Our Descent Into March Madness
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon. Time for sports.
Madness, I tell you, sheer madness. March Madness up ahead. Melo-madness is here so we've loosened the straps on the straightjacket of NPR's Tom Goldman, who joins us. Good morning, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: You know, this weekend - usually when you mention big college basketball games, you might think Duke, Carolina, Texas, Kansas, right? Arizona, UCLA...
SIMON: ...but this weekend's top game is Brigham Young, the university in Utah - not the guy - Brigham Young versus San Diego State.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: I know it was a good - that wasnt a bad ad lib.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: So how did the...
SIMON: How did these two teams from a conference that is not considered a basketball power become the game to watch, and perhaps the two teams to watch this year?
GOLDMAN: Well, they're really good. BYU is ranked Number 7th in the nation in the AP poll, San Diego State Number 6 in the AP, Number 4 in another poll. You know, in a season when no men's college basketball team is showing utter dominance, why not believe that these teams could go far in the NCAA Tournament next month?
Now, the game on CBS today reportedly is first time two Mountain West Conference teams in any sport is being televised live, by an over the air network. And, you know, it's quite a big deal. And not to needlessly ootz the BCS, Scott - the college football's post-season event - but one thinks about how another Mountain West team, undefeated TCU, was left out of last season's championship football game because, of course, there's no playoff in college football.
Of course, thats not the case in men's basketball. BYU, San Diego State will get their shot to represent the Mountain West and may be at the mountain top.
SIMON: Yeah, oh-ho. Oh, oh.
GOLDMAN: Oh-ho-ho, how about that?
SIMON: All right, thats not a bad one. Jimmer Fredette scored 43 points last time they met. San Diego can change that now?
GOLDMAN: Tough to do. You know, after that 43-point performance, NBA star, Kevin Durant - who's pretty good offensively himself - he tweeted: Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the world. And last year, Fredette scored 33 points against San Diego State even when he had strep throat and mono.
But San Diego State has a very tough defensive team. In fact, defense is the Aztec's specialty. Plus, they're playing the game at the Aztec's Viejas Arena. It will be rocking because Aztec fans are treating this like the biggest game ever.
SIMON: Big NBA news this week, of course. Carmelo Anthony and some Denver Nuggets went to the New York Knicks, in exchange for four players - some draft picks, and I think Croatia's gross national product.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: But, you know, they still couldnt beat the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers last night, could they?
GOLDMAN: I love that. Thats so funny.
SIMON: That aside, does this readdress the east-west balance of power in the NBA?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, yes, Carmelo's in New York, Darron Williams in New Jersey. That certainly sends some top dogs to the east. You got those guys in Miami, of course, those big three. But, you know, Boston sending Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City - people are still scratching their heads about that and say that that may weaken the best team in the east, Boston.
San Antonio is still considered the best team in the NBA right now. The Lakers are the two-time defending champs. So the west isnt forgotten by any stretch.
SIMON: And there seems to be some concern - I've read this in a few places -within the NBA, that they might be becoming the league of half a dozen major market teams. You know, the ones in New York, Chicago, L.A., Boston and Miami, leaving the rest of the league as kind of a minor league franchises that just feed talent to the major teams.
GOLDMAN: Uh-huh. ell, concern I think is too strong a term. In fact, it is -an NBA official told me that. But is the NBA aware? Yes. And is the NBA monitoring this? Yes. Stars mean a lot more in the NBA because they can directly affect the outcome of games, more so than stars in the NFL and Major League Baseball. So the NBA is aware that too many of these guys in a few places could make this league, you know, as you say, a league of haves and have-nots.
That NBA official told me yesterday, the league would like to be more NFL-ish, as he said - more parity, more fans truly believing their team has an honest shot at winning the title. And so, the NBA has some ideas floating around how to limit the clumping of stars. And those ideas may pop up in upcoming labor negotiations.
SIMON: Sad event this morning, too; funeral services in Chicago for former NFL safety Dave Duerson. Wonderful career, of course, played on the '85 Super Bowl champion, Bears, and then later, Super Bowl team for the Giants.
He shot himself to death in the chest February 17th. Dave Duerson was 50, smart, delightful. He left a note asking his brain be examined for possible damage during his playing days. This could have real repercussions.
GOLDMAN: Well, it could. And, you know, there are still coulds and perhapses surrounding this story. You know, he said, reportedly he texted his family that he wants his brain to be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE. It's a brain disease linked to depression and suicide. Some football players, retirees have shown this. We still don't know about Duerson; if this is another case and if it's football related. But, yes, this issue were told is part of current labor negotiations between the NFL and its players union.
SIMON: Yeah. We should note he also unfortunately had a lot of financial problems and personal problems, too, so.
NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: Youre welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.