The questions have been asked: How can a mid-major make it to the National Championship game two years in a row and is there anything for the “big boys” to be worried about after two mids make it to the Final Four? Parity might be the short answer. Dig a little deeper and we uncover another reason.
The reason the, for lack of a better term, BCS teams, are so well represented is that they get the best talent. Duh! They have the greater resources, whether they be in the area of recruiting budgets, travel, gear or facilities. Consider this: While Butler and VCU certainly have very good players, there isn’t one player on either team who was seriously recruited by either UConn or Kentucky. Conversely, there isn’t one player on the Huskies’ or the Wildcats’ roster that the Bulldogs or Rams could even get a home visit with.
So how can the so-called mid-majors compete with the BCSers head-to-head, especially at NCAA tourney time? The theory is simply this: The two most important ingredients in post-season play are talent (which the big guys have) and experience, e.g. juniors and seniors (which are usually what the mid-majors squads consist of).
On the biggest stage, the smart money goes with talent. But let’s not forget that, had Gordon Hayward’s shot been about three inches over, UConn would have just defeated the defending national champions. Last night, it was clearly about the more skilled squad rising. Alex Oriakhi scored inside where Andrew Smith (and even the usually relaible Matt Howard) couldn’t. Kemba Walker has greater ability to make a twisting drive to the hoop than any of Butler’s guards.
So, on a night when neither club could hit the bull in the butt with a bass fiddle, the more talented team came out on top. Will this trend continue? Due to the one-and-done rule, probably. However, if the Jared Sullingers of the basketball world start returning to campus and the Shelvin Macks leave early, the run may come to a screeching halt.
Than again, when schools like Butler and VCU pony up the cash (it’s being reported that VCU raised Shaka Smart’s base salary from $325K to $1.2 mil) to keep their coaches (who obviously love their players and their employers), the coaching edge no longer automatically belongs to the BCS leaders.
Rest assured that, at the very least, the NCAA won’t lock their players out. Or make them play best of seven. These NCAA tournament games have been exciting, if not works of beauty. As Jerry Tarkanian summed up this year’s tournament:
“The games have been close, but not very well-played.”
It’s what you get when pitting less talented upperclassmen against very skilled youngsters.