March Madness hindsight: How could I have been so blind?

Have many times last week did you mutter to a friend something like “This tournament is wide open” or “Anyone can take it this year” while mistakenly littering your brackets with ill-advised upsets?

While picking the eventual champion out of the sixteen teams remaining still requires a crystal ball and a little luck, a closer look at the field shows us that college basketball might not boast the parity we once thought.  Although there have been some close games so far, college basketball is still quite top-heavy.

Let’s look at some of our finalists…

Florida: The Gators won back-to-back championships only a few years ago.  We knew it was only a matter of time before they returned to prominence.  How could you not have picked them to advance?

North Carolina: In addition to winning titles in 2005 & 2009, UNC has more Sweet 16 appearances than any other school in history.  Season after season, they reload with the nation’s best young talent.  You’d be a fool not to have picked them.

Kentucky: Although UK hasn’t won a title since 1998, they are still college basketball’s winningest program and a regular in the Sweet 16.  I would assume most people picked them.

Butler: Last year’s runner-up.  How could we not have picked them?  It’s not like Gordon Heyward is LeBron James.

Duke: This program’s success speaks for itself.  Not only are the Blue Devils the defending champions, they’ve won four titles in the last twenty years.  If you didn’t pick them to advance, you don’t watch much college basketball.

Arizona: Despite Lute Olson’s retirement, Arizona has now reached the Sweet 16 six times in the last 11 seasons.  I’ll ask again, how could you not have picked them?

Richmond: The Spiders are the only school in history to reach the Sweet 16 as a 12, 13, 14 and 15-seed.  Perhaps it’s time to stop making them an underdog.  How could you not have picked them?

Ohio State: Despite not having won a championship in half a century, the Buckeyes were the 2007 runner-up, made the Final Four in 1999 and were ranked number one for most of this season. Most people picked them… to win it all.

Kansas: The Jayhawks won it all in 2008 and made it to the championship game in 2003.  How could you not have picked them?  I’m assuming you did.

In hindsight, it all seems so simple now, considering the last seven national champions reside comfortably in this year’s Sweet 16.  Of course these teams advanced.  That’s what they do.

Of course, the presence of Florida State, Marquette and Virginia Commonwealth puts a gaping hole in my entire argument.  Or does it?

While most of us would like to consider college basketball egalitarian with its inclusion of 64 (now 68) teams playing until the final buzzer sounds, keep in mind no team outside a major conference has won a national championship in over thirty years.

Cinderella is a lovely metaphor but she only goes so far.  Dare I say, college basketball is becoming dangerously close to Major League Baseball.  The rich get richer while the poor tread water and consider getting this far a major accomplishment.

Of course these college basketball powerhouses can’t (legally) buy talent like professional sports teams.  They must outwork all others to recruit the best players in the nation and mold them into champions, but they already have a leg up on the competition.  If you were the top high school athlete in the nation, why WOULDN’T you sign on the dotted line when Duke, Kentucky, Kansas or UNC come knocking at your door?

As we can see from this field of 16, basketball’s elite is doing just fine, so the next time we arbitrarily claim that winning the tournament is anybody’s ball game, we should take a closer look.  Despite the buzzer-beaters and near defeats, in the end Cinderella doesn’t get to dance as often as we might think.

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36 Replies to “March Madness hindsight: How could I have been so blind?”

  1. Pingback: March Madness hindsight: How could I have been so blind?, NCAA Basketball | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. I’m not a big round ball fan but as a college football fan I believe the same forces are at work between NCAA basketball and football…

    Chris, you’re an east coast guy and consequently guilty of drinking the Kool-Aid spewed by the east coast sporting media each and every year (and it’ll never change). East coast schools are way over-hyped. Trying to pick a March Madness bracket is like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, your tail’s gonna get crunched…

    I think you’re right if you’re saying you got to cut to the chase and stick with the most recent winners and their coaches.

    Have fun my man!

  3. Chris

    So the Vols have finally fired —- Bruce Pearl ? What the hell took ’em so long ? What they were waiting for some sign from up on high ? God don’t like ugly and he sure as hell doesn’t like the Vols in any shape or form ………….. they’ve always been highly overrated when it comes to football and basketball on the men’s side for years !

    I still love my Dukies and even if I don’t to do the Doogie !

    Do I hear a plea deal in the offing concerning Bonds ? He’s finally admitted that he took both HGH and anabolic steroids in a statement made by his lawyers late Monday evening 6 pm EST.
    All of this after $15 million plus of taxpayers’ monies having been spent investigating and trying and appealing the case as to evidentiary procedure ? Fu_king hell ! No wonder the Justice System is so god damn messed up .

    Dropping my own piece on the NCAA as well as the upcoming Bonds reopening of his trial and that of Clemens’ own trial which is due to start in early April or possibly later if that’s also postponed as the player and his lawyer are looking to have certain parts of the prosecution’s case thrown out .

    Will let you know in the usual manner when they’re ready .

    tophatal ……………

  4. Hold on a sec, Dwin.

    I’m choosing SDSU over UConn in my pool and I’m also choosing Kansas (not an East Coast team) to advance.

    I don’t think there’s any denying that Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina, regardless of what coast they’re on, are the best programs in the country.

    This isn’t going to turn into a “Which football conference is better: SEC or Pac-10” argument, is it? ‘Cause I’m always down for talking about some football.

  5. Chris

    Here’s my thinking on both the NBA MVP as well as the NFL MVP and that of Baseball’s MVP and Cy Young —- awards . Let the players and managers/coaches be the adjudicators of it rather than some odious writer covering the sport ! Hell the writers are a bunch of crass individuals who are so damn biased to begin with that they can’t even leave their objectivity at the door to discuss and then vote on the merits as it relates to those awards .

    Hell do you honestly believe that the year Karl Malone won the league MVP his year was better than Jordan’s ?

    Just my thoughts on the matter simply just my own thoughts !

    tophatal ……………….

  6. Al…

    Pearl was as likable as they come, which may have been what took so long (which really wasn’t that long at all) make a decision. In the end, the program had to distance themselves from him. So much for a family barbecue. Hope it was worth it. Now that athletic program is in shambles.

    $15 million dollars, huh? I’m more pissed off about all the money I had invested in Barry Bonds rookie cards.

  7. Al…

    The only problem I have with that is, you’re assuming players and coaches don’t have biases.

    The reason writers are allowed to vote on such matters is that they’re (SUPPOSED TO BE) impartial.

    But they’re not. We know this. And so aren’t players and coaches. We’re all human.

    I’m all for tinkering with the system but you can’t tell me that in a tight MVP race, a player won’t vote for his teammate over another player that might be more deserving.

    Re: those Jordan MVP votes, we all knew that any time they gave the award to anyone else in the league (Robinson, Barkley, etc.) other than Jordan, it was a joke.

    Actually, that last MVP award for Malone was the least offensive of the bunch.

  8. Man I didn’t even attempt the bracket this year. I admit that I don’t know squat about college basketball… come to think of it I don’t know squat about many things and the more that I do know, the less I understand.

  9. So, how crazy is it that Kansas will only have to play one 9 seed on the way to the championship game?!? That’s the most mind boggling stat of them all to me!

  10. I’m all VCU all the time, because a “VCU” was that thing my grandmother thought played movies but just blinked “12:00” at her…

  11. Chris

    I’m not assuming anything but I can tell you this the players and coaches —- probably know more ’bout the game than any of the idiot NBA journalists said to be covering it !

  12. Kansas is not on the East Coast…yet. Just wait for the mega-tsunami when the fault line off of North Carolina moves. Just ask Gordon Michael Scallion.

  13. Aer…

    To not bracket is unAmerican, sir. But I’ll give you a pass.

    You should know by now that a wealth of knowledge about college basketball really has nothing to do with winning a bracket contest.

  14. Chris

    The journalists purportedly would like to have us believe that they know more but in fact they know very little . Much like morons we see providing us with information over at ESPN/ABC and TNT on the game during the regular season. Even the former pros themselves at times come off looking like blithering idiots with the exception of Barkley and Doug Collins (while he was an analyst with TNT) while they’re on air.

    In actuality I’d say the baseball writers, on air personalities and analysts might be the worse with the NFL’s coming in a very close second.

    How is it the fans show their naivete about Bonds’ case and his case but they couldn’t give a s_it when team owners in baseball in conjunction with the league hierarchy are actually fleecing the public ? You have both Yankees’ Stadium and Citi Field built at taxpayers’ expense by the city of New York with bond funds that ought to be providing better services for the city. And the same thing goes on across the whole gamut of sports but rarely do I even hear a fan speak openly on that very matter ! It’s as if they’ve got their heads buried in the friggin’ sand because they simply don’t care .

    Look at the situation now in the state of Minnesota and the Vikings ? Ownership won’t be even providing one red cent towards the building of a new stadium pending the vote within their state legislature but the governor expects to fund the building of that new facility which’ll cost close to $700 million if not more but yet they’re cutting their state budget by between 10-15 % and paring their education budget by close to 20 % .

    It’s the old mantra isn’t it ? ……….NIMBY ……. not in my backyard …….. as long as it doesn’t concern me I simply don’t give a damn ! Well we all ought to give a damn because it’s costing every taxpayer directly and indirectly in spite of one’s thinking and feelings on the matter .

    tophatal …………….

  15. Chap…

    As I mentioned in the post, the brackets were top-heavy, so much so that people were griping that Florida got a two-seed.

    The Big East really screwed things up as we find out once again, they’re not as good as we thought. They are definitely not who we thought they were.

    I didn’t have a problem with ND being a two-seed, but in that bracket Purdue was weak, GTown was weak as were Vandy and Illinois. Louisville was the only real threat and we saw what happened to them.

    FYI… get me your picks.

  16. How about that guy, Al, that got that huge Bonds tattoo on his back? Maybe we should let him vote for MVP.

    And shouldn’t the insurance companies be rebuilding that dome in Minnesota? You’d think they’d be used to a little snow in those parts.

  17. Chris

    Bonds has a tattoo ? What medication was he prescribed before they started to ink his _ss ?
    Flaxseed oil and estrogen have made Barry seem all the more imposing with that body of his . I hear once he gets sent down someone is liable to make him their prison b_tch .
    Do you think the jury much less the prosecuting attorneys are good enough to get an indictment and then guilty verdict ? After all this California where the last real case of note the prosecuting DA’s there screwed up the OJ trial !

    They’re not that bright in the the state of Minnesota much less within their state legislature ! Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf is still trying to figure out if Brett Favre will be back for another season once the strike is over as he seems to be under the impression that Brett’s not yet done ! And that’s with the strike actually underway .

    And what makes you think at an insurance company would payout on the Dome to begin with ? I mean the Louisiana Superdome repairs after Katrina in part were paid for by the NFL and FEMA ? Now that’s a first the NFL dipping into their coffers to pay for something that actually was beyond their control at the time.

    I hear that JFK conspiracy theorists want to speak to members of the NCAA about the draw for the Sweet 16 ? They believe that’s something is awry with it all ? I wonder what’d give ’em that idea ?

    Sorry to rain on your parade but if Ocho ( no longer an Ocho’ free zone) does make it unto an MLS soccer squad does that mean I can now spend time watching domestic soccer here in the US and in particular Sporting Kansas the team he’ll be playing for ? I thought it was bad enough we exported Beckham to you guys but this scenario is getting more ridiculous by the second !

    The Knicks are giving me further reason to prescribe to the fact that this isn’t a team of destiny ……………. were they on the Titanic this b_tch would’ve sank long ago !

    Can a team coached by DAntoni play a lick of defense ? Who in their right mind that thinks that they’re even good enough to go deep into the postseason ?

    tophatal ……….

  18. Al…

    First of all, I need the rest of your picks. Plus a final score tiebreak.

    Make it happen, cap’n.

    I wasn’t speaking of Bonds’ tattoo. I was referring to the picture of the guy on Chap’s site who got Bonds and a big number 25 tattooed on his back. Think he could have that afternoon back if he could and when’s the last time you think he’s had a date?

    I think Katrina was a slightly different case than the roof of the Metrodome falling in. If they seriously want to do something for the city, they should consider making sure Brett Favre stays retired for good. Isn’t he about due for another comeback?

    So Tampa has a soccer team in that league, huh, Al? Are they any good? And is Josh Freeman trying out?

    I’m not pressing the panic button on the Knicks just yet. They’re still a team nobody will want to face in the playoffs. But you’re right, asking this team to play defense is akin to asking D’Antoni to coach defense. Perhaps they should both research the subject on the internet.

  19. Chris

    I’ve already left you my picks for the Elite 8 in your previous post …..check to see .

    Great win for Florida over BYU and thoroughly deserved ! Donovan has done a magnificent job over the last few seasons and it shows why he’s amongst the best college coaches out there !

    As for the Knicks …… pressing the panic button ? Hell Chris if they were onboard the Titanic I’d have jumped the hell off the ship with a life jacket and bottle of Jack Daniels to keep me warm . This team couldn’t obtain a win if they were handed it on a friggin’ silver platter . That’s how bad it has become for the team and in particular D’Antoni . His job is on the line and there’s no denying that fact at this juncture . If they fail to either make or go deep into the playoffs then he’s out . Make no bones about it neither Walsh or James Dolan (owner) won’t stand for this type of ineptitude and mediocrity.

    tophatal …………

  20. Al…

    I needed the REST of your picks, not just your Elite 8. See how everyone else did?

    I’m going to have to disqualify your entry as you probably would have had Duke going the rest of the way. That wouldn’t be fair to everyone else.

    I’m sure you’re cool with that.

    Re: the Gators, Al, that was the most exciting Florida basketball game I’ve watched in years. Billy D has a well-balanced team and they’re playing hard. Tyus was off the chain last night.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say D’Antoni’s job is on the line. He just got there. But I’d say by the end of next season, that’s a possibility if they can’t come correct.

  21. Chris

    I’m sure I’d given you picks but I’ll give you now the rest of what I see panning out with regard to the Elite 8 and Final Four .

    DAntoni’s job will be on the line because if the Knicks fail to go deep in the playoffs there’ll be hell to pay. You don’t think that Dolan (team owner) isn’t feelin’ it now even with the MSG being partially filled on some nights ?

    If your coach is making lame excuses about the play of the team when they’re clearly playing badly then what does that indicate to you ? DAntoni knows the front office is watching closely and any sign that they see as weakness and the fact that team is still playing badly comes the offseason they’ll show him the door.

    With regard to the NCAA’s being as there are already four teams through. Here are my picks with regard to tonight’s games .

    I’ll take Buckeyes over Kentucky

    Tar Heels over Marquette

    Kansas over Richmond

    FSU over VCU .

    So what is it with the Van Gundy boys ? Not enough salvia around without ’em making some outrageous statements ?

    In what universe is Dwight more deserving for the league MVP than Rose ? According to Stan he feel his player should get it. Well had Dwight had led the Magic to the best record in the conference I’d say he’d be a shoo-in for the award. But the mere fact that they’re not and that the team has been inconsistent speaks volumes as to why he shouldn’t and won’t get it !

    SVG is an a monumental a_s who needs either more Paxil or whatever damn uppers or downers he may well be taking . He’s a moron with his more asinine and nonsensical statements that haven’t much validity to them .

    tophatal …….

  22. Chris and Al,

    I think the guy with the tat of bonds on his back has a boyfriend. I hear he lives in the Castro district (gay area) of SF. Just one more reason for me to hate Giants fans 🙂

  23. You’re two of four on yesterday’s picks, Al, but I still needed you to fill out your entire bracket when I asked. No big deal. It looks like Heavy D is going to run away with it.

    Re: D’Antoni, Al. I disagree with you. I think even if they lose in the first round, he keeps his job. The ink on Carmelo’s jersey is still dry.

    Right now they’re a seven seed, which means they’ll end up playing someone like Boston. Nobody expects the Knicks to win that series.

    I will say this. If the Knicks fail to MAKE the playoffs, he may be in trouble. But if they do get in, play hard and lose in the first round, I think his job is still safe. Seat might be hot, but he’s safe.

    You’re also giving Dolan too much credit. As if he’s actually paying attention or gives a shit.

  24. Chris

    That Knicks’ team aren’t playing defense so how the hell do you expect ’em to stay in games ? Just simply rely on their offense ? You know that if Stoudemire has an off night then the Knicks barely stand a chance in a game . So tell me how you see them doing anything in the playoffs ?

    You’re buying into nothing but seeing a shiny old pre-owned sitting in a lot and looking all beguiling. As for Walsh tell me anything significant he’s achieved over the course of his career as a GM ? Other than obtaining Smits and Reggie for the Pacers that hardly qualifies him as being spoken of in the same breath as Jerry West much less RC Buford of the Spurs .

    DAntoni isn’t yet treading on thin ice but he may well need one of those huskies they use in the Iditarod Races if things get much worse ! And as of now that picture ain’t all that rosy !

    I’d left you my picks as to the championship game in one your previous piece .

    tophatal ………..

  25. chappy 81

    The tat that Bonds has may well keep him in the good graces of the pillow bitin’ brigade in cell Block E should he get sent down .

    tophatal ………….

  26. Pingback: Sports Chump » March Madness Redux: How could I have been so wrong?

  27. Carmelo called last night’s game against the Magic a must-win. They ended up getting it done in overtime.

    Nobody expects this Knicks team to win a Finals this year. They might not even win a first round playoff series, Al. But in the long run, they’ll be just fine.

    And I also find it highly unlikely that Bonds will do any hard time.

  28. Chris

    They may well be fine in the long run but there’s only so much money that the organization can withstand to lose money before they start to look at their personnel from the players to the coaches . It’s never the marquee players on a team that end up being blamed for a team’s ineptitude but the coaching staff ____ remember that …………… !

    Dolan and his family may well be worth a few billion but even a rich man knows when to throw their hands in a game of poker .

    Do you honestly think that the Knicks can withstand to lose in excess of $30 million a year ….. repeatedly on average of the last five years with nothing to show for it in return ?

    There’s only so much money that Dolan can divert from MSG Inc . as the parent company to plow into the Knicks even with the NBA’s mandated salary cap .

    See the link provided to see how much the execs there are compensated ?

    MADISON SQUARE GARDEN INC Officers & Directors

    tophatal …………….

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