The first four days were amazing -- from the buzzer-beaters to the upsets, from the individual performances to the personalities they forced us to no longer ignore. I mean, Omar Samhan has spent four years talking to anybody who would talk to him, but only now is he known as the sport's greatest quote because it took averaging 30 points and 10 rebounds in wins over Richmond and Villanova to make folks pay attention.
Now people can't stop paying attention.
|If each Final Four team were of Cornell's stature, interest would most likely wane. (Getty Images)|
That's the strange truth about the NCAA tournament.
We like upsets early but want powers there in the end.
For instance, there was nothing more awesome than watching Northern Iowa outwork Kansas, nothing more fun than watching Ali Farokhmanesh pull up and bury that open 3-pointer in the final seconds for the win. Great moment, great game, great story that'll stick with us forever. But doesn't it kind of stink that Kansas is no longer around? The Jayhawks are still one of the nation's best teams with a star point guard and future Hall of Fame coach. They were nearly the unanimous No. 1 in the preseason and unanimous No. 1 after the regular season, and the Final Four will be missing something because it's missing them.
We like Greatness vs. Greatness or Cinderella vs. Greatness.
What we do not like is Cinderella vs. Pretty Goodness.
And we don't like Cinderella vs. Cinderella, either.
That's called BracketBusters.
In other words, we like Northern Iowa vs. Kansas, but Northern Iowa vs. Michigan State is less interesting because the Spartans have eight losses and do not have Kalin Lucas, so nothing that happens Friday in St. Louis will be monumental. A Northern Iowa win won't be a surprise, and a Michigan State win will merely be further proof that Tom Izzo is a freaking miracle worker.
Kentucky vs. Cornell?
That's excellent because it has what we like -- most notably big, bad John Calipari and all his future lottery picks (with Ashley Judd, Drake and William Wesley behind the bench) against a team of Ivy League students whose best YouTube highlight features an airport and a Rubik's cube. It really is a perfect Sweet 16 matchup because of the vast differences between the coaches, players and schools. But most wouldn't get nearly as excited about Cornell-Saint Mary's or Northern Iowa-Butler in the Final Four, which is why Thursday and Friday will pull college basketball enthusiasts in different directions.
On one hand, people want the great stories to continue.
On the other, nobody wants a Final Four sans the perceived best teams.
The ideal scenario is a Final Four featuring two biggies playing two schools from smaller leagues -- something like Syracuse vs. Northern Iowa and Kentucky vs. Saint Mary's. That way the opportunity for an improbable story remains intact with the only other possibility being a national title game headlined by traditional powers with true stars and future pros.
That's the type of Final Four I would want to see.
That's the type that would get people talking.
But anything in the middle -- i.e., Cinderella vs. Cinderella, Cinderella vs. Pretty Goodness, Pretty Goodness vs. Pretty Goodness, etc. -- is a recipe for boredom topped with indifference. So I'd advise all college basketball fans without a specific rooting interest to be careful how they root Thursday and Friday.
I know you think you want Northern Iowa, Butler, Cornell and Saint Mary's to win.
But you probably don't want all of them to win.
Not unless you're a big BracketBusters fan.