I feel sorry for forwards who play in the NCAA Tournament.
Nobody talks about forwards.
Analysts from sea to shining sea talk about the importance of guard play, and with good reason. You have to have quality guards to go far in the NCAA Tournament. You can look it up.
Centers, too, are such a key component for successful March (and early April) runs. What college coach out there doesn't dream of finding that next great 7-footer who has the hands of a sculptor, the feet of Baryshnikov and the demeanor of a Brahma bull?
Guards and centers get tons of respect. Forwards, not so much. And it bothers me.
That said, I'm here today to write about guards — the best guards in NCAA Tournament history. They're the real difference-makers, after all.
Guards have the ball in their hands. And the very best do magical things with it.
In fact, one of the guards you're going to read about here was nicknamed "Magic.''
Sorry, forwards, your day will come.
For now, here are 20 guards (alphabetically) who made their mark in the NCAA Tournament:
Lucius Allen, UCLA — Kansas' own — he's from Wyandotte — had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Bruins in the 1967 championship against Dayton and scored 11 points in the '68 championship win over North Carolina.
Austin Carr, Notre Dame — In seven tournament games from 1969-71, Carr averaged an incredible 41.3 points. His 61 points in a first-round 1970 game against Ohio is one of those records that might never be broken.
Mario Chalmers, Kansas — Chalmers made "The Shot" in KU's 2008 overtime win over Memphis. And he was chosen as the tournament's MVP. He wasn't just a one-shot wonder, either. Chalmers scored 18 points in the title game.
Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State — Cleaves led a star-studded Spartans team to the 2000 championship and was named the tournament's most outstanding player, even though he suffered what looked like a serious ankle injury early in the second half of the title game against Florida. Cleaves returned, though, and sparked the Spartans.
Tony Delk, Kentucky — The most outstanding player in the 1996 tournament, Delk made 40 three-pointers in 17 tournament games and had 24 points in the '96 championship-game win over Syracuse.
Juan Dixon, Maryland — Dixon's 294 points in 16 tournament games ranks ninth all-time. The most outstanding player in the 2002 tournament, Dixon had 18 points and five assists in the championship game win over Indiana.
Arnie Ferrin, Utah — Need at least one throwback on the list. Ferrin was a four-time All-American at Utah in the 1940s and had 22 of the Utes' 44 points in the 1944 championship game victory over Dartmouth.
Gail Goodrich, UCLA — Played on championship teams in 1964 and 1965 and combined to score 69 points in two title games against Duke and Michigan. In those games, Goodrich was 21 of 39 from the field and 27 of 29 from the free-throw line.
Darrell Griffith, Louisville — Dr. Dunkenstein not only had one of the great all-time nicknames, but also one of the most fitting. Griffith was the most outstanding player of the 1980 tournament, when his 23 points led the Cardinals to a 59-54 win over UCLA in the championship game.
Walt Hazzard, UCLA — Was a star on the 1964 championship team that got UCLA's dynasty rolling. Hazzard was the tournament's most outstanding player that year.
Bobby Hurley, Duke — An NCAA Tournament fixture from 1990-93, Hurley ranks fifth in tournament games played, fifth in steals, second in three-point baskets and first in assists. He was the most outstanding player in 1992 and played in three championship games.
Anderson Hunt, UNLV — Had a game-high 29 points in the Rebels' 1990 championship-game win over Duke and was 12 of 16 from the field. That performance helped make Hunt the Final Four's most outstanding player.
Earvin Johnson, Michigan State — The legendary "Magic" played in one Final Four, but that was enough to make his mark. He scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the 1979, outplaying Larry Bird and Indiana State in a 75-64 Spartans win.
K.C. Jones, San Francisco — Overshadowed by Bill Russell, Jones scored 24 points to go with Russell's 23 in the Dons' 1955 championship game win over La Salle.
Butch Lee, Marquette — One of Al McGuire's favorite players, Lee scored 19 points and led Marquette past North Carolina 67-59 in the 1977 championship game. That's the season the Warriors lost to Wichita State in McGuire's last home game.
Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati — The greatest guard in college basketball history? Name one who was better. The Big O averaged 32.4 points in 10 NCAA Tournament games from 1958-60 but was never part of a championship team.
Miles Simon, Arizona — Scored 30 points — 14 of them from the free-throw line — in the Wildcats' 84-79 overtime win over Kentucky in the 1997 championship game and ranks 20th among scorers in NCAA Tournament games.
Keith Smart, Indiana — Made one of the biggest shots in NCAA Tournament history to beat Syracuse 74-73 in the 1987 championship game. Smart had 21 points in that one, one of three Hoosiers to score 20 or more.
Jerry West, West Virginia — The Mountaineers didn't win the 1959 tournament — they lost to California, 71-70 — in the championship game. Yet, West was the most outstanding player in the tournament and scored 28 points to go with 11 rebounds in the loss to Cal.
Donald Williams, North Carolina — Scored 25 points in the Heels' 1993 title-game win over Michigan. You might remember that game. The Wolverines had the Fab Five and one of them, Chris Webber, called a time-out his team didn't have, resulting in a huge technical foul.