Almost inevitably in life one sees a clash between top dogs and underdogs, between the "haves" and the "have-nots". NCAA basketball features such a division. There are the "Big Six" conferences that have traditionally dominated the college basketball scene, schools comprising the Big East, the Big Ten, the ACC, the Big 12, the Pac 10, and the SEC.
The remaining non-Big Six teams, representing over 80% of college basketball, are underdog schools who are given little respect and little chance of ever prevailing over their Big Six brethren.
But the past two NCAA tournaments have witnessed a shift in the balance of power, along with a slowness of the Big Six and the national media to recognize it. More and more, the underdogs are kicking sand in the faces of the Big Six.
Last year, Butler University from the little-known Horizon League came within a whisker of defeating Duke for the national championship. And in this year's Final Four, Butler is joined by VCU from the Colonial Athletic Association, making half the Final Four non Big Six teams who are still, somehow, viewed as underdogs.
It is very clear that the Big Six, along with the major media outlets who cover them, are fiercely resisting the notion that their era of dominance is over. It is human nature for those in power to have blinders when it comes to acknowledging that their power has weakened. Denial is indeed a powerful psychological force.
Heroes are people who prevail even when others don't believe in them. VCU's fabulous journey to the Final Four was fueled, in part, by the disrespect shown them by the basketball elite who continue to overestimate the Big Six and underestimate the parity that now exists across the basketball landscape.
A lesson can be learned here: Beware hubris. Human history is replete with stories of powerful entities whose demise was caused, in part, by their inability to recognize when their power has eroded. Butler's near-miss last year should have put a dent in the massive hubris on display among NCAA basketball media moguls. But it didn't.
Either Butler or VCU has to win the national championship for the Big Six to finally admit that they aren't so big anymore. As we work in the city of Richmond, we're rooting for VCU.
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