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Friday, January 25, 2008

A No. 1 ranking now means nothing

A No. 1 ranking now means nothing

Roderick Boone, Newsday
5:31 PM EST, January 23, 2008

Tyler Hansbrough's potential game-winning three-pointer for North Carolina clanked off the back rim, and the winning Maryland players euphorically ran all around the court. Television cameras panned the Dean Dome crowd, catching tears falling down the faces of a few fans clad in North Carolina blue who were acting as if all was lost in that area of Tobacco Road.

Fear not, however, ye Tar Heel fans. Just because your beloved team lost its No. 1 ranking, - and yes its undefeated season, too - isn't reason enough to wallow in sorrow. We've barely scratched the surface of conference play around the nation, so who cares who's No. 1 anyway? This isn't that con game otherwise known as the NCAA's Bowl Subdivision, where you need to finish the season in one of the top two spots in order to get a crack at the ridiculously mythical BCS national championship.

In fact, fans of the 'Heels should pray their team isn't the top-ranked squad come eight weeks from today, when March Madness and one of the nation's most exciting sporting events truly tips off with first-round action in Denver, Omaha, Washington and Anaheim. Being ranked No. 1 going into the tournament is akin to Eli Manning's face being plastered on this week's cover of Sports Illustrated as the Giants vie for their third Lombardi Trophy.

Since the NCAA adopted the seeding process, only six teams that entered the tournament as the top-ranked squad in at least one of the polls raced through the field and emerged as the champion. Kentucky (1978), North Carolina (1982), Duke (1992), UCLA (1995), Michigan State (2000) and the 2001 Duke team took home titles.

Will Memphis, wearer of the No. 1 crown this week after UNC's defeat, be the latest addition? Not hardly. Memphis certainly has the talent with players like Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. But the odds are stacked against the Tigers. Consider: Memphis is only the fourth non-BCS school to be dubbed the top-ranked team since Greg Anthony, Larry Johnson and Co.'s 1990-91 UNLV Runnin' Rebels had the distinction.

"Now what I've called this ranking - it's the most highly thought of team in the country," Memphis coach John Calipari said earlier this week. "That's what we are right now. It doesn't mean we're the best team in the country. Kansas may well be. It could be North Carolina. It could be UCLA. It could be Georgetown. They all may be the best team in the country. We don't know, but we're the most highly thought of team in the country right now."

Right 'now' being the appropriate choice of words. Who's No. 1 gives us something to talk about and debate on the eight zillion different platforms we have to chat about sports nowadays. Other than that, it means nothing. Let's wait to see who's really No. 1 on April 8, the day after some team busts out the scissors and cuts down the nets at the Alamodome, OK?

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

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