The Lede. Here’s hoping everyone had a very safe and happy New Year’s 2011. Just typing those numbers makes it hard for us to believe that there are ten-year olds who never experienced the awesomeness of the 1990s. Speaking of irrelevant references to timing, with the calendar change we’re now heading into the heart of the season. Frankly, the first two months in some ways seemed interminable, with far too many mismatches merely acting as a prelude for the conference season where the contenders and pretenders will be inevitably ferreted out. As a case in point, take a look at last year’s AP Top 10 from one year ago today. Texas, a first-round NCAA loser, was #2; Kansas and Villanova, both second round losers, were #1 and #6, respectively; the #9 team, North Carolina, ended up in the NIT. The lesson here is that there are no finished products yet — many teams have barely tested themselves, and it wouldn’t be the first time that a school with a lofty pre-conference record collapses after seeing its own blood on the road. Who will those teams be? We have some ideas but it’ll have to wait until later this week.
Your Watercooler Moment. Memphis Fan Ejected From Game. This is a no-brainer. There weren’t all that many great games this weekend, but an incident that took place near the end of Memphis’ 91-86 win over Tennessee State on Sunday is what will be talked about on Monday morning. After an on-court scrum where a prominent donor’s wife (is she really the spouse of the Lenny’s Sub Shop guy? — someone please confirm) got agitated from the front row and allegedly yelled at one of the TSU players to “choke on” his mouthpiece, the nearby referee Mark Whitehead threw her out of the game. Yes, you read that correctly, a fan! And not just any fan, but a middle-aged female fan who quite obviously presented a clear and present danger to the players on the floor, especially considering the way that she was pumping and waving around those blue pom-pons. (h/t Chris Littman for the video)
Your Watercooler Moment, Vol. II. Dear Ron: Don’t Eff With Jeannine Edwards — Signed, Billy Gillispie. This has absolutely nothing to do with college basketball per se, but it involves two media personalities who regularly cover the game and it’s hilarious nevertheless. SportsByBrooks reported over the weekend that ESPN commentator Ron Franklin (he of the Big Twelve games, mostly) condescendingly called reporter Jeannine Edwards “sweetcakes” and “a-hole” during a production meeting prior to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Franklin was allowed to work that game but he was then pulled from the Fiesta Bowl radio broadcast on Saturday night. We’re not sure if this is a much more common occurrence with female reporters or what, but people seem to enjoy talking down to Jeannine Edwards. Former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie of course was widely ridiculed for his treatment of the sideline reporter during an Ole Miss game in 2009, and many people in Wildcat country believe strongly that particular embarrassment was the straw that broke his back as the UK coach. It’s undetermined what will happen to Franklin as a result of his latest comments, but it should be noted that he had a similar incident five years ago with Holly Rowe and he still remained with the company. Will Jeannine go two-for-two in her latest battle of the sexes? Let’s hope so.
This Weekend’s Quick Hits…
- Kansas: Best Team in America. So says Miami (OH) forward Antonio Ballard, whose team has had the privilege to play the top three teams in the polls so far this season. The Red Hawks lost to Duke by 34, Ohio State by 21, and Kansas by 27, but it was the athleticism of the Morris twins who combined for 38/15 coming off the bench that seemed to make the biggest impression.
- Illinois Starts off Big Ten 2-0. The Illini got a key home win on Sunday with its victory over Wisconsin in Champaign. Combined with a win at Iowa last week, and Bruce Weber’s team crystallizes just how important scheduling is in conference races. A winnable road game followed by a home game against a team they’ll likely battle all year in the second tier of the conference race. Contrast this with Minnesota who currently sits at 0-2 as a result of road games to Wisconsin and Michigan State.
- Syracuse, Cincinnati & St. John’s Do Likewise. With respect to SU and UC, again, scheduling. Syracuse feasted on two more home meals with Seton Hall and Notre Dame visiting the Carrier Dome, while Cincy got DePaul and the Hall to visit the Queen City. The anomaly of this group is Steve Lavin’s Johnnies. Somehow the same team that lost to Fordham and St. Bonnie managed to get Big East road wins at WVU and Providence last week. If his team is turning a corner, we’ll find out on Big Monday as they host Georgetown at MSG.