Game #9-036: Alcorn State at Missouri TigersNovember 13, 2012 8:00 pm
This was not the first basketball game I watched on Tuesday. It was the tenth. After the conclusion of -- prepare yourself -- West Virginia/Gonzaga, Davidson/New Mexico, Houston Baptist/Hawaii, Stony Brook/Rider, Northern Illinois/Valparaiso, Harvard/Massachusetts, Temple/Kent State, Detroit/St. John's and Butler/Xavier, I made the short trip to Mizzou Arena to watch Alcorn State of the SWAC sacrifice a blowout loss in exchange for thousands of dollars from MU's athletic department.
I specifically cleared my schedule for Nov. 13 in anticipation of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. Senior-year college classes were skipped. Work shifts were switched. In a world of war, mass chaos and the useless concept of daylight savings time, a full day of consecutive college basketball games is pretty much the only thing that keeps me sane. I wasn't fully conscious during the Houston Baptist/Hawaii game, but by 7 p.m. I was awake enough to prop myself up at the top row of Mizzou Arena and focus on the game in front of me.
It proceeded as usual. After realizing they were in fact playing against a Division I basketball team and would need to actually, you know, play the game, the Tigers blew open a narrow first-half lead and turned it into a 91-54 romping. Missouri inflated its schedule and earned revenue from the 8,000 fans willing to buy tickets and concessions during that embarrassment. Alcorn State can now probably pay for that new practice gym with the check it's ripping MU off for. Everybody's happy.
Except me. To an extent. Sure, the 91-54 blowout kept me satisfied, especially since it represented the 10th-straight college basketball game I had watched in a row. That alone means it was not only a good day, but probably the best day of the year outside of the month of March. Except something was bugging me.
I had to figure out why in the world I had just skipped class and work to watch a bunch of kids my age throw a ball in a hoop.
That question can apply to any sport, but what about college basketball specifically captivates us? Why can ESPN slap together a 24-hour marathon for six straight seasons and continue to earn high ratings, even though the two best games occurred when New Mexico staged a comeback in the middle of the night and UMass made a buzzer-beater before everybody's lunch break started?
Since Tuesday, The Marathon got me thinking. I think I have my answer now to that pesky question-- Why do we spend so much damn time on this stuff?
There's an easy answer on the surface. You've heard writers talk about it before: College basketball is so personal, so up-close, so in-your-face. You can see the reactions on players' faces. You can feel the emotion in the building. And, obviously, that's all true, and those are some of the reasons we love college basketball so much.
I love college basketball for many more reasons, though. I'll list them below-- and be warned, not all of them are really deep and poetic.1) The games are short:
I'm actually not kidding. The literal length of games is one of the reasons I love college basketball. Try to name another major sport that lasts only two hours on average. You can't. The fact that you can watch 10 basketball games in one entire day is a testament to the efficiency of this sport.2) Everybody has a story:
The vast world of Division I basketball fascinates me, as I'm sure it fascinates all of you, too. That's why you're here at The Mid-Majority. College football has this aspect as well, but not nearly to the same extent. When you're talking about 300+ Division I basketball teams, you're talking about thousands and thousands of coaches, players, trainers, fans, etc. that have a story to tell. Every conference, from the Missouri Valley to the Southland Conference to the MAC, has its own little niche and rabid group of fan bases. Somewhere this winter, an Alcorn State/Southern game is the most important thing in the world to a very small group of people. And because it's important to somebody, it's important to me, too.3) It takes place in the winter:
God I love the winter.4) No other sport can touch a dramatic game-ending play or buzzer beater:
The drama in the final seconds of a college basketball game is unparalleled. Sometimes there are cool game-winning field goals in football or walk-off home runs in baseball. Still not as cool.5) The coaches:
I could spend eight years dissecting the coaching trees in college basketball. This guy used to work for this guy and coach against that guy. This guy out-recruited this guy for this player and then got fired and now hired this guy as an assistant. This guy was cheating and then the other guy was cheating, too, and then all the cheaters got fired and now they work as analysts for the networks. Everybody knows each other. It's unbelievable.6) Because it's freaking awesome:
It just is. And that, people, is the absolute best answer I can give you. I love college basketball because it's just freaking awesome. I can't actually explain in words why, as I'm typing this, I see that Murray State leads Auburn 47-19 early in the second half of a tournament game in Charleston and I nearly suffered a stroke out of excitement. Hardly anybody cares that Murray State leads Auburn 47-19, but I just think that's the funniest thing in the world. Here's an SEC team that thinks it's going to improve, against a team that lost two games last season but still can't find its way onto the national radar, and they're playing on a neutral floor and the kids from the OVC are just flat-out balling. That's freaking awesome. There's just something about this game that I love more than almost anybody else I know. There are very few people who understand why I'm actually giddy about the prospect of watching the South Padre Island Invitational on Fox College Sports this November. It's because college basketball is, as we say, Our Game. It's a complete niche, and I love that about it. It's not something that's just accessible to everyone. March Madness is, but not everybody can appreciate the intricacies of this sport in, say, November and December. They don't know why this other game I see on the scoreboard tonight between Illinois State and Drexel is actually really, really important. But we do. We love it, and that's what matters.
I sound like a hipster. I like something because nobody else does.
In a way, I guess we're all hipsters.at MISSOURI 91, ALCORN STATE 54
ALCORN STATE 1-1 (0-0) -- L. Luckett 4-18 5-8 14; A. Nieves 5-10 3-4 13; S. Raquil 0-3 0-0 0; A. Evans 3-10 2-4 11; I. Francis 2-5 0-0 4; M. Starks 2-3 0-2 4; D. Hampton 0-2 0-0 0; M. Sanders 0-1 0-0 0; J. Nicholas 0-0 0-0 0; T. Hunt 1-5 0-0 2; J. Hester 2-5 2-2 6. Totals 19-62 12-20 54.
MISSOURI 2-0 (0-0) -- N. Webster-Chan 1-8 2-4 5; P. Pressey 6-15 7-9 21; E. Ross 7-8 2-4 17; L. Bowers 5-10 1-2 14; S. Jankovic 2-6 4-4 8; A. Oriakhi 1-5 10-13 12; K. Bell 2-7 2-2 7; T. Criswell 2-7 2-4 6; R. Rosburg 0-1 1-2 1; D. Bull 0-0 0-0 0; D. Feldmann 0-0 0-0 0; C. Haith 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-68 31-44 91.
Three-point goals: ALC 4-12 (A. Evans 3-8; D. Hampton 0-1; L. Luckett 1-3), MIZZ 8-22 (K. Bell 1-1; L. Bowers 3-4; E. Ross 1-2; P. Pressey 2-8; C. Haith 0-1; N. Webster-Chan 1-4; S. Jankovic 0-2); Rebounds: ALC 33 (A. Evans 5), MIZZ 54 (N. Webster-Chan 11); Assists: ALC 7 (A. Nieves 3), MIZZ 11 (S. Jankovic 4); Total Fouls -- ALC 29, MIZZ 18; Fouled Out: ALC-M. Starks; MIZZ-None.