FROM MY RECLINER, NJ – March Madness is over, and the UConn Huskies stand victorious. Raise your hand if you saw that coming. Now stop lying and put your hand down.
What do RAs and the NCAA Have in Common?
Outside of diehard Connecticut fans, people using darts to make picks, and clueless kids I can’t imagine many, if anyone, picked the Huskies. Not like Resident Advisor (RA) Derek picked them.
Derek might be the biggest loser of the night. Something tells me his floor made CenturyLink Field seem like a library well past midnight. But honestly, how ballsy was that email by Derek? In one email he preemptively scolded his floor AND trivialized an event that was exciting and important to way more than just the entire campus. Then he had the gall to remind everyone that they still have to live with each other for another month…maybe use that same logic before sending the email??!
More importantly I hate the laundry argument. HATE IT! It boils sports down to its most basic, and in the process eliminates everything that makes them special and loved. This isn’t to say Derek should love sports, but it’s unfair to take the joy of sports out of context like that. Sorry you hate sports D-Rock, but believe it or not there are plenty of people who disagree with you. That includes the NCAA who make tons of money off these “student-athletes.” And on that topic (courtesy of Grantland’s Mark Titus):
A reader named Joe S. sent me an email Saturday night, not long after Kentucky beat Wisconsin. It’s pretty perfect:
Don’t Kentucky and UConn making the final basically put another nail in the coffin of the NCAA’s “student-athlete” fantasy? One team had such bad grades they were suspended from the postseason last year (and had a 10 percent graduation rate) and the other has five freshman starters who will most likely leave for the NBA after one season.
Points granted, but as long as the NCAA keeps referring to these basketball players as “student-athletes,” I’m sure no one will notice this farce. Speaking of which, look at this picture of the record-breaking crowd at AT&T Stadium and, without laughing, try to convince yourself that the NCAA’s primary interest is its “student-athletes.”
A Tough Road to Climb
It’s not that Connecticut was a bad team. They were ranked to start the season, were one of two teams to hand Florida a loss, made it to the AAC Conference title game, and might’ve featured the best player in the tournament.
You’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t think there was a good chance Shabazz Napier could steal a game or two for the Huskies – even if it was just nostalgia for 2011 and Kemba Walker. Napier was a strong scorer who just got better in crunch time. If that’s not a tournament killer on paper, I don’t know what is.
The problem was the Huskies needed to steal more than one or two games. They were coming out of arguably the toughest bracket in the tournament. Just to make the Final Four they had to beat St. Joes, Villanova, Iowa State, and Michigan State. That’s no small feat.
An opening round victory wasn’t shocking. Even beating Villanova seemed reasonable. After all, Villanova might’ve been a tad overrated.
***But that’s life in the new Big East. The top two teams – by a wide margin – were Creighton and Villanova. Both teams lost in the second round (I’m refusing to count those four play-in games as a round). And Creighton didn’t just lose, they got dismantled by a good, not great, Baylor team. The next best Big East team was Providence. Realignment really ruined what was once the greatest college basketball conference***
But Iowa State and Michigan State are no slouches. And again, that was just to get to the Final Four.
On the other side of the bracket was Kentucky. If there was any team that had a harder road than UConn, it was Kentucky. The Wildcats had to get through Kansas State, an unbeaten Wichita State, Louisville, and Michigan. Those last three teams each could’ve reasonably won a championship. In fact, two of those teams were in the title game just last season, and the third was a Final Four participant.
So in some ways “Mr Tattoo” (Tyler) did get value.
It’s not like the guy got the tattoo right before the title game. He went all in before the SEC tournament even started. Back when Kentucky was losing to Arkansas and South Carolina. So 1) you could argue he clearly didn’t care if the tattooed result came to fruition 2) holy smokes did that come close 3) he’s got visual proof he’s walking around with two coconuts between his legs, just saying. Bravo Tyler. While it might look stupid to most people, I’m sure it’ll be a pleasant reminder to him. And if he doesn’t care, what’s wrong with it?
In comparison, Florida and Wisconsin slept walked to the Final Four. Florida’s toughest game was against a good UCLA team, but otherwise only had to get through Pittsburgh, Dayton, and Albany. Wisconsin had American, Oregon, Baylor, and Arizona. A set of opponents that easily puts Florida to shame, but doesn’t compare to the onslaught Kentucky and UConn had to navigate.
So what does that say? Does facing the toughest road prepare you more?
No. Every season is different. But a year where two above-average regular season teams – at best –made the championship, there is no downplaying their credentials.