Monday, March 23, 2009

Yet Another Reason Why the NCAA Tournament Sucks

All you need to know about why the NCAA Tournament sucks is that, with 5.5 seconds left in a tied Marquette-Missouri game last night, a Missouri player was fouled and went to the foul line to take two free throws. CBS cut to a baseline camera, to have a better angle on the player while he took his shots. In the background, on the opposite baseline, an entire section of fans was standing up and waving both arms with "hey America, I'm on television!!!!!!!1" expressions on their faces. That's right - with five seconds left in a tied game in a sporting event which people sentimentalize to a degree far beyond any other, a group of assholes were not paying attention to the game because they were trying to get on camera for two or three seconds.

This is the reason I don't particularly care for the NCAA tournament, especially its early rounds. Games are played in neutral locations, in front of crowds consisting mainly of corporate executives and well-connected locals, while few seats are reserved for fans from the universities that are actually participating, and those seats are always - always - in the upper levels. Trust me, early-round NCAA games are often held in Buffalo, and Jake and I have attended, and they're fucking dead. Fans of the NCAA Tournament often cite early-round upsets as being one of the best things about the tournament, but they always follow the same pattern - a lower-seeded team slows the game down to an agonizingly boring pace, takes a bunch of 3-point shots, and hopes to get hot in the first half, thereby winning the neutral location crowd - which doesn't care about either team but who want to be able to tell their friends that they saw a great upset in person - over to their side. People claim to like the NCAA Tournament because the upsets make it unpredictable, but really, what's less predictable than the pattern that every big upset follows? Furthermore, what makes the NCAA Tournament different than, say, the NBA playoffs, where #1 seeds (the '07 Mavericks) can lose in the first round and #8 seeds (the 1999 New York Knicks) make the finals? As always in basketball, the games are about match-ups - basketball is essentially a big game of 'rock, paper, scissors.' Sometimes a worse team matches up particularly well with a team that is far superior all around team and beats them. If you keep expanding a single-elimination tournament (it has gone from 16 to 32 to 64) for long enough, you're going to get a lot of upsets. And you should learn to get over them.