In my post on Saturday, I rolled out a pet theory to explain, at least in part, why there might have been so few upsets in this tournament - namely that the NBA age rule, which woud require the best high school talent to spend at least one year in college, would widen the gap between the BCS schools (where that top talent, almost without exception, is going to end up) and and the mid-majors. I also noted that the trend toward mid-major competitiveness is a phenomenon of the past decade or so and that it may well end, or weaken significantly, because of the new rule.
Pat Forde has an article on ESPN.com today in which he mourns the passing of Cinderella from this tournament:
Cinderella, the plucky princess of March Madness, died a quick and undramatic death over the weekend. She was 12.
Check the chalk outline of her body, produced by the chalk-heavy outcomes in this NCAA Tournament: This marks the first time since 1995 that the Big Dance arrived at the Sweet 16 without at least one double-digit seed along for the ride.
Pause with us while we mourn Cindy's passing for a moment.
Goodbye, Virginia Commonwealth. Sorry you couldn't come along another round, but beating Duke and taking Pittsburgh to OT made for a pretty swell weekend.
Adios, Winthrop. At least you'll always remember your first NCAA victory.
They were the last double-digit seeds standing. Without them, the tenor changes.
There is no George Mason or Bradley left in this dance -- no mid-major school that barely squeaked in and never was given a chance to win even a single game, much less two. No Wisconsin-Milwaukee of '05 (although that team's coach is here, now dressed in orange). No Chattanooga or Valparaiso or Miami (Ohio) or Missouri State or Kent State, to name a few double-digit seeds that played into the second weekend in recent years.
But the fracturing of the fairy tale didn't stop there. The big boys have eliminated every team seeded outside the top half of the 65-team bracket -- every team outside the top 28, in fact.
It's too obvious to belabor the point that the dominance of the top seeds in this tournament is not solely attributable to the new rule. And, it's true that a couple of the Sweet Sixteen are both top 28 teams and mid-major schools, though the dominance by the BCS conferences and other well-established programs is obvious. But, what's noteworthy here is the timing that Forde highlights - 1995. 1995 was the year that the freakishly talented Kevin Garnett, already committed to my Alma Mater (the University of Michigan) decided to forego college altogether and enter the NBA draft. That was followed by Kobe Bryant and Jermaine O'Neal entering the draft straight out of high school in 1996, Tracy McGrady in 1997 and an ever larger stream of talent ever since.
2007 could, of course, turn out to be a flukishly bad year for mid-major/cinderella schools but, I'll repeat what I said the other day - I think the new age rule augurs a reversal of the trend of the last decade and I am surprised no one else has commented on it. Now, depending on your point of view, this is not all bad, of course. It may make for a pretty uneventful first two rounds (though there were good games over the weekend). But, it should make for a hell of a second week.