MINNEAPOLIS — Perception is everything: How did we get from the greatest collection of Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games to what will supposedly rank as one of the un-sexiest NCAA title matchups in history?
Virginia and Texas Tech meet for a championship Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium and if you believe the narrative that defense equals boring, the assumption is you either won’t watch or will fall asleep doing so.
Go ahead. Say it.
First one to 40 wins.
But beauty is also found in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, and just because the Cavaliers and Red Raiders might take a whole lot longer to put the ball in the basket, it doesn’t mean they’re any less better at it than the nation’s highest-scoring teams.
In fact, Virginia ranks third in adjusted offense and Texas Tech ranks 28th.
It might not be a modern approach, but it sure has been successful for both. Metrics prove it.
“People play all sorts of systems, and that’s the beauty of the game,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said. “People put their own twist on things, but defense can be the great equalizer.
“I think at all levels, not many teams advance without being strong defensively, even in the NBA. That’s what I knew and I’ve seen it work.”
If you like the sort of offense most NBA teams offer nightly — James Harden dribbling around for 20 seconds and being isolated into attacking one-on-one — this specific college game won’t satisfy your hunger.
But it’s also true that 84-83 doesn’t necessarily translate into great basketball.
Exciting, maybe, but not always overly efficient.
“It’s human nature,” Red Raiders sophomore guard Jarrett Culver said. “Everybody wants to see the dunks, the 3s, the big plays like that. We see the diving plays, the charges (taken), the blocked shots. We see big plays like that for our team. There is beauty in that.”
Perhaps not the kind that will translate to great television ratings, but certainly the kind that could lead to a one-possession game in the final minute.
The winner will claim its first national title, and it’s fairly obvious how two teams ranked in the top five for adjusted defense will go about their business.
Whether everyone else respects such a style doesn’t seem to both either.
Texas Tech has this practice where head coach Chris Beard has everyone send thankful texts to those in their lives, past and present.
The idea behind it: He believes the byproduct of any championship program is not coaching or style of play or players or game changes … it’s a positive foundation defining all of that.
“It’s really hard for me to be in a bad mood and have a bad practice if you send two thankful texts to someone in your past,” Beard said. “Understand how lucky we are to be healthy and live in this country and be working in the game we all love. Just take a moment to thank someone. For me, a high school coach, one of my daughters, anybody.
“And one thing I always tell my guys is, ‘You’ve got to thank the haters, too.’ Michael Jordan in his Hall of Fame speech said that — and I get great motivation from people that tell us what we can and can’t do.
“Just keep — don’t pick us again in this game, and we’ll see what happens.”
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.