PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Calendar years. Every 12 months, it's a different one. Crazy stuff, that. But aside from the numbers, here's the only real difference between this basketball season and last season. Last season, ESPN's non-Andy Katz blog was telling you all about how great all these mid-major upsets were for basketball in general, and how parity makes our great game even better. This year, notsomuch.
But hey, I never played the game. What do I know?
And this is all true
, I had no idea about the American-style football game last Saturday, what it meant, or why people care so much about something involving Ohio and Michigan that isn't a Kent State-Western Michigan MAC basketball game. And now that it's over, I can't really say that it's impacted my life all that much. Then again, I pay as much attention to college football as you do to college field hockey. Anyway:
Top Five Tuesday!
The Royal We has got to admit it, We're so excited that We just can't hide it, and We're obsessed with the Virginia Military Institute. We think you should be too. Enough, perhaps, to join Us on Our pilgrimage to the academy on December 11 for its game against South Carolina State. By that time, We will have gorged out on Thanksgiving Dinner and will be large enough to contain multitudes.
You can't spell a lot of words without VMI... victim and vomit for instance, and now add the Spanglish word-hack vamonition! to the list. The nation's fastest team was at it again last night, pushing 100 possessions on its way to a 144-127 win over something non-D1 called Southern Virginia. Uptempo basketball is everywhere, in places like Campbell, where the Fighting Camels beat recent NCAA participant North Carolina-Wilmington 100-94 an evening ago in front of a packed house.
So all this speedy stuff got Us thinking. What are the top five insanely up-tempo teams of, like, ever?
5. Wisconsin-Milwaukee - There have been faster teams, sure, but it's hard to find a squad that used speed as a weapon more effectively. Bruce Pearl's 2004-05 run-and-gun Panthers won 26 games and literally ran two power-conference squads off the floor on their way to the Sweet 16. And I do sincerely mean ran Alabama and Boston College off the floor: if there was a stat that measured the number of times a sweat-drenched opposing player grabbed their knees and bent over, UWM would be right up there. Seriously, go back and watch the tapes.
4. Redlands - The 2004-05 edition of the D3 Bulldogs holds the all-time NCAA record for offense by averaging 132 points per contest. Nobody plays more than 20 minutes, and it's all about fresh bodies, three pointers and pressure D. Two years ago Gary Smith is a disciple of David Arsenault, head coach of...
3. Grinnell - A couple of years ago, ESPN put this former Missouri Valley Conference school on in a game vs. Beloit College, despite its current D3 status. The promos promised offense - like 112 points per game offense, the kind that led all divisions in scoring for over a decade running - and five-at-a-time substitutions that would wear out the pad in front of the scorer's table. Arseneault was hailed as some kind of genius who held the key to a new, futuristic brand of basketball that could someday be exported to other planets.
If I remember correctly, that TV game exposed the fatal flaw in Grinnell's system: if you don't force a turnover on the first or second pass, the other team gets an uncontested layup. They underperformed to the extent that the announcers were apologizing for them, then lost the game, and suddenly were no longer cool.
2. Southern - Back in the early 90's, coach Ben Jobe gave his team eight seconds to shoot the ball, and if you didn't do what he said you'd get some extended pine time. This style led to the SWAC's greatest-ever Tournament moment (or perhaps, if you're cruel enough, its only Tournament moment) with a 1993 13-over-4 job on Georgia Tech.
1. Loyola Marymount - Since the gap between 16's and 1's is closing, LMU's record of 149 points in a tournament game (against Michigan in 1990) will probably stand forever. Probably remembered most for Hank Gathers, who ran and ran and then died like the real hoops heroes do, with his sneaks on. Whose house? Hank's house.
And I know that squirting tears at that moment when Bo Kimble shot the free-throw left-handed on TV to honor his fallen teammate was one of those things that it's really hard to explain to girls (my wife, anyway), but damn if you aren't a soulless, fleshless cyber-bot if you didn't feel that when you saw it.
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