2017 saw the apocalyptic predictions accompanying the Trump Presidency wilt under the unrelenting tide of a zooming world economy fueled by the burning of red tape and regulation alongside the ravings and cheers of a world-class con man (or um, salesmen). Call it smoke and mirrors but beneath lay an economic boom.
2017 also saw the paper ship of College Basketball continue to float miraculously amidst a turbulent sea. Most people only see Trump as an Orange Avenger sent by an Old Testament God to destroy every remaining liberal icon. This same myopic majority are also ignoring the impending collapse of College Basketball, by seeing the world through ESPN hype-spin, the type of impenetrable maze of self-promotion that can turn a clown into a President.
Trump will still be Trump in 2018 but College Basketball can do something Trump, a mere mortal, cannot. College Basketball can return to the years of its callow youth. Before its Dad, (ESPN and associated media), gave it a billion dollars. Ah, to be young again, poor but pure in spirit. A transformation most will bemoan and whose ending very few will bother to watch.
This decline is being watched with bemusement by the NBA as College Basketball’s older brother has developed a mean streak. Mere sibling jealousy has given way to a murderous rage that is hollowing out the appeal of the College game to a few regional hotspots while big brother expands to areas not even visited by Anthony Bourdain.
At one time the NBA needed the college game to groom future NBA stars with the skills, discipline and advance publicity needed for a smooth job transition. No more. Welcome to the G League! Patterned on MLB’s minor leagues, players can now just skip college or at worst spend 18 months in classes and then start earning 250K in the G League while learning to play the style of the parent team.
March brings not only the NCAA Tournament but also the ides of March. “Et tu Brutus,” the ghosts of glories past boomed while the coach squirmed uncomfortably, the tranquility of sleep refusing his entreaties. The fragile ideal of student-athletes competing and graduating lay shattered at the foot of John Calipari’s bed.
In America the brand is everything and the emerging brand of NCAA basketball is the image of future millionaires going to the University of Kentucky for seven class-less months, before cashing their checks and leaving the audience wanting more: just an honest game played without shame or pretense, for money and celebrity, this IS the NBA.
Around the Triangle
NC State has already defeated two teams rated # 2 in the country when the Pack and new coach Kevin Keatts shocked Duke (96-85) and Arizona (90-84). State still has Tourney dreams and Keatt’s approach with Turkish import Omer Yurtseven is paying dividends.
Ex-coach Mark Gottfried had a pretty simple offensive approach last year. “Omer, just stay out of Dennis Smith’s way.” OK, maybe he didn’t exactly say that but State’s offense certainly reflected that sentiment. In the Pack’s amazingly easy win over Duke, Yurtseven began to resemble the rhetoric attached to his name when he signed with State last year. Phrases like one and done morphed into overrated and timid by March. If the real Omer stands up and it’s the guy who showed up vs Duke, there will be an NCAA berth waiting for the Wolfpack.
The one-and-done formula may cash out for the Blue Devils with an NCAA Championship. But two upsets can attract criticism to even the “best coach of all-time in any sport”. If Dick Vitale said it, you know he said it. Marvin Bagley looks like the best freshmen in the country and his stunning stats back it up (23 ppg 64% FG% 11.5 Reb/gm 32.5 PER). There is no evidence that anyone can stop Bagley, so it might behoove the Devils to get that usage rate up closer to the national leader, another super frosh, Oklahoma’s Trae Young (40%). (Bagley checks in at #234).
Duke has an easy ACC schedule and perhaps tinkering and tweaking a juggernaut is simply unnecessary and risky with a young team. But Coach K has already proven to be a risk taker. “Captain Queeg you’ve had issues but why not just have another go at it?” Grayson Allen meet Humphrey Bogart.
Rebounding is a cornerstone of Roy Williams coaching philosophy. Hidden behind the dadgums is a method that apparently trumps the traditional prerequisites for a good rebounding team. Length, vertical leap and strength are rebounding strengths that graduated with Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley, Justin Jackson. But here we are in early January and the Heels are the # 5 rated rebounding team in the nation. Is it technique, coaching emphasis, team drills, conditioning or some good ole secret Roy will reveal in his autobiography?
We just have to believe the data and forget that our lying eyes say this is not a good rebounding team.