Call it a pre-emptive strike. Call it craziness. Call it whatever you like.
It doesn’t really matter, because here it comes regardless – an alternative take to what is sure to be conventional-wisdom seeding on Selection Sunday.
Specifically, the focus here will be on the No. 1s that will be announced for this season’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.
All of us know what they’ll be before a single tip-off takes place in the ACC, A-10, Big Ten and SEC postseason finales. We’re looking at top-ranked Gonzaga, Duke, Indiana and Louisville. Bank on it.
No argument here on the first and last ones noted above. But the middle two – sorry, no way do either deserve such billing on the March Madness stage. If this is truly about “rewarding” the teams who proved themselves to be worthy of such distinction throughout the 2012-13 campaign, no way are Indiana and Duke No. 1s.
Stacked up against the other big-boy leagues of college basketball, it always was going to be viewed as the little brother, the new kid on the block, the intruder on a set stage.
Forever the neophyte due to its youth compared to the likes of the Big Ten, the Pacific 12, the SEC and the ACC, the Big East seemed to be in a constant state of having to prove itself – to those other circuits, to fans, to media, maybe even to itself.
The question is an interesting one to ponder, given the fact the circuit, already a reconfigured amalgamation many times over, really, truly is seeing its end unfold this week. Yeah, the Catholic 7 will bolt the conference and take the name with it, but the spirit of the circuit departed long ago.
There is no denying that the Big East was every bit the equal, if not the superior, of every one of those aforementioned leagues at certain points since its inception 34 years ago. However, part of its charm, its intrigue, its attraction was the almost parochial attitude it had about its entity and the way it viewed those outside of it.
It’s a crapshoot.
If anything has become clear this college basketball season, it’s that nothing is clear.
With each passing week, just as it seems we finally have everything nailed down, we’re delivered yet another sobering, ice-water-to-the-face reality check.
Yeah, Gonzaga’s rise to the top of the polls Monday sent chilling bolts of disgust through the veins of every red-blooded, front-running, BCS-only proponent in America, but that wasn’t enough apparently. No, even with the Zags taking over as No. 1, everyone knew the best team out there was Indiana. Mid-major maniacs couldn’t argue.
The Hoosiers would be the headliners in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. They’d be given favorite status and favored seeding. Hey, kudos to the Bulldogs, but Indiana deserved it.
With the Catholic 7 poised to break off from the Big East at any moment, and reports surfacing that the group will both take the conference name with it and add a non-Catholic to the mix, it seems as good a time as to toss in my two cents – or an Our Father and Hail Mary – before the proceedings officially commence.
For starters, and enders, adding a non-Catholic such as Butler makes no sense to me. It defeats the whole purpose of Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and DePaul leaving the Big East and creating a league of their own. Their main cache – and draw for future fans – is sharing one singular symbolic display of athletic oddity: Catholic schools bucking the norm of large, state-funded schools playing big-time college basketball.
OK, so the final four schools mentioned above haven't exactly been top 25 relevant for close to two decades, but the theory holds ... and they've all played against the big-timers throughout that time.
Sound the alarm. Mid-major haters and blinders-wearing BCS-only-matters proponents, beware, the apocalypse is near.
Gonzaga as college basketball’s No. 1 now exists as a very, very real possibility, if not probability – as early as the start of next week.
With Indiana dropping its third game in the absolute meat grinder of a Big Ten schedule, the Bulldogs continuing to cruise through West Coast Conference softies and no one else really stepping up and staying up, the line between haves and have-nots may be blurred beyond recognition.
Oh, the horror …
Ever since Gonzaga crashed the big boys party with an Elite Eight run back in 1999, the higher ups in the Division I image pecking order have been dreading this. Oh sure, they’ll endure the Bulldogs getting a little national pub and maybe even smile when Gonzaga knocks off another ranked opponent, confident all the while that those upstarts from Spokane, Wash., will get what’s coming to them at some point – either in the polls, the NCAA seeding process or the NCAA Tournament itself.