Simply Unpredictable: The Wild and Wacky World of College Basketball


Let me offer up a free piece of advice. When March Madness rolls around in about a month and a half, I suggest we all bust out our dart boards. Carefully remove the picture of Coach K, and replace it with your bracket. Take aim and fire away. Select your picks accordingly because let’s be honest college basketball is more unpredictable than the New York Stock Exchange. And nowhere is this more apparent than the ACC. In the past 10 days, UNC was embarrassed in Tallahassee, Duke’s home winning streak ended and 11-7 Virginia Tech upset a ranked 15-2 UVA in Charlottesville.

Of all the upsets in the past 10 days, the one in Cameron is the most surprising. Don’t get me wrong, I was as upset as anyone over the UNC/FSU debacle. It ruined my day. And certainly the way the Heels lost and the margin was most disappointing and upsetting but the loss itself was not shocking. I think Barnesbot, the handle of an unofficial Harrison Barnes fan page put it best when he tweeted, “UNC blown out in an arena they always struggle in during a time of year when they always drop ACC games. SOUND ALARM. PANIC.”  You can sense the sarcasm in his tone. We forget that FSU was picked to finish third by many people in the ACC because of their experience. And in my opinion, Leonard Hamilton is one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball. You put that together with an ESPN Game Day presence and a sell-out crowd, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The Hokies stealing one from Virginia in Charlottesville wasn’t a huge shocker either. Virginia Tech is too well-coached and too good of a basketball team to start 0-5 in the ACC. Plus, it was a “rivalry” game when you might as well throw the records and stats out the window. In a lot of ways, Virginia is a one-man scoring machine with Mike Scott. Of course that’s not to say I’m looking forward to the Heels playing there on February 11 right after going to Durham on the 8th. Whew, February could be a rough one.

Speaking of Duke, they saw their 45 game home winning-streak end on Saturday with their loss to FSU. Like many people, I didn’t think the Seminoles could keep it up. I figured the UNC game was just an anomaly, and after their one shining moment they would revert back to being the team that lost to Harvard and Princeton. That has to be one of the stats of the year. Right now, Florida State is 2-0 against North Carolina and Duke but winless against the Ivy League. And we are talking basketball here folks not rowing. That just shows you what a little bit of confidence can do for a team. I wish they sold it in bottles because I think the Heels could use a shot or two of it right about now. Of all the things this year’s UNC team may be missing, I think confidence is needed the most. Toughness, free-throw shooting and everything else falls into place once a team that everyone thinks should win actually believes that it can.

I guess my point in all this is that college basketball predictions while entertaining should be taken with a grain of salt. No one loves to make outlandish and baseless predictions more than the guys over at ESPN. A couple of weeks ago, I believe it was the night Notre Dame upset Louisville, Jayson Williams predicted that Syracuse would go undefeated in the regular season. Keeping It Heel founding editor, Matt Hamm, and myself happened to be on twitter at the same time. I shared with him this ridiculous statement, and he agreed with its absurdity. I looked at Syracuse’s schedule and the game at Notre Dame jumped out at me instantly. If you ask me it is more difficult to go undefeated in the Big East than it is in the ACC, and we all know what a feat that is.

The fact is the National Title is still very much up for grabs, and look for Dick Vitale to change his prediction of UNC cutting down the nets in light of Strickland’s injury. Right now, I would argue that there are five teams that have the best chance of taking it all. And neither Baylor nor Missouri is one of them. But it all comes down to the month of March doesn’t it? If there is a bright side to Strickland’s injury, it’s that it came in January. The Heels have plenty of time to adjust whereas a shake-up to the starting line-up right before the tournament would be much more perilous. Just ask Kyrie Irving and Duke. So start sharpening those dart tips and fasten your seat belts. We still have a ways to go before we crown the 2012 NCAA Men’s basketball champion, and I do feel confident making one prediction. It’s going to be a wild and wacky ride.