Friday, April 2, 2010

5 comments Mike Celizic Has Written Another Ridiculous Column

Mike Celizic thinks that because Duke is in the Final Four, this makes the Final Four more interesting. He could not be more wrong and this is the very reason that nobody likes Duke University's college basketball team. I realize Duke is a polarizing topic and many people will tune in to watch them either win or lose, but I don't think if the games were Michigan State-Butler and West Virginia-Baylor the Final Four would be boring. That would mean there are three teams in there who haven't won a National Championship in the modern era and I think that is interesting.

The problem lies in that the media LOVES Duke to a fault. It annoys me to hear that Duke is NEEDED in the Final Four this year to make it interesting. I just don't think it is true. The other teams are good teams and would have made for a competitive and exciting Final Four regardless.

I believe Celizic thinks Duke saves EVERYTHING, as evidenced by this column from 2007.

This Final Four has a #5 seed in Michigan State that was in the National Championship game last year. Tom Izzo has made 8 Elite Eight appearances since 1999. EIGHT! His Michigan State teams have made 6 Final Four appearances since that date as well. SIX! (I will quit writing in caps now). If there is an elite team in the Final Four the college basketball world should be happy is there, it is Michigan State.

This Final Four also has #5 Butler led by a team that I had losing in the 1st round. They aren't Cinderellas, but instead are well-coached players. It is nice to see a non-Cinderella mid-major make the Final Four.

West Virginia is a #1 seed disguised as a #2 seed. They are the best team left in the tournament in my mind. They are led by seniors and they are a tall athletic team that runs an interesting 1-3-1 zone defense. Maybe the name "West Virginia" isn't sexy, but who cares? Their presence in the Final Four doesn't make it a boring Final Four.

To me, a "boring" Final Four is where there is no real mystery as to who will win the championship or the games don't seem like they will be exciting (or in retrospect were not exciting). I think a "lowly rated" Final Four is where viewers don't really care about the games for whatever reason, whether it be the teams aren't very exciting or some other reason. I think these are two separate things. A highly rated Final Four is something CBS wants, but it doesn't mean the games aren't boring, while a "boring" Final Four doesn't mean the games aren't going to be highly rated. I am rambling, but what I am saying is that television ratings don't make a Final Four exciting, at least in my mind. Duke didn't save the NCAA Tournament by making the Final Four either.

There are good teams still in the Tournament and I honestly find the fact any of these four teams could win the National Championship as exciting. Did we really think last year any team but UNC-CH was going to win? They blew out nearly every team they played, including Michigan State in the championship game. THAT was a boring Final Four. I personally differentiate between a "boring" Final Four and a "lowly rated" Final Four.

From this poll NBCSports did, in response to this column, it seems like I am in the minority, which is fine. Like I said, I think Mike Celizic is getting a lowly rated Final Four confused with a boring Final Four. I know ratings are king, but they are not king in my mind when it comes to actual excitement of the games.

Enough introduction, on to Celizic's column.

Duke's players and fans weren't the only ones celebrating the Blue Devils' win against Baylor Sunday night.

You can bet CBS executives were doing the same thing.

Meanwhile, intelligent Duke fans were throwing up into a trash can at the fact these first 2 sentences have completely perpetuated the idea that Duke is a team which has the favor of the media and the officials. Thanks Mike Celizic, now please go swimming in shark infested waters.

When the day started, the TV folks faced the very real possibility of trying to sell a Final Four composed entirely of Cinderellas.

This is absolutely not true. How in the hell is Michigan State a "Cinderella" team? How the hell is West Virginia, who deserved a #1 seed, a "Cinderella" team? If they had won the Big East regular season title, they would have been a #1 seed. Don't even get me started on Butler, which is a team that has been ranked for a good portion of this season and is a #5 seed. I had them losing in the 1st round, but they are NOT a "Cinderella" team. The media is so quick to claim a team that isn't a #1 seed is a "Cinderella" and everyone can see through that angle because it is not true.

That's not as appealing as it sounds. If everybody’s a Cinderella, than nobody is.

I like how the media goes out of its way to celebrate Cinderella teams, but in the end Celizic admits they aren't very exciting. Way to undermine the excitement of a Cinderella team. In this case, nobody is a Cinderella team. Find me a team that wasn't ranked this year that is in the Final Four. You can't. It's not like this a Final Four of nobodies.

That’s why CBS had to be hoping Baylor didn't beat Duke, the team nearly every college fan loves to root against.

Who gives a shit what CBS wants? The world shouldn't base its own excitement about the Final Four on what the hell CBS wants the Final Four to look like. They actually wanted Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky and Duke, but they didn't get it. This absence of "name" teams doesn't mean the Final Four is boring or would be boring without a name team.

A Bears win would have made for a marvelous Sweet 16 and Elite Eight weekend, one of the best ever. It would have given us three 5-seeds — Butler, Baylor and Michigan State —

Holy crap, are you kidding me? There are 65 teams in the NCAA Tournament and Mike Celizic can't get the rankings of these teams correct? Baylor was a #3 seed in the South bracket. This column has been up for going on 5 days now and no one has fixed this mistake?

There are a 1-seed, a 2-seed, and two 5-seeds in the Final Four. Please remember that a 5-seeded team is between the 17th and 20th strongest team in the country according to the tournament seeding committee. In what world is a Top 20 team a "Cinderella" or uninteresting?

Get your seedings correct at least though.

along with West Virginia, a team that last went to the Final Four in 1959, when Jerry West was their leading player.

But also a team that has been in the Top 10 all year. So they are a pretty elite team coached by an elite (if not a non-player graduating) coach in Bob Huggins.

Unfortunately, that's a group with great stories and no drama.

Fuck drama. I want interesting and competitive games.

The public usually wants superstars and celebrity.

No it doesn't. The media wants superstars and celebrities so it makes their stories about the games easier to write. The public wants good basketball games because most likely their teams aren't in the tourney anymore and they want to be entertained.

The media is infatuated with big names and being able to hype up games, while I would guess a good amount of the public doesn't care for this hype. For the past 2 weeks we have been celebrating times when teams we haven't followed as much have done well in the tourney, why would it no longer be exciting to see Butler try to beat Michigan State? Why would it have been boring to see Baylor rebound from a player killing his teammate just a few years ago and now the team is in the Final Four? Scott Drew has done a fantastic job with the program and it would have been great to see LaceDarius Dunn play in the Final Four against West Virginia.

When the biggest name is Michigan State, that doesn't cut it.

Yes, it does. There is an elite team in this Final Four and that is Michigan State. Duke has nowhere near the resume of Michigan State over the last 11 years when it comes to doing well in the NCAA Tournament. Tom Izzo is the best in-game coach in the nation. Simply because Michigan State is not located on the East Coast doesn't mean no one cares about how good they are or think they aren't an exciting team. Only having Michigan State in the Final Four would have cut it.

Would everyone like last year's Final Four again? The boring ass Villanova-UNC-CH game and the semi-exciting UConn-Michigan State game...followed by a terribly boring UNC-CH blow out of Michigan State in the championship game? Is it better to have elite teams and shit games? I don't think so.

True fans would be delighted to see Baylor instead of Duke playing for the championship, but true fans don’t drive the ratings, casual fans do.

Ok, I can't completely argue with this. I am not conceding the lack of a big name actually makes this a boring Final Four though. I will acknowledge casual fans' interest in the games, but I refuse to bow down to the perception the casual fan's interest in a matchup determines whether that games is actually exciting or not.

To get the casual fans involved, you need the biggest names.

CBS wants the casual fans involved, but I still don't think this means this casual fan's perception of the excitement of the Final Four determines whether the actual games are exciting or not.

Of course casual fans are going to only know and follow the bigger teams, but this doesn't mean the casual fan should be the judge of what is exciting or not. To say anything that doesn't satisfy the casual fan's standard of excitement is actually boring is like saying all the music on Top 40 radio should win Grammys because that is the music the casual music listener enjoys. It's like saying the top grossing movie of the year should be the Best Picture winner, because that is what the casual moviegoer liked the most. Listening to what the masses wants and following it, doesn't determine quality.

Duke is the best possible team to have in a Final Four. Like the Yankees, nobody’s neutral about the Blue Devils. You either hate them or love them.

That's true. They are a team that divides many. It's hard to find someone who doesn't either hate or love them. Even occasional college basketball fans like Bill Simmons, who only pay attention to write an article once a year on college basketball, tries to be cool and hate Duke.

Haters think the Devils' fans are arrogant snots, that the coach is a pinch-faced biddy and that few of the players are NBA-bound.

Which is sort of wrong. You can put together a pretty good team of Duke graduates in the NBA right now.

The other side thinks the fans are fabulous, that the coach is a combination of Knute Rockne and Mother Teresa and that the players are the embodiment of self-sacrifice and teamwork.

And flopping.

The statistics back that up. When George Mason went to the Final Four in 2006, nobody watched. The Patriots lost, and the title game between Florida and UCLA was watched by six million fewer viewers than the previous year and was the lowest-rated championship since 1975.

I think we can all agree that UCLA is a "name" program with a great history and they were an elite program in 2006. Why didn't this "elite" program draw viewers and make the games ever so exciting? Perhaps because the games in the Final Four weren't that exciting to watch regardless of who was playing.

On the other hand, in 1992, Duke-Michigan drew 34 million viewers, the most ever for a championship game.

Wow. What an absolutely misleading way to present the case for Duke. This was 1992 when the Fab Five of Michigan was not a team, but a cultural revolution, with their baggy pants and their very urban way of playing the game and acting on the court. This was the dawn of Tupac, Biggie and other "gangsta" rap when it came to the mainstream. This game wasn't really a game but a collision of the stuffy white culture of Duke (whether this is true or not) and the urban "playground" and baggy shorts culture of Michigan (whether this was true or not). This game wasn't even about Duke, I think it was about Michigan and the Fab Five as much as anything. I would not be shocked to hear the viewers tuned in to watch the Fab Five play as much as they tuned in to watch Duke.

Terrible, terrible example to prop up a "Duke makes everything less boring" argument. That game was about so much more than Duke drawing a crowd.

Then, in 2000, Michigan State-Florida drew 20.6 million, a big drop. The finals haven’t broken 24 million since. They’ve had a hard time, in fact, breaking 20 million.

Well, Duke played in the championship game in 2001...if they draw such a great crowd how come that game didn't increase ratings up to the 24 million the national championship drew from 1975-1999?

It would be the same this year without Duke.

Even though it was the exact same thing in 2001 with Duke.

That’s not to say there aren’t great stories in the Final Four. There are.

Great stories, huh? Are the games any good? That's all I want to know. Stories are for sportswriters to try give the game a storyline to sell copies of newspapers or get hits on their columns. The games are for the people. (Raises fist up in defiance)

Michigan State thrives in March. The Spartans have been to six Final Fours under Tom Izzo...But the team’s history of excellence doesn’t equal viewers when Magic isn’t on the team.

And of course viewers are really the only measurement of whether a Final Four is interesting or not. The games could all be extraordinarily close between tightly matched teams...but we have to appeal to the viewers who just started watching two weeks ago because they participated in an office pool and want to see how their teams are doing.

Then there’s Butler, the classic Cinderella, the kind of school that sends casual fans running to Google to find out which state it inhabits.

Mike Celizic is all about the casual fans. Let's get this straight, again, Butler is really not a Cinderella. They were 12th in the KenPom ratings and were also 12th in RPI. No matter whether we have heard of them or not, they are a good team. I regret underestimating them. I figured Matt Howard would get in foul trouble (like he does sometimes) and UTEP would be able to beat them in the 1st round. Obviously that didn't happen.

A classic Cinderella is a team like George Mason from 2006, not a team that was in the Top 25 all year and just happens to play in a "mid-major" conference. Realistically, Butler would not be considered a Cinderella if they had the exact same resume and came from the Big 12 or ACC.

They find out that Butler is not only an Indiana school, but its field house was the setting for the state tournament in “Hoosiers,” maybe the best basketball movie ever made.

This would also be incredibly irrelevant information in regard to whether Butler is a good basketball team or if they are going to make this a competitive and exciting Final Four. But hey, "Hoosiers" is a great movie.

But there can’t be more than a handful of people who have Butler in their Final Four, and people are more likely to watch a game in which they have a betting interest than one in which they don’t.

So from Mike Celizic's point of view, the entire point of a bracket is not to try to choose the winners and win some money, but it is a way that CBS has to increase ratings and viewership? Maybe in a round-about way, but I also would think the same people who have liked watching the tournament would like to watch Butler play Michigan State. I could be wrong.

For a lot of fans and non-fans alike, Duke is their last chance of rescuing something from the ruins of their devastated brackets.

I ran my work's tournament bracket this year and the people who chose Duke are in two categories:

1. People who love Duke and pick them every year.

2. People who hate Duke and want to jinx them.

Other than that, most of the brackets (and I am going by a sample size of 28 brackets here) chose Baylor or Villanova to come out of the South region. I was a little surprised at how many people didn't pick Duke to win the South region...please keep in my mind I live less than 70 miles from the Duke campus, so you would think they would be a more popular team to choose to win the South region.

So what I am saying is that I think the "bracket saving" angle may be a little overplayed by Mike Celizic.

If it means a shot at winning the office pool, you watch.

I chose UNC-CH last year and watched 2 minutes (literally, I quit watching at the 18:00 minute mark of the 1st half) of the game. I did not win the bracket, but I had a dog in the race and I didn't give a shit. So what I am saying is that even casual or diehard fans may not care about winning an office pool...at least not care enough to watch.

So, though Baylor would have been fun, we’re still left with a pretty good Final Four.

Right, we didn't need Duke to "save" the Final Four at all. It would not have been boring without them and it isn't going to be boring with them. Duke is a more "brand-name" team but if they weren't there the Final Four would not have been boring in the least. I would have greatly enjoyed watching a West Virginia-Baylor game, just like I would enjoy watching a Michigan State-Butler game.

We’ve got a true Cinderella in Butler,

They are not really a Cinderella, but carry on...

an upstart Big East team in West Virginia,

Upstart- A person of humble origin who attains sudden wealth, power, or importance, especially one made immodest or presumptuous by the change;

Let's look at West Virginia's finishes in the NCAA Tournament since 2003-2004 and see if they their emergence in the Final Four can be described as "sudden" in any fashion:

2003-2004: NIT 3rd Round
2004-2005: NCAA Elite Eight
2005-2006: NCAA Sweet Sixteen
2006-2007: NIT Champions
2007-2008: NCAA Sweet Sixteen
2008-2009: NCAA 1st Round
2009-2010: NCAA Final Four

So while they haven't made a Final Four in long while, they have made the NCAA Tournament 5 out of the last 7 seasons and have made the Elite Eight once, the Sweet Sixteen twice, and now are in the Final Four. I wouldn't call them upstart at all because they have had a good program for a while, they just haven't made the Final Four. So I reject the "upstart" tag Mike Celizic puts on them.

a faithful sidekick kind of team in Michigan State

Faithful sidekick? You mean the most successful program in terms of making the Elite Eight over the last 11 years? Or do you mean the team that is the best coached and made the NCAA Championship game last year?

and the big, bad Dukies.

A team that hasn't been too successful of late in the NCAA Tournament and definitely not the reason the Final Four won't be boring.

If you are a Duke hater, you’re not happy.

But I thought Mike Celizic said Duke haters would be happy because they want to watch them lose and that makes them watch the game? So I guess this unhappiness turns into incredibly intrigued viewers.

If you’re CBS, you're ecstatic.

We shouldn't care what CBS thinks about this. Duke's participation in itself doesn't make this an exciting Final Four. The three other teams stand alone in the success of their program, especially Michigan State, and if Baylor had made the Final Four it would still be exciting. This is the exact kind of article that makes people hate Duke and makes me hate writers who believe the entire world revolves around Duke.

5 comments:

rich said...

The public usually wants superstars and celebrity...
To get the casual fans involved, you need the biggest names.


I have to agree with this statement in general, but disagree with respect to the NCAA tournament.

In professional sports, where there are 30ish teams, so knowing who the superstars are isn't really a big problem for even the most casual fan. For instance, even the most casual fan could tell you who Peyton Manning is. So when the final games come around, fans will watch pretty much if they expect it to be exciting. For a casual fan, "exciting" means that there's someone they know playing.

In the NCAA tournament there are 65 teams; even neglecting the number of teams that don't make it (aren't there like 150 division 1 basketball teams?), that's a lot than in the pros. So for the most part the casual fan doesn't know about 95% of the players and so they watch because the games are exciting.

Casual fans would watch to root for the "underdog." There'd be a ton of "one game" Butler fans if they played Duke in the championship.

Martin F. said...

Duke, and a lot of the "popular" programs are living off a time before the one and done, and even the straight out of high school days. Duke became popular as an underdog, at least to the rest of the nation, with the what, the Dawkins lead team in 86? Came on strong during the prime years of NCAA basketball, and since nobody can establish multi-year stars anymore, I think has maintained it's popularity like the other name schools.

Mich St should in theory be more popular because of all it's recent success, but since it's become more about rooting for the jersey then the players in it, it's hard to establish a relationship with casual fans. It doesn't help that the ACC and Big East are the personal favorites of ESPN and so much of the media in general. When was the last time Mich St had a dozen games on the way Duke, or UNC -CH do? they might be a regional fave, but in this day and age, I don't see a team gaining national popularity for more then a year or two at a time since their is no player continuity.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I agree in general as well, but as you explained, I think college basketball is different. I think there are 324 D-I teams.

Casual fans in college basketball are fine, but I just find it hard to believe a person who finds the rest of the tournament exciting wouldn't find the Final Four exciting as well. You make good points.

Martin F, Duke was the underdog for a while with Dawkins in 1986, but they are the bad guy now. Which is fine.

Big 12 has their own network, which means they don't get the play on ESPN that other conferences get. If they didn't have that network it might be easier to get play. I think teams are going to become more regionalized as well. It is going to be hard now for fans to latch on to a jersey for a specific player since they know that player may not be there long.

Michigan State is the elite team in the Final Four as far as I am concerned...I know others may think differently.

KentAllard said...

I go through the same sort of articles every year during football season, about Notre Dame. The default article for lazy sportswriters is "I hate Notre Dame but the game needs them to be good." You rarely hear actual alums arguing that college football is better if Notre Dame wins. It just adds one more story, and even that is balanced out with the equally ubiquitous "Is Notre Dame through for good?" articles.

Hard to take a sportswriter seriously who doesn't consider Michigan State an elite basketball program.

Bengoodfella said...

Kent, it just annoys me. Like Duke being great is great for college basketball simply because many people don't like them or love them. This game against Butler is going to be 95% of people against Duke I bet.

I don't care about the ratings and I am not a Duke alum (I never applied there...which doesn't mean I would have gotten in or anything if I had applied there), but I don't think college basketball is better with their involvement in the Final Four. Obviously, I prefer it when they are involved, but I don't think everyone should love it.

MSU is a very elite team. 6 Final Four appearances in 12 years...yeah.