Friends often tell me that the regular college basketball season doesn't matter, and that it's all about the tournament.To them I ask, are you kidding?
What if Duke hadn't lost to Florida State in the regular season? Maybe they wouldn't have played them, let alone lost to them in the ACC tournament. Maybe then they would be a number one seed. Maybe they don't play Lehigh in the first round, and maybe they win some games. Who knows, maybe they even win the national championship.
The point is this: anyone who argues that the regular season of college basketball doesn't matter is an idiot. You can tell them I said so.
Every game matters. Let's take a peek at Lehigh, who knocked off Duke. The team played Army, who finished 12-18 in the Patriot League (which is pathetic) in its last game of the regular season and beat it by two in overtime.
If Lehigh had lost that game, it would have been tied with American University for the two-seed in the Patriot league tournament and maybe would not have won the Patriot League championship and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
These things matter. The little things. Basketball, like every sport, is a game of inches. I didn't watch Lehigh's game against Army, but what if a hustle play like diving for a loose ball or hustling back on defense and stealing the ball made the difference?
To borrow a line from Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday, "When we add up all those inches, that's going to make the [expletive] difference between winning and losing. Between living and dying."
While "death" in this case isn't literally ceasing to be alive, you can probably tell that at this point in the season, any little mistake can make the difference between cutting down the nets as the national champions or heading home empty handed.
The regular season sets all of this up. Think of all of the great moments in NCAA tournament history. Each of them was preceded by five months of pouring sweat onto the floor in hopes of having that one shot when all is said and done.
This is why this is the greatest spectacle in American sports. Not just college sports -- all American sports. The Super Bowl is a field day for the media. The World Series is the fun event for baseball fans. I personally do love the Stanley Cup, but it doesn't even hold a candle to this. Anyone who says anything in the NBA is half as exciting as the NCAA tournament is so stupid they should be institutionalized.