Tuesday, April 6, 2010

And my hatred for Duke grows stronger...

First off, congratulations to the Duke Blue Devils. They beat every team that was put in front of them and for that, they are deserving of the national title. Let's be honest, though. If this wasn't the year of parity with a lack of dominant teams at the top, Duke would've never won this title.

Yes, Duke is highly ranked every year and usually a high seed come March Madness. But usually that high seed turns to heartbreak for Duke fans when they severely underperform to expectations, at least since their previous title in 2001. The facts back me up on this:

-Duke had been a #2 seed the last 2 seasons, losing in the Sweet 16 in 2009 and the second round in 2008.
-They were a #6 seed in 2007 and lost in the first round.
-They were a #1 seed each year from 2004-2006, making just one Final Four (2004) and never advancing to the title game.
-In 2002 and 2003 they made the Sweet Sixteen as a #1 and #3, respectively.

Only twice in the previous eight seasons had Duke lived up to their tournament seeding and never once did they outperform it. Again, they did what they had to do this season (win every game) and deserved the title but all in all, they are perennial underachievers who receive too much respect from the media and tournament committee year in and year out.

Speaking of too much respect from the committee, Duke was given BY FAR the easiest road to the Final Four of any top seed. The fact that the #5 seed made the Final Four in both Kansas and Syracuse's region shows the depth on that side and Kentucky had to deal with a team that had a legitimate case to be a top seed in West Virginia, not to mention a severely underseeded Cornell squad.

Duke, on the other hand, got to play the play-in winner followed by Cal and a short-handed Purdue team. Baylor was a decent challenger, West Virginia wasn't and Butler gave the Blue Devils a serious run for the title. But Duke was handed three easy victories to the Elite 8 and fellow top seeds Kansas, Syracuse and even Kentucky were not.

I have never wanted a shot to go in more than Gordon Hayward's half-court heave at the buzzer last night which would've given Butler a one-point win, but Hayward was just a little too strong despite being right on line. This Butler team will be back next year to make another deep tournament run (and hopefully win me more money when I finally decide to bet on them!)

Duke fans can revoice all they want because hey, they're the champions. It will never come with an asterisk, but it might as well. Duke was treated as the tournament's top seed despite not earning that distinction throughout the season and, while they proved to be the last team standing, it didn't come without help from the committee and a watered-down field. Excuse me while I go hug the toilet in disgust.

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