This is where it starts

by Ben Collins

There is something, anyway, to be said for all of this. The blind faith. The vindication for the epic struggle. The internally foreign feeling of disobeying both mind and gut for the sake of poignant parity.

Because it would have been right for Winthrop, a couple of decades removed from being an all-girls school, to make it to the Sweet 16. It would have been right for Air Force, well on their way to winning the NIT, to even get that shot. Because it would be right, still, for Butler to win the whole damn thing.

But you peek at your bracket and you accidentally gaze by all of those can’t-miss upsets that were supposed to make you seem a little bit, you don’t know… “cultured” but somehow didn’t live up to their qualifier and something eventually stands out. It is glaring and painful, like the second you step out of Roy Hibbert’s shadow.

UNC, Georgetown. Kansas, UCLA. Ohio St., Memphis. Florida, Oregon.

Or, as you read it: One, two. One, two. One, two. One, three.

There is nothing right about this. You’re never stepping out of Roy Hibbert’s shadow.

It casts itself too big. The recruiting wars are too hard-fought amongst the previously set elite. Georgetown will invariably get every Roy Hibbert; Vanderbilt will invariably get every Ted Skuchas.

Butler will lose. No midmajor will ever win a fluke-less National Championship. Life itself is futile. We should all just print out our American Dream brackets and lie underneath the Capitol Building on fire.

This isn’t right, either.

And I don’t mean that morally. It’s just not correct.

We have trained ourselves to anticipate the immediate remedy. This is partially out of sheer happenstance. The Red Sox just so happened to end that 86-year World Series drought because they finally found owners willing to play the money and numbers game. Even though the process of attaining it might be, spending money to get success is not rocket science.

Blame it on Fox News, blame it on our youth, blame it on whatever you want to, but change in sports doesn’t always have to happen overnight.

And it sucks, too. It’s downright unfair at times. There are some occasions when we need it to change, when a call should have gone the way of a mid-major and not the most hyped player in America but didn’t. This – a miscalled two-forearm shove that was not called a technical and eventually cost the Musketeers the game — could have helped in the slow progress forward, to eliminate the recruiting monopoly one game at a time, but it was squelched by referee. And, like Aramis Muskie at Free Xavier, we won’t see the end in sight in these situations and we’ll scream immaturely of injustice.

“Dear Mr. Oden,” he writes in his Ode to Oden. “You are a big ugly untalented piece of (expletive deleted).”

And that’s the cleanest part of the rant. That’s how bad we want this.

But there are ways of going about this that could ruin any chance at those highly touted low-seeds of finally having a shot. George Mason, everybody’s favorite instantaneous nervous testament to mid-major/major equality, is not actually a midmajor that would help in the effort for true 65-team (or close to it) parity in the tournament. George Mason rode a hot streak to the Final Four but didn’t have any chance of repeating.

This year could change that. Butler’s AJ Graves will graduate, but the team looks poised to shed its mid-major roots. UNLV’s successes came more from the coaching of Lon Kruger than his starting point guard son Kevin.

In other words, get away from the Capitol Building. Start stepping out of Roy Hibbert’s shadow.

Life might not be futile after all. Butler might beat Florida. UNLV might beat Oregon. The American Dream is alive. Slowly.

And this is where it starts.