NCAA Tournament 2012: Why This Year's Tourney Is the Least Exciting of All Time
March Madness is supposed to be the most exciting sporting event of the year. So why does it feel so…dull this time around?
Don’t get me wrong: there have been quite a few surprising upsets (I’m looking at you, Duke and Missouri) and some little-known teams have advanced farther than anyone expected.
But there’s still something missing.
Where are the Butler Bulldogs? Or the VCU Rams for that matter?
It is great when talented teams find a way to succeed in the postseason, especially the pressure-packed NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, but I miss the buzzer-beaters and the Cinderellas and everything that made March Madness truly madness.
Maybe the networks simply replayed Christian Laettner’s shot one too many times during the commercials. Or the other Christian, Christian Watford’s, buzzer-beater from earlier this season.
Either way, there is just something about this year’s NCAA tournament that feels as if it is lacking.
Will examining the reasons behind this lack of suspense make anything better?
Doubtful, but it is always worth a shot, right?
I know I haven’t been alive for a large portion of the NCAA tournaments, but in my memory, this has been the worst-officiated one ever.
Sure, there might have been some more atrocities over the years, but realistically, when has a No. 16 seed come within two possessions of beating a No. 1 seed? Never.
In my opinion, the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs were absolutely robbed of a historic victory. The team obviously played better than Syracuse, was more together and simply deserved to win. Referees should never stand in the way of that.
The call in which the referees declared the ball went off of a Bulldog player who was at least five feet away from the Orange's Brandon Triche was simply ridiculous. Either call a foul on UNC-Asheville or call the ball off of Syracuse. There is no way that was the correct call.
I also cannot remember two games in my entire life, let alone two games in postseason play, in which a lane violation was called on a player outside the three-point line.
It may have been the right call, but start enforcing it in regular-season games. Don’t wait until the NCAA tournament when every team is playing their hearts out.
UNC-Asheville was called for one late in its loss to Syracuse (that, in my opinion, should have been called on a player in the lane, not outside of the three-point line). And the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were called for the same penalty late in their eventual loss to the Xavier Musketeers.
If this violation was a point of emphasis for referees, make it known during the season, not just in tournaments.
We could have had one of the greatest upsets of all time this season. Instead, we have fans griping over missed calls. That’s not the way a team should end its season.
Yes, the Ohio Bobcats did make it to the Sweet 16 as a No. 13 seed. That is a great accomplishment and should not be overlooked.
However, the team beat the 12th-seeded South Florida Bulls in the second round to get there. That’s not exactly the same caliber as the Butler Bulldogs, who faced the highest seeds possible in their 2011 road to the Final Four.
If the Bobcats had managed to pull out a win over the UNC Tar Heels, that would have been impressive, but still would have come with the caveat that UNC was playing without its star point guard, Kendall Marshall.
I miss the VCU Rams and Butlers of the NCAA tournament.
With all the hype that mid-major teams have gotten this season, none have managed to pull through at the end of the season. The Wichita State Shockers, Murray State Racers and Long Beach State 49ers all bowed out early.
At this point in the season, most people’s brackets are busted beyond repair. Those people love to cheer for underdogs! Who doesn’t, really?
But this season, the lowest-seeded team left to cheer for is Louisville, the same program that has gone to eight Final Fours and is coached by a man who has been to six Final Fours himself. That’s hardly the resume of a Cinderella.
Maybe we got spoiled the past two years, but I’m ready for a real underdog to prove it belongs.
Charles Barkley, Year 2
The Charles Barkley Experiment is officially a failure.
It was a failure last year when he couldn’t even correctly pronounce the names of star players and it is a failure still as Barkley spends most of his time making blatantly obvious comments (such as the team with the most points will win) or simply repeating what his co-commentators already said.
The problem is that Barkley’s complete lack of knowledge about college basketball is no longer funny or enjoyable to talk about with friends—it’s simply annoying.
Fans laughed last year when Barley cited the Kentucky Wildcats’ deep bench as a reason the 'Cats would upset the Ohio State Buckeyes (UK played six players that season, seven maximum).
This year, though, when Barkley opined that the Syracuse Orange should really stop playing a zone defense, viewers simply muted the TV and reached for another pig-in-a-blanket.
It seems very unwise for the NCAA or CBS or whoever to spend so much money on a commentator who clearly does not know the game.
I would rather listen to Bobby Knight refuse to mention the word "Kentucky," but give thoughtful insights about teams and players than listen to Chuck bungle names and seem completely lost when talking about the Kansas Jayhawks.
Barkley is not a college basketball analyst. Next year, hopefully, he won’t have to pretend to be.
Exciting Games at a Premium
In my humble opinion, the most exciting game of this year’s NCAA tournament was the opening-round (yes, opening round) matchup between the Iona Gaels and BYU Cougars.
Maybe I’m biased because Iona played such a beautiful, fast-paced style of basketball that would delight any viewer, but the first 20 minutes were among the most fun I’ve had watching basketball all year.
Then, of course, it was time for the comeback. BYU was down 25 points, yet somehow held the speedy Gaels to a mere 17 points in the second half (Iona had scored 55 in the first) and won the game by six points.
Now that’s fun basketball!
Yes, there have been some upsets this year. The Norfolk State Spartans played one of their best games of the season. The Ohio Bobcats came within one free throw or one very, very close three-point heave from beating the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels.
But in most of the close or near-upset games in this tournament, a lesser team has dominated simply because its opponent is playing with about the skill level of a middle school basketball team.
When the Syracuse Orange were almost upset in the first round, the team looked like it wanted to be anywhere but on a court. The Missouri Tigers were lackadaisical for the first 38 minutes of their game and could not make up the difference in the last two.
North Carolina was playing without its point guard so the offense clearly looked disjointed and out of sync.
There was no low seed that simply outplayed a good team, caught them by surprise and took their best punch and kept playing.
No one ever likes to see a key player go down, especially for a good team. This year’s NCAA tournament had more than its fair share of disqualifications.
First came Fab Melo from the Syracuse Orange. Melo was not the team’s strongest offensive player, but he gave them an added dimension. He was a great defender and important big man underneath the basket.
Without Melo, Syracuse’s title hopes went from a lock for the Final Four to thoughts of would the Orange make it to the Sweet 16? Unsurprisingly, Syracuse lost in the Elite Eight to an Ohio Buckeyes team that, in February, could not begin to match up with Syracuse.
With the Orange seemingly disposed of, the preseason championship favorite North Carolina Tar Heels figured to have a cakewalk at least to the Elite Eight, if not the Final Four.
Point guard Kendall Marshall broke his wrist in a third-round win over the Creighton Bluejays. Marshall was far and away the most important player for UNC.
He was able to give the Tar Heels’ two big men their touches while still finding Harrison Barnes on the perimeter. And to top it off, in the postseason, Marshall had found his scoring touch and become an integral part of UNC’s offense.
To see a player as talented and as committed as Marshall sitting on the bench in street clothes is heartbreaking. And I’m a Kentucky fan.
Don’t forget, Kansas State Wildcats senior forward Jamar Samuels was also suspended for most of the NCAA tournament.
It’s no fun to watch games if the kids that competed all year to get to the postseason cannot even play.
No Defending Champion, No Butler
Defend what? The only team from 2011’s Final Four that is still playing is the Kentucky Wildcats. And Kentucky would have been considered an underdog in that Final Four except for the fact that both the Butler Bulldogs and VCU Rams crashed the party.
Last year’s national champion, the Connecticut Huskies, clearly missed Kemba Walker’s presence in the locker room more than on the court.
Don’t get me wrong: Walker is a great player and was the biggest reason UConn won a championship, but the team should have at least threatened this season.
Instead, locker room dissension caused the Huskies to limp to the end of the regular season, having lost 10 of its final 16 games.
And what about Butler?
Yes, the Bulldogs lost a tremendous amount of talent in the last two years and Brad Stevens is doing a great job of rebuilding, but in the last two years, the team felt like at least a lock for the tournament if not for the Final Four.
I know that’s ridiculous and improbable, but after the team’s finish last season (winning their final seven regular-season games and the Horizon League tournament, then getting to the national championship), anything seemed possible.
Usually a defending champion plays like it has something to defend. That’s the way Butler played last year even though it didn’t even win (the Bulldogs are excused this season as they lost just about every key player on the team), but UConn apparently did not get the memo.
The passion was gone and the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament field was wide open. But sometimes that’s not the most exciting thing.
The problem with having so many traditional powerhouse teams in the Final Four is that all the storylines have been told again and again to anyone who will listen.
Did you know that Anthony Davis grew seven inches in between his junior and senior years of college? Yep, knew that a year ago before he even signed with the Kentucky Wildcats.
You know, I think Jared Sullinger came back for his sophomore season to chase his dream of an NCAA national championship. I bet all of the commentators are divided on whether or not this was a good idea.
Hey, remember when the Louisville Cardinals had all those injuries at the beginning of the season? That really made the team stronger and more cohesive.
And someone mentioned once or twice that Kentucky and Louisville have this weird rivalry thing going on. Must have something to do with the schools being less than 100 miles apart and Rick Pitino leaving Kentucky then deciding to come back and coach Louisville. Or at least I think I heard that somewhere.
Until the Final Four officially begins, these stories will be repeated and repeated. And repeated.
One of my favorite parts about the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is when there is a completely unknown team that the announcers clearly have no fun facts about, so they have to dig up new information each week.
The stuff they come up with is priceless!
Maybe one player has to rub the equipment manager’s head for good luck because he kind of looks like a Buddha. Or what if a head coach got his job by breaking his six-year vegetarianism just to eat some of the state’s finest BBQ ribs?
Those are the stories I want to hear! Come on Charles Barkley, I know you have a little something left in you!