Dueling columns: NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

Tournament’s predictability a turnoff

The NCAA Tournament will wrap up when the final horn sounds at the championship game in Detroit on Monday, and I won’t be missing it one bit.

The tournament just doesn’t seem to keep and maintain my attention – or even attract it at all – like it used to. In fact, I can’t remember the last year I was completely immersed in March Madness action.

The problem doesn’t lie within the tournament’s format, but rather in the lack of entertaining, hard-fought, down-to-the-wire games. Parity in college basketball has become almost nonexistent.

I don’t mind the presence of powerful programs – some schools just pour more resources into their basketball programs than others. Teams like North Carolina, UConn, Duke and Kansas will almost always have a team worthy of competing for a national title. That’s just the way it is.

But powerful schools aren’t to blame for the downfall of the tournament, and I really don’t mind when they advance into the final rounds. But too many games aren’t even close. Several games this year have been over by halftime. No one wants to watch that.

Out of the 61 games played thus far in the 2009 tournament, only nine of them have been decided by three or fewer points. Even more interesting is the fact that 39 of the 61 games have been decided by 10 or more points. The lack of competitive, entertaining games is painfully evident.

Even the NBA’s recently implemented rule requiring players to participate in at least one year of college hasn’t helped with the slumping tournament scene.

The Final Four is coming, yet all we keep hearing about this week is coaching changes, most notably Memphis’ John Calipari departing for Kentucky after the Wildcats fired Billy Gillispie following two turbulent seasons. People are acting as if basketball season is already over.

I find it hard to blame them though, because it feels like this year’s NCAA Tournament never even got started.

Sports editor Michael Carroll is a news-editorial journalism major from Coppell.

Rise of well-funded teams inevitable

Some say the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has grown tired and boring since only highly ranked, marketable teams make it to the Final Four every year. Fans will inevitably gripe and whine about how boring it is since North Carolina and Connecticut are in final rounds for the umpteenth time while their beloved Southeast Arkansas Tech Muskrats are left out of the tournament for the 28th year in a row.

However, there are two important differences separating the powers-that-be from the never-wills: money and previous success. The tournament has and always will be like this.

For example, North Carolina has a good basketball program and has since the 1960s. Therefore, North Carolina sells a lot of jerseys to middle school-aged wannabe gangsters who live in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Thus, North Carolina can use the proceeds to build a sweet training gym with massage robots and high-protein supplements that taste like candy instead of recycled Sudanese sewer waste. For that reason, good players want to play ball in Chapel Hill. The cycle repeats itself ad infinitum.

What does a school like Cleveland State have to offer? A gym built next to a smelting plant that has been out of business since 1972? A scenic view of where Drew Carey used to live before he moved to California to host “The Price is Right” and dine on sushi with supermodels? No wonder players choose the high-profile schools.

One could argue that a good coach could put a program full of mediocre players over the hump, but still, the money and prestige will win out. Fans at UConn have no problem paying the big bucks for a coach given the past successes of the Husky basketball program. Fans at Binghamton would. If a coach catches fire at a small school, he’ll be snatched up by a more wealthy program faster than you can say “Lindbergh baby.”

The Cinderellas have no choice but to go home before midnight and let the rich kids have their party.

Associate editor David Hall is a junior new-editorial journalism from Kingwood.

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