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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

'What ifs' linger over NCAA tourney

We were almost Pitsnoggled. \nThe Final Four came oh so close to having perhaps the most talented 6-foot-11-inch shooter to ever play in the tourney. The tall, goatee sporting, tattoo-laden Kevin Pittsnogle looks like he's straight out of the trailer park, but his play this tournament was flat out Hollywood -- just like the road that took him there. \nThe script read like the classic underdog story. Looking more like a high school team with the head coach's son on the squad, no flashy players or incredible athletes, the West Virginia Mountaineers barely eked their way into the NCAA Tournament after a solid run in the Big East conference tourney. They beat Creighton in the first round, survived a double-overtime thriller against No. 2-ranked Wake Forest and defeated Texas Tech in the Sweet Sixteen. \nTheir unconventional one-three-one zone stifled and confused teams. Their offense looked eerily familiar to Bill Carmody's Northwestern and Princeton teams. You won't find a Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Sean May or Rashad McCants on this team -- just the coach's son, some guy from Germany named Johannes Herber (rhymes with Care Bear) and yes, Pittsnogle. \nHe's the only home-state kid on the roster. Near the end of the movie, the Martinsburg-native, who didn't even start for his Mountaineers until February, rained three after three against a coach, Rick Pitino, on the verge of getting his third different team to the Final Four. \nPittsnogle's stellar play gave West Virginia a shot at its first Final Four berth since 1959. But just as the audience thought this group of nobodies were about to become somebodys, the dream died, and the screen faded to black.\nNo happy ending, just a lot of disappointment. Somehow even after the team made 18 three-point shots, the Mountaineers lost. Somehow after Louisville's Francisco Garcia fouled out with 4:02 left in regulation, the Cardinals pulled it out in overtime. \nBut what if?\nWhat if West Virginia beat Louisville? Could the Mountaineers have cut down the nets in St. Louis? Probably not -- but watching them try to win it all sure would have been fun.\nPerhaps they call it March Madness not because of all the excitement created in just a few short weeks, but because for 63 teams and their thousands of fans (64 counting the loser of the play-in game), that's how they leave the court -- mad. Mad about the what ifs.\nWith just a minor tweak of one play, a loser can become a winner. What if he would have missed that shot? What if he would have made that free throw? \nBut in college basketball, there's no game seven. It's one and done for everyone -- the players, their fans and the school they represent. \nBut "what ifs" in the tourney come like legos -- in all shapes in sizes. All it takes is a string of wins, and someone's life is forever altered. All it takes is one loss, and people begin to wonder what could have been. What if Bruce Pearl and his University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers didn't make it to the Sweet Sixteen? Would he still have been offered and taken the job at Tennessee?\nWhat if Kansas beat Bucknell and met its former coach, Roy Williams, and the Tar Heels in the Elite Eight? What if three Big Ten teams made it to the Final Four after everyone said the league was down?\nWe'll never know. \nBut the answer to at least one more "what if" scenario still looms over this tournament. What if the so-called two best teams, North Carolina and Illinois, played each other in the championship game? Monday night might settle that question for college basketball enthusiasts everywhere.

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