March Madness: Nothing’s Shocking

We get it.

Wichita State is the first No. 9 seed to advance to the Final Four. And their nickname is “Shockers”, and so it seems incumbent upon too many headline writers at too many major outlets, both print and internet (newphemism alert: “printernet“), to use “Shocker!” in their heds. As if what this team has done over the past 10 days or so is akin to Adele setting fire to the rain.

(On the other hand, using “March of the Penguins” to describe the NHL franchise’s 15-game win streak is dead solid perfect. It may be obvious, but that is only because nothing could possibly work better)

But nothing’s shocking in college basketball any longer. John Wooden and the UCLA Bruin dynasty is dead. Instagram? In college hoops we live in the age of Instateam, in which Kentucky can start four freshman and win the national title one year, then start nearly as many the following year and be bounced in the first round of the NIT. The monoliths — Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Indiana, Duke and the Bruins — are still capable of cutting down the nets, but they are just as capable, and have demonstrated it, of being bounced in the first or second round.

Is Jane really done with Sergio? He treats her like a ragdoll.

A program is only as good as either its incoming freshman class or the chemistry of its upperclassmen. Louisville was the smart pick to cut down the nets on April 8 before the tourney began (the even smarter pick was to pull a Seth Davis and pick two different schools for your two different employers, but I digress), and yet not a single one of the three All-American squads named so far has a Cardinal on its first team. The Cards, however, have a veterang group that plays well together and advanced to the Final Four a year ago.

Anyone who ever played pick-up hoops as a kid — I mean, lived to play pick-up hoops (Crestview Park, Middletown, N.J., representin’!) — understands that five guys who know each other well can defeat five more talented guys who do not. And that is why Louisville is so dangerous. Basketball, and this is only a happy coincidence but it fits, has all the letters inside of it to spell the word “ballet.” And that’s what well-played basketball is: A synchronicity of motion between five players who understand their individual roles in relation to that of the four others.

Iit’s also why, in case you were wondering, the Los Angeles Lakers are a .500 team this season even though they start three probable Hall of Famers.

Carl Hall

Yes, Perry Farrell, nothing’s shocking in college hoops these days. So why do too many people at ESPN and other outlets continue the Cinderella narrative? It’s trite and it’s inaccurate. Wichita State starts two seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman. They’ve taken down two teams that have a first-team All-American this season (Creighton with Doug McDermott and Gonzaga with Kelly Olynyk). They’re 30-8. They’ve led every one of their four NCAA tournament games by at least 13 points and have held 20 points in both games this weekend.

Nothing’s shocking about Wichita State having advanced to the Final Four. What’s shocking is that anyone who covers college hoops — or pens headlines — is still pushing that pill on us.


One thought on “March Madness: Nothing’s Shocking

  1. “Oh, I’ve seen fire & I’ve seen rain” & maybe the Shockers reaching the Final Four AIN’T exactly “setting fire to the rain” but come on, “Why do too many people at ESPN & other outlets continue the Cinderella narrative”? Because, #1 – it’s FUN. And #2, because everyone, even you, ‘get offa my lawn’ jdubs, likes & maybe even NEEDS a little FAIRY TALE every now & then.

    Thanks to the money-grubbing schools/NCAA & their musical chairs Conferences & that the NBA not just allows but actively seeks pimply-faced teenagers, the college basketball that I watched & loved since I was a kid began hemorrhaging over a decade ago. First I stopped caring, then I stopped watching. Except for March Madness, when I can almost trick myself into the excitement of a bygone era. So, I beseech you, “my lord”, LET ME HAVE MY FREAKIN CINDERELLA! Myth or not, it’s all I got left.

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