Sunday, March 27, 2011

The NCAA BB Tournament-Size and Age Do Not Matter

You have to love the NCAA Division 1 Basketball Championship.  It does not matter how much the BCS schools try to stack the rules and money to favor the big boys in football, playing it off on the court is a great equalizer.

Butler has made the Final Four for the second consecutive year.  It has just over 4,000 undergraduate students.  It plays in the Horizon League.  They lost 5 games this year in league play.  Wright State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee (twice), Valparaiso and Youngstown State.  In the NCAA tournament they have beaten Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Florida.

Virginia Commonwealth plays in the Colonial Athletic Association conference against teams like William & Mary, Georgia State and James Madison. They are 27-11 for the year but have beaten Southern Cal (PAC 10), Georgetown (Big East), Purdue (Big Ten), Florida State (ACC) and Kansas (Big 12) in the tournament.

Size does not matter.

Butler is coached by 34 year old Brad Stevens.  Watching Butler over the last two years in a number of close games I have been impressed with how unflappable Stevens in.  His cool, calm demeanor is reflected in his team.  3 or their 4 NCAA tournament wins were nail biters where they did not quit and they did not choke.  Who can forget last year's NCAA Championship game against Duke where the game winning shot   bounced off the rim as time expired.

Shaka Smart is 33 years old and has had the head job at VCU for two years.  He played his college basketball at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.  It is better known for producing Div III swimming championships than basketball coaches.  Stevens also graduated from a Div III school- DePauw College.

It is interesting to note that you could combine the ages of Stevens and Smart (67) and you still be short of Jim Calhoun, the head guy at Connecticut, who is age 68.  Calhoun might be coaching against one of the two in the NCAA Championship game.

Age does not matter.

The success of these two mid-major programs will hopefully push the NCAA to consider its selection criteria.  VCU actually had to play themselves into the 64-game full field in the so-called "First Four" games this year as they were considered one the four lowest at-large qualifying teams.  If a First Four team can make the Final Four does that suggest that there are more deserving teams?  I think it would make sense to expand the current 68 team field to 80 teams.

I will have a tough time deciding who to root for when Butler and VCU tip off next Saturday.  I will have no such problem the following Monday when one of these two mid-major teams tip off against Connecticut or Kentucky.  It will truly as if Cinderella has shown up at the King's Ball.  I can only hope the glass slipper doesn't break against these basketball blue bloods.


No comments:

Post a Comment