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Tuesday Morning Quarterback

November 18, 2003 Columns No Comments

Off on a Tangent

by Dean Austin

With a nod to the great Peter King at SI. I religiously read his Monday Morning Quarterback every week and even if he does go on a bit much, sometimes, about Mary Beth and various Coffee antics – he still rocks.

Ten College Basketball Thoughts

1. Every year the rite of pre-season is the releasing of the major pre season publications. The Sporting News, Street and Smith’s, Lindy’s, Basketball News and more can be found at your favorite newsstand. Normally I recommend them all, although this year I was a little disappointed at the total rip job on former Bruins Coach Steve Lavin within the UCLA section of Street and Smith’s. And for those of you wondering, I’m no fan of UCLA; especially their banal U.C.L.A. chant.

1a. I particularly like the comment in the Sporting News Preview that Syracuse will have a better team but won’t win the Championship again. That’s a brilliantly insightful observation. Then again as I agree with it, I’m not going to diss it!

2. I’m a huge fan of LSU and their Coach John Brady. I remember when Stromile Swift left the program early and one of the most noticeable things was that not one of their players was over 6’9. This off season the Tigers are getting buzz for a great recruiting class but once again no one on the team is over 6’9. Now you don’t need a plethora, or even a lot, of seven footers to be successful in the SEC but when most of your opponents have a couple of bulky bodies over 6’11, it has to be a concern.

3. You hold me down, twist my arm and say bet on your life and I take Michigan State to win it all this year.

4. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the Cal Bears are going to be the “surprise” of the Pac-10 and possibly all of College Basketball. Coach Ben Braun has brought a stability and now quality in depth that signals a long term upswing in the Berkeley program.

5. So many top programs are starting the season with question marks at point guard. You don’t have to have a brilliant point guard to win it all, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. You honestly want to go into battle with Taliek Brown at UCONN? Chris Hill at Michigan State is good enough to be my pre season All-American and yet even with his off season international experience he may end up as Michigan State’s 6th man. Who is going to take over for T.J. Ford in Texas, Kirk Hinrich in Kansas, Hollis Price in Oklahoma, Brandon Knight in Pitt and numerous others?

6. OK I yield. St. Joseph’s Jameer Nelson is all he’s cracked up to be. But I’m still not sold on Notre Dame’s Chris Thomas.

7. Teams I’m looking forward to seeing this year are the aforementioned Cal Bears, a Dick Bennett coached Washington State, the Dayton Flyers under former Michigan State assistant Brian Gregory, and an under rated Manhattan squad.

8. The ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, Conference USA and Big 10 may have their superstar coaches but with the addition of Bennett at Washington State and former Pitt coach Ben Howland at UCLA the Pac 10 might just have the best coaching group from top to bottom of any conference.

9. Individual players I’ll be watching. Chris Hill at Michigan State, Chris Duhon at Duke, Darius Rice at Miami, Justin Reed at Ole Miss, Kris Humphries at Minnesota, Leon Powe at Cal, Andrew Lavender at Oklahoma, Brandon Mouton at Texas, Jason Conley at Missouri, Luis Flores at Manhattan and Ronny Turiaf at Gonzaga.

10. So there I was perusing the various nicknames of college teams. Yeah I know I need to get out more often, but go with the flow. Anyway, I was considering the possible scheduling of similar teams, such as Tigers, Bulldogs and Wildcats, conferences made up of different animals, Panthers, Jaguars, Lions and Bears oh my and even one from dogs, Salukis, Huskies and Terriers. But what really struck me was all of the “Golden” teams. The Golden Gophers in Minnesota, the Golden Bears in California, Golden Eagles of Marquette, Tennessee Tech, Oral Roberts and Southern Mississippi, Golden Hurricane at Tulsa – I mean what the *&%^ is a Golden Hurricane? – Golden Flashes at Kent State, please don’t even go there. And more. The Golden Griffins at Canisius, Golden Grizzlies of Oakland, Golden Panthers of Florida International, the Golden Knights of Central Florida. What about Platinum or Titanium, the metals that are so in vogue with the credit card companies? It’s not like the Florida schools have any excuse. Be creative, not one school has embraced Silver. I mean, the Silver Surfers, now that would be cool.

Five Non-College Basketball Sports thoughts

1. Walk the walk and talk the talk. Congratulations to Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals for their 24-19 “upset” of the Kansas City Chiefs. Not sure about the Chiefs, certainly they’ll be the number one seed in the AFC for the playoffs but wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they didn’t make it to the Super Bowl. And why do I love Peter King? Because he throws out a stat like in 69 the Chiefs went to the Super Bowl after a 24-19 loss to…. Drum roll….. Cincinnati.

2. The BCS sucks. Not just slightly. A lot. Can’t stand apologists who say it is better than the previous system and “they’ll” keep tweaking it until “they” get it right. It will never be right. It’s lame. Kill it cold stone dead. Sit down and come up with a playoff system using the bowls. Extend the season, play more games, acknowledge that student athletes are not, set it up for them to graduate in 5 years not 4 and get the NFL to enact a pay scale that is significantly less for none college graduates than graduates. That’s the way it works in the real world. I’m thinking more kids stay in school and graduate if it hits them on the bottom line.

3. This steroid scandal looks like it is going to go a lot deeper and taint some well known athletes. Certainly looks like the built in excuse will be that they were taking “supplements” and didn’t know that THG was in there. And quite possibly they didn’t, but it’s going to be a mess.

4. Assuming Kobe walks, and unless the prosecution has a lot more information and the defense is severely restricted by Colorado law that’s not unreasonable, it says here that next year Kobe will be visiting the Staples Center in a different uniform.

5. San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean might just be the most under appreciated GM in all of sports and this after he won Executive of the Year. If you follow baseball at all, you knew that Minnesota had a dilemma either this year or at the latest next. Former number 1 pick overall Catcher Joe Mauer had been tearing it up in the minors. Ahead of him on the big club was All-Star A.J. Pierzynski. One of them had to go but only Sabean moved quickly. Joe Nathan, who’s good, and a couple of minor leaguers who might be good, is a steal for an All-Star Catcher.

And a couple of Non-Sporting Thoughts

1. Pirates of the Caribbean is still in theatres. Go watch it. Johnny Depp is going to get screwed when it comes to Oscar time, but it’s one of the great performances of all time.

1a. And check out the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer protégé Klaus Badelt. It’s by far the best movie soundtrack in a long time.

1b. Oh yeah, the 5 nominees that will beat out Depp; Sean Penn, Bill Murray, Peter Dinklage, Jeff Bridges and Russell Crowe. Murray should get it, but Penn walks away with the little golden fellow.

2. Recently discovered the superb James Horner soundtrack for the movie Enemy at the Gate. The movie told the story of dueling snipers in Stalingrad during World War II. Not exactly Saturday morning fare and box office reflected that. Horner supplied a haunting score and the last piece, Tania, is intoxicating. Oddly reminiscent of Shostakovich’s No 11 Symphony or more accurately the natural progression from it. Dmitri Shostakovich, as I’m sure you all recall, was an early 20th century Stalin era Soviet composer. He spent his life producing brilliance but lived in fear of constant hounding from tyrannical forces. Somewhat like today’s college basketball stars, no?

3. Is it just me or has The West Wing started to find its feet again? Not as if Matthew Perry needs the paycheck, but if Executive Producer John Wells wants to spin off a new series using Perry’s Joe Quincy as the main character I’m certainly going to watch.

The Top 25

It’s the Top 25 time of year and welcome to what will be an ongoing controversy. I have never agreed with the subjective nature of the college basketball polls. Each year knowledgeable folks look at who graduated from a team, who is incoming and what players are likely to step up whether from maturity, increased playing time, recent international experience… or all three. Then having sacrificed the pre requisite frogs and virgins, chanted numerous incantations and prayed to the great god Vitale they effectively close their eyes and stick a pin in a list.

Sometimes it’s fairly logical and there is a reasonable consensus, sometimes everyone is all over the map. This year Connecticut is the #1 team according to Hoopville, Street & Smith’s, Basketball News, Lindy’s ESPN and AP. Currently only the Sporting News breaks ranks and awards Duke the top spot.

As the sport rewards the last team standing and not overall record or ability I believe you have to beat a team to take their place.

Therefore until the defending National Champion is beaten, Syracuse is my #1. Now even if it wasn’t on principal, this is not an unreasonable pick; Basketball News has Syracuse #9, Lindy’s #6, Street & Smith’s #13 and Sporting News #7. But even if Syracuse had lost their entire starting five they would still be my #1.

Syracuse is the defending National Champions and will stay that way until they lose. For all I know Charlotte may do that in the first game of the year. Although even with home games against Manhattan for whom I have a sneaking regard for this year, and Michigan State, it is quite conceivable to have the Orangemen be undefeated when they go to Missouri in January.

And say Charlotte wins. Who is the new #1? Charlotte would be; not Connecticut or Duke or my pre season #2, the team that Syracuse beat to win the National Championship, Kansas.

This isn’t Football where polls count, just ask Gonzaga how much the NCAA committee takes national rankings into account. This is all about being the last team standing at the Alamodome in San Antonio at the start of April. You beat the team you are facing and move on.

Therefore my pre season Top 25 was essentially how they finished at the end of the tournament. Syracuse is still the top team until they get beaten.

1. Syracuse
2. Kansas
3. Texas
4. Marquette
5. Oklahoma
6. Arizona
7. Michigan State
8. Kentucky
9. Auburn
10. Duke
11. Connecticut
12. Pittsburgh
13. Butler
14. Notre Dame
15. Maryland
16. Wisconsin
17. Oklahoma State
18. Arizona State
19. Purdue
20. Missouri
21. California
22. Gonzaga
23. Florida
24. Utah
25. Wake Forest

Now that the season is finally under way I’ll start to push around the Top 25 based on actual results. Remember all that matters is who is left standing at the end.


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