Thank God Saturday is just one day away. It’s not that I won’t enjoy watching LSU and Alabama throw haymakers at each other for 60 minutes in an atmosphere that will probably be teetering on the edge of dangerous. But I’m just tired of hearing about it. This has been going on for two weeks, and last night I saw a program on ESPN analyzing what color rugs and chairs the opposing coaches had set up in their offices. What part of the game is that? “Saban has some hard crimson coloring all over his office. He’s really into the game. His intensity is sky high!” I nearly broke my television. But cut out all of the extracurricular activity, and we have a game – halfway through the season – that has a chance to determine the national champ. These are probably the two best teams in the nation, and the loser of this one might have to get lucky to inch their way into the National Championship Game.
It always feels empty when a season ends on a down note. By down note, I mean that the final game (or series) doesn’t live up to its expectations. And by expectations, I mean the two best teams don’t face off. It could be injuries or a bad matchup or chemistry issues that cause the problem. Sometimes, it just comes down to two teams being in the same division or conference, like LSU and Alabama. So far, I haven’t seen any BCS teams better than these two, and yet we may not get to see them for the ultimate chip.
It’s happened plenty of times in basketball as well, the most famous of which might be the 2002 Western Conference Finals. The East was so sorry that year – and the West’s two best teams were so evenly matched – that the NBA and the fans weren’t even trying to hide it: the WCF were the Finals, and whatever team survived that bloodbath would win the whole thing quite easily. For once, we were all right. Here are the other instances in NBA history where the Finals just didn’t quite have it.
2007 Western Conference Semis
You know the details: Robert Horry comes through with another season-saver, this time not a shot but a body check of Steve Nash. The Spurs weren’t tested the rest of the way. These were the two best teams.
2003 Western Conference Finals
If Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t sprain his knee, Dallas might’ve won the whole thing. They stole Game 1 with Nowitzki, but then won Game 5 and then should’ve won Game 6 (outscored 34-9 in the fourth quarter) even without him. The Nets weren’t scaring anyone in the Finals.
2000 Western Conference Finals
Indiana really had no chance against either one of these teams.
1995 Western Conference Finals
At the time, everyone took Orlando serious. They had beaten the Bulls and had two of the game’s best young players. Looking back, the WCF were really where the title was decided.
1993 Eastern Conference Finals
The media and fans argued all year that New York was the best team. If Charles Smith could’ve made a layup, Pat Ewing might have a ring right now.
1981 Eastern Conference Finals
Philly went up 3-1 with players like Dr. J, Andrew Toney and Mo Cheeks and yet still somehow blew it to the team that went on to win it all.
1977 Western Conference Finals
When the Blazers hit their stride in the second half of the season, no one was better. The Lakers had the best record in the league and got swept in the WCF. By that point, the Finals were a foregone conclusion.
1975 Eastern Conference Finals
These were the two best teams in the league all season long, and yet when the Bullets went to the Finals, Golden State swept them (so I’m not sure this one belongs on the list). How does that happen?
1973 Eastern Conference Finals
A seven-game series? A two OT game? Another game decided by one point? The Lakers had no chance against either of these teams in the Finals.
1972 Western Conference Finals
The two Western Conference powers combined for 132 wins while just one team in the East finished with more than 48 wins. There was no reason to believe the Finals would be more than a coronation for the West champs.
1968 Eastern Division Finals
With Wilt against Russell in a Game 7, and the Celtics emerging from a 3-1 series deficit to win, the Lakers weren’t going to be more than a speed bump in the Finals.
1964 Eastern Division Finals
The team Boston beat in the Finals – San Francisco – was okay (outside of Wilt, they were pretty average compared to these two). But they weren’t on the level of these juggernauts, who were both led by two of the top-10 players ever: Russell and Oscar Robertson.
1951 Western Division Finals
The Knicks took Rochester to seven games in the Finals, but if you go by the numbers, these were the two most dominant teams all year.
Who’s winning tomorrow: LSU or Alabama?
Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.