The Game

Do you enjoy the thrill of competitive gambling, minus the whole bankruptcy thing? Well, we’ve got THE GAME for you.

THE GAME is a points and spread based pick em’ game that follows the college basketball season. Here’s a link to the official rules.

We want as many participants as possible, so feel free to join in on the fun. The champion will be rewarded with the EJSIC merchandise of their choice.

2011-2012 College Basketball Preview Series – The Big Ten (+2)

After not having a team in the Final Four last season, the Big Ten looks to get back on top. However, the only shot appears to lie in Ohio State who returns last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger looks to help improve on Ohio State's Elite 8 finish last season.

After that, the rest of the conference is pretty much up for grabs. As always, teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin will be near the top. Even though Michigan loses Darius Morris, they will likely also finish in the top third.

As far as the rest of the conference goes, here are my predictions:

Big Ten Player of the Year: Jared Sullinger

Big Ten Freshman of the Year: Cody Zeller

Big Ten Coach of the Year: Thad Matta

Conference standings:

1. Ohio State- They return most of their core from last year and have added a few McDonald’s All-Americans to help out off the bench. They shouldn’t have any problem taking the regular season title.
2. Wisconsin- It’s always hard to count out a Bo Ryan led team when it comes to being in the upper tier of the Big Ten. It makes it even more difficult when he has a guy like Jordan Taylor.
3. Michigan- They lose their best player from last year’s team but return just about everybody else including senior Zack Novak and Tim Hardaway, Jr. Trey Burke will have to do his best to fill in for Darius Morris.
4. Michigan State- If this were any other year, I wouldn’t see the Spartans in the top half of the conference. However, it is a little weaker. They return Draymond Green and transfer Brandon Wood should come in and make an impact.
5. Illinois- I think this will be a good, clean start for the Illini. Although they lose Demetri McCamey, they were also fortunate that Jereme Richmond left early. He seemed too hurt more than help. They also bring in a transfer, Sam Maniscalco(Bradley), that will get significant minutes.

6. Indiana- The Hoosiers are one of the most experienced teams in the Big Ten. They also bring in a top-15 recruit in Cody Zeller who should help the team overall in terms of inside and outside play. Look for Will Sheehey to make a huge jump from last season.

7. Purdue- Although they return Robbie Hummel, that’s pretty much all they have in terms of scoring. They don’t return any double-digit scorers from last year and it’s hard to tell how much of an impact Hummel will actually have.
8. Minnesota- They could end up higher than this but they fell off at the end of last season only winning one of their last eleven. Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III could lead this team, but they are going to need some support.
9. Northwestern- John Shurna is an All-Big Ten player, but after he and Drew Crawford the Wildcats don’t have much at all. If they want any chance of postseason play they need at least two others two step up and make a big impact.

10. Iowa- They return their top three scorers from last year, but those guys didn’t help lead Iowa anywhere. Fran McCaffery will have his hands full with this team but they should be able to get a few wins.
11. Nebraska- It’ll be very interesting to see how the Cornhuskers adjust to the Big Ten. They struggled in the Big 12 and for the time being I imagine they struggle in this conference.
12. Penn State- Talor Battle was Penn State basketball for the past four years. Now, he is gone and they don’t have a replacement. With a new coach and new faces, the Nittany Lions will be in the basement of the Big Ten this year. It’s really tough to even tell when they will move out of it.

Check out the EJSIC for a weekly updated on what to watch out for and what’s going on in the Big Ten each week throughout the season.

2011-2012 College Basketball Preview Series – Kansas Jayhawks (AKA: “One and a Half Men”)

(EJSIC is previewing several college basketball teams.  Check out our writers’ takes on Memphis and Duke.)

The 2011-2012 Kansas Jayhawks will see Bill Self hit the court with just six returning scholarship players from last year’s Elite 8 squad. In addition to this core group are nine eight seven six new faces – Freshmen, redshirts and transfers – looking to contribute.

Yo dawg, are we it?

The ultra-thin Jayhawks should still, somehow, be in the mix for a conference title in what’s left of the Big XII. Tough non-conference match ups against Kentucky and Ohio State are presumable losses, and the first-time full round robin conference schedule is likely to take a toll on the young Kansas team.  They will lose games they shouldn’t, possibly win games they shouldn’t and end up winning a game or two in the NCAA tournament come March.

This season will be dominated, however, by anxious Kansas fans collectively holding their breath every time forward Thomas Robinson steps onto the floor. If he happens to get hurt, the team will be entirely on the shoulders of guard Tyshawn Taylor.  And nobody wants to see that.

Former Seton Hall Coach Bobby Gonzalez’s Sister Releases Tell-All Blog

Bobby Gonzalez is the now disgraced former coach of the Big East’s Seton Hall Pirates. A controversial figure, Gonzalez’s on-court results never matched his sideline and off-court bravado. He was eventually fired, and then continued to make headlines after being charged with theft.

Now Gonzalez’s sister, Linda, who is known for absolutely nothing as far as I am aware, wrote a “top ten” on her blog of the worst college basketball writers in America.

Bobby Gonzalez

Not just any ole “top ten” list, this one includes the “WORST, LEAST CREDIBLE, MOST CONFLICTED SPORTSWRITERS [sic].” Enter Grammar Nazi mode: “least credible, and most conflicted sportswriters,” Exit Grammar Nazi mode.

And according to Linda, the top ten (drum roll please) is: (1) Pete Thamel of the New York Times, (2) Pat Forde of ESPN, (3) Jeff Goodman of CBS, (4) Lenn Robbins of the New York Post, (5) JP Pelzman of the Bergen Record (New Jersey), (6) Gary Parrish of CBS, (7) Mike Francessa of WFAN New York, (8) Dana O’Neil of ESPN, (9) Sean Brennan of New York Daily News and Eammon Brennan of ESPN.com (tie), and (10) Dick “Hoops” Weiss of New York Daily News.

It gets better though. For each writer, she includes paragraphs of varying lengths explaining her reasoning which ends with a bolded (just in case you lose your place in the wall of text) “Prediction Fantasy.” The prediction fantasy is her desired end result for each writer which ranges from physical pain to emotional embarrassment to new professions outside of the media.

It is quintessential Gonzalez: a little in your face with just a tad too much crazy mixed in. Linda is not all bad, it seems. She makes a quick list of her five favorite writers at the end of the blog entry. That list is not nearly as fun as her main one, however.

If you thought Linda was done with her flaunting opinions, you were wrong. The Big Lead, a sports blog / website, Tweeted the blog entry which found its way to many of Linda’s “victims.”

Linda then attempted to refute The Big Lead’s quick write-up on the blog. Again, not nearly as entertaining as the top ten list. The subsequent entry is basically a defense of her brother.

The timing of this blog is odd given that Gonzalez has been out of the news for a while since his firing. Perhaps, a spur of the moment thing. Or maybe Linda’s been sitting on it for a while. Regardless the motive, you mess with a Gonzalez, you get the Linda.

The Year of the “Half-and-Done”

Move over, ‘Melo.

Derrick Rose?  Kevin Durant?  John Wall?  Next.

The days of the infamous “One-and-Done” college basketball player are behind us.  Welcome to the dawn of the “Half-and-Done-ers.”

Josh Selby donned #32 for Kansas literally dozens of times in his career

To the surprise of nobody, Kansas Freshman guard, Josh Selby, announced today – via Twitter – that he will forgo his sophomore, junior and senior seasons and enter this June’s NBA draft.  This on the heels of last week’s announcement out of Durham, NC which saw Duke guard, Kyrie Irving take the same step.

Due to the NBA’s age restriction, we have witnessed a host of talented players pass, briefly, through the ranks of amateurs for a full season while they placed their dreams of professional basketball on hold for one, often spectacular year.   It’s not a new phenomenon.

But most of these players PLAYED an entire season in college before heading off to richer pastures.  So, the announcements from Selby and Irving offer a rare glimpse at two young players who both missed significant portions of their one and only collegiate season.  Selby missed the first 9 games of the season awaiting the NCAA’s decision on his eligibility…and then 3 additional games later in the season due to a foot injury.  Irving missed the last 3 months of the regular season for the Blue Devils before returning in the NCAA Tournament.

On the bright side, he never had to learn how to spell "Krzyzewski"

 

In their short time on the court, each player made contributions to their team.  Irving was second on the team in points per game (17.5) and assists per game (4.3) while playing and was a significant factor for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad.  Selby, while never finding the stride he showed when he was so heavily recruited out of high school, showed flashes of the player he could be with impressive offensive numbers in several games for the Jayhawks.

 

But, both Selby and Irving – rivals.com’s No. 1 and 2 point guards, respectively, in the 2010 class – played partial seasons at best.  And, now that their time in college is done, they can move on to bigger (richer) and better (MUCH richer) things without leaving too much of an impact at all on the college game.

Here’s hoping they both get more of a chance to show the nation what they’re capable of at the next level.

 

Al’s Completely Biased NCAA Tournament Bracket Thoughts

Never one to quibble about originality, I am hot on the heels of Small Arms McGee with my thoughts in the aftermath of a SethNonSelection Sunday I am now calling “Weakest Year Ever Day Brought to You By Weakest Committee Ever.” In my mind, this has been one of the ugliest years in basketball, with everyone swimming in a sea of mediocrity that was most notable for the number of dolphins identified as sharks (aka the Big East teams). In keeping with the season, one of the ugliest selection committees in basketball created a truly lopsided bracket that puts the hammer down on OSU, the supposed No. 1 overall seeds. (I was going to link to the Meet the Committee page to laugh at how ugly they are, but apparently they’ve taken that page down due to fear of backlash or personal threats to their families made by Seth Greenberg. So now I’m laughing at them.)

Seth Greenburg's Tears for Fears

So, here are my thoughts on the brackets.

East
I was worried that Gene Smith’s ties to Ohio State would mean that their road to the Final Four would be strewn with rose petals ala Duke last year, so I was shocked to see how difficult that bracket is. However, it’s difficult for everyone, I think. I used to wonder why UNC always gets put in these difficult brackets until I saw that one of the committee members is from Wake Forest, and their feelings about UNC border on some sort of psychotic pathos. I’d almost rather have someone from Duke be in charge of our seeding. UNC might end up playing Ohio State, but I’m not optimistic. Unless Roy told the team to hold back and not wear themselves out in the ACC Tournament (knowing that Duke had the Number 1 seed once they made it to the ACC Tournament final, just as I had expected–not even a loss would have stripped them of that seed), UNC looked wretched in all three of its ACC Tournament games. A fall before the Sweet 16 is looking likely for the Tar Heels.

West
I don’t expect Duke to be challenged in the West. They put some teams that on paper look like they could challenge Duke, but Duke should come through all that unscathed and make it to the Final Four. If Texas makes it past the second round, I’ll be shocked. If Arizona and Tennessee make it past the Sweet 16, I’ll be even more shocked. Pearl is too out of control and Arizona has the same problem that UNC does – youth and inconsistency. Duke has gotten their second wind now and should be able to beat any of them. And, of course, one of the weaker 2nd seeds, SDSU, will be right there to fall apart in the face of Singler’s nipple twisting intimidation and Seth Floppy.

Southwest
This could be the most exciting bracket of them all. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Kansas this year, which probably means they’ll win it all. Why? Because I stopped being able to make decent predictions about the NCAA Tournament in the mid-1990s. I hate Pitino, but Louisville always makes whatever bracket they’re in exciting. I don’t think Florida State will make it out of the first round because they have no offense to counter their defense. Sure, they beat Duke, but that’s because Duke went in there overconfident. After they beat Duke, they got scouted more and people began to see that defense doesn’t always “win championships.” If Singleton plays and is healthy, they might make it to the Sweet 16, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Southeast
Could the announcers on CBS yesterday have been more scathing about Pitt’s number 1 seed? I couldn’t help laughing. I think they were upset that it wasn’t Notre Dame. No one thinks that Pitt can make it to the Final Four, and I agree. The Big East really needs to put its money where its mouth is in this tournament, but I don’t see Pitt as being the one to do that. I think Wisconsin will have no trouble with Belmont – unlike lots of UNC fans, I don’t think that “almost beats” count as wins. I’m hoping St. John’s takes out Gonzaga so we don’t have to put up with them after the first round. They always mess up my bracket. ODU could make some noise this year; they’re the sleeper of the CAA but they haven’t had many tough opponents.

Overall
I still can’t decide who’s going to win it all, though. I don’t feel as strongly about Kansas as everyone does and I fear that if Singler is out of his slump, Duke could beat any one of the one seeds. OSU would be most likely to challenge them, but by virtue of their being in the toughest bracket, they could lose before they face Duke or be so exhausted that they just lay down and die in the face of a Duke that will have cruised into the Final Four (even with out Kyrie “The Toe” Irving). Of course, if Duke loses early, we’ll hear nothing but wails that there should be an asterisk on the game because they didn’t have the point guard on the All-Galaxy team–otherwise they would have beat all their opponents by 40+.

So, there you have it. My completely biased and basically irrelevant thoughts on March Madness. See y’all in Houston (I wish).

Dyke-isms: A Guide to Color Commentary

Hello college basketball fanatics, it’s me, Jimmy Dykes. The writers at EJSIC have cordially invited me to write a guess post about the world of color commentary. You hear guys like Dick Vitale and Bill Raftery and myself drop lots of knowledge during ESPN telecast that you, the viewer, had probably never before heard; like big men hedging on screens, or the fundamental way to block out a rebounder.

We make it sound easy and simple, but really, there’s a lot of work involve to become the best in our business. And while we all bring different flavors to a broadcast, there are a few commonalities one must know to succeed. If you follow this guide, you may end up a co-worker of mine.

1. Know the teams you’re covering

All great commentary stars with homework. As a beginner, you should start by reading the team’s beat writer’s articles in the local paper. You may even watch a game or two when you have an off-night. The key to successful commentary is picking up on the small things the viewer at home, i.e. the amateur, doesn’t see.

The last game I called was on Tuesday at Rupp Arena when Tennessee played arch-rival Kentucky. I’ve been following John (when you’re really good, you can call coaches by their first names) since his days at Memphis. I didn’t do too much research. I already know that he lets his posse players play street ball. For Tennessee on the other hand, I read a few newspaper articles and watched some of their games.

Putting in the extra mile, as we like to say in Bristol, makes all the difference in a successful commentary.

2. Developing Key Words and Catch-phrases

Another aspect to add to your game is key words. Nothing screams “expert” to the home viewer more than a few well-timed insider words. I’m talking about words / catch-phrases that convey a deeper knowledge and understanding of the game at hand.

A couple of my personal favorites are “nail” and “tough two.” Players who nail the tough twos in a game are more likely to spur their teams onto victory. It’s common to interject these words at pivotal moments of the game. For example, if a player misses a crucial free throw, I like to turn to my partner Brad Nessler and say, “Gotta nail those.”

You really have to hammer home your key words throughout a broadcast. That may mean repeating them as much as twenty to thirty times. I like to practice before a game by envisioning the players on the floor and seeing myself make the perfect call. I really believe it helps.

My colleague Dick Vitale has made his mark with catch-phrases, Bay-Be. Another close friend, Bill Raftery, stuns viewers with his brilliant “nickle-dimer.”

3. Develop a Useful Diagram

Diagrams are a great way to nail the viewer with information. It allows you, the commentator, to (1) convey a lot of information in a simple form, and (2) pull the attention away from the game and to your vast expertise. True, the commentator should never be above the game, but the few brief moments during a timeout is your time to shine.

One of my favorite diagrams is the NCAA seeding jet. I’ve used it each of the last few seasons to display number one seeds (i.e. first class), bubble teams (rear of the plane), and teams not quite good enough for the big dance (out of the plane). It accomplishes the tough two goals, and it’s really simple. In fact, I’ve made a quick airplane diagram for the commentators at ESPN and how we all fit into those categories.

Jet Diagram

As you cans see from the diagram, locks for number one seeds include three of our best guys: Dick Vitale, Bill Raftery, and Jay Bilas. These guys (like Duke, Ohio State, Kentucky, and Arkansas) bring it each and every night.

The back of the plane has three solid guys who occasionally have an off night: Fran Franschilla, Stephen Bardo, and myself. We may make an errant comment once in a while, but otherwise, we’re solid. Barring a catastrophe, we’re in the tournament.

Out of the plane is three powerhouses experiencing down years (think North Carolina, UCLA, and Gonzaga): Coach Knight, Len Elmore, and Doris Burke. These three folks are usually great commentators who are experiencing a lackluster year due to a partner change (or in Coach Knight’s case having to work with Brent Musberger), or off-the-side-of-the-court problems.

4. Have a Great Working Relationship with your Partner

As a commentator, you can’t do it all. You can carry your partner for 24 miles of the marathon, but a good partner nails the final tough two miles for you.

Brad and I have a great relationship. We help each other with make-up before the game, we share a good meal with the crew, and we often room together on the road. I really can’t think of better guy to sleep in a hotel bed with than Brad Nessler. He doesn’t even pull the cover to his side of the bed.

5. Have a Favorite Player for Quick Reference

The media is supposed to be unbiased. As a commentator, you should work towards that goal. But, you need a quick reference at hand to relate to the fans. My favorite is Arkansas shooting guard Rotnei Clarke. He taught BYU’s Jimmer Fredette everything he knows.

Arkansas' Rotnei Clarke

I use Rotnei to demonstrate fundamental basketball and to show how hard a good player works. The viewers at home relate because Rotnei is a household name.

Other guys have picked out personal favorites to reference as well. Vitale has gone with the entire Duke team for the past decade which is another option. I’ve heard Doris Burke reference Ashton Gibbs and Kemba Walker a ton this season, but I don’t really know either of those players (which explains her poor performance this season).

Well EJSIC readers, I’ve reached my word limit. I hope this guide was helpful. Catch me on Super Tuesday. Until then, yours truly, Jimmy.