I blogged last year that college hoops fascinate me, because it seems almost possible to create any reasonably accurate set of predictions at the beginning of a season (here, in case you’re one of the few people on the planet who missed it the first time) . Well, here we are, another year later, and the point is even clearer.
We’re only a few weeks into the season, and, already, one of the pre-season top-10 teams has fallen out of the rankings, while a team that got zero pre-season votes for the Top 25 is now #7. (Here are the preseason rankings, and here are the current ones.) I’m talking about North Carolina, which was originally ranked #9 and now, having already lost to Minnesota and Vanderbilt, is not ranked, and I’m also talking about UCONN, who beat down a few “top 10 powerhouses” like they stole something.
I point this out again simply to note two things:
1. Personally, I don’t see any reason to start paying attention to college hoops until conference play begins. There are too many teams to keep track of, and, without any reliable sense of who’s worth paying attention to, there’s really no way for a fan who works during the day to have any idea what to pay attention to.
2. The reasons that are typically given for college teams’ successes are completely bogus. Often we hear about coaching. But, lots of proven winners are mired in funks. Roy Williams, to name one, seems to have lost the magic he had at Carolina when Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansborough were there. (Funny how that works.) Gary Williams, with a national championship on his resume, hasn’t done much recently. Nor has Tubby Smith. Or Rick Pitino.
I’m not saying that these guys aren’t good coaches, I’m just saying that, when we hear people praising coaches as if they’re brilliant geniuses who have figured out the magic formula for winning consistently, we should remember that lots of those coaches have trouble, well… winning consistently. It’s really remarkable how quickly the winning touch comes and goes.
And, separate from coaching, we often hear about “tradition” as the reason why teams get good. But “tradition” doesn’t seem to be doing much to help Carolina or UCLA, let alone other former powerhouses like Indiana, St. John’s, Michigan, or, come to think about it, the entire Pac 10 Conference.
In a nutshell, at the college level, there’s a very thin line between success and failure. Personally, I love watching the game, and seeing which teams are able to create a winning formula…. starting in January.
Until then, I’ll be monitoring college hoops, but watching the NBA.