Granted, it's impossible not to watch this fellow, Duke's Zion Williamson. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images/TNS)
Photo: Streeter Lecka/TNS
Photo: Streeter Lecka/TNS

Just trying to wade through sleaze to get to another Big Dance 

We interrupt this FBI investigation into fraud and corruption to bring you the following college basketball tournament.

It should be an interesting scene, coaches struggling to break through the spider webs of yellow police tape strung around their teams in order to work the refs.

And we assume the venues are large enough to accommodate the extra front-row seating required for all the process servers there to deliver subpoenas for the next trial (coming just weeks after the Final Four). 

Pardon the snark, but how else to process the setting for this NCAA basketball tournament? The sport just keeps planting row after row of mud, until that’s all that’s left come harvest time. Celebrating college basketball has become so very hard because simply tolerating it has become an issue.

Finding that one shining moment has become like a search for diamonds in a dumpster. But I’ll keep diving.

Which is too bad, really. March and the NCAA basketball tournament have occupied a special place on my sports calendar since before Jim Nantz’s voice changed. Maintaining excitement for these next three weeks is getting to be quite the chore (that said with full knowledge that the Final Four is headed this way in 2020).  

Sure, basketball — and all of big-time college athletics, for that matter — has been flawed forever. It has long been a race to the bottom between the lords of AAU, grasping families, the seductions of the shoe companies, assistant coaches on the make and the imperious head coaches who try not to get any of the grime on their pants cuffs. We’ve somehow worked through all that, suspending all suspicions for the three weeks of the tournament. But then we’re further challenged when the FBI gets involved in 2017, tapping phones, using muscle the NCAA never possessed, and establishing the link between agents and shoe companies in steering players to select colleges. 

So, it’s not enough that Big Shoe this season introduced its exploding model upon the feet of Duke’s Zion Williamson (I really don’t think the “Career Killer” line is going to take off). Now it has to corrupt everything else it comes into contact with.

In protest, I think I’ll watch the tournament this year in bare feet. Or break out the old Chuck Taylor Converse high tops — they never hurt anything other than your own arches.

The issues of college basketball this season, local and far-flung, have ranged from criminal (convictions of some mid-level shoe execs, plea deals by a handful of assistant coaches), to ugly (LSU coach Will Wade allegedly caught on tape talking about an offer to a recruit), to the plain ridiculous (think here Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner and his former friendship with a guy who most normal people would have spotted as trouble at “Hello”). 

Putting all that aside for the sake of a few weeks of mindless entertainment, trusting that there is surely some program out there worth temporarily adopting, is just getting harder and harder.

Sure, I’ll watch. It’s a habit. Maybe not as intently as before, though.

There’s no choice but to watch Williamson; we are powerless to turn away.  

I’ll fill out a bracket once more — just one, for the sake of keeping invested in the games, at least until the thing goes up in flames (and I already smell the smoke). 

Well, there is that other, alternate bracket I’m working on. The one built on the revelations to come, and the repercussions that surely must follow. In that one, I have Arizona’s Sean Miller as the first coach out. 

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About the Author

Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.
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