Some chalk it up to the pressure, but that, too, doesn’t tell the whole story.
Some call it the curse of the one-and-done’s, saying this was as predictable as the next full moon.
Whatever you call it and whatever the cause, the truth of the matter is college basketball isn’t very good right now.
Want proof? Name the five best players on the NCAA hardwood. Heck, name the best four. Cody Zeller probably makes the cut, and Kentucky fans will yell Nerlens Noel. Beyond that, there is a homer bias to every list and no consensus No. 1 team to be found anywhere.
Just as it looked as though Zeller and Indiana had finally reached the pinnacle and would remain there for a healthy stretch, the Hoosiers blew an eight-point lead to Illinois. They lost the game by giving up an uncontested layup, one of those miscues where no Indiana player was within 10 feet of the winning basket.
Bobby Knight would have thrown the entire scoring table across the court. It was that bad.
But it was not unexpected. For five consecutive weeks, the No. 1 team in the country has lost the game immediately following their rise to the top. This has brought new meaning to the term “one and done,” and it has a lot of casual college basketball fans turning away. After all, why watch when nothing matters until tournament time?
The losses by Indiana, Michigan and Duke — all teams that spent precious little time at the top of the polls — should have opened the door for Florida, which got off to a slower-than-expected start before reeling off almost two months worth of victories to climb to No. 2 in the polls.
The Gators looked unbeatable throughout January and displayed one of the toughest defenses since their back-to-back championship runs. But they didn’t even make it to the top spot before embarrassing themselves.
On Tuesday night in Arkansas, Billy Donovan’s squad looked like they didn’t belong in the top 10 as they fell to the Razorbacks 80-69 in a game that wasn’t that close.
“Sometimes you need a reality check to let you know you can be beat,” Florida guard Kenny Boynton said after the drubbing in Fayetteville, a game in which the Gators trailed by 23 in the first half. “Better now than later.”
Perhaps that’s the attitude everyone in college basketball is taking these days. Better get those losses out of the way now before tournament time. It’s still early. Mailing it in for a game or two won’t matter as long we play well in late March.
Unfortunately, modern college basketball players, many of whom don’t stay on campus long enough to learn the alma mater or find the second floor of the library, have never heard Vince Lombardi’s “winning is a habit” speech.
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in awhile and you don’t do things right once in awhile. You do them right all the time.”
Of course, going to school is not a sometime thing, either. Unless, of course, you are today’s college basketball player. Then everything’s fleeting and temporary. Like being No. 1.