Ed. note – Check out our Boom Goes the Dynamite post covering all of today’s big games until 6pm EDT tonight, when our on-site coverage of ESPN GameDay will continue.
After my first attempt at trying to live blog earlier this week during the Boston College-Wake Forest game, I decided to head down to Chapel Hill to to cover tomorrow’s season-opening ESPN GameDay game (Miami at UNC). All the big names (Dick Vitale, Bobby Knight, Erin Andrews, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, etc.) will be there so it should be a big night. RTC will be courtside to bring the action to you (if your big-screen HD wasn’t enough) along with answering whatever (appropriate) questions you may have for coaches, players, and TV personalities. I’ll have access to the media room, courtside reporters, post-game press conferences, and the locker rooms so if you have any questions, post them in the comment section throughout the day and I will try our best to get you the answers.
We’ll be inside tomorrow night
One early (random) note: I ran into some of the ESPN GameDay crew a few hours ago. It looks like most of them were support staff, but I did notice that Howie Schwab was there, who technically is support staff too. I guess might be considered a F-list celebrity after his now defunct TV show “Stump the Schwab”. Apparently Howie wasn’t sure how to get to his hotel (out of respect for their privacy I’ll avoid posting it online). Being a good Samaritan, I decided to help them out since they knew the name of the hotel and I had an iPhone. I offered to look it up for them on my iPhone, but was completely ignored because apparently the Schwab is above talking to the common folk. I guess Deadspin was right. (To be fair one of the other guys acknowledged my existence briefly then followed the Schwab.) Hopefully the other media members will be a little more receptive tomorrow night. Feel free to leave “Stump the Schwab” jokes in the comment section.
10:02 am – OK, back for more. A little Drexel-Penn for your Tuesday morning. Come on, is ESPN serious about this this stuff? They don’t even have a GameCast going for this one. Amateurs! OK, I’ll stop. Right now I have to give props to the Drexel students, because they have stepped up, here. They’re in full face/body paint, wigs, etc. Even for the ones who are just in their “Fear the Fire” t-shirts, they’re there in force. They’ve filled that arena. It’s rare that ANY college student is gonna get up at 10am for anything, so to show up like they have for a game at this time of day — even if it is a Big Five game — has got to earn some props. This looks just like a night game in terms of the crowd behavior. What this really is, is a total bonanza for any professors at Drexel who might be the attendance-taking type. They could literally just pause the broadcast periodically and check off truant students on their roll sheets by the dozen. I hated those professors…
10:26am — Drexel is the better team so far. They’re outhustling Penn, who actually does look tired. Drexel is up 8 with 12 minutes to go in the first half and this could get out of hand for the Quakers in short order if they don’t get their heads in it.
10:30am — Drexel extends…up ten at the under-8 timeout.
10:35am — Drexel is doing this with defense and hustle. They’re winning every loose ball. This is a Penn squad who only lost to UNC by 15, and they’re already down 14 to the Dragons and we’re coming up on the under-4 timeout.
10:41am — The first hyping of UNC-Kentucky. I’m reminded of the time in 1995 when CBS was broadcasting an elite eight game involving those two teams (the one where Rasheed Wallace got choked — I don’t mean he CHOKED, I mean he GOT choked by Kentucky’s Andre Riddick during a scuffle early on) and Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery showed up in tuxedos, given the history of the two programs. I think whoever’s calling tonight’s game should do the same, especially with the almost constant hype.
10:51am — Halftime…34-27, Drexel. This could have been worse for Penn who are in full sleepwalking mode. Drexel decided to chuck (and miss) some threes late in the half; they have the better athletes but a couple of ill-advised shots and a couple of hand-checking fouls let Penn back into this. If Penn wakes up at halftime, things could get interesting.
Right now, I’m actually a little impressed with Drexel. Bruiser Flint has got his team mentally ready, except for that hiccup at the end of the half, and I’m gonna repeat my props to the crowd. Drexel doesn’t look like a team playing their first game of the season, they look like they’re on number five or six.
I’m not complaining (heh heh….) but I’m starting to realize that maybe grabbing a nap before starting this endeavor may have been a good call, instead of working a whole day. Oh, I’m not goin’ anywhere…but the coffee machine is now operational.
Story of the Night. Normally this would require its own post, but today was a travel day for us, so we’re going to throw it in tonight’s ATB. Great news! Bob Knight will return as an analyst and commentator for ESPN college hoops games this year (h/t TBL). The analyst part we’re absolutely sure is a great idea (although his title game picks could use some help). Everyone remembers how entertaining Knight was in the studio during the last few weeks of the regular season last year (he also showed up for the football Gameday at Texas Tech a couple of weeks ago). Adding him to the Gameday crew for the entire season is a natural fit. We’re less sure about Knight as an in-game commentator (with Dan Shulman or Brent Musberger on Thursday night games), but the possibility of a profane Knight tirade about a boneheaded player or ref makes us positively giddy at the prospect.
Game of the Night. Tonight we had more CvC action, with the second night of the Durham, NC, regional and the opening nights at both the Carbondale, IL, and Ann Arbor, MI, regionals. The only televised games were Duke v. Georgia Southern and the Michigan v. Michigan Tech games on ESPNU, so if you saw either feel free to provide some comments below. N-Bug sent along a quote from Coach K relating Duke’s offensive output to a pinball game (he’s from a different era, ok), but in looking at the stat sheet of the 97-54 win, it appears that he should have been talking about his defense. Duke held GSU to 28% from the field and outrebounded the Eagles by 25 boards, which must have made his happier with his team’s overall effort. Singler again led the way with 19/8. It’s difficult to nitpick a 43-point win, but Coach K might want to have his team work on FTs during the next week, as his team could have won by 60 had they shot it from the line a little better (25-49). Duke will play the winner of S. Illinois/UMass in the semis next Thursday at MSG.
Carbondale Regional. SIU and UMass both played D2 opponents, so we’re not sure how valuable analyzing their wins vs. California (PA) and Arkansas-Monticello are, respectively. SIU’s Carlton Fay had 16/11 as the Salukis pulled away in the second half to win 66-52. UMass won its first contest in new coach Derek Kellogg’s debut, as Chris Lowe paced the Minutemen with 18/11 assts. SIU v. UMass tomorrow night should be a good game, and either team would make for an interesting semifinal matchup with Duke.
Ann Arbor Regional. Michigan’s Manny Harris dropped 30/7 on Michigan Tech in the opener for John Beilein’s second team in Ann Arbor. If anyone else saw this game, we’d be interested in knowing how the Beilein system in Y2 looked. In the other game, Northeastern handled IUPUI 73-60 in a game that was not as close as the final score indicates. Michigan should take this Northeastern team seriously – they’ll be fired up and are a substantial upgrade of talent than what the Wolverines faced tonight. It would not shock us if Northeastern wins tomorrow night’s game.
On Tap Wednesday (all times EST). Several more CvC games… it figures that the best game (SIU v. UMass) will be broadcast, um, nowhere…
Yeah, we’re way behind on this story and everything else, but we finally extracted ourselves from under a wet blanket of indentured misery-tude and we can once again focus on what’s really important… like whether Jay Bilas will finally turn around and punch The Redundancy known as Digger Phelps in the schnozz… or whether Hubert Davis’ high-pitched guffaw will cause rabid bats nesting in the arena rafters to attack the GameDay crew… or whether Rece Davis’ hair will ever move…
Still, in the three years that ESPN has been doing College Gameday, the on-air chemistry has steadily improved to the point where it has become must-watch tv for knowledgeable hoops fans throughout its Jan/Feb/March run. We still can’t figure out why ESPN locks itself into games before the season even begins (unlike its CFB counterpart, whose venue changes on a week-to-week basis), but the majority of the time they pick a nationally relevant game (14 of the 31 games have involved two ranked teams, but last year involved a notableexception: last year’s S. Illinois – Creighton 48-44 stinker on Jan. 26is one of a handful of games involving two unranked teams in the four-year history of GameDay), and some of the humorous bits are LOL-worthy (see Tebow clip below).
Irrespective of all that jazz, ESPN released its schedule of 2009 sites recently, and it’s apparent that ESPN is looking to party in college towns aplenty this year – missing are some of the lamer venues such as Syracuse and Durham in favor of more traditionally collegiate beer and babes locales.
January 17- Chapel Hill, NC (Miami-North Carolina) January 24- South Bend, IN (UConn-Notre Dame) January 31- Knoxville, TN. (Florida-Tennessee) February 7- Spokane, WA (Memphis-Gonzaga) February 14- Madison, WI (Ohio State-Wisconsin) February 21- Austin, TX (Oklahoma-Texas) February 28- Berkeley, CA (UCLA-California) March 7- Morgantown, WV (Louisville-West Virginia)
Some quick thoughts -
Best Game. We love the UConn-Notre Dame matchup in South Bend. UConn should be close to all the way “back” this season, and Mike Brey will have a top 10 team possibly riding a near-50 game homecourt winning streak in South Bend on that night. Plus we get to see Digger in his ridiculous green tie and marker ensemble. This night has fun written all over it. Our runner-up game to watch would be Memphis-Gonzaga in Spokane, a rematch of a fairly entertaining game from last January.
Likely Stinker. Nobody wants to watch Ohio St. and Wisconsin play bruiserball in Madison on Valentine’s Day, that goes without saying (coincidence? we think not). But the Miami-UNC game on Jan. 17 also has us shaking our heads a little. If you’re going to show us the prohibitive favorites on GameDay, at least give us the courtesy of matching the Heels up with someone who can challenge them… Miami? Hmph – this has 30 point blowout written all over it, and Miami is a Top 25 team!
Who Knows Game. The Feb. 28 game between UCLA and Mike Montgomery’s newly acquired California team would have been a blockbuster had Ryan Anderson stuck around for his junior season in Berkeley. But we’re still intrigued to see what Cal can do in a “big” game like this one, exactly the kind of game that Monty built his rep on down at the Farm in the 90s.
Missing Powers. No Duke this year, which we really can’t believe since the Devils will be a top 5 team. There’s also no sign of Bill Self’s national champion Kansas Jayhawks - instead we get a Big 12 matchup in Austin between Oklahoma and Texas. For the first year in GameDay history, Kentucky will also not be involved in a game this season.
Cult of Personalities. GameDay loves to show certain coaches nearly every year. We mentioned Roy Williams’ UNC squad, who will be making its fifth appearance. Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals will also be making their fifth appearance, as will Rick Barnes’ Texas Longhorns. As a brief sidenote speaking of personalities, the Mar. 7 game between Pitino and Bob Huggins could be exceptional. Louisville should be absolutely loaded next season, and we only have doubts about WVU from their loss of the acrobatic Joe Alexander, but Huggins will have his team sky high for this one anyway.