Around the Dial...
Last night I had my friend Dez over to my place to watch the final night of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The plan was to watch the Wisconsin-N.C. State game, followed by the Duke-Michigan State game. Those plans were derailed a bit by technology (more on that below) and the fact that there were more interesting things to watch in the second half of the Wisconsin game than the Badgers absolutely burying N.C. State. But it was a solid evening all around with one of my go-to basketball watching pals. Thoughts from our trip around the ESPN dial below.
1) Unfortunately, I saw very little of Wisconsin’s blowout win over N.C. State. In the first half, this was due to a flawed video feed (I don’t know if this was unique to Directv, but it was annoying) which forced me to briefly switch over to the standard definition version (the horror!) of ESPN2. I believe things were fixed by the time the second half started, but the game was so out of hand at that point that it seemed prudent to switch over to the Purdue-Virginia Tech game. As that game went into overtime, I think I made the right call.
2) Speaking of Purdue and Virginia Tech going into overtime, I couldn’t believe how easily Purdue got its final basket to tie the game in regulation. If you’re Virginia Tech, the one guy you know that you need to pay attention to is JaJuan Johnson, Purdue’s all-American caliber center who was having a great night. So you’d have to think that Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg was ready to murder someone when his team let Johnson easily catch the ball on the block, leading to a quick and easy basket. I can’t say for sure that Purdue wouldn’t have scored had this not happened, but Virginia Tech sure didn’t make it tough on the Boilermakers.
3) Dez and I found ourselves talking several times about how great it is to watch a game where Bob Knight is doing color commentary. Knight, despite being a jerk to a lot of people over the years, oozes brilliance when talking about basketball and breaks things down so that even the most uninformed viewer can understand them with ease. The high point of last night’s Purdue-Virginia Tech broadcast had to be when, during overtime, Knight used his pen and a piece of white paper to diagram a Purdue offensive set and how Virginia Tech should defend it. In an era of high definition television, the camera was actually focusing on the piece of paper containing the scribblings of the color-commentator. And it was good. I can’t think of a single person other than Knight that could have made something like that compelling.
4) At one point during the Purdue-Virginia Tech game, I couldn’t help but notice that in the camera shot between Brent Musberger and Bob Knight was an unshaven man in Virginia Tech gear who looked like a classic stereotype of a crazy Virginia mountain person. That was amusing in itself, but more entertaining was the fact that he was wearing some sort of headset that would seem to indicate that he was calling the game for some media outlet. Nothing like having the crazy-looking guy as part of your radio team...
5) As part of the pre-game breakdown of Duke-Michigan State, Jay Bilas did an interesting segment where he pointed out all of the elements of Duke's defense in a clip of them defending one possession. At the end of it, after Bilas's talk about the Blue Devils applying ball pressure, constantly communicating, denying ball reversal and doubling players with the ball in the post, Dez looked at me and said "Jay Bilas just described everything that Marquette doesn't do on defense." Dez was my one direct information link to the Marquette-UWM game that I didn't see, so I think it's safe to assume that things didn't go well that night.
6) Kudos to Michigan State, who generally hung with Duke last night, despite my expectation that they would get their doors blown off by the Blue Devils. Michigan State is always a team that gels over the course of a season and which you can count on come tournament time, but I don’t necessarily expect them to win big games early on. Given how well they’re playing already, it could be a very special season for the Spartans.
7) It's nice to see Milwaukee native Korie Lucious playing well for Michigan State, though I have to admit saying to Dez after Lucious's excellent first half "I saw him play in high school plenty of times, and I never expected him to be that good."
8) Well, after the last two days I guess we can stop talking about Harrison Barnes as the nation’s top freshman and start talking about Kyrie Irving. Aside from Irving generally playing better so far, it doesn’t hurt his case that his team is generally looking outstanding and that he dropped 31 points on a top-ten team on national television last night.
9) As Dez pointed out, Doris Burke had better enjoy getting top assignments like reporting at the Duke-Michigan State game, because once football season ends, those top assignments are going to Erin Andrews. In the meantime, I’ll also continue to enjoy nights like these, due to my confusing crush on Ms. Burke.
10) I suppose I should have expected lackluster results from picking games solely based on which school’s campus I enjoyed more, but for the record, I went 6-5 on my picks made on that basis. Not great, but at least I came out up one, just like the Big Ten.
11) There are several conclusions that could be drawn from the fact that the Big Ten, considered by many to be the best conference in college basketball this year, won the ACC-Big Ten Challenge by a mere game and the win in the clinching game came in overtime. That’s about as close as it gets. The conclusion that I choose to draw is that while the Big Ten is excellent this year, the ACC is the most consistently outstanding conference in the country and will hang with any other conference in just about any year. (Now, if they could just get North Carolina going again...)
I've got some non-basketball things to do tonight, so I suspect there will be no update tomorrow. But Friday night there's a good chance of me having my first opportunity to get a look at some high school ball (either in person or on television, as Time Warner Sports is broadcasting what is sure to be an interesting Marquette-Menomonee Falls game). Here's looking forward to that.