March 23, 2009
Last year, we had all four number one seeds advance to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. And this year, in what's even a bigger crime against the concept of the underdog, all of the one, two and three seeds have combined to go 24-0 in the first two rounds of the tournament.
The highest-seeded team left is 12-seed Arizona, who won a game in which they were actually favored in the first round, and then beat a 13-seed in the second round. The second-highest seed left is the fifth-seeded Purdue Boilermakers. After that, it's 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s.
Cinderella will not be joining us in 2009. Cinderella spends her evenings waitressing at a truckstop, her late nights mopping up at a massage parlor and her days smoking Marlboro Reds, making non-stop calls to the Maury Povich show and trying to convince Dale to put some damn pants on and find a job. She's not coming to our ball.
What gives? Why isn't Cinderella joining us anymore? Have mid-majors lost some of their mojo? Have the big-time teams learned to counter the precise offenses and tenacious defenses of their less-talented brethren? Is it the NBA age limit thing that essentially requires young fellows who would normally jump to the NBA to spend a year playing college ball? Is Cinderella not coming to the Sweet 16 because she has a restraining order against Eric Devendorf, and he's not allowed within 100 feet of her?
I don't know the answer. But we're chalkier now than we've ever been, and I've made a sweet graph to illustrate the point. The numbers represent the average seed of all four teams who made the Final Four in a given year.
2006 was the George Mason year, which throws things off a bit, but even without it (and 2000, for that matter, when two eight-seeds made the Final Four), we'd see a trend climb upwards since 2000.
The timing makes sense with the NBA age limit deal, and it certainly made a difference last year, with Derrick Rose and Kevin Love. But save for maybe Tyreke Evans (and that may be a stretch), no one really fits that description this year.
The other possibility is that I'm drawing too big a conclusion from just two years of heavy chalk, and we really don't have a large enough sample size to know anything for sure. I'll grant that that's a distinct possibility.
Maybe it's not the case, though. Maybe we're entering an era where Cinderella has permanently turned into a pumpkin, and on Halloween, someone carved Rick Pitino's face into her. For better or worse, that's what we had last year, and it's what it looks like we're going to have again this year.