Backdoor Cuts: Vol. IVPosted by jstevrtc on December 16th, 2009
Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh. This week the disgruntled fans each pick a new team to root for — and start a friendly competition in the process.
DAVE ZEITLIN: So I know what I want for Chanukah (or, as you guys like to call it, Weird Christmas). I’ve decided I want a new college basketball team to root for.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Penn will always be my No. 1 team and I know better days lie ahead. But let’s be honest: the only thing my Quakers are competing for this year is whether or not they can become the worst team in Division I (if they aren’t already). Combine this with the fact that my favorite baseball team is the Mets (don’t say anything, Steve), my favorite football team (the Giants) just gave up approximately 3,500 points in one game (seriously, Steve, be quiet) and neither of my fantasy football teams made the playoffs…and I forget where that sentence was going because I just started crying. Please, Fake Santa of Chanukah, give me a winning team to root for this holiday season. Just one.
Here’s my own criteria for picking a new team: I want the school to be relatively close — as in, driving distance from my home in Philadelphia (sorry, most of the country). Obviously, the team can’t be any kind of rival of Penn’s (as much as I like Fran Dunphy at Temple). It can’t be a perennial favorite to win a national championship (that’s no fun) but it also can’t be a team that has no shot of winning it all (rooting for one-mid major is enough). And even though I’ve followed this conference most of my life, it can’t be any team from the Big East. (Before going to Penn, I was a big Syracuse fan; I’d feel like an abusive boyfriend going back to them now, but I’d feel like even more of a jerk rooting for one of their rivals.)
So where that does that leave me? Based on my complex formula, I think I have to go with a middle-of-the-pack ACC school. And after careful consideration, I realize there’s only one that makes sense. And the winner is…drumroll please…I don’t hear a drumroll…seriously, give me a drumroll…fine, I guess when you’re writing by yourself and there are no drummers nearby, you’re just not going to get one…Maryland!
I’ll explain more about why I chose the Terps later. But, first, I want to hear who you guys would pick, considering you both root for teams that aren’t making the Big Dance. We can even make this a competition throughout the season. A Chanukah/Christmas competition. Or something.
STEVE MOORE: You may have gotten one of your Weird Christmas wishes when your boy Glen Miller got fired today. Maybe Penn can adopt the Princeton offense (too soon?).
Anyway, I like your thinking here, Dave. Much like my strange upbringing where I get a Christmas tree ornament as a Chanukah gift each year, I come from a strange college hoops background. Other than four years of college, I’ve lived in the Philadelphia area my whole life, and have always been a huge college hoops fan. But I’ve never really had a team to live and die with. I was a Temple guy growing up, because I had family members who were Owl alums, but I always rooted for all the local teams. Hell, I vividly remember shooting hoops in the driveway as a kid pretending to be Penn’s Matt Maloney draining 3-pointers (I know, I’m a little embarrassed too). But now, other than my fighting Terriers (who WILL make the NCAA Tournament this year — unlike Dave’s Quakers or Mike’s Fighting Martellis), I don’t really have a horse in the race, especially as April approaches.
If I had to choose a team, I would go with a lot of the same criteria as you. Although I wouldn’t limit myself to just teams within driving distance, but possibly to teams I could count on seeing at least once or twice a year in the area — i.e. they play in a conference with at least one local team. Maryland is a solid choice, but I already professed my man-love for Greivis Vasquez and the Terps in my ACC Preview. I’ve always liked Pittsburgh, since it’s hard to hate Jamie Dixon, but since the Panthers are having a down year, I’ll look elsewhere. I love Jay Wright and Villanova, but I think Mike’s head would explode if I backed the Wildcats.
My original choice was going to be Georgetown. But for a guy who loves the atmosphere of college hoops, I can’t fathom choosing a team without a real on-campus gym that plays in a sterile NBA building. Georgia Tech is always an interesting team to follow, with a good coach and crazy athletes. Clemson’s got pretty colors… oh, nevermind.
But after all of that roundabout logic. I find myself coming back home — home to the Cherry and White of the Temple Owls. Your boy Fran Dunphy seems to have a plan, and they seem to find some great pieces to the puzzle each year. Plus, as I have professed in my ACC updates, I HATE cupcake scheduling, and Temple has never shied away from a fight. This year’s non-conference foes include Kansas, Penn State, Villanova, Georgetown, Siena, Virginia Tech, St. John’s and Seton Hall. Now I know they won’t be fighting for a national title anytime soon, but they’re my favorite kind of team. One that is dangerous in March, and could string together a magical run through the bracket if the cards fall their way.
Is it a homer copout? Absolutely. But just watch Juan Fernandez play basketball, and tell me you don’t fall in love with Pepe Sanchez Jr….
MIKE WALSH: I’m with Steve here. I like the criteria for the most part, but remember gentlemen, all good relationships are built on compromise, so I’m widening my search a bit, too.
I was originally going to bring West Virginia to the table. The Mountaineers always seem to be under the national radar all season long, yet they’re one of the last teams playing come March. WVU has quietly won at least 22 games in each of its past five seasons, which have included two trips to the Sweet Sixteen and one to the Elite Eight. Plus, their uniforms are blue, so that’s kind of Chanukah-y, right? But, there are two things I don’t like about West Virginia: 1. Bob. 2. Huggins. As much as the guy gets the job done, I’d just feel dirty rooting for one of his teams, so sorry boys, but you’re out.
So with that, I’m going with THE Ohio State University. Thad Matta is a phenomenal young coach and a class act. He’s got more wins after five seasons than any other coach in OSU history. If the top muckety mucks in Columbus let this guy off their campus they will live to regret it. Ohio State also has an endowment that’s in the Tommy Lee Zone, at over $2 billion. That’s more than the gross national product of most small countries. With all that dough, you know the facilities are never going to be an issue. Young stud recruits want to play for a good coach in a nice arena, so there should be no shortage of talent in Columbus anytime soon. Plus, there’s just part of me that is holding out hope that the basketball team may one day adopt the football team’s tradition of giving players buckeyes after big games. Couldn’t you just imagine some All-American senior covered in buckeye tattoos looking like Dennis Rodman, only with way more school spirit?
A guy can dream, right?
DAVE ZEITLIN: I like this. Who needs bracket pools? We have the greatest competition of all. I say we make this a little more interesting, though. If Maryland gets further than Ohio State and Temple in the NCAA tourney, Steve has to dress as an Owl and hoot around the city for a day while Mike has to, um, do Buckeye things. And in the slim chance I lose, you guys get the privilege of listening to me tell you about all of the great Penn basketball stories over the years. But let’s be honest: I’m clearly going to win since Steve picked a team whose mascot once got a technical foul and Mike picked a team that caused Gus Johnson to make up words.
Anyway, I’m excited to start rooting for the Terps. I have a bunch of friends who go to Maryland, and I’ve always respected their philosophy after big games: riot after a win, riot after a loss. However, like you guys, I don’t want to be perceived as a front-runner. I feel like we’ve all paid our dues by rooting for some horrible teams and we all like the underdog. But maybe we need to pass some kind of test to gain admission into these fan clubs. Tell me, Terp fans, what do I need to do? Recite Steve Blake’s career stats? Keep a jar of Gary Williams’ sweat on my kitchen table, underneath a dartboard with Coach K’s head on it? Sing the Venezuelan national anthem for Greivis Vasquez? Whatever it is, I’m ready to be a fan. But if they let me down, I’m tipping someone’s car.
MIKE WALSH: Well, should I just collect my winnings now and save you two the embarrassment or should we go through the motions of the entire season before we declare me the winner? I’ve got this one in the bag.
I do like the concept of a rite of passage to be a fan, though, so let’s roll with that.
Hey Steve, maybe you could go around irrationally breaking people’s arms? That’ll probably play well over at the Liacouras Center, right (sorry, I’m still a little bitter over the whole Goon-gate thing)? And Dave, while I wholeheartedly admire your drive and enthusiasm, let’s be honest, you clearly don’t even have the upper body strength to assist in flipping a Smart car. Maybe you could get a pet turtle? That’s seems more your speed.
As for me? What do I have to do to qualify as an OSU fan? Do I just have to be a person? Aren’t 1 in 8 people an Ohio State grad or some insane number like that? Did I make that statistic up? It’s possible, nay, probable, but you bought it, didn’t you? Here’s another made-up stat for you to chew on: Maryland and Temple have a 14% chance of playing later in the season than the Buckeyes. And trust me, I know numbers…I was an English major.
DAVE ZEITLIN: Mike, you misunderstood me. When I said I’d tip a car, I meant one of my little cousins’ toy cars. On most days, I do have the core strength to lift (and flip!) a five-pound toy. Steve, on the other hand, would not be able to break someone’s arm, even on the instructions of his hero, John Chaney — unless he used his ferocious killer beast dog. That’s right, John Bryant. Watch out for Steve’s dog.
Speaking of dogs, I’m glad my team is the lowest of the three in the RPI and Pomeroy ratings. That way, when Greivis and company go to the final four, and Ohio State and Temple stay home, it will be all the more sweeter.
Oh, and one more thing, Mike: former Maryland All-American John Lucas II has a son who did this to your beloved Hawks. I hope you’re not as sad when something just as horrific happens to you again this season.