NCAA Tournament 2012: Was This the Worst Tournament Ever?
I'm sure I will get a response stating that the 1947 NCAA tournament was a stinker and that this year's was way better. For the purpose of analysis, I will ask the question starting with when the tournament went to 64 teams, in 1985.
Was the 2012 NCAA tournament the worst tournament since then?
Two weeks ago, I made an argument that it could be, but obviously at that time there were many games remaining. Now with the tournament done, I can look back at this year, and the previous years, and let the reader decide.
There were some positives in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
1. Two No. 15 seeds pulled major upsets in the Round of 64.
2. The consensus best team going into the tournament was the champion.
3. Big-name storied programs made the Final Four.
4. There were two close games in the Final Four; that is rare.
5. There were some good games, with the potential to be better than good.
My "positive" list ends quickly. Let me count the negatives.
1. In one of the most dramatic moments of the tournament, Kevin Harlan stated that Florida was going for the lead. They were down by three.
2. There was only one overtime game. Maybe the best game of the tournament, yet once overtime started, it went downhill.
3. In most tournaments, it's easy to name the best two to three games, unless the tournament was so awesome there were too many to choose from. Not this time.
This year, what was the best game? Was it UNC-Ohio? Was it Kentucky-Indiana? Florida-Louisville? Syracuse-Wisconsin?
You can probably throw about a dozen games into the mix and not have a clear answer. No game stood out—not even the close Final Four game.
4. I described this year's tournament being like a David Lynch movie. You watch, something cool appears ready to happen...and then nothing happens.
This scenario played out about 20 times during this year's tournament. Just imagine watching 20 David Lynch movies in a three-week span. It's not healthy.
5. Neon green, chameleon neon orange and camouflage are now part of uniforms.
6. Kentucky was the best team, and most people can accept that, but they also have the hired-gun feel, assuming that most of the current team will be gone to the NBA next year. Their one-and-done team is very impressive; however it is tough to connect to what feels like bad news down the road.
7. The spotlight moments in One Shining Moment where the music fades down and the announcers celebrate the incredible moments of the tournament were a Lehigh layup versus Duke, Wisconsin missing a shot at the end versus Syracuse and Tyshawn Taylor's layup against North Carolina.
Unless you are serious fans of those teams, will you remember any of those moments next year?
8. Zero buzzer-beaters. Keep in mind, during the afternoon session last year, there were four (Kentucky, Morehead St., Temple and Butler). This year, zero.
Buzzer-beaters define the NCAA tournament.
Most people don't remember the score of the Valpo-Ole Miss game, they remember the Bryce Drew shot. Kentucky-Duke in 1992 was elevated to another level because of Sean Woods and Christian Laettner (Grant Hill too).
Whenever this tournament had that moment, that opportunity to make a play, whoever had the chance missed it. Every time! Will Sheehey I guess gets the buzzer-beater of the tournament with his shot with 12.7 seconds to go to beat VCU. James Forrest he is not, but at least he made the shot.
The only way to fairly make the case on whether this is the worst tournament since 1985 would be to pinpoint the best moments of each tournament and then see if 2012 compares or not. If the best moment was an upset, I will note that, but I am looking for more than just an upset.
Really, that's about all 2012 has in its favor. One three-hour span with Norfolk State and Lehigh (and Ohio).
1985 - No. 8 Seed Villanova beats defending champs Georgetown 66-64 (0-for-1 so far).
What was the worst tournament since 1985?
1986 - Five OT games, the David Robinson Navy run and a 72-69 national championship game (I was too young to get into much more depth than that, have no idea of the feel of that year).
1987 - The Keith Smart shot to win the title for Indiana 74-73.
1988 - Danny Manning leading the No. 6 seed to the national championship. 29 teams scored 90 or more points in their tournament games. This year, two—in the same game.
1989 - Two No. 1 seeds winning by one point, and a fantastic Final Four and national title game.
1990 - Seriously? It's like comparing a Rolls to a Datsun. In the 1990 tournament, a game ended with a layup with no time left that tied the game, and a free throw won it.
Most people don't even remember the Oregon St.-Ball St. game because of Tate George, Laettner, Northern Iowa, Loyola-Marymount and UNLV. If a game ended this year with a free throw with no time left, Twitter would have exploded.
1991 - Duke beat undefeated UNLV 79-77.
1992 - Duke 104, Kentucky 103 in OT. Oh yeah, the James Forrest shot was from this year also.
1993 - 1993 wasn't a great tournament, but it had Jason Kidd and multiple heroics in Chicago, the Fab Five run where they played multiple OT games, including in the Final Four and the travel not called along with the timeout that shouldn't have been.
1994 - This is probably a really good comparison to 2012, since nothing really stands out besides Bill Curley making a run and Alex Dillard.
1995 - Six OT games, including the incredibly fun Old Dominion-Villanova triple-OT game, called by hockey legend Mike Emrick. Also a great-yet-hurtful buzzer-beater where Georgetown beat Weber State on an Iverson air ball that turned into an alley-oop layup.
1996 - The insane Georgia-Syracuse game, Princeton beating UCLA and Darvin Ham breaking the rim.
1997 - An OT NCAA title game is probably enough to be better than 2012. A No. 14 seed making the Sweet 16, a No. 15 seed having the ball at the buzzer with an attempt to make the Sweet 16 and a No. 10 seed going to overtime in the Elite Eight stand out as upsets that mattered in the scheme of the tournament.
1998 - Another no-brainer, as Bryce Drew, Richard Hamilton, the frantic ending of the Stanford-Rhode Island game and an 86-85 Final Four game overshadow Jerrod West.
West, of West Virginia (I think another West went there also) hit a three-pointer off the backboard with under a second to go to win the game 75-74 over No. 2 seed Cincinnati. When cool buzzer-beaters are forgotten, it's no contest.
1999 - The slipper still fits. The Show. UConn beating Duke 77-74 in the title game. There was also a 43-32 stinker for those 2012 defenders.
2000 - For all of the trashing I give 2000—and it was a bad tournament—Butler and David Messiah Capers' three free throws with no time left versus Kentucky to extend the game.
All of those moments were cooler and more One Shining Moment-worthy than Wisconsin missing a shot.
2001 - Boise on Day 1. The greatest one day to be at a first-round venue in NCAA tournament history.
2002 - Maybe not a great tournament, but Creighton hitting a buzzer-beater and Indiana beating Duke do stand out.
2003 - Maryland and California had great buzzer-beaters. I was fascinated by Tim Smith and East Tennessee. Arizona versus Gonzaga at battle—that game was stands out from 2003.
2004 - Georgia Tech won the game with a layup at the end to advance to the national title game. UAB's behind-the-head full-court pass is also very memorable.
2005 - An incredible Elite Eight with three OT games and the amazing Illinois comeback. The West Virginia-Wake Forest game was pretty awesome also in Round 2.
2006 - I think George Mason counts as a more significant upset than Lehigh. Also in a span of a half hour, Texas beat West Virginia with a three and the crazy UCLA-Gonzaga ending took place.
2007 - 2007 was also a tease in the David Lynch style, yet 2007 had five OT games and Duke losing on Eric Maynor's winner.
2008 - Stephen Curry. Western Kentucky. A title game going to OT because of a three. One Shining Moment was showing buzzer-beaters where they didn't belong in the song, there were so many.
2009 - A good debate could be made for 2009 versus 2012. 2012 had a better Final Four and more closer games overall. However, 2009 did have the Scottie Reynolds runner to advance 'Nova to the Final Four.
2010 - A half-court shot almost won the title for the team that plays in the gym where Hoosiers was filmed. Plus 2010 had the Kansas State-Xavier game where Gus Johnson almost literally exploded.
2011 - Not even close.
Was the 2012 tournament the worst? Maybe not. It was the most disappointing given the availability to record games, watch all of them on four networks and watch highlights instantly. It was also incredibly annoying since the drama never paid off, and viewers did tune out.
Brock Lesnar wrestling again was more exciting than the title game. If Brock can return to Vince McMahon, then Gus Johnson can return to the NCAA tournament.
As you can see by my list, 1993, 1994 and 2012 are three of the worst years. Gus worked on the games from 1996-2011, but didn't do the regional in 2007.
The fans are chanting "We Want Gus!" Maybe he'll bring the excitement back next year, since it apparently went to Fox and the Big Ten Network this year.
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