We just finished what is considered by most americans to be the biggest weekend in sports, the first weekend of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. While the Super Bowl draws a bigger single day audience than any of the individual games of the NCAA Tournament, the first weekend of March Madness (Thurs-Sun) seems to bring the US to a screeching halt. It’s not so much that people are “tuned into the games”, even though for the most part the ratings are very strong, but rather it’s that everyone wants to be part of the discussion. Ditching out of the office to head to the bar, or just streaming the games live to your computers is said to cost businesses roughly $150 million in lost productivity. However, with everyone paying close attention to the winners and losers, have we actually learned anything at all from the tournament so far? Well I think we did, and here are 5 quick thoughts:
Warren Buffet made the safest bet of his life: In the “1 & Done” world of college basketball, there is an imbalance of information and talent that has made the tournament more unpredictable than ever. The best individual players, from a pure talent perspective, are not necessarily on the best “teams”. Young talent is unpredictable because they are, well, young and inexperienced. You have no idea how they are going to come together as a team or how they are going to respond in tough situations. This means the selection committee and the average fan are making more assumptions than ever; basing more of their decisions on “potential” than on “proof”. This lack of experience, especially in the top programs in the country, means there is more of a chance for unexpected results. Buffet knew this, and knew the resulting likelihood of a “perfect bracket” was almost zero.
Age before beauty: One of the most interesting parts of this tournament has been that it is kind of proving that age and experience is more important than individual talent. Kansas, OK State, Duke, Syracuse – are just a few of the teams with freshman/sophomore lottery talent that aren’t making it to the second weekend. They are talented, but as we pointed out above, youth is unpredictable. You could say that Kentucky is a counterexample, as they possess 5 starting freshman, however in reality they support my point. Kentucky underachieved all year long, they happen to be playing unpredictably well at this moment. The main reason that Vegas and Nate Silver/538.com, have put the highest odds to win the title on MSU and Louisville is that they are both talented AND experienced. We know what Appling and Hancock will do under pressure, we’re not guessing. As long as we’re in a “1 and Done” era of college basketball, I’m going to bet on the team more than the talent.
I’m still not betting on Kentucky: The fact that Wichita St. lost to Kentucky doesn’t mean that WSU shouldn’t have been a 1 seed OR that KY shouldn’t have been an 8. KY underperformed all year long and WSU may have slightly over performed, but they were seeded based on their performance during the year. What it really says, especially since the game was so close, is that the gap between a 1 and an 8 really isn’t that much. Kentucky has a ton of talent, no arguing that, but they are completely unpredictable. They could beat Louisville but are just as likely to get run out of the gym. I have absolutely no idea what they’re going to do from game to game, and Calipari has pretty much admitted the same throughout the entire season.
None of these freshman were as good as advertised: This doesn’t go to say that they won’t develop into franchise cornerstone players, but I’m going to tell you that the odds of it happening are much less than anyone anticipated before the start of the season. Andrew Wiggins scored 4 points and took only 6 shots (without Embiid even playing), and Jabari Parker was 4/14 while playing ATROCIOUS defense. I’m not saying that either of them are bums, but if you’re telling me that they instantly can transform an NBA team, like was expected of them before the season, than you’re smoking something. I am a Duke fan and I’m telling you that Jabari is 2-3 years away from being a transformative player and that’s IF he even is capable of it. Also, for all of you people who have only begun watching NCAAB a week ago, let me clue you into the fact that Julius Randle has been at best, inconsistent, and the Harrison twins have been an absolute mess all season long. The 2014 freshman class is deep with talent, but not nearly the top tier talent that we once thought. If there was, more of them would be playing on the 2nd weekend.
People REALLY hate Duke: Duke was overrated all year. Duke was, in reality, a 5-6 seed if you actually watched them play. So it blows my mind how excited and happy the entire internet went when Duke lost to Mercer. It wasn’t that surprising. Not only that, the internet didn’t explode nearly as much when Kansas, OSU, or Syracuse lost and all 3 of those teams were seeded higher and were actually better. I’m fine with people having disdain for Duke during the years when they are winning, but it’s hilarious to see people, like all my Maryland friends, act like Mercer took down the ’91-’92 national powerhouse. Relax.