... the safe, smart AM read for college basketball fans
Recently CBS and Turner unveiled their announcer pairings for next month's NCAA Tournament. Even though we didn't spot any major surprises in the list of names, with March Madness creeping ever closer, this serves as yet another friendly reminder that Gus Johnson will be MIA during this year's festivities.
Love him or hate him, Johnson's catch-phrasing and flair for the dramatic eventually started to become bigger than the games themselves, and it clearly rubbed people the wrong way. Over time he morphed from a budding play-by-play analyst to a nationally-renowned novelty act, one on the same plane as a Dick Vitale, or a Bobby Knight. Gus, for a while there, could do no wrong in many fan's eyes, even as the task of providing viewers with insight continued to get lost in a maze of forced over-exaggerations.
Two weeks ago, the always-brilliant Will Leitch published a column for New York Magazine that directly called out Johnson for being a "terrible broadcaster." It's safe to say this piece probably stung a lot of college basketball fans to read in its entirety. But here's the thing: Leitch was almost dead-on with his assessment of Johnson as a broadcaster. When it comes to adding to the entire spectacle of March Madness, though, as far as I'm concerned throwing Johnson under the bus in the same capacity is little harder to do.
Even for his faults, we're talking about a man who brought excitement to millions of fans for a pair of four-day weekends every March over the last decade. We remember his famous calls, not just because of the amazing sequences that took place on the court, but because of how wildly entertaining each experience was for us, the viewer. Gus made every last game feel unequivocally like it was the most important 40-minute battle of the season, and, in a way, that's how March Madness should feel. And because of that, it's a shame that we won't have the privileged of inviting Johnson back into our homes this year.
* Colorado coach Tad Boyle: "We let an opportunity slip away. Maybe I let up on them a little in practice. We had a lot more to play for than Stanford did. I didn't see this coming." (Denver Post)
* Take note - Wisconsin's inability to get itself free shots from the charity stripe is a huge red flag (The Badger Herald)
* A lack of consistent offensive production remains an issue for Florida State going forwardTomahawk Nation)(
* Pitino's kids were ice cold from 3-point land (1-for-14) in a loss to CincyCard Chronicle)(
Stanford - Five Pac-12 schools have already hit double figures in conference wins, but that doesn't mean the outcome of this wacky league has become any clearer over the last month. For evidence, look no further than Stanford's not-quite-improbable victory over a Colorado team that entered yesterday with its sights set on moving to 11-4. The thing is, the Cardinal didn't just edge this one out in usual anti-nail-biting Pac-12 fashion, it absolutely assaulted the poor Buffaloes from the opening tip. The 24-point win moved Stanford to 9-7 in the league, which, upon further review, tells us absolutely nothing and everything at the same time.
Wisconsin - The reality of losing to Iowa twice in the same season, let alone the same decade, must be hard for Bo Ryan to comprehend right now. The Badgers waltzed into Carver-Hawkeye Arena yesterday looking to stake a claim as the No. 4 team in the league, and left with a nightmarish mental image of pizza-fueled Hawkeye fans engulfing the court. The coaches poll seems to indicate that Wisconsin is the 15th best team in America. And yet even a 10-8 record in conference play feels like a best-case scenario at this point. Bad loss + Bad timing = This.
5 - Number of steals that New Mexico State freshman Daniel Mullings needed to record a QUADRUPLE DOUBLE on Thursday night. Mullings, who I have cleverly disguised as a co-player of the evening in this here spot, totaled 28 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and five steals in the Aggies' 115-73 destruction of Hawaii. Well done, young man.