Monday, March 22, 2010

In Response

Last Thursday, the NCAA tournament championship began and day 1 was quite possibly the best day I have ever witnessed. From 'Nova barely beating Robert Morris to Washington upsetting a tough Marquette team, most of the games provided an entertaining release from everyday life for even the casual fan. To me, when it comes to the first round, upsets are positive for the tournament but after the first round, they are very overrated. While Northern Iowa should have been a 6 seed, their win versus Kansas is a great story, not only did it destroy about 50% of all office pool brackets but also it showed there really is no dominant team in college basketball. Cornell took out Temple and then destroyed the Big Ten's own Wisconsin Badgers. St. Mary's beat Richmond and then showed Villanova that their win over Robert Morris was helped by the referees, and that in the tournament guards are important, but so are the bigs. Butler, another mid major school, proved its seed was justified by beating an upstart UTEP team and then easily beating upset winner Murray State in round 2.

For argument sake, lets say Cornell, West Virginia, Duke, St. Mary's, Kansas State, Butler, Ohio State and Northern Iowa win their sweet sixteen games. Would it be better for college basketball for the 4 mid-major teams to win and head to Indianapolis (Cornell, St.Mary's Butler, Northern Iowa) and play in the final four OR would it be better if all of them lost and let the big boys play? Some may think CBS likes the little guy but when George Mason made it a few years ago, the numbers showed differently. Nobody watched Florida pounce GM and as a result, they didn't watch LSU vs UCLA either. If UConn had beat George Mason in the 2006 elite 8, more would have paid attention.

On the other side, all the higher seeds win on Thursday and Friday (Michigan State, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas State, Baylor, Duke, West Virginia and Kentucky) and then square off in the elite 8. Isn't that a better story, because on paper, they provide better games and better match-ups? CBS is happy and most pure basketball fans are enthused because of the high quality the games would provide.


  1. Would it be better for college basketball, or would it be better for ratings? I think you're confusing the two.

    In the short run, bigger names making the elite 8 is better for ratings because that draws more eyes and makes more money. CBS is happy, those with brackets are happy, and the advertisers are happy.

    But is it in the best interest of NCAA basketball and the tournament to only have the top-seeded teams make it to the semi-finals? If it was, why have 300-odd some teams classified as Division I basketball if the only teams get a shot at the title are "big-name" programs?

    Ultimately, I think it is better for college basketball when schools from the Mid-Majors or the minor conferences get deep into the tournament. It shows that the talent isn't concentrated just at the larger schools and that any team can win. It helps drive recruiting to these schools, further leveling the playing field.

    It also makes for more interesting games, especially when the little guy shows up to compete. There is nothing like watching a David take on a Goliath when David really has something to prove.

    I disagree with your assertion that more people would have noticed if UConn had beat George Mason. Sure, more people might have watched the LSU-UCLA game and generated ratings. But it probably wouldn't be memorable. George Mason getting trounced, or, since we're playing What-If, George Mason beating Florida would have made even more people take notice as they went on further in the tournament.

    Correction - Nova barely beat Robert Morris, not William and Mary.

  2. I have nothing against upsets, I just do not believe Northern Iowa vs Cornell provides anything. Great Story but its a book without a quality ending


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