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Final Four is democracy at its finest

Posted: March 29, 2011 - 8:47pm

As sports nerds, we tend to fall into two categories regarding “chaos” theory.

There are those who prefer this branch of math that says non-linear systems are not predictable because the smallest change can make an extreme difference later on.

Then there are those who prefer the ultimate predictability that sport can offer, such as the NBA playoffs, the BCS, etc.

Count me among the former.

I say this as a Kansas alum who watched his minor-league NBA team get run off by something called a Virginia Commonwealth. VCU doesn’t even have a football team. Its basketball coach is a 16-year-old named Chaka Khan.

But who are we kidding? The NCAA Tournament dresses up as a democratic process, but to win the biggest election you must be a Republican or a Democrat. Other than UNLV in 1990, the last time a current non-BCS conference team won this democratic process was UTEP in 1966.

Now, however, this Final Four, on Saturday in Houston, gives us another hope that a movement led by Boise State, TCU, Butler and now Virginia Commonwealth will finally win a title in one of the two sports that we actually care about.

Those who love a little chaos theory in their sport, and who desperately want to see the little guy get his day, need either Butler or VCU to win this title to put the biggest crack yet in this money-stained window.

“Whether it be football, TCU, Boise State, any other schools, certainly with VCU this year, there’s an opportunity for teams. I think that’s good. I think it’s healthy,” said UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who has the age, resume and cash to feel secure in making that statement during a Monday conference call.

“In my day, when I started real young at 28 at Northeastern University, making our way through, yeah, we always felt ‘the elite’ were the elite. Just to play them was great, not just to beat them. Now everybody can beat everybody.”

Not quite. We are just closer than we have ever been since college athletics went corporate. Look at the progress the movement has made in just the last six years:

Utah becoming the first non-BCS team to win a BCS game the Fiesta Bowl in ’05.

George Mason reaching the Final Four in ’06.

Boise State defeating Oklahoma in the ’07 Fiesta Bowl. This win gave the movement a face, and panache, needed to pick up believers.

Utah’s convincing win against Alabama in the ’09 Sugar Bowl was another seminal moment.

Butler’s two-point loss against Duke in the title game last season was closer than the final score indicated, and proof of just how close this breakthrough is to happening.

TCU’s deserving win against Wisconsin in the ’11 Rose Bowl may be, to date, the biggest strike yet for the little guy.

“It’s the wonderful thing about college basketball. Every year, we get into the argument about football, what if Boise had a shot, what if TCU had a shot, whatever the case may be,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said Monday. “There’s no politics in this. There’s a 40-minute basketball game. That’s the beautiful thing about it.”

Kentucky or UConn should win this title. Vegas quickly installed UK has the early favorite. Those two teams are better, bigger, faster, stronger, have deeper pockets and have future NBAers.

VCU and Butler may combine to produce one NBA player. One of these teams is guaranteed of playing for the title Monday in Houston, and either will be an underdog.

That is what this movement is about winning so much says you should not.

Of the two revenue sports, basketball’s title remains more vulnerable at being taken away from the power brokers than football. As much as we want to believe college football is close to adopting a playoff, set the over/under at 10 years. That figure maybe overly optimistic. A plus-one is more likely.

That means Butler or VCU has to do it for every other school that has virtually zero chance of landing a McDonald’s All-American.

Butler or VCU has to close this out to prove you don’t have to buy a pack of one-and-doners to have big-time success.

Butler or VCU has to win it all to prove this system, while flawed, is truly democratic on the grandest stage.

A movement that started with Utah, carried on by TCU, Boise State and George Mason requires just one more win to make the biggest crack yet.

Which would truly be chaotic.

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