The Raf Report

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By Raf Czarnecki

After an eventful All-Star weekend in Philadelphia, I’m glad to be back home. Sure, hanging out with huge movie stars, famous musicians and tall athletes who make a million dollars every other hour had its moments, but enough was enough.

Spending half a day showing Jason Richardson how to do go about winning a slam dunk contest was frustrating. Repeatedly informing Will Smith that I didn’t have time to appear in his “hit” movies got a little old. Killing off the rumors that Justin Timberlake’s girlfriend was seen leaving my hotel room called for too much explaining. A night on the town with Jermaine Dupri’s posse, well, that will be left out to keep the professionalism of this chronicle in tact.

Overall, All-Star Weekend gave me a chance to get away from the aggravation of tiresome classes and homework and begin to concentrate on the finer things in life. It was worth the price of admission to view 60-year-old Michael Jordan and the new best player in the world, Kobe Bryant, compete. Watching the Jordan-Bryant show was like witnessing a changing of the guard. My boys Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett “breakin’ fools” (can you tell that the East coast lingo is still in my vocabulary?) highlighted the next generation of ballers taking center stage. The All-Star festivities also reminded me that a basketball column was due, but until the playoffs begin, the NBA takes a back seat to college in the battle of hoops coverage.

the college life …

Heading down the home stretch in this wide-open race known as the college basketball season, there are a few questions waiting to be answered. Do the weekly North Carolina debacles seem humorous and is CBS’s widescreen format necessary were not the questions to which I was referring (yes and yes are the answers to the last two inquiries, if you’re keeping track at home). I will, however, take a closer look at five of the more popular questions floating around the college basketball world.

1 – Which teams are Final Four-bound? If only I knew. Everybody is vulnerable, even the kids from Duke. To make some noise come tournament time, you usually need NBA-caliber talent and a little bit of luck, but this year’s finalists could rely more on luck than ever. To casually answer the question at hand: Parity rules, so don’t be surprised if only one current top five team makes it to Atlanta come Final Four time.

2 – Who is overrated? The truth hurts — just about half of the Top 25. A few teams that stick out are Cincinnati, Virginia, Arizona and Texas Tech. Cincinnati is an athletic, defensive-minded bunch with only a single player who can score 20 points a night in Steve Logan. The DMX clone’s bite is as strong as his bark, but Logan’s Bearcats will be fortunate making it to the round of 16. Virginia can’t win a televised game and Arizona’s second best player is Luke Walton — ouch. A Bob Knight-coached team hasn’t reached past the second round of the NCAA tournament in a decade, and the streak will continue in 2002.

3 – Several suitable candidates, but who’s coach of the year? Nice segue from ex-Indiana assault artist, I mean coach, to the present head man for the Hoosiers, coach Mike Davis. Although the Big 10 is weak this year, Indiana has no business leading the pack. Davis has done a remarkable job turning around the Indiana program into a contender in his second year on the job. He won’t win the award, but he’s impressed one big-time sports reporter.

4 – Gonzaga, are they for real? Yes, I mean no, I mean … Not as talented as the last three Gonzaga teams, but getting more respect will lead to a possible #3 seed in the tourney. The tables may turn, though, and the fan favorite Zags are looking like a first-round casualty waiting to happen.

5 – “Is this gonna be cool or what?” Most likely, and the clock is ticking. Only 31 days until the madness begins. Are you ready?

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