Basketball fans have been keeping their eyes on several teams this season that have been trying to go undefeated. The Briarwood and Hephzibah girls and the University of Illinois men are among those that fall into that category. And by weekend's end, only Hephzibah kept that unblemished record.
I personally have not paid much attention to any of these teams in particular, but as the season comes to a close the publicity about any team going without a loss gets me to thinking. Undefeated is some accomplishment. No losses, or even just one or two, in basketball is almost unheard of. There are just too many games and too many variables.
In football, the games are played a week apart. If you have an excellent team, one capable of running the table, the week gives coaches time to make adjustments for injuries and prepare game plans. Even then it takes a lot of breaks to finish a season unscathed.
Baseball on any level plays so many games that it is accepted that no matter how good or bad your team is you will likely win one-third and lose one-third. It's what you do with the remaining one-third that makes or breaks your season. Only having two or three top gun pitchers on one team can usually enhance that formula.
My first thoughts about going undefeated in basketball is that no matter how good your team is, everything, and I mean everything, must go right two or three times a week for four months. I'm speaking of lack of serious injuries, lack of discipline problems and no misalignment of the moon and stars with the earth.
Anytime the human factor is involved, which is obviously the case with sports teams, one can bet that some things will happen during a season that were not made to order. Any coach will tell you this.
I can remember an undefeated high school football team preparing for the state championship experiencing their star tailback contracting Chicken Pox three days before the game. Not a sprained ankle or knee or even the flu. The Chicken Pox pray tell!
A coach once told me the story of his undefeated team being threatened by a key player's mother. The threat? Her son had managed to miss church on Sunday night, and she wasn't going to let him play in the next game. Not Sunday morning mind you, but Sunday night. The moon and stars were definitely not with this team.
What I'm saying is that no matter how good or athletic a team is, it may not be enough when striving for perfection. Basketball teams will invariably experience games where their top scorer is just a little off with his shooting. You will always encounter nights when the refs don't see things your way, especially on the road. The gym will sometimes be too hot, or too cold. The locker room walls may be painted pastel pink making your team's psyche way too passive.
Basketball coaches know how tough it is to have that perfect season. As tournament time draws near you might even hear them infer that it wouldn't hurt for their team to lose one. Better during the regular season than during the pressurized one loss and go home tournament.
If you ever hear anyone say old State U. or Central High was lucky to go undefeated in any sport, they'll be right. They may be actually trying to downplay that team's accomplishment, but in reality they're telling the truth.
The ball takes a lot of bounces during a season. Many of these bounces will be countered by athletic prowess, some by mental preparedness, and even some by sheer will. To end the season with an unblemished record will mean old Lady Luck grabbed her share of rebounds. A zero in the right hand side of your ledger proves she was surely on your side.