It happens every year.

March approaches, with its eponymous “Madness”.  Our TVs become taken over by exciting college basketball games (many featuring what I can only imagine are fictional colleges) sandwiched between scintillating promos for The Mentalist.  We, the unwitting observers, are fed a daily diet of talking heads rattling on about “hustle”, “fundamentals”, and “leadership”. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale or Jackie Harvey; they all seem to have the inside goods on what it takes to win the Final Four and what college basketball phenom is going to go first in the NBA draft and become the next Derrick Coleman.

We at Food Court Lunch pay close attention to the prognostications of the experts (at least when the “Ghost Whisperer” isn’t on).  And we’ve come to recognize the one factor that draws the praise of the talking heads more than anything else.  You might call it “gritty determination”.  Or you might call it “caucasian upside”.  But we’re going to go ahead and call it “The Hansbrough Effect”.

You see, college basketball announcers and the writers who cover the sport love to talk about players who are “mature beyond their years”; players “who get it”; players “who play the game the way it’s supposed to be played”.  You might have noticed one key characteristic that all such players seem to possess: if you said “whiteness”, then you’d be correct (and controversial).

That takes us to Tyler Hansbrough.  Hansbrough, as the story goes, is in his senior year with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.  He swept all of the major individual awards in college basketball in 2008, and he’s expected to go in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft.  Tar Heel games are heavily covered by national media, and a significant amount of print and broadcast time is devoted to loving praise of Hansbrough’s “toughness” and Patton-like leadership qualities.   Without a doubt, he is a great college basketball player.  But let’s be honest: He’ll be to NBA basketball what Rafael Araujo is to NBA basketball.  That is to say, he will suck.

That’s because “gritty determination” means little when you’re playing against guys who can make their testicles slap you in the face when they dunk on you.  The same characteristics that make someone a star in college can make that same person a spectator in the NBA.  But don’t take our word for it: Here’s a list the top twelve ”Hansbrough Effect” players of all time:

12.     Raef Lafrentz

Highly-touted prospect-cum-perennial trade bait, Lafrentz is rumoured to own a series of successful Kia dealerships in the tri-state area.

11.     Greg Ostertag

A hero amongst Kansans, a legend amongst the neckfold fetishistas.

10.     Andrea Bargnani

I know, I know.  He probably doesn’t belong on this list, but I don’t want to jinx this recent 20ppg streak by proclaiming his final arrival.

9.     Nikoloz Tskitishvili

Kebab magnate? Skoda pitchman? Perhaps.  Basketball player? Errrr…..

8.     Big Country Reeves

Greg Ostertag’s twin brother.  He may have shared his brother’s good looks, but lamentably, he wasn’t blessed with the same lightning foot speed.

7.     Rafael Araujo

The single reason why the Raptors have not yet won the NBA Finals.  Rumoured to be Rob Babcock’s illegitimate son.

6.      Kevin Pittsnogle

Am I kicking him whilst he’s down?  Perhaps.  But I just don’t understand how someone could be so entertaining in college and then turn out to be a complete wash in the real world.  On second thought, I know one or two other people like that.

5.     Kevin Love

The jury’s still out, but I’m pretty sure that if I was an NBA GM, “Can lift feet off floor while jumping in upward motion” would be at or near the top of the list of attributes I would look for in draft picks.

4.     J.J. Redick

On the plus side, he has way more time to work on his poetry now.

3.     Eric Montross

My favourite Raptor ever.  Oh, double-zero, where are you when we need you?

2.     Adam Morrison

Sometimes looks aren’t deceiving.

1.     Darko Milicic

Somewhere, Joe Dumars is sitting in his office with the lights down low, leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed tight while “My Favourite Mistake” by Sheryl Crow plays gently in the background.