I just tuned in for the last three minutes of the Xavier-OSU game, which the Buckeyes' Ron Lewis just tied with two seconds left with a long three-pointer. The game hasn't been pretty from the sounds of it, but the last three minutes of regulation were incredible, and no CBS announcer does better justice to the excitement of this time of year than Gus Johnson, who manages to call a game with total professional competence while, at the same time, seemingly coming out of his chair with every big play, so unable is he to contain his exctiement.
Since this game pits a mid-major versus a BCS powerhouse, it's worth noting that there's been a lot of talk about the mid-majors closing the gap the past few years, exemplified by George Mason's run to the Final Four last year. There is a good rationale for this happening - that the top talent at the top schools is leaving increasingly early, so that the programs that recruit the best players have to re-load almost every year, with all the attendant learning curve and chemistry issues. Meanwhile, since the typical player at a mid-major school is not NBA-ready at 19 (if ever), these schools can actually cultivate a core of players over four years, so that when a good group of players reaches their junior and senior years, you've got good 21 and 22 year olds competing against better, but more raw 19-year olds. At that age, just in terms of physical maturity and strength, there is an important difference. So, despite the huge difference in resources and, ultimately raw talent, the mid-majors can compete in a way that would not have been true before the past decade or so, when early defections to the NBA (and straight from high school to pro career trajectories) became common.
Given these realities, I am surprised not to have heard anyone discuss the potential impact of the new NBA age restriction on this potential dynamic. It's going to be very unlikely that guys like Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, UNC's Brandan Wright, all of whom would have been likely NBA lottery picks this year if not for the new rule, are going to spend their obligatory year in college at a mid-major school. So, while the life-cycle in college will still be longer for the mid-majors than the BCS schools, the latter have now been ensured an infusion of the very best high school talent - that layer that was so good it was bypassing college altogether for the past ten years - that will make the talent gap even greater.
So, while the story of the rise of the mid-majors has been a nice one (but overstated, given how unusual runs like George Mason's are), the fact is that the talent gaps between the haves and the have-nots has been widened considerably with the new age rule. It would be overstating the case to say that this is why we've seen so few upsets so far, but one wonders whether surprising tourney runs by non-BCS schools will become ever scarcer in the years ahead.
(OSU has just finished off Xavier. Boy, if every championship team needs to win one game that it obviously should have lost, OSU could be really dangerous).