Amongst Our Weaponry
They're already the darling of the Bracketologists. They've played tough games, they say. They're an experienced team. Their coach is some sort of magician drawing attention from programs in need of quality leadership.
Should we even bother to play the game?
My personal belief: Winthrop is going to get stomped. While Charlie Weis probably won't be in the building (although it'd be cool if he were), I see the Irish as two-touchdown favorites on Friday because the Eagles have lost their primary weapon:
The problem with being called "This Year's George Mason" (assuming there even is a George Mason every year, which there isn't) is everyone's looking at you and waiting for you to actually be George Mason. There's no sneaking up on anyone. There's little danger your opponents aren't going to take you seriously. You're This Year's George Mason, for crying out loud! You're going to the Final Four! You're going to rise above your seed and make everybody take notice.
Trouble is, everyone's already taking notice. Colin Falls is taking notice. Russell Carter is taking notice. You can be damn sure Mike Brey is taking notice.
Think there's a chance in hell ND is going to underestimate Winthrop for a second? No way. And that screws the Eagles before the ball is even tossed up.
Let's look at all these "close losses" everyone's crowing about:
A seven-point win at UNC. This was, reportedly, a very close game throughout. It was also in the Preseason NIT, in which it can be difficult to grasp not only what your own team is doing but also what the opponent is going to do. But in any event, that game woke opponents up to the dangers of Winthrop, and five days later, Maryland beat the ever loving snot out of them.
A three-point overtime loss at Wisconsin. Certainly a close game, but also played more than three months ago. Let's also examine where that game fell in UW's schedule:
11/28 FSU (ACC Challenge) (W 81-66)
12/2 Florida Int'l (W 79-63)
12/4 Winthrop (W 82-79 OT)
12/9 at Marquette (W 70-66)
Let's see, you just had that Florida International powerhouse in town, and now you have Winthrop coming to Madison in December five days before you take your big trip to Milwaukee to take on Marquette. What are the chances the Badgers took the Eagles a little bit less than seriously? My thought: Pretty high.
And it's not like Wisconsin is an offensive juggernaut -- you could throw them in a cathouse wearing $100-bill underwear and scoring wouldn't be a guarantee. Most of their point totals this season were in the 60s. Compared to an ND team averaging over 80 points per game (over 75 in conference), Wisconsin isn't a very good benchmark.
I'm sure Winthrop is a decent squad capable of beating quality teams. But when they haven't faced anyone with an RPI less than 190 in two months, I have a hard time finding clear and convincing evidence. Meanwhile, outside of Rutgers, ND hasn't played anyone with an RPI over that level in that time, with all but USF, SJU, Rutgers and Cincinnati in the top 100.
But wait, I hear the Winthropians say, ND lost to two of those teams, and away from home! Why can't we pull it off?
Setting aside the timing of the KMac announcement, ND lost at SJU and USF because (all together now) they didn't take their opponent seriously. They'd pounded USF at their place by 24, and SJU wasn't expected to do anything. And while that lack of respect is a problem, you'll notice they had no problems respecting Cincinnati and Rutgers later in the year. Lesson learned? I think so.
Let the pundits prognosticate ... I'm going to spend my time worrying about Oregon.
Labels: nd basketball