10 March 2006

Dancing doldrums: Lost fascination in college basketball

There are no links here. No interesting stories. Just one guy's disenchantment with the upcoming college basketball tourney.

College basketball in March is and should be a time like no other in sports. Buzzer-beating threes, everything-on-the-line games, and where else will you find massive Nova-beats-Georgetown type upsets for the championship? It truly is one of the premier championship methods, surpassed only by the NFL and the #1 championship system ever -- the World Cup of futbol.

So why does it seem this year is a big yawn?

I will give several reasons why I am losing the enchantment over a yearly pasttime.

1) I don't really have a favorite team.
This is my preface for the whole article, but don't dismiss the rest.
I'll go ahead and say it, I have never really followed any team. My brother was a Duke fan, so I watched with awe Laettner's miracle shot and Hurley drain three after three all under the current emperor of college hoops Coach K. I passively rooted for SEC underdog Vandy (because someone had to) and somewhat Auburn (though football is the sport there). It was fun and they occasionally made the tourney, so there was hope for a miraculous something. But honestly, I'm not any type of diehard fan for either team, which doesn't help.

Now for the major reasons:

2) The selection committee.
When you have to leave anything in the hands of judges, you know something is going to go wrong. With as much as people pick on lesser "sports" (figure skating, gymnastics, boxing, etc.) for their fault of using judges, that no one really has eliminated this judging from one of the hallmarks of college bball is astounding. And worse is no one really seems to care, that is until their team gets the snub. Three primary examples of major snubs are 1989-90 Vandy, 1996-97 Michigan, and 2002-03 St. John's. All three teams were EASILY #12 or 11 seeds, but for the committee, sending them to the NIT which they all rolled easily. For every 2003-04 Alabama (who I thought shouldn't have been in but did well), there are the Cincinnati teams (pick a year), the 2000-01 UGA Bulldogs and GT, and the 2001-02 Boston College teams that get smoked in the first round after a mediocre NIT-worthy season, while 3 and 4 loss teams from lesser conferences get snubbed. It also doesn't help when the better teams like UCONN and Duke tank in their conference tourney to rest their guys since they have clinched a spot in the tourney, and also increase their conference's number of teams. To anyone who doesn't believe this happens from time-to-time, I've got a bridge to sell you.

3) The NBA.
It is NOT the LeBron James and Kobe Bryants of the NBA that are the problem. It's the guys who came and left early, abandoning their college team for money. Can't blame them. If someone said, "I'll pay you $1 million+ per year to come work for me," I'd say "What's the catch?" But for these guys, there is no catch. You go, practice (PRACTICE?!?), and play basketball. What a hard life. So the talent in the NCAA gets diminished. Sure, it allows a more even field, as few of the early exiters are from mid-major teams or worse so large conferences are more affected. Still overall, it makes BOTH leagues less interesting. We'll see how the new NBA regulations help the college game, and how the NCAA's requirements improve retention, but I don't expect significant changes.

4) If it walks like a duck, it's should still be travelling.
I'm really not going to be as long-winded about this. You know what I'm talking about. The now accepted extra step when driving to the basket. As much as I liked his play, five years ago Chris Wilcox of Maryland exposed the "camping in the paint" no-calls (Maryland was TERRIBLE about this). I could go on and on, but you all know.

5) Television.
I get sick of March Madness before it even gets here. They advertise in DECEMBER for crying out loud! That's worse than people putting up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving. Note to CBS, we know. It's MARCH Madness. I don't need to be reminded that it doesn't start in April, and I surely don't need your reminder before the previous calendar year is over.

Then once the games start, they really pour on the "compelling stories" crapola. If you think the Olympics were bad in regard to this (and they were), just wait, you'll have 3 more frickin' weekends worth of it coming. Coach K., Syracuse and their guy who lead them to winning more than "10 f*****g games," and whatever else they erroneously believe fans care about outside of the actual games and the results.

Bonus point:
Reason 6 -- Dickie V. 'Nuff said.

The reality is March Madness would be less interesting to thousands upon thousands of people if there were no such thing as office tourney pools, bookies, and Las Vegas.

Is it fun rooting for the underdog? Absolutely. For your alma mater? Yes. But is the tournament that interesting anymore? Not to this guy.

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