COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Over the past 20 days or so, the vast majority of my incoming hoops-related mail (and Friday chat questions) have had to do with the mid-major conference selections
that I submitted to the Worldwide Leader the other week. It's great that they get people talking about mid-majors -- even the "you're a genius" responses from picked teams and the "you're an idiot" ones from others -- but I have to say that the mailbag trend is a little bit dismaying, distressing even.
It's something that we all have to do from time to time, but I still don't get the whole expert-sports-prognosticator thing. I understand that this is important time-filling and space-filling content in a 24-hour sports world, but there's way too much of it. You've got ex-coaches and ex-players on TV telling you what's about to happen, crusty writers making their bold predictions based on years upon years of experience, even citizen journalists who have written their own qualifications throwing anonymous (and often poorly-researched) swami-isms out into the digital void.
Picks are cheap, cheaper even than pixels. Anybody can make picks, and anyone does -- it's why "offshore" sports gambling websites are so popular, and why they can afford to send me glossy brochures every week, why they can go hire Playboy models to pose with football helmets and cash-piles for their banner ads. There is nothing special about sports forecasting, and I don't see why it's still a valued skill among sportswriters and TV pundits.
Those in our game who make their primary haystacks on their forecasting abilities are little more than gamblers with writing or public-speaking skills. And there's no accountability -- they still get paid if they're wrong (unlike the poor sap who put money down based on their advice), and if anyone calls them on a bad selection they can easily backpedal ("Well, I hadn't figured on Southern Illinois' ability to shoot the basketball on Sunday"
) or even pull off a daredevil double-hype-misdirection bandwagon-jump ("Well, SIU really impressed me -- next stop, Valley championship!"
I don't think I'm alone in saying this: I'm more interested in delving deeper into what's happening at the moment, and in listening to insight into what occurred just now. I want to understand what it feels like to be there in the heat of battle, what led up to the result, and I want to know what it all means in the big picture. Don't tell me about the same unwritten future, tell me about now... what we've seen so far will have some bearing on what's to come, but the honest truth is that we'll all find out What's Next together.
That's why I love Wonk
(basketball blogdom's version of Hank & Willie), stuff that relies more heavily on the left-most Janus head than the right-hand one -- and it's why I'm ass-backwards flabbergasted that with all the free citizen journalism resources available, nobody
has come along and put together an important college basketball blog in the past two years. I will watch any TV game that Fran Fraschilla calls (even the high-major ones) because he is better than anyone at showing me what I just saw in a whole different way, and can explain intricate plays in two or three sentences. And though it all happened a generation ago, I can still go back and read John Feinstein's "A Season On The Brink" and feel like I'm right there in the thick of the action.
So if you're thinking about cracking the world of big-time sports journalism, slice your crystal ball in half and use it as an elegant soap dish. We already have too many prognosticators, thank you very much -- bring some real description, analysis and insight.Conference Shootaround!HBCU's:
ESPN paid billions of kroners for the rights to bring you and promote Monday Night Football, but around here it's all about Monday Night MEAC
. First-place Delaware State (10-9, 7-0) took down second-place Norfolk State with relative ease, 66-56
, powered by a combined 47 points by the potent Bluntt
combo. The Hornets lead the conference by a solid game and a half, and look to hit the tourney in Raleigh with around as many losses that you can count on one coin. In the Swickity-SWAC
, Mississippi Valley State's 64-54
win over Texas Southern (paced by likely 2007-08 SWAC Preseason POY Standford Speech
) forced a four-way tie at the top. Jackson State and Grambling State, who faced off back on Saturday, are the other two 5-2 teams.
Other delectable mid-major bitez: A Southern
Conference shoutout to my game last night, a 77-64
Elon win at Western Carolina. Neither team figures to compete in the SoCon NorDiv, but put WCU on your list of teams to watch for 2007-08, with a current freshman crop including burly Cincinnati trickle-down Nick Aldridge
. ... High Point (not 5-0 Winthrop!) is the hottest team in the Big South
right now, if you consider things like standings and win streaks and stuff as your arbiters of such things. The Panthers buzzed Coastal Carolina last night in Conway 59-56
to run their record to 6-0 and take their eighth straight win overall. The two conference undefeateds will face off in the ultimate BSC showdown/throwdown at High Point on Thursday... Santa Clara and Saint Mary's are 4-1 (and so is UMPFN
) after wins on Big Monday.Top Five Tuesday!
Wow, that rant sure made me feel like an old fogey. So let's just beat that horse
! Here are five things they should really bring back. And when I say "they," I really mean "The Man."5. T-shirts under the jersey
-- Very rarely these days, you'll see a kid with a full-on cotton Hanes T underneath the jersey, and it takes you back to the days that gas cost twelve bucks a gallon (thanks, Jimmy Carter), and when Lakeside and Skyy ruled the dance charts. But with all this polyester cutoff Under Armour shit, it's a dead fashion statement... and a damn shame. Honorable mention to the Evansville t-shirt uniforms, although they seem to be doing pretty well without them this year.4. Last names under the numbers
-- Remember those Knicks uniforms with the thin letters and numbers, and the surnames on the back right above the waistband? Yeahhh. This is the primary reason why part of me is secretly pulling for Oakland to pull off the Mid-Con championship, they've got 'em. Grizz-oww!3. Warmup suits with your school name on the front in giant block letters
-- Running out onto the floor prior to a contest is the most important 20 seconds of the game experience -- it's an announcement of who you are, where you're from, and what you're all about. Why spoil the moment by wearing some postmodern Nike thing with a 2-inch square school logo as a third nipple? Last week, I saw Arkansas-Pine Bluff hit the hardcourt for a SWAC face-off in gold lamé warmups with the school name on the front in huge black letters. It was one of the most incredible things I've seen so far this year. So what if the team's play didn't back up the fashions? It was awesome.2. The TAAC
-- I understand the need to change with the times, and ditch the old bulky Trans-America Athletic Conference tag. But when it really comes down to it, "Atlantic Sun" sounds like an acoustic-guitar folk duo featuring powerful female vocals. Deep down, you know that's true.1. Doubleheaders
-- Back in the day, you could see two games a night at Madison Square Garden or the Palestra. Now, it takes an act of God just to get the Big 5 (and Drexel) together in one building for one afternoon. And I shed a small man-tear when Big Saturday at MSG died a couple of years ago; even though it was a one-day, four-game festival disguised as an opportunity to see Saint John's destroy some local mid-major, it was a chance to spend the first Saturday of the calendar year at the World's Most Famous Arena, sit in different seats for each game, and catch up on the NEC, MAAC and Patriot League. Bring it back!K-Dub's Krazy Fact of the Day!
Floor percentage! Yes! One of my favorite misnamed yet useful stats, and something I talked a lot about last year heading into the Tournament. Floor% is basically the percentage of offensive possessions that result in scores -- whether that be one, two, three (or more!) points. As you might guess, higher is better.
As expected, most of the top teams in this stat are power-conference squads. Take Florida, for instance, which scores on a nation-leading 58.2% of its possessions, and which is really good at basket-ball. The North Carolina Tar Heels are close behind at 57.8%. They're okay too. But the top mid-major in this category is Akron at No. 14, cashing in on an impressive 54.8% of their chances at the hoop. Three spots behind them are the Aggies of New Mexico State, who of course beat highly-known Nevada last weekend in that WAC "upset." Just think how good they'd be if they trimmed down their 74.0 points allowed per game.
And of course, this information is in no way meant to indicate that the above-listed teams will win their next games, their respective conferences, or reflects their ability to win NCAA Tournament contests; it is merely provided as an indicator on how good these teams do a certain thing. If you are planning to plunk down your car note based on this information, I'm in no way responsible -- blame it on the computer.