Backdoor Cuts: Vol. XIV

Posted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys debate the last two weeks of the NCAA Tournament and conclude that it should not be effed with.

MIKE WALSH: Do you guys smell that?

No, it’s not the smell of thousands of the Rock, Chalk faithful burning their brackets … their tears keep putting out the flames. It kind of smells like … chili, with a dash of victory. Can you smell it or is there a stench of defeat draped over you like a full court press? That’s right, kids, my Ohio State Buckeyes may be out, too, but at least they outlasted your sorry Temple and Maryland picks who couldn’t couldn’t even survive the first weekend. But don’t feel bad, boys, it was one of the craziest opening weekends since the Jersey Shore kids hit the Seaside boardwalk for the first time. Oh yeah, that’s a celebratory Jersey Shore reference … I’ve earned it.

Mike's Prize

At least Steve still has West Virginia to root against. Coach K and the Evil Empire took the stink I was sending Baylor’s way and sent the Bears packing. And Dave, well, Kansas is toast so I guess you’re out of luck, too, buddy. There’s always next year. I suppose you can just sit back and enjoy the Madness as it unfolds. And there’s been plenty to go around so far.

My favorite moment of this year’s tournament, hands down, was in the waning seconds of Northern Iowa’s improbable upset over top-seeded Kansas. Panthers guard Ali Farokhmanesh’s transition three-ball in the last minute of regulation took Blue-Ribbon-at-the-State-Fair-sized onions to even heave up. It was one of the shots where the entire coaching staff yells, “No, no, no, YES!” And here’s the thing, he HAD to take that shot. In any other game, it would have been the kind of shot that gets you sent to the end of the bench – after the freshman manager … but against the top overall seed, you have to go for the kill. If he didn’t make that shot, it just felt like the Jayhawks would find some way to pull it out. But Northern Iowa had nothing to lose and they played like it. It was a shot that Farokhmanesh will be able to brag to his coworkers about when he’s working at some marketing firm next year, because let’s be serious, that’s most likely where he ends up unless he ends up lighting up a pro league in Azerbaijan. Even so, it was a shot of a lifetime and made my tournament. Do you think any other desk jockeys have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated?

The way this tournament has been going, I’m going to need an oxygen mask for the Final Four. I wonder if basketball induced conditions are covered by this new health care reform? I’ll have to look into that.

So what do you guys think? What have your favorite moments been so far? What are you looking forward to this weekend? Is Butler raising a banner? And, most importantly, when can I expect my chili?

DAVE ZEITLIN: Congratulations, Mike. Your Buckeyes were just a little bit less sucky than my Terps and Steve’s Owls (though if Maryland decided to play a little defense in the final seconds, they’d be in the Final Four now instead of Michigan State.) But in reality we are all winners. Forget our friendly wagers and our brackets; the truth is this tournament is for all fans of upsets and mid-majors. And if you don’t like those things, you should be forced to watch only Coach K seminars entitled “How To Be Succesful On and Off the Court” throughout the month of March. (Do those exist? I’m betting they do.)  

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. XIII

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys debate the teams they will choose to hate during the NCAA Tournament this year.

DAVE ZEITLIN: We’ve written a lot of words throughout this college basketball season, and let’s be honest: most of them haven’t been very good. But there was at least one column I hold a particular affinity for — our mid-December piece where we all picked different teams to support. Our reasoning was simple enough. Knowing full well our mid-major alma maters weren’t going anywhere this year (although Steve’s Boston U. team made a cute little tournament run), we each decided to throw our allegiances behind a likable team with a more realistic chance of going dancing. After not-so-careful consideration, I chose Maryland, Mike chose Ohio State and Steve chose Temple.

Which brings us to today. As the greatest sporting event in the world is set to tip off, we don’t even need to worry about brackets or silly office pools. Those are for idiots who only root for teams like Penn and St. Joe’s. We’ve got our squads, all of whom are playing great basketball at the right time. And even though I really like Ohio State and Temple (especially the Buckeyes’ Evan Turner and his love for Lady Gaga) I’m up for a friendly wager that involves Maryland crab cakes, Philly cheesesteaks and whatever people eat in Ohio. Let’s do this thing, Terps.

Evan Turner Thinking About Basketball or Gaga?

But I also say we expand on this idea. In addition to our new teams to root for, I say we all pick new teams to root AGAINST. And it can’t be Duke. Hating Duke is kind of like Madonna: It’s old and it’s been done way too much. But since it obviously shouldn’t be one of the little guys (how can we hate on our own people?), that narrows the choices. I’ll save Kentucky for Steve, since he likes Calipari about as much as those little buggers you get around your eyes when you wake up. And I have a feeling Mike will pick Oklahoma State because he just can’t get over 2004 (sorry, Mike, had to do it again). So after eliminating those schools, as well as the University of Phoenix Online, I’m deciding to go with … Kansas. Why? Well, what better team to root against than the team everyone will pick to win it all? Also, I’ve actually picked the Jayhawks many years, but they’ve usually let me down. Finally, my oldest friend is a dieahard Kansas fan and he doesn’t even know what “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” means while screaming it over and over again. I mean, come on! Are you allowed to just put any two nouns in front of your team nickname and have it be a saying? Next year at the Palestra, I’m going to start a “Textbook Ruler Quakers” chant and hope it catches on. But I digress. Um, which teams are you guys choosing?

Ok, so team to love? Team to hate? What else should we root for in our forget-office-pools-because-we-devised-our-own-system-and-no-one-else-can-play bracket?

MIKE WALSH: What are we, mayors? The food thing is just as old and played out as hating Duke and Madonna. What do you guys say we raise the stakes? Maybe the losers have to write their next column naked … we’re talking fourth base here (as if people didn’t think our infatuation with college hoops wasn’t weird enough). Or better yet, maybe the losers have to shave their dogs. Or maybe the losers have to get their wife or fiance pregna … on second though, food works. Yeah, food is fine.

Then what should I get when I win? While I’ve never actually been to Ohio, I hear they fancy themselves quite the chili connoisseurs. So when my Buckeyes are still hitting the hardwood long after Maryland and Temple have hung up their hightops, you guys can get me a big ‘ol bowl of Cincinnati-style chili. Just put it in an envelope and send it my way, I’m sure it will travel just fine.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. XII

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys debate the merit of conference tournaments — and you can guess where the Ivy Leaguer stands.

DAVE ZEITLIN: Let me start by saying that I love everything about March. The weather is better. The food is tastier. People are friendlier. Even this German kid is less annoying. Such is the power of college basketball. From the first day of the conference tournaments until the final lyric of One Shining Moment (which is, as you probably guessed, “one shining moment”), wall-to-wall college hoops takes a hold of you and doesn’t let go until your eyes are bloodshot, your voice is hoarse and all your dreams are of Digger Phelps’ ties. And if I just made watching college basketball sound creepy, that wasn’t my intention. Everything about March Madness is perfect. Well, almost everything…

You guys may disagree, but I think conference tournaments need to be changed. More specifically, I find it unfair that automatic NCAA bids go to conference tourney champs as opposed to the winners of the regular season. Did I just pour a bucket of cold water over my gooey-gushy first paragraph? Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m still delighted to watch the final few minutes of any conference championship game and get even more excited when there’s an upset involved. It just doesn’t make sense that a team that gets hot over a few days gets rewarded over the team that already proved it’s the best in the conference over the regular season. Read this recent column by Jeff Goodman if you disagree. Or read this disgustingly pretentious column I wrote in college. You’ll come around.

Every Game Counts?

Now, you guys may be thinking I’m just saying all this because I’m an Ivy Leaguer and the Ivy League is the only conference in America that doesn’t have a tournament. I guess that’s part of it. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the value of league play with so many titles coming down to a thrilling regular season finale between Penn and Princeton. But even now, as Penn has floundered to the bottom of the league standings, I wouldn’t feel right about my Quakers having a chance to go dancing just by going on a three-game winning streak. I mean, come on, they have 20 losses. I love the idea that every team can win a national championship, but don’t you think the regular season should hold just a little value?

I’m not saying get rid of tournaments. I just think there should be some compromises. Make it so it’s a privilege (not a right) to play in the conference tournament, kind of like the way it is in Division II or III. Sorry but if you’re in the bottom half of your league, you don’t deserve the chance to steal a bid from a 25-win team just so you can play in Dayton on Tuesday. And how about home games and byes for top seeds in every league?

All that said, I have no problem with the big-conference tournaments (other than the fact I can never tell which of the NCAA locks are actually trying). The Big East Tournament at the Garden, especially, has given me many great memories over the years. And any team that runs the table against the nation’s giants over the course of a few days (remember Georgia?) deserves a bid in my mind. So by all means, keep the money pouring in for those leagues. It’s just the one-bid conferences (where revenue isn’t as much of an issue) that seem to be doing a disservice to the NCAA Tournament — and mostly their own teams.

So what do you guys think? At the very least can we agree that the changes I suggested would be much better than that heinous 96-team NCAA tournament proposal?

MIKE WALSH: First off, let me go on record as saying that I’d rather be strangled with one of Digger Phelps’ aforementioned ties while he was still wearing it than see the tournament expanded to 96 teams. In a world where everyone gets a trophy just for trying, I think a little disappointment is good for the teams whose bubbles burst each year. Sorry, Rhode Island, better luck next year! And let’s be honest with ourselves, stretching the field to 96 teams is just another way to get more power conference schools in the Big Dance – or would we have to call it the Bigger Dance? And who doesn’t want to see Rutgers get in? Those kids try so hard…

This concludes the soap box portion of the show.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. XI

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys jump the shark with a discussion about college hoops with an Olympic flavor.

MIKE WALSH: I don’t know about you guys, but the Olympics have monopolized the TV in my house since the opening ceremonies. And don’t get me wrong, I love the Olympics – the grandeur, the goosebumps, the medals – but they’ve seriously cut into my college basketball viewing these days. Take tonight, for example. I’m sitting here watching Olympic ice dancing with my wife, and I suddenly became inspired … to not watch ice dancing anymore.

Hopefully Our Olympics Won't Involve Cold War Era Fencing

I’ve got to get some hoops back in my life. With Selection Sunday just out of reach it still seems a little early to argue about who’s in and who’s out of the Big Dance (don’t tell ESPN … Doug Gottleib’s kids gotta eat). St. Joe’s is struggling to find 10 wins, Penn is struggling to find the basket, and Boston U. is struggling to pretend that anyone cares about college hoops when there’s hockey on. So what if we combine the two? What if we add a little Olympic flair to college hoops and hand out pre-March Madness medals?

I even borrowed an outfit from Johnny Weir just to get into the spirit. So wedgies be damned, we’re off to the first ever college basketball medal ceremony!

Men’s downhill: And the gold medal goes to … UNC! Get it? It’s because they won the national championship just last year and now they stink. They’re not even going to make the it to the Dance. Roy Williams has publicly questioned his team’s effort. It’s ridiculous. It’s like Canadians not being able to make ice. Oh wait … that happened too? Well, that’s unfortunate. But fear not Tar Heel Nation, it’s only a matter of time (and a few more blue chippers) until your boys are once again soaring above everyone else like Shaun White.

Curling: I’m not really sure why, but screaming like a maniac seems to be an integral part of curling. That being said, who better to win the gold than Kansas State’s own Frank Martin? If this guy was screaming, “HARD!” at the top of his lungs at me, well, I’d probably pee my pants, but you better believe I’d be sweeping that ice like a bastard too. The silver medal would be awarded to Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint, mostly because the man’s mouth goes like an outboard motor. Arizona’s Sean Miller rounds out this ear piercing podium.

Skating on thin ice:  This isn’t exactly one you want to be on the podium for. For their poor sportsmanship the students at West Virginia barely edged out the student section at Mississippi State for the gold, if only because someone actually hit an assistant coach with their flying projectiles at WVU. The Mountaineers’ fans thought maybe they should get extra rowdy for the big game against rival Pittsburgh, but guess what kids, there’s a big difference between rowdy and reckless. Maybe they’ll cover that in class next semester? As for Mississippi State, they thought they were getting hosed by the refs and the bottles started flying. News flash: bad refs are as much a part of college basketball as jump shots and lay-up lines. Those kids are as big a sore loser as Evgeni Plushenko, and they probably have the matching mullets, too.

What do you guys think? Who would you don with a Rush the Court gold medal? I’ll give you a push like a speed skating relay team, but I’ve got to get back to rooting against the Canadians.

DAVE ZEITLIN: I’ll be honest. Aside from the joy that is afternoon curling, I haven’t gotten too into the Olympics. Perhaps it’s because I can’t relate to any of the sports. I tried skiing for the first time last weekend, and other than the fact I couldn’t stop, let alone carry my skis and boots at the same time, it went really well. And if you want to understand how graceful an ice skater I am, picture a drunk moose walking on a balance beam.

 
But I like the topic, Michael, and I’m ready to dish out some more medals.
 
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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. X

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys riff on an underappreciated legend from outside the ranks of high-major college hoops.

DAVE ZEITLIN: If there’s one thing I know about you guys, it’s that you love upsets. Well, if you need your fill, you don’t have to wait until March Madness. One of the greatest upsets of all-time is going to unfold next week, and hardly anyone is talking about it.  Bob Knight, one of the most recognized coaches in the world, will soon be passed as the NCAA all-time wins leader by Herb Magee, a man who probably wouldn’t even be recognized in his own city. On Saturday, the 68-year-old Magee, who coaches at Division II Philadelphia University, won his 900th career game. He now has 901 and should surpass Knight’s 902 wins as early as next week.

Philadelphia U Students Celebrate the 900th Win

Of course, some might say that coaching at the Division II level is a whole different ballgame. And it is. But that’s what makes Magee’s story so unique. He’s passed up many offers to coach at a higher level for weird reasons like not wanting to uproot his family and avoiding sleazy hanger-ons. Check out this line from a 2006 Sports Illustrated story: “Magee’s aversion to change means that he’s passed up incalculable amounts of money. But by staying at Philadelphia U, he’s also passed up recruiting wars, street agents, glad-handing, boosters, call-in shows, reality-deprived expectations, nonstop travel and websites devoted to his firing.” Here’s another gem from the same piece:

John Nash, a longtime NBA executive and childhood friend, once called Magee late at night asking why he wasn’t more interested in ascending the ladder.

“What are you doing right now, John?” Magee asked.

“Watching film,” said Nash.

“Me too,” Magee responded. “Mine’s called Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Now let’s think about the man he is going to pass. While Knight should be commended for always running a clean program, let’s be honest: he’s a bully. I’m sure he’s a fun guy to be around if you crack his inner circle, but it’s hard for any writer to like a man who consistently chastises the media (even though he’s now joined it) and once said, “All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.” (As if writing a column for Rush the Court isn’t the GREATEST thing.) Magee, on the other hand, has always been gracious with the very few media members he talks to, even as he conducts interviews in the hallway between his small gym and smaller office.

Now let’s think about the number for a second. 900. Look at the man. He looks like he could run a marathon with two basketballs tied to his back. I bet Magee, who’s nickamed the “Shot Doctor” (which, I must add, is a lot more tolerable than “The General”) would beat Bob Knight one-on-one, 11-0, blindfolded. (Magee scored over 2,000 points in college and was selected in the NBA draft; Knight was a reserve at Ohio State.)  Are the comparisons between these two fair? Probably not. And I’ve been told the two coaches have great respect for each other, with Magee once buying a $2 pamphlet called “Let’s Play Defense” from Knight when the two were younger — which has techniques that he still uses today.

Still, if you like upsets … if you like nice people more than mean people … if you like cute puppies more than this … then you should root for Magee to set the NCAA record. And since I doubt either of you two “Division I fans” know much about Magee, I’ll open the floor. Let’s hear some other underappreciated stories, places of people in the world of college basketball. And no, the St. Joes’ Hawk flapping its wings for an entire game doesn’t count.

MIKE WALSH: I pass …

Frankly, nothing I could come up even holds a candle to Magee, and this achievement is so noteworthy that I don’t think we have even begun to scratch the surface. And, I’m always down for a little Bobby Knight bashing, although my wife’s Indiana-based side of the family might disown me.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. IX

Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys turn the volume up in their heads and listen to their favorite fake basketball broadcasters.

DAVE ZEITLIN: Seeing Barack Obama in the broadcast booth for the Duke-Georgetown game last Saturday got us thinking. What other non-basketball people would we like to see call college basketball games? Since my esteemed colleagues seem to hate when I set criteria, I won’t make any. I just hope, like me, they’ll try to pick someone as funny, likable and basketball-savvy as our president. (I think I just made Glenn Beck cry).  After careful consideration (actually, I’ve hardly thought about it all), my No. 1 choice would have to be Will Ferrell — if only because he could switch between Ron Burgundy and Harry Caray, and maybe even throw a little Jackie Moon in there. Just picture a Kentucky-Duke game with Ferrell on the mic alongside Jim Nantz:

Ferrell as Harry Caray: Hey everybody! This should be a fun one as Coach Mike Shacklestein tries to figure out a way to stop John Wall. Hey! What if the world was made up of only walls? How would anyone walk? Oh, and there’s a fly ball to deep center…

Jim Nantz: No, no, no, this isn’t baseball, Will. It’s a basketball game. And I didn’t know you’d be doing voices…

Ferrell as Ron Burgundy: Did you just interrupt Harry? If you were a man, Jim, I would punch you! Right in the mouth! That was great analysis from Harry — compelling and rich. And now we turn our attention to Brian Fantana on Panda Watch.

Jim Nantz: No, there are no pandas here. Can we just talk about the game, please?

Ferrell as Jackie Moon: Sure thing, Jim. I know a lot about basketball. Some would even say I perfected the game. And there’s John Wall performing the play I invented as he leaps and forces the ball in a downward direction through the net off of a high arching pass.

Jim Nantz: I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Billy Packer.

You’d watch that game, wouldn’t you? What’s that? You’d watch anyway because it’s Duke-Kentucky? Shut up, reader.  Also, just because a week can’t go by where I don’t mention Penn (the same way Mike can’t not mention Jersey Shore), I’d like to see Quakers point guard Malcolm Washington’s father call a game. You may have heard of him. His name is Denzel and he sometimes acts in movies. That would be fun.

Finally, there was this bald guy I met once at a game that I think would do a pretty good job behind the microphone. I think his name was Richard Vitale or something, but some people called him Dick. Anyway, he seemed to really love basketball and had a lot of energy so he might be fun to listen to for one half — or one game at the most. After that, you’d probably get sick of him.

MIKE WALSH: Way to name drop, Dave. We’re all very impressed.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. VIII

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore, and Mike Walsh. This week the guys wax poetic about the rarest thing in college basketball: the four-year star.

DAVE ZEITLIN: I feel like it happens every year. Whenever a four-year starter has a big game, people start chirping things like “How long has this buy been playing for?” and “Shouldn’t he have graduated by now?” and “I didn’t know seventh-year seniors were allowed to play.” You guys know what I mean, right? The sad truth is that the four-year star player feels like an endangered species — and we’re all victim to that kind of thinking.

Take, for instance, Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds. I remember watching him play in the NCAA tournament as a freshman, and yes while it does feel like that happened some time between the Jurassic Period and the Neolithic Age, my point is, well, my point is it shouldn’t be that way. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I miss the days when guys all stayed three or four years. And while I certainly can’t blame many stars for bolting early to the pros (I know there are typically many factors at play), I feel like too many are missing out on the full college experience. And, seriously, what’s better than college? Maybe bacon-wrapped scallops. And Will Ferrell. That’s about it.

Dave's Mancrush Scottie Reynolds

And all things being equal, having upperclassmen has got to help the teams themselves, right? Let’s just look at two players for a moment. At Villanova, Scottie Reynolds is on the verge of becoming the greatest player in program history — if he isn’t already. At Kentucky, John Wall is on the verge of becoming one of the best freshmen ever — if he isn’t already. Both have their teams in the top three in the latest AP poll. And while Wall will surely be an NBA star, and Reynolds may have a difficult time even cracking an NBA roster, I’d like to think come tournament time the senior will be better prepared to lead his team on a deep run than the freshman. But then again, Carmelo Anthony won a championship in his only year in college and Greg Oden almost did the same… so who knows

Either way, something bugs me about these one-year rent-a-players. I’m actually not bothered by the players themselves because, as we know, they have no choice but to go to college for a year and the true NBA-bound superstars shouldn’t feel obligated to stay longer. I think I’m mostly bothered by the coaches, who say disingenuous things like “So-and-So will help the program even after he leaves” and “I really want So-and-So to test the draft waters.” Please. Just admit you sold your soul for a season of glory and your recruiting pitch went something like this: “Come to our school and you only have to take four college courses in your entire life! And three of them will be about massage therapy! After that, I’ll help you get rich rich rich!” (Yes, I’m looking at you Calipari.)

What’s my point? I’m not sure exactly. Maybe I’m just hoping that when March rolls around, the Wildcat who’s been through it all will get just one more lucky bounce than the Wildcat who’s already planning his wardrobe for Draft Day.

And with that, my ode to Scottie Reynolds comes to a close as I pass the curmudgeon torch to my two pals.

MIKE WALSH: College basketball rosters are a revolving door, it’s sad, but true. Unlike football or hockey, basketball is one of the few sports where 18- and 19-year-olds can hold their own against guys in their 20s. And let’s be honest, what 18-year-old kid is going to be able to pass up the promise of millions of dollars when the majority of his classmates will be thrilled to rake in $30K after graduation? If someone offered me the NBA rookie minimum right now I’d be gone… I wouldn’t even finish this column (Ed. Note: we’re all replaceable, Mike.). But alas, I’m a doughy white guy with bad knees, a worse jump shot, and a bank account that wouldn’t even cover the small blind in an NBA road trip poker game.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. VII

Posted by jstevrtc on January 20th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore, and Mike Walsh, whom one of the RTC crew often calls Matt.  This week the guys attempt to come up with college hoops’ answer to outdoor hockey, show their advancing age with references to the early 90s, and somehow get a couple of Jersey Shore references by the editors.

STEVE MOORE: With the illustrious quasi-sorta leader of our Gang of Three sitting in a jury box all week, I’ve been summoned to lead things off. And, as always, I’m going to use this space to make a terrible segue into referencing my alma mater.

Last weekend, I piled on 15 layers of long underwear and a snazzy new hockey jersey to watch my Boston University Terriers face the hated Boston College Eagles at Fenway Park. My seats weren’t that great, and we couldn’t see that much, but it was a blast — especially as the snow started coming down. Anyway, I thought it was a decent tie-in to this week’s topic, which is (drumroll please…), your choice for a non-traditional site for a college hoops game.

With Final Fours played in football stadiums, and even regular-season games taking place beneath 7 million-foot HD plasma screens, there has to be at least one or two athletic directors with this idea. Even pro basketball has gone outside, with the Phoenix Suns playing exhibition games outside at a tennis stadium. Weather will play an issue in any idea like this, which is why — for the sake of a fun argument — we will ignore it in this discussion. Let’s imagine that your proposed game could take place in the middle of the summer. Give me your venue and teams to take part, or even more than two teams if you think a double- or triple-header might be in order. Feel free to think outside the box.

Why not hoops?

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. VI

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh. This week the unathletic threesome decide to live vicariously through their unborn sons. You don’t want to miss it.

MIKE WALSH: Papa Zeitlin is handing me the keys to the column this week. Like a teenager with a learner’s permit, I’ll try not to crash this thing into the neighbor’s mailbox.

Speaking of teenagers, (Creepiest. Segue. Ever.) have you guys seen the SportsCenter commercial where LSU football coach Les Miles recruits a new anchor? Granted, collegiate football and hoops are different beasts, but it made me wonder what it would be like to be blue chipper with his pick of colleges. Being that my athletic abilities never made it out of the shallow end of the Walsh family gene pool, I’ll have to live vicariously through my kids someday. So I might as well figure out where they’re going to be playing college hoops now, before they’re even a twinkle in my eye, right?

Here’s the question: What college basketball coach would you feel most comfortable entrusting your kid to? I’ll give you both a minute to let the dry heaves caused by the mere thought of parenthood subside, and then we’ll go on from there … everyone with me?

For me, I think the job of coaching little Carlos would go to Mark Few. His basketball chops have raised Gonzaga from the ranks of the mid-majors to a perennial tournament threat. He’s not getting a ton McDonald’s All-Americans from year to year, but his results are always Super Sized. On top of the Xs and Os, Few seems to be a stand-up guy. When the Zags’ second leading scorer and top rebounder Josh Heytvelt was arrested in 2007 on drug charges, he didn’t see the hardwood for the rest of the season. Think that would happen to the Big Man on Campus elsewhere? Athletes being held accountable for their actions? Absurd!

So that’s it, my kid-to-be-named-later is headed to the Pacific Northwest. And if he could get a nickname like Sasquatch or Bigfoot, that would be awesome too.

Where are Zeitlin Jr. and Mini-Moore headed?

DAVE ZEITLIN: First of all, it’s a little scary we are all now closer to being a parent than from our days in college. But I’m ready for it. I plan on giving my son a musical crib toy that plays Gus Johnson clips over and over for his first birthday (Do they make those? They should.) and then working on bounce passes at least eight hours a day from the age of two on. My kid will either hate me but then become a star athlete in spite of me or reject the sport until a voice tells him to build a corn field — which will in turn bring him closer to the sport I love and also to me after I die. Isn’t that how it works? (I’m just kidding, by the way. Please don’t take my son away before he’s born, Child Services. Also, Lauren, don’t read this.)

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. V

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2009

backdoorcuts(3)

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh. This week they each pick their favorite moment of the decade — and their answers may surprise you.

DAVE ZEITLIN: Guys, in life I only have two rules: 1) Don’t commit murder; and 2) When a decade is coming to an end, I need to categorize everything in “best of” formats. Seriously, I eat that stuff up like I’m Rick Majerus at a buffet table. I’ve already listed the top 10 Penn basketball moments of the decade for my new Penn sports blog (yes, that’s a plug — now click on the link before I consider breaking rule No. 1) and I’ve read countless more of these types of lists. Who knows why? I guess I’m just a sucker for moments — glorious, spine-tingling, remember-where-you-were-when-you-see-them moments that shed a little light on why I devote way too much of my pathetic life to sports.

College basketball, to be sure, had plenty of great moments this decade. For a good walk down memory lane, be sure to check out a nice recap from Seth Davis. From Syracuse’s national championship in 2003 (Hakim Warrick’s block!) to George Mason’s truly amazing run to Adam Morrison crying on the floor, there are so many moments I remember vividly.

But this is a column where we get stuff done. So our goal is to pick out the truly best moment of the decade. Of course, this can mean a lot of things. For me,it’s hard to pick just one from the NCAA tournament, which features a handful of memorable games and plays every year. So after further consideration, I’ve decided my favorite moment of the 2000s happened this year. It wasn’t a do-or-die game for either team and many people didn’t even watch the end. But Syracuse’s six-overtime win over UConn in last season’s Big East tournament was truly epic — and my No. 1 choice.

I won’t recap the game for you. That would take up too much space, and I don’t even think I remember much of it. Here’s what I do remember: placing a friendly wager with my sports editor about the game (I picked ‘Cuse!), leaving work after the first overtime, listening to one or two  overtimes in my car ride home, coming home and chatting with anyone who was online (was that you, Steve?) through the next couple of overtimes, and then pacing around my apartment and muttering like a crazy person during the final two overtimes. How many overtimes is that? I don’t even know. That game made me forget how to count.

Seriously, I didn’t know what to do during the last hour of that game. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run around the city and find people to talk to about the 2-3 zone. I wanted to drive to Syracuse, find the walk-on that played the final overtime because everyone else fouled out and hug him. I wanted to write the words “March Madness” on a piece of paper and then make out with it. It was that good.

Was it the most important moment of the decade? Definitely not. But it was my favorite. And now I’m eager to know — what are yours? There are no rules, no restrictions. Mike, this is your chance to pen a poem on why St. Joe’s was the best sports story in Philadelphia in 2004 other than a horse. And Steve, you can, um, write about how BU’s only trip to the tourney was spoiled by Bob Huggins being mean. I’ll be anxiously waiting — it’s just too bad there won’t be any six-overtime games to keep me entertained in the meantime.

A polarizing figure for our columnists

STEVE MOORE: First of all, that 2002 tournament game still gives me nightmares. Did Steve Logan really need to go back in the game when Cincinnati had a bazillion-point lead? Bob Huggins thought so. Bob Huggins also hates puppies. So there’s that. Also, what does a list of Top 10 Penn Basketball moments of the decade look like, exactly?

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. IV

Posted by jstevrtc on December 16th, 2009

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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!

Fear the Zeitlin!

Fear the Zeitlin!

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?).

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. III

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009

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Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between correspondents Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore (and this week guest player Mike Walsh) that will appear every Wednesday in Rush the Court. This week they challenge each other to write about the conference challenges while excessively using the word “challenge” — before the new guy decides to monopolize the column for “Holy War” purposes.

DAVE ZEITLIN: With the Big Ten/ACC challenge finished, the SEC/Big East challenge coming up and the Pac-10/Big 12 challenge going on forever, we thought it was time to hear who your favorite RTC writers believe to be the best conference this season. Let’s call this the Dave Zeitlin/Steve Moore Challenge. Only nobody wins. And there’s no hard work or sweat involved (except maybe for Steve, whose fingers sweat when he types too fast). Here goes anyway:

Before the season started, it seemed like the Big East and ACC would be a little bit down, while the SEC and Big 10 would be a little bit up — and I think, for the most part, that’s held up so far. But even with Coach Cal (Steve’s hero), Billy Donovan and everyone’s favorite orange Jew leading a reloaded SEC East, I don’t think the conference has made up enough ground from its woeful 2008-09 performance (when only two teams finished in the top 50 of the RPI). The ACC is clearly down after losing the challenge to the Big 10 for the first time ever, and, despite their challenge triumph, I don’t think the Big 10 should stand at the top, especially after Evan Turner’s unfortunate injury. The Pac-10? Please.

So where does that leave us? I think the discussion at this point should come down to the Big East and the Big 12. The Big East may be a little down from last year when they were stacked top to bottom, but the conference still has three teams (Villanova, Syracuse and West Virginia) in the top 10. The Big 12, meanwhile, might boast the best two teams in the nation (Kansas and Texas) while also featuring teams like Texas Tech, which is coming off the biggest win in the coaching career of Pat Knight, who I like far better than his father.

So … Big East or Big 12? Big 12 or Big East? Even though I grew up watching the Big East and rooting for ‘Cuse, I’m going to give the nod to the Big 12 right now. Now I’ll let Steve crunch some numbers for you and disagree with me.

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STEVE MOORE: What, no America East/Ivy League challenge? Oh…wait, that happened Tuesday night when Penn lost AGAIN to those fighting Great Danes of Albany.

As the official RTC correspondent for the ACC, I can say that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge didn’t really say much about the strength (or lack thereof of the ACC). Duke is still a better team than Wisconsin, but playing in Madison is tough. The real swing came at the bottom of the ACC (Florida State, Virginia, etc.), which is much weaker than the bottom of the Big Ten.

For my money, the Big East is the best conference in the country, and it’ll be hard for anyone to compete with that over the next few seasons. Continuing — and this is a very abstract belief on my part with no real evidence to back it up — the league seems to have more programs that are intent on competing year-to-year, i.e. not necessarily recruiting guys who are clear one-and-doners, but going more for the long-term kids. Look at the roster Jay Wright has at Villanova, or Syracuse, or West Virginia. Lots of sophomores, juniors and even the rarest of college basketball species: SENIORS! Sure, the bottom of the Big East is pretty putrid (see DePaul, South Florida), even though they all have winning records right now on a steady cupcake diet.

Texas and Kansas are obviously great teams, and the Big 12 is clearly in the discussion. But it’s really hard to even have this debate so early in the year. Texas Tech’s win over Washington was nice, but I can’t take the Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge seriously considering how terrible the Pac-10 is this season.

That’s it for my abstract, totally baseless arguments on the subject. At least for now. I’m tired, and have no brain space for stats and numbers. I’ll leave that to the Ivy Leaguer…

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