It has come to my attention that there are folks in our midst who are upset over the composition of the 2008 Final Four. So, not for the first time, I ask the rhetorical question, "Where do these people come from?"
We have four No. 1 seeds. And this is not a good thing? Really? This must mean we have the four teams judged by the selection committee to have been the four worthiest teams in the land when the tournament began. We're just not used to seeing the four best teams show up for the Final Four, because, well, since they went to the current 1-through-16 regional seeding format in 1985 we've never had all four No. 1 seeds get to the final weekend. For whatever reason.
Yeah, yeah, I know. There are no Cinderellas, no George Masons. As far as I'm concerned all that means is that we don't have someone getting a walkover into the Finals. The two teams with the honor of playing Monday night will have earned it. There will be no doubt they have beaten a very good team to get there.
Cinderella is back home in Davidson, N.C. getting her rest. Was I rooting for Davidson last Sunday afternoon? Of course. It was a great story, and Davidson was a likeable team. Like most people, I'm still wondering why coach Bob McKillop had Stephen Curry bringing the ball up for that last possession, thereby guaranteeing he'd be double-teamed and thus forced to give it up, but, whatever. Isn't the idea with Curry to run him off screens? Has anyone ever suggested he's Kobe II, able to create his own shot at any moment? So why was he on the ball?
It's too late now. Curry never got to shoot and now the Wildcats are home, where, frankly, they belong. Is there any doubt Davidson would have been as outclassed as George Mason was against Florida two years ago?
The time for Cinderella to strut her stuff is past. What makes the NCAA tournament so great is that it has three distinct aspects. That Friday when Davidson beat Gonzaga (hardly a shock) and the three 12s beat the 5s was exhilarating. Davidson beating Georgetown, a team I really liked? Exquisite. That's what the first weekend is all about.
The second weekend has often provided us with more thrills. Not this year. The second weekend was a dud, not because the four top seeds advanced, but because only one, Kansas, had any challenge at all. I mean, I was in Houston and pumped up for what I thought would be a great weekend of basketball. I never dreamed Texas would toy with Stanford or that Memphis would humiliate Michigan State. Beat 'em, sure? But embarrass 'em? No. But I was even more surprised when Memphis simply trashed Texas, moving to an astonishing 50-20 halftime lead. Memphis was very impressive, but we had all been cheated out of a decent basketball game.
But now we've got the four No. 1s, and how can that be a bad thing? How can anyone professing to love the game not be excited about the prospect of a Memphis-UCLA (allowing us a chance to rhapsodize about a certain 21-for-22) and North Carolina-Kansas doubleheader, or whatever pairing we wind up with on Monday night? How could anyone professing to love the game not be fired up about seeing the likes of Tyler Hansbrough, Kevin Love, Derek Rose, Brandon Rush, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Mario Chalmers, all under the same roof?
Had I really thought Davidson had a chance, that would be one thing. But the carriage was going to turn back into a pumpkin at some point, and that was that. What we now have is far better. We have the four best teams. Forgive me for being excited.