I absolutely love the NCAA Tournament. Nothing comes close to beating it, in my eyes. The hustle, the close games, the heartbreak and jubilation — it is the ultimate sporting event.
But it’s certainly not without its flaws.
The Connecticut Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 to be crowned National Champions Monday night. But does this really make them top in the country?
Obviously this is a massive accomplishment. UConn’s second national title in four years is something most fans can only dream about. But is it fair that surviving the tournament is the sole mark of the nation’s best team?
The problem I often have with the tournament is that it is a simple reflection of which teams got hot at the right time. It’s not like that’s not a problem in other sports (look at the New York Giants’ two most recent Super Bowl wins, both of which saw the Giants playing on Wild Card weekend), but the tournament is so much easier to get into than the playoffs in other sports.
Look at Ohio State basketball this year. It was a mediocre team, plain and simple. It had no semblance of an offense, no go-to scorer, no interior presence, and seemed to only excel at defending inbound passes.
But the Buckeyes easily made the tournament. Dominating their exceptionally weak non-conference schedule and squeezing out a few big conference wins was enough for 25 victories, a lock to get in, despite a 10-8 record in Big Ten play.
The Buckeyes didn’t find the magic that UConn did, though, as their season came to a close in their first tournament game against the No. 11-seed Dayton. But what if OSU had figured out how to score late in the season?
If the Buckeyes had managed to get hot and make a tournament run, could you really say that a team that lost twice to Penn State was one of the nation’s elite teams? I don’t think anyone could watch its offensive strategy of passing the ball around the perimeter for 30 seconds and argue that.
UConn finished the regular season ranked No. 18 in the AP Poll, just four spots better than the Buckeyes. Its season featured some good wins over Florida, Memphis, and Cincinnati, but despite 32 wins, it was still only good enough to earn a No. 7 seed.
Kentucky didn’t even finish the season ranked in the AP Poll, although its name can be seen in the “others receiving votes” column.
Are these the teams that can be narrowed down as the two best in the country? I realize basketball is more than just stats and polls, and the postseason is what it’s all about, but is it possible that winning the tournament creates an overrated legacy just a little?
I’m not saying there’s a better way to determine the season’s champion. But when you look back on this season 10 years from now, will it be easily recognizable that Wichita State didn’t lose a regular season game or Arizona, Florida, and Syracuse spent a combined 15 weeks at No. 1? No, the only thing you will see will be UConn claiming the national title.
I am not trying to take away this tremendous accomplishment by the Huskies, but is it right that a few weeks in March and April completely wash out an OK regular season?