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Bet on NCAABAt the beginning of this year's NCAA tournament, could anyone have predicted this would be the Final Four that we were to get? None of the top seed made it to Houston, while one of the First Four – really meaning one of the last four picked for the tournament at all – has made it. It would be a surprise if a single bracket throughout the country was still intact after this past weekend.

Who could have predicted that one of the national semifinals games would be played between the Butler Bulldogs and the VCU Rams? Few enough people expected Butler to make it back into the Sweet Sixteen, let alone the Final Four. And no one really expected VCU to make their incredible run in the tournament, beating out No. 1 seed Kansas on the way.

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So is this year just a fluke, or is the era of being able to predict relatively accurate national championships coming to an end? In essence, the smaller schools are attracting quality players, and those players stick around for longer than the minimum amount of time needed to make a name for themselves before declaring for the NBA Draft.

Programs like Butler and VCU can attract quality players, even if they do not get the very best high school players in the nation. The big names like Kansas and Ohio State can acquire the best of the best, but then those players only stay in college for a year or two at the most. In the meantime, the smaller schools take advantage and develop their players for 3-4 years.

So the upsets we are seeing this year are not flukes. They reflect the changing perception of the importance of playing college ball. None of the top seeds lasted long enough to make it to Houston's semifinal round. Duke is gone, Kansas is gone, the widely favored Ohio State is gone. Butler, VUC, Kentucky, and Uconn make up only the third Final Four without a No. 1 seed since 1979.

The big conferences were embarrassed out of the tournament this year. The Big East and Big Ten got a combined 18 bids this year, and only one team made it even as far as the Elite Eight – Connecticut. Look for the smaller conferences and smaller programs to start getting more tournament bids in the future. And look for them to keep winning as long as the “elite” schools recruit talent at the expense of consistency.

 

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