February 24, 2020
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Cinderella is missing from March Madness

Part of me wants to suggest that any NCAA Division I championship event with Bemidji State as a semifinalist is not really a true national championship event after all but a celebration of a much smaller world than the phrase NCAA Division I implies.

But those who couldn’t care less about college hockey must admit a tinge of jealousy about the Cinderella element that exists in the final stages of that sport’s postseason, something terribly lacking in college basketball’s March Madness.

Instead of bracket-busters, we’re left with corporate giants North Carolina, Connecticut and Michigan State along with Villanova, a school that plays in the same football league with the University of Maine but is by no means a basketball mid-major.

But given that I do not have a bracket-induced reason for hoping anyone special wins the Final Four, my allegiance this weekend will trend toward the Wildcats.

Villanova did produce one of the few memorable moments of this year’s tourney via Scottie Reynolds’ game-winning basket with 0.2 seconds left against Pittsburgh in last weekend’s Elite Eight.

Michigan State would be my second choice, a case of selection by subtraction because UConn coach Jim Calhoun and his program hasn’t come across as all that likeable over the last few weeks and North Carolina wins too much already.

Those facts just make me even happier I don’t have a tourney bracket, because surely I would have matched UConn against North Carolina in the final, leaving me to have to back the team I would have chosen through considerable analysis to win it all — Carolina.

Plenty of people make fun of the NBA, but it’s not nearly as predictable these days as the NCAA.

Last year all four No. 1 regional seeds made their way to the Final Four.

It won’t be quite the same level of chalk on display at Ford Field in Detroit this weekend, but it still will be a festival of favorites.

What’s worse, March Madness figures to remain the same for the long term — in great part because of another sport, football.

The Bowl Championship Series that determines football’s top team provides so many millions in revenue to the power conferences each year that even the weakest athletic programs in the Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, Big East, Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference start from a huge financial advantage over the mid-majors like the Mountain West, the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley Conference.

And the conferences that send just one team to the Big Dance, like America East, have no chance at all.

Seeing such a concentration of profit among football’s elite, one wonders how long it will be before the big conferences seek a similar super-league in the other NCAA moneymaker, college basketball.

Perhaps they are already getting enough cash by sending six or seven teams to the annual 65-team NCAA tournament, with those numbers growing larger each year at the expense of a second or third team from the mid-majors.

The bottom line is the rich are getting richer and the fans of unpredictability in their sporting world are losing again.

Every now and then a George Mason or Davidson will sneak deep into the tournament, but it’s also very likely it will become even more the exception than it is now.

For there’s becoming much less madness in March Madness these days. Bring on Bemidji State.


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