Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Tonight’s Lede. Don’t Get Worked Up Over #1. Over the past two nights, the two best teams in the country stated their case for #1 by knocking off quality opponents in nationally televised games. Indiana’s 83-59 win over North Carolina prompted an onrushing of praise for the Hoosiers’ high-powered offense. The debate was settled – Indiana was the best team in the country. That was the prevailing consensus heading into Wednesday night’s showdown at Cameron Indoor, where Ohio State outplayed Duke for 30 minutes yet ultimately succumbed to a blistering second-half run led by Mason Plumlee and Rasheed Sulaimon. It was an impressive win to add to an already impressive resume. So who’s #1 today? It’s anybody’s guess, frankly. When you have two teams playing as well as Duke and Indiana, the distinction need not matter. The ups and downs of a 30-game season have a way of parsing the upper crust of elite teams. We may not know who the #1 team in the country is right now. And you know what, it really doesn’t matter, nor will it matter in March. My recommendation: Soak in every last minute of Duke and Indiana basketball, watch Plumlee and Cody Zeller dominate the paint, observe Sulaimon’s precocious maturity, and Jordan Hulls’ deadeye three-point marksmanship. Take it all in. These are two excellent teams playing at the highest level. The difference between them is a matter of degree, not type.
Your Watercooler Moment. The Year’s First RTC!!!!….Was Uncalled For.
There are no universal guidelines or restrictions for court rushes. The criteria are unique to each school, influenced by circumstance. The true bluebloods of the world – the Dukes, Kansases, Kentuckys and so on – do not rush the court, because doing so requires an implicit acknowledgement of reverential respect for the visiting opponent. They don’t excessively celebrate big victories, because victories are nothing to celebrate. It really is that simple. For schools like Miami, with diffuse basketball histories and tradition, on-court celebrations are totally within bounds. That’s not to say the act doesn’t require a special occasion. Beating an opponent of exalted stature, in comparative terms, is a fundamental precondition. Hurricane fans may have violated that Wednesday night after Miami’s 67-59 victory over Michigan State. The Spartans are a very good team; they beat likely Big 12 champion Kansas on a neutral floor earlier this year to prove it. That said, this Miami team – which, given how wide-open the top of the ACC looks with NC State and North Carolina taking its lumps in non-league play – does not lag far enough behind the Spartans to grant them that level of deference. Thing is, the Hurricanes didn’t beat Michigan State on some fluky sky-high shooting percentage. They beat the Spartans because the talent disparity between these two teams isn’t all that far off. Beating Michigan State is a praiseworthy cause, particularly in light of the Hurricanes’ not-so-hot start to the season. But it does not fall into the “special” category. Fuzzy and unclear and vague as the stipulations may be, court rushes happen because they feel right. It’s a carpe diem exercise; you do it when you know. Wednesday night was not one of those nights.