Back on September 30, 2014, no one would have thought it was possible. Well, no one outside of a few people about 25 miles south of Boston.
The New England Patriots had just been thrashed on Monday Night Football, out-classed by Kansas City. The Patriots didn’t even look like a good college football team that night. Every team has off nights, but this didn’t seem like just that. They were 2-2 at the time and nothing leaped out at you as championship-worthy about this team. There was talk about whether the Tom Brady era was over. There were questions of whether or not it was time for them to start getting ready for the next generation of Patriots football.
Super Bowl XLIX champions? Many thought the Patriots would be lucky to be a playoff team at that point.
In the end, it’s as if the Patriots merely needed some people to doubt them. They persevered through a lot, this season and beyond. For years, the questions lingered: could they win another one? Could they break through after losing twice in the big game? Did they peak ten years earlier?
While we cover college basketball, and there is crossover into football, we are kidding ourselves if we’re ignoring the fact that practically everyone – including college basketball junkies – was glued to the TV for the greatest Super Bowl that I can remember watching. I’ve seen all but one since Super Bowl XX (I refused to watch Super Bowl XL out of principle because the one time they held it in Detroit, they didn’t choose Motown acts, or any of the great Detroit artists, for the halftime show, but rather, the Rolling Stones – the Rolling Stones!), and this one tops them all. The momentum swung back and forth, there were stretches where each team had momentum, and the final drive was as dramatic as it gets. You think the Seahawks are destined to get the go-ahead or winning touchdown, especially after the incredible catch by Jermaine Kearse (yet another that went against the Patriots, no less), and then an unknown rookie picks off a pass to clinch the game.
There’s an additional angle in that college basketball, like any sport, is often a story of persevering through adversity. The road to a championship is rarely a perfectly straight path, and that includes college basketball. Last season’s national champion, Connecticut, was a great example. Not only would no one except the most diehard Husky fans have picked them to reach the Final Four, let alone win it all, but they almost bowed out in the second round against Saint Joseph’s. For that matter, the team they beat in the title game, Kentucky, is a team that had people questioning them all year, especially with some of their SEC losses. Few, if any, had them running all the way to the national title game.
Keep this in mind as we follow the remainder of the college basketball season. Plenty of people assume that Kentucky will just cruise to the national title without a loss. The Wildcats might win the title and not lose a game along the way, but it is far from a given as they have had close calls. They will have more. If they don’t win it all, the champion will be one that has had to overcome some adversity. They will have had people questioning whether or not they can win it all.
The Super Bowl took center stage on Sunday. Like any championship, there’s a lesson in this one. Now, college basketball takes center stage, and when April rolls around, we might well have a story not unlike that of the New England Patriots when taking a look at the winner’s circle.
One team that certainly has people questioning them is Miami, who found a way to lose on Sunday. The Hurricanes led by 11 at the half against Florida State, a team that has had to persevere through quite a bit, but Miami scored just 18 points in the second half and dropped a 55-54 decision to the Seminoles in Tallahassee.
Speaking of Connecticut, they are in some real trouble as far as making the NCAA Tournament is concerned. They are already lacking quality wins, and now they have a bad loss as they dropped a 70-68 decision at Houston, the Cougars’ first win in American Athletic Conference play. Ryan Boatright had 31 points, but he needs help. That wasn’t all in that conference, however, as Cincinnati went to East Carolina and lost 50-46.
Michigan State has also had to overcome adversity, and on Sunday, they turned it on when they had to as they shut out Michigan in overtime for a 76-66 win.
The thriller of the day was in the MAAC, as Quinnipiac went on the road and battled Niagara for quite a while. In fact, it took double overtime for Niagara – a team that has had a rough go, especially in MAAC play – came out on top 105-100.
Just like Sunday, the slate is limited, but there are some very good games among those on tap. We also must keep an eye on games schedule for parts of New England today and tomorrow, as another snowstorm is hitting much of southern New England.
- Virginia has another tough game on tap in this stretch, as they head to Chapel Hill to play North Carolina.
- Iowa State and Kansas played a dandy just a couple of weeks ago in Ames, and now they have round 2 in Lawrence.
- The SWAC, Southland and MEAC all have a busy slate of games.
A couple of non-conference games are mixed in as Bryant visits Pittsburgh and Hampton travels to Newark to play NJIT.