A team wins a close game.
That means they've got big hearts.
Another team plays a tough schedule.
That means they're prepared for March Madness.
"It's all bull----," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, and I couldn't agree more.
It is all complete and utter bull---- even though media members (and fans) routinely draw big meanings from 40-minute basketball games. It doesn't help that most coaches play along. Somebody asks a leading question. ("Does this comeback win show your team is tough?") The coach follows the lead. ("My kids really showed how tough they are tonight.") Then everybody turns off their cameras and goes home, another workday in the books. If I've seen it once, I've seen it too many times to count. The next news conference I attend after one team overcomes a halftime deficit to win that doesn't feature somebody asking the coach what was said at halftime will be the first. But the truth is that a halftime speech is rarely the reason a second half is played differently -- just like a close win rarely means you're prepared to win more close games, just like a tough schedule is rarely the reason a team advances in March.
It's all bull----.
Thank you, Coach Boeheim, for pointing it out.
I host a radio show each afternoon and most callers want every game to be a referendum on everything. Each win means the local team is really coming together. Each loss means the coach is in over his head. A win over a Top 50 team suggests a Final Four is possible. A loss to a team outside of the Top 150 means somebody needs to be fired. Why? Because people think everything has to mean something bigger than what it means when basketball is almost always much simpler.
On that note, here's basketball in a nutshell:
The team with the better players usually wins when said team plays well, executes and makes shots. But the team with the better players doesn't always play well, execute and make shots. So sometimes the team with the better players loses, and those are what we call upsets. Yes, upsets are a result of masterful "coaching" performances on occasion. But more times than not, upsets are what happens when shots that typically fall for one team don't fall and shots that typically miss for the other team don't miss.
That pretty much covers the sport, I think. And I bet Jim Boeheim agrees because he isn't buying these grand conclusions reporters are trying to force onto his team. What does Syracuse's overtime win against Rutgers and close win at Villanova mean? It means the Orange played well enough to win when it was time to decide those particular games. It might also mean they got a little lucky. But what it doesn't mean is that Syracuse is somehow better equipped to win a close game in the NCAA tournament, which Boeheim highlighted, quite colorfully, after this week's victory at Villanova.
"It's all bull----," he said. "We could get in the same game next week and lose. We could have 10 [close games] in a row and win them, then get in a tournament and have one and lose it. It's all bull----. You get in these games, somebody's got to make a play. Whichever team makes a play ..."
Teams with tough schedules (like Duke last year) and weak schedules (like Butler last year) can both advance deep into March, and teams with tough schedules (like Kansas last year) and weak schedules (like Utah State last year) can both lose early. I could cite 50 more examples that go either way. And yet people still, week after week, suggest one helps and the other hurts. To my delight, Boeheim also shot this theory down after Syracuse's victory at Villanova.
"Georgetown had the toughest non-league schedule and what did they start out in the league? 1-4?" he said. "We had a fairly easy one. We were 5-0. Does that mean our schedule wasn't tough enough -- but it took a little longer to kick in? That's all nonsense. It's what kind of team you have."
Duke didn't make the title game last season because it played a tough schedule any more than Butler made the title game last season because it played a weak schedule. Rather, both Duke and Butler made the title game for the exact same reason -- because they were great teams with great coaches that played great at the right time.
Trying to make what happened in last season's NCAA tournament more complicated than that is silly.
Just like trying to make most things in this sport more complicated than that is silly.
Or bull----, if you will.