Fighting the Critics of College Basketball

I take it UConn fans are having a good time.

I take it UConn fans are having a good time.

Kentucky and UConn, two teams that couldn’t do any better than an eight and a seven seed respectively, are in the title game tonight.

For many, this game symbolizes everything wrong with college basketball. Connecticut is just coming off some recruiting scandals. Kentucky is a lightning rod for critics as the Wildcats go through recruiting classes the way car insurance companies go through advertising campaigns.

Tweets I’ve seen go as far as calling Kentucky “the Devil of college basketball.”

Kentucky went 4-6 against the RPI Top 50 in the regular season. Three of those losses were to Florida.

Connecticut went 7-5 against the RPI Top 50 in the regular season and has now defeated Florida twice if you count the tournament. But three of those losses came to Louisville. A team Kentucky has now beaten twice.

So both teams have taken out each others nemesis. Both have loss games to squads that failed to make the tournament. Kentucky had the embarrassing defeat to 14-20 South Carolina.

This game tonight is telling many people that the regular season does not matter. That’s a perception fans will have to get over.

Watching the women’s tournament explains why the men’s tournament should be rejoiced. There is a huge lack of parity in the women’s basketball. Parity that has made the men’s tournament so exciting.

Parity is why Mercer can beat Duke. Why Dayton can make it to the Elite Eight as bubble team. Why UConn and Kentucky can make it to the title game.

On the women’s side it was a foregone conclusion that UConn would meet Notre Dame. The two undefeated teams will meet Tuesday night. I’m happy for them and the women’s tournament should be respected. Just read some of the blog posts from the players themselves to see how important it is.

But while the women’s tournament values juggernauts, I like how open the men’s tournament is more. This is not a condemnation on the regular season. It’s just how deep the talent pool is in the men’s game right now. Soon, we will see a 16 seed take down a one. The parity of the sport is reaching that level.

So instead of whining about tonight’s game as a funeral for the good old days of college basketball, look at it as two teams that earned their way through tough competition to get here. The Huskies and Wildcats were challenged greatly on their way to the title game and persevered.

Isn’t that what we want in a national champion?

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