A False Sense of Competitiveness

Andrew TomlinsonContributor IMarch 29, 2009

DENVER - MARCH 20:  Will Thomas #34 of the George Mason Patriots handles the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first round of the East Regional as part of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Pepsi Center on March 20, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

This year's NCAA tournament has seen more near upsets than ever before, which may be a sign that the difference between a one seed and a 16 seed has become smaller, but in reality it is just a smokescreen.

On the first two days of the tournament, we saw Villanova make a come back against a weak American University team, and Pittsburgh barely escape East Tennessee State. These are just two of the many upsets and narrow escapes from the first weekend of play. A logical conclusion, then, would be that the talent gap between the Division I elite and everyone else has become smaller.

Even with all of these close games, the tournament still made history. It is the first time that all 12 top three seeds in each region advanced to the Sweet 16. The only two teams that prevented all of the top seeds from advancing are Cleveland State and Purdue. If this is the first time in history that this is happening, are the lower seeds really closer, talent wise, to the top seeds?

The simple answer to that question is no.  If last year was the first year that all of the one seeds were in the Final Four and this year all 12 of the top three seeds advanced to the Sweet 16, how could they be closer? It is almost like the close games and the pundit’s analysis is just simply to create buzz.

It is easy to point to the close scores and buzzer beaters as a reason why the lower seeds are in fact closer to the top seeds. In reality though, does any of that make a difference? In the tournament, it doesn’t matter how many three pointers you hit or free throws you make, it all comes down to whether you win or lose. In sports your effort can only get you so far and in the post season, if that’s all you have, it gets you nowhere.

All is not lost for the smaller schools however, because even with a loss in the tournament they have something they can build off of. Smaller and unknown schools have a season to build off of and a new one to look forward to. To them it is no longer about simply attempting to make the tournament.

Each of these schools' goal is now to win in the tournament, and this is where the difference between programs becomes a problem.

Little schools are unable to improve in such a one sided sport. Siena had a successful tournament in their eyes and it will most likely increase their recruitment for next year. But in the long run when they are rarely able to advance further than the second round and they will struggle to keep getting top recruits. Top recruits most likely don’t want to go to schools that fail to actually do anything year after year.

Dynasty universities and elite programs are an unfortunate side effect of the collegiate system. Both the basketball and football systems have created a seemingly unbreakable cycle. Good teams get more money and the recruits and since every factor is dependent on one another, the cycle will not be broken for a long time.

Without something like a draft, which gives bad professional sports teams an opportunity to get an all-star player, it won't be even. College will never be able to implement something like that and thus the cycle will continue.