College basketball is back, so let's overreact
Just kidding. Michigan State will be fine! (Some others, well, maybe not so much)
You know what’s great about the college basketball season? Every game matters — but not too much.
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A month ago, I made a joke on a group thread about Notre Dame’s football team losing. It was in the last few minutes of the Louisville game. I said something intentionally rude about the Irish’s previously promising season being over. One of my dearest lifelong friends, a Notre Dame fan and alum, took massive umbrage at this, even in the context of what can be a pretty brutal group chat environment, and frankly understandably so. It was kind of a mean thing to say in digital earshot of an obsessive fan still processing the most disastrous defeat of his team’s season. I wholly miscalibrated the banter levels. I apologized. He accepted.
In college basketball this kind of situation could never happen. No individual loss is season-ending. No one defeat cuts so deep. Pretty much any team can suffer any sort of setback and, over time, play well enough to put things right. At the same time, every game does matter. They all add up. They all impact NCAA Tournament seeding and selection. That process — as far off as it seems to us now — began on Monday.
This is part of what I love about this sport. Thirty-ish games is, to me, the ideal balance between everything being important and everyone still having plenty of time to dispel crazy one-off mistakes. I know college football is more popular. I get why the stakes attract people. But this system really works.
And it is why, for example, people really shouldn’t overreact to Michigan State’s season-opening loss to James Madison Monday — even if it seems like Tom Izzo, who responded with one of the press conferences of the season, totally lost his head about it.
“I don't have a good answer why three juniors and seniors played like they played,” Izzo said. “I also don't care because I'll play some freshmen. Let the controversy begin.
“No, I don't have very good leadership,” Izzo said. “That's one thing that I said at the first press conference this year. You asked, 'who is our leader,' and I said, 'I hope it's this guy, this guy,' but no.”
After the break, we’ll dig into the reasons why, despite Izzo’s head loss and all of the hot takes on Twitter, Michigan State is probably going to be totally fine. (Among them: James Madison is also just good.)
Plus: Thoughts on the other big upsets of the past two days, Indiana’s shaky but interesting performance against Florida Gulf Coast, Auburn and Baylor (and their very talented freshmen!) unleashing a bit of early season chaos in South Dakota, Georgetown looking like an actual basketball program again, and much more from the first two days of hoops.
For the first time in the history of this publication, hallelujah, we have actual meaningful basketball to discuss. So let’s discuss it.
(Oh, before we do, one a quick note for everyone: Thank you so much for the response to last week’s piece about Bob Knight and my father. It reached many more people than I expected, and hearing from so many folks was overwhelming and gratifying. To all of you who signed up and subscribed, thank you so much for being here. We’re going to have a lot of fun.)
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