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March Madness hasn't been that Mad
This year’s installment of the NCAA basketball tournament lacks some of the luster of previous years. It’s not that the teams are bad or that there isn’t quality basketball being played; it’s just different than we have become accustomed to. The typical stories of March Madness have failed to exist as we generally expect.
The opening weekend of the tournament was extremely exciting. Of course, you can’t go wrong with 32 college basketball games in 36 hours. The beginning of the tournament led to the hope of an action packed tournament. There were the thrills of upsets, including two #2 seeds losing to #15 seeds. Both Duke and Missouri were expected to go deep into the tourney but choked right away.
However, the final four this year does not include any real Cinderella teams. Even going back to last weekend, the elite eight didn’t have any. The highest seed in last week’s elite eight pairings was a #7 seed with Florida, but Florida won national championships in 2006 and in 2007. They are a relatively well known program who has been successful in recent years, and they cannot really be viewed as an underdog. Even back to the sweet sixteen, the teams were pretty normal. It was littered with high seeded teams. Xavier was a #10 seed, but they are a perennial tournament team. North Carolina State was a #11 but also a relatively well-known team. The only real Cinderella story that made it to the sweet sixteen was that of the Ohio Bobcats.
Speaking of Ohio, four of the sixteen teams in the sweet sixteen were schools from Ohio: Ohio State, Ohio University, Xavier, and Cincinnati. This was a relatively impressive feat for a state that is generally not known for basketball. The state of Ohio is generally well known for its football and wrestling accolades. Unfortunately for the state, only Ohio State made it to the elite eight and now onto the final four. However, glory came to the state when Ohio University defeated the University of Michigan in an upset in the opening round. Even though Ohio State is truly the arch rival of Michigan, it is a victory anytime an Ohio school beats Michigan.
So other than the first weekend, we haven’t seen that many upsets in this year’s college basketball tournament. Usually, people love to jump on the bandwagon of an underdog team and watch them ride their momentum through the tournament. Of course, last year, Shaka Smart led his team from Virginia Commonwealth University (a #11 seed) all the way to the final four. It was thrilling to watch them beat team after team while being the underdogs. While we haven’t quite had any real big runs this year, there have been a couple oddities. One was mentioned previously in the four teams from Ohio being in the sweet sixteen. Also in the sweet sixteen, there were no teams from the Mountain or Pacific Time zones. That means all sixteen teams were from the eastern half of the country. That is also strange to have such dominance from one half of the nation.
While there might not be any craziness going into the final four with strange, high seeded teams, we can rest assured that there will be good basketball played. We get to watch a #1 seed in Kentucky take on a #4 seed in Louisville. We also have the match-up of two #2 seeds with Kansas and Ohio State. Both should be exciting games that have histories. Kentucky and Louisville are rivals since they are both from the same state. On top of that, Louisville’s coach, Rick Pitino, used to coach at Kentucky and led them to a national championship in 1996. As for Ohio State and Kansas, they played earlier in the season, so this is a much anticipated rematch. Even though there is no underdog to cheer for if your team is out, you can be guaranteed some entertaining basketball this weekend leading up to the national championship game.