The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament was first played in 1939, the year the National Association of Coaches created the National Collegiate Athletic Association. There was no Sweet Sixteen that year or in the decade to follow because the original tournament bracket included only eight teams. You could argue that the first ever Sweet Sixteen came into being in 1951, the first year that the tournament expanded to include sixteen teams, although I’m pretty sure no one called it that back then.
In the years since 1951, the tournament has expanded further to include 68 teams, including four intense play-in games for spots in the main bracket of 64 teams. In addition to expansion and the inclusion of some exciting play-in games, the tournament has gone through some other important rule changes, not the least of which was the decision to allow more than one team per conference into the field. Until 1975, only one team per conference received an invitation to the Big Dance, but this rule was changed after some very high profile teams failed to make the cut. For example, in 1970 South Carolina did not receive a tournament invitation despite finishing an undefeated 14 – 0 in the SEC. Southern California missed out in 1971 despite being the number two team in the nation, and Maryland suffered the same fate in 1974 despite being ranked third in the nation.
Most basketball fans are thankful for these changes, and not just because they allowed (arguably) all top ranked teams into the mix. Another exciting result of the field expansion was the new possibility of compelling Cinderella stories each March. Most college basketball fans will remember the real life David and Goliath storyline created when the tenth seeded Davidson Wildcats made it to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond in 2008 by knocking out much larger schools like Georgetown and Wisconsin. Even more surprising was the performance in 2011 by the Virginia Commonwealth Rams, who had to win a play-in game just to make it to the field of 64. That year, the Rams defeated USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and Kansas to make it all the way to the Final Four before losing to Butler. As a matter of fact, Butler, a tiny school from Indiana, had amazing runs in 2010 and 2011, surprising the college basketball world and earning the title of modern day Hoosiers.
One obvious observation about these Cinderella teams, and every team that makes it to the Sweet Sixteen every year for that matter, is that they are truly TEAMS. No one has success in basketball by going it alone. But surrounding yourself with a great team is essential to success in more than just basketball. I’m sure each and every one of them would tell you that they couldn’t have accomplished what they have in life on their own. In basketball and life, success is a team effort.
This isn’t a new idea. Thousands of years ago, the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NASB). The message is clear, and its truth can be seen time and time again in life and in sports. Two are stronger than one, and a team standing together is stronger still.
This message rings true in my area as well – the area of planning. All too often I meet families who tried to go it alone and do their own estate planning documents, file their own tax returns, and handle their own investments. More often than not, the families wind up in bad situations. At our firm, we don’t file tax returns for our clients. But we strongly encourage our clients to have a good accountant on their team to ensure their taxes are handled appropriately. We do not manage our clients’ investments, but we strongly encourage our clients to have a good financial advisor on their team to help in that area. For those families seeking to get their affairs in order to avoid probate, minimize estate and capital gains taxes, and protect assets from the high costs of long-term care, we want to be a part of the team to make sure things are done right.
Don’t try to do all of this by yourself. Be your own advocate, ask the right questions, and assemble a strong team of advisors to give yourself the best chance for success.