Michael Wilbon has a convincing article about how the NCAA tournament used to be better. He argues it is still exciting, the players are simply not as good. They have all migrated to the NBA.
Don’t get me wrong, the tournament might be as compelling as ever if we’re judging it by the amount of drama produced. The conditions certainly exist to make it so. Take the top eight teams and the bottom four teams out of the discussion for a second, and that leaves 56 teams that are for the most part indistinguishable.
While that could very well make for overtimes and buzzer-beaters, a slew of upsets and charming Cinderella stories, it doesn’t mean that the quality of play is what it used to be. There’s not a team in the tournament as good as Memphis was three years ago. Fortunately for the carnival barkers, 80 percent of the folks in the office pool don’t know the difference between exciting and good.
Jay Bilas, the ESPN basketball analyst and Final Four veteran from his playing days at Duke, spoke to this so eloquently in a conversation we had in Bristol on Sunday, then more extensively with Tony Kornheiser and me on “PTI” Monday afternoon. Bilas pointed out that two of the primary stars of this NBA season, presumptive MVP Derrick Rose and double-double machine Kevin Love, would be seniors at Memphis and UCLA, respectively, in another time and place. And Bilas says there are about 60 NBA players who left college with eligibility.