Northern Iowa, Cornell, Washington and St. Mary’s have captivated the basketball masses for one thrilling ride so far in this NCAA tournament, but there is a reason they came into this tournament as underdogs from day one.
The other 12 teams at the top of the brackets this year have proven themselves against top-tier opposition to be worthy of those rankings.
Teams such as Kentucky and Ohio State, my top-two teams left, have stacked up week in and week out against the SEC and the Big Ten.
I love a good upset just like the rest of America, and UNI’s win over top-seeded Kansas was one of the best games I’ve ever seen. There’s a very good chance that one of those four teams finds its way into the Elite Eight.
But Cinderella always loses her glass slipper and these teams, just like George Mason four years ago, can never reach the promised land.
I’m not belittling the efforts of these teams so far, but merely putting it in perspective. For these teams, getting this far might as well be winning the national title.
The first weekend of play was nothing short of incredible thanks to these four schools, but now is the time that they stop sneaking up on teams.
Do you really think Kentucky is going to take Cornell lightly?
I mean sure, John Wall might get blinded by the overall paleness of the Big Red, but in the end he and DeMarcus Cousins should run all over the Ivy League Champs.
Basketball is the ultimate team game. Not always the most athletic or skilled teams win, as proven by this year’s NCAA tournament.
Who expected St. Mary’s to beat Villanova or Northern Iowa to beat Kansas? Both of those teams are not as athletically gifted as the teams they beat.
But what people don’t realize is St. Mary’s, Cornell, and Northern Iowa did not just catch lightning in a bottle to reach the Sweet 16. They are all top 25 teams.
The NCAA continues to ridiculously under-seed mid-majors. Northern Iowa was a nine seed but should have been a four or a five after going 28-4 and winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title and conference tournament. Northern Iowa can play with any team in the country.
If the NCAA tournament committee continues to under-seed mid-majors, a nine seed or lower that plays good fundamental basketball will get hot at the right time and win the national championship.
Look no further than the number 11-seeded George Mason Patriots in 2006.
They made it all the way to the final four, and no disrespect intended to that George Mason team but Northern Iowa, Cornell, and St. Mary’s are better.
Northern Iowa has a great chance to shock the world and win a national championship. They have already proven they can beat the best team in the country in Kansas, so who says they can’t continue the run all the way to the championship game.
It may not happen soon, but one day a nine seed or lower will win the NCAA tournament.