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Ken Medlin

Dueling underdogs could signal new era

Posted March 30, 2011

Call it the Year of the Underdog.

This weekend's Final Four will be historic in a number of ways. With no team seeded higher than No. 3, this will be the lowest-seeded grouping ever in a Final Four. And, as an 11-seed, Virginia Commonwealth ties George Mason (2006) and LSU (1984) as the lowest-seeded team ever to make it this far.

But it doesn't stop there. The Butler-VCU matchup will, at the least, produce the lowest seed ever in the finals as well. UCLA (1980) and Villanova (1985) were both #8 seeds, so Butler would tie them -- and VCU would blast the record into infinity.

I don't think this is any great coincidence. College basketball is enjoying its most widespread parity in history. So-called "mid-majors" are able to challenge "high-majors" with regularity now, and that is not likely to end any time soon.

While it's true the traditional power schools tend to win recruiting battles for the truly elite players, those "superstars" don't last very long. We need only look down I-40 to see that in action as Duke (Kyrie Irving) and Carolina (Harrison Barnes) await decisions from their talented freshman stars.

Mid-majors are able to engage in "program-building" in ways their larger foes are not normally able to do. This is not to say the mid-majors are at advantage -- there isn't a college basketball coach in this county that would turn down a chance to have Irving or Barnes on their team -- but it makes for an interesting set of circumstances.

High-majors used to have their cake and eat it too, so to speak. They brought in the top players and kept them for 3-4 years. But gone are the days of Dean Smith having to convince James Worthy and Michael Jordan to turn pro, and gone are the days of Coach K being able to count on Grant Hill and Christian Laettner lasting through their senior seasons. Great players leave. It's a fact.

It's hard enough to win a national championship in the first place, but the power teams now have shorter championship windows. Georgetown had four years of Patrick Ewing back in the 1980's -- and they were dominant -- but the Hoyas' only title came in the big guy's junior season. it's doubtful a player like that would be around that long in today's game.

So with the elites trying to "time" their title runs, it creates a bit of a vacuum for other teams to rush into. Butler and VCU are proof positive that well-coached teams with good systems have create havoc in the tournament regardless of seeding. They're making March Madness just a little bit madder, and I think it's great.

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  • Hokies94 Apr 2, 9:31 p.m.

    Hey. VCU and Butler are not underdogs any longer. Write it down. For the non-readers... go to ESPN firstly. Read all that you can. You will find it first there.

  • Tackman792000 Apr 1, 12:36 p.m.

    Cragsdale, thanks for your common sense approach post. I strongly agree with you that smaller schools (Mid-Majors) are making their presence felt. It only takes 5 players at at time. They all put their uniforms on the same way and with all the summer camps for players & coaches, all the touring teams during the summer, you got some kids at smaller schools making a name for themselves and their schools. When you get a kid like Jamie Skeen who played at Wake Forest then transferred to a smaller school, a player of that caliber elevates your team.

  • Hokies94 Mar 31, 6:32 p.m.

    We are not talking about football in this one. These schools are basketball schools. Just read a little folks before you make comments about football. These schools have something called guts, pride, belonging, a dream, and all of the facets that get any team to the Final Four.

    Obviously. These coaches recruit a heckeva lot better than most today. I would hope that Seth Greenberg can set his eyes on some that VCU is getting these days. Stevens is as bright as any young coach in the land. As 34 he is going to make some noise at a top notch school one day. I am pulling for them to win it all.

  • prez23062 Mar 30, 7:34 p.m.

    great read. it's rather bittersweet to fans like me. i wasn't even thought of when people like MJ and Ewing were in college, so i never got to see the huge impacts of the greats who stayed their entire college career. it is nice to see the underdogs getting their chance in the big dance, and i've gained loads of respect for the likes of stevens and smart. but it also sucks wondering what might have been when you have players leaving after 1 or 2 years. i always jump when people say we need a "three years college stay" rule in bball, but this article almost makes it seem like the one and done rule balances out with the seniority of teams that may not hold the future's nba stars.

  • dbd2014 Mar 30, 6:56 p.m.

    Thank you Ken, for a surprisingly well written, analytical article. Maybe you should lay a copy on the desks of Hall and Ovaries.

  • Cragsdale Mar 30, 5:14 p.m.

    oh, and Go Butler!

  • Cragsdale Mar 30, 5:13 p.m.

    I think it more a sign of how bad the NCAA was this season than a sign of how wonderful the... View More

    — Posted by Barely

    while I concede you your opinion, I have to disagree Just Because Duke didn't make it past the sweet 16, or whatever Major school you are pulling for didn't make it ion doesn't make the NCAA weak. It's been a great season as a whole for a lot of schools. Butler and VCU just showed up to play and didn't take their opponents lightly on game day. They played with heart and grit and gave everything they had. They won. Get over it.

  • RaleighPirate Mar 30, 2:57 p.m.

    Yes, the high-majors really showed the effect of early departures this year IMHO. I think this season showed how some mid-major and low-major teams with jr. and sr. laden squads were able to prevail over high-major teams without that leadership make-up.

  • Honesty first Mar 30, 2:47 p.m.

    All you need is a couple of really good players and then some role players and you have a chance. In football you need many more so the parity will never be there.

  • Barely Mar 30, 2:27 p.m.

    I think it more a sign of how bad the NCAA was this season than a sign of how wonderful the mid-major teams have become.

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ECU 58
FRES 52
2nd
CIN 45
NCCU 39
 
3rd
WAS 46
ATL 43
 
2nd
MIA 51
GSW 37
 
1st
MIL 22
DET 22
 
1st
NOP 11
SAC 19
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
CHI
2nd
UMO 21
OHIO 7
 
Final
ECU 58
FRES 52
Final
ELON 74
MRGST 73
 
Final
MIZZ 61
PURD 82
Final
MAR 55
HAW 62
Final
UNF 77
LIB 57
 
Final
CHAM 85
BYU 121
Final
BUCK 58
MDES 55
 
Final
UGST 85
WCU 70
 
Final
UWGB 64
EVAN 62
 
2nd
ARST 47
ALA 45
 
2nd
OHIO 46
ARKPB 45
 
2nd
UNH 51
BU 49
 
2nd
OU 56
CHIST 42
 
2nd
TOL 53
DET 55
 
2nd
CLMB 34
FD 33
 
2nd
QUIN 34
HART 0
 
2nd
SFLA 42
HOF 49
 
2nd
HARV 62
HOU 48
 
2nd
BONA 46
JST 43
 
2nd
STJOE 51
LIU 48
 
2nd
SYR 42
GHND 22
 
2nd
MLOWELL 74
MTIDA 43
 
2nd
CIN 45
NCCU 39
 
2nd
VT 35
NIOWA 48
 
2nd
WOFF 68
OHVALLEY 50
 
2nd
TEMPL 56
PENN 46
 
2nd
RUTG 32
PETE 47
 
2nd
BGU 44
SEMIZ 40
 
2nd
LAS 55
Terriers 47
 
2nd
UVA 66
TENST 24
 
2nd
KENT 68
TXARL 28
 
2nd
FSU 43
CITA 33
 
2nd
PBY 60
TOCC 32
 
2nd
COOK 36
TENNM 45
 
2nd
WMARY 73
WILL 39
 
2nd
USB 46
WKENT 41
 
2nd
HIGH 74
WMPEACE 53
 
Half
SMU 22
ARK 33
 
Half
ARMY 38
BING 23
 
Half
CSOU 41
CARK 24
 
1st
UMBC 24
HOW 31
 
Half
ARZ 31
KYST 30
 
Half
OREG 27
VCU 35
 
1st
PSU 12
AKR 22
 
1st
SCST 13
CIU 7
 
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CREI 28
EILL 16
 
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ALAAM 7
JVST 23
 
1st
ABCHRIST 16
JCHR 8
 
1st
TXSA 21
LOYC 19
 
1st
NDST 19
MNCROOK 12
 
1st
NEB 16
NEOM 23
 
1st
VANDY 23
NORST 16
 
1st
STLU 11
NCAT 7
 
1st
MTST 17
NARZ 18
 
1st
TTU 2
NWST 1
 
1st
TULA 17
SOUTH 14
 
1st
ILLCH 21
STXAVIER 14
 
1st
TEX 25
RFLSH 16
 
1st
BRAD 12
TAMCC 6
 
1st
SMISS 19
TROY 17
 
1st
DRAK 17
IUPUI 9
 
1st
ARKST 11
LAM 12
 
8:30pm Tonight
FLGC
USF
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COL
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IDAHO
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GRCN
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UMO
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MICH
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10:05pm Tonight
SACST
BRISTOL
 
11:00pm Tonight
USC
CSFU
11:00pm Tonight
STAN
DEL
2nd
CLB 1
WIN 1
 
1st
NAS 1
LOS 1
 
1st
STL 0
OTT 0
 
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
EDM
9:00pm Tonight
ARI
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ANA
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VAN
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