Special Commentary: Cinderella - This Final Four's Better Off Without Her
Charles E. Sutton | 3/29/2012, 3:22 p.m.
I admit it. When it comes to March Madness, I have fallen in love with mid-major schools. Such as, Virginia Commonwealth, Butler, and George Mason. I was ecstatic watching the Patriots' improbable run to the Final Four back in 2006.
There's nothing quite like a glass slipper. Who doesn't love Cinderella. She's beautiful, and so stereotypically cute. But in March Madness 2012, enough is enough.
In 2006, George Mason pulled off the ultimate upset here in the District, when Jim Larranaga's team, an 11-seed, beat Connecticut and all its future pros to advance to the Final Four. It was a fantastic, feel good story - until Mason ran into the big boys from the University of Florida. The Patriots were clearly overmatched on the sport's biggest stage and were destroyed in the semifinals by the eventual national champions.
This year's Big Dance has produced no memorable moments, and no buzzer-beaters. Sure, Lehigh and Norfolk State beat a pair of Final Four contenders in Duke and Missouri, but there hasn't been that signature moment yet, and we've arrived at the Final Four.
However, the heavyweights have earned their way to New Orleans this week to make up for what has been a March lacking in madness.
I believe, this is what college basketball needed. In fact, it doesn't get any better than this. Four teams ranked in the Top 15 in the Associated Press pre-season poll. The animosity between Louisville and Kentucky fans, heightened only by the hatred and jealousy between their respective coaches, Rick Pitino and John Calipari.
These guys loathe one another. There's legitimate disdain, and it won't just stretch from one coaching box to the other. It'll make its way all the way down I-64 from Louisville to Lexington, and beyond.
But the Kentucky-Louisville game is actually the preliminary matchup on Saturday night.
The second national semifinal is equally intriguing, with an undermanned Kansas team, led by National Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson, playing against Ohio State and its own outstanding big man, sophomore Jared Sullinger. The two teams played earlier this season in Lawrence, Kansas, with the Jayhawks coming out victorious. However, this time will be different. Sullinger missed the regular-season matchup with a back injury.
The three best big men in the nation will rendezvous in the Big Easy. Robinson, Sullinger, and Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis. New Orleans will also host three of the most passionate, insane fan bases in the country. Kentucky supporters are unrivaled, maybe at any level in any sport. Kansas is a close second and Louisville fans would finish a strong third.
Kansas Coach Bill Self has a national title to his credit. Pitino, in all likelihood, will be elected to the Hall of Fame. Calipari is a lightning rod for attention, but there's no peer in terms of assembling talent--and, by the way, he can coach a little too. Ohio State Coach Thad Matta, hardly a self-promoter, will do all he can to sneak under the radar this week, although he's built a powerhouse in Columbus and is taking the Buckeyes to the Final Four for the second time in his eight seasons at the helm.
The pre-game hype will be excessive. There almost certainly will be some verbal sparring between Pitino and Calipari up until game time. The state of Kentucky may shut down--and other than Mardi Gras, there may be no more insane time to walk Bourbon Street than this Final Four Weekend.
All these questions about who would be the next George Mason, Butler, or Virginia Commonwealth this season? We have the answer. No one.
Cinderella didn't receive an invitation to the ball this year, and trust me, it's not a problem.