HOWARD MEGDAL: So the question seems to be going around- is this the worst tournament ever? Hard to say so. Even though two of the four games that led to the Final Four were boring (Louisville/Michigan State, Oklahoma/UNC), the Missouri/UConn game was an interesting contrast in styles, and Villanova/Pitt will be talked about, rightly, for years to come.
The latter rounds suffered from the same issue the early rounds did, however. The few games that were compelling were REALLY compelling- think Siena/Ohio State- but there simply weren’t many of them. Other tournaments have had a bunch of blowouts, however, without much in the way of games to make up for them. Nova/Pitt alone was worth this year’s price of admission- not only great in terms of close, but both teams looked like Final Four squads. Scottie Reynolds made certain the Wildcats got there, however.
To me, Villanova/North Carolina shapes up as the better of the two matchups, though Michigan State/Connecticut is also interesting. The former game should feature plenty of offense, though Villanova’s defense is consistently underrated- the Wildcats utterly shut down Duke.
I like a Connecticut/Villanova final, with the Huskies cutting down the nets. It’s been a Big East year.
STEVE KORNACKI: I really was buying into the whole “it’s the Big East’s year!” line of thinking….until I watched Michigan State smother the life out of poor, hapless Louisville on Sunday. Now, I don’t know. So the league has two teams in the Final Four. It happens. Not a huge deal. They got 7 teams in the tournament. Not bad, but not earth-shattering, either, especially with 16 teams in the league. Before this weekend, it was feeling like there was an enormous gulf between the Big East elite and everyone else. But Syracuse didn’t event bother to show up against Oklahoma, and Lousiville just seemed overwhelmed against MSU. So now I don’t care how convincing UConn has looked so far; I’m willing to entertain the notion that Michigan State will take it to them on Saturday.
This hasn’t been my favorite tournament, either. I like underdog stories, and there haven’t been any. Last year wasn’t much different. My fear is that this will be taken by future selection committees as justification for giving the final few spots to underachieving major conference teams — and not the Creightons and Davidsons of the world. But hey, at least we don’t have all No. 1 seeds in the Final Four, this year. And with Villanova playing, we can look forward to CBS’ frequent cutaway shots of a nattily-attired Rollie Massimino looking on from the stands; the symbol of one of the most inspiring Cinderella stories ever will have to do, at least for this year.
Two other things I noticed this weekend: (1) I’m sure this has been commented on thousands of times, but it just hot me: there are way too many time-outs in college basketball, and they’re all way too long. A two-and-a-half minute break every four minutes of play for T.V. time-outs — PLUS another two-and-a-half-minutes (or sometimes less) whenever a team uses one of its five time-outs. I get the financial imperative for CBS, but this is just too much, and I really wonder how badly it skews the flow of a game. If anything, it makes me appreciate The Masters, which mandates in its contract with CBS something like only eight minutes of commercials per hour; and (2) The Bob Knigjt Guitar Hero ad was the highlight of my Sunday.
As for my picks: I’ll say a UConn-Nova final. Hey, it’s the Big East’s year…