Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Art of Unpredictability

Almost every sport during every season has that dominant team. That clear number one. That team that when they are mentioned, every knowledgeable fan agrees that they are undoubtedly the best. In college football right now, it is clearly Alabama. When you win the National Championship three out of the last four years, you deserve the title of “the best.” As for the NFL, it may not be as clear for some, but it is for me. I am no fan, but the Patriots earn my ranking for number one in the NFL. They may not win it every year; however, their consistency is unmatched. Now for the NBA. The Miami Heat are the dominating team in the NBA. You could make the argument for the Thunder or even the Spurs, but when I look at the team that I would put my money on against any team, the Heat are the clear choice. Sorry for all of you soccer and hockey fans, but I am going to have to leave you out considering the miniscule amount of importance they have in my mind. So what is the point of all this you ask?

The best part of sports is the unpredictability. Anything can happen on any given night! Even the best can go down! The Washington Wizards are 7 and 28. But guess what, two of those wins are against the Thunder and the Heat.  It simply does not make sense... and thats what makes it so fun. Drama unfolds right in front of you and this unpredictability is most evident in one sport. That sport, is college basketball.

In college basketball, you have the historical powerhouses. You have UCLA in the John Wooden era, Kentucky in the Adolph Rupp era, and yeah I guess Duke has a pretty good history too, but we will not waste our time on that program. There have been nine different national champions in the last twelve years. No one team has won more than two in the last twelve years either. This is credited to the best postseason format in sports.

As I said earlier, nobody wants to watch something with a pre-determined outcome. If everyone knew who would win it all every year, it would not be so incredibly intriguing. They do not call it March Madness for nothing.  There has been one year, yes one, where all four teams in the Final Four were one seeds. This means that only one year in the history of this great game, the predicted actually happened.

One of the greatest pieces that  makes March Madness the premier post-seasons in all of sports is the Cinderella story. Ahh the Cinderella story. George Mason, an eleven seed, made it to the final four. They upset  many thought to be superior teams including the number one seed UCONN. And the way in which a cinderella team makes their run only adds to the bravado of the story. They may not be the most athletic, but to win in March, you need heart. Heart wins games. And speaking of heart, how about VCU? Sure I am biased I am a VCU season ticket holder. I believe the Siegel Center is one of the best atmospheres in the game but that argument is for another time. Back to my point, VCU was an 11 seed just like Mason. They got an opportunity, maybe an undeserved one, and they took advantage of it. They believed and they played with more heart than USC or Georgetown or Purdue or Florida State or of course, Kansas. The Rams wanted it more than each and every team previously mentioned. These teams probably had an edge on the Rams physically, but that does not matter in March. Nobody could possibly predict VCU or George Mason making it to the Final Four, and that is what makes a Cinderella Story such an exhilarating thrill ride.

This unpredictability has increased in the recent years. There are more athletes, and more guys with an incredible amount of talent that results in a larger quantity of good teams, which makes the unpredictability rise even more. All time, Richmond was the only 15 seed to win a tournament game, and it was over 2 seed Kansas in 1991. Last year, 15 seeds Lehigh and Norfolk State took down 2 seeds Duke and Missouri. The game is getting crazier and crazier. Kentucky won the National Championship last year, but you would not find them in the Top 25 right now and you may not find them in the tournament come March.

There is no clear alpha dog in college basketball. Number one has already changed multiple times. Indiana could not keep it, and people saw Duke beat some of the best teams in the country, but they lost their spot with a loss to NC State. Michigan would have taken over, but the very next day they fell to Ohio State. Right now number one is Louisville. Their lone loss is to Duke, but they had to play without their star center Gorgui Dieng. If you think that they will keep number one all year, well you are simply mistaken. Indiana could be the best team, but as I write this I am watching them fall to a Wisconsin team at home that could not take down UVA in their own building.

There is no best team in college basketball. There are a lot of really talented teams. A lot of teams that you know will have an extremely successful season, but no team that you can say, “They have the national championship in the bag.” Conference play has just begun. There is a lot of season yet to be played, and there is a lot of time for more teams to emerge. College basketball is what it is because of its incredible unpredictability. You don’t have a clue what is going to happen some nights, and on others you think you got everything figured out and boom, Norfolk State just took down Missouri. This year that is the case more than any year I can remember. Anybody can beat absolutely anybody on any given night! This year the only thing you can actually predict is that it is going to be so unpredictable. That opens the door for all of those potential  “Cinderellas.” It is going to be a crazy year and an even crazier tournament. That factual statement makes me and all other die hard college basketball fans think one thing: Bring on the Madness.-Ben Greer

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