BY PAUL DAUGHERTY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CLEVELAND - My basketball team is better than yours.
My team can't be pressed or trapped. It will not be zoned. It jumps through the roof. It will run your team into the wood. It will make you dizzy with its defense. You will have more turnovers than Dick Vitale has awesomes. You will.
We will beat you. Don't argue. It's just the way it is.
UC and Xavier both played at Gund Arena here Saturday night, against different teams, and this is what I decided: Instead of arguing the merits of each team, school and coach, which is boring and redundant and a big so-what, I created one team from two. Rather than compare them, I combined them.
We are very, very good.
My team has XU's Lenny Brown and Gary Lumpkin at guards, James Posey at small forward, Torraye Braggs at power forward and UC's Bobby Brannen at center. It has Melvin Levett first off the bench, for instant juice. It has Ruben Patterson to slice inside defenses. It has D'Juan Baker to kill zones.
It has Darnell Williams and his 15-point average, just hanging around, itching to get into the game. Ooooh.
Choosing the guards was easy. You do not break up Lumpkin and Brown, any more than you could take chili from Skyline and still claim a restaurant. Brown and Lumpkin have been together since, I think, the '20s, when they got their start running the vaudeville break.
Each can handle the ball and shoot the three. Each knows the other like George Hamilton knows a tan. Together, they're competitive with any guard duo in the country, this side of Arizona's Mike Bibby and Miles Simon.
Front line small, tough
Posey doesn't start for Skip Prosser, but he starts for me. NBA scouts know Posey is Xavier's best player. So do the people who have to guard him. Posey would play small forward like a big-winged bird, swooping in from the perimeter to attack the lane and get the other team's center in foul trouble.
This is important, because my team has no one who bumps his head on a doorway or a shower head. We don't have a pituitary case in the low post. We have Brannen, who will trade height for muscle and hard work. He'll also come away from the basket and take 12- and 15-foot jumpers, and make 86 percent of his free throws when he's fouled, which will be often.
I have muscle. Torraye Braggs has a face like a Wanted poster. He is 6-foot-8 of braided rope. He'd make a great steak.
Some suggest UC's Mel Levett gets better the longer he is in a game. Levett needs to get into a rhythm before liftoff. Maybe. But this is my team. On my team, Levett is first off the bench, to make a block or a steal and stoke the crowd.
A Final Four contingent
Ruben Patterson is best when free-lancing, so that's what he will do for me. I will send him into games and say, ''Create.'' And he will. Points, opponents foul trouble, havoc.
When Brannen and Braggs are being clogged by zones, I will send in UC's D'Juan Baker. He will shoot from far away and score. Fools will play zone against me.
Who beats my team? My team has all the answers. Kentucky doesn't beat me, even with a center like Nazr Mohammed. Mohammed might overmatch Brannen, but only until Brannen and waves of Poseys and Pattersons foul him out.
My team can run with Arizona. We have more players than Kansas, we match up well with North Carolina, whose best players are guards. We can do everything but walk the ball up, position a big goon on the low block and lob him the ball. That's OK. This is (almost) 1998, not 1968. Nobody's wearing Chuck Taylors, or shorts halfway up the thigh.
Our depth gets us to the Final Four. When you replace Posey with Patterson, fouls are not a concern. We'll win it all, because we can beat you any way you like. Muscle or hustle, jumpshots or thumpshots, hang-time or bang time. Your call.
When we win it all, Xavier and UC people will actually like each other. What a thing.
Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at (513) 768-8454.