Monday, April 23, 2012

7 comments College Basketball Forever as We Know It Has Ended! Bleacher Report Has Five Reasons Why!

I've come to the conclusion in order to write for Bleacher Report you need to either (a) be physically breathing and/or (b) know how to use a computer to write words in English. The ability to complete, coherent sentences are preferred, but not required. This Bleacher Report article claims the Kentucky National Championship was bad for college basketball for five reasons. Not six reasons. Not four reasons...but five reasons. His reasoning sucks because it focuses entirely on generalizations based on no other college basketball seasons except for the 2011-2012 season. The reasoning used in this article completely ignores the make-up of teams prior to the 2011-2012 season who won the NCAA Championship.

Let's start the slideshow!

After over a decade of failed attempts to reach the national title, Kentucky finally steps back into the circle of champions.

What a great intro. Very succinct and quick to the point. This will be the highlight of this slideshow. It's all downhill from here.

Boasting one of the youngest, most talented squads to ever cut down the nets, the college basketball community is, more or less, stunned by how truly potent this team turned out to be.

Stunned in that Kentucky was considered to be the second best team in the country in the 2011-2012 preseason poll. Stunned in that Kentucky beat the #1 team in the country back in December, was the #1 team in the country for a good portion of the season and was the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. But yes, we were all stunned the best team in the country ended up being the best team in the country. Who saw it coming?

Watching one of the nation's most powerful programs return to prominence is inspiring within itself, yet I can't help but feel a pang of disgust at how bland their route to the title, not to mention the tournament overall, turned out.

It wasn't the most exciting of tournaments, but that isn't Kentucky's fault. The blandness was because the best highlights tend to happen during the first two rounds of the tournament and the first two rounds for the 2012 NCAA Tournament were clear of any buzzer-beating game winning shots.

As the dust surrounding the finality of March Madness begins to settle, we can begin to truly analyze the conclusion and resulting implications of the Wildcats hoisting the National Championship.

(Begins analyzing) Yep, there are zero implications. Thanks for playing.

Here are my five reasons why Calipari leading Kentucky back into the light of title contention is bad for college basketball.

Here are my five reasons you are wrong:

1. Every college basketball year is different. Next year a upperclassman-led team could win the NCAA title.

2. One year's national title doesn't guarantee a next year's national title. So it isn't like Kentucky's title is definitely going to lead to another title, which would obviously further ruin college basketball.

3. Kentucky is a high profile program and the re-emergence of high profile programs isn't bad for college basketball and its popularity.

4. The Wildcats were in contention for the national title during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons and this didn't ruin college basketball. It's interesting how the Wildcats have been in contention for the national title over the last three seasons and this hasn't hurt college basketball, yet the year they win the title, all of a sudden college basketball is in immediate trouble. Sort of torpedoes the idea college basketball will go downhill when Kentucky wins the title doesn't it?

5. The very premise one team's rise is bad for college basketball is just very stupid.

No One Appreciates Too Much Chalk

As a college basketball fan, my favorite part of the entire postseason is knowing that, in all likelihood, there will be some surprises.

You want upsets? Norfolk State over Missouri. Lehigh over Duke. Vanderbilt winning a first round game. You're welcome.

I mean, they don't call it March Madness for the alliteration alone, right?

Well, no they really do call it that because it is catchy because of the alliteration.

To put it simply, I love watching the underdog win.

Well then you must have enjoyed two out of the last three Final Fours where Butler has made the championship game twice and VCU made the Final Four. Again, you're welcome. What's the problem again?

Our country was even formed on such a basis with the Continental Army essentially taking down the all-powerful British Army.

While this is true, the Continental Army had homefield advantage which brought the all-powerful British Army's "all-powerfulness" down a bit. The Continental Army knew the lay of the land in the colonies which allowed them an advantage over the British Army. The Continental Army also had the advantage of the non-Continental Army colonists being willing to help out the cause by providing housing and other necessities, even though the idea of an army wasn't entirely popular among the colonists. The war was like Syracuse losing to an average or above-average mid-major on that mid-major's home court. The Continental Army was the underdog, but they simply wanted it more.

Therefore, when the No. 1 overall seed takes home the title, the country is at the point where we're just begging for the "madness" to stop.

No we are not. Don't generalize the entire country's reaction simply because it reflects your own personal point of view. The country most likely simply wants to see exciting games and exciting players.

We desired to see the best of the best trip up halfway through this whole ordeal and provide a champion who wasn't the top ranked team going in.

Which happens more often that not. So the outlying year where the #1 overall seed wins the national title is the exception and not the rule. I see no reason why this would change in the future.

It's just plain boring, and if the trend continues, who's truly going to want to watch the sport anymore?

I will. It also doesn't matter if it is boring because this trend won't continue. I don't think the one year the #1 overall seed wins the national title even counts as a trend.

I want to play a game. Let's see, since the 2002-2003 season, which teams were ranked #1 in the ESPN/USA Today poll OR teams ranked as the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament (data since 2003-2004 season) and ended up winning the national title.

2002-2003: Syracuse (Arizona was preseason #1)
2003-2004: Connecticut (UConn was preseason #1 and Kentucky was #1 overall seed)
2004-2005: UNC (Kansas was preseason #1 and Illinois was #1 overall seed)
2005-2006: Florida (Duke was preseason #1 and #1 overall seed)
2006-2007: Florida (Florida was preseason #1 and #1 overall seed)
2007-2008: Kansas (UNC was preseason #1 and #1 overall seed)
2008-2009: UNC (UNC was preseason #1 and Louisville was #1 overall seed)
2009-2010: Duke (Kansas was preseason #1 and #1 overall seed)
2010-2011: UConn (Duke was preseason #1 and Ohio State was #1 overall seed)
2011-2012: Kentucky (UNC was preseason #1 and Kentucky was #1 overall seed)

So since the 2002-2003 season, four teams (including this year's Kentucky team) won the national title and were ranked either #1 in the ESPN/USA Today preseason poll or were the #1 overall seed in the tournament. Out of nine NCAA Tournaments since 2002-2003, the perceived best team in the country either at the beginning of the year or immediately before the NCAA Tournament did not win the national title 50% of the time. So I really doubt this "trend" of the "best" team winning the NCAA title will occur every single year. It is fun to take one year of data and try to make a big deal out of it though, isn't it?

Discourages Cinderella Success

So "Cinderella" teams are going to be discouraged by Kentucky winning the national title during the 2011-2012 season? I can't help but believe this is pure bullshit.

Last season it was the 11-seed VCU and the year before it was the 12-seed Butler. Most every postseason has at least one, but this past year we had...fourth-seeded Louisville?

Again, you are taking one year's worth of data and then trying to make generalizations that completely ignore data from past years. You can not do this and expect to be making a good point. As the author just admitted, previous seasons had double-digit ranked teams making the Final Four. In fact, since the 2005-2006 season three double-digit ranked teams have made the Final Four. Since that time, three preseason #1 or #1 overall seeds have won the NCAA Tournament. Cinderellas don't get discouraged and want to take on the powerhouses. That's why the NCAA Tournament is so exciting.

Stop taking one year's worth of data and ignoring the data of previous seasons in order to pretend there is a trend. There is no trend.

When the powerhouses take over, there is no room for the Cinderella squads.

So why haven't "Cinderella" teams been discouraged over the last ten years of the NCAA Tournament when powerhouse teams dominated the college basketball landscape? It isn't like powerhouse teams didn't win the national title all through the 1990's. Why would "Cinderellas" get discouraged after the 2011-2012 NCAA Tournament when they haven't been discouraged over the last two decades when powerhouse teams won the National title? This point by the author doesn't make sense.

Unfortunately, the whole "March Madness" money-making system is based upon the continued success of underdogs,

I'd like to see proof of this. Of course, this is Bleacher Report. We don't get an editor looking at each column before it is posted most times, much less any factual backing for the author's claims.

and when they don't pull through due to powerhouses becoming too powerful, the entire network collapses.

This reasoning doesn't explain why the network didn't collapse as the following teams won the National Championship since 1980.

North Carolina
North Carolina State
UConn (ugh)
Michigan State
North Carolina

How many "Cinderellas" you see in there? NC State and Villanova. Those are still teams from big conferences. The system didn't collapse over the least 30 years when powerhouse teams won the NCAA title and the system isn't going to magically collapse after Kentucky wins the 2011-2012 title.

Top-Notch Recruiting, Not Coaching Wins Titles

This has been true for several decades. So my question, as it has been all along while reading this slideshow, is why is top-notch recruiting all of a sudden part how the system will all come crashing down?

However, it's more than prudent to conclude that he is easily one of the best recruiters this sport has ever seen. When he was at UMass, Calipari pulled in Naismith College Player of the Year Marcus Camby who ended up leading his team to a Final Four.

That's just one player on those two UMass teams. Who else was on that UMass team? Don't look it up. Try to guess. Who else was on the two UMass teams that made the Elite Eight and Final Four in back-to-back seasons with Marcus Camby as the center? I'll give you no hints, but tell you only one player on either of those teams besides Camby were drafted. There weren't a ton of NBA-type players on those two UMass teams, yet those two teams made the Elite Eight and Final Four. So great recruiting is very helpful to a team, but a great recruiting class isn't going to guarantee a national title from here on out simply because Kentucky had a great recruiting class that won a national title.

While at Memphis, he pulled in superstars such as Tyreke Evans, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey on a consistent basis. There was also this point guard from Chicago named Derrick Rose...maybe you've heard of him?

How many national titles did those Memphis teams with Evans, Douglas-Roberts, Dorsey and Rose win? Zero. So Calipari's top notch recruiting AND top notch coaching wins games for his teams. Believe it or not, a coach can't just roll the ball out to center court and start counting the national titles that follow.

Essentially, it's Calipari's top-notch recruiting and not his coaching that has him and his team on top of the college basketball world, but is that truly the direction we want our sport to be heading in?

Yes, that's where we want to sport to be headed because that's mostly where it has been for the past three decades. The 2008-2009 National Champion UNC team had the third-ranked and seventh ranked power forward, fourth-ranked point guard, and seventh ranked in the 2008 class. They also had the top-ranked shooting guard, top-ranked point guard and the fifth-rated center from the 2006 class. That team also had the third-rated power forward and seventh-rated small forward from the 2005 class. That's a well-recruited class that won a national title. How come the author isn't seemingly bothered by this?

The 2007-2008 Kansas team had the seven-ranked center from the 2007 class, the second-ranked power forward and second-ranked point guard from the 2006 class, the fourth-ranked small forward and second-ranked point guard from the 2005 class and the sixth-ranked shooting guard and sixth-ranked center from the 2004 class. Is the author bothered the core of that team were mostly highly recruited players?

I'm just picking teams at random. This can go for nearly any NCAA Championship team. Top notch recruiting is important, but coaching is just as important. The 2011-2012 championship by Kentucky doesn't set a new precedent.

A universe where the maturation of high school prospects is a thing of the past and programs only pick up recruits to play for one or two years, basing their worth not on potential, but talent alone?

What the hell does this mean? Is the author saying college basketball teams shouldn't pick up recruits based on talent and should only rely on potential? That seems silly since the object is to win games. The 2011-2012 Kentucky team had talent and potential. There weren't finished products on that team. There are still going to be NCAA Champion teams that feature seniors. That won't change.

Prevents Emergence of Non-Traditional Programs

This is really the same argument as the "Cinderella" argument, but whatever.

As with every sport, there are power programs that consistently dominate over the course of decades. For college basketball, those few programs include UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, UConn, North Carolina, Duke and Michigan State.

Indiana hasn't won a national title since 1987 and has been to the Elite Eight three times since then. I wouldn't call them dominant in any fashion.

These "outsiders" work to consistently jeopardize the big boys' dominance, hoping to someday join the ranks of the elite programs.

Kentucky winning the national title isn't going to prohibit these "outsiders" to join the ranks of the elite programs. The fate of "outsiders" trying to join the ranks of the elite programs hasn't changed magically in the last year.

With the strong recruiting styles and powerful play of Kentucky and their brethren, there may never be another real shot for the smaller programs to seize a spot amongst the elite.

Shouldn't this article be called "The Fate of Mid-Majors and Why They Will Never Compete for the National Title on a Yearly Basis"? That seems to be more of what the author is trying to say. Instead the article focuses why this specific championship by Kentucky is bad for college basketball, when everything that is said here could be said for nearly every other national champion over the last decade.

There are 68 teams that enter the tournament every year and I would hate to know that everyone, save the powerhouses mentioned above, truly have no chance to compete for the title.

I guess Butler had no chance to compete for the title with the back-to-back national championship game appearances? So VCU had no chance when they made the Final Four last year? This past year it seems the powerhouse teams and conferences did well in the NCAA Tournament, but this hasn't always been the case over the past 5-6 years. Of course the author seems unable to have any sort of perspective on this issue and insists on only using 2011-2012 data to made broad generalizations about the future of college basketball.

Does Experience Mean Nothing?

This isn't a reason, but instead is a question.

The Wildcats brought home the National Championship under the guise of five underclassmen, all of who contributed a massive amount to the team's success.

The 2000-2001 Duke National Championship team was led by three sophomores and a freshman. The 2002-2003 Syracuse National Championship team was led by three freshmen, two sophomores, and a senior. I could go on, but you get my point. This isn't the first time underclassmen have contributed a massive amount to a championship team's success.

When matched up against some of the more experienced teams in the nation, Kentucky dominated with ease, crushing the opposition despite their obvious disadvantage.

What "obvious disadvantage" are we talking about? The "obvious disadvantage" of being underclassmen? If being an underclassmen is such an obvious disadvantage then why does the author seem concerned about experience meaning nothing? Clearly, experience means something if he think being an upperclassman is an obvious advantage. Isn't it possible this Kentucky team just happened to be the best team in the country this year (well, the best team since UNC lost Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, and Kendall Marshall for the NCAA Tournament)? I think it is silly to say the Kentucky victory is bad for college basketball because it means "experience means nothing." College teams have won national titles with freshmen and sophomores playing key roles prior to this year and it wasn't seen as bad for college basketball prior to this year.

When taking on Kansas, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor stood no match for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis.

Actually Jeff Withey did a pretty good job of shutting Anthony Davis down offensively.

Against Louisville, Kyle Kuric and Peyton Siva were completely thrown off their game as Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb owned the court.

"Owned the court?" Really? Let's check out the numbers from this game (which you will see is something the author didn't do himself):

Kyle Kuric: 3-8 from the field, 7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal.
Peyton Siva: 4-11 from the field, 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists.

Combined numbers: 7-19 from the field, 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal.

Marquis Teague: 4-8 from the field, 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 5 assists.
Doron Lamb: 4-9 from the field, 10 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist.

Combined numbers: 8-17 from the field, 18 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal.

If the author thinks Lamb/Teague owned the court over Kuric/Siva then he didn't watch the game nor did he do any research in preparation for writing this article. I would guess probably both are true.

Experience was easily trumped, it seemed, by the loads of talent that the Wildcats controlled.

And college basketball is a competition between two teams to see which one has the most talent, and how they use that talent, during a certain game. College basketball isn't a competition to see which team has the oldest average age of the players on the team.

Teams with young players have won the National Championship before and teams with young players will win the National Championship again. This isn't necessarily bad for college basketball.


ivn said...

Our country was even formed on such a basis with the Continental Army essentially taking down the all-powerful British Army.

on top of what you said, there are also the little facts that 1) Britain did not deploy most of its troops to America, on account of having like a billion colonies around the world and plenty of rivals close to home, and 2) the British Army wasn't even that "all-powerful." it had kind of a bad reputation across Europe, and the ridiculous-ass red uniforms didn't help. Britain's naval power was what was feared and respected across the globe.

/pushes glasses up bridge of nose

Ericb said...

"Our country was even formed on such a basis with the Continental Army essentially taking down the all-powerful British Army"

Not to demean the Continental Army but half of the army, and all of the navy, beseiging the British at Yorktown was French.

ivn said...

also, people seem to love knocking Calipari's coaching skills.

but the fact that he was able to get a bunch of much-celebrated/hyped underclassmen to play unselfishly and commit to playing defense should not be as ignored by the media as it is. when Sparty or Duke has a team like this, they love to roll out the praise for Izzo and Coach K.

rich said...

Therefore, when the No. 1 overall seed takes home the title, the country is at the point where we're just begging for the "madness" to stop.

Ya, it really sucks when the best teams win the championship. I love upsets as much as the next guy, but how is it a bad thing when the best teams win. I mean that's why they're the 1 seed(s) right?

Discourages Cinderella Success

What? Are there teams next year who are going to say "gee, we would have tried harder to win, but a 1 seed won last year, so screw it"

When the powerhouses take over, there is no room for the Cinderella squads.

Cornell, CORNELL!!!! made the sweet 16 last year.

If an ivy league school can make the sweet 16, sorry, but you can't argue this idiotic point.

Prevents Emergence of Non-Traditional Programs

Yes and so what? I'm sorry, but a game that has been around for 70 years is not suddenly going to change overnight.

There is very little change in the best teams. Sure teams like the Fab 5 and UNLV come around every once in a while, but your powerhouse schools are typically the same.

Except... Duke. A team that the author bitches about wasn't a real big basketball powerhouse before coach K. Sure they had an elite 8 appearance a few years prior to his hiring, but Coach K practically made Duke.

Basically, it's hard to build a powerhouse, the fact that a 1 seed will win a championship every once in a while has no effect on that.

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, I knew talking history would pay off. I did not know Point #2. What has gotten a bit lost in history was Britain didn't send the entire fleet and army over here. They treated the colonists as a sort of "these assholes are rising up, let's send a few guys over to squash it" type thing. Obviously the Continental Army was stronger than the colonial militias, but it wasn't quite as large of an upset (I don't think) as history makes us believe it is.

I want to make this clear, I don't like Calipari and I don't like Kentucky...but you are right. I think it is underestimated how hard it is to get freshmen to step in and play defense and stick to a team plan. Watch UCLA this year, you will see. I HATE their chemistry. As talented as highly recruited freshmen are, they also tend to be out for themselves.

Eric, that's another good point. Before we mocked the French for being wimps, they helped free us from under Britain's rule. So I guess we could say helping them out in WWII was sort of helping them out for helping us out.

Rich, I like upsets, but I really enjoy seeing two powerhouse teams play. I wish we had seen UNC-UK again. Two strong teams going at each other in the Final Four is great. Two underdogs are great also, but the game sometimes takes a back seat to the whole "Can you believe Butler and VCU are here?!" sensation.

Don't you know, when UK wins other teams just quit even having a basketball program? I'm pretty sure Gonzaga disbanded their program after Kentucky won. Why even try?

Coach K made Duke more consistent. They always had a quality team, but they were never the consistently good team they are now. But you are right, powerhouse schools don't change too often. They have the money, tradition and players to go out and recruit.

For example, you still don't believe meeting Michael Jordan get a recruit to UNC? It still does. Even if they don't know who he is, you think pictures of John Wooden and seeing tons of banners don't make a recruit look harder at UCLA? Having said that, this doesn't mean powerhouses can always be powerhouses and non-traditional programs are in better shape than they ever have been.

I see no reason with a #1 seed winning the national championship being a bad thing.

koleslaw said...

As I have previously stated, I am a Kentucky fan (living in the Louisville area nearly my entire life.) After Calapari lost in the Elite Eight with Wall and Cousins, I admit I jumped on the, "well, he's a great recruiter but maybe not a great coach" bandwagon with everyone else. However, ivn is right, Calapari really did a great job getting kids to play defense and play together.

Ben: I've noticed something odd from reading your Bleacher Report articles (the only time I read Bleacher Report.) A lot of the comments seem well written and well thought out and it's the original author's replies to those that don't make much sense. Sensible website comments? Who'd have believed it?

The best one was the guy who claimed BCS bowls are better than the NCAA basketball tourney.

Sports journalism, the only time media opinion equals media fact. Gotta love it!

Bengoodfella said...

Koleslaw, what's really funny is I avoid the comments in BR articles because they do seem sensible and somewhat well-thought out. I usually avoid comments anyway, but just because they annoy me, not b/c they provide any sort of interesting information. BR comments can be interesting and useful...especially on these UK articles.

I've come around on Calipari not being a good coach. I definitely questioned it in the past, but over the past two seasons he has really gotten his guys to play great defense and disciplined offense.