North Carolina, Gonzaga doing it the right way

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I must admit this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament has left me a little flat.

There have been some really great games, a few dramatic finishes, but overall the 2016-17 version of March Madness has lacked a Cinderella story.

That is unless you consider Monday night’s finalists — North Carolina and Gonzaga — great stories.

While Gonzaga playing in its first national championship game may wow most people, that is not the reason I made the previous statement.

North Carolina is a perennial powerhouse that is playing in its second straight title games so some of you may be baffled as to why I think they are a great story as well.

That is because neither has to do with the number of times they have reached the Final Four or even the title game.

No, these two universities are great stories because in a day and age of rent-a-players or one-and-done kids, these two schools get players to stick around for three and four years.

That is what college sports are supposed to be all about.

These are not farm teams for the National Basketball Association.

But in recent years, players made a brief stop in college before bolting for the NBA and other professional basketball leagues.

For me personally, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

I would love to see kids stick around a minimum of three years to see them develop in the systems they play in and to improve the game of basketball overall.

If a player is good enough to leave after one year of college and be a high-draft pick, then do us all a favor and skip the process of pretending you care about the school you are attending, the classes you probably are not really even going to and that your teammates are “like family.”

Those who really pay attention to sports and are not just “fans” of those particular teams, realize that is just a lie.

There were five seniors and four juniors on the Tar Heels’ 15-man roster for the championship game and most of them have played a key role in the success of North Carolina this season.

While Gonzaga has just three seniors on its 2016-17 roster, there are five juniors and a pair of red-shirt sophomores.

Like the Tar Heels, those upperclassmen have all played a role in the Bulldogs’ 37-1 record.

I always enjoy when a player “sticks” around for his senior year because they love the college experience.

Some do it by choice, while some still have developing to do and are not ready to take a shot at the next level.

Players like Peyton Manning made the right choice to stay that extra year, but there are so many tragic stories about players who have entered the NBA draft and never make any kind of impact at the next level.

So Monday night as I was watching the NCAA championship without a dog in the hunt, I took the time to enjoy the fact that North Carolina and Gonzaga are doing things the right way and keeping their players.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at