Would You Rather Lose The Crosstown Shootout and Go To The Elite 8, Or Win It and Lose in The Round of 32?
By: Alex Marcheschi
The Elite 8 is cute. It really is. It kind of feels like getting a college degree.
Congratulations, you played the game. You earned an earnest handshake from a man in a weird robe and a wonderful slip of paper. Does it mean you get to throw a party and feel good? Yup. Does it mean you get a job? Nope.
I’m not belittling the accomplishment that is getting a college degree, it’s very hard, but the Final 4 is the basketball equivalent of turning your degree into a dream job. A lot of people are capable of getting degrees, but very few are capable of converting that degree into a job in their desired career path.
You know what reaching the Elite 8 and $4.25 gets you? A caramel frappe at Starbucks.
Xavier had a helluva run, but I’ve been thinking: would you rather lose the Crosstown Shootout and advance to the Elite 8, or win the Crosstown Shootout and lose in the round of 32?
In my heart of hearts, I would genuinely prefer to win the Shootout and lose in the round of 32, especially when you look at the way the tournament was set up this year. If the Muskies would’ve secured a Final 4 berth, then there’s no question, that vaults a season into legendary status. But, the Elite 8 doesn’t do that. To me, Xavier’s run makes the Shootout victory that much tastier for Bearcats fans.
The tournament has a way of devaluing matchups because “when March rolls around you can throw the records out the window”. While that is kind of true, it doesn’t mean that all victories in March should be weighted the same. At this point, your seed pretty much means nothing. The numbers are irrelevant, it’s all about the path the NCAA gives you. Wichita State was somehow a 10 seed this year, and we heard Coach Cal express his displeasure with that after the Wildcats barely snuck away with a victory against the Shockers.
Hear me out: beating Maryland, a Florida State team that perennially chokes in March, a great team that just so happens to be coached by your mentor who you know like the back of your hand, and finally, getting absolutely throttled by Gonzaga sounds a little different than “being one step away from the Final 4”.
I’ve always hated how March Madness advancements are all weighted the same. In my mind, Xavier had an easier path to the Sweet 16 as an 11 seed than Cincinnati did as a 6 seed. How is that fair?
The committee perfectly set up XU for a run, and they knew the Sean Miller vs. Chris Mack matchup would draw ratings. As I wrote, Mick talked shit about the selection committee, and they clapped back. Loose lips sink ships, that’s on him for not thinking it through.
So, let’s enter into a universe where Mick didn’t say those things. Let’s just imagine that Cincinnati got Michigan’s 7 seed in the Midwest region instead of their 6 seed in the South region.
While it seems counter-intuitive, a 7 seed in the Midwest would’ve been a much more favorable seed for Cincinnati. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest one is location. That 7 seed got to play in Indianapolis. That’s huge. Instead of having to fly out to the West Coast, adjust to the Pacific Time Zone and eventually play an in-state game against a team that was Top 10 all year with the most prototypical NBA point guard since John Wall, UC could have played an hour and a half away from home. The way UC was seeded, they would’ve had to beat UCLA, UK and UNC to advance to the Final 4. That’s absurd.
The committee blessed Xavier with the opportunity to play a mentor, but not until the Sweet 16 because they were an 11 seed. At least they got that right. I feel confident saying that UC would have also advanced to the Sweet 16 with Xavier’s seed. However, the Bearcats probably wouldn’t have beaten Arizona, but Mick isn’t a disciple of Sean Miller. Chris Mack knew exactly what Sean Miller was going to do at every step, because Sean Miller literally taught Chris Mack what he was going to do at every step.
This hypothetical 7 seed would have allowed Mick the pleasure of being matched up against one of his mentors, Rick Pitino, in the round of 32. I think Mick himself would agree that he would have preferred that Midwest 7 seed. My point is, the Bearcats could easily have advanced to the Sweet 16 with an actual fair seed. I know I’m crying over spilled milk, but that doesn’t make what I’m saying untrue.
Being able to play the person you learned everything from in the tourney is a huge advantage. That is not arguable. There is zero pressure involved in that scenario, it allows you to go balls to the wall and utilize your most dynamic strategy. Xavier made a great run, but they drew a straight flush on the river.
In the past, I’ve written some blogs with hot takes on here purposely reaching for pageviews, but that’s not what this is. I honestly believe everything I typed here, and I will stand on top of this hill and defend it until my bulletproof vest finally gives. After the way everything shook out, I’d still take the Cats’ season over XU’s season. The national attention might make XU fans feel like they had the better season, but deep down in the heart of the ‘Nati, everyone knows a Shootout victory reigns supreme over anything short of a Final 4 berth.
Am I a salty UC fan? Yes. Am I also speaking the truth? Of course.