It irks me that the Villanova and Virginia haters were validated. Virginia has won the ACC two years running, and Villanova just went 33-3 in a top-3 overall conference. Not to mention that both play gorgeous, disciplined, team basketball. I get that the tournament matters, but let’s be real here: Over the course of 30-plus games, these have unquestionably been two of the top five teams in college basketball this year.
We’ll get to the Sweet 16 soon. First, let’s pour out a little liquor for the friends we lost along the way, most notably the two schools that — as Kevin pointed out — PLAY THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY. As the driver of both of these teams’ bandwagons this season, I deserved the Twitter abuse I got when they both lost second-round upsets within 17 hours of each other. But I still stand by what I wrote about them. Just because Villanova was uncharacteristically swallowed alive by the pressure of being a 1-seed and Virginia’s offense took a nosedive from which it never recovered when Justin Anderson initially got hurt doesn’t mean the Wildcats and Hoos weren’t among the best teams in the country this year.
In truth, I never cheered for Villanova or Virginia more than for any other team. I just went to bat for them because they were irrationally hated by the rest of the country. It’s stupid to suggest, as many have, that we should cheer against Virginia because everyone would copy its style if it won a championship. There will always be a million routes to the title, and every coach will follow the course he likes best, regardless of what happens in March. This variety is what makes college basketball great, which is why I don’t understand why so many want to stifle it. So in October, when Virginia brings basically everyone back and starts the season ranked in the top five, take the Voltaire approach: “I disapprove of how you play basketball, but I will defend to the death your right to play it that way.”