So Who Had VCU and Butler in the Final Four?

Shaka Smart says we're in the final four, not Duke, not Kansas, not Ohio State, VCU is, and Butler too!

This weekend has been historic. College Basketball has changed. The ways of the past are over.

VCU and Butler are in the final four, and its not luck this time.

As each Butler and VCU have advanced through the tournament, each team played at a disadvantage the entire time. This disadvantage was in talent. While luck has its place in sport, and certainly more has been on the side of those two lately, it is not why they will play in Houston next week.

It must be coaching that is making the difference. And yes that’s very much part of it. Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart might be the two best coaches in the country, or they might not be. The fact is, they are very good.

Personally I don’t believe they are the two best, but they are in line with a growing trend in college basketball, good coaching=winning.

In the past, good coaching would only get you so far sometimes. Today, that is still the case at some schools that place in weak leagues. You can make Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart the coaches of probably 200 different schools in the country, and they won’t be able to win a game in the tournament. They’ll do better than most, but they won’t be able to overcome the lack of talent, even given the opportunity to develop it.

That is not the point though, the point is there are over 100 different teams that they could coach and succeed with.

The landscape of college hoops has changed. If you want to see what it used to look like, take a peak at Women’s College Basketball. The difference in talent between a top 5 team and one that ranks 25th in the country is enough that no level of coaching can make up for it.

In Men’s hoops that is not the case anymore. VCU and Butler will not have five first round draft picks, or maybe even anyone ever step on the floor in an NBA arena, but that doesn’t mean their players aren’t good. The personnel on those teams, and so many others around the BCS conferences and the mid majors is now leveled out so much that they can compete with the big boys.

Kansas is one of the most talented teams in America year in, year out. They spit out stars, first round draft picks all the time, but they were soundly beaten today. If VCU played Kansas 100 times, maybe Kansas would win more games, but instead of a 1 in 100 chance for VCU, they now have maybe a 35 in 100 chance or even better.

There are so many coaches out there that can recruit the best players in the country. At places like Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, and Syracuse you are going to have the cream of the crop every year, but that doesn’t mean that they will win.

A special blend of a team with enough talent, coaching, leadership and experience has what it takes to make it to the final four. That special blend is possible at places like Butler and VCU now because the talent level at many mid major schools is growing.

Is the Mountain West, or the Atlantic Ten, or the Horizon, or Colonial, as good of a conference as the Big East or ACC or Big Ten? No, but that doesn’t mean that someone isn’t capable of being good in one of those conferences. Each year we see controversial teams get respect playing teams all year long that they should easily beat. BYU and San Diego State this year were considered top five teams by many, but were both ousted in the sweet 16, after a fairly easy path there. Why do I mention them, because they were fakers. VCU and Butler were different, and perhaps better suited in the underdog role.

Is Butler as good as they were last year? Probably not, but they still made it back to the final four. Butler and VCU had something unique, a blend of talent found in less obvious places, great coaching, and also seniority and experience. It is no coincidence that both teams have many seniors, and also no coincidence that they challenged themselves much more than San Diego State and BYU in the non-conference schedule early on.

What does it all mean for the future?

There will still be gripes about Mid Majors vs. High Majors.

There will still be arguements about who should have gotten in.

And there will definitely be more VCU’s and Butler’s.

Was the selection committee validated now that VCU made the final four? No, they still did a bad job, but what was validated was the need to have 3 more teams in the tournament.

Maybe we could actually use a few more. Not 96, but maybe 72. The scary thing is, there are many teams in the NIT this year that probably could have won a few games in the tournament. Everyone said the bubble was so weak, but was it really because the playing field is just more even.

The bubble is not going to get better, this wasn’t a fluke. Teams are going to lose to supposed “bad” teams more and more. Teams like Kansas and Ohio State will probably not fall to them throughout the season, but they are capable.

The days of dominant teams is over, and the days of wild and crazy tournaments is upon us. 1 seeds will make the final four again one day, but its unlikely we’ll see all four of them.

The new college basketball is better, no matter what you say.

We need more and more games of David vs. Goliath. I don’t want to see the ACC-Big Ten challenge, or the Big East-SEC, I want to see the Missouri Valley-Big Ten Challenge, the Pac-Ten-Colonial, the A-10-ACC. I want to see more mid majors playing big guys. I want to see a school who wants to prove themselves (like BYU) schedule everyone they can from coast to coast. I want to see teams like Duke or Kansas go on the road out of conference to places Butler and VCU.

I want to see chaos from November to April when the buzzer sounds in the National Championship.

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