These days, road to No. 1 full of detours
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Behold the reality of modern college basketball. The last unbeaten team falls, and it’s only Jan. 13.
Anyone surprised? No. That would include the coach of the last unbeaten team that fell. The No. 1 ranking is as slippery as soap, the perfect records a creation of cushy non-conference schedules, and losing is inevitable. So, correctly, sayeth John Beilein, who could have been in charge of the top-ranked team in the country had Michigan not been dropped 56-53 at Ohio State on Sunday.
If the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers — college men’s basketball’s last perfect champions — are anything like the 1972 Miami Dolphins, toasting themselves anew each season when the final unbeaten falls, who has the glasses?
Thirty-seven years now, and counting.
To review the bloody weekend at the top, Duke lost for the first time Saturday. That left Michigan at 16-0. Except now, it’s 16-1.
And so, as is normal, what we know for sure right now is nothing. Whoever ends up as champion in April will have had to grow from defeat, as well as victory.
“At this time of the year, most teams now are seeing their first top level teams on the road,” Beilein said Sunday. “Just watch your scores and a lot of the questions you have will be answered.
“It’s a journey. You have to embrace an important part of it today.”
Apparently, he means it. Michigan took the floor with a chance to become No. 1, and fell behind 21 points in the first 13 minutes. The Wolverines rallied to tie but gave way at the end.
The word Beilein had after all that?
“This,” he said, “is terrific.”
Terrific? He meant the experience for a young team that was blown away early and came back late, playing five freshmen and being led in scoring by a sophomore, Trey Burke.
“Every coach will tell you … [For more on These days, road to No. 1 full of detours, click here.]