Last night while watching the NC A&T Aggies and the Liberty Flame play in the first game of the First Four (with the winner having an unfortunate task of having to play Louisville in the first round of the NCAA tournament) a thought came to me. What if one of these two teams managed to shock the world and beat the Cardinal? So far no number 16 seed has won a matchup with a number 1 seed. But what if someone did?
While I may realize that this task would be monumental of nature and probability wise, close to impossible, the thought still crossed my mind. Can you imagine the shockwaves that upset would have? I am thinking in lines with a Chaminade team upsetting the #1 team in the country, Virginia, at the 1982 Maui Invitational. I am thinking it would compare to the monumental upset of the highflying Phi Slama Jama Houston team that lost to NC State in the 1983 NCAA championship game. I really think that Cinderella would impact the college basketball world and shake it to its very foundations.
Blueblood and traditional basketball programs have dominated in years past from the UCLA talent-laden teams of John Wooden in the 1970's to teams such as Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina. The little guy or "Cinderella" teams from mid-major and smaller conferences were forgotten and overlooked. With the culture of college basketball changing and talented players leaving traditional powerhouses early to go to the NBA, the field has become more wide-open and unpredictable. There are less shocking upsets these days due to mid-major programs and smaller conference schools being able to establish more veteran, consistent teams and acquire overlooked or underused talent. More college basketball players transfer out of the major basketball programs to smaller ones due to personal reasons or being unable to crack the starting lineup of a competitive basketball program.
With the landscape of college basketball changing rapidly, the upsets that occur are less shocking than they used to be. However, the public still likes to see the underdog succeed and even to the expense of the more marketable and successful blue blood programs. The majority of the American public likes to see the "little guy" or less talented succeed against the adversity. The underdog is seen as a hero for the "average" person. People can still appreciate talent but they like to see a team who may lack the talent but have the heart to succeed and persevere through all odds.
So that brings me back to that question. What if a 16th seed were to upset a top seed in the tournament? Besides the possibility of people being upset that their tournament bracket is ruined in their office pool, I believe that a majority of them wouldn't mind seeing the underdog succeed. That is what makes March Madness so amazing; it is survive and advance. There is no next game, only the game that is being played in the present time and place. I think that a 16th seed beating the 1st seed would be incredible for college basketball. It would show that the level of competitive fire and moxie trumps talent and name brand recognition. It would be good to see that the landscape of basketball is chaotic and that the games don't have to follow the same monotonous and predictable path. If a 16th seed were to knock off a top seed, no longer would people just mindlessly mark a win for the top seed. If it were to happen, people would respect the "little guy". The magic of Cinderella would live on and the competitive nature of basketball would reign supreme.
So my eyes will be glued to that game and hope that I see history made. All the while, thinking, "What if a 16th seed beat a #1 seed?" I will have my fingers crossed that I will see history made. How about you?