Yes, it's that time of year again when the blowhards saddle up their high horses and parade through town, hollering about which teams will make a run in this year's NCAA Tournament. Standard practice for these talking heads is to invoke regular season records in an attempt to justify postseason predictions.
Really? How reliably can you base NCAA tournament picks on the regular season performances of amateur basketball teams? Sure, sometimes this tactic will work, but by no means is it a foolproof strategy. (Initially, I wanted to write that regular-season records determine NCAA tournament success just as tongue length influences piano skill. But that would be hyperbole at the expense of accuracy, which is the crab dribble of sports writing.)
Obviously, a team's record entering the tournament is a good indicator of how well it played during the regular season. However, the mere tally of wins and losses is too general and fails to take into account how a team's skill and cohesion fluctuate as the season progresses.
College basketball players are not professionals. Even if they look like 40-year-old men -- i.e. Pittsburgh's
It is not unheard of for a team to play poorly during November and December, or even January and February, and then really raise its level of play come March. Sometimes, it takes the entire course of a season for a team to transform itself into a championship caliber squad, especially if the squad is unseasoned or injury plagued.
Last season, Villanova entered the first round of the tournament with a pedestrian 20-12 record. At one point in early February, the Wildcats lost five straight games, four to Big East opponents and one to St. Joe's in "The Holy War". But, like a fine wine,
This season, Mississippi State boasts a meager 23-12 record (9-7 SEC). But a quick glance at the Bulldogs' wins and losses doesn't tell the whole story. Their regular season record fails to point out the fact that
In fact, teams with less-then-stellar regular season records have proven that they can not only advance far in the NCAA tournament, they have the ability to win it all. The 1985 Villanova team that knocked off
While Villanova is the most famous example of a middling team discovering the winning touch in the NCAA Tournament, it is by no means the only example. In 1983
It is true that the top seeds have recently prevailed in the postseason. The odds are, after all, in their favor. Last year, for the first time ever, all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four. And a No. 1 seed has won the national championship 14 times since 1985. But that's not to say a team that struggled during the regular season CAN'T pull it together and make a solid run in the NCAA Tournament. After all, despite what the talking heads proclaim, anything is possible with March Madness. Which is why we wait with bated breath for the first round to kick off on Thursday.