Last year, when discussing Talent vs. Magic, I sided emphatically with talent.
When magic runs into talent, talent usually wins. Magic does occasionally win, which is why we still can see clips of Jimmy Valvano running around trying to hug someone. Or why Fresno State has a national title. But usually, the juggernaut stomps the upstart into dust.
Well, now the shoe is on the other foot. LSU had all of the talent last year and they looked every bit like Goliath on their way to the national title. Magic showed up, but talent won out. And last year's team was one of the very best LSU teams I have ever seen, and I've never been more confident in a team.
This year's team? Not so much. They wear the same uniforms and there are many of the same faces, but this team has been maddeningly inconsistent. LSU went from #5 in the country to a bubble team to SEC tourney champs. Your guess is as good as mine. It would not surprise me if LSU goes two and Q, makes it to Omaha without losing a game, or anything in between.
But let's not play make believe: UCLA is the better team. The Bruins can start four different pitchers with an ERA below three, and they still have a bullpen ace sitting in the pen. Unlike most pitching and defense teams, UCLA can score runs in bunches and they do not give away outs like the typical west coast team. They are a terrific team, playing at home. That's a lethal combination.
UCLA should win. Talent usually does. But maybe we got ourselves a little magic and Mainieri can dust off his Jimmy Valvano impression. We have to hope this is one of those occasional times that magic wins.