CLINTON, S.C. -- What's the value of a score? The market has it much less than the 1/1000th of a cent that manufacturer's coupons are worth -- interested parties expect to get them for free, that a score should cost the same over a computer network as it does transmitted from mouth to ear.
Is "Tennessee 80, Marquette 68" any more valuable than "Savannah State 53, Kennesaw State 49"? One is more rare than the other, but the former is of interest to more people. Neither piece of information, however, is actually worth anything on its face.
If I told you that Toney Douglas of Florida State had 28 points and hit nine free throws against Tennessee Tech last night, then told you that Chicago State's Petras Balocka double-doubled with 21 points and 10 rebounds against Hawaii early yesterday morning, which would get your attention? Neither? A fair enough answer, because you've probably never heard of either player, and the statlines are presented completely out of context of wins or losses or NCAA futures trading. But still they sit there side-by-side in the Basketball State database, taking up the exact same amount of real estate as Ben Woodside's 60 point performance from last weekend.
Going back to those two games, though. The Tennessee-Marquette game generated many more stories, analysis and blog entries than Kennesaw-Savannah, because the market has dictated that descriptions and accounts of one are worth immeasurably much more than the other. There was probably one beat writer present in Savannah, if there were any -- I've been to a lot of games like that. And in this tiny world, we don't give a rat's ass what happened with Tennessee and Marquette. This is why I'll never be famous.
The Kennesaw State sports information office, good people, published a five-paragraph game recap
on its website. How much is this worth? How much is any game recap worth, those AP stories that bounce around the wires minutes after final buzzers? Increased technology has forced down the value of these, too -- fans expect them to be as free as scores. Or boxscores, for that matter. An aggregation of millions of bits of data is worth something if aggregated and packaged in a pleasing fashion -- I know of at least a few thousand who think that's worth 20 bucks a year.
If the AP stringer's account of a game, or the SID's, isn't worth anything on the open market, whose account is? The local beat writer's? That of the national one? What about the young blogger? Does it matter if the game was viewed from 10 feet away or 1000, or through the filter of television?
The difference is perspective and research. Perspective doesn't require access (but it helps), you just have to put in your time. A gamer can be written by a boxscore-parsing algorithm (and if the scared writers I talk to are correct, budget cuts will lead to the honing and perfection of the RecapBot). But add a few trendlines, some adjectives, a thumbnail sketch of a participant, what it looked and smelled like in the arena, a story of what happened 10 years ago... and suddenly there's life and vitality there.
While I love all my blogger brothers and sisters, as well as a few of the columnists, a lot of them are going about this the wrong way. Sports value is not measured in entertainment, or quick-hit jokes, or egotistical reminders of who's bringing the information to the people. Value is measured in perspective.
After four-plus years of doing this and over 500 games attended, I'm still getting by on charm. I will fully admit that I'm faking the funk. My mistake was choosing to cover a giant swath of college basketball -- over 230 teams in 23 conferences -- and taking no shortcuts. This Mid-Majority is so wide that I can't cover the breadth in any single season, despite my best efforts, and so deep that folks don't remember my name on my second visit.
Someday, though, I'll do this landmass justice. In five, maybe ten years, I'll know what I'm talking about. In the meantime, thanks for sticking with me.Contest Update
I'm not a big superlative guy, but I have to say that this week's Bally contest is shaping up to be THE BEST EVER. Your assignment was to immortalize Stephen Curry by bringing to life one of this site's hottest new memes, the idea that he's three superheroes in one man
. You choose the superheroes, and you apply whatever graphic skillz you have (Photoshop, pen/ink, crayons) to making it real.
There were a number of questions about the actual technical submission part -- this contest isn't done through the text-only form
. Attach your masterwork to an e-mail and send it to bally at midmajority dot com
. Just remember to put an @ and a . in the right places, and it'll get here.
While the quantity of entries is way down (don't worry, stat geeks, we'll have more trivia later), the quality is through the roof. I've never been so proud of my readership as I've been in the last 24 hours, you have made me laugh as well as cry (with laughter). What I didn't ask for or expect was the accompanying essays, which have been truly astoundingly awesome.
So we're taking an unprecedented step. For this contest, there will be two Ballys
given out for the best two entries. They have been so good that I may throw in a third one. Seriously. Deadline, as always, is Friday, and we'll unwrap the Super Stephens next Tuesday.Relativity
Way out west, we've seen a major shift in mid-major power in the past two years. The West Coast Conference, with the leg-up help by premier member Gonzaga, has earned ESPN time and major recruits, and it all paid off in a giant three-bid bonanza last year. Just a few years ago, the WCC was the Gonzaga show and the other two mid conferences, the Big West and WAC, battled it out for western supremacy. So where are they now?
The WAC, a true powerhouse before being Judased by the Mountain West schools before century's end, is now an oddball league that loves its football but treats its hoops like many conferences treat soccer. There's no question that basketball is a secondary sport there, and that's why it's in the BracketBusters and the Mid-Majority. After the airport handshake that sealed the conference's millennial fate, the WAC poached the Big West. Utah State made the move, as did Idaho. Despite that, the BWC broke out with two bids in 2005... the same number as the WAC got that year.
Nowadays, the WAC is a shell of even its 2005 self -- suspensions, NBA Draft defection and massive coaching turnover have stripped it of its trademark consistency. Last year, WAC teams were pummeled by power conferences, and this year they're running scared from them. Neither way worked -- last year's one-bid crash is being followed up by a year in which the conference is hovering around the middle of the RPI scale and winning about half its noncon games. So far, Utah State looks like the class of the league at 6-1.
The Big West is four spots behind the WAC in RPI at No. 19, and is winning 40 percent of its early tilts. And we're nearly complete with the 11-game WAC-Big West Hardwood Series, which the bigger boys are leading 6-3. The Big West has managed a big win at Nevada by Pacific on Nov. 26, as well as a Cal State Fullerton victory at Hawaii and a Long Beach State five-pointer over New Mexico State. The other games have all gone to the WAC -- USU squeaked by UC Santa Barbara in what could be a battle of the two eventual NCAA teams, and beat old BWC pals UC Irvine and Cal Poly earlier. The only two remaining games between the two conferences are next Tuesday (UC Riverside at Hawaii) and the following Monday (Fresno State at Cal Poly), so the WAC has clinched the challenge for the year.
U'useless Stat of the Day
Two weeks ago, we looked at Navy's amazing 71.4 percent shooting performance, which has yet to be topped. Now let's look at the other end of the spectrum.
Last night, before my very eyes, North Florida made only a quarter of its shots from the floor. The Ospreys lost by 40 -- this ain't baseball, and .259 won't keep you in the lineup. But while I was talking to Matt Kilcullen before the game, he reminded me of a game two years ago in which UNF shot 31 percent... and lost by one. Which, of course, got me to thinking... how badly can you shoot and still win a basketball game?
It would appear that the answer is 26.1. That's the percentage that Maryland-Eastern Shore shot on Dec. 6 against snakebit New Jersey Tech, which shot 33 percent but was overwhelmed on the boards by 12. The Hawks made 12 of their 46 shots, and sent the Highlanders to their seventh loss of the year. If anybody has a tape of this game, I'd like a copy so I can dub "Yackety Sax" over it. I don't care how old you are, that song makes anything entertaining.