Thursday, November 17, 2005

Duke's On ESPN Tonight? Really?

First off today, special thanks to Mark Miller of the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook who recently gave me a very nice write-up on his website and allowed me to explain some of my background and motivation for this site. I’ve been a longtime reader of his publication, and have great respect for his work. In addition to the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook being a must-read for any fan in Wisconsin, his website kept me entertained over the summer when there was nowhere else to get semi-obscure basketball news. So go to his site, read some news, and buy a yearbook. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Lest you think I’m saying this just because of the niceties that Mr. Miller is offering about my site, I was saying the same thing a few weeks ago back when he had no idea who I was. Come on, I have some integrity.

And I promise not to open up tomorrow by giving much deserved credit to others, as I’ve done the past two days. Tomorrow it’s back to being all about me.

On to last night’s game. Though this year’s basketball season is still young, the first week of regular-season action has given me very little time to wish that there was more basketball going on. Sure, high school hoops doesn’t kick off until the last weekend in November, and ESPN won’t completely hit its stride until next week, but there’s been plenty to watch so far. Heck, on Monday I even had to choose between exhibition games of two of the state’s top teams, against two solid division three programs. But alas, the state was tapped out for basketball last night. So what’s a basketball fan to do?

Answer: Watch Duke on ESPN.

Duke’s on ESPN so much that I think they have a regular time slot, just before Sportscenter. Not that I mind, because I must sheepishly admit, I’m a bit of a Duke fan (yes, I know this makes me unpopular with about 95% of the population). Even Duke haters would have to concede, though, that you can’t truly know what’s going on in the world of college basketball unless you’ve had some opportunity to see Duke. With that in mind, I sat down to watch a game played by the #1 team in the land.

And of course, the Blue Devils clearly played like the #1 team in the land, playing stifling defense, showing off oodles of freshman talent, and pounding Seton Hall into submission, to the tune of a 93-40 final score. The game was so ugly (there was a nearly fifteen minute gap between Seton Hall’s first and second field goals) that even I stopped watching after awhile. So my nightly breakdown ends at the first half. That is, unless you want to hear about me cleaning my bathroom in the second half, and the wonders that the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser worked on my ceiling. I’m doubting that you do, so I’m limiting discussion to my game-watching notes:

1) Last night was one of the rare times that there was a game being played at Cameron Indoor Stadium and Dick Vitale wasn’t around to call it for ESPN. Instead, Rick Majerus was the color man. In the past, I’ve been sort of down on Majerus as a color man, since I’ve always preferred him in the studio, where his personality can come out. Last night I enjoyed him. The personality is more subdued in games, but when Majerus is cracking jokes, you can forget that he has a phenomenal basketball mind. His observations were plenty astute last night, beginning with his point that Mike Krzyzwewski’s move of starting two of his freshman was smart because it allowed his experienced players to come off the bench and give a lift, something they’re probably more capable of than freshmen. I’d never thought of it that way, but it’s clear that Majerus had, and that’s why he’s so brilliant.

2) Perhaps the most electrifying play of the game (okay, the half) came when Duke sophomore DeMarcus Nelson slammed home an alley-oop dunk on a pass from Sean Dockery. The play was great primarily because Seton Hall had it pretty well defended, and Nelson probably shouldn’t have been able to do what he did. But of course, he pulled off a ridiculously athletic play and got the dunk down. It was one of those nights for Seton Hall, you could say.

3) The announcers noted that J.J. Redick, whose name I’ve been spelling wrong for the last three years (don’t feel bad, J.J., I actually spelled my own middle name incorrectly for most of my life, until about 3 years ago when I realized my error), told someone in an interview that he expected freshman point guard Greg Paulus to be "the next hated Duke player." I’m not sure whether this would be a blessing or a curse, but the announcers seemed to think it’s a good thing. I guess it’s nice to be the target of fans’ anger, since that means that you’re pretty good, but I also doubt that it’s completely cool to have the entire nation hating you. But Paulus must sort of thrive on that type of feeling. After all, his second choice school was Notre Dame.

4) ESPN picked a few moments to show the brother and mother of Duke freshman Josh McRoberts, both of whom were at the game last night. Either McRoberts’ mom looked eerily young for someone who’s got a son who’s a freshman in college, or I’m losing my ability to tell age as I myself get older. I easily would have guessed that Mrs. McRoberts was Josh’s older sister.

5) Since we’re going to the family corner, sitting next to Mrs. McRoberts was Dave Paulus, father of Duke point guard Greg Paulus. He was sporting the always chic look of a shirt, tie, and baseball cap. Mr. Paulus, if you’re going to wear the cap, at least take 15 minutes to stop and change clothes before the game.

6) The low point for Seton Hall came on a Duke semi-fastbreak. Just as the ball got into the lane, it got kicked to J.J. Redick, who was standing behind the three point arc. The pass was slightly off, and Redick bobbled it, regained a handle on the ball, and squared up again to shoot. He still had time to spare in getting this super-slow shot, and it swished through the net. Duke 33, Seton Hall 5. No, that’s not a typo.

7) Comment of the night came right after the Redick shot when a buddy of mine who was also watching the game called my phone and asked "Do you think Seton Hall’s going to score another basket this half?’ At that point, I honestly wasn’t sure they would.

And I pretty much stopped watching at the half, save for a few random check-ins. Though before I left I did watch a couple minutes of the studio show in order to continue my Steve Lavin hair watch from last season. Last night he was back to the slicked back helmet, though I had noticed the evening prior that he was going with a more free-formed do that still contained roughly two pounds of gel. I’ll keep my eye on this developing story.

Also stay tuned, as in the next week or so, I hope to get organized and introduce you to a couple of friends that will be contributing to the site this season. They all bring something to the table in terms of basketball knowledge and wit, so I think you’ll enjoy their presence.


At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, you missed including what might have been Majerus' best line of the night. He said:

"Will Duke be the national champion this year? I don't know but, I can tell you this... Duke will be mentioned during all 475 games on this network this season."


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