Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Six Thoughts on ESPN’s 24 Hour Hoopfest

1) On what date did you learn how to properly pronounce Xavier Henry’s name?
a. Still don’t know - Normal
b. During last nights game – Obsessed fan
c. Two years ago – Recruiting junky
d. Last week watching SportsCenter highlights of a Kansas exhibition game – Lucky fan
e. Next March at a sports bar with 5 of your buddies – Unlucky fan
f. In June at the draft – NBA fan
g. Possibly never – Digger Phelps

2) Derrick Nix is my new favorite Spartan. Yes, he probably isn’t that important to the team. But when someone with that much mass can get up for 3 blocks, wow. Also, I thought for awhile Draymond Green switched jerseys. How does Tom Izzo keep finding these bulky (and yet strangely athletic) big men?

3) The highlight quote from Rush-The-Court’s 24 hour coverage: “Aw, man. We’ve been duped. ESPN is replaying the studio portions of their halftime show from game-to-game during the overnight games, assuming we’re not going to catch onto that since, well, only an idiot (*ahem*) would watch all of these games.”

4) Look, I could watch Michigan St. vs Gonzaga on infinite loop forever. This is basketball the way it is meant to be played, and not over-hyped. But unlike Championship week, I can’t advocate taking off work for the 24 hour marathon. I need to be able to flip between good games in order to claim basketball nirvana, and prior to the evening session, we mostly had a bunch of Kyle Whellistion style games. Some of them were good with significant tournament implications (see Drexel – Niagara), but it is hard to care at this point in the year.

I think someone recently described this phenomenon. When you turn on a game, you naturally start cheering for one of the teams, even though you may have no attachment to either team. I have a basic hierarchy for this:

a. Does either team play my team at some point in the season? Hmm, I guess I’m rooting for Louisville against Arkansas since Louisville plays in the same conference as Georgetown.

b. Does either team have a coach or player who is a natural villain? See Isaah Thomas who has so far i) complained about having to face North Carolina, ii) whined that Tulsa ran up the score on his team, iii) and spoke about how it was about time his team won a game. The only caveat for Isaah Thomas is that I wish his team was better so that watching them lose would mean something.

c. Does either team have fans that seem like jerks? I’ve grown to appreciate Coach K. And I do appreciate the passion of Duke fans. But Duke fans have a trademarked image as preppy and insufferable, and almost everyone roots against Duke.

d. Does either coach clearly need to be fired? Look, I think Todd Lickliter is a great guy who fell into the wrong situation. But at this point, I’m not going to cheer for Iowa to beat anyone else in the Big Ten unless that team has an insufferable coach or fans.

e. Is either team ranked 3-5 spots ahead of my team in either the polls or the bracket projections? Fake example: You mean Joe Lunardi has Minnesota as a 9 seed and Alabama as a 7 seed? Alabama is not that good. Usually you root against the ranked team, but this is one example where that might not happen. If highly ranked Kentucky plays Alabama, I may still root for Kentucky because, as I’ve said, Alabama is criminally over-rated.

f. Root against the ranked team.

g. Root for the mid-major against the BCS team. Note that this is way down on the list. The BCS team can’t be in the same conference as your team and the mid-major can’t be taking an NCAA bid from your team.

h. Root for the team with a fun player. Hey, that Edwin Ubiles of Siena was really good when I saw him last year. It might be fun to see him play well.

And that leaves games like St. Peter’s vs Monmouth where I can’t form an opinion. And I’m not going to take off work to watch a game when I can’t form an opinion.

5) The other key component, as mentioned above, is being able to flip games. At 5:30pm, there were at least two games to flip between. In the Rush-the-Court recap, John Stevens mentioned flipping over to SportsNation at 4 in the morning. Incidentally, I like Calvin Cowherd a little better on SportsNation than I do on his radio show, but his negativity on the radio is a bit much for me. This would be Cowherd’s standard analysis of UCSF knocking off UCLA for the first time in school history.

“Congratulations to UCSF for knocking of UCLA, but let’s face it, if UCSF was a good team, they wouldn’t have needed two overtimes to beat this young UCLA squad. Furthermore, this upset basically happened in the first game of the season. That means at the end of the year it isn’t going to mean anything to the selection committee. The last 10 games count a lot. Of course UCSF is not the kind of school you would find on the bubble anyhow. That basically means this game is irrelevant. And the UCLA fans clearly showed it by not showing up to this one. The stadium was practically empty. So congratulations to UCSF for the biggest upset in school history or whatever you want to call it. But it happened at 2:30am ET and no one is going to remember this game tomorrow.”

6) It is really too early to judge much of anything. But for those of us who wrote previews this year, (now available on Amazon), each early season game is a painful evaluation of our work.

-I had Louisville alone in second in my Big East preseason ranking, but after every other publication I read buried them, I gave them one more loss in my projections. On Tuesday I was regretting that move. Louisville lost a lot of returning minutes, but the Louisville bench and role players could have started for a lot of Big East team’s last year. And I would take a recruit like Peyton Siva any day of the week. Plus, no matter what he did off the court, Rick Pitino can still coach.

-Meanwhile, I had Georgetown as a borderline NCAA tournament team, lower than many other prognosticators, due to the team’s lack of depth. And they looked pretty similar to last year in a 1 point win over Temple. OK, yeah there are some key differences that followers of the team can catch. Julian Vaughn was virtually never on the court at the same time as Greg Monroe last year, but JT3 had them both starting and playing together for most of the game. But does anyone outside the Georgetown community care about this? What most people care about is that the team still has virtually zero scoring outside of the big three of Wright, Freeman, and Monroe.

But before I pat myself on the back for having Louisville higher than other ratings and Georgetown lower than other ratings, you need to recognize that this is a long season. And most of the ratings are based on the whole season, when the young players get a chance to develop. I think Kansas is a national title contender, as I wrote in the Jay-hawk tip-off. But they need to find the right combination of role players, and that is going to take some time.

So for now, let the season develop, and enjoy the games for what they are: good games. How often will you see a big man like Greg Monroe drive from the top of the key for the game winning basket as Georgetown beats Temple? How often will you see UCLA fall at home in a non-conference game? How often will you see Memphis fight its heart-out to hang with Kansas? And how often will you see Gonzaga-Michigan St. play down to the wire. This is college basketball.