The newness has worn off, the season is in full swing. Conference play has tipped off. The contenders and pretenders appear to be aligning themselves in their correct slots as 2013 moves away from the initial calendar flip and fastbreaks toward the NCAA Tournament.
With that, we present our initial Midweek Madness for college basketball – a power rankings potpourri that offers a look at the major schools, the mid-major schools and the top players in the country.
So, without further ado, and before teams tip off tonight …
Louisville, 15-1. The Cardinals lost to Duke back in late November, struggled against mid-major Illinois State the next time out and they don’t exactly overwhelm with the “wow” factor. But they’re solid, they’re experienced and they’re looking every bit the part of a repeat Final Four participant with PG Peyton Silva directing the way.
It’s never really made much sense.
His name comes up in conversations about the NFL’s better quarterbacks, it lingers long enough for someone to mention that he has a big arm and then – poof – it gets tossed into the “doesn’t qualify for elite status” pile that apparently merits little, if any, appreciation.
Joe Flacco … they hardly know ye.
He, or rather how he is viewed by the apparent vast majority, is an amazing study in contrasts – between reality and “reality” saturated with fantasies about the Baltimore Ravens’ past, when defense and a ground game got the team wins.
Newsflash – Flacco, not Ray Rice, not Ray Lewis, is Baltimore’s best player. He has been for awhile. While the nation gets caught up in the tough little guy putting up big numbers or him pulling off a fourth-and-forever miracle, or the memories of when Lewis and Ed Reed were as good as their reps are, Flacco merely is the difference between mediocre squad and AFC Championship Game participant.
The hangover has passed, the coaching carousel has taken a few revolutions already and the crystal trophy has been tucked away in Tuscaloosa, Ala., again. Apparently, another college football season has been put to bed.
Thank the heavens …
As blasphemous as that may read, think about it. The time had come. After months of crash-and-burns by favorites, wasted opportunities and coaches switching programs as much as programs have been switching conferences, it just needed to end.
How fitting the 2012 campaign culminated with a blowout in the BCS title game, with an SEC squad the unquestioned victor. Shocking, huh? The final chapter has read the same for seven straight seasons. All that up-and-down, hedge-your-bets, Notre Dame-rising, Southern Cal-imploding, trash-talking silliness … and, yet, we come to the same result we pretty much expected all along anyway.
It’s become a bit repetitive. The SEC dominates during the fall months, a couple of its teams lose in annual festival of non-important bowls and a nation gets the itch that, hey, maybe Alabama, Georgia and the like ain’t so tough after all.
The BS meter spontaneously combusted. Just BLAM – an explosion followed by bursts of fire until nothing but charred remains exist.
That is the real state of Bill O’Brien’s credibility right now.
Now, anyone can buy into what he’s selling through a nifty little spin-doctoring, post-NFL flirting campaign – how he’s all about Penn State, the university, the football program, the Blue & White community at large and making it just one big butt-kicking, Kumbayah experience.
That’s a personal choice if you want to strap on the blinders and drink the Kool-Aid. You can hope and pray and cross your fingers on every “quality” sound-bite syllable he offers, selling your soul and giving your heart in the process, is true.
The fact is, he’s a used-car salesman in coach’s clothing. Oh, he may be great at Xs and Os. He may be a great motivator and promoter for the Nittany Lions – or, more likely, himself.
It’s not a slam dunk or a sure thing or whatever hip vernacular is used these days to get across a “done deal.”
No, all of us can talk whatever trash we want about what will happen in tonight’s BCS Championship Game at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, and really, truly believe every frothing-at-the-mouth syllable we utter. But, fact is, we don’t know for sure just how things will go down when No. 1 Notre Dame squares off with No. 2 Alabama for all the college football marbles – and accolades and a big, cheesy trophy.
Nothing is guaranteed. Not when it comes teams playing at this level. Not when both have been battled-tested throughout the fall, and not when both can boast rosters filled with some of the best individual talent in the nation.
Evenly matched? That’s hard to say. We could do enough comparison shopping to make moms at Christmas seem like novices.
Yeah, Alabama has the more recent history of unparalleled success, and that Southeastern Conference pedigree. It has national titles in 2009 and last season. It is, and probably should be, the favorite in this one. However…