The Hardcourt Shuffle: College Basketball Lands on Its Head

BeileinToday’s Shuffle is going to be a quick one — to get your college hoops fix, check out dispatch no. 1 on Indiana-Ohio State from my Big Ten road trip — but, wow, the wheels have really come off, haven’t they? Let’s do a list of 10 thoughts and conclusions from the weekend, except let’s make it just like college basketball rankings and have the numbers mean absolutely nothing.

7. Nobody is good. Or everybody is good. But if everybody is good, then nobody is good. So in the end, nobody is good. Unless you reverse it, in which case, OH, JUST SHUT UP. THIS YEAR IS COMMUNIST. IT’S A PERFECT COMMUNIST YEAR.

With that in mind, who is communist icon Karl Marx’s college basketball doppelganger? What about Friedrich Engels? If you take away the beards, I’m going with Marx as a young Bobby Knight and Engels as a fatter-faced Aaron Craft. But I’m not really happy with either of those, so please help me in the comments.

4. Speaking of Bobby Knight, one detail I didn’t mention from the Ohio State-Indiana dispatch is that OSU trolled the living hell out of IU in their opening video montage. When they rolled down the list of program accomplishments — this many Big Ten Championships, this many Final Fours, etc. — they brought in a new famous Buckeye to rattle off each feat on the big screen. Can you guess who had the line “one national championship”?

It was a guy from Dayton.

Kidding! Classic callback to Friday. No, it was Bobby Knight (reserve forward on the 1960 title squad), and he also later appeared to say, “There’s nothing like Ohio State basketball!” That’s some Three-Billy-Goats-Gruff-level trolling, am I right? (Norwegian Fairy Tales make the best references.)

9. OK, back on topic, focus up. First, let’s deal with that 5 OT game. My main agenda here is to nip any comparison with the awesome, classic, legendary Syracuse-UConn 6 OT game right in the damn bud. This was similar to that one in the same way that top quality Swiss chocolate is similar to sticking your face in a mud puddle and drowning. The video of Louisville’s final possession in the first OT, highlighted by Russ Smith doing god-knows-what, should become an instant classic of ineptitude:

I mean, has there ever been a worse final possession? Did somebody once turn and punt the ball out-of-bounds and break a window with the ball, allowing a deadly swarm of bees to attack the fans? Because only that would be worse. And the other overtimes, plus regulation, weren’t much better. How Rick Pitino could let that happen is beyond my ken. And if the Cardinals can’t finish off a team that relies on a four-string center for its points, how on earth can they compete for a national title?

Folks, this wasn’t a classic. It was a classic embarrassment.

Great line. Great closing line. Reeled ’em in, killed it. Wait, am I typing my thoughts out loud again? I can’t tell. Oh, God, I can’t tell.

5. “Do you know how hard it is to win here, Bo? I mean, do you know? You must know. You must know because you’ve been here forever. God, it’s so hard, Bo. I mean, most years you think, ‘Why even bother? Why even go through the struggle, if it’s only going to sap your energy?’ I think the stress is what really kills me, Bo. You and your goddamn slow efficient offense and your gang of buzzcut thugs throwing a hard shoulder for every cut in the lane … most times, it’s not even worth it. But then, Bo, once in a while … once in a while, I’ve got a team. A real, honest-to-god team. The kind you’ve never known, Bo. The kind that keeps you up at night hoping you know enough not to screw them up. I’ve got a team like that this year, Bo. I’ve got ’em, and it feels good. So what the hell, I said, let’s go to the Kohl Center, and let’s get a win. Why not? I’ve got the team.

“And I got the win, too, Bo. I got the win. Well, I had the win. Ha ha! Key distinction, right? I wanted this one for Timmy, though. God in heaven, that was a beautiful shot, wasn’t it? People have said some things about Timmy, about how he plays on the road, and under pressure. But he put them in their corner with that shot. Yessir. He silenced ’em for good. Oh, boy. We had it. Right in the palm of our goddamn hands.

(removes pistol from his back pocket)

“And then, Bo, you had to go and do something nuts …”

— John Beilein, from Act V of my new play, A Beilein to Madness

Source material:

2. Part of the premise of my Big Ten road trip is that I’d get to see the conference’s six best teams in three games. And it’s still true, by the standings. But those damn Golden Gophers are doing their Gopher best to make me look a fool. The latest idiocy is last night’s home loss to Illinois. Now, the first thing I want to point out is that coming into that game, Minnesota was ranked 11th in the country by KenPom, with high efficiency in most offensive and defensive categories. The second thing I want to point out is that other than a home win against Michigan State, they have lost every single time they’ve played a decent opponent, and are 5-6 in conference. How can you possibly look at those numbers and not start glancing with suspicion at Tubby Smith? Stay tuned later this week for more on that.

8. I think we can officially consider Kansas non-elite. Just like Flacco, who is a non-elite NFL quarterback. That’s right, I said Joe Flacco is not elite. (Sorry, normal readers, but I’m trying to get some NFL hits by hitting on some hot topics.) Peyton Manning has no heart! Tebow!

(On the topic of not elite, I pity anyone who picks either Creighton or Arizona to make the Elite 8. I mentioned this on Twitter earlier this week, but if I could get odds right now on Creighton getting a 6-8 seed and losing in the first round, I’d invest thousands and build a nest egg for the rest of my cozy life.)

1. Just when we had a chance for some clarity in the Mountain West, UNLV’s Anthony Bennett puts up a huge game — 17 points, 12 boards — and New Mexico sinks back to the pack. I think I’m ready to make an unfortunate declaration: I love the Mountain West, love those crazy coots to death, but just like last season, they’re all goners by the Sweet 16 (in 2012, of four teams, only new Mexico even made it to the second round). The only team with a remote shot of doing real tournament damage is Colorado State, based on how they rebound, but the rest are too inconsistent and soft to inspire fear.

3. In the back-on-track department: Indiana, Florida, Syracuse. I still say Florida is the one team that could rampage through the tournament without breaking a sweat.

10. Miami is now 10-0 after hitting 15 3’s and annihilating UNC Saturday, and the Canes nearly won themselves an ACC regular-season title when Duke came a short pull-up jumper away from falling to Boston College. The question of whether Miami will have a second hiccup beyond a possible loss at Cameron, thereby giving Duke a chance to tie for the title, might be the wrong one to ask. Instead, we should be wondering if Duke can keep winning and avoid going three games in the hole. The Feb. 28 game at Virginia is sticking out like a sore thumb …

6. I ribbed Ohio State’s “Value City Arena” in the Big Ten dispatch, which is an awesome venue with a terrible name. With that in mind, I took it upon myself to list the five worst arena names in college basketball. Here’s what I came up with, counting down to the worst:

ETSU/Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center, East Tennessee State

I stopped wanting to watch basketball by the sixth word. Legend has it they need three pages to print a single ticket.

Jenny Craig Pavilion, San Francisco

Horrible flashbacks to ’90s infomercials.

Taco Bell Arena, Boise Sate

I think what’s emerging is that I just don’t like corporate sponsors. If the stadium is covered in a Dorito shell, however, I rescind this entry.

United Spirit Arena, Texas Tech

Sounds like it’s sponsored by a mega-church, is actually sponsored by supermarkets.

The KFC Yum! Center, Louisville

Always and forever no. 1. “Yum!” might be the second creepiest word in the dictionary, behind “yummy!” You remember those kids in the elementary school cafeteria who would go, “yummy in my tummy!”? Those kids are all serial killers now.

That’s it for the Shuffle. See you Wednesday from East Lansing.

Filed Under: College Basketball, Duke, Florida, Indiana, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Shane Ryan, Wisconsin

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Shane Ryan is a contributing writer for Grantland. His book about the young stars of the PGA Tour will be published by Random House in early 2015.

Archive @ ShaneRyanHere