Anyone's Men's Basketball Tourney

Syracuse Men's College Basketball, Tyler Ennis

Anyone's Men's Basketball Tournament

March Madness is the pinnacle of sports excitement.  For my money, it is the greatest American sporting event, even better than the Super Bowl.  As much as we all love the ultimate championship game in football, the breadth of the basketball tournament reaches further and provides us with a lot more drama.  Every year we get some great games.  The 2014 NCAA Tournament is shaping up to be one of the best tournaments in years.  Why?  The teams are just not elite anymore.

Syracuse, the Number 1 team in the country, is undefeated so far at 25-0.  Their last two games though have been nearly pushed to overtime, and they needed every last second to gut out a win.  The more often these nail-biting games are played, the more likely the results are going to even out.  Syracuse cannot continue to play in these games and win.  They are going to lose one eventually.  They are the best team in the land right now.  They are the most complete.  Don’t be fooled.  They could skate through the first two rounds of the tournament only to lose to a double-digit seed.  They are not light years ahead of anybody.  The only other undefeated team in Division I is Wichita State, which is ranked third right now.  No one is picking them to win the national title.  The point is, there are teams with really good records simply because there is not a collection of great teams in college basketball.

That does not mean the actual product is bad.  Jim Boeheim was on PTI a few weeks ago and he said that the teams are not as great but the basketball is the best it has ever been.  He may be on to something there.  Duke is not having a Duke-type season.  Neither is North Carolina.  Kansas has stepped back a bit.  But the games themselves have been pretty darn spectacular up to this point.  Syracuse beat Pittsburgh on the road on a last second heave by their freshman point guard Tyler Ennis.  Duke struggled at home against a mediocre Maryland team and won by two.  Iowa State and Oklahoma State locked up in a triple-overtime thriller that saw the Cyclones win by one point.  This season the games are the star.  There are no truly dominant teams.

Last year, everyone had a pretty good sense that Louisville was going to be there at the end.  They ended up winning the national title.  The year before, Kentucky had lost two games all season en route to a convincing victory against Kansas.  In the early 2000s, when Florida won back-to-back championships, they clearly had the most talent on the floor.  This year I do not think a case could be made for any one team to be the clear-cut favorite.  Obviously Syracuse has to be considered.  Michigan State is always going to be tournament ready.  Arizona has a ton of talent.  Even so, there is no reason to believe any of these teams has a better shot than the other guy to win the whole dance.  The tournament is going to be a total crap shoot.  That is what makes it so tantalizing to watch.  Analysts and former players will try and spew metrics to convince you who the frontrunners are.  I say it’s anyone’s game.  Let us begin our descent into Madness.