Who’s No. 1 in college basketball? Who knows? More important, who really cares?
Don’t get me wrong. College basketball is smokin’ this season. It hasn’t been this competitive and exciting in decades. But that competitiveness/parity has produced a season in which the No. 1 ranking might as well be printed in disappearing ink.
Eleven weeks into 2008-09, four teams have held the not-so-vaunted top spot thus far: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Duke. The No. 1 sponge finger has changed hands for three straight weeks, and it will change again in the next poll when a fifth team, No. 2 Connecticut, likely slips into the bulls-eye because the Dukies lost to Wake on Wednesday night, 70-68.
UConn will be lucky to stay No. 1 more than a week, too. On Feb. 2, they face No. 7 Louisville on the road. Rick Pitino is probably salivating already.
Face it: The No. 1 ranking in college basketball doesn’t mean a thing.
Sure, for a team like Pitt, which had never been atop the poll, it’s cool to now be able to say they’ve been No. 1 in the land, if only for less time than it took the new president to get an $857 billion stimulus package through the House.
But for Tar Heels, Blue Devils and Huskies, teams with national champion banners hanging on the walls of their home arena, being No. 1 in January isn’t worth an old pair of kicks.
And for others, it probably creates more angst, drama, attention and pressure than it’s worth.
That’s because it’s all about March.
No other sport has a more exciting postseason. But because it’s so exciting, so wrenching, so definitive, it’s all but rendered the regular season to, well, a preseason.
My kids could probably sit down tonight and pick 40 of the 65 teams that will play in the NCAA tournament. Those teams are pretty much fine-tuning their game during the regular season. Yeah, they’re playing for conference titles and bragging rights against rivals but in the big scheme, it’s all about March.
The regular season is for Cinderellas, teams that have about as much shot at the No. 1 ranking as Citibank officials have of ever seeing the inside of a private jet. Those squads are trying to primp and preen for the basketball committee in hopes of getting an invite to the Dance. No. 1? Please. They’d be happy being No. 65.
And why not? Right now, it’s worth just as much as No. 1.
Now, that’s madness.