Tag Archives: Butler Bulldogs

Crossing the Line

With only two teams left in the NCAA tournament, and a whole bunch o’ craziness behind us, I’m not really into it.   I acknowledge, at the outset, that part of this might just be sore-loser syndrome; Syracuse — my pick to win the whole thing — got bounced in the second round (and the pain was magnified by the fact that my budget for the next three months assumed that I would win my tournament pool — which, I have to admit, is nobody’s fault but my own).

Still, though, simply as a fan of the game, I’m not feeling this tournament.  I mean, I’m all for a good upset now and then to keep things exciting, but I think there’s a thin line between a good amount of upsets and complete chaos, and I think we’re now on the wrong side of that line.  Whether this is a one-time fluke, or a manifestation of a larger problem, is yet to be seen.

Unfortunately, there are some signs indicating that the college game is heading for trouble.  To get into a discussion about the state of the game, it probably makes sense to start at the foundation, and all big-time college sports are built on a shaky foundation.  The problem is that, in theory, the athletic teams are comprised of student-athletes, but, in reality, especially in men’s basketball, today’s athletes don’t seem so worried about being students.  I’m not one of those dudes who romanticizes previous eras; seasons played before the game was integrated are, in my opinion, illegitimate.  And I can find things to criticize about the game during each of the decades since.

That said, the game is not as good now as I remember it being in the past.  In my mind, the “golden era” of college hoops was the late ’70’s – mid ’80’s, when Magic, Larry, Isiah, Michael, Ewing, Mullin, and Derrick Coleman were doing their thing.  Even though a bunch of those guys left school before graduating, the sense was that they were student-athletes.  I don’t want to sound naive, and I’ll acknowledge that I have no idea whether Larry Bird, Derrick Coleman, or Chris Mullin actually went to class.  But at least they faked having a real connection to their schools.  It’s not like they showed up, played a season, and disappeared without even completing their second semesters.  Now that’s the norm at some of the big-time programs, like Kentucky.  Considering that all big-time college sports are built on a shaky foundation, consistently forcing fans to question the legitimacy of what’s being presented to them as “college basketball” is like playing with fire.

But that’s only part of the problem.  The number of guys who are capable of being “one-and-doners” is small enough that it wouldn’t have a broad impact on the game if there weren’t other issues.  But there are.  The main one, in my opinion, is that the game is so unpredictable that deep storylines don’t develop.  As I’ve blogged multiple times, the “experts” don’t have a clue what’s going on.  It’s now standard for a team that was hardly ever — if ever — ranked in the Top 25 to make the Final Four.  Some people look at this fact and see excitement, I look and see chaos.

See, I like a good storyline or two.  I like teams to emerge as powerhouses during the course of a season, and then clash in the tournament.  I like teams that get better as the season goes on, peaking around the time the tournament begins.  But when the teams who limp into the tournament wind up bullying around the teams that bullied their opponents around all season, it suggests that the season is close to meaningless.

Sure, there will always be good storylines, given the nature of the game.  When two traditional powerhouses play, it’s a story, even if they’re having sub-par seasons.  When a powerhouse plays an upstart, it’s the ol’ David v. Goliath storyline.  And when two upstarts meet in an important game, it also makes for compelling theater.

The problem is that those storylines exist by default; if that’s all the game has to offer, then it is in a damaged state.  In order to really grasp people, the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight need to include multiple teams with a few pro prospects on each, multiple traditional powerhouses, and multiple teams that have gotten fans’ attention over the course of the season.  If the teams people got familiar with while watching for months are not the teams still playing in the Elite Eight and Final Four, it fosters a sense of confusion that borders on complete chaos.

There’s plenty more venting to do, but I’ll stop. For now, I’m going to watch UCONN play Butler, and let the basketball fan inside of me enjoy a hard-fought game.  But, come next November, when the polls come out, and ESPN starts hyping the “big-time” teams it wants me to watch, I’ll be watching the NBA.  And when CBS starts broadcasting The Road To The Final Four, I’ll be in my car on The Road To Something Else To Do.  At the rate things are going, I see little reason to pay attention to the regular season.

Leave a Comment:

Let the Madness Begin

And here we are, ladies and gentlemen.  March Madness.

I have a bunch of hoopservations about the college game, none of which is worthy of more than four or five sentences.  Thus, here is a potpourri of mini hoopservations:

1a.  For starters, this is not the site to come to for upset picks based on super-duper-insider info and fantastic scouting reports.  If you want that kind of analysis, keep surfing the ‘net and you’ll find it without too much trouble.  I’ve never seen St. Peter’s play.  Or Indiana State.  Or Belmont.  In fact, I thought Belmont was a horse race, not a college.

1b.  Great, I just offended all of my readers from Belmont.  When you only have eight loyal readers, you can’t afford to offend anyone, but I just did.  No wonder I’m having so much trouble attracting new readers.

2.  BYU, at one point this season, looked like a legit contender.  Then it suspended one of its best players for having sex with his girlfriend.  I have plenty of opinions about this, but they’d certainly offend some people and, well, I just can’t afford to offend anyone at this point.

3.  Is it too early to declare the expansion to 68 teams a failure?  If not, what additional information do we need before we are able to determine that the expansion was a bad idea?

4.  Jeff Capel got fired this week.  Not the biggest story out there, I know, but I think it’s interesting because of what it says about the way we perceive college coaches.  When Capel made VCU competitive, he was a hot young candidate for a job at a bigger program.   He took the job at Oklahoma, and did quite well, when he had Blake Griffin.  Since losing Griffin, he hasn’t done so well.  Funny how that works.  Take a step back and look at this: when he makes a team like VCU competitive, people think he’s a coaching prodigy.  When he recruits Blake Griffin, people think the praise was worthwhile.  Then when he loses Griffin and stops winning, people think he doesn’t even deserve to keep his job.  How about some perspective, folks?

5.  Last year, I hoopserved that tournament upsets, contrary to popular belief, generally did not involve a team with five underrated upperclassmen beating a team with five overrated underclassmen.  Rather, they generally involved a lower-seeded team having a star who carried it to a win.  (Here, if you’re interested.) In light of that, I looked at the list of this year’s leading scorers, and note that teams to keep an eye on are Penn St. (Talor Battle averages 20.1 ppg), Wofford (Noah Dalman averages 20 ppg),and BU (John Holland averages 19.2 ppg).  If you’re kind of into this angle, but you’re more interested in rebounds than points, I note that the list of leading rebounders includes Nikola Vucevic from USC (10.2 rpg) and Keith Benson from Oakland (10.1 rpg).

6.  It’s interesting that people can see what they want in this tournament.  Those who are down on the game will see that the top eight seeds are about as weak as the top eight seeds have been in a while.  Florida?  Notre Dame?  They’ll also see that the tournament is wide open, essentially because there is a lot of mediocrity, and very few teams that have potential for greatness.  Those who are not down on the game will see a lot to like about this tournament.  For starters, the defending national champion returns multiple critical starters, and heads into the tournament as a #1 seed.  And, they will see a bunch of potentially great matchups.  UCLA-Michigan State in Round 1?!? Seriously?  Plus, a potential matchup of St. John’s, the revitalized school from NYC, and BYU, the school that kicked a player off of its team for violating the school’s Honor Code — an Honor Code that, as I understand things, does not allow students to drink caffeine.  Like I said, I’m not going to comment on BYU’s decision, but you don’t need my commentary to see that St. John’s / BYU would be an interesting clash.  Looking down the road, a potential Ohio State / Syracuse matchup would be awesome.  Another run from Butler would be thrilling.  And, don’t forget, Kemba Walker might just grab the whole bracket by the throat and not let go.

I don’t know about you, but I’m psyched.

Leave a Comment: