Everyone should be rejoicing in George Mason's appearance in the Final Four. It is nice to see some new blood crashing the blue blood's party.
Just don't get used to it.
Sure, there will be those Cinderella-esque runs to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. And, sure, we may get another mid-major to the Final Four at some point. But don't expect the NCAA hoops world as we know it to get turned upside down.
Remember that just one year ago, the NCAA championship game featured the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the nation. That trend lasted one year. Just 12 months later, no top seed made the Final Four. So much for trends.
But, remember that three of the #1 seeds were in the Elite 8....just a sniff from the Final Four. If they all finished their jobs....this would've been another year of top-heavy dominance. But upsets in all of those games....and a LSU upset of Texas....made the Final Four site of the RCA Dome into one giant pumpkin. So, we got a champion that wasn't even ranked heading into the season.
A weak season.
A season where only UConn and Duke took hold of the top spot in the rankings.
A season where the defending champion, North Carolina, lost their top 7 scorers from last year's team and started three freshmen....yet still entered the tournament as a #3 seed.
It was also the final season where the top high school seniors went into the draft. So, starting this fall, you will see those top players on college courts. Because of this, Ohio State and North Carolina got stacked instantly.
This past season wasn't your typical campaign. Most figured that UConn was the best team because it had the best collection of talent. And, while in an NBA-style playoff format that would be true.....it didn't pay off that way when the tournament came along. But it wasn't just UConn was so talented....as much as they were less flawed. All those top teams had huge "yeah, but if....." comments with them. Yeah, but if Redick has an off day....Duke is sunk. Yeah, but if Memphis played in a real conference, we'd see how good they really were. Yeah, but if Villanova gets matched up with a big and quick team, they could be sunk. All those happened....along with UConn sleepwalking.
That's why we got the Final Four we did. That's why we got the tournament we did.
Mid majors had a great shot in 2006 because of their strength as well as the power conference's weaknesses. That's why there weren't many big blowouts in the tournament. I mean, all of the 16 seeds were in striking distances late in their games against the top seeds. Look no further than the weak NBA draft class as another indicator.
Next year should be different. As I said, Ohio State and North Carolina are adding the nation's top draft classes in a long time to their teams. Ohio State loses some guys, but replaces them with these freshmen. UNC loses just one player of significance [David Noel] and adds arguably the nation's top class. Florida pretty much will lose nobody and should be back to defend their title. UCLA, the runner up, will also return most of their team. As will fellow Final Four squad LSU. Kansas, like North Carolina, fielded an extremely young team that jelled late in the season. If Memphis and Texas can keep most of their squads intact....they should be tough too. This year's "great" teams...UConn, Villanova and Duke....will all take somewhat of a hit with guys heading to the NBA, but their cupboards won't be bare. All this means is that instead of some kinda great teams in there....there should be a bunch of really, really good teams out there fighting for a title.
Of course, the addition of the high school elite means a "trickle down effect" should occur which will spread talent out even more. But it could also re-create eliteist teams again.
At least for a season.
Not to say that it will never happen again. Gonzaga is building a UNLV or Utah type of program. Bucknell could be the next G-Mason....as they return a ton of guys who led this program to two straight first round wins. And you know a couple of Missouri Valley teams will be revved up.
Take a look at most of the Early Bird Rankings....and you will be hard pressed to find a mid-major cracking the poll [Gonzaga, who may lose both Morrison and Batista, may not even get in].
But, neither was Florida, George Mason or LSU.....