I know I do, and for me, this year’s NCAA tournament has been incredible. VCU and Butler have pulled off the impossible, and one of them is guaranteed a spot in the championship game on Monday. But, as I reflected on the games last weekend, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the winner of UConn – Kentucky would crush whoever they played in the final. Simply put, I believe UConn and Kentucky play better basketball. I know I know, Butler and VCU have stood tall in the face of that kind of thinking all tournament. They have hit the big shots and taken down “superior” teams, and certainly deserve to be where they are. But, we have seen this story before. In college basketball, Cinderella may make it to the ball, but often her run ends with a thud. The low seeds historically that make it to the final four usually end up facing a more talented team that plays better basketball.
Teams like Butler and VCU run off of motivation, grit, and great coaching, but their talent is never really on par with the talent of the bigger name programs. Now, I understand the talent disparity in basketball isn’t as stark as in football. I also understand that a 5’6” guard that was a walk-on at a small school has to do the same things to hit a 3-pointer as a 6’6” blue chip recruit. But, what you get with teams like Kentucky or UConn is exactly what VCU and Butler have plus NBA level talent. And that is a formula for greatness and a recipe for the championship game to be a blowout. I love Cinderella, but part of me wanted Kansas and Florida to make it to the Final Four because I, somewhat incorrectly, assume the level of play would be higher.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea that either Butler or VCU could win it all (personally I’ll be cheering for Butler). I love the tournament and the opportunity it gives the underdog to win a title. And, just because Butler and VCU may not have recruited the “best” talent, it doesn’t mean they can’t play at the highest level and win a championship. Hopefully Cinderella doesn’t run out of juice in the championship game, and the Bulldogs can finish what they started last year.