it was the off-court behavior of Khalid El-Amin, who was busted for marijuana.  Former Huskie Doug Wrenn was arrested for shoplifting. Then assistant Clyde Vaughan was arrested for solicitation and Antonio Kellogg for marijuana. Then of course there was the recruitment of Rudy Gay, with what amounted to a legal bribe to his AAU team, and LaptopGate, which saw former star Marcus Williams and current point A.J. Price arrested after stealing and fencing laptops from other students.

Did they get a break?  Sure seemed like it.

Then there was the hilarious overbuying of NCAA rings, with one even going to the governor, and the deal where UConn athletic department officials were trading tickets for cars.  It more or less amounted to scalping.

And now the latest, where we learn that a former student manager turned agent has allegedly been steering players to Storrs, allegedly paying for surgeries.

What UConn has done on the court has frequently been magnificent.  But what they've done off of it has frequently stunk.  It's very hard to find anything admirable about them at this point.  The current investigation will uncover whatever it uncovers, but at this point, after everything else that's gone on, UConn's reputation is shot.