Two Worst Final Fours in History: 2000 and 2006. Both played in Indianapolis. This years Final Four: Indianapolis.
Like everyone else, I was crushed that UK couldn’t make the Final Four this season. It felt destined for the Cats to make it to Indy, but they were just outplayed on Saturday, and that’s just how it goes sometimes. And obviously, with the loss, my interest in the Final Four dwindled some automatically. But, then the rest of the Elite Eight games were played out, and I have to say: This is, without question, the worst Final Four in the history of the modern 64-team tournament, or since 1985. Reasons why:
1) PURE SEEDING
Think hard about what Final Fours were what you would call the most “uninteresting” since 1985, and if that’s too far to think back, lets just say since 2000. I would say, and tell me if I am wrong, the Final Fours in 2000 and 2006 were the WORST. In 2000, you had Michigan St, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Florida in the Final Four. The scores of those games were:
Michigan St 53, Wisconsin 41 (still widely considered the worst played Final Four game ever)
Florida 71, North Carolina 59
Michigan St 89, Florida 76 (once of the biggest mismatches in recent Final Four history)
There is not a SINGLE moment from that Final Four that was memorable. Not ONE. In 2006, the Final Four participants were George Mason, Florida, LSU, and UCLA. Those scores were:
Florida 73, George Mason 58
UCLA 59, LSU 45
Florida 73, UCLA 57
Again, despite the fact that George Mason was a great story that year, tell me what was the defining moment/game of that Final Four? I can’t tell you. If George Mason is so memorable, name me 2 guys in their starting 5. I remember they had a fat center, and a quick guard. No idea what their names were though. And clearly, after the beating Florida put on them, they were not one of the 4 best teams in America. Doesn’t mean they didn’t earn their way to the Final Four, just means they made for a dud of a Final Four. And the 11 seed they carried should have been a clue.
Now, what do those two Final Fours have in common? Well, they were the only 2 Final Fours in the modern tournament era that the combined seeds of the 4 teams equaled 20 or more. And while this year’s Final Four does not have a combined seeding of 20 or more, I would argue that the compilation of teams this year is the worst in history, even more than in 2000 or 2006.
The only Final Four, before this year, to have 2 teams with a seed of 5 or higher: 2000.
Point being, we often give the selection committee grief for how they seed the tournament, and often times they make mistakes. But, when looking at the Final Four teams and their seeds, Final Fours typically go the way of their top seeds. Final Fours that are heavy in top seeds are the best. Those with upstart teams, Cinderella stories, and mid-majors, fall flat.
2) WHAT IS THE TOP STORYLINE OR ANY STORYLINE FOR THAT MATTER?
There is not a single player, team, or storyline that truly draws me or anyone that is not a fan of those teams to the television set. People continue to drive home the fact that Butler is playing in its hometown, which is cute, but why does that make me, a Kentuckian, or Beisner, a guy from Florida, care about the Final Four anymore? For the people of Indianapolis or even Indiana as a whole, it might make them draw a little more interest. But, last year Michigan St. played in its home state, and I didn’t think it added anything to the Final Four. You know what did draw me to the Final Four last year: a GOOD Michigan St. team. Whether they played in Michigan, Montana, or Mars, that Spartan team was fun to watch. Butler and West Virginia don’t make me excited to watch basketball.
Hey, Bob Huggins is back in the Final Four, that’s pretty exciting, right? Well, last I checked Huggins hasn’t scored a point all season, so while its kinda interesting to see if he shows up drunk to the game, once the ball is tipped, and his boring WVU team is on the floor, I don’t care if Red Auerbach is on the sideline. Coaches can provide good soundbites before and after a game, they can form a genius gameplan, and they can wear the slickest suits imaginable, but they don’t actually play, and I have NEVER watched a game to see a coach.
Duke is also back to the Final Four for the first time in 6 years, and they are the only team with a national following, but their players don’t have the pazzazthat a Christian Laettner, Jason Williams, Shane Battier, Grant Hill, or JJ Redick carried. And I already covered my thoughts on coaches, so don’t get me started on Coach K.
And then there is Michigan State. YIPPIE!
3) WHERE IS THE STAR POWER?
2009:Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Hasheem Thabeet
2008:Kevin Love, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Tyler Hansbrough (Derrick Rose also in that Final Four)
2007:Joakim Noah, Greg Oden
2005: Sean May, Dee Brown (also Deron Williams andRaymond Felton in that Final Four)
2004: Emeka Okafor (JJ Redick, Shelden Williams, and Ben Gordon were also in that Final Four)
2003:Carmelo Anthony, Nick Collison, Dwayne Wade, TJ Ford
2002:Juan Dixon, Drew Gooden
2001: Shane Battier, Jason Williams, Jason Richardson
All those guys above received 1st or 2nd team AP All-American honors the year their teams went to the Final Four. I find it interesting that there was NOBODY in the ’06 Final Four that was an All-American, and that Final Four was terrible. I don’t think that is a coincidence. But, who is the star player that will make me want to watch this season? Butler has nobody. West Virginia has Deshawn Butler, maybe, but he was 7th in the Big East in scoring, so its not like he was on very many writers Top 10 Players lists this year. Michigan State, without Kalin Lucas, has nobody. And Duke has Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler, but again neither of those guys draw eyes to the screen like a Derrick Rose or Emeka Okafor did.
I’ll be honest, I am going to watch the Final Four despite all the points I put above. But, thats because I am a sports junkie. I watch the College Softball World Series every year too. But, what is going to make an AVERAGE sports fan, like Kate Martin, want to watch the games on Saturday? That’s how I often judge how much hype/potentially great a sports event can be. Does my mom make it a point to watch it? I know she watched last years Final Four. I strongly doubt she will watch this years.
Now, there is one way this Final Four can be saved: GREAT GAMES. It’s a very possible scenario where despite the fact that nobody knows many of the players on the teams, the matchups could be interesting and close. And, if we have a buzzer-beater, or overtime game, or somebody steps up and becomes a star, this could become a good Final Four. But, then I look back to 2000 and 2006, the only two times the teams drew no interest coming in, andthen the games were beyond terrible and not competitive. I truly hope I am wrong about these games, because this TOURNAMENT has been fantastic. It would really be a shame for such a great event to end poorly. But, history suggests that is what we are likely to get.