March Madness Is Survive And Advance – Luck Doesn’t Hurt Either (Quote Me)

NCAA Floor

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People attribute quotes to the wrong individuals. It’s not a deliberate, malicious thing. History often plays with our memories. Individually. Collectively.

I believe the phenomenon is known as the generation of misattributions. (I don’t know who said that…)

It’s when Person A expounds upon, summarizes, condenses or restates an opinion from Person B. At a later time the restatement is directly ascribed to Person B.

My interest in such events came about innocently enough via watching an episode of the television series “Scorpion.” A famous quote was offered in relation to the show’s team of geniuses beginning to change as individuals…thereby leading to the group dynamic evolving. The words in question apparently have often been assigned to Charles Darwin but in fact while the notion may have been Darwin’s the more notable quotation to fully express the theory is attributed to one Leon Megginson, a professor at LSU back in 1963.

The condensed version as you may have heard it assigned to Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable.”

A broader, more expansive version assigned to Megginson:

“Yes, change is the basic law of nature. But the change wrought by the passage of time affects individuals and institutions in different ways. According to Darwin’s Origin of Species it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives. It is not the strongest that survives…but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

College basketball’s March Madness is often described in but three words…survive and advance. I happen to think the above quotation(s) apply to this Tournament nicely also. It isn’t the strongest team that always wins. It’s not even the smartest all the time. It is the team that successfully adapts and adjusts through each match-up and in each game best determines how to maximize its strengths and smarts…minimize its weaknesses…and simply find a way to keep winning.

You know of course March Madness doesn’t decide who the best team in the country is. Admirably, that’s what college football still tries to do albeit they have doubled down by watering down the process by now having a four team playoff instead of just two as when the BCS was around.

No, when you have a whopping 68 teams in a competition the survivor can’t be considered the best team. It’s only the best team at…well…surviving. Luck doesn’t hurt either.

Don’t get me wrong. March Madness is still pretty much my favorite sporting event. But it is a television show now as much as competition. Half the teams don’t even belong playing in what is billed as a championship event. As well, an arbitrary group of people assign the bracket positioning which often heavily favors those teams most highly-thought of, often affording them the chance in the first several rounds to stay as close to home as possible (and their fans).

As the bracket gets closer to its conclusion the facilities then morph from being basketball arenas to football stadiums. The Final Four is now most often played on temporary, raised-surface courts with about as bad a shooting background as could possibly be provided for the players.

Do I wish for the days when the field was half the size and all the games were played in actual, full-time basketball facilities? Sure.

But March Madness is still fun. You just have to keep it in perspective. You’re not crowning the best team. You’re crowning the team that best adapted. Luck doesn’t hurt either.

Predicting who will win? Luck be with us all in 2016. You can make a case for at least a dozen teams that, depending on their path and what happens along the way, might be cutting down the nets on April 4th in Houston.

This season alone three top-five ranked teams lost in one day. That was only the fourth time in the last two decades that happened. As I am typing this we still have a few days left in February and teams ranked in the top-five have collectively lost the second-most games ever at this point in a season.

Since I’m in Philly people have asked me about Villanova. With their recent history of coming up short once the Tournament begins do they have what it takes to go all the way this year?  Yes they do if statistics mean anything – which do and don’t depending on how strong you feel the competition is they’ve faced. The Wildcats have a top-five defense, are in the top-five in free throw shooting as well as shooting from inside the three-point line. I point out that line distinction only because one thing Villanova hasn’t done well is shoot 3’s…and we know how the 3-ball can quickly change the dynamics of a game. But they are talented…and can be considered a serious contender.


In 2011 the Connecticut Huskies ended their regular season losing four of their last five games. They were ninth in the Big East at 9-9, It was madness to think they’d be invited to March Madness. Their only hope was to win five games in five days and win the Big East Tournament and that conference’s automatic bid. Only then would they be issued an invite – because then they had to receive one.

They amazingly did just that.

Connecticut then went on to inexplicably get to and win the Championship Game against Butler (in what was unfortunately one of the worst Finals ever played). They were far and away NOT the best team in college basketball that season. They did however adapt and adjust. They also got lucky. Luck plays into things when you have this big a field and so many games.

There’s simply no way to accurately predict how March Madness 2016 will play out, or any one of them for that matter. It won’t stop me or anyone else from trying however. It is perverse fun to fill out those brackets each year and see how quickly we make them into baskets…laying them up and in to our trash baskets.

Based on how this regular season in particular has gone in this year’s office competition that person who picks their March Madness bracket based on which mascot is allegedly tougher than the other or which color is their personal favorite has an excellent chance to pull off yet another victory this year. March Madness is always completely unpredictable. I think even more so in 2016.

Adapt and adjust. Survive and advance. Luck doesn’t hurt either. As for luck… perhaps we should remember a quote from Roman philosopher Seneca:

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

(I suppose it’s possible someone else might have said that also…)



About sportsattitudes

I'm Bruce. Born, raised and still outside the City of Brotherly Love. Managed (so far) to visit a dozen of our United States and Canada (twice). Addicted from birth to Television/Movies/Sports. Took three years of French and got credit for two of 'em.
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27 Responses to March Madness Is Survive And Advance – Luck Doesn’t Hurt Either (Quote Me)

  1. SportsChump says:

    Looking forward to the tourney, as always.

    And you’re right, even though it’s the most exciting post-season in all of sports, you can’t say with any certainty that March Madness determines the best college basketball team of the season.

    UConn’s last championship is a perfect example. But we can’t take anything from them because they got hot at the right time.

    I’m with you, man. Going into March, this is anyone’s ball game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed SC. Flip a coin, toss a dart…whatever it takes to fill out those brackets. (As for UConn I have to take something from them in order to score my point – that post-season was a big-time hot mess…)


  2. garym6059 says:

    That 2011 final was god awful, and I’m a Butler homer being from Indiana! #LongLiveBradStevens he’s kind of a legend in this state now. Love March Madness though no matter who is playing just for the dramatic value.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am counting the days! This is my favorite sporting event too. I am so excited for Villanova!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ‘I believe the phenomenon is known as the generation of misattributions. (I don’t know who said that…)’ –That’s brilliant.

    I don’t believe the winner of the 68 is the best team either. It’s exciting but also feels less meaningful as an achievement. In most sports any team can beat any other team in a single game. It takes multiple games to prove which team is better. The favored teams usually win in the NBA playoffs because luck and adrenaline evens out over seven games. But it also usually makes for less exciting playoffs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yay, Bruce! I know nothing about this other than you fill out the bracket pool thing but I know your post was brilliant!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can overlook all the sports talk….you like Scorpion! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. George says:

    Like you, this is my favorite time of year. I don’t remember when, in recent years, this tournament was as wide open as it is this year. That should only make it more unpredictable and more exciting. Let the games begin..:)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Belinda O says:

    Isn’t there some saying about how on any given night, any given team can beat any other given team…a reasonable amount of truth in that. There are so many variables in any game none of us will ever even know, especially college sports. These are still kids playing, after all, not quite pros although they’re expected to be. There are distractions in every young man’s life, physical, emotional, spiritual. Even the weather affects how a team plays. So I’m with you, it’s adapting as much as anything else, getting to know your next opponent and a few other variables. It’s called March Madness for a reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Belinda, I recently read an article that debated the merits of betting money on sporting events and the random acts that all serve as inputs into a result that, even with the best prior research one can do, one cannot possibly account for. I love your last sentence on the comment. It IS called March Madness for a reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Either way, I think March madness is thoroughly entertaining. Survival of the fittest…uh…adaptable team seems quite apropos. Nevertheless, what a blast it is!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. All in the way the ball bounces.
    LIke your perspective on what March Madness actually is.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. aFrankAngle says:

    Love the way you set up the tournament through something that seems irrelevant … well done.

    I’ll give a different view … The best team not wins the tournament, but wins every game. After all, all one has to do is be the best team on that day. Miracle on Ice in the Olympics … no way the USA was a better team than the Russians … but they they needed was to be on that day. … So yes, in a tournament, the best overall team doesn’t always win.

    FYI: Did you know that Darwin did not coin the phrase “survival of the fittest” …. many attribute it to him … but nope – Herbert Spencer is the originator.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Frank, thanks for the style points on “backing into” the subject matter. I try to keep things interesting here for even those not so sports-inclined. A tournament is indeed all about match-ups…as well as results from many other match-ups. Lots of moving parts and the volatility and variances of events often find us at the end with something less than the best. (Herbert may or may not agree with March Madness relative to his quote!)


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