When I bitched and moaned about the total lack of underdog victories in the Sweet Sixteen (which was merely the icing on an extremely chalky cake after a first weekend almost devoid of major upsets), the common response was that I should stop whining and appreciate the beauty of an Elite Eight featuring all the “best” teams, because such a scenario would surely produce a bevy of extremely entertaining games with a high quality of play. As one commenter put it, “I’d rather see a great game between two great teams than watch a 1 seed destroy a mediocre team that played above its head for a couple of games and then ran out of steam.”
Well, six games later, how is that “great team between two great teams” theory lookin’ for ya? Because it seems to me, we’ve just watched an Elite Eight that featured exactly one genuinely exciting game — North Carolina vs. Georgetown — followed by a Final Four that produced just as much excitement as last year’s incredibly boring semifinals, namely, zero. As commenter NDLauren, who attended today’s games in Atlanta, aptly put it, “Ugh.”
Have there been great teams on the floor? Yes. Have they been paired in matchups that appeared very compelling? Yes. Have those matchups produced great games? No, which just goes to show that you can’t script sports drama. It has to happen organically, and it’s incredibly myopic to pretend that drama (or the lack thereof) in a given instance was pre-ordained by seed numbers or preceding events. A matchup that looks great on paper doesn’t guarantee a dramatic game, nor does a David vs. Goliath mismatch guarantee that drama won’t happen. (Heck, Butler has given Florida more of a game than anyone else in this tournament so far!)
Bottom line, this is the worst NCAA Tournament since I started religiously watching the NCAA Tournament in the early ’90s. Have there been some extremely dramatic, exciting games? Of course! But if you choose any 63 college-basketball games at random, at least a handful of them will inevitably be dramatic and exciting… and that’s all the more true in a “win or go home” setting, where any close, down-to-the-wire game is inherently dramatic and exciting. In other words, there are always going to be some really good games, but that doesn’t mean this has been a great NCAA Tournament. On the contrary, the total lack of truly stunning upsets, the chalk-filled nature of the later rounds, the relatively ordinary number of really exciting games (and the fact that several of them happened simultaneously, while other timeslots were totally devoid of excitement), and the general lack of drama in the Elite Eight and Final Four, have combined to make this tourney a total dud, IMHO. (Well, as compared to other NCAA Tournaments, that is. Even a “dud” of an NCAA Tournament is still the greatest sporting event of the year. But that doesn’t mean I can’t wish it was better!)
Of course, there’s one game left, and here’s hoping Florida and Ohio State go to quintuple-overtime and play the greatest game in college basketball history. Then at least we’ll have something to remember this tournament for. Otherwise, I’m afraid the fine folks at CBS might have to cut “One Shining Moment” a verse short this year, due to a lack of compelling source material.
But that’s just my opinion, and I know I’m a bit of a weirdo when it comes to preferring games like Butler-Southern Illinois over games like UCLA-Kansas. So, what do y’all think?
UPDATE: Looks like I’m vindicated in my belief that this tournament has totally sucked. Nearly 24 hours after I posted this, the poll results show that a whopping 40% agree that the tourney has been one of the worst in years, and another 25% think it’s been below average. Less than 15% think it’s been above average… and most of them probably go to Florida or OSU. ;)