I felt like I ought to write in about the end of the 100GP, since I have to admit I felt a pretty big sense of disappointment (though not surprise) when you said it wasn't going to happen in the future...I think the road is an important part of the site.
In general, I think a good outcome would be fuller mid-major arenas and more fans whose appreciation of the game isn't warped by ESPN/sportz and all that. My premise is that there are lots of basketball fans around the country who don't realize the fun that is in their backyard, and of course alums of midmajor schools who could connect with their alma maters in a way that would be more rewarding for them if they viewed following the team as a valid option. So, I suppose, the question is, how do you reach and persuade those people?
I think the 100GP/road aspect to the site was/is effective at this because (1) good storytelling can give us the idea and the impetus to see things for ourselves; (2) lots of people have pride of place, even if they don't identify with a particular school, and having somebody from the outside come to our town and care/try to understand us appeals to that; and (3) road trips are classically American, of course. I think secondarily, to people who are already basketball fans, it's good to have someone with a national perspective watch your team, since of course it's so hard for the team to schedule/travel to play a wide swath of available D1 teams.
I've seen a lot of really good basketball games and players. And, to me, those experiences are worth way more than any stuff I could have bought or many other ways I could've spent that time. So. I suppose the obvious question is whether/how the 100GP can be replaced. I don't think Robots are going to do the trick, I've got to say, but I could be wrong. I will say that I've had some message board experiences that make me think crowdsourcing of some kind could work (the 1000GP?)...
Anyway... the "how" is not clear to me - moderated posting, curated posts; you've probably thought of many more of these things than I have. But the germ of the "what" I've seen in the response to the pixelvision liveblogging, the stories you've gotten in response to the contests, etc. You see a lot more than I do of course, so maybe what I'm saying seems totally unrealistic in that context, and the vast majority of people are way more interested in just consuming than in participating. But I do know that if there were a formal-ish, copy-edited-ish place to read and contribute game accounts in the spirit of TMM, I'd be there.
-- Jen A.
CHICAGO -- Right now, while we're just starting in on another conference season, is as good a time to talk about the future as any other time, and since there won't be much breathing room to discuss anything but the present two months from now, it may be the best time. That is the obvious question -- what's going to happen to this site when I stop traveling. Robots are the future, and they've increasingly become part of the site's present, but people don't like to talk to Robots that much. The deeper question is related to how to maintain some sense of flesh and heart when I go off and resume my life as a normal human being.
This isn't an exercise in navel-gazing, and can't be because there are so many people wrapped up and emotionally invested in what goes on here. Perhaps Jen has answered the core questions: maybe the next generation of The Mid-Majority, from Season 8 on, is a collection of group-written documents, everywhere at once. Perhaps we can put together an 800 Game Project, and then the next season a 900 Game Project. I could go from cameraman to curator, and act as DJ, posting periodic philosophy, drawing more Bally cartoons, and even adding a few game reports myself. We can figure out rules, regulations and a rewards system later.
So let's try that. Can we actually do this? If you're at a game during these next couple of months, send in a few hundred words (please, not thousands) through The Form™. I'll post the best ones as we go along. We can use the rest of Season 7 as a dry run, to, to find the kind of tone and style that best fits a new format. Personally, I think that any crowdsourced game reports should not include anything that one might find in an AP story or student newspaper article, and no faux-expert color commentary from the next breakout SportzCenter personality. Focus on things like interesting players and coaches, time out contests, cheerleaders, halftime entertainment, bands, concession food -- the feeling of being at games, with enough context to hook readers and make them want to go themselves. Most of all, these should not and never be boring.
But most-most of all, they should be accounts told from a first-person perspective. Listen:
Hey Kyle, I'm a fan of the site. Like you, I went to a "major" school. Distance and cost didn't allow me to get season tickets to my alma mater, so I focused on Milwaukee, where I've been accepted very nicely. I am still a huge fan of my alma mater, and mostly I would prefer to see them win in a matchup of the two, but I noticed something last night. Having been to a Final Four, rushed the floor for numerous conference titles, and generally seen some awesome basketball from my alma mater, the only team whose wins I've ever been brought to tears with was Milwaukee.
Last night was one of those nights.
At the mid-major level, there are no perfect teams. My alma mater, given the right circumstance, could potentially assemble a perfect team. But at Milwaukee, a perfect team is out of the question. The thing that brought me to tears is that even though Milwaukee doesn't have the perfect team, they can, for occasional stretches, put together the perfect half, even the perfect game. Last night they had the perfect game, and I was so happy for them. Thanks for all of your hard work, and here's hoping you get to see a perfect game soon.
-- Brian B.
America East: First thing: Twitter has to figure out as a collective whether the correct hashtag is #AmericaEastMadness or #AEMadness. Once that's settled, we can roar properly into the new season in Ye Olde Cats and Dogs Conference. In a matchup of the two teams that should have faced off for the autobid last season (based on regular season play), the title-holders from Vermont (9-3, 1-0 A-EAST) edged out in front at the beginning of the fourth quarter and held off battered and injury-scarred Stony Brook (5-7, 0-1), 55-49 out on Long Island. All this despite shooting 1-for-13 from three and generally slogging it up. Meanwhile, tourney runnerups Boston University defended the Roof, and the Terriers rode 20 points from 6-foot-5 senior John Holland to take out the UNH Wildcats 61-54 to move to 1-1. Meow. Woof.
Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa (10-5, 1-2) is in the Valley's win(!) column after a 65-53 glassalicious pounding of Evansville last night. But your current 3-0 leaders are rising power Wichita State and senior-laden Missouri State. Five Shockers scored in double-figures and WSU won by 19 over Drake at the Roundhouse, but didn't really hit stride until a messy first half was complete. MSU had a breakout second half as well, overcoming a nine-point halftime deficit to push Creighton from the small ranks of the league-unbeatens. A week from now, there will no longer be multiple X-0 teams in the Valley, as the Shockers and Bears will meet in Wichita on Sunday night.
Tulsa at Texas-El Paso (Conference USA) Special Events Center - El Paso, TX 9:05 EST
As noted numerous times in our 360 linkaround, tonight is the opening night of play in the 2011 Conference USA regular season. This is of particular interest to us because it is our first (and perhaps only) year of having C-USA below the Red Line, and we're going to enjoy watching the race unfold and learn new things about a new league. But then again, most of the members are old familiar teams that joined up from the old familiar ranks in hopes of higher profiles and greater status. Unfortunately for them, they just ended up in limbo between the "haves" and "have-nots," have barely suitable received national recognition, and have spent the last few years getting pummeled by Memphis.
Why, it wasn't no more than six years ago when we examined a matchup between these two teams when both were members of the WAC. Both moved up and out after Season 1 in the summer of 2005. Both had their struggles adjusting to the league, but UTEP has had a little more success coping in C-USA. The Miners have made some sort of national postseason the last three years, and won the league regular season title in 2010 before ending the campaign on a two-game losing streak: loss to Houston in the title game, and an 18-point loss to Shelvin Mack and Butler in the first round as a 12th-seeded at-large. This year, with new-to-them super-journeyman head coach Tim Floyd, UTEP is 12-3 and is in the top 30 nationally in shooting and field-goal defense. They've got three double-figure scoring seniors, including Randy Culpepper, who's averaging 18.3 ppg (third among C-USA players).
Tulsa's mid-major legacy runs almost as deep and far as the former Glory Roaders from Texas Western. Up until 1996, the Golden Hurricane was blowing Missouri Valley teams around, and represented that league three straight times (including consecutive Sweet Sixteens in 1994 and 1995) before leaving. They haven't seen the NCAA's since 2003 -- the WAC days -- but have put together four straight 20-win seasons that were mostly based on slightly weaker non-conference schedules. This time around, sixth-year bench boss Doug Wojcik's squad is 7-6 and overwhelmingly reliant on the talents of flashy senior guard Justin Hurtt. The Raytown, Missouri native is the 13th highest points-per-gamer in Division I with 21.8, and is responsible for 30 percent of Tulsa's scoring output. Sophomore guard Scottie Haralson and junior big man Steven Idlet chip in 17 percent each. So there's not much of a bench.