Welcome to Grantland’s college basketball dictionary, an A-to-Z guide of all the terms and phrases you need to know. It’s the lexicon of the amateur hard court — a vernacular sure to make you a hit with all your hoopster buddies. (You should check out our other dictionaries — sportswriting, baseball, college football, and hockey — too.)
Let’s “tip it off,” shall we?!
air ball (n.) — a shot that fails to hit any part of the basket, allowing people like you and me to shame physically superior humans with a droning chant.
American Athletic Conference (n., endangered) — a one-year embarrassment in the otherwise proud history of Louisville basketball, following the Big East era and preceding the ACC era. Somehow not even good enough to keep Rutgers. Again, Rutgers.
center (n.) — near-obsolete position manned by tall people who believe they are entitled to automatic foul calls because of their size. Centers typically spend 10 to 12 minutes complaining to referees before becoming fatigued and asking to be removed from the game. They have spent whole lifetimes playing a sport with, like, three different skills, but have yet to learn how to dribble or make a shot outside of five feet.
Craft, Aaron (n.) — semi-mythical figure who has endured in college basketball lore for decades. The first reported sighting came in 1894, when he was allegedly spotted taking a charge for the Chimney Rock Wagoneers of the New Territories Conference. Recent rumors place him as a point guard at Ohio State. Will never graduate. Or age.
double dribble (n.) — violation in which a player dribbles the ball with two hands at the same time or dribbles, stops dribbling, and dribbles again. Since 2000, 94 percent of all NCAA double-dribbling violations have been committed by a member of the Plumlee family.
electric (adj.) — the atmosphere inside every college basketball arena for any home game, ever, according to announcers. Also used to describe the sensation of being stared at for longer than three seconds by Illinois coach and noted extraterrestrial John Groce.
Euroleague (n.) — European league for a sport played on a basketball court, but with constant flopping, longer hair, and games that end in scoreless draws. An occasional destination for high school graduates who want to greedily circumvent bizarre labor laws and actually make money for their talent.
fast break (n., obsolete) — concept whereby players try to score in transition after a defensive rebound before the other team has a chance to recover. No longer practiced at the college level. Punishable by death in the state of Wisconsin.
Ford (n.) — type of car, former U.S. president, curmudgeonly actor, and college basketball coach who cannot go .500 in conference play despite having MARCUS F—ING SMART in his starting five. (See also: Barnes, Rick.)
granny shot (n.) — type of underhanded free throw taken by Ollie in the film Hoosiers, or any shot taken by former Florida Gator Joakim Noah, the player who looked most like an actual grandmother during his collegiate career.
halftime (n.) — one of 27 sanctioned intermissions extending the college game to new, unprecedented lengths. Slightly longer than TV timeouts, injury timeouts, clock malfunctions, replay reviews, referee conferences, moisture on the court, first-half tea, second-half scones, nap time, five minutes of tears, five minutes of joy, the hug line, the Dick Vitale stretch-out, the cheerleader fight, and both the official and unofficial streaker dance-offs.
ice (n.) — frozen water, used to denote either a player who has missed a series of shots (“ice cold”) or one who performs well under pressure (“ice in his veins”). (See also: Gervin, George — retired player known by the nickname “Iceman,” due to his penchant for spitting ice cubes on the floor when he disagreed with a call.)
in-and-out (exp.) — phrase used to describe a ball that nearly goes in the basket before popping out. According to sources in Bloomington, Indiana, it is impossible not to experience a full-body shudder when you hear Tom Crean utter these words with that face … that face … oh God, that sweaty, awful face.
Izzo (n.) — Italian word, roughly translated as: “A coach who — regardless of debilitating injuries, lack of talent, or a punishing regular-season schedule — reaches the Final Four and makes Calipari look like a real asshole.”
NBA (n.) — professional league where 95 percent of Kentucky recruits think they’re going out of high school, due to Wildcats coach John Calipari’s shifty tongue, devilish charm, and elaborate, mobile sets.
over-and-back (n.) — violation that never actually occurs, because players just follow the ball until it rolls out of bounds in the off chance that something weird will happen, like an earthquake that tilts the court.
palming (v., obsolete) — a former violation, at least according to a lot of angry old guys who apparently dribbled using only their palms, like Stanley from The Office.
quickness (n.) — an indispensable quality in a Division I player, the lack of which is the reason I’m writing goddamn blog posts for a living instead of telling you all go to f— yourselves from behind a podium after dropping 30 on UNC.
Shabazz (n.) — first name of a talented University of Connecticut guard who has become highly irksome to Shabazz the Ethereal, a magician who has now been relegated to page 14 in Google search results.
“storming the court” (exp.) — harmless, celebratory activity enjoyed by college students following a significant victory. Considered a criminal offense by many members of the sports media, especially those suffering from adult diaper rash.
technical foul (n.) — foul called when somebody complains because a referee is “technically” incompetent. (See also: Hess, Karl.)
triple-double (n., obsolete) — archaic statistical feat in which a player achieves double digits in at least three different statistical categories, including points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. More common in an era when college teams scored more than 40 points per game.
V-cut (n.) — sharp movement players use to free themselves for a pass. Also, the kind of T-shirt it would be hilarious to see Notre Dame coach Mike Brey wear, just once.
ventriloquism (n.) — act by which John Calipari makes his players sound like they care about the University of Kentucky as anything more than a very brief stopping point on the way to making millions of dollars.
“Walk!” (n.) — another thing old men yell all the time, in reference to a traveling violation. Players are now allowed to take seven consecutive steps without dribbling when approaching the basket, but will still be whistled for traveling if they attempt an awkward-looking jab step on the perimeter.
wind (n.) — weather element that makes basketball hard to play, apparently, when you have the brilliant idea of holding a game on a FUCKING BOAT.
yap (n.) — sound made by Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin when he yells from the sideline.
zone (n.) — type of defense taught by Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, though he uses man-to-man exclusively when picking his nose.