COMMENTARY | Are you bored with college basketball? I am.
I just endured the most dull college basketball season of my life. Since the season began I had on my TV about 30 different games and, in all, watched about one-fourth of the action. Reading Twitter on my smartphone and reading work emails were more engaging than watching unskilled shooting and meaningless games night after night. I often turned the channel to watch something else more engaging.
College basketball means nothing until March. Everything before it just makes money for advertisers. But now it’s time to wake up. March Madness draws near.
And we have a storyline worth watching besides the mundane powerhouses such as Duke, Louisville, Kansas and Michigan State winning the title once again.
Thankfully we have the Shockers from Wichita State.
They’re 34 and 0.
They could finish the season 40 and 0 if they take six victories required to win the NCAA basketball title. If they did this, they would be the first team in the history of college basketball to go 40 and 0. Not since the Indiana Hoosiers of 1976 posted a 36-0 record has a team gone all the way undefeated.
The Shockers are the college basketball story of the year. If they go all the way, they will be the greatest story in the history of college basketball. Among the reasons:
- · they’re not from one of the country’s most powerful conference (Missouri Valley);
- · they are not traditionally known as one of the nation’s premiere college basketball programs;
- · they’re not a super-talented team; they’re a good team that plays well together;
- · they would break the all-time record for wins in an undefeated season.
College basketball needs Wichita State to pull off this monumental feat because it’s a great, unexpected story that would break the boredom. The same national powerhouses keep winning the title such as Louisville last year and Kentucky the previous year. The Cardinals ruined the Wichita State excitement last season by beating them in the Final Four semifinals. With the regular season becoming more meaningless because so many teams make the tournament – 64 -the March Madness tournament is the only part of the season that offers real drama and intriguing theatre.
If the tournament becomes too predictable and annoying — whereby no unexpected teams rise to the top to remind us that America is the land of opportunity where anyone can hit it big — the March event will become less entertaining and lose its pizazz.
Like every March Madness there will be a few early round upsets. Last year I watched in person as Florida Gulf Coast, a school I had never heard of, upset Georgetown. For a few days I dreamed of what a story it would be if such an unknown place could cut down the nets on Monday night to take the title. That would be a college basketball story of mammoth historic proportions. But of course their dreams got shattered in the Sweet 16.
Need a Hoosiers story
The perennial winners kept winning. Last season, the national title pitted Michigan versus Louisville. I did not even watch the game I found it so uninteresting. Like almost everybody, I crave a Hoosiers basketball story, the smaller school upending the bigger school, the haughty one that has on its team multiple players who in high school won McDonalds All-American honors, designing them the best of their class. I want the McDonalds All-Americans to lose during March Madness. I want Duke to lose. I want Kansas to lose. I want all teams that have ever won the national title to lose. I want all of them to lose in the first round or, preferably, not qualify for the tournament.
They’ve had their moment of glory, wild campus parties. They don’t need more parties. The smaller schools, other schools, need the parties. The school’s with the players that were not selected as McDonalds All Americans, who were told they were not as good as the McDonalds All-Americans, are the guys I root for. They guys who have been insulted by being told they weren’t good enough to deserve a scholarship to Duke or Kansas are the ones I want to smash Duke and Kansas.
College basketball is too much about the elites getting their way. Michigan State, for example, is arguably the most talented team in the country. On Monday night it’s plausible they will win the national title. But they’re just a bunch of guys who have been told they’re talented and great and came out of high school feeling they were the best. They don’t need a national title. They need humility.
Ron Baker needs a national title
On the other hand, Ron Baker needs a national title and I want him to get it. He’s a shooting guard for the Wichita State team leading them in scoring at 13 points per game. Lightly recruited out of high school, he only received scholarship offers besides Wichita State from South Dakota State and Arkansas Little Rock. Duke obviously didn’t want him. Nor did Louisville. Nor Kansas-the school he dreamed of going to growing up. No Kentucky. They told him he wasn’t worthy of them. They insulted and disrespected him.
I want during March Madness for Baker and his Wichita State teammates to compete as if they were insulted and discarded. I want them to be angry about that recruiting rejection and to take it out on all the big name college teams they are likely to play in March Madness. I want all of their frustrations about not being regarded as good enough basketball players to be translated into furious basketball play that says “you blew it by not offering me a scholarship, Duke and Kansas and Kentucky.”
Show Kansas they made a mistake
I want Baker to have five dunks in a Shocker thrashing of Kansas, the school who told him he wasn’t worthy of them. I want Kansas to find out that its dreams of a national championship this year are going to be crushed by a player they didn’t think was good enough to be a part of their program. I want them to be proven wrong.
Cut down the nets on Monday night, Wichita State. Do it for college basketball. The game needs you to break the elitist monotony. Hang the net around your neck, Ron Baker. Tell Kansas they blew it by overlooking you. Then party all night back on your college campus.