We're just over one week from Selection Sunday and be prepared to hear the phrase "hot team" a lot.
The ESPN talking heads will try to convince you that because a team is "playing well down the stretch", you should consider them for your bracket picks.
I used to buy into that. It makes a lot of sense. But it doesn't seem to happen all that often anymore, and I'll use a couple of examples from Wilson County boys' high school basketball to make my point.
Mt. Juliet won seven straight and 9 of 10 entering the District 9-AAA semifinals. The Golden Bears lost their next three games to finish the season. Winning the league tournament was a Wilson Central team which ended the regular season with two straight losses, including one to last-place Portland. The Wildcats went on a tournament roll which reached the sectional.
We're always hearing about the hot teams in November and December going into the NFL playoffs. I remember thinking the hot teams on New Year's Day were Indianapolis, Denver, Seattle and Washington. Three of those four lose their first playoff game, with the fourth getting a win.
As we remember, Baltimore was the team left standing shortly after the lights came back on in the Superdome. And how did the Ravens finish the regular season? Losing four of their final five.
And when was the last time the best baseball teams in the regular season reached the World Series?
Playoffs have gotten so elongated and parity so prominent it's hard for a hot team down the stretch to maintain it all the way through the postseason. In the NFL, a team might need to be hot in December to make the playoffs, but it needs to be hot in January to reach the Super Bowl.
To win March Madness requires being hot in March, not February, though a good February run may be necessary to get to March.
The ingredients of winning are so fragile if all of the teams tend to be close together in talent level. One misstep, bad shot, blink or sneeze can disrupt the chemistry. A hot team can get cold in the blink of an eye. It takes one bad shooting night or bad game to turn a winning streak into a distant memory.
As soon as you realize you're hot, it's probably over.