Thursday, October 20, 2005

Link-O-Rama

With basketball season quickly approaching, and much of my time devoted to attempting to craft an acceptable pre-season preview for release in the coming weeks, I’d like to knock out a few housekeeping tasks before things kick into high gear and I don’t have time to pause and handle them. Today I’d like to take a moment and do a quick review of the links that I maintain on the right side of this page. When I first started adding links to my page, I did it primarily as a way of giving myself an easy way to get to all of the sites that I like to read on a regular or semi-regular basis. That’s still my general plan, so I’m happy to report that every link that I maintain on my site brings something to the table in terms of providing interesting or useful reading. Certainly some are better than others, but they all serve a purpose.

So today, I’m doing a brief review of my thoughts on each site that site that I’m linked to. I'm sure someone out there has wondered about them, and since it's pre-season, there's no better opportunity for me to kiss some ass. Most of the links are far more legit than I am in terms of basketball information and analysis, so you might want to check them out over the next couple of weeks. Things will be slow around here until November, when I can actually start going to games. So learn something from others while I gear up for the season. But make sure to come back, because as long-time readers know, once the season starts and I begin making fun of players’ facial hair, you never know what might happen.

Here’s those links, in the order that they appear:

Big Ten Wonk
If you want to know about the Big Ten, but don’t want to run all around trying to find info, this is the place to go. Last year this became a must-check site for me every morning before I started my day. Not only did it ensure that my Big Ten knowledge would remain current, I was also treated to the sharp wit of the Wonk. It should also be noted that of all of the sites that I have linked off of my page, I get more comments about this one than any other. My friends love this guy, and are thankful that they’ve had access to his clearinghouse of Big Ten information. And to top it off, based on the handful of email interactions that I’ve had with the Wonk, I’d have to say that he’s a phenomenally nice guy who’s helped this site immensely. So check out the site—it’s one of the best out there, and Big Ten fans are lucky that it just happens to be about their favorite conference.

The Mid-Majority
Every site that I’m listing here has something that it does better than anyone else, and the Mid-Majority has two such things. First, it is the most magnificently designed website of the bunch, housing not just commentary, but an actual vault of information about the mid-major schools of the nation. Second, Kyle Whelliston, the proprietor of the Mid-Majority, is undoubtedly the most skilled writer of any internet basketball writers that I’ve seen. It actually took me awhile to start reading the Mid-Majority, since shamefully, I’m not much of a follower of mid-major basketball. Once you start reading his outstanding tales, though, Mr. Whelliston makes you care. His season wrap-up last year after completing his goal of attending 100 games in one year was shockingly artful given the fact that at the end of the day, basketball is still just a game played by huge, sweaty men. And of course, one can’t help but love a guy that has a regular job, is married, and still manages to see 100 games in a year. For these reasons, I think Mr. Wheliston is my hero.

Yocohoops (Yoni Cohen Basketball Blog)
The college basketball world owes a debt of gratitude to Yoni Cohen, the author of Yocohoops. With links to major news stories every day, if you visit Yocohoops, you’ll never be out of touch with what’s going on in college basketball. And though Yocohoops is less about commentary and more about news than some of the other sites I have listed, Mr. Cohen can also dish out thoughts with the best of them, as evidenced by the fact that he’s now writing columns for FoxSports.com, in addition to his daily blog updates. Also, let’s not discount the fact that pretty much anyone who’s writing a blog about college basketball was probably discovered first by Mr. Cohen. Without him, I probably wouldn’t know about any of the other sites listed here, and they wouldn’t know about me. That’s pretty cool if you think about it.

Hawkeye Hoops
I was turned on to this site by some glowing reviews on the aforementioned Big Ten Wonk website. Ryan, the proprietor of Hawkeye Hoops, is one of the best basketball minds that’s out there doing this sort of commentary. I’m actually somewhat intimidated by how much he knows, since it reinforces just how little I know. His emphasis, as you may guess, is on the Iowa basketball team, but you can’t help but pick up a few nuggets about the Big Ten and the nation as a whole as you read him (if you doubt this, check out one of his Big Ten team capsules, which he’s currently in the middle of releasing). If you were looking for a flaw in Hawkeye Hoops, you might argue that it’s too smart for its own good. Once you get past the intimidation factor, though, it’s pretty easy to learn a lot by reading Hawkeye Hoops. So, go there and start learning.

Ken Pomeroy
Do you like stats? Well, if you do, then you’re going to love Ken Pomeroy. Personally, I have to admit that I don’t have a good understanding of how the RPI works, and how it impacts the college game. Nor do I pay tons of attention to individual player stats, aside from that which is necessary for the nerdy Big Ten fantasy league that I’m in. And after I read Mr. Pomeroy’s analysis, I feel kind of bad about that, because through the use of existing statistics and the creation of innovative new statistics, he can prove or illustrate things that you never would have guessed about the game. My suggestion? Read him for a week real closely. You may not understand what’s going on at first, but eventually you’ll read something and go “Wow! I never would have thought of it that way!” And for the rest of the season you’ll conceptualize offensive efficiency the same way. Sure, stat guys frighten me too, but you can’t deny that they have a point.

ACC Basketblog
I live in Milwaukee, and for years have been primarily a Big Ten fan, though I recognize that for a good portion of the 1990s, it was a painful conference to watch. Now I have access to the Big East, since Marquette has joined up. And while one could make the argument that the Big East is the strongest conference in the country, I still don’t think there’s a more compelling conference, year in and year out, than the ACC. Since about the only time I get to see the ACC is when ESPN decides to show a game, I miss some of the finer points of the league, and the ACC Basketblog is there to pick up the pieces. So, if you’re as interested in the happenings of the ACC as I am, and my basic analysis of the ACC, along the lines of “Duke is good” is not enough for you, check these guys out.

Marquette Basketball Blog
I can give you some Marquette, but let’s face it, if you want total Marquette coverage, I’m not the guy. In addition to the Golden Eagles, I’m tied up watching Wisconsin, UWM, high school ball, the occasional division three college game, and whatever happens to be showing on ESPN on any given night, but the guys at the Marquette Basketball Blog are constantly tracking what’s going on at Marquette. Additionally, let’s be honest—I think I’m generally fair to Marquette, and I generally consider myself a fan, but they’re a chief rival of Wisconsin, my alma mater. If push comes to shove, I’m going to lose some objectivity and side with Wisconsin. So if you want the true Marquette fan’s perspective on those times when I find myself on the other side of the fence, this is the place to go.

Illini Wonk
I feel sort of bad, as I shouldn’t like people from Illinois, but this is a good read. As you’ll note, there’s not a lot of people that I link to that follow a specific team, as I usually don’t care enough to keep going back. I probably got suckered in last year because Illinois was really, really good last year and I really, really like Bruce Weber, but even if that's the case, I'm glad I did, because I always leave this site happy that I stopped by. The fact is, I can’t point out anything unique or particularly great about this site, but it always seems to be one of the places that I keep going back to when I’m checking news at the beginning of the day. I can't figure out why I like it so much. And perhaps that’s what’s unique about it—the stealthy goodness.

The Bracket Board

Normally I’d hesitate to place a link to a site that concerns itself largely with Western Kentucky basketball, but Cortney Basham over at the Bracket Board is more compelling in his analysis than I would typically expect from a Kentucky native (sorry about the cheap shot on your fair state, Mr. Basham, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t take it). I’d like to think that if I was based in Kentucky, and a bit more dedicated to the nation as a whole, I’d have set something up like the Bracket Board. As the name implies, the Bracket Board is the home of an amateur bracketologist, so in addition to some interesting analysis, you’re going to get a breakdown of how the NCAA tournament might look going forward. Also as noted, there’s plenty of talk about Western Kentucky, and if you’re looking for a tangential connection to Wisconsin, then please note that WKU head coach Darrin Horn is a former assistant at Marquette. And if that’s not enough to get you to stop by, please note that WKU has the coolest mascot in the world.

Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook
I’ve been over this before, but Blue Ribbon is far and away the best college basketball resource out there. If you know me personally, you probably want me to shut up about this already, since I’ve been pretty obnoxious about telling people about my love of it ever since I picked up my first copy in 1997-98. In fact, the only product that I’ve ever shown more loyalty to is Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which I’m equally obnoxious about praising whenever the chance comes up. So I won’t tell you again what I think of this book. I will, however, give you an easy link to help you buy it.

Draft Express

It’s one of my new links and I don’t know all that I need to, but it has great potential to be a must-check site. This past summer, Jonathan, one of the guys running Draft Express dropped me an email that essentially told me where former Badger Mike Wilkinson was going to sign a pro contract overseas. He nailed the country, the state, and the club. This wouldn’t have been incredible, except it was a good week before I saw the news anywhere else. The people running this site know what they’re talking about, and despite the focus on the NBA draft, there’s a wealth of college info.

Brian McCormick: Youth Coach

This is actually a new link for me, as well, and I’m not as familiar with it as I could be. . My brief perusal of his site tells me that he’s based in California, and is a coach and trainer to a number of young people. I can’t vouch for the guy yet, but his point of view is unique compared to the sideline commentators that I generally tend to link to, and his voice could be a nice one to have in the mix going forward. At least I’m hoping so.

Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook

If you follow the link on the side, it is true that you’ll be at the place where you purchase the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook. But that’s only part of the reason that it’s there. In addition to finding an order form, you’ll find a wealth of information from WBBY founder Mark Miller. Miller recently ended his monthly publication, the Wisconsin Basketball News, which while sad, has led him to give away much of the same information contained in the Wisconsin Basketball News for free on his website. And nerds like me appreciate it, particularly in the summer months when this site is easily the best of the few places still updating info on Wisconsin high school basketball players and teams.

Wishoops.net
Started only a few short years ago, Wishoops.net is a website dedicated to covering the goings-on of Wisconsin high school basketball. There’s lots of analysis, reporting, and last year they placed a new emphasis on loading tons of video clips on the site. Just as with the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook site, you’re going to find a lot of information that would otherwise never see the light of day. The site also features links to message boards that sometimes provide interesting rumors and information, but typically also contain numerous inarticulate comments from kids who are overly excited about their team. And of course, if you’re willing to pay a tad extra, the premium “Courtside” area of Wishoops.net is going to give you even more content. What more could you ask for?

Badger Blue Chips
This is a general site set up to track recruiting by the Wisconsin Badgers. I believe the guy running the site is just an informed fan keeping tabs on as many potential recruiting targets as possible. It’s nothing earth shattering, but it’s a pretty nice resource if you want to know who’s on the Badgers’ radar. Good pictures and a nice layout make it a nice stop-off. It would be a be a lot easier on guys like me if every team had a fan who did a site like this.


And now we come to the message board portion of the links, of which I would like to say a few words. In general, I think sports message boards are about the nerdiest thing in the world. Of course, that doesn't stop me from glancing at them almost every day. And heck, I've devoted hours and hours of my life to recounting experiences that happen to me as I watch basketball, so I shouldn't really be playing the nerd card. But even if I think that the bulk of what goes on at sports message boards is inherently nerdy, they still provide about the fastest access to information on most teams. So here are some key ones for the state of Wisconsin. It is with great shame that I read each of them.

Badgermaniac/Badger Nation Message Board
This is the primary place where Wisconsin fans of the world come to discuss sports on the internet. As such, you’ll get all kinds of folks here. You’ll find the guy that feels the need to point out daily how lucky Badger fans are to have a great coach and great players. You’ll find the guy who, six months before the season begins, wants to break down how many minutes each player on the roster will get. You’ll find the guy who has the irrational hatred of in-state rival, Marquette. And you’ll even find a few people that actually know what they’re talking about. Because it’s the only board of note for Badger fans, you’ll find all kinds, and that’s the beauty of it. Because lets face it, without the reasonable fans, the board would be insane, but without the irrational fans, the board would be boring.

Marquette Ahoya Board
MarquetteHoops.com Board
Because there’s only one Wisconsin board, it encompasses everyone. Because there’s two Marquette boards that people use, each has a slightly different personality. The Ahoya board is the elder of the two, and the more widely used. The MarquetteHoops.com board is newer, but is probably the home of more reasonable discussion. Want to see an interesting assessment of how Tom Crean is using his personnel? I’d check the MarquetteHoops.com site. Want to be entertained as Marquette fans take out their frustrations on Wisconsin? Ahoya’s probably for you. The distinction between the two sites may not be as extreme as I paint it—each one has both informative and just plain nutty comments—but the distinction that I give is indicative of a trend that I generally perceive.

UWM Message Board

I’ll be frank—I didn’t even know UWM had a fan site until someone linked my site up in a thread one day. Since UWM lacks the big-time appeal of Wisconsin and Marquette, there’s a lot less activity on their board. That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad place to visit, though. The people that come here are the die-hards. You’ve got to have some level of commitment if you’re willing not only be a fan of a mid-major like UWM, but to actively post your thoughts on a fan site. Make no mistake—these guys might not have a team in the Big East or the Big Ten, but they love their team, and know plenty about it. One just hopes that if the Panthers sink back to their losing ways of the mid-1990s that the board still remains a place for vibrant discussion.

Media Links
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is the probably the easiest place to get legitimate media coverage of any of the state’s division one teams. Madison is the home of the Wisconsin Badgers, and it is a city with two newspapers, but until they make it a bit easier to link to a general basketball coverage area of the Wisconsin State Journal, I can’t link to them. The Capital Times, Madison’s other paper, seems to have somewhat resolved this problem, so they’re getting a shiny new link in the next couple of days.

Gambler’s Parking Lot

This is my friend Adam’s site, which I gave an introduction to back here. Basically, Adam gives betting advice based on computer programs that he’s developed. Let it be clear that I’m not a real fan of sports gambling, but frankly, after you see Adam’s success rate, you won’t be either. I consider linking to this second-rate gambling advice site to be my contribution to ridding the world of problem gamblers.

Joe Sports Fan

I’ve been reading this sports humor site for well over a year now, and find it a good light read. It’s run primarily by two guys based in Missouri and has somewhat of an emphasis on St. Louis sports, but covers the nation as a whole very well. I always describe it to people as a low-rent, St. Louis version of ESPN’s “The Sports Guy.” That might be slightly inaccurate, as the style is quite different, but it’s tough to classify a sports humorist, and this is typically the easiest way to entice people to check it out. Features include weekly columns about any number of sports issues, an array of wacky Top 7 lists and the “Worthless Baseball Card of the Week,” recently linked to by the Sports Guy’s intern. The columns are good, but if you’re looking for a quick fix, there’s always a hilarious “Untrue Fun Fact” about the player featured in the “Worthless Baseball Card of the Week.” Although I must profess that I miss the short lived feature “The Cage Match,” where the authors at the site would debate a ridiculous point. You might not think that the question of which relationship is more perverted, Doc Brown and Marty McFly or Mr. Miyagi and Daniel Laruso would stir emotion, but it turned out to be a great barroom conversation piece for me for some time.


Those are my links. Enjoy them, explore them, and most of all, come back when you're done.

2 Comments:

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Illiniwonk said...

Chris,
I'm honored to be one of your links and glad you like it enough to keep stopping by. I'm looking forward to keepin gup with your blog during the season.

 
At 7:14 PM, Blogger Marquette Hoops said...

Chris, thanks for the kind words....your blog is a fave of Cracked Sidewalks as well, no doubt.

 

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