Monday, March 24, 2008

Would You Rather Be Duke or Villanova?

I brought this up in my Sporting News column today, and I would like to get your take:

Team A: Has an amazing regular season, spending most of it in the Top 5. Earns a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Loses in the Tournament's first weekend.

Team B: Has a so-so regular season. Ekes its way into the NCAA Tournament as the last at-large team selected. Advances to the Tournament's Sweet 16.

Obviously: "Team A" is Duke, and "Team B" is Villanova.

And I would rather be Villanova.

I would rather have a mediocre regular season and an NCAA Tournament run into the second weekend than a great regular season and have my NCAA Tournament end abruptly (and humiliatingly) in the first weekend.

Fair or not, college hoops success is judged by what you do in March. (It's a little like the NFL, where success is ultimately judged by Super Bowl rings.)

That Duke SHOULD do better than they have (and exited even earlier a year ago) compounds the failure. There's no question: Duke is the better, more high-profile program. And yet, right now, Nova fans have the upper-hand.

So do fans of teams from less-than-power conferences: Western Kentucky, Davidson, Xavier. Or teams with lesser reps than Duke: West Virginia, Washington State. All were seeded worse than Duke -- all managed to advance.

Last week, I wrote about the two sides of Expectations in the NCAA Tournament: Duke is mired in Expectations Purgatory (or even Hell); for Villanova, it is all a bonus.

Given the expectations -- and the realities -- how could you NOT favor Villanova's route over Duke's: Save your wins for when they matter -- in late March.

- D.S.


Unknown said...

As a fan of a lower-conference school (UMass) and premier professional sports teams (Red Sox/Patriots), I have to go with Villanova on this one. That moment of joy from a breakthrough (in this case, the Sweet 16, in UMass' case, beating Alabama in the NIT last year) is much much more rewarding their being the favorite and winning another title (third Pats Superbowl/second Sox WS).

You root for your middling team through the whole season. Experience the joys of big wins and the frustration of bad losses. You second guess your coach, rationalize why they'll be able to pull it together at some point and why they're not as bad as their record stands. And it's all 100 percent worth it for that one, season-defining win. Last year, we beat Alabama in a thriller in the NIT and that was the payoff. No one really cared that we didn't have a chance against WVU in the next round. We got our joy.

pv845 said...

I would rather be Duke. You had a good season. By your own admission, one that was better than Vill. There is very little chance that Vill is going to win the NCAA tourney. As such its season will end with less wins that Duke. Secondly, unless they win it all, they like every other team, but two (NCAA and NIT champion) will end the season the same, with a loss.

This puts too much emphasis on the NCAA tourney. I know that winning it all is great, but it isn't the be all and end all college basketball. Just my opinion.

Benjy said...

What accurate hindsite you have! Where can I get some of that? Not to be too snotty, but if you had asked this question March 15th, how many people would have said Villanova?