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I'm NOT going to Disneyland

The one thing I knew before the NCAA Championship game began is that Cinderella would not fare well.

I had no idea who would win the game, but I was certain that Cinderella was, in fact, not invited to the party. Monday night's game matched the team ranked #3 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll against the team ranked #8. I’m not sure how anyone gets Cinderella out of that.

David and Goliath? Which was which? If #12 Michigan State had beaten Butler for the right to face Duke, do you think anyone would have called it David vs. Goliath? Maybe it’s Butler’s “small school” status that calls to mind the diminutive sling shotter, but that’s pure nonsense. These are scholarship athletes; twelve per side. Nobody’s holding tryouts among the student body at Duke or Butler hoping to find good players. Enrollment level is irrelevant. In fact, Duke's undergraduate enrollment of barely 6,000 is much closer to that of Butler than to schools like Texas or Ohio State.

The NCAA power conferences and their televised enablers simply don’t want to admit the truth we saw revealed on the court. In 2010, Butler is the second best team in the country even though they play in a lesser conference and lack the star power on which the networks rely.

It’s more palatable to the sport’s ruling class to credit Butler’s performance to an alignment of the stars or divine intervention. But it’s just not so. This is an elite team. They have reached four of the last eight Sweet Sixteens; the same number as North Carolina. They had no fairy godmother. No magic rodents. This was Butler being Butler. The Disney princess was overmatched by a couple of petulant stepsisters, but these alleged Cinderellas came to the ball having beaten four of the top twelve teams in the country including #4 Syracuse, #6 Ohio State, #7 Kansas State and #12 Michigan State. They also knocked off UCLA, Northwestern, Davidson, Xavier, Siena, UTEP and Murray State and came in to the championship game with 25 consecutive victories.

Given that, it seems the real question should have been, “Why were these guys a five seed in the first place?” At which NCAA member institution would the Math Department assign the nation's 8th best team a seed reserved for a team no better than 17th best?

I’m not sure how to answer that, but I suspect 26th ranked St. Mary’s (10 seed) and 30th ranked Cornell (12th seed) have their own theories. High seeds are a private club and the price of admission is membership in a power conference. Others need not apply – even if the selection committee claims to value strong finishes and the Bulldogs came in on a 20 game jag.

In the end, Duke won its championship when a last second desperation shot rimmed out. It went down to the wire and it’s time to admit what we saw -- a great game featuring two great teams; exactly what the Championship game is supposed to be.

Duke is to be congratulated for beating a formidable opponent. Likewise Butler earned as much respect as a runner-up can. In fact, they left everything on the court; except a glass slipper.


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