The College Hoops Championship Contenders – A Guide for the Casual Fan

For someone who once played basketball at the college level (kind of), I’ll admit that I’ve done a pretty weak job of following this season which, by all accounts, has been one of the most exhilarating, upset-filled seasons in recent memory. However, this won’t stop me from sounding like I know everything there is to know about this year’s teams.

How do I do this? Here are the keys:

  • Be able to make an observation about the entire team.
  • Know one player very well.
  • Know something about the program’s history.

That’s all you need. While watching with your friends (who hopefully haven’t watched more hoops than you have), just strategically drop these tidbits throughout the game and you’ll be the king of the basement, or bar, or living room, or the park (if you have the Hopper!).

Since most fans are even lazier than I am, I’ve compiled a brief (ish) guide to let the casual person sound like a Bilas/Gottlieb basketball-knowledge cyborg. I’ve decided to only cover the “contenders” (whatever that means) because with championship week looming, rankings are going to shift, upsets are going to occur, and bubbles are going to burst, so a top-25 list or trying to project unranked teams poised to make a run is just counterproductive at this point.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll include three quotes for you to say to your friends, as well as a personal note because I still know more than you.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Personal Note: I’ve been a die-hard ‘Zags fan since I was about 6. It got to the point where I used to pretend I was Derek Raivio in my driveway (dude, he was so good).

  • “Really great for Gonzaga being ranked number 1 overall for the first time ever; weren’t they up there in the Turiaf and Morrison years?”
  • “I can’t believe how much bulk Olynyk has put on since redshirting.”
  • “Man, Stockton’s kid plays just like he did when he went here.”

Indiana Hoosiers

Personal Note: You can buy Indiana’s warm-up pants for $75.00 – Probably worth it.

  • “These guys aren’t as great defensively as you might think.”
  • “Isn’t it crazy that Oladipo only averaged 12 points a game at Dematha?”
  • “If Indiana’s going to win their sixth national title anytime soon, this is the year.”

Duke Blue Devils

Personal Note: Last year I coached at the same high school that Josh Hairston used to play at; he has this creepy shrine thing outside the gym.

  • “Boy, Ryan Kelly came back just in time.”
  • “I wonder how many points Seth Curry would have scored if he stayed at Liberty.”
  • “Duke better hope they win the ACC tournament; they’ve only won it all once when they didn’t.”

Kansas Jayhawks

Personal Note: I LOVE the fact that Travis Releford wears sweatbands on his wrists. Like, who does that?

  • “You guys heard this, right?”
  • “Ben McLemore might go number 1 overall in the draft this year.”
  • “I’m surprised, I thought Kansas had more than three national titles.”

Georgetown Hoyas

Personal Note: I haven’t watched Georgetown play one time this year. Just so you know.

  • “This team has been so fun to watch all year!”
  • “Wow, Otto Porter Jr. scored 2,482 points in his high school career (which is absolutely outrageous, by the way).”
  • “John Thompson III must hate having his dad looking over his shoulder all the time.”

Miami Hurricanes

Personal Note: Between Tom Coughlin and Jim Larranaga, who’s the evil twin and who’s the good one?

  • “Boy, you can really see that Jim Larranaga brand of basketball coming through with this team (I have no idea if that’s true, but how good does it sound?).”
  • “Anyone know why Shane Larkin quit baseball?”
  • “Can you name three former Miami basketball players?” (Rick Barry, Jimmy Graham, James Jones, and John Salmons will be popular answers)

Michigan Wolverines

Personal Note: Right now, these guys are my pick to win it all.

Louisville Cardinals

Personal Note: Do you think Rick Pitino has ever said “SAY HELLO TO MY LIL’ FRIEND!”?

  • “Louisville fans are probably more excited about Kentucky having a down year than anything else.”
  • Here’s something you DON’T do: Don’t call Peyton Siva “Peyton Silva” and don’t talk about how “he could win, or lose, you the game.”
  • “Rick Pitino is one of three coaches ever to take a team to the Final Four in four separate decades.”

Michigan State Spartans

Personal Note: Tom Izzo’s website is the coolest thing ever; can I hire whoever made it to improve TheMulchPile?

  • Playing in this year’s Big Ten is the perfect way to prepare for the tourney.”
  • “MSU’s website describes Gary Harris as having ‘Big Ten size and strength,’ how do I get that?”
  • “I bet Mateen Cleaves is at this game – it’s not like he has anything better to do.”

So there you have it…

With this guide, you should be set for the next month or so of college basketball. However, if all else fails, just show this video as much as humanly possible:

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