I’ll admit, I have no inside information for picking this year’s NCAA tournament brackets. What I do know is that when the brackets were revealed, there were a few coaches who said “Uh-oh!” It’s been said that how a team does in the tournament will come down to match-ups and for some teams, their first round match-up may be a nightmare!
BASKETBALL – Looking for a Nightmare?
When our Marquette women’s team reached the NCAA tournament in 1997, we were young, hungry, and a #12 seed. The Clemson Tigers were ranked #21 and had just played in the ACC Championship game. As the five seed they had a power post game, a great coach, and a tradition of moving on in the tournament. Their weakness, though, was perimeter shooting. Despite little post-season experience, one of our strengths was a hybrid zone defense that took away the low post and forced teams to score from the outside. Marquette was Clemson’s worst nightmare and proved it when we packed in the zone and pulled off the upset.
When I look at this year’s early round match-ups, there are a few Match-Up Nightmares in the opening round of the men’s draw. I’m not predicting winners – that will play out on the court, but there a few teams that will have to find a way to deal with a nightmare:
1. Creighton vs. Cincinnati: The Bearcats don’t score a lot, but they’re so long and athletic. They can come up with an aggressive approach to deal with Doug McDermott.
2. UCLA vs. Minnesota: UCLA doesn’t rebound well, while the Gophers pound the offensive glass. This is a tough one, even if UCLA had Jordan Adams healthy.
3. Ole Miss vs. Wisconsin: Wild man, Marshall Henderson of the Rebels, wants to let it fly early and often. The Badgers just don’t allow anyone to do that!
LIFE – What are your match-up nightmares?
Don’t we all have match-ups that concern us? Those things in life that we really have to have a game plan to overcome? Those nightmares are habits – bad habits, the ones we struggle with. We all have them, don’t we? For me, it’s talking too fast and too much that I don’t absorb what other people are saying – I have a whole bag of other ones, too. Author and Publishing CEO, Michael Hyatt, is one of my new favorites. He has some ideas for dealing with bad habits in his post, The Easiest Way To Overcome Bad Habits. He suggests that too often we focus all of our energy on eliminating a habit without giving thought to replacing the habit. We need to think about what we’re going to do in its place and focus our energy there. Another bad habit for me, is worrying – especially at night. That’s not a good habit for a coach! Hyatt’s suggestion? Replace worrying with praying. Makes sense to me! Rather than focus on the bad match-up, change your game plan.
FAITH – The match-up you cannot win.
The one bad habit we all have in common is truly our worst nightmare match-up. Very simply, it’s sin. On paper and in reality, we can’t win. Paul refers to sin as our flesh in Galatians 5: 19-21:
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality,impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
We can come up with the best of game plans. We can try to change our habits, but sin is something we cannot shake. Followers of Christ must do all we can to avoid sin, deal with sin, and fight it, not because we can actually win, but as an act of devotion and worship. Jesus steps in and takes care of our match-up with sin:
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 5:57)
I pray that you will rely on him to solve your Match-Up Nightmares.