100% Cotten: TOURNAMENT EQUALS HOPE

Feb. 16, 2006

At the end of the day, college basketball becomes a numbers game as it relates to life after the regular season. If a team wins exactly half of its games or better, especially if a team makes its living in the ACC, then the chances are relatively good that postseason play is coming the way of that team.

In the context of making the NCAA Tournament field, the counting usually begins at about the halfway point of the ACC regular season schedule and intensifies as the number of games gets lower and lower. I fall victim to this ritual every season. It had me last season, knowing all the while that Wake Forest not only was going to make the field but was also going to be one of the highest seeded teams, and it has me again this season - even though the numbers this year just aren't adding up.

It's like looking in the mirror every day and expecting to see someone else. Nope. Same old me.

At this writing if the Demon Deacons get hot and win out the ACC record would be 6-10. That won't get it done. The chances would really be no better at 6-10 than if the Deacs don't win again and finish 1-15. The phone is not going to ring on Selection Sunday.

That is unless the Deacs make it ring. What's that? Yes, make it ring.

That's the beauty of Tournament Basketball. Can you say clean slate? Second chance?

Although I would not recommend that Coach Prosser and the Demon Deacons look any more down the road than the next game, I can guarantee I've already thought about winning the ACC Tournament and getting the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Now that would be some story and would render some of our talk radio buddies speechless - at least temporarily. The chatter would resume in full force in short order, though, because right now nobody sees it coming.

I know that currently Wake Forest is last in the league, that the Deacs' confidence has been shaken by the developments of the last few weeks and the odds for them winning the looming ACC Tournament are long. But is it impossible?

The simple, but correct answer is no.

The ACC has always determined its official champion by the tournament that comes at the end of the regular season. And the winner gets the NCAA Tournament's automatic berth. It's a simple formula that requires only of any particular team that it win. In Wake Forest's case this season - four games. Four wins in four days at the Greensboro Coliseum, and a lot of the travails of the past few weeks would be yesterday's news. In tact would be Wake's streak of consecutive postseason tournaments - fifteen and holding - best in the ACC.

So right now, even though the numbers don't look good, and even though the remaining schedule of games is daunting - there is hope. There is something to shoot for. It's called the tournament. And until the last horn sounds I will do my best to keep the faith. Chin up.

Are you with me?

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