Monday, February 15, 2010

The mighty have fallen, while the NCAA talks about expanding the field

The one-n-done opponents will certainly have plenty of fuel to burn after this season as most of the traditional powerhouses that have had mass defections to the NBA are feeling the pinch now, starting with the defending National Champions. The North Carolina Tar Heels lost four starters off of last year’s NC squad including POY Tyler Hansbrough and are trying to climb up, just to get on the fence, for this year’s tournament at 14-11 (3-7). It’s also payback for UCLA who have just owned the West for 4 years including 3 consecutive Fianal-Fours are now feeling the payback of schools they’ve beaten down over that span struggling to stay above the waterline at 11-13 (6-6). The entire UCLA starting line-up from those years in not only in the show, but all are in the rotation, as only last names are needed, Love, Westbrook, Aflalo, Farmar, MbahaMoute, and Holiday. After such an exodus you would expect the cupboard to not be fully stocked, but right now its simply empty and how they let recruits like Larry Drew Jr. whose father played for the Lakers, and played ball in the summers literally on the UCLA campus, slip through their fingers, makes them very deserving of a national ranking of 104. In the East UCONN’s 14-11 4-8 record has them in the same boat(sinking ship) now the Huskies don’t have the components of the Rookie/Sophomore game as the afore mentioned schools, but certainly have hung banners in the last decade. Although playing in the Big East gives them ‘street cred’ with the selection committee, playin’ .300 ball does not. For the Dogs it was looking like it would come down to the 222 game vs. West Virginia as their last chance to knock off a ranked opponent, but then go figure, they would go into the house of the previously unbeaten at home, Villanova Wildcats, the third-ranked team in the country, and get a big win. They’re still going to need a good showing in the Big East Tournament to deserve the word, but with Calhoun’s illness, the 5th toughest schedule, and a late season surge, they’ve got the best argument of the three but at this rate the NIT will have more traditional powerhouse names than the big dance. So is the NCAA trying to compensate for the big names going to the Big Apple by increasing the tournament field to 96 of is it all about the Benjamins’? If there is one event in American sports that can be hailed as the most fair, competitive, and dramatic of all the sports we have, it’s the NCAA Tournament. Despite the fact that the event nets just over 6 Billion dollars and the participants to not participate in any ‘revenue sharing’ the athletes play with a passion that is rarely seen except perhaps during the World Cup. So despite their 100% margins and even greater ROI the NCAA has aspirations of expanding the field to as many as 96 schools, and for no other reason but to increase that 6Billion dollar take. Similar to the way a #16 has never beaten a #1 and a ‘play in’ winner has never won two games, the line that has been drawn in the sand has been very accurate as the dilution of talent once you get past that point is more than evident. Don’t get me wrong it would be great for everyone to experience the emotional highs/lows of the ‘Big Dance’ but it’s not practical to increase the journey even longer than it already is, as the finals have already reached well into April. Moreover, it doesn’t make the process any more ‘fair’ as there will always be a #66 school that feels they should have been #65, just like there would be a #97 that feels they should have been #96. Lastly, the NCAA is coming dangerously close to the textbook definition of exploitation and increasing the field for no other justifiable reason except to stuff their overflowing pockets more would eradicate all of the things that make this event the greatest show on earth. In the words of the immortal John Wooden it’s activity without accomplishment.