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A Nice Distraction for the Suns: The NCAA Tournament

Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns talked March Madness with several of the Suns, who could use a good distraction (check out the poll on the side of that post -- Suns fans seem to think their team is lottery bound).

First of all, it's a minor coup to get an NBA professional like Alvin Gentry to say that another sport -- another competing entertainment product, as an NBA executive would see it -- is more exciting than the NBA. But Gentry is, thankfully, no politician, and tells Schwartz directly that the NCAA tournament is "the most exciting time there is in all of sports. I really do believe that."

(A quick aside: Having missed three picks in the first day of play -- curse you BYU, California, and Butler -- I'm already back in 98th out of 429 in the TrueHoop Tournament Challenge group. But I'm feeling good that I lucked into taking underdogs Western Kentucky and Michigan. The only problem is that those 429 people are smart, and five still have perferct records. Another 20 only missed on one game. My comeback won't be easy.)

Nearly all the stat geeks call Memphis the favorite, the vast majority of Suns polled believe North Carolina is clearly the strongest team. Both teams played yesterday, and North Carolina rolled without their star guard, while Memphis needed a huge night from bit player Roburt Sallie to beat a 15-seed. So maybe the players know something.

What I'll remember most about Memphis' tough game, however, is something really smart that John Calipari said. Ray Glier reports in The New York Times:

Sallie was not a favorite player of Calipari's early in the season and they had such serious disagreements that Calipari said Sallie should leave if he could not conform.

"I wasn't playing a lot in the beginning and I just made the decision, you can't run, you just can't give up because things are not going your way," Sallie said. "Four weeks ago is when I started coming hard every single day, getting in early, and trying to take extra shots."

Calipari said: "Our motto, 'Every player, every possession,' he wasn't used to that. He was more like, you know, a rec league. I'll play when I feel like it. It took him time to figure it out."

Every player, every possession. Perfect. If I ever coach some third-grade team or something, you can be sure they'll be hearing that all the time. After all, as a coach or a fan, what more could you ask for?