Coast 2 Coast Hoops
After underwhelming home performances against Colorado and Utah to open up Pac-12 play, a lot of Arizona fans have come down from the high of being undefeated. Sure, the Cats are 14-0, but people are starting to ask if the team is really as good as their record shows. Does Arizona deserve to be in the top 5? Are the Wildcats overrated?
There’s only one correct answer: it doesn’t matter. Every other response is an opinion, this one is a fact. There are no awards given out for being ranked #1 in January. Quick, name the top 5 from this time last year, no googling. See? People only remember how you end up ranked after March. To ask whether Arizona or any other team deserves their ranking is a fruitless endeavor.
Why? Because rankings are an illusion. The polls are a fleeting, fluid way of organizing the best teams at one very particular cross section of time. Where you are ranked now is very likely not where you will end up, and it says nothing about how good your team actually is. As Marcellus Wallace waxed poetic in Pulp Fiction, the feeling you get when you see a single digit to the left of your team, or the anger you feel when you see no number at all, that’s pride, um, messing with you. Don’t click that link if certain words bother you.
So whenever I hear fans and analysts say “Arizona is overrated,” or “they don’t play like the #X team in the country,” I smile, chuckle, and walk away knowing I’m looking a little more at the grand scheme of things. And that’s not an easy way of side stepping a potentially painful question, it’s just common sense. I don’t care about Arizona’s ranking today, and whether it’s deserved. I care about where this team is going, how good they can be, and whether they’re on the right trajectory. You wouldn’t judge a painting before the artist laid down all the brushstrokes, would you? Saying Arizona’s current ranking does not reflect reality is like saying an unfinished painting isn’t a masterpiece. How could you possibly know yet?
Still, I’m sure there are people out there that will scoff, point to Arizona’s poor play in close games, and say that there are more than 3 or 4 teams that would beat the Wildcats as evidence that UA is indeed overrated. To that, I say fine. There are a lot of teams that could beat Arizona. The same could be said about any other team in the top 10. And fine, Arizona hasn’t played well. Yet, in spite of stretches of poor play, they continue to win. It’s funny how those people forget the stretches that Arizona played excellent, clutch basketball that knocked out three of the nation’s top 10 RPI teams.
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of rankings, especially because Arizona hasn’t reached this height in far too long. But it’s hard to zoom out and look at the big picture. As fans we should enjoy the journey and realize that it’s not about where the team is right now, but where they’re going. That place could be very good. And if you still find yourself fretting about the Cats’ ranking, or what people are saying about it, just remember what Marcellus Wallace said. That’s just pride messing with you.