Tuesday, February 5, 2013

COLLEGE BASKETBALL #1's: Hotter than a Hot Potato!

The college basketball season so far...
(photo courtesy of Felipe M)
Johnny J

Usually a good university with a good college basketball program is ranked #1 in the country. Schools below them would enjoy knocking them out of the top spot. Not only does it boost confidence, but also it looks good on a team's resume when it comes to making the big "March Madness," tournament. I'm sure most teams would love to be be ranked number one and say they're the best in the country.  However, I believe not being at the top spot is the best to be in for any school. If I were a college player or coach, I would prefer to fly under the radar. I would want people to know that my team is good, but I would rather be characterized as being the team that no one is expecting to make a championship run. That way when tourney time comes, we can just play our game and dominate the rest of the country.

 If you're the top school in the country, you're going to be getting everyone's, "A," game.  Even from the school that has lost every game, when they see that #1 squad on the schedule, they will play harder and tougher than possibly a school that is ranked. Also being the top dog brings a lot of pressure to win simply because you're expected to win.  But people forget that it's already tough enough to just simply win a game! So far the teams that have been ranked number one this year have not performed under pressure. Schools want to be number one, but its been too hot for teams to keep that top spot. It becomes what I call a "hot potato" because no team can hold it for a long period of time.

On Saturday, top ranked Michigan Wolverines fell to the Indiana Hoosiers, 81-73. The third ranked Hoosiers jumped two spots on Monday to regain the top spot after the 2nd ranked Kansas Jayhawks fell last week.  It's the Hoosiers' second time they're ranked #1.  Last time the Hoosiers were ranked #1, a loss to Butler in overtime ousted them from the top spot.  Indiana held the #1 spot for six weeks before that loss. Then came the three teams that had it for a combined seven weeks. Those teams were:

  • Duke Blue Devils 
  • Louisville Cardinals
  • Michigan Wolverines

What makes it worse is that the Hoosiers and Cardinals both lost at home while being number one. That's something that is not suppose to happen! I mean you have the game at an advantage, before tip-off.  That's why they call it "home-court advantage!" How do you drop the potato at home? You have a gym that you play on constantly.  You have the fans that help give opponents a hard time. To me that makes the loss that much harder to swallow; a home loss that made you lose the top spot. It's very rare for an elite team, especially a #1 to lose at home, but as mentioned before, when teams see that #1 next to an opponent's name in their schedule, they tend to play a little bit harder.

Why does it matter?  Because the reason a team plays to be a top team in the regular season is to be a top seed in the tournament.  A number one seed in the tournament tend to have the easiest route to get to the Final Four.

In order to get there you can't boil over (keeping with the "hot potato" theme, here).  You have to be willing to take that challenge of being number one.  Being able to take the pressure and the outside distractions and put it to the side as a team. Just playing your game and showing why you are considered a favorite to win it all. Because if you're ranked number 1 you are usually favored to win it--hands down.

I understand that it's not always the case, because I think every team in the tournament plays their hardest regardless of seeding. Just because a team isn't ranked doesn't mean they're not good. Upsets happen all the time, which is usually why my brackets are all messed up after the first round. I'm just saying if you're ranked number one, then play like it!  I'm tired of seeing different teams every other week being the chosen one. Don't let it become a "hot potato!"

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