With very little doubt in my mind, I can strongly say that this is the best March Madness that I’ve ever watched.
I doubt you know a single person who picked a Final Four of Butler, Michigan State, West Virginia and Duke.
And I doubt you’ve seen very many NCAA tournament games that can match the thrill and excitement that Kansas State-Xavier provided Thursday evening.
As everyone knows, the USC men’s basketball team didn’t get a chance to participate in this year’s tournament.
USC probably wouldn’t have made the tournament even if it hadn’t been under self-declared sanctions that banned it from playing beyond the regular season, but as last season proved, anything can happen in the Pac-10 tournament.
The Trojans won the 2009 Pac-10 championship and rode a hot streak into the NCAA tournament that was exhilarating for any Trojans fan to watch.
But this season, USC never had the chance to recapture any of its Pac-10 tournament magic.
And truly, even if they had found a way to sneak into the NCAA tournament, it is hard to tell just how far a team that had an up-and-down season would have gone.
But, just for a second, imagine a perfect Trojans’ basketball world, in which USC is home to one of the best teams in the country and has the best starting five the Galen Center has ever seen.
It would look something like this: at point guard, senior Daniel Hackett; at shooting guard, junior O.J. Mayo; at small forward, sophomore DeMar DeRozan; at power forward, junior Davon Jefferson; and at center, senior Taj Gibson.
Those are the best five USC men’s basketball players that I have seen grace the Galen Center court in my tenure here at USC, which will sadly come to an end in May.
This year, technically, they’d all still have eligibility to play for the Trojans, if, in that perfect Trojans’ basketball world, they all decided to stay in college and not opt early for the NBA.
And what a team it would have been.
That bunch would likely have been one of the best starting fives in the country this year if they had stayed.
Now, I know those days are long gone. Long gone.
But, for a second, just imagine that lineup on the basketball court this year.
Imagine that team playing in March Madness, off-court scandals aside.
Imagine those guys’ hoisting a championship trophy at the NCAA tournament’s end.
Now, wipe the drool away from your mouth because it’s not reality.
I understand that athletes have every right to spend one or two years in college and then jump to the NBA to make millions of dollars, but it doesn’t mean I have to like the idea, especially when it comes at the expense of a potentially fantastic USC squad.
If I were NBA Commissioner David Stern, I would try to set up a system where a player could earn more money in the draft based on how many years he stayed in college. The longer a player stayed in the NCAA, the more money he could earn on draft day.
That might give players more incentive to stay in college and allow mediocre programs like USC a chance to actually build a team rather than be susceptible to the one-and-done stars like Mayo and DeRozan.
That team above could have been the best in USC history, filling up the Galen Center night after night.
If you didn’t make it out to any basketball games this season — which wouldn’t be all that surprising — you wouldn’t have been seen that the Galen Center was anything but packed during games. It’s a beautiful arena that could have been the home of an incredible team.
It just wasn’t meant to be.
But hey, a Trojans fan can dream of a USC dream team, can’t he?
“Soft Hands” runs on Tuesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.