Some folks really don't like the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" game. But it's impossible to look back on the most recent college basketball season, especially the wondrous 2010 NCAA Tournament (which had enough storylines to fill three novels), and not ponder the full stream of what-ifs.
Like, what if Northern Iowa's Ali Farokkmanesh hadn't taken, or made, that audacious 3-pointer that helped sink Kansas? Or what if Syracuse's Arinze Onuaku, or Michigan State's Kalin Lucas, or Purdue's Robbie Hummel, had not been sidelined by injuries?
And most of all, what if Gordon Hayward's heave near halfcourt, at the end of the championship game between Butler and Duke, gone through the net, instead of off the rim?
Safe to say, Hayward would become immortal, Bobby Plump times 100. All the other memorable buzzer-beaters in the history of the Dance (yes, even Christian Laettner) would have faded into background. And the great Mike Krzyzewski would have taken a historic flogging for having Brian Zoubek intentionally miss the free throw that led to the memorable final sequence.
So much history turned on those couple of inches that separated the rim from the net. It's difficult to imagine that 2010-11 will end up as exciting - after all, there isn't any highly regarded mid-major based anywhere near Houston, site of this year's Final Four.
Oh, but there's still a whole lot of tasty storylines to ponder in the four-plus months ahead.
We start where we ended last year, the Dookies on top. This time, though, the Blue Devils are a clear favorite, returning Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith and adding a point guard, Kyrie Irving, which Coach K is Bobby Hurley-wild about. And that means we'll hear about him, a lot.
Michigan State is the other obvious favorite. Lucas is back, and so is Durrell Summers, and so is Delvon Roe and Korie Lucious and Draymond Green. Most of all, Tom Izzo did not take those fat NBA dollars. You simply can't imagine him anywhere else but East Lansing.