Welcome to this week’s edition of “Case of the Monday’s,” where we start by promising you…
1. No matter what happens, we will not discuss Jeremy Lin. We will not make any off the cuff remarks about his race. We won’t mention his Ivy League education. Nor will even mention his crazy basketball skill, which for some strange reason, seems to be the last thing anyone wants to discuss about the kid at this point.
The truth is, you probably already reached your Jeremy Lin saturation point days ago, meaning let’s go in a different direction, and instead talk college football. And let’s begin with…
2. For those of you who missed it, the big news around the sport last week came from Ft. Worth, TX, where new Big XII member TCU had their “welcome to big-time college football” moment last Wednesday. It happened when a campus-wide drug sting netted 17 arrests, including four football players. Those four were immediately kicked off Gary Patterson’s club, and a later announcement revealed that five more players had tested positive in a random drug test on February 1.
Welcome to college football’s off-season, huh?
But while Crystal Ball Run covered this story early (as we should've), the end result really means very little to me personally, and, in my opinion, speaks even less about the state of the TCU football program. The truth is that when you’re dealing with a group of 85 18-22 year-old young adults, mistakes are going to happen, some worse than others. Yes selling drugs is a terrible offense, but at the same time, let’s not forget that if four guys in that locker room were dealing, that means that (presumably) 81 weren’t. That’s 95 percent of the team doing things the right way, and if the rest of our society had that high a percentage the world would be a much better place.
Beyond that, what I believe is getting lost in the shuffle is the reaction by Patterson and the TCU administration. They were quick and decisive and didn’t wait to kick the rotten apples off the team.
Given the state of college football, given everyone’s need to win at all costs, that’s the real story here. And Patterson needs to be applauded for that.
3. Beyond the TCU drug situation, it was an otherwise painfully slow week in college football. Simply put, trying to find headlines worthy of writing about, was like finding a low-calorie smoothie in Charlie Weis’ office fridge. I’m not saying it was impossible, but it was damn hard.
Of the few news stories that did seem worth reporting, here are a few, in no particular order…
Three more players left Maryland’s football program last week, totaling 24 since Randy Edsall took the reins just over a year ago. As usual, Spencer Hall from Everyday Should Be Saturday provided insight that simply can’t be found anywhere else… Lane Kiffin filled some holes on his coaching staff, including the addition of big-time recruiter and former Tennessee folk hero Tee Martin. Martin had been wide receivers coach at Kentucky… West Virginia not only officially joined the Big XII, but also hired their second new defensive coordinator this off-season… In 2013 recruiting news, both Texas and Florida landed big-time, elite players over the weekend. As Aaron Torres of Crystal Ball Run writes (oh wait, that’s me), each could be difference-makers from the day they step on campus… Rivals.com tells us that not surprisingly, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are off to the hottest starts in the 2013 cycle.
4. With both professional and college football now officially over, college hoops has taken center stage. As most of you know I am a long-time lover of the sport (pre-dating my love affair of the pigskin actually), and if there is one theme of the 2012 season, it has to be how many non-BCS, non-power six conference teams could make serious runs in this year’s tournament.
Watching the “Bracket Busters” games this Saturday, I felt like in no particular order, the following teams could all make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, if not advance further. Those teams were: Murray State, Creighton, Wichita State Long Beach State, Iona, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, VCU and George Mason. And I’m sure beyond that list, that I’m definitely missing somebody.
Speaking of Murray State…
5. That team is undoubtedly legit. As a matter of fact, I was stunned watching them Saturday, at just how good they are.
Now sure, their opponent (St. Mary’s) had to fly across country, and sure their best player (Matthew Dellavedova) was banged up, but you know what? I don’t care. Murray State was quicker than the Gaels, more talented than the Gaels, hungrier than the Gaels, and were simply a better overall basketball team. And it’s not like St. Mary’s is bad; heck they’ve been a Top 20 team for weeks!
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan. Did you see that kid Saturday? I mean… My God! In the lead-up to Saturday’s game, I definitely thought it was hyperbole when ESPN’s announcers kept saying that might be the best point guard in the country. Now? I’m frantically scouring eBay looking to buy one of his jerseys.
Murray State is worthy of all their acclaim.
6. One more college hoops thought, and that’s on the state of the Big East. Because while it isn’t as deep with quality teams as in years past, what I can say is that 2012 is the toughest I can ever remember the conference top to bottom.
Simply put, there are absolutely no easy outs in this league this season. None. South Florida used to be a guaranteed win; not so much anymore. DePaul is playing tough, as best indicated by their near upset of Louisville at home on Saturday. And really, what says the state of the middle class in the Big East, better than both Pittsburgh and Villanova looking like they’ll miss the tournament all-together? Those teams have been guarantees for years, and now they’re looking like they’ll play in the NIT (The UConn Huskies don’t appear to be far behind them).
Really, the place where it stood out to me though was Sunday, as I saw Rutgers nearly upset Syracuse, when the No. 2 team in the country came to the RAC and had to hold on for dear life in a closer-than-the-final-score-looked 74-64 victory.
I mean, wow. I know Rutgers has always been a tough place to play, but at the same time, this was also Syracuse. They’re the No. 2 team in the country. They’re deeper than Daniel Synder’s pockets. They’re the co-favorite to cut down the nets in New Orleans. And they nearly lost at a team which is six games below .500 in the Big East. Plus, it’s not like the Orange played bad. Rutgers was just that tough.
Safe to say, it’s going to be another fun Big East Tournament.
7. Moving from the college game to the professional game, let’s talk a little… Jeremy Lin!!! Kidding! A promise is a promise, and here at Crystal Ball Run, we aren’t talking Jeremy Lin. Unless he starts dating Urban Meyer’s daughter or something.
On the NBA front though, what I would recommend is taking a little time out of your day, and reading this excellent, excellent column on the Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins. I’ve been a Cousins supporter for a long time, and after visiting Kentucky last month and speaking with a lot of people who actually knew him personally, it seems as though a lot of my opinions on the kid actually hold water. Most people who’ve actually interacted with him say what I’ve always felt: He isn’t a perfect kid, but is mostly just rough around the edges and immature, not the thug that the media perceives him to be.
Anyway, this is a long article, but definitely worth the read.
8. Speaking of reading, I’ve been doing a lot of it lately. I grew up around bookstores and books, but more than ever, I’ve found myself needing an escape, and needing a few minutes on the couch with my brain shut off, the computer out of site, and a book in hand. Considering I spend 12 hours a day glued to my PC, that’s probably not surprising.
So with that, I’ve got two good recommendations for you.
The first is the newly released “The Last Great Game,” by ESPN.com columnist Gene Wojciechowski, chronicling the epic 1992 NCAA Tournament game between Kentucky and Duke. If you remember the game (or have seen the highlights), it’s best known for Christian Laettener’s buzzer beater, but to his credit, Wojciechowski spends the 200 pages prior to that shot putting together an incredible narrative surrounding that game. He talks about how the coaches got to their respective programs, how the teams were built, how everyone ended up in that building in that exact moment. Things like that. And definitely worth the read.
Also, after finishing that last week, I picked up a copy of Jeff Pearlman’s, “Love Me, Hate: Barry Bonds And The Making Of An Anti-Hero.” I’ve always been an admirer of Pearlman’s work, and after discussing this one a little bit in a conversation I had with him last week, I knew it’d be worth checking out. So far, it hasn’t disappointed.
Now obviously most of you are probably wondering why I’d recommend a book on Bonds, when the dude hasn’t been relevant in half a decade. I get that. At the same time, this book is a jarring look at not only a great athlete, but also a fascinating figure. Bonds is literally a walking paradox: A baseball prodigy with the social skills of a leper; a child raised with any monetary advantage a kid could ever want, whose father was also a raging alcoholic; someone who was revered and respected by his teammates on the field, but loathed endlessly off it.
Simply put, Bonds is just a fascinating dude. And this book has completely changed my perspective on him.
9. Quickly moving to baseball, did anyone see Josh Beckett and Jon Lester’s half-hearted apology for their role in the Red Sox collapse last fall?
Now, in case you’ve forgotten, the pair (along with John Lackey) got outed after the season for spending most of September in the clubhouse (during games mind you), drinking beer, eating chicken and playing video games. You know how they say a Major League clubhouse usually resembles a frat get-together? Apparently the Sox took that literally last fall.
Either way, both Lester and Beckett spent the summer in confession, said 1,000 Hail Mary’s and are ready to make amends. Included in their comments
Beckett: "We made mistakes in the clubhouse, and that's about as far as I'll go talking about the clubhouse,'' he said.
Lester, speaking about Red Sox fans: "They should be (angry),'' Lester said Sunday morning, reporting day for Red Sox pitchers and catchers. "We didn't play very good. With all the other stuff added on top of that, it's obviously going to make it worse. I don't blame them for being mad. We didn't play good. We stunk. I stunk. I take complete responsibility for it.
Look, I’m the last person to judge anyone. As I mentioned in the TCU segment of this article, we all make mistakes. But seriously guys, come on: Do you really think we’re stupid? If you were truly apologetic, why’d you eat the chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse in the first place?
10. And finally, as we come to the end of the column, I call on you. Because while I’ve serenaded you with thoughts on college hoops and college pigskin, the NBA, MLB and book choices, I come to you with a confession: I am painfully out of touch with TV and movies. I don’t think I’ve been to a movie since the summer, and barely have time to watch anything on TV.
Well with college hoops finishing, I fully expect my schedule to clear up immensely, and I’m ready to dig into any and all TV and movie recommendations.
To which I ask you, any suggestions?
Until next time…
For all his opinion, analysis and articles on college football, please follow Aaron Torres on Twitter.
Also, be sure to follow all the guys of Crystal Ball Run @CrystalBallRun.