By Cameron Blair
The phrase “the road to the Final Four” is on everyone’s lips this time of the year. How is your bracket doing? Are all of your Final Four teams still in it? Why are you looking at Kansas State’s stats instead of spending time with me?Now I love a good bracket as much as anyone. I spent the days leading up to the tournament poring over stats ofsome of the lesser-known teams in the tournament.
By the time the first round started, I knew Winthrop’s starting lineup and who led in scores and rebounds. Tournament time is not the peak of my year, academically. Forget learning about World War I and the effect it had on Europe; I need to know Siena’s record against RPI Top 50 teams.
All this leads up to the Final Four. The four best teams in the country will square off against one another to battle for one of the ugliest trophies in sports. The plaque looks like something you might win from one of those claw arcade machines.
But that’s beside the point. Everyone talks about the Final Four, and I’m fine with that. I will watch both games, barring an act of God or Jessica Simpson asking me to go to Mexico for the weekend.
However, after the first four days of the tournament, I find myself contemplating an absurd idea: my favorite part of the tournament is the first two rounds.
Either I’m about to make a good point or my brain is fried from time spent analyzing Drake’s non-conference schedule.
In the first two days of the tournament there were two games in which underdog teams won on last second buzzer-beaters in overtime. San Diego defeated powerhouse Connecticut and Western Kentucky defeated fifth-seeded Drake on one of the most incredible shots I have ever seen.
Moving to the weekend and the second round of the tournament, upsets and tight games were still showing aplenty.
Tennessee defeated seventh-seeded Butler only after losing a big lead and being forced into overtime. Davidson College, with its massive enrollment of 1,700 students, defeated a Georgetown team that made it to the Final Four last season paving their way to the Sweet 16.
And in a game that warmed my heart, West Virginiaupset Duke to reach in the Sweet 16. Duke ranks somewhere between Satan andNickelback on my “things I hate” list.
So, let’sget a tally on this. The first two rounds of the tournamenthad three overtime games and 10 games in which thelower-seeded team in the contest came away with a victory. That means about one-fourth of the games in the first two rounds were upsets.
Let’s contrast this with last season’s Final Four.
None of last year’s teams (Florida, UCLA, Ohio State and Georgetown) werelower than a two seed. George Mason’s trip to the Final Fourin 2006is more of the exception than the rule. Cinderella teams often get hot and win a game or two they are not supposed to, but come back to Earth when they cannot match up with the elite teams.
More often than not, the teams favored to getto the Final Four do.As a matter of fact, a No. 1 seeded team has been to theFinal Four in all but two NCAAtournamentssince 1979.
As far as the games are concerned, the first two rounds of the tournament giveyou more excitement-morebang for your buck. At any given time, therecan be as many as four games playing.
At one point Saturday, Tennessee and Butler were going down to the wire, Davidson wasclose to pulling off an upset over Georgetown andWKU and San Diego were locked tight in a battle of Cinderellas. This was a college basketball fan’s wet dream.
Contrast this to last season’s Final Four whennone of the three games were any closer than seven points, none of the games went to overtime and no game was decided on a last-second shot. A much-hyped matchup of elite big men Greg Odenand Roy Hibbert failed to live up to expectations.If that’s not bad enough,one of the ugliest people ever to walk this Earth (Joakim Noah) was on the championship team.
Although the Final Four gets the most hype and is-rightfully so-the pinnacle of the college basketball season, the first two rounds consistently provide much more excitement.
As a true sports fan, I would much rather watch a school many would have a hard time finding on a map, like Davidson, beat a powerhouse like Georgetown than watch an unattractive person (Noah) from the school favored to win the tournament raise an ugly trophy above his head.
But that’s just me.