For some reason, I subscribe to SportsCenter's blog. It's mostly a place to dump anchors' inanity and lame "bloggy" jokes, but there are also gems from ESPN's research department. Like, for example, this tidbit from Saturday's slate of games: Ranked road teams went 6-7. And of the teams that won, only one, Gonzaga, beat a team with more than 13 wins.
It's the hoariest of clichés to say that "A team must win its road games to win the title" or something of that nature. But in college basketball, a sport that puts a six-game gauntlet of neutral-site games at the end of every prospective champion's season, a team's resilience in less-than-optimal conditions is a big deal.
The Jayhawks, Wildcats, and Orange all have sterling records against the RPI Top 50 -- 6-1, 4-0, and 5-1, respectively -- but it's their road records that deserve note. Syracuse hasn't lost away from home all season, Kansas only fell to Tennessee in a highly emotional game, and South Carolina's Devan Downey went Super Saiyan in the second half in Kentucky's one loss. These are not teams that wilt on the road. Of the three, the best resume probably belongs to Syracuse: Two of their Top 50 wins come at the expense of West Virginia and Georgetown, both Top 10 RPI teams, and four of them came by more than 12 points.
Regardless of the minor distinctions between these teams, it seems that they clearly are the three teams that have separated, if ever so slightly, from the pack. But the beauty of the NCAA Tournament is its grueling nature, and though these squads have demonstrated the ability to withstand such a challenge, it just takes one spate of foul trouble or missed free throws to derail a team.
Favor KU, UK, and SU. Just don't be surprised to see the road suck them back to the pack come March.
The Northwestern Note. Beating Michigan is good. Taking care of business against Indiana is also good. The challenge is guarding against letdowns for the next two weeks, and entering their game at Wisconsin in two weeks with a chance to get to 20 wins in splashy fashion.â†µ
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