A little over a year ago, the Syracuse Orange basketball program and its supporters issued a heartfelt apology for ruining the NCAA Tournament. We weren’t supposed to be there and Michigan State wasn’t supposed to lose in the first round. SU wasn’t supposed to beat Dayton or Middle Tennessee or Gonzaga or Virginia. The Orange were not supposed to celebrate the achievement of making the Final Four despite all of that. They were supposed to exhibit remorse.
A year later, snubbed from the NCAA Tournament field, we’d assumed the trail of apologies was over. But apparently not.
On Wednesday, ACC commissioner John Swofford mentioned that the college basketball regular season has been harmed a bit by the NCAA Tournament’s immense popularity.
Swofford says popularity of NCAA Tournament has hurt interest in college basketball regular season in areas of nation.— rickbozich (@rickbozich) May 23, 2017
There are other factors here, for certain. One of them is the fact that Championship Week boils down the entire regular season to a single-elimination tournament, deeming everything before that weekend in March completely meaningless for small schools.
But the true villain in all of this, as it happens, is Syracuse.
Not the only factor, but yeah, when a 19-14 ACC team makes the Final Four it kind of devalues a random game in January. https://t.co/J0z54sgbuk— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) May 23, 2017
I’ll start by saying that Stewart Mandel’s a great national college football writer, and you should definitely follow his work in that area.
Here, however, he seems to create a false equivalency, while also discounting all of the other “outlier” teams to ever make it to the Final Four.
The 2015-16 Orange were 19-14 during the regular season, yes. But they possessed important wins away from home, and had a coach suspension clearly impact the quality of play in the middle of the season. The team showed themselves capable of beating most opponents. They were also clearly talented, featuring three future NBA players on the roster.
When most teams make “miracle” runs, they’re praised, rather than derided for destroying the sanctity of a likely flawed postseason. If we wanted the best team to win every time, we wouldn’t have playoffs at all. The Premier League and other European soccer leagues are perfect because they have a double round-robin and then award a title based on the best record afterward.
In North American sports, we do things differently. The regular season is just a stage for seeding purposes, and then after that, it’s anyone’s game. Twice the New York Giants won recent Super Bowls despite lesser records than their opponent (the New England Patriots) and were rightfully praised. UConn has won multiple titles as a less-than-favored seed. Villanova pulled off a miracle upset of Georgetown to kick off the modern era of true March “Madness.”
The Wildcats weren’t asked to apologize for what they’d done. Underdogs rarely are.
Unless you’re Syracuse, apparently.
As Sean said once before, and he mentioned again today: We’re sorry, America. We’re sorry for ruining your sport, and your regular season and your ability to enjoy this game. No matter where basketball is played, we promise to be there, raining on your parade and sucking the joy out of every second of basketball we’re involved in. We’ll apologize for it all, mind you. But we’re still going to do it anyway.