There is no doubt in my mind that March Madness is the most exciting tournament of any of the major playoffs in this country. Every year we see the upsets, we see the drama, and we see the expectations. But something just isn't quite the same this year.
Due to the craziness that is March Madness, I found myself pondering a very interesting and intriguing issue with my friends and people who know a thing or two about basketball: Are the upsets from the early rounds worth the loss of the better and more quality teams in the tournament?
At first glance, most people say, "The upsets are what March is all about!" I agree to an extent. But are the upsets really worth the price of a shaky Elite Eight group, and even shakier Final Four?
If you really start to think about the tournament and what the people really want to watch, it becomes quite obvious that it is better for the tournament and the sport of basketball at the collegiate level that the better teams advance. It creates a quality brand of basketball amongst the final competitors, instead of a team that might just be hot at the right time and is not as well-rounded as another team.
Now, don't get me wrong. The upsets are the most drama-filled, entertaining part about March Madness. I love them and I yell like a six-year-old girl every time something crazy happens. Every year millions of people go crazy trying to fill out a bracket and play the roll of the "experts" and be the first people to call a particular upset.
Well, that's all well and good...before the Sweet 16. When it comes time to buckle down and get the best quality basketball, the upsets, in my opinion, aren't welcome after the Sweet 16 with two exceptions.
Exception A) There is a can't-miss superstar on the underdog teams that you simply can't resist seeing again and again. Think Stephen Curry during his Elite Eight run with Davidson.
Exception B) The team that is the underdog is actually much better than their seed projects them to be. Let's think Xavier the past three years or Tennessee this year.
So what does all of this mean? Well, for starters, this year's tournament just had too many upsets of teams that just got hot and found the right formula to beat one juggernaut.
Northern Iowa beat Kansas because they played in the moment, made threes in the clutch, got lucky that Kansas didn't press until three minutes to go, and just wanted it more than Kansas. Is No. Iowa the better team? Of course not, but this is the classic example of a team that just slips under the radar and catches the juggernauts by surprise.
This happened too many times this year (Villanova, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, etc.) and the result is the least interesting Final Four that I can remember watching in years.
You think I'm the only one? You didn't notice the NCAA's stranglehold on that Duke-Baylor game? It was so bad at one point that the referees in the game (the final Elite Eight game) were so one-sided because they needed Duke to make the Final Four, just for pure marketing purposes and ratings.
A Final Four consisting of Butler, Mich. St, WVU, and Baylor would be the least watched Final Four in eons. So Duke out-shoots Baylor in free throws by a ton, especially in the second half. Baylor shot something like six free throws while Duke was in the 20s. The 20s!!!
Now because of all these upsets of the early, better teams, we're left with a "put me to sleep" Michigan State team against a Butler team that just finds the opponent's weaknesses and exploits them. They have no real advantage in talent and they probably aren't even in the top five to eight best teams in the country.
Duke is there because they were given the draw of a lifetime and the toughest opponent they had to face all tournament was a Baylor team that was playing against Duke/the officials. The only real solid team that I see in the Final Four is West Virginia. But even they have had some crazy injuries and a little bit of luck in their game against Kentucky.
My main point here is that, while the upsets are all fun and drama-filled, and they make you call your buddy at work and scream into the phone, "I LOVE MARCH!!!", they do not leave us with the quality basketball that we want to see in the Final Four.
Call me a stickler, or a nit-picker, but I want to see quality basketball come the end of March, and I don't think I'm alone in this. I will always be for the underdog, just as long as they stay out of the Finals where the best teams should battle it out. Hopefully the teams in the Finals prove me wrong and we get one hell of an ending to one hell of a tournament so far.