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2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Commentary: Don’t complain about No. 1 seeds


All right, you can't have it both ways. Either you love it when one of the little guys - a George Mason or James Madison or any school with a first and last name - sneaks into the NCAA Final Four, or you think this year's edition is how it should be.

One or the other.

Ever since skinny Stephen Curry of Davidson couldn't escape the clinging defense of Kansas for a game-winning shot Sunday - he passed it off to a teammate, clearly ruining the script - the consensus has been that the heavyweight Final Four of Kansas, Memphis, UCLA and North Carolina is the steak and not just the sizzle.

The same people who decry college football's rigged system of eliminating the small fries in favor of the power potatoes are the ones salivating over this weekend's proceedings in San Antonio.

For the first time since the NCAA went to its current system in 1979, all four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four. This is either a testament to the natural selection process of the tournament or the first three games on the schedule for the NBA's Developmental League, depending on one's perspective.

This year, the NCAA has gotten its most fervent wish, and the tournament has finally done its job of replicating the U.S. tax code so that the rich have gotten richer and the rest are standing in line to pay $3.25 a gallon for gas.

Is this great, or is it a reward for the huge programs with monstrous budgets that skim the cream from the curdling AAU system, who summon the best recruits with a crook of a texting finger and who enjoy the privilege of having the tournament bracket cooked to their liking each March? Again, a matter of perspective.

Consider that somewhere around a dozen undergraduates from the four teams will be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft in June. That's about one-third of all the picks, just from these four teams, and just the undergraduates. The schools rented the players, got where they wanted to go, and now will reload with another tasty meal from the McDonald's all-American game.

It is true that, unlike football, the four schools had to play their way to the Alamodome, but that doesn't make the system inherently fair.

Kansas, for instance, didn't play an opponent seeded better than No. 8 along the way. UCLA played only one. Memphis and UNC each had a pair of games against teams seeded among the top five in their respective regions. (The Tar Heels did have a pretty significant advantage by not having to leave the state of North Carolina, though.) Here's a modest proposal for the future, one that would be very interesting, a great deal of fun, and will never happen: Forget seeding.

Put all 65 ping-pong balls in the barrel and just start pulling them out and putting them on the board.

Bracket wonks, NCAA committee members, and every executive at CBS would scream at that idea, of course. Teams that have proved themselves the best during the regular season should get an advantage. Really, why? Those are the teams that don't need advantages.

So, if the unpredictability of the tournament is what you love best, perhaps it's time to make that a reality instead of a mirage. The three games this weekend in San Antonio will undoubtedly be good basketball, but there's not a single possible outcome that could be called an upset.


MOJHawk 13 years, 6 months ago

Let's make it interesting...let's put numbers on 65 scorpions and let Bob Ford draw the numbers!!

JJHAWK 13 years, 6 months ago

Guess he would want the seedings for the BIG 12 tournament drawn by ping pong balls also.

JNgohawks 13 years, 6 months ago

Or we could leave it the way it is ...

mr_lawrence 13 years, 6 months ago

This guy is stupid. I'm guessing he's not really into college basketball. This final four has the most exciting match-ups ever and by far the best four teams in the country this year. I mean come on, a 35-3 Kansas team vs. a 36-2 Carolina team, a 35-3 UCLA team vs. a 37-1 Memphis team. 143-9 their records combined, an all-time best; 4 number ones, first time ever; all are champions of their respective conference's regular season and tournament; the traditions, the connections, the storylines. These are titanic battles, games for the ages in all likelihood. This guy just doesn't get it. This ought to be the best final four ever.

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