PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- I never meant this to be Philosophy Week, and I apologize for all the thoughtful treatises on insignificance I've spilled recently. I'm going to blame it on jet lag, and leave it at that.
I've made a key decision, and I post it here for you now primarily to point to it later once certain people ask, "why come?" Until further and distant notice, I will not be accepting any interviews, "spots" or "bits" on the radio, whether it be "The Kahuna in the Morning Show," "Power 1750," "The SportsMonster," or any of that. (If it's ESPN Radio, well... my hands are sorta tied there.) Halftime chats at games, student-run podcasts, all of that's fine, I don't have any problems with those. But from now on, I am boycotting your sports talk radio show.
I've covered the topic of sports talk radio here before, how it plays to every single sports-culture community sensibility that our website has tried to fight against for years now. And now that "blogs" have stolen radio's immediacy and thunder, talk has felt the general need to become more sensationalistic, ridiculous and over-the-top in order to compete for attention. Radio will lose, because you can't say "fuck" without getting fined thousands of dollars. You can do that on a blog, no big.
Being part of a part of the problem has been (for the most part) an exercise in depression, being asked to fill a few minutes between commercials. The questions are always the same exact questions: Is there parity in college basketball? Who do you think will make the Final Four? What's a mid-major? Is [local team] a mid-major? Waiiit a second, I think we're big time, and here's why! Blah, blah, blah.
And there have been the out-and-out disasters, like the time I was brought on the "JV and Elvis" show the Monday after Selection Sunday 2006. Instead of asking me about Billy Packer's negative comments about the Missouri Valley Conference, like everyone else was that morning, I was asked if then-Iona head coach Jeff Ruland "liked it in the rear" and if I ever had sex with Saddam Hussein. Probably the most uncomfortable five minutes of my life. I mean, how would you answer those questions? (Side note: I was overjoyed when this happened a year later.)
But my favorite longstanding radio gig was with Dark Star, the late-night host on Minneapolis' WCCO. Growing up a diehard Twins fan, back when the Twins were on WCCO, I could pick up the broadcasts on the East Coast. On summer nights, I'd put the radio under my pillow and if I fell asleep in the late innings, Dark's gravelly voice would always wake me up with his late-night talk show. It was such a thrill when I started talking to a guy I'd grown up listening to, finding out he knew more about college basketball than 99 percent of the population. For the past couple of years, I'd go on with Dark late at night and we'd talk an hour at a time about the Southland Conference, about horrible referees, or what the Missouri Valley was like back when Tulsa was there.
But the only problem is that Minnesota is one of the two states in the union without a school south of The Red Line. It's not like I'm going to talk about the Gophers or anything. So I doubt that anybody from Minnesota, other than Dark himself, reads my stuff or even knows who I am. I might as well be talking to some station in Belgium about arena football.
So I'm sorry, folks, but radio doesn't do anything for me. It doesn't drive any traffic here, it doesn't sell any Basketball State subscriptions, and nobody has ever come up to me and said, "Hey, I heard you on the Bigmouth Badass Billy Show the other day." It's disruptive to my process on the road, having to make sure I'm around a land line at certain times (and since I hardly ever stay in hotels, that's a problem). My presence doesn't do much of anything except allow a radio host to say "ESPN.com" on the air multiple times.
So goodbye, radio... farewell for now. A tribute.
Holy Cross. In front of a sparse midweek crowd at the Hart Center, the Crusaders lost their fourth straight Patriot League game, allowing Navy to win in the series for the first time since 2000. The final was 85-74, which was a big thrill for The Official Wife™. (Full disclosure: we're a Navy family, and I'm not why.)
This is, quite simply, the worst defensive Holy Cross team I've seen since I moved back east a decade ago. Even a year ago, no opposing team would be able to have two guards combine for 11 3's and 57 points, because the Cross would lock them down and get hands in their faces -- didn't happen, a lot of those shots were wide-open looks. Most frustrating of all, the man who's easily their most talented and promising player, 6-5 junior Lawrence Dixon, spends most of the games on the bench, often oblivious to the action on the floor, seemingly in his own world. This team is a mess.
Here was our thinking about the Crusaders before the season started. We knew how little guard depth they have, but we thought that with the best frontcourt in the conference, they would be able to dominate. What we didn't foresee was a guard group so inept that they can't get the ball to the big guys with anything resembling consistency. I can't count the number of times the Crusader backcourt flung the ball into the middle of the Navy zone last night, seemingly hoping that the pass would be fast enough to elude the thicket of arms and legs and find Tim Clifford, magically open in the post. Were their eyes open at the time?
So now we have Lafayette at the top of the league at 4-0, after treating Bucknell (who beat HC on TV last Friday) to a 12-point loss last night and breaking an eight-game losing streak to the Bison. Changing of the guard? We still think Lafayette is too dependent on the 3, and if you can get past their pressure and traps coming up the floor, you can get a whole bunch of layups -- this team effectively tops out at 6-7. But the Leopards have now beaten the two top teams of recent vintage, and look like the best the Patriot's got. It's been a while since a PL first-round beatdown like in the opening chapter of The Last Amateurs, here's hoping we're not back to that.
Bad Preseason Predictions. Indeed, back in October and November, myself and the rest of us X-spurts make our selections on who was going to win their leagues and represent the conferences in the Big Dance. I was the only one who made a cartoon about it, and I'm one of the very few who will take full accountability for bad picks. Most folks just forget they even made them (conveniently).
A few of my picks still look safe, and a few of them look okay, but a number of them are proof that I don't have telekepsychic powers, and should not be relied upon for gambling purposes (for entertainment only). Nobody could have foreseen Southern Illinois' uncanny ability to lose on the road (more about that later), MEAC favorite North Carolina A&T's lack of chemistry on a senior club, or Holy Cross.
And Penn (5-12) is just atrocious, we switched them out for Brown a long time ago. I would have enjoyed seeing them and Holy Cross stumble all over each other for loose balls, the closest approximation to basketball played by 10 men without fingers.
Rescheduling! This site is a little subreality bubble where nothing matters more than small-conference, regular-season college basketball. But out there... notsomuch.
Along with Apple stock, nothing dominates the headlines these days quite like the presidential race. The Sun Belt race takes a back seat, as a game between Florida Atlantic and Denver was postponed and moved because of a Republican debate at FAU. Don't these people have their priorities straight? The game will be held at Lynn University, a campus that seems to be overrun with swarming green particulates (or aliens).
But then there's Idaho State, which has to play its Friday tilt with Sacramento State on Friday night because of the Idaho Potato Conference and Ag Show will be taking over Holt Arena on Saturday. Frank Mercogliano, one of the best SID's in the business, notes that the event attracts thousands of farmers. We know how big the Holt is, so why not put both in there at the same time? Come for the Potato Conference, stay for the Big Sky Conference.
How 'Bout™this? Last night's Winthrop-VMI result, if you're a regular around here, was a big "whoa." The Keydets, which lead the nation in nearly every scoring-related category, were held to 41 points on 22 percent shooting, were outrebounded by the defending Big South champs by 27 and were underturnovered by 12. The biggest reason why was the pulled leg muscle of Reggie Williams, the nation's leading scorer (27.3). He probably wouldn't have helped them much -- the Eagles won by 44, and Winthrop had plenty of motivation to whomp after last year's championship game, in which VMI nearly upset Winthrop on its home floor.
And How 'Bout™ Bradley? The Braves have really been hurting without Daniel Ruffin, their best guard, but he played for the first time since a Dec. 28 sports-hernia surgery and performed admirably (11 points in 24 minutes) in a nip/tuck 76-75 win over Illinois State, the hottest rivalry in the MVC when both teams are up at the same time (which occurs ever-too-rarely). Bradley's 3-5 and will need every iota of Ruffin's effort to get back in the race. The Ill-State loss puts a previously hot Redbirds team (nine straight wins) into a mini-tailspin, as they've now lost two in a row to fall two steps behind league-leading Drake.
Oh, and How 'Bout™ Kent State? We were tracking last night's G!O!T!N! and were noticing that Akron was threatening to run away with the crosstown showdown-throwdown-hoedown in the MAC. But with a big second-half comeback, a 50-34 job, Kent pulled out a 75-69 win that ties up the East division at 4-1. Here's Haminn Quaintanance's scoresheet: QQQQQQQQQQQQ points and QQQQQQQQQQ rebounds.
Finally, How 'Bout™ Southern Illinois? Or rather, how blah. The Salukis are still having worlds of trouble finding the toughness necessary to win away from SIU Arena, and they dropped their seventh of eight on the road last night at Missouri State, 63-62 (to the delight of the guy at the Hammons Center with the "Carbondale: Trailer Capital of the World" sign). Now SIU (9-10, 4-4) goes back home for a College GameDay date with Creighton, which is perhaps the third most intriguing Valley matchup on Saturday. Listen for plenty of tap-dancing and time-filling from the GameDay crew, and complete denials of the truth: wins come and go, but what defines our level of basketball is the level of available financial resources.