It was March Madness in November Tuesday night, for college hoops junkies like myself.
Four of the top five teams faced each other; this never happens this early in the season.
And while I’m a little down that my Duke boys lost to Kansas, it was still a night of two great games, a bunch of fabulous freshmen, and what felt like the start of a fantastic season.
Some quick-hit thoughts in the wee hours of the morning (cue the Frank Sinatra, please)
–Kansas-Duke was a terrific basketball game, marred only by the 432 fouls called in the final 10 minutes. The referees have been instructed to call the games tighter and eliminate the wrestling matches that go on in the paint, and I’m all for that. It’s just going to take the players some getting used to,
— Jabari Parker. Oh. My. Goodness. I’ve been watching Duke for 26 years, and I can’t remember a player exactly like him. He’s sorta like Grant Hill but bigger (though that sweet alley-oop dunk was exactly like Grant’s in the ’91 title game (above). The kid is going to be really really special.
— Kansas’ stud freshman Andrew Wiggins is very good, but their other less-known freshmen like Wayne Selden and the Mason kid are also terrific. Jayhawks are loaded.
— Michigan State hung on to beat Kentucky, proving that experience beats talented youth early in the year. But man, Julius Randle of Kentucky is a beast. Nobody in college basketball will be able to stop him. He’s got an NBA-ready body as a freshman. (Terrific column on the game here by Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel.)
— Duke played terrible on defense, missed a ton of free throws, and had two of its best players (Quinn Cook and Rodney Hood) basically go invisible the last 15 minutes of the game. And were still in it with 2 minutes left. So I’m not worried.
— I think three of these four teams will be in the Final Four. Michigan State is loaded, Kentucky’s kids are for real, and I think either Duke or Kansas will get there. What a great season this is going to be.
**Next up today, heard this story on the radio this week and was kinda stunned. A high school cross-country runner in Kentucky named Codie Thacker gave up her chance to qualify for the state meet last week because she was assigned the race number 666, and she said to wear it would have gone against her Christian beliefs.
Thacker said she tried to get a different number three times, but officials wouldn’t let her.
“I didn’t want to risk my relationship with God and try to take that number,” Thacker said, adding that she’s been training since June for this race. “I was so nervous, I thought about it all week.”
On the one hand, I can see why she was a little upset. Triple-sixes is not a great number.
But to blow your chance to make the state meet just because a random number was given to you that you didn’t like? Does Thacker really think God is looking down and judging her behavior in a high school running meet?
The things people do in the name of religion… never fails to amaze me.
**Finally today, I thought this was a real interesting study in the New York Times. A writer named Seth Stephens-Davidowitz took a look at NBA players and where they came from, specifically, what zip code, and tried to see if there were any patterns between coming from an underprivileged, low-income area and athletic success.
I think a lot of people, like me, assume that a study like this would show that the worse the background, the hungrier the player, thereby making it more likely the star athlete would make the NBA.
But in actuality, the study found that growing up in a wealthier zip code increases the likelihood an African-American or while male will make the NBA, and that African-American NBA players were far more likely to be born to married parents, among other findings.
Very interesting stuff; it seems like you always hear about the NBA star making it to the pros without any parental guidance, but maybe those are just the exceptional cases.