As part of my (self-imposed) duties as custodian of the @800gp Twitter feed, I occasionally search some of the common terms that TMM readers out there might be using in tweets. One of the terms I search is "midmajority," and so as you can imagine, I see a lot of the tweets directed at Kyle. I'm not sure why, but I was surprised at the percentage of these tweets that, even here in Season 8, are some variation on "That's not an upset!" or "Why is [Team X] [above] [below] the Red Line?" or "When will a win over [bad major conference team] not be counted as an upset anymore?" Whenever I see these, I think "well, that must be irritating."
The fundamental weakness of arguments like these is -- and always has been -- related to context. The fortunes of programs and leagues rise and fall, bid numbers and win totals go up and down. The more time you spend around college basketball, the more you notice patterns that unfold over time. ... Talented coaches always seem to move from small conferences to big ones, and their former employers keep struggling to maintain program consistency and clear basketball identities.
And finally, you realize that this is really about money.
It's pretty much impossible not to give some thought to this when you walk into the Charles E. Smith Center on George Washington's campus in D.C., as I did last week for their game against UAB. First, as others here have toldyou, the Charles E. Smith Center is beautiful. It's beautiful in a shiny-and-new kind of way, not in an appealingly-old-school kind of way. There is no shabby chic here.
Then, when the lineups were announced, I thought about it again. My husband said "Hey, that's what happened to Mike Davis!" when the PA announcer named the former Indiana University coach, now at UAB. So the team from below the Red Line has a fancy arena, and the team from above the Red Line has the coach who couldn't quite make it happen in a BCS league.
A quick look at BBState confirmed what I suspected -- although the two teams in this game were on opposite sides of the Red Line, in some respects they weren't very far apart. In 2010, UAB reported approximately $2.8 million in men's basketball expenses; in that same year, GWU reported just over $2.7 million. In the numerical rank of all D-I schools that reported these numbers, UAB is 99th and GW is 102nd. Of course, UAB plays in Conference USA, and GW plays in the Atlantic 10, so by operation of the 20/2 rule, UAB is above the Red Line and GW is below.
At first, GW played like a team significantly overmatched: they didn't break into double digits in the "points scored" category until fewer than three minutes remained in the first half. In the second half, they made their way back into the game, and trailed by no more than two possessions for the last five minutes. Ultimately, they weren't able to take the lead, and UAB won 56-49.
To those of us who've watched enough college basketball, the numbers in the preceding paragraph are more than just random facts because we have context for them. When I tell you that GW didn't hit double digits until after the 3:00 mark in the first half, you can likely imagine pretty accurately what happened in the game up until that point. Missed shots, turnovers, some bad fouls committed. In a way, it's shorthand. When I say GW trailed by no more than two possessions in the last five minutes, you know that means they were only a few good plays or fortunate bounces away from leading, and possibly winning, the game. That the game "felt close."
As a college basketball fan, though, it's a lot more difficult to have a sense of context for the monetary side of things. How much does it cost an entire team to take a bus to a game one state over? How much do teams spend on video, medical care, facilities maintenance in a season? That's not something we fans will probably ever see broken down in detail. The Red Line gives us context.
If GW had won the game, probably no one on Twitter would've complained that it was called an RLU, even though that complaint would've arguably been more legitimate than, say, snarking about Harvard ($787,352) over Utah ($3.1M). It's hard to imagine how the money angle will ever make it into the casual fan's context - too many people have an incentive to downplay that aspect of the game. But at least we have the Red Line.
UAB 56, at GEORGE WASHINGTON 49 12/28/2011
UAB 4-7 (0-0) -- C. Moore 8-12 3-8 19; P. Purifoy 4-7 0-0 11; Q. Taylor 1-4 0-0 2; J. Swing 2-7 8-8 13; R. Williams 1-2 0-0 2; O. Soko 1-2 1-2 3; K. Whitaker 2-3 0-0 6; J. Tyler 0-3 0-0 0; A. Scotland-Williamson 0-0 0-0 0; H. Harrison 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-40 12-18 56. GEORGE WASHINGTON 4-8 (0-0) -- T. Taylor 4-15 2-2 10; L. Kromah 6-18 2-4 15; N. Mikic 4-8 5-8 13; D. Pellom 4-6 1-2 9; J. Edwards 0-1 0-2 0; A. Ware 1-3 0-0 2; J. Kopriva 0-2 0-0 0; D. Smith 0-2 0-0 0; D. Guest 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-55 10-18 49.
Three-point goals: UAB 6-16 (R. Williams 0-1; J. Swing 1-4; P. Purifoy 3-6; Q. Taylor 0-1; J. Tyler 0-1; K. Whitaker 2-3), GW 1-9 (T. Taylor 0-2; L. Kromah 1-4; N. Mikic 0-3); Rebounds: UAB 37 (C. Moore 24), GW 22 (N. Mikic 7); Assists: UAB 12 (O. Soko 3), GW 9 (L. Kromah 5); Total Fouls -- UAB 19, GW 15; Fouled Out: UAB-O. Soko; GW-None.