With just under two minutes left in the second round game between UCF and Duke, the Knights lead the Blue Devils 74-70. UCF had Duke on the ropes and were ready for the kill shot. UFC stole the ball and had a 2-on-1 fast break. UCF’s Dayon Griffin threw a lob pass to Aubrey Dawkins, who finished with 32 points, and had it been successful, the Knights would have been up 6 with all the momentum against one of the betting favorites to win it all. Instead, this happened.
We all know how the rest played out.
A couple questionable no-calls, some fortuitous bounces, and a missed put back helped Duke squeak out a 77-76 victory over UCF as the Blue Devils move on to the Sweet 16. Top seeds advancing to the Sweet 16 was the common theme this past weekend as all of the betting favorites won in the second round.
Although all of the favorites won, chalk is not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s say UCF beat Duke. That’s an awesome moment for UCF and its fans. However, to the common basketball fan, are you tuning in to watch UCF vs. Virginia Tech for a trip to the Elite 8? Or, would you rather watch Zion Williamson, Rj Barrett, and Duke play Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16? Unless you’re a UCF fan, my guess is that you’d rather watch Duke.
The NCAA Tournament is known as “March Madness,” but this year, it’s the furthest thing from chaos. There was a significant gap all season long between the top 10 teams and the rest of Division I. That growing sentiment came to fruition as all the top seeds took care of business this past weekend. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Cinderella stories are awesome. Watching a double digit seed fight their way through each round and advance to the Final Four is both entertaining and inspiring. Rooting for Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago last season was a great story. However, there’s a reason why upsets rarely happen and that’s because of the talent disparity between the blue blood programs like Duke and UNC and the mid-major Cinderella stories like Loyola-Chicago or Wichita State. A Cinderella story is most likely a flash in the pan. Remember when Tim Tebow made the playoffs or “Linsanity” took over the Knicks? Those two athletes took the world by storm for a brief period of time and it was spectacular to witness. However, just like in Cinderella, the clock always strikes midnight. Tim Tebow never got another chance to start at quarterback and Jeremy Lin hasn’t been a star since. You know why? Tim Tebow may have won a few games, but Tom Brady wins Super Bowls. Jeremy Lin may dazzle for a few weeks, but LeBron James wins championships. Loyola Chicago and George Mason may win a region, but Duke, UNC, and Kentucky are staples in the Final Four
And you know what? That’s ok. The biggest gripe with the tournament is that the best team in the country does not always win it all. This year, one of the best teams in the country will win. Duke, UNC, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Gonzaga have all been in the top 3 at some point this year. Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, LSU, Texas Tech, Houston, Auburn, Virginia Tech, and Florida State have all been ranked inside the top 15. The only outlier is Oregon, but the Ducks have won 10 straight and are two years removed from a Final Four appearance.
The tournament has not been as exciting as year’s past, but there is hope on the horizon. There is a lot of good basketball to play from the best teams in the country. For now, chalk is fine by me.