Monday, April 06, 2009

Underrated's Last 10 Seasons

Am I short changing the Spartans too easily? Perhaps.
Not like it hurt me with UNC's last outing though.
Nevertheless, let's take a peak at the past ten national championship games and see how similar trains of thought would've fared.

And yes, I am calling some #1-seeds pretty heavy favorites over other #1-seeds (see: 2007). Why? Because I'll back it up.
We're not talking about many, or any, coin flips here.

All odds courtesy of (NA=Not available)
The covers, well they don't need a source unless you're brain dead.
God bless the Internet.

2008 - Kansas vs. Memphis (-1.5)

Commentary: The first time four-#1 seeds had ever reached the Final Four, the earliest lines fluctuated from a pick'em to Memphis by as many as 2. This may, in fact, be as close to an actual pick'em as we've seen in the past 10 (or 1, if you wanna be a smartass) championship matchups. It should come as no surprise that the game was competitive, that it went to overtime, and that nobody would've been legitimately surprised with either team winning. Although it must be noted that Memphis seemed to have the game locked up. Key word: seemed. Perhaps this doesn't help or hurt the theory. Which probably makes it more negative than positive. Moving along...

2007 - Florida vs. Ohio State (NA)

Commentary: Despite being a #1-seed, having the future #1-overall pick (Greg Oden), and a fellow top-5 pick in Mike Conley Jr., the Buckeyes were big time underdogs to the defending national champion Gators. While Oden had plenty of dunks down low, Florida controlled nearly from start to finish. The Gators entered the tournament heavy favorites and the overall #1-seed. What resulted was a 84-75 victory that was never truly in question. Score one for the overwhelming favorites.

2006 - Florida (-1.5) vs. UCLA

Commentary: Avoiding a few early scares - namely against Georgetown - Florida breezed past Cinderella-story-of-the-century George Mason into the national championship game. Ditto for UCLA, who spanked LSU to give us one of the most borish Saturday nights in recent memory. While the Bruins had tradition, Ben Howland's defensive genius, and a talented backcourt (led by a guy named Farmar), Florida's starting 5 dominated from start to finish, defeating the Bruins with ease 73-57. A few West Coast-homers wondered if Howland had turned UCLA back into a national champion years earlier than expected. They're still waiting. Another W for the favorites...and the Gators.

Note: By the way, I still contend Vegas pushed this line so close to a pick'em in order to cash in HEAVILY with UCLA-homers. Which they did, by the way.

2005 - North Carolina (-2) vs. Illinois

Commentary: Clearly the best two teams in the country all season long, the Tar Heels were looking to help head coach Roy Williams secure his first national championship. While Illinois had plenty of talent - particularly in its backcourt (Williams & Brown) - the Tar Heels were stacked with lottery talent of their own (3, to be exact), including a guy taken over CP3 and Deron Williams (that's Marvin!). Despite a late surge from the Illini, the Heels cut down the nets for the 4th time in school history. Notice a trend? The upsets just aren't coming. No matter how close they came.

2004 - UConn vs. Georgia Tech (NA)

Commentary: Despite the heroics of Will Bynum throughout the tournament, there is NO realistic bet I would've taken, no odds friendly enough, for me to believe UConn was losing this game. Maybe if Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor tripped over each other on the way out of the tunnel and each tore their ACL...then we might've talked. In a game that had everything to do with a dominating double-digit lead, UConn ended up winning by 9 - by the way, this was as large of a 9-point victory as I can remember - 82-73. The Jackets had zero chance, folks. The overwhelming favorites never sweated for a moment.

2003 - Syracuse vs. Kansas (-5)

Commentary: Admittedly, I'm more than a little biased. Admittedly, I didn't pick Syracuse to advance past their national semi-final of the Final Four (I had them losing to my national champ, Texas). Admittedly, the media shortchanged this roster filled with one senior and a ton of underclassmen. Admittedly, Carmelo Anthony was far-and-away the most talented player on the court (sorry Collison and Heinrich). Admittedly, Jim Boeheim had lost twice before in the Superdome; having his heart broken, by a guy with the last name of Smart, in 1987. Admittedly, Kansas was favored, by 5 points. Admittedly, Syracuse was picked to lose by a similar margin to two other Big XII teams in the Elite Eight (Oklahoma) and National Semi-Final (Texas). Admittedly, this is the most satisfying single victory of my "fandom" career. Admittedly, this result doesn't help my theory much. Admittedly, this result doesn't hurt my theory much either.

2002 - Maryland (-7.5) vs. Indiana

Commentary: Indiana nearly tripped up against a guy named Blizzard and the Seahawks of UNC-Wilimgton in the second round; however, it was the near collapse against Duke that garnered all the headlines. It's also fun to note that they had to beat 10-seeded Kent State - with Antonio Gates on the frontline - to make the Final Four. Mike Davis led the upstart Hooisers as far as he could, losing to a talented, poised, and savvy Terrapins squad that seemed predestined to avenge the mistakes and heartbreaks of 2001. And so they did. Indiana hung around as best they could, but like he always did, Juan Dixon (leading the charge with a 22-8 to run to close out the game) was simply just too good. The Terps took home their first ever national championship, defeating the storied Hoosier program - sans Bobby Knight, of course - 64-52. This Terps team may be the most underrated national champions of the (young) century. Yep, the favorites won again, with relative ease too!

2001 - Duke (-3.5) vs. Arizona

Commentary: I didn't give this Arizona team nearly enough respect as it entered the tournament (shocker!). They only defeated #1-seeded Illinois in their regional final and then the defending national champs, Michigan State, to advance to Monday night's finale. Meanwhile, the Dookies were absolutely STACKED. Names like Battier, Williams, and Dunleavy should ring a few horrific memories. They even overcame a 39-17 deficit to defeat their ACC rivals, Maryland, in their national semi-final. Lauren Woods was in his 11th year with the Wildcats; however, it wasn't enough. Despite making an impressive run mid-way through the second-half, the lottery-stacked Dookies prevailed 82-72. Typically when Dook enters a title game as a favorite, they win. Typically. The trend is all but FACT over the past ten championships, isn't it? Oh yeah, my friend John Brady, cried at the end of this game. I don't blame him one bit, especially as a devoted Terps fan.

2000 - Michigan State (-4) vs. Florida

Commentary: The Flynt-stones weren't as hobbled as the announce team wanted you to believe (even Mr. Cleaves) and the Gators, an upstart 5-seed, weren't an adequate enough match for the nation's finest team. The Spartans had everything working for them. Funny thing is, Zach Randolph still wasn't on this team. Many of these players were a part of three-straight Final Fours andall 12 on the roster have rings after an 89-76. When a Tom Izzo-coached team scores 89, they're going to win. When a team is favored in the National Championship Game, they're likely to win too!

1999 - UCONN vs. Duke (-9)

Commentary: Now here we go. Let's not discount the talent on UConn. This was a team more than a great head coach (insert: Calhoun) and a star-in-the-making (insert: Rip Hamilton, tourney MOP might I add). In fact, they were #1-ranked an extra week (10 to 9) over the Dookies. They had the memorable moment (which often seems necessary to memorable title runs) too; with Hamilton breaking the hearts of UDub fans with his fading-fade away against the Huskies. I'll admit that I didn't give the Huskies much of a chance. Duke had a sensational roster - led by Elton Brand - and a coach with two titles in his back pocket. What resulted - in a Final Four played in Tampa of all places - was one of the few upsets in recent memory, with UConn winning 77-74. Not nearly as shocking as a 15 over a 2, but most people still penciled in the Dookies for their 3rd National Championship. This proves it's a trend/theory and not fact. But could it just be the outlier we need to remove? Could it???

In the end, I'm still picking the Tar Heels by a LOT. But maybe there is proof in this pudding.


Sum said...

Yeah ... but we can't discount the fact that MSU has home court advantage. Think about all the UConn and 'Nova fans that went home disappointed ... chances are they sold their tickets (at a huge loss) to scalpers and locals ... who are more likely to be MSU fans than UNC fans.

And if there's a question as to what home court can do for an underdog, let's not forget about George Mason (who, coincidentally, knocked both of these teams out in 2006 :-) ).

Paymon said...

I have UNC winning by 9 (76-67).

To the comment that Sum made which was paid for by CBS, home court was only key in George Mason's game against UConn. Mason defeated Wichita State at their place earlier in the season. The wins against MSU and UNC were in Dayton.

UNC fans are savvy and experienced enough to know the process. Either way, they lost all of two road games this season.