At some point yesterday I thought I had it figured out. I had struggled all tournament to figure out what the story of the tournament was. The tournament was in danger of being overshadowed by everything going on around it
Jay Bilas has been talking all tournament about the decline of the NCAA product. The players aren’t as good nor the level of the play as high as it has been in the past.
Jason Whitlock, when he wasn’t busy getting the twitterscape all worked up, has been banging any drum he could get his hands on that the NCAA is a corrupt organization, making millions of dollars on the backs of unpaid labor, and the only hope was to raze the ground and salt the earth.
Everyone was confused and annoyed by the attempts to rename the first round the second round to make it seem like the play in games were really part of the tournament.
No number one seeds made it to the Final Four and there was one too many underdog for people to really know who to root for on one side of the bracket. And one too many cheater for people to really know who to root against on the other side of the bracket.
It was a tournament that defied categorization.
Until I realized that Butler was destined to win the championship.
Last year, they were the small time local fighter given the chance to fight the champ, partially because the fight was already scheduled and it would be too expensive to back out and partially because giving the underdog a title shot made for a great story. They were the American Dream personified.
Image the champs surprise when Butler didn’t realize it was a show. They thought it was a damned fight.
And a great fight it was. One for the ages. The underdog with no more than a puncher’s chance stood toe to toe with the mightier champion for the full 15 rounds. Losing by decision. But the outcome didn’t matter. Just getting in the ring and fighting valiantly, taking the champ to the final bell, was a victory in and of itself.
This season Butler had trouble adjusting to the new level of fame and the expectations that fame placed on them. They had more games on TV than they’d ever had before (Packer Method) and they lost big games to big time opponents. Their confidence seemed rocked as the had to fight for a three-way tie for the Horizon League championship, needing a win in their conference tournament to secure a #8 seed and a match up in the first round against ODU, a team many people picked to beat them.
The point is, there were obstacles no one was convinced they could overcome, but somehow they did and they got another shot at the title.
This time the story doesn’t have a happy ending unless they manage to vanquish the champ.
Last year was Rocky. This year was Rocky II.
But instead of fighting another bruising battle against the champ, throwing haymakers, inflicting incredible damage while absorbing the same from the champ, they covered up for the whole fight.
They did a great job of playing defense, but so did the champ. But the compubox score had them throwing 64 punches and landing only 12 of them, for a whopping 18.8%.
As I said, they covered up really well, allowing the champ to only land 19 of 55 shots, but those extra six punches landed were enough to put Rocky on the mat at the end of the match.
Ruining my analogy. Thanks a lot.
Instead, what we got was, without a doubt, the worst championship game in the history of the NCAA tournament with a combined shooting of 25%, some of which can be attributed to solid lock down defense, but the rest of it was caused by rushed shot selection, and terrible shooting.
Instead of Rocky II what we got was the Jake “The Snake” Roberts v. Rick “The Model” Martel Blindfold match from Wrestlemania VII.
With The Model already in the ring, Jake made his way to the ring with Damien in his green sack as Gorilla Monsoon exclaimed, “WHAT A MATCH THIS IS GONNA BE! And how important is it to have the crowd on your side in this type of match?” He followed up rhetorically.
Two referees placed black hoods on the competitors simultaneously in the their respective corners.
The bell rang and each man started walking around the ring with one hand on the ropes and the other extended in front of them. Very slowly and very deliberatively. They each pointed across the ring and signaled to the crowd for help. The crowd cheered obediently and they moved toward each other. The suspense built as they got neared and nearer.
And then they walked right past each other.
They reached the opposite ropes and Jake turned around to point again, waiting for some direction as the The Model wondered around confused. The Snake began his approach again and just as he neared his opponent, The Model wondered off in a different direction.
The model then tries crawling. Jake accidentally kicks his leg, drops to all fours to try and grab him. He then chases him in a circle until The Model roles away out of reach and thus in a completely different world.
The Model stumbled back over Jake, who tried for a pinfall. They grappled for a moment until The Model sent Jake off the ropes, something that works every time they can see each other, but this time Jake came off at an impossible angle and walked right around him, leaving both of them confused and out of contact again.
This nonsense went on for roughly 10 minutes until Jake backed into The Model, grabbed his head and gave him the DDT, getting the cover and the win.
It was 10 minutes of people stumbling around in the dark, unable to create any meaningful offense. Gorilla and the Brain tried to pretend it was interesting or exciting, but everyone watching was left feeling confused and annoyed. Certain that while they had a winner, the person left standing at the end of this mess was less a winner and more the only one left standing after the other guy fell down.