The major broadcast networks like to perpetuate a fallacy about championship sports match-ups. Networks like CBS claim that television ratings are always better when the teams come from different parts of the country.
For example, in the World Series, a Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Yankees match-up is supposed to get better ratings than a Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Yankees, or Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Oakland A’s match-up.
Or in the Super Bowl, nobody outside of New York cares about a match-up between the Jets vs. Giants.
It’s no fun even when Venus Williams beats her sister Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final.
So, the networks might want you to believe that an NCAA March Madness Final Four match-up between four teams with too much geographic proximity would be trouble for ratings.
Well, it doesn’t take a Dick Vitale to know that the networks will be wrong this year.
First, we have the battle for Kentucky with the Wildcats of Lexington resuming their rivalry in the postseason…
…against the Cardinals of Louisville.
In the second match-up, the Kansas Jayhawks of Lawrence tip off…
…against the Ohio State Buckeyes of Columbus.
Big yawn. (Kidding, of course!)
According to my good friend, Mapquest, this Final Four represents the shortest distance in miles between the NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I Final Four schools.
“How many miles is that?”
To quote one of my favorite TV characters, Sheldon Cooper of BIG BANG THEORY, “I’d like to do the math.” (season 2, episode 15 – “The Maternal Capacitance”)
1,508.63 miles if you took a roadtrip from Columbus (Ohio) to Lawrence (Kansas) to Louisville (Kentucky) to Lexington (Kentucky)….and finally back to Columbus. Yes, that’s 1,508.63 driving miles, with only a couple bathroom breaks and a mayonnaise jar stashed away under the driver’s seat.
In the last 50 years of NCAA Final Four basketball, only the 1992 Final Four came anywhere near close to that distance with 1,603.99 miles. The difference between 1603.99 and 1,508.63 is about the same distance that Christian Laettner’s last-second shot traveled when the Blue Devils beat the Wildcats that year in the final eight. (Still my favorite college game of all-time, and that’s why I got a copy years ago from CBS on DVD.)
Below, you’ll find the math for the five closest mileage distances between Final Four teams.
1,508.63 miles – Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, Ohio State (2012)
1,603.99 miles – Duke, Michigan, Cincinnati, Indiana (1992). Christian Laettner and Grant Hill beat the Fab Five.
1,774.35 miles – Michigan State, Indiana State, DePaul, Pennsylvania (1979). Some dude named Magic beat some other dude named Larry. I can’t remember their last names.
1,810.99 miles – North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan State, Louisville (2005). Roy Williams wins his first national title back when good players actually stuck around for their senior year…which now seems like a generation ago.
2,230.90 miles – Villanova, Georgetown, Memphis State, St. John’s (1985). The ultimate Cinderella story beats the beast of the Big East, Patrick Ewing, in the best coached championship game ever.
2,564.67 miles – Kentucky, Duke, Arkansas, Notre Dame (1978). When Kentucky could beat Duke in a meaningful game—right before both teams went surprisingly bad and brought in legendary coaches Pitino and Krzyzewski.
There you go, kids. That’s why math is important. Stay in school!
50 years of Final Four match-ups, and indeed, some of the best years resulted from teams close in distance.
Take a look at those years when the west coast schools like UCLA, Stanford, Arizona, and UNLV made the Final Four against east coast schools. Not that memorable, right?
Flaming Bag of Poo still has a perfect office pool bracket. (Mainly because I’ve been filling them in after the games are over. But still, they are perfect, and I have great penmanship.)
The Buckeyes beat the Jayhawks although both point guards will shine.
The Wildcats will clobber the Cardinals, and they’ll be drinking mint juleps by halftime.
The Wildcats will beat the Buckeyes because foul-prone Sullinger will forget that he needs to be on the floor for him to actually stand a chance.
If you’re tired of Ashley Judd now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Trust me, sports fans.
Because Flaming Bag of Poo did the math.
And it adds up to a crown for Kentucky.