Game No. 024 - Dayton at MiamiWednesday, December 2, 2009
OXFORD, Oh. -- Treble does not exist in Millett Hall
; the building is literally made of pure bass. When the public address announcer calls out the name of a player who's scored a basket, you feel the announcement deep in your stomach. Every sound in the building figures out a way to become a dull roar, and every rap song ever recorded sounds great over the speakers. Thump, thump, thump.
It's possible that the building simply missed its true calling as a nightspot. Millett is endlessly dark, deep inky black in every direction, with dark curtains heightening the mystery. When the Miami players are introduced, the dim the lights (more than they already are), and there's a light show that looks more like 2001 Odyssey
than 2009. Overhanging bulbs pulsate and flash, and there are spotlights that illuminate the retired jerseys, one by one. There might even be a smoke machine.
While most of Miami's athletics have entered the 21st Century (and it's definitely a hockey school
now), basketball remains unapologetically in the past, clinging to the old ways
. Their coach is a 67-year-old human battleship
who prefers to keep scores at 1950 levels (that the team lost 65-58 to Dayton on this night was mostly due to that newfangled invention, the 3-point air shot). The scoreboards in the arena still display the old, politically incorrect "Redskins" logo
in four different places.
And the "RedHawks" play their home games in the hottest disco club in Hoops Nation.Game No. 025 - South Dakota State at IUPUIThursday, December 3, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jungles are primarily defined by their wide open spaces. So nicknaming a gymnasium with one of the lowest seating capacities in Division I (1,215) "The Jungle" is an abstract joke, the kind I like. In the jungle, it's eat or be eaten, and you always have to sleep with one eye open. (Indeed, the real meaning of this song
is that the lion's going to wake up eventually, so sing and dance while you can.) In The Jungle, however, the one 10 miles from our world headquarters
, your predators can easily find you whenever they want.
The beginning of this Badlands Conference opener for both teams was about as close to jungle action as you can get, though. There wasn't a single dead ball for seven minutes, and the Jaguars jumped out to a 17-9 lead on the visiting Jackrabbits (who are, very definitely, not scary
). No substitutions, no fouls, no free throws, no mercy. Both teams, jungle cats and prairie bunnies alike, were completely gassed from chasing each other around, grabbing at their shorts, eyes bulging, sweat pouring.
College basketball law is different than the unwritten rules of nature; there are no media time outs in the wild. Because the first clock stoppage of this game was well past the 16-minute mark, there was finally a "media" right before 12 minutes to go, and another one on the next dead ball. This gave the players plenty of time to gather their breath, and to sit on the bench if they needed to. For those on the IUPUI side, it was simply a chance to sharpen their virtual teeth, and they went on to a 79-57 blowout victory. Jaguars eat jackrabbits; a-wimoweh.Game No. 026 - Valparaiso at ButlerSaturday, December 5, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS -- There will be plenty of time to dissect the reasons why Butler is not living up to its potential, why 10-minute efforts and poor perimeter defense are absolutely killing their chances at an at-large bid. The Bulldogs did everything they needed to do (and not an iota more) to extract Valparaiso from the premises in an 84-67 Saturday spank. With that taken care of, we can discuss what happened at halftime.
Nothing in this world is better than mascots playing basketball, and nothing brings people more joy. You can look it up, it's been scientifically proven. Even when it's two on two, mascot hoops is better than a million Zolofts. At Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, four mascots entered the arena, two left utterly broken and humiliated, and hundreds of kids' lives were changed for the better.
The action was overseen by an inflatable referee from a ten-dollar haircut store. The game itself pitted Hink the Butler Bulldog and Big-E-Foot the Indiana Ice mascot against two cows. Now, I've seen my share of guarantee games and I've watched teams from the SoCon destroy NAIA squads by upwards of 100 points. I've never seen basketball destruction like this, sports fans. During the five-minute game, Hink and Big-E-Foot had possession of the ball for at least 4:40. Whenever the other team had it, Bulldog and Thing just take it from them. The cows, shills for a chicken restaurant and a convenience store, couldn't hold the ball in their hooves, and had trouble keeping their costumes together. You can't dribble or shoot when you're using one limb to keep your head on.
This was as close to murder on the basketball court as I've ever seen. I wanted to call the cops from the press row phone.
When this website is gone -- and it might be, soon -- I want you to remember something, and keep it in your heart always. Push aside anything that I may have presented as wisdom, forget all the 3,000-word essays, replace it all with these four simple words: cows suck at basketball. Game No. 027 - Tulane at Western KentuckySunday, December 6, 2009
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- The Hilltoppers beat Tulane of Conference USA on a bright and cold Sunday afternoon, but Western Kentucky will hear nothing of this Red Line business. The program has won three NCAA games in the last three years, has presumably outgrown the Sun Belt, and has now risen to the Bowl Superdivision of collegiate American-Style Football. They demand that you call them WKU, like UCLA or USC or UAB. Uttering the word "mid-major" within the city limits will get you a citation and a $25 fine, and that's just for the first offense. Even mention of the name
Whelliston will get your thread deleted over on their message boards.
I admire that pride, and I wish more schools put on a little swagger like that. I love that spirit, because spirit really does make the master. And because I've spent considerable time in Bowling Green over the past five years, I know a lot of this is an act. Deep down, every Hilltopper is proud of having done more with less -- which is the goal of every school below the Red Line. (And every Hilltopper knows that the football thing isn't really working out very well.
As I left Diddle Arena in the late afternoon, I walked past Smith Stadium. I hadn't been by in two years, and this was my first time seeing all the new renovations to make the place FBS-ready. There's a huge new video scorebaord. Where once there was an open space on one side, there is now a beautiful seating area with private boxes and padded seats
. These upgrades, and a new field, necessitated removal of the track I used to get my five-mile runs in on, back when I was staying in BG for weeks at a time.
But on the other side of the field, there's still the old Smith Stadium seating area (old picture)
, slightly facelifted but generally untouched. Old concrete with letters spelling HILLTOPPERS across the sections, a reminder of the old days and the old ways. The contrast between the two sides, to me, represents the odd duality and dichotomy in the Hilltopper soul. The program is struggling and striving to leave us behind, but to paraphrase Ben Folds, their Red Line past keeps nipping at their heels.Choice Bally Pic of the Moment:
Most Bally pics are head-on, but he's very much a three-dimensional creature, as shown by this postgame shot at WKU.
Or, that could be seen as a Bally with no mouth -- speechless. The pink streamer on the side is from a pop-canister that the Diddle staff uncork whenever the Hilltoppers win. And they win a lot, so they've got the whole postgame routine down cold.Kyle's Basketball Travel Tip:
If you're like me, and by that I mean a male man, you know that the most awkward thing in your travel toiletry bag is the shaving cream. If you're trying to pack light, you can't take the whole big canister, and the "travel size" ones are only about half the size, and they break easily. One trip in the airplane cargo hold, and they're usually blowing air.
But I've discovered that a few leading national brands are rolling out "non-foaming fomula" shave cream in a tube, which is great. You can get one of these things for three or four bucks, then squeeze some of it into a 99-cent plastic bottle or an empty hotel shampoo container. It's a great way to reduce clutter in your baggage, and keep from looking like an unkempt wildman. Toiletry hacks!