Lester Burnham: It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.
Why are teams like Northern Iowa, St.Mary's and Cornell still playing in the big 65 team tournament while Kansas and are home stewing? Cornell's players not only go to class, they pay tuition. Why? Because this is sports. Sports is more reality TV than reality TV is Reality TV. Every March the tournament selection comes up their seeds. The # 1 plays #16 and #2 plays # 15 in four different locations around the country. But it happens that a team with a sprinkling of future NBA draft picks gets beat by a bunch of guys who will be looking for their jobs through the want ads. Assuming there is no fix ever wonder why? Why so called "basketball schools " get beat by team whose own students do not care they play? A coach who has guided several of his players to the NBA gets beat by a coach who might have seen an NBA game?
It's about time I put in writing what I think causes this. I am most likely wrong but then I would at least be consistent.
1. Basketball is a team game- ideally basketball players are like a fist. Five separate elements combined into one force. Because the David schools are not going to get the hot recruits that the Goliaths get, they can be more likely to buy into the team concept instead of having 2 or 3 guys focus on showing off to the scouts. You have all heard the cliche that TEAM stands for Together Each Achieves More. Well sometimes we see it in reality when people really buy into that.
2. Sense of entitlement- the big basketball powers feel it is their birthright to be there. The smaller ones probably amazed by lots of the two "C"s they normally do not get when they play the rest of the year. Crowd and Cameras. Now this cuts both ways. They can freeze under spotlight or they can cherish it and not take it for granted.
3. We are just passing through- the bigger schools are most likely to attract the surefire NBA draft picks. Ironically, the longer a kid stays in school the less likely he will be a lottery pick. The David schools rarely have this problem. So as a result their kids , stay longer, play together longer. Once in a while a unified team that knows each other well can beat a much more talented team that has been playing together for less than a year.
4. The Kenny Loggins theory. One of the big Kenny hits was called "This Is It" For a David school making it to the tournament and doing well might just be the biggest thing they will ever do basketball wise. There is no lottery or NBA in their futures. It is unlikely they will underestimate their Goliath opponent. The Goliath school though just might be full of themselves and looking at the next opponent or the opponent after that. They won't say it but it will show in their preparation and their play. The cliche is the David schools are "playing with house money". As in you are there in the casino and the dealer or management just gives you a pile of chips. You are playing and even if you lose it all, you lost nothing. You are not expected to win. That lack of pressure can be liberating.
In this tournament we saw it with Ali Farokhmanesh of Northern Iowa who between the choice of playing it safe with a one point lead took a riskier option. An unlikely three point shot that he sank and buried the top seeded Kansas Jayhawks. He got the look at the basket he wanted and took it. They were the David team. No pressure. Went for the jugular and came out on top.
Sports is way better than watching these contrived reality shows. Sports is full of vain glorious dolts who rather play for the camera than play for their teammates and their community. Once in a while these dolts get exposed in the biggest stage. For me that's better than hearing that the tribe has spoken.