CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The end of the holiday season means the end of holiday music, and thank gosh for that. The world doesn't need another imaginative reinterpretation of Irving Berlin (much less a hip-hop one), and I've long held that the sound of recorded sleigh bells sounds just like fingernails against a chalkboard -- sped up. Even the Official Wife, who swears up and down every December 1st that my grumpy grouchiness will never dim her Christmas spirit, is pretty sick of holiday music by December 20 and is back to her 1990's playlist.
Folks like me (and most probably you), we're just happy that conference season is starting, we're glad that we can track league races instead of the steadily dwindling percentage of mid-major upsets. Doubly pleased that the games will be played with no dance teams in Santa hats, and most importantly, no no no holiday music on the P.A. system. I spend enough time in truck stops that I get that stuff full-blast all through December, and I've compiled a short "good riddance" list to the music that will be taken out of rotation for the next 11 months.
"Santa Baby" (most specifically the Madonna version)
"Hey Santa" by Wilson Phillips
Anything from Elvis' late-career, mailed-in Christmas albums
Mannheim Flippin' Steamroller
That Paul McCartney song that starts with "boop-boop-boop-boop... woop-woop-woop-woop..."
"Bing Crosby & David Bowie's passive-aggressive Christmas"
The Il Divo Christmas Collection (I or II)
The Rod Stewart-Dolly Parton version of "Baby It's Cold Outside" - creepy)
Are there any holiday songs you're glad that you won't have to hear until Thanksgiving 2008? You know how to get in touch. Sorry, no Bally given to the best response this time. The last few preseason tournaments.
An old buddy from Chattanooga e-mailed me late last night to see if I was coming to the Dr. Pepper Classic this weekend. Great tourney, great location, but it's Valley season and I can't be bothered. But it did prompt me to look at the schedule and see what's left in these final four days of 2007 in terms of two-round events.
After seven weeks of four-team events littered with horrible matchups and wide margins between team talent levels, we have some very decent fields this weekend. That Chattanooga tournament is indeed pretty intriguing: you have two mid-major NCAA teams in Belmont and Wright State, and the so-called "preselected patsy" that the homestanding Mocs will play in the first round is the 5-4 (2-2 OVC) Murray State Racers, who have shown a lot of fight this season as a slow-down, grind-it-out team that shoots well. Chattanooga might have its hands full with that matchup tomorrow
Then there's the event that pretty much started it all, the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden. You have two postseason teams there, with Virginia Tech and the MAAC's NIT first-round winners Marist. Hofstra's had a tough season at 2-6, but if the Pride ends up facing host St. John's in the second round that could help turn their season around. Hofstra always seems to be beating St. John's.
But we'll be keeping an eye out for results from the Flint Hills Islander Invitational, where the weather is definitely better than here. Host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's extremely slow start has dimmed the luster of this field a bit, but there are two potential postseason teams in this mix with 8-2 Georgia Southern of the SoCon, one of the best slow-down defensive teams in that league, and speedy poll favorite Rhode Island. A potential second-round matchup there would be super-intriguing, and would provide twin tests in tempo dictation before the conference season starts. Western Carolina.
Last night, the Catamounts beat Division I newcomer Presbyterian 60-57
. We mention this for two reasons: a.) it was a slow night, and b.) it's a program we've been meaning to talk about for a while, but could just never find the right excuse.
Culhowhee, N.C. is a lovely little town, nestled into the mountains of -- you guessed it -- Western Carolina. The Ramsey Center is a remarkably upscale building that's seen a lot of history. It's where the first 3-pointer in college history was made (Ronnie Carr!), and when Kansas stopped by in 1987, the Jayhawks wore ghastly yellow uniforms that they ditched after WCU gave them a five-point near-upset scare (the Rock-Chalks won the national title that year, remember?). It's also home of the annual Beach Night, with a limbo contest, a "pasty legs" contest and cheerleaders in tank-tops and short-shorts.
It's also the home of a 4-7 basketball team, one that might have been better if not for the loss of sophomore Nick Alrdridge
, who just may have been the best player the Catamounts have had since Carr. Aldridge was a top recruit who picked Culhowhee over his local Cincinnati Bearcats because he wanted to play in a small town, and would have been the SoCon freshman of the year in 2006-07 if not for a guy named Curry
. But after an incident during practice before an Elon game last month, Aldridge was disciplined and subsequently quit the team.
Shame for all involved, except for Aldridge, who will likely be appearing at a power-conference school near you next season (West Virginia seems to be the most likely candidate). The remaining Catamounts have muddled around looking for direction, have emerged as one of the worst-shooting teams in the nation, and is a virtual lock for another losing season, something they haven't escaped since 1996-97. At least we'll have Beach Night.
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