If you’re a fan of basketball, how can you not be excited this week with the terrific upsets around the country? Just last night, the top team in the country, Villanova, was upset on their home floor by a St. John’s team that had yet to win a conference game and amazingly had just beaten the No. 4 team in the country on Saturday. We’ll dive into that a bit more, but last night also provided two more upsets when No. 3 Purdue lost on their home court to Ohio State, and No. 8 Auburn lost on their home court to Texas A&M. It’s getting late in the season as we anticipate March and many teams would seem to be out of it, but this week’s upsets reveal that a team is never truly out of it until the last horn sounds and it’s a significant reminder to all of us to stay steadfast in life and in our faith. After all, there’s always a chance!
BASKETBALL – Turning it Around
St. John’s did something Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center that, statistically, they had a 3 percent chance to do. The likelihood of back-to-back top-five upsets was roughly 0.3 percent. There is no logical explanation for this, and no proper reaction other than amazement. Here’s what happened in Philly last night:
So how did they do it? Let’s take a quick listen to some of head coach Chris Mullin’s comments after the two upset wins:
As I take a look at these comments, I see embedded in them some significant points for any team attempting to dig out of a hole and to be in a position to pull off monumental upsets. The story is continually repeated throughout college basketball and undoubtedly will continue to be a major story line as we approach the madness of March, but consider these essential points from Mullin (who by the way was also a terrific player at SJU and in the NBA!)
Keep a positive frame of mind
Learn from the losses
Currently, our team has hit a rough patch with three losses in a row in games in which we had late leads. We just haven’t pulled those games out and things haven’t gone our way. Now we must win our last three games to qualify for the postseason. As I left practice yesterday, though, I knew our team still has a chance. Just like St. John’s, we have time to turn it around, and Mullin’s points now echo in my head.
LIFE – Climb Out of the Hole
Do you ever need a pep talk? I often think that I don’t until I start to address our team. I can get passionate about a lot of things and when I get going I can drop a lot of wisdom, some really good stuff that’s been stored up in my brain and then I realize, I was the one who needed the talk. The players usually do, too, but I’m right there with them. Here’s the point. If you dug yourself a hole, climb out of it! Persevere, stay connected with the important people in your life, remain positive, be accountable, and learn from your losses and setbacks. All of us have areas of life where at times we feel we’ve dug a hole – finances, relationships, careers, fitness, or studies, but as long as you have life and as long as the sun comes up, you can do something about it. It may be simply staying the course like St. John’s or it may require some drastic changes, but each of us has the power to hang in there. And if you can hang in there, can you then give a little bit more? Ten percent more? A little more effort, a little more focus, a little more service? There’s always a chance for you to pull off the upset!
FAITH – There’s Always a Chance
What about your faith life? Most of us tend to dig some holes there, too. Some of us ignore God’s promptings and call and some of us turn our backs on the faith we knew as youngsters. We often twist and confuse God’s word or worse, we listen to the voices around us in the world today. We may feel that God has abandoned us and we lose faith. We may feel guilty over our own actions or how we treat other people and we fall into the hole of feeling that God could never love us or forgive us. Or if you’re like me, you may fall into the hole of life. I can get so focused on the stress and pressure of different roles that I neglect the one relationship that is more important to me than any other.
As I write today, I’m in pep talk mode and want to remind you, and myself, that our God is the God of upsets. You may feel you’ve dug a few holes, but Jesus knows all about that. He knows we’re each going to have our ups and downs, our unique challenges, and our failings in this life, but He never abandons us and He is always with us. There is no upset too big and no holes to deep for Him:
Jesus looked straight at them and said, “There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.” Matthew 19:26
When you see an upset happen on the court let it remind you that Jesus can help you pull off the upset. No matter what you’ve done or how far away you have drifted and no matter how influenced by the world around you, there’s always a chance for God to pull the upset – in fact, it’s better than a chance. It’s a promise.