That’s Debatable: What’d You Learn From ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon?Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2010
That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season. We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week’s Topic: What did you learn from this year’s ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon?
Dave Zeitlin, RTC Contributor
I learned that anyone who doesn’t root for St. Mary’s is clearly racist towards large, awkward-looking Australians who tend to never miss shots. I learned that it will likely be a running theme all season for people to joke that Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole looks like a 15-year-old, but all I’m going to say is that I think he’s going to be a damn good head coach — his early-morning loss to Kent State aside. (Am I saying this because I’m legally obligated to mention a Penn alum in everything I write for RTC? Yes.) I learned that sometimes you just have to click the channel down button on your remote when there’s a better women’s game going on. (Sorry, Florida, you should have kept it close. The UConn-Baylor showdown was far more exciting.) And finally, I learned that if any other sport tried to pull this off, you’d fall asleep faster than Steve Fisher after dinner – which shows college basketball is truly the best sport on the planet. Actually, scratch that last one. I didn’t learn anything new there.
Kellen Carpenter, RTC Contributor
Jared Sullinger is for real. Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving, who I thought would be dueling for the position of best freshman in the country, are now both more than a few steps behind in their own race. While I tried not to read too much into how Sullinger dismantled the overmatched Aggies of North Carolina A&T (where he put up 19 points and 14 rebounds in 21 minutes), it’s impossible to ignore his domination over a ranked team like Florida, where he put up 26 points on an efficient 17 shots and pulled down 10 rebounds a full half of which were offensive. His offensive game is as polished as advertised and his passing from the post is sharp beyond his years. His play isn’t perfect, but this is where I remind you that he just played his second game in a college uniform. Can you imagine the havoc this guy is going to wreak in the spring?
John Stevens, RTC Editor
It’s de rigueur to heap praise all over ESPN’s 24-hour hoops marathon (as much as it has become, apparently, to live-blog the whole thing), and I usually fall right in line, but there’s one change I’d recommend – fewer games with more time in between. Wait, hear me out first. As it is, the games are packed over a few channels and it only takes one 60+ foul game and/or an overtime thriller to throw the whole thing off schedule. Then you’ve got games switching channels (a pinch, if you’re DVRing), simultaneous games of teams you want to see, and the occasional joining-in of games that have less than ten minutes remaining in the first half. And if there’s prime-time programming on a spare ESPN that the decision-makers refuse to bump or leave early, you’re screwed until the schedule clears. Three or four fewer games and a 30-minute buffer would help release the pressure buildup, it would mean less juggling of games between channels, and would prevent the late join-ins. There’s not much wrong with the marathon, but I think this is one of the few improvements that could make it even better.
Matt Patton, RTC Contributor
Virginia Tech has a long way to go. Count me as one of those people who thought the Hokies would be a beacon of consistency after returning five starters on their way to finishing second in the ACC. Kansas State really made Virginia Tech look bad, even without playing Curtis Kelly or Jacob Pullen the first half. Even on the road, a top 25 team should have been able to take advantage of a team playing without its two best players. I expect them to improve, but Virginia Tech showed me the reason they were left out of the Big Dance last year. The second thing I took away from the Marathon was Florida’s press. I know Ohio State has some point guard questions, but pressing gave Ohio State open shot after open shot. The Buckeyes shot over 60% from the field on the road, largely thanks to the quality looks they were getting. I can’t count the number of times Aaron Craft would sprint up the court, forcing Florida’s post man to leave Sullinger all alone for a free dunk. My final takeaway was no surprise: San Diego State is the real deal (and Gonzaga was a little overrated).
Zach Hayes, RTC Editor/Contributor
I learned that Ohio State can win a national championship. With Jared Sullinger providing a scoring presence in the paint to complement a talented, multi-dimensional supporting cast in William Buford, David Lighty and Jon Diebler, the Buckeyes’ road thrashing of Florida in which they surrendered just eight turnovers against the constant Gator pressure was the most impressive victory of the marathon. I also learned that San Diego State is the best team in the West. Billy White’s 30/9 and stud sophomore Kawhi Leonard’s double-double spearheaded a slaying of Gonzaga on a home floor where the Zags are 77-5 since 2004. The Aztecs are a legitimate Elite Eight contender. I learned that the freshman that will have the most impact for Josh Pastner’s heralded recruiting class is Memphis native Joe Jackson and Clint Steindl’s emergence may be the difference between a NCAA or NIT bid during the post-Samhan era at Saint Mary’s. I learned that Rick Pitino is at his best when he’s counted out and that Kansas State can win without big contributions from Jacob Pullen or Curtis Kelly. Most of all, though, was what was reinforced rather than learned as I watched 26 hours of hoops on Tuesday: college basketball is the greatest sport on earth.
Brian Otskey, RTC Contributor
Free throw shooting doesn’t have as big an impact on the game as some think. This is different in close, pressurized games in the postseason as we saw in the 2008 championship game but look at these numbers from yesterday. None of the following winners shot better than 65% from the line: Northeastern (62%), Kansas State (50%), Ohio State (60%), Louisville (65%), Michigan State (50%), San Diego State (53%). Those are some pretty bad percentages yet all of those teams won. Why? They’re deep. With the exception of Northeastern and Ohio State, every team had more players clocking over ten minutes than their opponent did. In particular, Kansas State and Michigan State are both very deep and physical. That wears down an opponent over the course of 40 minutes as fewer players have to play more minutes against a fresh team. That’s not to say depth is everything and free throw shooting doesn’t matter, but if forced to take my pick I’d take a deep team over a one that shoots 75% from the line. Depth will become even more of a factor as more games are played. Quite often, the deeper teams advance further in the NCAA Tournament.
Ned Reddick, RTC Contributor
Outside of the fact that the #2 team in women’s college basketball can’t figure out how to use timeouts (sorry, Chris Webber) or get a shot off with six seconds left? I learned that Florida is a long way away from being a contender. Ohio State is a solid team and Jared Sullinger is an excellent freshman, but the Gators made the Buckeyes look like the prohibitive title favorites and Sullinger like the next coming of a turn-of-the-century Shaq. Of course, neither the Buckeyes nor Sullinger are nearly as good as the Gators made them look. While UF’s performance in a vacuum is somewhat enlightening it also revealed a more significant truth: experience without considering historical performance is vastly overrated. All the talking heads on TV can wax poetic about how important experience is, and it is to some degree, but it misses the fact that if a team or player was not that good to begin with then they probably won’t be very good even with an extra year of experience. Florida was barely a tournament team last year and didn’t add that much this year so now I am supposed to think they are a top 10 team? I don’t buy it and I also don’t buy other teams like them.
Brian Goodman, RTC Editor/Contributor
Danny Spewak, RTC Contributor
Miami’s Reggie Johnson has the look of a future all-ACC center. The sophomore blossomed in the ACC Tournament last season after replacing injured Dwayne Collins in the starting lineup, and he may be ready to explode in 2010-11. The 6’10 big man, who has slimmed down considerably since arriving at Miami, did a little bit of everything in a narrow loss to Memphis. A perfect fit for Frank Haith’s 2-3 zone, Johnson finished with three blocks Tuesday morning as he frustrated Memphis’ bigs all game long. He crashed the offensive glass and grabbed six offensive rebounds, tipping countless others as he seemed to at least get a hand on every ball that that fell off the rim. And although he’s a bit raw offensively, he still managed 12 points, including a game-tying three-point play in the second half. Once he’s more consistent finishing around the rim, Johnson will be impossible for ACC centers to handle. If it sounds like I’m gushing, I am. By 1:30 a.m. central time Tuesday morning, I had found a new favorite player.
David Ely, RTC Contributor
There’s a reason Virginia Tech never scheduled big non-conference opponents: After the Hokies had their bubble burst last March due in part to a soft non-conference schedule, Seth Greenberg decided to play ball and take on the big boys this season. But after Va. Tech’s 16-point loss at #3 Kansas State it seems like Greenberg might have over-compensated in the schedule department. The #21 Hokies were ill-equipped to handle the Wildcats’ intense half court defense, shooting a paltry 19-55 from the floor (34.5%). Worse than their shooting performance, though, was the lack of movement and flow on the offensive end. Va. Tech had 10 assists compared to 17 turnovers. The fact that the Hokies made such a fuss about how they were robbed last year makes this performance against the Wildcats even more disappointing. This was Va. Tech’s chance to make a statement that it was the team to challenge Duke in the ACC this season. But that egg the Hokies laid in the second half (combined with their ho-hum 70-60 win over Campbell on Nov. 12) gives us pause that this team will be any different than last year’s.
Andrew Murawa, RTC Contributor
Aside from the fact that attempting a marathon without plenty of warm-up and training is a bad idea, I think we learned that Memphis has got some growing up to do before they are considered a real threat for a deep tournament run. While a stunningly talented team, their body language in the second half against Miami was often terrible, with sagging shoulders and eye rolling a not-infrequent response to either calls by referees or poor plays by teammates. With the removal of freshman Jelan Kendrick from the team, head coach Josh Pastner has excised a cancer, but this patient is clearly still in recovery mode and these immature Tigers have some growing up to do over their rest of their tough non-conference schedule. Pastner has shown that he is able to recruit at a big-time level, but in order for this group of gifted youngsters to live up to their potential, he’ll have to prove that he is able to develop talent at a big time level as well. If the Tigers can patch up their chemistry issues, they’re talented enough for a deep March run; if not, they’re immature enough to underachieve.
Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC Contributor
Other than wondering why we’re not doing this every week, it underscores again just how badly the game needs a legitimate opening night (or at least an opening weekend) with all the pomp and circumstance of the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon. The level of excitement for this event from fans of schools both large and small was palpable all across the country, and the buzz it created among the class that considers itself knowledgeable about the sport (ahem) was unprecedented. In a hyper-competitive sports marketplace, the game needs made-for-television events like the Marathon to get casual fans jazzed up about the start of the season and to give the diehards something concrete to look forward to every year. Correspondingly, it reminded me of the one essential, most fundamental truth about college basketball, the reason we come back to the game year after year despite recruiting scandals, players behaving badly and one too many smarmy coaches on the bench. It’s fun.