Mac Engel

Abilene Christian will slay John Calipari and his merry band of NBA bums from Kentucky

College basketball is full of wire taps, frauds and indictments so it’s only appropriate that a Christian school from West Texas is here to save the NCAA Tournament.

And after mighty Abilene Christian slays John Calipari and his merry band of NBA bums from Kentucky, America will know and acknowledge the fighting Christians are the best team not just in West Texas, but all of Texas. Maybe America.

So what if Texas Tech defeated ACU by 34 points? That was last year.

Take heed you obnoxious followers from Kentucky, ACU is coming to get you, Cal’ and Ashley Judd, too.

Kentucky is a 21.5 point favorite to defeat ACU on Thursday night in the “second” round of the NCAA Tourney, but ignore those idiots who set the betting lines. UK is done. Coach Cal has never seen a squad like ACU ... with the possible exception of the NCAA investigators.

Abilene Christian is the best story of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. It has been eligible for this tourney for only two years, features an enrollment of about 3,600, a coach who buys his suits off the rack on game days, and a basketball team that kicked off two starters earlier this year because they violated some rules that would apply to ACU only.

ACU is the reason why we love this Tourney, and why the first Thursday/Friday of the NCAAs are the best two days on the sports calendar. Thursday/Friday of this week are one of the last places when David out of the SWAC is on a neutral floor with Goliath from the ACC.

Most of the achievements and championships won in 2019 will fade - you probably can’t remember who won the title in 2018 - but you will never forget the true NCAA upset. I’m not talking about a Ohio State over Washington.

I’m talking ACU over Kentucky. Or 16-seed Maryland-Baltimore County blowing out top seed Virginia. Mercer over Duke. Brand-conscious Bradley over Kansas. Norfolk State beating Missouri. Coppin State defeating Iowa State.

The suspense of the last 16 minutes of the NCAA Tourney upset is one of the few communal experiences in sports; it’s not just shared in the arena, but all over America. The payoff is watching a bunch of kids celebrating something they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

We celebrate a good dynasty, but we love The Upset. The Upset is the soul of the NCAA Tournament. Once the Tourney goes all in on a Power 5 invitational, this unintentional genius and charm of our favorite bracket is dead.

Do away with the mid majors and the little bi-directional schools, and you have the BCS. You have just an NBA Finals, which is essentially a scaled down Final Four: Big Money School versus Big Money School.

Stories lure us into sports, and Abilene Christian is the best of stories.

THE CHARM OF ABILENE CHRISTIAN

On Monday morning in Moody Coliseum in Abilene, during the school’s morning chapel session, both the men and women’s basketball teams brought their Southland Conference tourney trophies to the arena to celebrate with the few thousand in attendance. Both teams made their respective NCAA Tournaments.

“It was really a celebratory scene,” said the team’s long time play-by-play radio voice, Grant Boone, an ACU grad’. “You have to remember, ACU is only about 5,000. Total. That’s everybody. If everybody doesn’t know everybody, we are familiar with everybody. And everybody was there. There really is no off campus living here, so the players are not just seen two hours a night, 31 nights a year. They go to class with everyone.”

Remember, these teams have only been eligible to make the tourney for the last two years; when ACU made the jump to Division I, the first two years it was not eligible for postseason. Only this year and last were the Wildcats eligible.

When it comes to the history and tradition of ACU men’s basketball, most of it can be printed on one page. Triple spaced. 18-point type. Until a few years ago, ACU basketball was basically a Division II, or NAIA, member.

“We were one of the worst Division II basketball teams by any metric eight years ago when (coach) Joe Golding took over,” Boone said. “There was just no investment in it. We had a starting center who was 6-foot-5. We had the lowest budget in the Lone Star Conference. And for us to be here now, to play the bluest of the blue bloods in the NCAA Tournament, I can’t wrap my head around it.”

Enjoy it.

All of it.

Outside of Kentucky, everyone will be pulling for ACU to provide the upset that will make us briefly forget about the wire taps, frauds and indictments.

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