Only the Bizarro World of American sports journalism could somehow find problems with Butler and Virginia Commonwealth reaching the Men’s Final Four.
This sentiment started out as a trickle, borne of the idea that one-and-done problems are diminishing the overall quality of Division I men’s basketball and eroding the worth of the tournament. It was ESPN’s Michael Wilbon who may have been at Ground Zero of this attitude when he claimed that the tournament was merely “good” and not “good and exciting,” which equals “compelling.”
Daugherty offered this:
“I prefer the meritocracy of a tournament to the monopoly of a bowl system. I’m glad VCU and Butler have done well. Ditto Richmond and Morehead State. I just don’t want to see any of them in the Final Four. It’s a great story, sure, though with Butler and VCU playing each other Saturday, it’s great by half. Maybe they can each wear one slipper. But do we want high drama? Or high-level basketball?…
“The casual fan drawn to the drama will enjoy the coming weekend more than the connoisseur who prefers his basketball straight up. Props to Butler and VCU. Their stories belong in books. But this is basketball we’re producing. Not literature.”
Everson came up with this:
“It’s practically sacrilege to criticize the fundamental design of the NCAA tournament, whose brackets, filled with small schools from scrappy conferences, are universally lauded. But now that the upsets have gone on ad infinitum, be honest: Are you clearing your schedule to watch Butler battle VCU?”
In a word, yes. In fact, Mrs. P and I are planning to drive across town to watch the game on the big screen at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse − not because we’re Butler fans but rather because we want to be part of the experience.
Sportswriters may remember a long-ago time when they were outraged that an upstart team from a mid-major conference won all of its games and yet didn’t get the chance to play for the national championship. Oh wait…that was TCU in football back in mid-January.
Now that two Cinderella teams have earned their way to the final round (and VCU has earned it like no other team in history, having won five games to reach the Final Four), sportswriters don’t like that either.
Come on, folks. Relax and try to enjoy the moment.