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March Badness: Starless NCAAs no longer must-see event

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Kansas Jayhawks guard Lagerald Vick (2) fouls Michigan State Spartans guard Alvin Ellis III (3) as Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) defends in the second half during a second round NCAA men's basketball tournament game on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. The Jayhawks beat Michigan State 90-70. (Shane Keyser/Kansas City Star/TNS)
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Quick — name 10 jaw-droppin’, gotta-see players in the NCAA Basketball Tournament …

Well, how ‘bout five then? Um, three?

Waiting. Still waiting …

OK, girls and boys, now you know why the NCAA Tournament is the most o-ver-rat-ed event in sports today.

Oh, the Big Dance has its rare moments, all right. So does the national college paintball tournament. (Balls kids you not.) Play 67 games and you’re bound to have a buzzer-beater or two, not to mention the obligatory crocodile tears.

Fact is, March Badness would be sooooo much better with 32 or even 16 teams. Remove the South Dakota A&Ts and North Central New Hampshire States, and no more than a dozen teams or so have legit opportunity for that one shining moment. History tells us that a No. 1, 2 or 3 seed wins nearly nine of every 10 tournaments.

Pure and simple, the one-and-done rule has turned the NCAAs into something akin to an elite high school tournament. And it hasn’t done much to improve the NBA product, either, because it takes a man to play a man’s game.

The best players make for the best competition. Know who the most talented 21-and-unders are right now? Devin Booker, Aaron Gordon, Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Karl Anthony-Towns, Miles Turner, Andrew Wiggins and Justise Winslow. All turned pro after their freshman season.

Imagine how much better the NCAAs would be with even half of them still around. Imagine how much better their teams could be as well.

It takes a couple years to build a special team. But more than ever, if a kid with NBA potential stays in college more than a year, something must be wrong with him. That leaves a bunch of 18-year-olds to jack up bad shot after bad shot, make bad turnover after bad turnover. Teams struggle to score a point a minute in some games, for goshsakes.

Big Dance? No, Super Sock Hop is more like it.

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REST OF THE STORY: It would be a lot easier to get excited about the tournament if Cal, Stanford and USF had advanced to the Final Four even once in the last 57 years.

WERE HAVE YOU GONE . .: Randy Duck, Alfred Grigsby and Tony Gonzalez?

GET WHAT YOU NEED: On Monday, the Thunder and Warriors will meet for probably the final time this season, and it’s safe to say Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have gotten what they wanted when K.D. left Oklahoma City as a free agent last summer.

Most of all, Durant wanted the opportunity to play for an NBA championship contender. As the owners of the best record in the league, the Warriors are the obvious favorites if healthy. Durant has taken his game to yet another level, especially at the defensive end, which rarely happens when a superstar moves from one team to another.

Westbrook has been afforded the freedom to do whatever he pleases, when he pleases. Mr. Big Shot is on pace to become the first player in five decades to average a triple-double in one season. Although he won’t admit it publicly, that overhyped feat means as much to him as wins and losses.

Only TNT hot air balloon Charles Barkley and a few other sore losers are unhappy about the way the whole thing has played out so far.

O, JEALOUS HEART: Westbrook and Stephen Curry will take their feud to the court, although Balls doubts that it can be called that when one party ignores the other.

Curry recently said that James Harden was his Most Valuable Player pick this season. Harden leads the league in win shares, which are a lot more important than triple-doubles. Durant also ranks ahead of Westbrook even though he has sat out the last 10 games.

When told about the remark, the whiny Westbrook replied, “I don’t care. It don’t matter what he say. Who’s he?”

Other than a two-time MVP and one-time NBA champion, something Westbrook will never be, Curry isn’t much.

“I try to stay away from Twitter social media interview wars,” Curry said. “Don’t do anything or me.”

If Curry isn’t careful, Westbrook is gonna do something really hurtful. Like throw a pillow at him.

OKERT IS A-OK: The Giants shelled out $62 million for Mark Melancon to close out games this season, but if he doesn’t have someone to ride shotgun, but he won’t save their bullpen alone.

Could Steven Okert become that guy sooner than later?

According to Balls’ spies in Arizona, Okert has thrown the heck out the ball this spring — three baserunners and one unearned run in five innings. True, Cactus League statistics don’t mean diddly poo. Except that the 25-year-old southpaw also was better than good last September, when he allowed one run in nine appearances after his promotion from the minor leagues.

Okert made one mistake against the San Diego Padres and it was a biggie. Ryan Schimpf took him deep with two on and two outs in the ninth inning of another torturous loss. That might have been the reason that the fourth-round draft pick was left off the postseason roster.

Who knows? If Okert had been available to face lefty Anthony Rizzo and switch-hitter Ben Zobrist in Game 5 of the NLCS, the Chicago Cubs might not have wiped out a 5-2 deficit in the ninth inning.

Would be kinda nice to have a shut-down lefty with closer stuff to set the table next time, ya think?

YOUR TURN: “Now Colin Kaepernick is supplying food to the country of Somalia. Commendable yet safe. So does he hope that this will change his image? Does he hope that some team will come ringing his doorbell? As an athlete, he still has talent. As a person, he still has a bunch of growing up to do. If he wants to change his image, what about those starving in this country? What about helping veterans that are suffering? Why not show yourself to those in this country?” — Bob Novak, Michigan

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

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