Finally, It’s Here.

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2008

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John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.

We can stop now.

No need to continue going to YouTube to relive highlights of last season.

We can stop reading (and re-reading) those strange single-issue pre-season magazines.

We don’t have to keep checking the listings at ESPN Classic or the Big Ten Network for a stray college basketball replay.

Somewhere in Florida, Dick Vitale has been taken out of a moth-ball-filled crate (or out of his tasty Tampa Bay Rays box seats) and has had his big bald pumpkin dusted off.  He is drinking hot tea to prepare his voice.  He knows that the weekly Mike-and-Mike appearances are not enough, now.  He knows it’s time to go to work.

Somewhere in New England, the always delightful and informative Tom Brennan is shopping for blazers.  Hopefully with his wife’s help.

At this moment, Digger Phelps is in a Staples, eyeballing the highliter section with genuine concern, holding up ties next to them to insure proper color-coordination.  Jay Bilas and the Davises (Rece and Hubert) are watching replays of the Tim Tebow pep talk and laughing like Charley Steiner

They’re polishing the floors at Pauley and Cameron Indoor.  Oh yes, they’re setting up chairs at Rupp and O’Connell.  If you listen hard enough, you can hear that blessed sound, that sweet, echoing collision between basketball leather and hardwood, coming from Louisville and Lawrence, Spokane and Storrs.

And we know why.  It’s back.

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God, it’s always been this way for me.  Ever since I can remember, the middle of October has meant – political rhetoric aside — well, a feeling of new hope.  Not just for the prospect of a great season for my favorite team(s), but for the fact that there WAS a season; that for the next five months, my favorite sport was going to take over everything – the TV, the radio, the conversations between me and my friends – and man, how sweet it was going to be. 

“Take over” is the correct term, there.  Seriously, some of my earliest memories of childhood were sitting with my basketball-coach father in front of a TV as he taught me why you have to “overload” a zone, or the best way to break a 2-2-1 full court press, or how, by looking at your defender’s feet, to tell the exact moment to go on a dribble-drive.  On random weekdays in grade school and junior high, my friends and I would be bleary-eyed having stayed up to catch the end of, say, Seton Hall at UC-Santa Barbara, or Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga, because if you were in our crowd you had better be able to discuss it.  Especially during the season, we’d be fired up to play HORSE, 21, or 5-on-5 on any playground we could find.  Rain or snow?  Didn’t matter, makes it more interesting.  3am and the cops showed up?  Who cares, we’ll find another court.  Yeah, we were geeks, at least about college basketball.  We didn’t care.  We still are.

I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading a college basketball blog, you probably share my excitement, and you probably have similar memories to the ones I’ve recounted above.  Maybe you have a specific moment in college hoops’ glorious history that made you an immediate lifelong fan.  Perhaps you can recall the exact details of where you were for the Bryce Drew Miracle.  Or Tyus Edney coast-to-coast.  Or Gabe Lewullis in 1996.  Well take heart, friends.  November has arrived.  It ain’t March, but it’s still pretty damn good.

And the upcoming season is already intriguing in so many ways.  So many questions are waiting to be answered.  For the first time in a while, we have a true Goliath to start a season, this time in the form of the 2008-09 edition of the North Carolina Tarheels.  Can they live up to the already-churning hype machine and take their place as one of the greatest squads ever assembled?  Can Ol’ Roy live up to the challenge and complete this task?  What absolute sickness does Stephen Curry have in store for us this year?  Will this new three-point line redefine the position of the 2-guard?  Will the traditional center re-emerge as the premier position on the floor because of it?  Will it bring back the lost of art of the mid-range jumper?  Is Duke over- or undervalued this year?  Is Davidson the new Gonzaga?  Speaking of the Zags, is Austin Daye as special a player as he seems?  Will Billy Gillispie’s second season in Lexington be as impressive as his second seasons at UTEP and Texas A&M (therefore catapulting him to deity status)?  And what is it going to be like to look over at the Arizona sideline and NOT see Lute Olson?  Jeez, you might as well make the baskets 26 feet high and make the court triangular, because it will seem like a different game.

I can’t wait to have them all answered.  So serve it up, let’s light this candle.  With everything that’s gone on in this country (sports and otherwise) in the last seven months, it seems like a million years ago that we crowned Bill Self and his Jayhawks as champions.  So give me Big Monday.  Love him or loathe him, give me Dickie V having one of his on-air seizures of hoops happiness.  Give me Gus Johnson on the mic with a last-second shot in the air.  Bring on Bracketology and let’s have some mid-majors.  It’s time for Rick Pitino’s white suit and the Fox Sunday night game. 

Because finally…it’s here.  Rejoice, college hoops fans.  Our game is back.

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ESPN Gameday: 2009 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 9th, 2008

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 notable exception: last year’s S. Illinois – Creighton 48-44 stinker on Jan. 26 is 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.

The Tim Tebow GameDay Clip:

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