NCAA title game redeems lackluster tournament

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The lack of a Cinderella and a plethora of blowouts take the shine off March Madness

With less than 30 seconds left to play and his UNC Tar Heels down by three in the NCAA championship game, Marcus Paige collected a pass just beyond the arc and frantically looked for an opening. He settled for what can only be described as a 3-point shot that would make basketball fundamentalists cringe. Paige leapt into the air, double clutched, pulled his legs in under his body and pushed the ball towards the rim as if it were a shot put. It went in. The game was tied with 4.7 seconds left.

Those seconds would prove the game was far from over though, as Villanova’s Kris Jenkins rose up for a 3-pointer of his own at the buzzer for a picture-perfect shot. So perfect, that Villanova head coach Jay Wright said “bang,” knowing it was going in as soon as it left Jenkins’ fingertips. Many are calling it the best finish to an NCAA title game in history.

In spite of all that excitement, this year’s iteration of the NCAA tournament left something to be desired. One potential reason is because there was no real Cinderella; no small school that no one saw coming, pushing their way into the final days. Sure, Middle Tennessee upset Michigan State in the round of 64, one of the greatest upsets ever, but they went no further after losing in the next round to Syracuse by 25 points. In fact, the lowest seeds to reach the Sweet 16 were No. 10 seed Syracuse and No. 11 seed Gonzaga. Lest the seeding fool you, make no mistake, those two teams are no strangers to deep tournament runs.

My second complaint about this year’s tournament is the blowouts down the stretch. In the Elite Eight and the Final Four, the only games within 10 points were No. 1 seed Kansas falling to the eventual champs 64-59 and Syracuse stunning No. 1 seed Virginia 68-62. The two Final Four games were snoozers, decided by a combined 61 points.

Every tournament has a deciding element. Sometimes it’s an unbelievable amount of upsets. More often than not there’s a team that hardly anyone has ever heard of that bursts into the national spotlight, a la Butler and VCU. This year’s tournament, although somewhat mediocre throughout, ended in the biggest bang imaginable, which left fans feeling satisfied.