While relevant college basketball games don't tip off for another month, the sport will open for business this Friday! To celebrate, err... observe this exciting day, we thought it would be shrewd of us to bring in some real college basketball writers on here to shower us with words that carry much more weight than a couple of twentysomething bloggers.
On this humpday, we have Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com. Gary doesn't hold back on Dunkgate, which he lit the fuse for during the Lebron Skills Academy, and offers some thoughts on how Duke can return to being a perennial national title contender.
1. Just what happened at the Lebron Skills Academy? And do you think the media attention it got (which was essentially spurred by yourself) was too excessive? The attention was surprising, sure. I remember filing the blog, then hitting the hotel lobby in Cleveland for drinks with a few writers and coaches, and I just thought it was a nice little story that would get some attention on Deadspin and The Big Lead, and that's about it. Nothing huge. But the story was already all over the place by the time I woke-up the next morning, and then it just kept getting bigger, and Nike didn't do itself any favors by lying about some bullshit policy against filming pick-up games that didn't actually exist.
The whole thing was wild.
It was the perfect storm of a controversy involving LeBron (who, remember, was coming off the handshake snub in the Eastern Conference finals) and Nike, and it happened in a week where there wasn't much else going on. Before I knew it, Conan O'Brien was making jokes about it, and it really was a neat experience. Not for LeBron or Nike, of course. But for me, it was fun. And if it prevents Nike from bullying another young reporter down the road, well, that's good, too. How a company so smart could make such a stupid mistake -- i.e., damage LeBron's image while actually trying to protect it -- is beyond me. But in truth, it wasn't LeBron or Nike as much as it was a Nike official named Lynn Merritt. That guy has a reputation for being a clown, and he lived up to that reputation that week by producing a lot of negative PR for LeBron and Nike. I'm surprised he still has a job. Nike has removed people for less.
2. Does the NCAA need to address the fact that Europe is becoming more and more of a threat in luring our prep stars? It's not an NCAA issue as much as it's an NBA issue. In other words, the reason some prospects are looking at Europe is because they can't look at the NBA due to the NBA's age limit. It's got nothing to do with college, really. But either way, I don't think it'll hurt college basketball too much. We had great college basketball when the LeBrons and Kobes were skipping college, and college basketball can be great without Brandon Jennings, too. In fact, given a choice, I'd rather have no age limit than an age limit that forces players to college who have no real interest in being there. Eventually, I think we'll head back that direction. And I think it'll be sooner rather than later.
3. There seems to still be a gray area as to what defines a "mid-major." In the hierarchy of college basketball, at what program do you draw the line? Seems silly to me that Gonzaga or Xavier can be called a mid-major because they play in the WCC and Atlantic 10 while Colorado and Northwestern are called high-majors because they play in the Big 12 and Big Ten. Nobody would dispute that Gonzaga and Xavier are the better programs, and discounting them with the mid-major label is stupid.
That's why I never use the term "mid-major." It's a term that can't be defined. Thus, it's useless.
Instead, I use BCS and non-BCS because nobody can argue what that means. It mostly serves the same purpose while avoiding the debate about what's a mid-major, and I find the terms to be cleaner and less of a slap in the face. Creighton can be pissed if you call it a mid-major because it doesn't operate like a so-called mid-major. But if you describe Creighton as a school without a BCS-affiliation, well, there is no disputing that. And, again, that's typically what people mean by mid-major, anyway. So I just find it simpler to change the term and highlight the exceptions when need be.
4. Is Duke fading as one of those perennially feared teams? Does Coach K need to modify his recruiting tactics? If by "modify his recruiting tactics" you mean "start recruiting more talented players," then, yes, I think you're absolutely correct. At Duke, they've probably focused too much on character and tried to get the best kids who are also good or great at basketball, which is fine. But that approach has clearly caught up to them, because the best kids in terms of character and academics aren't always better than the not-so-perfect kids enrolling elsewhere. The recruiting approach has to change, and I think it is already, honestly. Duke conducted an 'Elite Camp' for the first time this summer. That's a sign that Coach K is starting to realize that the world is changing, and that he'd better start operating a little more like Bill Self and John Calipari if he wants to compete with Bill Self and John Calipari. He's adjusting, and I think you'll see him win another national title because of it, in time.
5. Your premature surprise team of the season is ... Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have a great roster. It could be a big year for them with a core of Iman Shumpert, Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal. Those are three pros. If we look up in February and Georgia Tech is leading the ACC, I won't be shocked at all.
6. Your premature Final Four picks are ... Kansas, Kentucky, Texas and Michigan State. If you want a wildcard, how about West Virginia?
7. Because of the name of our blog, we ask all journalists who come on here and give us the time of day to name their favorite forgotten college basketball player. Name a few of your favorites who never established themselves at the next level. Well, I grew up in Memphis, so I was a Keith Lee guy. So I'll start with Keith Lee. Also, Keith 'Mister' Jennings. I loved Mister Jennings from East Tennessee State. And I remember really enjoying watching an Arkansas guard named Alex Dillard who could shoot from the Hog's nose on the court. Loved that guy. Nothing like watching a guy pull from 30 for no reason.
8. Finish this sentence: I like using twitter because ... it's another way for me to push my columns, blogs and thoughts in general on people who seem to care about them, for whatever reason. It's just a vessel to deliver my work, and I'm happy to do it for those who care enough to follow me.