March Madness has been everything but madness this year. The 2009 version of the tournament has lacked the upsets and Cinderella teams that has made this event the most entertaining in sports. In years past, teams like Davidson and George Mason were able to shock the world and advance to the elite eight. Not so in ’09.
In 2006 George Mason was able to make it to the final four as an 11-seed. In 2008, Davidson advanced to the elite eight as a 10-seed. This year, every elite eight team was at least a number three-seed. In fact every number one seed advanced to the elite eight. Although the final four isn’t as chalky as the elite eight, with number one seeds Connecticut and North Carolina, two-seed Michigan State and three-seed Villanova advancing, it lacks the Cinderella team that makes March Madness so entertaining.
Cinderella teams make the tournament memorable; years from now everyone will remember George Mason and Davidson but no one will remember that every number one seed advanced to the elite eight this year. In fact, this tournament hasn’t been memorable except for a few great games. The elite eight game between Pittsburgh and Villanova was one of the best college basketball games I’ve seen. Sienna’s triple overtime battle against Ohio State was the most exciting games of the tournament, with both teams battling back and forth for the victory. That same night, Florida State and Wisconsin played a thriller as well. But these games are the norm for March Madness; they happen every year. There was a lack of excitement and upsets this year.
Besides 13-seeded Cleveland State beating the talented yet inconsistent Wake Forest, there was a lack of a true underdog. Yes, 12-seeded Arizona made it to the sweet 16 but they are not the usual number 12 seed. Arizona is as talented as most of the top seeds, with three future NBA players in Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Nick Wise. Besides that, Arizona is a perennial powerhouse in college basketball, so Arizona in the sweet 16 doesn’t really count as a Cinderella. A Cinderella team is a team from a non-BCS conference that advances far into the tournament, like Davidson or George Mason.
The sweet 16 featured 14 of the top 16 teams in the tournament. The other teams that advanced were Arizona, as above mentioned and Purdue, a five-seed. Arizona was somewhat of a surprise, even though they have the talent to beat top teams. Purdue on the other hand, was predicted by many experts to advance far into the tournament. They are from a power conference, and entered the tournament on a three game win streak, so it wasn’t a shock that they advanced to the sweet 16. What was a shock though, was that there were no surprise teams in the sweet 16 or elite eight. And because of this I think that it hurt the entertainment of March Madness.
Hopefully this is not a trend in college basketball because for March Madness to thrive, there needs to be Cinderella teams and upsets. It’s not fun when the top seeds win every game. Everyone loves a David versus Goliath story and this type of story has been lacking this year. Even last year, there weren’t many upsets besides Davidson, especially with every number one seed advancing to the final four, which happened for the first time in the history of the tournament. At least this year there are only two number one seeds in the final four. Sure, the top seeded teams may be the best teams, but March Madness isn’t about the top seeded teams winning it all. It’s about upsets and giant-killers. And if a top seeded team loses to a Cinderella team then they don’t need to play for a championship.
With the final four set now, it will be interesting to see who makes it to the championship and who wins it all. My bet is on North Carolina. They have looked like the best team in the tournament so far, now that Ty Lawson is healthy. With him at 100 percent, the Tarheels are the best team in the country. Their offense is nearly unstoppable and they have veteran talent on their team that has played in big situations throughout their careers. North Carolina has yet to be challenged this tournament and they have dominated every opponent they have faced. I think they will win a tough game against Villanova, then play another good game against Connecticut in the championship. With President Obama picking North Carolina, there is no way they lose the championship game.