DALLAS — Can it be? After only 50,000 games and 30,000 tournaments and 20,000 trips to Hawaii and 10,000 changes in the rankings and 5,000 Sports Illustrated covers and 74,560,287 predictions by some crazy, bald-headed guy on cable television, can it be we are actually down to the last college basketball game of the season? The only one that matters?

Can it be? Two teams? Only two? No more morning flights to Oshkosh, Minn., and evening flights to Oshkosh, Ind., to see who gets eliminated, whittling down the field from massive to huge to very large to large to medium to semi-normal?

Can it be? Two teams? Only two?

No more shopping for that green and purple T-shirt, size extra-small, for the nephew of some Wyoming State Agricultural and Textile College fan who is sure his team is going to hit the big time this year?

No more listening to some pumped-up coach in an ugly sports jacket saying
“I know we only got five players and none of them is any bigger than 5-foot-11 and one of them is home right now milking the cow, but if we play with the right intensity I think we can go all the way.”

No more? Can it be? Just two teams?

Louisville and Duke?

Praise the Lord and pass the remote control.

And by tomorrow morning, there’ll be only one. The national champion. But which one? Quick. Run back to that crinkled-up office pool sheet that came out, what, about six years ago? Pick up a pen, and guide it to tonight’s winner.

Which will be Louisville. No, Duke. Uh . . .

You seem to be wavering. All you need to know Never fear. Anticipating this dilemma, I have compiled two lists, one for why Duke will win, one for why Louisville will win. I began researching these weeks and weeks ago, or whenever I got in last night, I can’t remember.

Anyhow, these lists have been carefully documented, carefully compiled, and are approved by the FDA, FCC, USDA, USFL and Nabisco. They will help you make an intelligent choice for tonight’s game. And we all know how much intelligence counts when it comes to college basketball.

Don’t we? WHY DUKE WILL WIN:

1. Why not?

2. Duke is better.

3. Duke is ranked No. 1

4. Duke of Earl.

5. Richard Nixon went to Duke.

6. Duke wears blue, same as Superman’s tights.

7. Duke Ellington. 8. Duke has only lost two games all year.

9. Duke has great guards, such as Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker, who can score at will. 10. John (Duke) Wayne. 11. Duke fans once yelled “air ball!” at Washington’s Detlef Schrempf. In German. 12. Dukes of Hazzard. 13. Duke plays great team defense. 14. You can’t beat the (Blue) Devil. 15. Duke players know their grade-point averages. WHY LOUISVILLE WILL WIN:

1. Louisville is better.

2. Louisville is ranked No. 7. No pressure.

3. Louisville wears red, same as Superman’s cape.

4. Louie, Louie.

5. Louisville has great guards such as Milt Wagner, and a super forward in Billy Thompson.

6. Louisville players can horseback ride.

7. You can pronounce Denny Crum. Which is more than you can say for Mike Krzyz . . .?

8. Louis the XIV.

9. Louisville is so fast, it outruns TV cameras. 10. You don’t bet against a Cardinal on Easter. 11. Louis Armstrong. 12. Richard Nixon never went to Louisville. 13. Louisville players know their scoring averages. 14. Louie, Hewey and Dewey. 15. Why not? The dopes with the dope

OK? There you have it. Armed with all this info, I am sure you’ll make the intelligent choice.

Of course, some people are funny. They want to know what the sports writers think. They figure with all the inside dope we have, we must know something they don’t. This is true.

I am picking Duke.

Why? Well. Don’t tell anyone. But when we were kids, my best friend had a dog named Duke, and we used to play with it all the time, until one day it got hit by a bus.

I figure the Dukes of the world are due.

You can bet with me or against me, but if you ever had a dog, you know you have no choice. Anyhow, by this time tomorrow, it’ll all be decided, college basketball will be a memory, and we can start to concentrate on something nice and short and simple and less complicated.

Like the baseball season.

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