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Putting the madness in perspective

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Virginia vs UMBC Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Say what you want about the Washington State basketball team, but they’ve NEVER lost to a 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

While our Cougs aren’t in any postseason tournament this year, that kind of makes watching the NCAA Tournament less stressful, no? I mean, imagine what Virginia fans went through last night, and Arizona fans the night prior.


The first two days of the NCAA Tournament have been impressive. A 16-seed that’s called UMBC (I have no idea what that stands for) just spanked the overall one seed. Two 13-seeds won, including one over the lone Pac-12 representative Arizona Wildcats.

It’s a perfect recipe for hot takes, recency bias and doom and gloom when talking about Virginia and the Pac-12.

I’m sure enjoying this, but let’s pump the brakes a little.

First, the Pac-12.

Yes, this school year has been atrocious for the revenue sports—football and men’s basketball. No Pac-12 team made it to the College Football Playoff, and the conference went 1-8 in bowl games.

Then, the conference sends one team to the first round and two to the play-in games, where both teams lost, leaving Arizona as the only Pac-12 representative. That’s OK—the Wildcats are a dark horse pick for the Final Four. What could go wrong?


The guy with probably the most knowledge of the Pac-12 put things in perspective:

It’s easy to forget how well the conference did in the NCAA Tournament last year—I sure forgot! Hell, I often can’t remember the Final Four teams each year other than the two in the championship game.

If this season repeats itself next year, then it’s a problem.

Next, Virginia and our boy Tony Bennett.

I’m sure some Cougs found some schadenfreude in last night’s beat down. It was incredible! But be careful discounting Tony Bennett’s style of play. I know it’s not for everyone, but if it’s your team and it’s winning you games, you’ll at least enjoy the winning.

And it once was our team and it was winning us games, and we enjoyed that.

People will dunk on Bennett and his team, and I get that. But man, check out his postgame interview:

“This is life. It can’t define you.”

Everybody’s past experiences inform their present day decisions and reactions. For many, they never knew Bennett other than WSU’s one-time head coach. Some of those folks may be feeling a little giddy today about what happened last night to his team. I get that, and that’s 100 percent OK!

For me, I covered his teams as a college student at the Daily Evergreen. I attended his practices and saw how he approached the game and how he managed his team. He called me by my first name—even when passing by in the Bohler Gym hallway! (he wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to who I was nowadays)

That interview was the person I remember from his days in Pullman. Always putting things in perspective, always giving credit where it was needed.

That loss last night will always be remembered. They may make a 30-for-30 about it, who knows (I’d watch it!). But it won’t bother Bennett like some people want it to. He doesn’t define himself by wins and losses. He’ll be fine.

I think a lot of sports fans—myself included—can learn something from Jon Wilner and Tony Bennett these past two days: There’s a bigger picture around any event, and the hot takes and knee-jerk reactions are often devoid of any context. That’s totally OK—we’re fans after all.

The Pac-12 isn’t dead, and Tony Bennett’s team isn’t a tease.

(As an aside, was I the only one imagining Mike Leach’s postgame interview if his team lost a game like Bennett’s did? My goodness, that would be fascinating television.)



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