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.