Slate ran a piece today echoing a complaint I've seen a lot around the web of late, that this year's NCAA tournament is sooooo boring. This is the second such article State alone has published this season, and here's author's Charles P. Pierce's problem with this weekend's games:
Look at your Final Four this year. Outside Villanova, which is playing better than anyone else at the moment, you've got North Carolina, placidly humming along like the well-heeled conglomerate that it is; UConn, which is trying to get through this tournament two steps ahead of the NCAA enforcement posse; and Michigan State, whose only chance to win this thing is to gum up the game with roller-ball defense, chuck up some three-point shots so as to have rebounds to pursue, and altogether render its games into something that makes me prefer to drive 10-penny nails into my eyeballs than watch. These are all major corporations within what has become the industry of college basketball. In the past 10 years, these four teams have combined to appear 12 times in the Final Four since 2000.
Somebody really didn't edit that last sentence, but that aside, 12 times in 10 years? That's leaves another twenty-eight spots, most of which have been filled by different teams. (There have been 14 different Final Four teams in the last five years.) And this is what always happens; a few elite teams repeat and the rest are cycled through. Even Pierce's rosy stretch of 1976-1980, when Indiana, Marquette, Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville won - no corporate teams there - only managed five more teams.
Look, everybody has their own memories of idyllic times when players were just in it for the love of the game and every year was a box of surprises, but I guarantee you, it wasn't actually like that. The better teams win more often - it's a tournament not a lottery. If, like this year, there isn't a raft of upsets, we're rewarded with four quality teams and odds are, better games. Everybody remembers the Final Four with George mason, but no one recalls that the games that year were decided by 14, 15, and 16 points. There's good basketball being played. Sit back, enjoy it, and stop trying to replicate the movie playing in your head.