Okay, I don’t love Gary Williams. For many years, I loathed him for his mercenary acquisition of Steve Francis (note Steve’s top friends … with winners like Eddy Curry and Steph Marbury, how can you go wrong?), his battery-throwing and win-or-lose-we-still-riot fans, and his extreme perspiration problem.
But he’s been looking really good in the past few weeks, thanks largely to the actions of the Washington Post. Gary has apparently demonstrated admirable morals in (not) recruiting over the course of his career (Stevie Franchise excepted) that are certainly absent at most programs. And as reported at the DC Sports Bog, he’s doing something coaches never do: ditching one-game-at-a-time, and telling his team they need to win at least two games (NC State, Wake) to make the tournament.
This is all very nice for Gary. And yet there is also a larger point here:
“…the difference between ‘wow what a triumphant season of over-achieving’ and ‘jeez this program is in major crisis’ is whether they win one games or two at this tournament; this team was what this team was, regardless of whether they can squeeze out a win over Wake.”
March Madness is exciting and unparalleled in sports. It makes most playoffs look boring, and elucidates the corporate-$$-driven BCS to be the national embarrassment that it is. But every team ends up being judged for one single win or loss, one possession over the course of a 40 minute game over the course of a 32 game season. It’s angels dancing on the head of a pin. And yet people obsess endlessly about it, about which win gets a team in, or which arbitrary loss knocks them out, or why Duke is basically a lock to lose to a 15 seed.
March Madness invalidates the regular season, the conference tournaments, and the sense of accomplishment/pride of the every player, coach, and fan, in favor of a one-number summary (64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 1). While it’s great for TV and Vegas, that might be all that it’s truly great for.