Dec. 29, 2003
In college basketball, early-season records can be extremely misleading. You can be blown away by seeing teams going 10-0, 11-0, 12-1, etc.
Scheduling, not great play, is one of the key reasons for this false success. Schools lock in a number of cupcakes, get hot, maybe win one or two games against major schools ... and they're on their way to an inflated record.
Teams can schedule all the easy Ws they want in November and December, getting those bargain-basement goodies and Christmas specials. But come January, we separate the pretenders from the contenders. The cream rises and the pretenders disappear.
South Carolina has posted a solid early record against plenty of cupcakes.
How many times have we seen teams start 10-0 and then fall apart -- and two weeks into league play, their overall record is 11-7! It can be very deceiving looking at Ws and Ls when you check out the records of many teams.
Yes, you can understand some programs trying to make inroads, like coach Leonard Hamilton and Florida State (11-1). You can't blame him for trying to develop a winning mentality and give his players a positive feeling. And the Seminoles were successful in their first ACC game Sunday, a 79-75 home win over Maryland. ACC play is so tough ... you know the attitude is different. Florida State is on the rise.
With an established program like Georgetown, a school with so much tradition, one must wonder what is gained by beating up on teams like this: Grambling, Penn State (actually only a one-point win), Coastal Carolina, Delaware State, Norfolk State, Davidson, Elon, Howard and The Citadel. What happens when the Hoyas play Connecticut, Duke and Providence in January?
To me, Georgetown (9-0) has advanced to the point where those kids would prefer to play better competition. Look at Pittsburgh's recent win over previously unbeaten Florida State. I bet those Panthers players were thrilled to face a better team after facing so many cupcakes.
Talented players want competition. They appreciate and enjoy the challenge.
South Carolina (11-1) has posted a solid early record against plenty of cupcakes (Gardner-Webb, Idaho, Navy, Campbell, The Citadel and Charleston Southern).
Michigan State is an example of the reverse: The Spartans have a better team than their record shows.
The Gamecocks lost to Temple but later gained enough confidence to beat NC State.
Michigan State (4-5) is an example of the reverse: The Spartans have a better team than their record shows. But coach Tom Izzo is playing the toughest schedule in America (with losses to Duke, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Kansas and UCLA). But the Spartans feel they will be prepared come NCAA Tournament time.
So remember, when looking at a team's early record, take a deeper look at see if that team has built its resumé on a Cupcake City schedule.
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