Dog Days of February for ranked teams

Near the end of the regular season, the top ranked teams fall into a pre-NCAA tournament hole

It happens every year, with different teams, but linked with their status as ""NCAA tournament locks.

Here's the way it goes.

You are a team from a major conference--let's say you are Villanova, which means you are also the defending NCAA tournament champion .

You have shaken off the tournament glow of last season with a shaky start--a loss to Furman and Penn?-and re-established yourself as an NCAA tournament worthy team (20-7) in the Big East.

But now it is late Februaryand you still have to finish your regular season, play in the Big East tournament before you move into the real stuff of the NCAA tournament.

No matter how much your coach Jay Wright tells you about completing the task and playing hard and focusing, you know there is little at stake in these Big East games against teams who have more at stake or are as good as you.

Oh, you show up each game, but there is something missing.

You lose by a point at Marquette, then you come home against old Big East rival St. John's and are embarrassed in the first half before making a semi comeback, but you lose by 6. And then on Wednesday night you go down to Washington and face another old Big East rival Georgetown and lose by 12.

Only a solid 18 point win against Providence makes you feel good, but the damage has been do. You can be beaten and other teams know it.

You are on the verge of dropping out of the Top 4 seeds for the NCAA tournament, which isn't a big deal, but still it will make the journey in March that much tougher.

Welcome to the February Follies.

Look around at some upsets this week. St. John's beats Villanova and then is crushed by Providence. No. 23 Iowa State wins by 14 over No. 18 Kansas State, and then unranked Baylor beats Iowa State, unranked San Diego State beats No. 6 Nevada. unranked Florida beats No. 13 LSU, unranked Syracuse beats No. 18 Louisville by 20.

Upsets are obviously part of the landscape of college basketball, especially in an era which favors parity.​

With Carolina's "upset'' of No. 1 Duke on Wednesday, there is a 3 way tie for first in the Atlantic Coast Conference and four teams are a game apart for fourth.,

In the Big East, Villanova and Marquette are the front runners, but six teams are a game apart. In the Pac-12, Six teams are one game apart from fourth through 7th

Look for more upsets in the upper tiers of the major conferences as the regular season winds down.

It has been that way for years. In the era when UConn was a dominant Final Four team under Jim Calhoun, the Huskies went into a late February slide more often not before regrouping and putting on their March game faces.

It's a long season than starts well before Thanksgiving and doesn't end until after Easter.

Teams play two and sometimes 3 games a week, become emotionally, if not physically drained.

It's tough even at the mid-Major level. There isn't a more grueling routine in college basketball than the Ivy League's two-games in two nights road policy, which requires long bus trips before and after games.

I've made an at Cornell at Columbia road trip covering a Tommy Amaker Harvard team. Getting from Ithaca, N.Y. to New York City isn't easy, even if you fly. Harvard makes the trip by bus--in mid-winter.

The good news is that March and March Madness is only a few weeks away.

​***

At The Heights (An outsiders view of what's happening at Boston College, aKa The Heights).

We've seen this story played out at Boston College in men's basketball for more than a decade, dating back to the last days of Al Skinner's reign at The Heights.

BC plays a solid game against Top 10, Top 25 competition in the ACC for 30 minutes, 35 minutes, even 38 minutes, but during that 40 minute window where the Eagles simply have a meltdown of some kind--scoring, defense, turnovers, shooting, fouls. You pick it.

And then they lose.

In almost six years under Jim Christian, the Eagles have gone from mediocre to average to slightly above average.

A year ago, they broke through the barrier and finally finished above. 500 and made the post season (NIT).

This year are again flirting with an NIT berth, but still in the same self destruct mold.

BC played North Carolina State dead even through 40 minutes in Raleigh on Wednesday night and then hit the wall in OT, getting outscored by 9.

The Eagles are a game above .500 at 13-12 and are 4-9 in the ACC, with five games left.

They need to win at least 3 of those games to put themselves in position to get an NIT bid again, which means they need to find a way to beat either Clemson or Georgia Tech on the road and then find two more home wins against NC State, Louisville or North Carolina.

Good luck with that.

***

BC football opened spring drills this week and I will give Eagle coach Steve Addazio a pass for posting a bright spring prospect with his influx of new coaches, recruits and returning veterans in skill positions, led by running back AJ Dillon.

Addazio also talked proudly of the 7 players BC has at the NFL combine, which is good.

But here's my question.

With 7 potential NFL prospects, shouldn't BC have produced more than a 7 win season during their careers at The Heights?

Just asking.

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