College sports: Harder than you think

Trae+Young+dribbles+down+the+court.

Wikipedia.org

Trae Young dribbles down the court.

Christopher Bean, Sports editor

Watching sports my whole life, I have always thought there has been one consistent thing that has always been hard to accomplish. Winning on the road in college basketball during conference play, in my opinion, is the hardest thing to do in all of sports. Especially in today’s game when you have a lot of true freshmen start. For an 18- year-old to go play at a place like Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, Purdue, etc. it’s impossible to prepare for.

Sure, it is hard to win on the road in any sport when you have 20,000 plus fans screaming at you. But there is a big difference when Tom Brady, the 40-year-old veteran, has to go play at Pittsburgh in December, versus when a freshman start like Trae Young, has to experience traveling on the road to play his rival Oklahoma State for the first time. Yes, Young had a career high of 48 points, and was ranked fourth on the Oklahoma Sooners.  He went 14-39 from the field, taking a lot of bad shots, and making critical errors down the stretch, in the loss to the unranked Cowboys. We saw the opposite from Brady in Week 15 of the regular season, when Brady led his team with the go ahead touchdown with 56 seconds to go. However, the very next game for Young, he turned his performance around, going 7-9 from the field scoring 26 points in the win against fifth ranked Kansas at home.

As the season moves on to conference play in late December, you see more and more upsets. That’s because the ranked teams had to go on the road and play. The ranked teams don’t have as nearly many road games in the beginning of the season, than they do during conference play due to playing lower competition. In most conferences, teams face each other two to three times a year depending on your schedule.

Since conference play started, there have been seven teams eliminated from the top 25 including:  Miami, Florida State, Seton Hall, Creighton, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas A & M., and Texas. Texas A & M being the only team in the top five. All these teams have lost two or more games on the road in that span. Arizona State got off to a 12-0 start entering a Pac 12 play, and was ranked third in the country before. Now they are ranked number 25 with a 16-6 record, and 2-4 on the road.

All the power conferences in college basketball have struggled this year on the road in conference play. ACC (23-49), Big 12 (13-32), Big East (22-28), Big (27-50), Pac 12 (22-38), and SEC (21-40). Big 12 got off to a great start on the road with an impressive 8-1 record, but since then have struggled to put anything together, going just 5-31 since that stretch. There’s also been a lot of upsets too. There’s been 39 upsets when the lower ranked team, or the unranked team hosted the higher ranked team. Fifteen of those have been in the top ten!

As we reach the last month of the regular season, look for that number to reach 50, possibly even 60. Also, look for at least 25 loses inside the top ten. You never know what an upset could do for a team. It may give them a push for a run in March.