Last season, Memphis freshman Will Barton made waves when he offered, without having ever played a minute of college basketball, both a prediction and a guarantee that his new team would win the national title in 2011. That prediction did not go so well. (This offseason, Barton made a similar, if slightly more restrained, prediction. Again: Not so much.)
In other words, it's usually unwise for college basketball players to go around saying brash things. Coaches very carefully attempt to manage their team's expectations both internally and externally, and that effort is undermined -- and left open to ridicule -- when players say things like, oh, that their team is the best in the country and will go undefeated this season.
Before everyone starts freaking out, it's important to note the context in which Behanan's money quote -- "We're the No. 1 team in the country in my eyes, and like I said, we're going undefeated. Point blank, period." -- occurred. Behanan is talking about his mindset. He's talking about self-motivation. He's talking about the way he approaches games, the way he motivates himself in the larger college hoops landscape. In that context, the comments are a little more understandable. There's some nuance there.
View them through any prism you like, though; Behanan's comments are undeniably bold, especially considering that Louisville's two best wins -- which Behanan cites -- came at home over struggling Vanderbilt and Memphis teams. Other than that, the Cardinals' next best victory came at Butler. That undefeated record and No. 4 overall ranking has as much to do with the Cardinals's performance (which has been defensively stout but oft-flawed) as it does with Louisville's advantageous schedule to date.
In other words, you can imagine Louisville coach Rick Pitino seeing this quote -- given by a freshman, no less -- and rubbing his temples in exasperation. The last thing that any team needs when playing the No. 4 team in the country is more inspirational bulletin-board-nonsense to rally around. The last thing Kentucky -- which hosts Louisville in what will be a rollicking Rupp Arena slugfest on New Year's Eve -- needs is more motivation to wield against their hated rivals. As if they needed it.
One imagines that Pitino has long since relayed this, and probably more, to Behanan. It's great to be confident in your team. It's great to adopt a winner's mindset. But elaborating on that mindset in front of a camera and a microphone? Not the most prudent approach. And that's putting it kindly.
(Hat tip: Card Chronicle)