I’m glad Duke won the NCAA Tournament.
Before you fire up the iPad to spam me for my false idol worship, let me put my cards on the table: I’m not one of those deranged Cameron Crazies screaming “It’s the Dookies, baby!” in my best imitation Dick Vitale voice. I don’t paint my hair blue or put on a Carrot-Top-meets-the-Smurfs wig. And I definitely don’t have a picture of that doe-eyed Jon Scheyer sitting on my bookshelf (OK, maybe I do, but it’s only for special occasions like weekdays and weekends).
To be honest, I was just glad that I actually had a rooting interest one way or the other in the game. Ever since Cornell was wiped out by the 2011 NBA All-Rookie team (aka the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats), all I had going for me was the tattered remains of what used to be a bracket. Sure, all the upsets in the first week made the tournament crazy fun to watch. But now? I realized I wasn’t all that excited about rooting for Xavier (where is it?) or Butler (who?).
Luckily for me, Xavier lost pretty quickly. Unluckily for me, Butler forgot that it was supposed to lose. Led by a coach who looked like he was still in college, the entire Butler team looked bright-eyed and unathletic. Their star player, Gordon Heyward, looked like a 12-year-old kid who’d swallowed a bottle of Skelo-Gro and shot up to six-foot-eight (yeah, that was a Harry Potter reference). Their other workhorse player in the middle, someone I didn’t even bother to learn the name of (on principle), resembled Andy Samberg, but with a wispy ’70s style adult video mustache. Basically, my brain was so struggling to associate Butler with basketball that I resorted to associating their players with Harry Potter and comedians.
At the beginning of the tournament, 71.6 percent of those who responded to an unofficial ESPN poll said that they’d prefer to root for the underdog, even if it ruined their brackets. And on opening weekend, that was perfectly legit. You had multiple games going at once for 12 hours at a time. Chances are, you were inebriated for 11 of those hours. The prospects of drunkenly rooting for multiple buzzer-beater upsets was the hip and cool thing to do.
But once you get to later stages in the tournament, you want to see your big guns. You’ve had your fling with the Ali Farokhmaneshian (the future name of my unborn daughter) upsets of the world — by now, you want to see big, athletic, well-coached teams firing on all cylinders.
Instead, what happens? Kentucky gets knocked out. Michigan State’s best player gets injured. Syracuse had been missing its post intimidator Arinze Onuaku since the Middle Ages. And what’s left?
From a regular, unbiased fan’s perspective, it just wasn’t supposed to end like this. Duke emerged from a weak ACC conference this year with a bunch of soft, finesse guys. Butler emerged from wherever they came from with a bunch of soft, finesse guys. I wish I could’ve taken the Vegas over/under of the number of dunks in the game — set at eight — and invested all of Yale’s endowment on the under.
Once the actual game started, I continued to not be impressed. The play was slow, plodding and slothful. Yeah, I just broke out the thesaurus to find three synonyms for sleepy — which is what I was after watching a half of the snorefest. Both teams seemed allergic to the paint (you know, the area around the basket where you might actually have the off chance of feeling physical contact from your opponent) and it was a jump-shooting affair.
But my sleepiness was not echoed within the band of people that I was watching the game with. Duped by the carrot of a potential David vs. Goliath upset, they hollered like asses when Butler entered the half down just one point.
Then came the second half. Everyone focuses on how close and exciting a game it was. “Neither team was up by more than six points!” they holler. Be that as it may. What’s a more telling stat is that neither team managed to score for over seven and a half minutes to start off the second half. Mmm, sounds like a tasty game, doesn’t it?
Now, the Butler apologists and Cameron Crazies among you may be saying, “that’s because great defense was being played!” Um… excuse me? You mean to tell me that Butler sticking a six-foot-two guard on Duke’s Kyle Singler — all six-foot-eight of him — for the entire second half was great defense?!?!?!?! How about the fact that Singler avoided the paint like the plague during that time span, despite the size advantage? Was that great offense too?
Fun fact: How many fouls did Brian Zoubek, Duke’s “tough-guy” (quotations because calling somebody tough on Duke means has as much significance as putting band-aids on a gunshot wound), have when he checked into the game at the 8:39 mark of the second half? Four — meaning one more foul and he’s out! How many fouls did he end the game with? Four — meaning not a single Butler play took it hard at him towards the hoop.
The fact of the matter is that this year’s NCAA championship game was lame. There were no/marginal numbers of future NBA players on either team, and being a Duke hater can only take you so far when you knew they ultimately had to prevail against a glorified Division II team.
Now, I know you guys are looking at me/the snarky picture of me at the top of this column with your mouths agape, ready to hurl stinging rhetoric at me. I’m sorry, but this year’s tournament fell flat after an exciting start. Despite arguments in the contrary, parity in the game does not make for great champions.
Speaking of champions, here’s why I was happy that Duke won: at least a No. 1 seed won the thing. Some semblance of normalcy was restored in the universe.
So you wanna talk about “One Shining Moment”? More like One Sleeping Moment. Wake me up in another 30 years — when the Ivy League advances the Sweet Sixteen again.