There are a few phrases that I hate this time of year. The chief among them is ‘Cinderella story.’ I understand the connotation and yes, there are a few cases where teams do actually fulfill the requirements for the title. A few examples are: George Mason (2006), Princeton (1996), Gonzaga (1999). Teams that do not fit this bill include: Arizona (2009).
The Webster’s definition of a Cinderella is: one suddenly lifted from obscurity to honor or significance. I understand that in the cases above. Most people were shocked when George Mason made it into the tournament field over Hofstra, let alone reaching the Final Four. Princeton used a bunch of smart, white guys to knock of the defending national champions in UCLA and Gonzaga was a tiny Jesuit college in eastern Washington that stunningly won three games against schools from the Big 10, Pac 10 and SEC. So why doesn’t Arizona fit into that mold?
Arizona has reached the NCAA tournament 25 years in a row which is the second-longest streak ever (27 by UNC from 1975-2001). They won the national championship in 1997, were finalists in 2001 and were in the Final Four in 1994 and 1988. Just because folks were surprised when they made the tournament does not mean they are a wonderful, shocking story. Arizona defeated Utah and Cleveland State to reach the sweet sixteen, hardly a who’s who of college basketball powers.
The main reason Arizona is anointed to this position of supposed Cinderella is that this year’s tournament is proving to be even more bland than last year. In each region the top three seeds advanced with the rest being a 4-seed, 5-seed and Arizona’s 12. Had there been true ‘Cinderella’ teams (Utah State, Cleveland State) no one would be talking about Arizona at all. But the folks in sports media need something to talk about and some reason to convince their readers/viewers that this is as interesting as any other year.
So let’s cool it with the talk of how ‘special’ this Arizona team is. They appear to be pretty good but until they beat Louisville, I’m not ready to refer to them as even an interesting or surprising team.