Kentucky and Kansas will go for the national championship tonight, and we’ll all hope for a great, competitive, tight final game to close out the 2011-12 season.
But we likely won’t get it.
There’s a chance, but only a relatively slim one.
At least based on history.
For whatever reason, the NCAA Tournament might be one of those odd postseason situations that starts foamy and fresh, gets everybody hoisting a beverage, and then ends flat as stale brew, leaving everybody unquenched and unsatisfied. It might get worse as it goes on. The first round might be better than the last, when the madness turns to the mundane.
Two dances back, Duke edged Butler, 61-59, in a memorable title game that could have been rearranged into a monumental upset had Gordon Hayward’s bomb dropped in at the last second. And in 2008, Kansas beat Memphis in overtime, though the final margin was seven points.
But most of the finals over the past 20 years haven’t been particularly scintillating.
Connecticut took out Butler last season by 12. North Carolina beat Michigan State in 2009 by 17. In 2007, Florida put down Ohio State by nine and in 2006 crushed UCLA by 16. The 14 games prior to that were decided by an average of nearly nine points. Over that same span there were just two overtimes, including the aforementioned Kansas-Memphis tilt. Ironically enough, Kentucky was involved in the other OT thriller, a loss in 1997 to Arizona.
All told, there have been seven overtime games in NCAA Tournament history. In 1989, Michigan beat Seton Hall, 80-79. Loyola downed Cincinnati, 60-58, in 1963. Cincinnati beat Ohio State two years before that in OT, 70-65. In 1944, Utah beat Dartmouth in extra time, 42-40. And maybe the best final ever came in 1957, when North Carolina beat Wilt Chamberlain’s Kansas team, 54-53, in three overtimes.
It’d be terrific if we got anything close to that tonight in New Orleans. We can all hope and hope again. We just can’t bank on it.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Gordon Monson Show” weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.