Monday night’s national championship game looked a lot like a Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. I saw Butler’s Ronald Nored do his best Brian Urlacher imitation as he delivered a crushing blow to prevent UConn’s Kemba Walker from sprinting into the open court. I saw Butler shoot 18.8 percent from the field. I saw the two teams combine for 94 points, nine short of the 103 UNLV scored in the 1990 title game by itself.
But in the end we all watched the “little guys” from Butler, who lost a heartbreaker in last year’s final to Duke, fall to the supposed Goliath for a second consecutive year.
And before the book closes on this college basketball season, who can forget VCU’s darling run from the First Four to the Final Four? Or how about the fact that no No. 1 or No. 2 seed made it to the Final Four? This particular tournament showcased college basketball at its best. It’s a place where parity reigns supreme and in turn supplies hoops fans with incredibly exciting basketball.
I think not.
First of all, the term “little guys” doesn’t apply to Butler anymore. It’s reached two straight title games.
But why has Butler been able to reach the game’s final act two seasons running? Because there’s no such thing as a “mid-major” anymore.
The lines in college basketball have been blurred. The well has run dry on great teams because the talent gap between players isn’t as large as it used to be.
Kansas coach Bill Self said it best following his team’s loss to VCU in the Elite Eight: “Because seeds are so overrated, it’s about matchups. If we played shirts and skins today you wouldn’t have much of a difference on players or how they look.”
Self is absolutely right. Players that go to BCS conference schools have the advantage of going to programs with long histories of success, top-notch facilities and, most importantly, national television exposure. How many times was VCU on national television before the NCAA Tournament? Only five times. Kansas could top that figure in a 10-day period. Yet, through a combination of favorable matchups, hot shooting and an indiscernible talent gap, VCU beat KU like it stole something.
So what does all of this mean? College basketball is thoroughly mediocre.
Blame kids for falling in love with the 3-point line instead of being able to hit a 16-footer.
Blame the NBA’s age limit, which has weakened the NCAA’s top-tier programs.
Or blame Michael Jordan, whose game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals has led college basketball (and NBA) teams to believe that isolation is not only a reliable halfcourt offense, but the best end-of-game play call.
There’s no such thing as an upset in college basketball anymore. The ranking and seeding systems say otherwise, but until something is done to mend college basketball’s mediocrity, Cinderellas cease to exist and the days of great teams are gone.