Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tourney suffers without Cinderella



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Way to strip a lot of the fun and intrigue from this season’s March Madness, NCAA Tournament selection committee.

Not only did it give some of the major conferences too many invites to the Big Dance, but the committee left some very good mid-majors on the sidelines. Now we have a Sweet 16 that’s not as appealing as it has been in recent years, thanks to you. The top three seeds from every region advanced to the third round.

No Cinderellas this time. And do you know why?

Because this season’s version of Davidson is somewhere in the NIT, after only four mid-majors were given at-large berths to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the selection committee chose seven teams from the Big Ten. Three didn’t make it out of the first round, and only two Big Ten teams, Michigan State and Purdue, are still alive. The SEC doesn’t even have a team to root for anymore. And only the lowest Pac-10 rep remains: Arizona, a No. 12 seed.

Meanwhile, the few mid-majors not only proved their own worth but also made a strong argument for schools such as St. Mary’s and San Diego State that didn’t get into the NCAA Tournament.

Western Kentucky dropped 76 points against Illinois, owner of the Big Ten’s top-scoring defense (57.0 points allowed per game). Cleveland State held Wake Forest and the ACC’s second-best scoring offense (79.9 points per game) to only 69 in a first-round upset. And only a Superman effort by Terrence Williams (24 points, 15 rebounds) helped No. 1 seed Louisville escape Siena.

No need for the Saints to frown. They outplayed Ohio State in Dayton, Ohio, to make it out the first round Friday. (I’m guessing that selection committee member and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith didn’t plan it that way.)

“A lot of people probably felt we were going to play the games in the 50s,” said Siena coach Fran McCaffery after Sunday’s 79-72 loss to Louisville. “But that’s just not how we play. We’re always going to be in attack mode. We’re going to attack pressure. We’re going to attack zones. We’re going to attack man-to-man, and we’re going to press you.”

The fact that a team named Siena — you have no idea where the school is without using the Internet — can tussle with the top team in the NCAA Tournament for nearly 40 minutes makes the NCAA tournament a great method for crowning a champ.

None of the mid-majors made it to the Sweet 16, but then the odds were certainly against them.

This weekend’s Sweet 16, however, still offers all of the necessary ingredients for some good ol’ fashioned basketball stew.

Still, the selection committee’s failure to include more mid-majors comes at a price. The casual fan doesn’t have as many reasons to care this year. Last season’s NCAA Tournament made history with all four No. 1 seeds going to the Final Four.

But Davidson’s Stephen Curry still managed to become a household name, party with LeBron James and take his squad on one of the most fascinating journeys in recent NCAA Tournament history. When more mid-majors are included, we all benefit.

With few underdogs, the NCAA Tournament is potentially missing out on some great story lines that draw everyday people to their TVs to watch college basketball.

Where’s George Mason when you need it?


Lance Hobson 10 years, 10 months ago

I agree. The famous yearly upsets are the reason why top seeds still shudder when they are matched up against Richmond and Princeton and Northern Iowa.

pmohr13 10 years, 10 months ago

hard to agree that NCAA suffers, who is going to attract more fans, the bigger well established basketball schools or the smaller not as well followed mid major schools? The NCAA will probably make more money because there will be just that many more people watching the tournament. Who knows though. Plus, everyone has to be thrilled that their bracket is doing extremely better than previous years.

bradh 10 years, 10 months ago

I agree that seeing the Cinderellas makes for interesting viewing in March. I don't know that your argument, "there aren't any mid-majors left so the committee should have invited more mid-majors", is valid. Based on that argument they should have invited more SEC teams and fewer Big East and Big 12 teams. That way the SEC would have more chances to get a team to the Sweet 16 and the Big East and Big 12 would be less likely to have half the of the field.

K_Easthouse 10 years, 10 months ago

It's a funny situation, with most of the top seeded teams advancing. In my opinion, this year has provided a greater degree of parity in college hoops than most years prior. Before there were the clear favorites; those teams that everyone knew would be No. 1 seeds, and everyone else. I see a much more fluid gradation of talent this year than in prior years, yet the top seeds remain. Is there any way to describe it? I'm sure if you lock a mathematician, a sports analyst and a behaviorist in a room they could come up with some solid theories. I'll simply prefer not to wrap my head around it and enjoy the games that are coming.

keeb1211 10 years, 10 months ago

I like the cinderella just as much as anyone but to say the tourney sufferes because of it is silly. For the first time (I think ever) all four regions have the top 3 seeds remaining which means the 12 teams the committee thought would be the best actually are. As a fan would you have rather watched George Mason v Florida or rather replace George Mason with say the #1 seed UConn, I say the later. It is hard to say that if teams win that they don't deserve to be there but does anyone think that had Davidson hit that desperation shot in Detroit last year that they would really be the better team? I say no.

This should be an exciting weekend.

Also this seems like an article from a writer out of Minnesota were there is nothing sports related going on right now, their NHL season is practically over, the Twins are a week away from opening day and the NFL draft is another month away.

RonBurgandy 10 years, 10 months ago

Completely disagree. A cinderella team is great when it happens, but it doesn't take away any of the greatness of the tournament. There have been plenty of quality, exciting games this year.

Marcia Parsons 10 years, 10 months ago

Probably a true Cinderella is nothing more than a Committee foul-up in seeding. Does anyone really think Davidson should have been a 10 seed last year? Maybe the Committee just got it right this year. No one should make it into the tournament just because they aren't (or are) a member of a major conference.

JayCeph 10 years, 10 months ago

"Because this season’s version of Davidson is somewhere in the NIT..."

Actually this season's (and every season for that matter) Davidson was in the NIT. Literally. Davidson was invited and went to the NIT. However, they are now ka-put since they bowed out in the first round.

As for the tourney suffering this year? Not really... according to the ratings, this season's are up 6 percent from last year. Seems like the committee knew what they were doing in regard to getting people to tune in. I would imagine that the economy has something to do with that since fewer people are going out and spending money. However having the major conferences play a significant role deep into to the tourney gets more alums (strictly a volume game here) to stay interested.

I was a bit disappointed in the showing in Minneapolis for KU's second game. Only 14,000 people showed up in that huge dome. Fewer than the number of people that go to Allen to visit the drinking fountains... oh well, maybe Indy will have a stronger showing.

rockchalkin54 10 years, 10 months ago

Wasn't North Dakota State supposed to be Cinderella this year? It looks like the Jayhawks had to kill her again.

justanotherfan 10 years, 10 months ago


Davidson won their first round NIT game @ South Carolina. They lost their second round game to Saint Mary's (another mid major). It's odd that three of the mid majors that were fighting for one of the last NCAA spots all ended up on the same side of the NIT bracket (Davidson, St. Mary's, San Diego State).

As for whether no Cinderella hurts the tournament, I don't think so. This year, there was a pretty clear separation from the top handful of teams (mostly the #1 and #2 seeds) and everyone else. I think that will be shown this weekend when mostly 1's and 2's win on Thursday and Friday. There was another separation between the next handful of teams and everyone else (mostly the 3's and 4's). I think that is a function of the spreading of talent among the mid majors. As more and more mid major type programs have begun to recruit more nationally, they have spread the talent out among the mid majors. There was a time when Creighton almost always won the Mo. Valley. It used to be almost automatic that Utah would win the Mountain West. Kent State used to dominate the MAC. But teams like Southern Illinois, Drake, Wichita State, BYU, UNLV, San Diego State, etc. have gotten stronger. Those teams don't steal recruits from KU, or UCLA, or North Carolina. They steal them from each other. So instead of those schools stock piling four year talent and dominating their conference with veterans that have been in their system, they have to scratch and claw, making it tougher to stand out.

Some "mid majors" have become national programs (Memphis, Xavier, Gonzaga) because of continued success, and the production of NBA quality talent. But the vast majority of mid majors are just fighting each other, which weakens Cinderella considerably.

JayCeph 10 years, 10 months ago

justanother... thanks for the correction. I forgot about that SC game. I tuned in for their loss in the second round so that is what I remembered. The old grey matter is getting older...

I think everyone LIKES the idea of a mid-major cinderalla but to actually realize it (in the long run) wouldn't produce much fruit. Who would really want to see a Texas Western or a Memphis or a Bradly win a Natl Cmpshp? Not me. The rest of the year I'd be pondering the validity of the tournament if that happened.

Give me a KU national championship every year and I'd be happy. Is that too much to ask? I think not. ;)

farnamjayhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Cinderellas are nice when they get into the Sweet 16 but after that they have served their purpose. The cream rises to the top and whether you are an avid or average fan most people understand that by the time we get to the Final Four we have the top tier teams that are playing the best ball. It's light years ahead of the BCS in football.

Also, K_Easthouse, did you really pick Misery to be in the Final Four......????? That's like picking Peter Griffin to win an IQ contest.

LAJayhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

"Who would really want to see... a Memphis... win a Natl Cmpshp?"

The media. ESPN would have a field day.

Jim Rome on the Monday after the selection show:

"The selection committee disrespected Memphis in giving them a two seed. Now Cal has the evidence he needs to prove that the world is out to get him and his program."

I'm not kidding. I heard that with my own two ears (why I was listening to that donkey to begin with is another question). Memphis was "disrespected" with the top 2 seed. Just makes you shake your head. Ahhh, the hype machine.


I agree in that Davidson was better than a 10 seed last year. I would also say that in many of the upsets through the years that the higher seeded team doesn't deserve their spot (and not just because they lost). This year Illinois really shouldn't have been a 5 seed, and Western Kentucky was better than a 12. (Wake actually deserved their 4, they just came out dead)

But all in all, what this tournament proves is that the committee actually did a really good job this year. That and teams actually played up to their own talent level (for the most part).

jayhawkr34 10 years, 10 months ago

would nt you consider arizona a cinderella this yr? only double digit school left? makes for interesting watching see if they can knock off a 1 seed.

NebraskaJayhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

I don't know....I think KU is a pretty good story this year. Talk about a black horse if you consider the pre-season picks and the inexperience on this club. I agree with Arizona being one as well. And I don't even hate them as much with Lute gone.

wyansas 10 years, 10 months ago

with a few delightful exceptions, a mid major upset in the tournament usually means a blowout loss in the next round, and ultimately the mid major cinderellas provide fans with just as much boring basketball to watch as exciting basketball. the mid majors had their chance, they didn't pull through. i think this tournament is shaping up to be just as exciting as any. we've got some big time matchups in the works. we've got the best teams still alive on the biggest stage trying to win a national championship. that's exciting, and the tournament is still the best 3 weeks of sport in the year. so i see no problem with a chalky tourney whatsoever. however, i wouldn't have a problem doing away with the pod system, which gives the highest seeds home court advantage in the early rounds, causing fewer upsets.

discojayhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Living in Tucson, I can assure you Arizona is considered the Cinderella here. They were most likely the last team in, now they are in the Sweet 16. As a Jayhawk through and through, I can only hope the Mighty Jayhawks will avenge our loss to UA should we get the opportunity. It's tough to live in this town surrounded by all the UA hype. Rock Chalk!

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