Sunday, March 21, 2010

Do people REALLY root for Cinderella in the NCAA tourney?

I am not going to claim to be an NCAA Men's Basketball expert. I can't name the starting 5 of a single team in the tournament.

But I find the 64 team bracket to be fascinating, much like I find the US Open in Flushing and the Masters to be compelling even though I am not a tennis nor a golf fan.

One prevailing notion (or myth) of the NCAA tourney is that the Cinderella team has a shot to win it all. You could be Arkansas Pine Bluff, or ITT Technical Institute or DeVry and have a chance to win the National Title... provided you go on a doozy of a 6 game winning streak.

And this year you have an Ivy League school (Cornell), a 9 seed that I have no clue where they play except that I am guessing it is in the Northern part of Iowa (Northern Iowa), and a couple of more double digit seeds (Washington and St. Mary's.) One of those programs could win it all.

It won't happen. The closest you will get is a George Mason making the Final Four, but in the end there will be two elite programs in the final.

The real question is "do people WANT to see upsets?"

In theory, yes. In theory sports fans love to see the little guy triumph. But I can tell you CBS sure doesn't want a Northern Iowa vs. Cornell final! As cool as it sounds, the TV interest will be close to nothing except true die hard fans. They want programs like Duke and Syracuse in the finals... colleges with a storied basketball past and lots of alumni scattered across the country.

I also think most sports fans would rather see the best teams face off for the title. You couldn't get a more unlikely underdog story than the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, who finished ahead of the Yankees and knocked off the defending champion Red Sox to make it to the World Series.

Yet nobody watched.

This year's Super Bowl pitted each conference's #1 seed... and it scored bigger than the last M*A*S*H.

The 2008 World Series barely beat After MASH.

Also let's face it, as cool as the Northern Iowa win over Kansas was, I am sure it got a lot of fans furious. Let's just say a lot of people looked at their brackets and threw them out in disgust.

I actually would like to see a Cornell/Northern Iowa final... but then again I don't work for CBS and I didn't fill out a bracket this year!

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