Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's a Big Game in April....

The first Monday night in April is something that if you ask this question to a sports nut (in October), “What are you doing the first Monday night in April?”, the casual sports nut might have to think about it for a minute but the true sports nut will ask if you’re attending the NCAA Final Four and whether or not you’re offering him a ticket, plane ride, room, whatever. This is how sports nuts think….

Kind of like asking a Michigan or tOSU fan, “What are you doing the 3rd Saturday in November?”

I love the NCAA tournament. I really do. But I would be remiss if I didn’t let out a little frustration at this point with respect to this year’s Final Four:

-Virginia Commonwealth had 11 losses and didn't win its conference tournament

-Connecticut finished ninth (9th) in the Big East AND they are currently under NCAA investigation for something their coach did (but none of these kids were guilty of)

-Butler has nine losses

-Kentucky had eight.

(Now 9) VCU, Kentucky are Butler are now gone…And I'm not saying that UConn doesn’t deserve the national championship….But….. a ticket to the dance and the ability to win 6 games is all you need… I guess I’m a little shocked that the teams that managed to do it game in and game out all year (OSU – Kansas – North Carolina – DUKE (Jeez, I hate these guys…) – Pitt and the Domers) managed to all fail so miserably in this tournament. I mean, usually ONE number 1 seed gets in to the Final Four and wins the whole thing. That’s what it should be about. The culmination of a great season followed up with a 6 game winning streak right at the end. But this year, there were plenty of 2-3-4 loss teams that simply didn’t have what it takes to get to the final game. I have incredibly mixed feelings about U-Conn in this game and I was pulling hard for Butler. I just hate the Beast and I would prefer that they are not recognized as the National Champs.

But back to my point, what do teams have to do to win the whole thing? The good teams are capable and proved it at their conference opponent’s arenas and held serve on their home courts. This is something every basketball coach in a major conference will tell you is no easy task. So what makes it so much harder in the NCAA tournament? And how do teams that have no business being there find it so easy to put together?

Leave it to your Monday Morning Quarterback…I have a THEORY!

Of the above 4 teams, the only two that had real regular season (or post season success) were U-Conn and Butler. U-Conn started playing like they meant it in the Big East tournament and they still haven’t taken their foot off the throttle. Butler kind of did the same thing when they realized they need to win out to get a ticket to the dance punched. Kentucky didn’t do much of anything regular season but responded well in the SEC tournament. VCU…They just plain sucked and got lucky to make it in…

But when expectations are low, well, that’s when you catch people by surprise. That’s obvious. But what isn’t obvious is that when you’ve got nothing – no regular season record to speak of or anything to look back on and say, “Well, that was a success…” - then and only then you’ve got nothing to lose. And that’s a great feeling to have when the game is on the line and you have to take a shot.

Nobody was expecting us to do anything anyway and if I miss, well, I haven’t ruined anything special.

That’s powerful. And it makes you wonder if there shouldn’t be more consideration given to the mental and psychological state of teams that have a lot on the line with the number 1 seed. The number 1 seed is now a target for the 8-9 seeds that are getting better all the time. And as a coach, while you need to emphasize the regular season you need to be able to remove everything from the minds of these players and make the regular season seem like “yesterday’s news.” It’s old news, nobody cares and the only thing that matters is the next 6 games. Play them like you need to win to live…which I guess you do.

Big Nod to Ryno in the office pool I participated in for picking UConn to win the whole thing and finishing 2nd. Ryno will get prize money to the tune of $350 or so smackeroos. How many fathead stickers does $350 buy, anyway?

No comments: