The Lame Complacency of Now

This is quite possibly the dumbest comment I've read on tonight's game:

For UNC, there is a possibility they can still make the NCAA tournament with a loss tonight.  For Virginia, there is not.  Although it may be unfair, the Cavaliers (who were leading the ACC less than two weeks ago) are ranked #137 in the RPI behind some mediocre teams in 11-10 Creighton and 10-10 Bradley.  Not only will UVA have to put together a victory against UNC, they will likely have to come up with several big ACC wins before they are safe heading into Selection Sunday.     

Noe that if everything goes as according to plan tonight, UNC will be 3-3 in conference. Virginia will be.. 3-3 in conference. The important numbers here aren't the wins and losses, or the various strengths of schedule, It's the threes – each team has ten conference games remaining, plus a conference tournament, before the bracket are set. Maybe the calendar pages are stuck together over at Rush the Court, but for the rest of us, when you flip the page over at the end of January, you don't see March. 

I've ranted before about my intense hatred of the idiotically-named bracketology – in fact, I should probably republish that on this blog – but that was because people ignore games in front of them to focus on a closed-door meeting in March that has all the excitement of a regional planning meeting. Bracketology's other big flaw is to treat each game as a binary good or bad for a team, and each team as a binary in or out. It leads to such metaphor-abusing phrases as "back on the bubble." (It's a bubble. It pops. It's not a subway train you can bounce on and off of while running errands.) RtC isn't saying that this game will eliminate Virginia, or Maryland, or Clemson. It's saying if they stay exactly the same they won't make the tournament.

But it's college basketball; nobody stays the same. They get hot, they get cold.  Duke almost always fades down the stretch as Krzyzewski pares down his roster and his players wear out. Some other ACC team gets hot and plays their way into contention. Two years ago (the easiest stats I could find) five teams found themselves 3-3 in conference at some point. They finished with records between 10-6 and 7-9, and one made the tournament, and two the NIT. And the team that looked the best of that bunch at the end of January had no postseason at all, while Miami, who started 2-4 had a better postseason than any of these teams.

So yes, Virginia will likely have to come up with several big ACC wins. Everybody will. There's half a season left to play. Nobody's fate is decided in January and no one should be worrying about anything that's over a month away. Enjoy the games in front of you; March will be here soon enough without your help.

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