College Hoops - The Spin: Holiday Edition
The holiday season is upon us already, and while some have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, I've got visions of the Big Dance in my head - and it's three months away! The reason I'm so excited this early in the season is because I'm impressed by the number of teams that weren't on many experts' Sweet 16 radar at the outset of the season. Some of these teams will fade, but right now there are many different teams who appear capable of running the table in March if things bounce their way.
This giddy feeling has me donning the fake white beard, a couple pillows in my gut, a big belt to hold them in place and a sweet red stocking cap with the obligatory white tassel on the end. And since I've been paying attention to who's been naughty and nice very closely, I've got some gifts to hand out across the college hoops land. But all I could find was a small backpack to put them in, so they won't be large gifts in appearance, but will prove helpful to these deserving people and schools.
IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter: Orthotics
'Tis the season to be jolly, so the song says, but don't tell that to IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter. The jovial Hunter, must have had a little edge to him after consecutive defeats in the final minute of play. First, it was Dayton's Ramod Marshall hitting a shot with 40 seconds left as the Flyers nipped the Jaguars in Dayton. Then, West Virginia's Johannes Herber hit a half-court buzzer-beater to send IUPUI back home with an empty feeling despite two solid efforts in tough places to win. Anyone that's seen Hunter on the sidelines knows the last thing he needs is a cup of joe. So this Santa is fitting him for a pair of orthotics to take some of the pressure off his feet from all the pacing, jumping and stomping he does. I figure that it will add at least five years to his coaching career.
St. Bonaventure guard Marques Green: Lower Back Support
Much like Santa carries his sack of goodies until joy is spread around the world on Christmas Eve, the Bonnies' little big man, Marques Green shoulders the load for a team with limited experience. Green scored 43 points in an overtime loss to Niagara, but there is no statistic that can quantify his leadership skills. So Santa has a tight-fitting back support for the 5'7" Green, and I'm throwing in a couple of spare cookies and a swig of milk to coat his stomach. There are many losses in the Bonnies' future and it won't be easy for a competitor like Green to digest them.
St. John's University: A Fine-Tooth Comb
After seeing the rare occurrence of a coach (Mike Jarvis) getting axed so early in a season without the threat of NCAA sanctions, the university obviously is desperate to bring back the days of Chris Mullin and Walter Berry - and fast. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
The Johnnies lack shooters, and have for quite some time now. And that's just one of their many deficiencies on the basketball court. What the Red Storm needs is a fine-tooth comb during their head-coaching search, because the cobwebs you see at Madison Square Garden are getting thicker with each Knicks and St. John's game that is played there. But at least in college basketball, a quick fix is a much more realistic option, with so many impact freshmen debuting on campuses each year. Santa's intention is for this comb to sift through the available candidates and come up with a head coach that can put St. John's back on the map. Matt Doherty, are you listening? A second chance could await you.
Head coaches Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) & Rick Stansbury (Mississippi State): Lump
Not everyone's been nice. And in college basketball, being naughty usually means an investigation from the NCAA isn't far off. Not in Santa's mind. Being naughty is being a high-quality program in a high-quality conference, but using the months of November and December to rack up wins against teams that have no chance to beat you. What does that do in preparing your team for success in March?
I think Boeheim is an exceptional coach, but it really disappoints me that the 'Cuse won't play their first game outside of the state of New York until mid-January. And Stansbury, who has landed some extremely solid recruits during his time at MSU, has become notorious for having a soft non-conference schedule year after year.
At least this season, the Bulldogs played the competitive, but hardly title-contending likes of UAB and Xavier - albeit in cozy Starkville. And if Chris Marcus had stayed at Western Kentucky, Mississippi State's only road game in the first month of the season would've looked better on the resume come March.
All that being said, if Stansbury wants his team to get the respect he feels they deserve after posting 48 wins over the last two seasons and being the only Division I school to have three players selected in this past June's NBA Draft, Santa has only one thing to say: Don't be afraid to lose to good teams in November and December if it makes your team better and teaches them lessons that will prove valuable at tourney time.
Box Score Bit
Not sure if you caught this in the aftermath of Kentucky's demolition of Indiana over the weekend…but the Hoosiers were almost literally a two-man team, at least from a scoring standpoint. Bracey Wright and Sean Kline combined for 38 of the team's 41 points. The rest of the Hoosiers shot 1-for-28 from the field.
Like I said, the backpack is small, so Santa only has room for one "bit" this week. Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us at InsideHoops.com.