Big Dance Sees Upsets

We are down to the final weekend in arguably one of the most exciting playoffs in sports.  But wait, did I say playoffs? Come to think of it, I can’t even remember the last time the word playoffs was used to describe the NCAA college basketball tournament.   Sure we hear playoffs to describe the NFL, MLB, and NBA postseason, but have you ever heard the word playoffs to describe the NCAA tournament?  Instead, the makers of the Big Dance have correctly labeled the tournament exactly what it is, “March Madness.” This weekend’s Final Four will consist of a team that didn’t even make the final four in their respective conference tournament, and a mid-major school that most people couldn’t locate on a map.

But don’t we want to crown the best team? The team with the best record? The team that’s been consistent throughout the whole year?   Maybe in Baseball where only 8 of the 30 teams make the playoffs, and maybe in the NBA where teams must play a best of 7 game series to decide the winner, but not in a NCAA tournament where teams 7th out of 10 in their conference can make into the postseason.

By the time the Big Dance rolls around, perennial powers like Villanova, Georgetown, and Syracuse are just getting done pounding on each other in physical, consecutively played conference tournament games.   Players are exhausted, and when their opening round game against #14 seed Ohio comes around that same week it’s difficult for them to get to that same level of intensity, that same level of passion, and that same level of “hey, this is the big game.”   However, for teams like  Northern Iowa, Cornell, Butler, and Saint Mary's who have blasted through their respective conferences, the NCAA tournament gives them their one and only  chance to  shine in the national spotlight.

The college game as a whole also allows for severe unpredictability because of the abused 20 ft 3-point line.  This year’s tournament showed the long balls potency, as teams like Cornell and Washington made deep runs in the tournament because of their combined 34-69 (49.3%) 3 point shooting.  No matter how much better one team is, it’s tough to beat any mid major school that runs down 30 seconds of clock, and then knocks down daggers from 23 ft all night.

Teams with less talent, less athleticism, and less experience have the greatest chance of winning in the college basketball tournament than in any other sport’s postseason.  But isn't that why we love it?  Why we call it March Madness?  Why it's the most popular postseason?

When Michigan State or Butler plays for the National Championship on Monday, the best team may not be crowned champion, but no one will be complaining.

Editor’s Note: This sports column is a regular feature from “The Nightcap” crew,  made up of Ari Zyskind, Ned Schooler, Nathan Barnett, Dan Campbell, and Kevin Shuai, a group of 5Cers who air a weekly radio talk show on KSPC. You can listen in online at KSPC.org (click “Hear us Online via Live365”) every Monday from 8-10 PM.