Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Kentucky Wildcats- a stunning fall.

Every year at this time, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) puts on a rather dramatic enterprise called the NCAA basketball tournaments- one for the men, one for the women.

From a promotional standpoint, it is brilliant and nothing else in sports is anything like it.

Each tournament starts with the seeding of 68 teams. Through an elaborate bracket system, that sets dozens of games, these 68 teams will be whittled down to 2 teams that will play for the national championship.
This annual exercise has come to be known as march madness. In three out of every four years, one of the top 8 teams going in (one of the four #1 seeds or one of the four #2 seeds) wins it all. Yet, every once in a while, it is won by someone nobody expected, who gets hot just at the right time.

There are certain teams that are annually expected to be in the hunt for that championship every year. They are college basketball's elite teams.

On the women's side, Connecticut, Stanford and Tennessee are among those long-standing dynasties. Recently, teams like Baylor and Notre Dame have asserted themselves into that mix.

On the men's side, the premier dynasties are Indiana, UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky. Last year, Kentucky won their 8th national championship. This is second only to UCLA with 11.

What is remarkable about Kentucky's most recent title (and the reason that I decided to write an article about it on a Catholic blog) is what happened to Kentucky after they won the title. Where is this team just 1 year later?

Sports journalists are referring to Kentucky incorrectly as the defending national champions. Kentucky is the reigning national champions until a new champ is crowned on April 8th. However, a reigning national champion and a defending national champion are two different things. On the women's side, Baylor is the defending national champion and they will continue to be so until they a) are eliminated or b) win it all and succesfully defend their title.

Kentucky, on the other hand, cannot defend their title because they failed to make the 68 team tournament. That's right, last year's best team isn't even one of the top 68 best teams this year.

This would be remarkable enough before what happened last night.

The National Invitational tournament (NIT) is sort of a consolation prize for teams that failed to make the NCAA tournament. These are, shall we say, the 69th through 84th best teams in the country. These 16 teams are seeded and play on until one of them wins the NIT title.

Kentucky, as the #1 seed, lost last night to 8th seeded Robert Morris.

This is one of the most stunning falls in the history of sports in America. Last year's #1 men's college basketball team barely limped home with the right to be called on of the top 85 teams this year.

Now the point....

Success is fleeting. If you build your life on worldly success, how fast and how far can you fall from that perch? The 2012 Kentucky Wildcats are a living monument to the fleeting nature of human glory.

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