This year of college hoops is already ridiculous. Everyone is fun, the good teams are all stacked, and there are too many stars to even keep track of on any given night. This is why I was huddled over a laptop at 5:30 in the afternoon in L.A. yesterday, watching two grainy ESPN3 feeds at the same time and going nuts for Joel Embiid. We kicked things off with that fever dream in Chicago, but Freshman Watch got real this week.
Every big name played Tuesday, giving us a nice little slice of the madness to come.
The chaotic, hooky garage rock John Barrett makes as Bass Drum of Death can sound like a reaction to his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, more than a reflection of it. After all, the Ole Miss college town is widely known as a genteel, artsy, and Faulkner-approved enclave in the Magnolia State, a place everyone with bookish, hermetic, and alcoholic sensibilities threatens to move to at some point. It appeals to culture hounds who love everything about college football except the actual sport, aspiring connoisseurs of Southern literature and/or booze, and people who think Athens, Georgia, is played out and overexposed.
But you think of Ole Miss’s unofficial slogan — “we may not win every game, but we never lose a party” — and you start to see how Barrett can reconcile Bass Drum of Death’s aesthetic with intense Rebel fanhood. I don’t imagine him as a guy rocking khakis and Lacoste finery at a Grove tailgate, choppin’ it up with Hunter, Trotter, Trey, and the rest of his pledge class while making civil conversation with the absurdly attractive and sundress-clad coeds of Ole Miss. Listening to GB City, I pictured someone who crashed the Sigma Chi house after the game to steal its keg, urinate in its kitchen and hit on Kappa Alpha Theta’s social chair. One side is Oxford at 11 a.m., the other is Oxford at 11 p.m.
These are exciting times for Barrett as both a musician and an Ole Miss diehard. His self-titled second LP was released in June on Innovative Leisure and, apparently, Andre 3000 is a fan. Moreover, the Rebels are making actual headlines over the summer, not just the typical ones where Andy Kennedy or whoever’s coaching the football team is featured in some “hot seat” survey. Marshall Henderson became one of the 2013 NCAA tournament’s breakout personalities, conjuring a wildly hilarious alchemy of Nick Young’s volume shooting, Johnny Manziel’s online persona, and J.R. Smith’s taste for the nightlife. The top three groupings of Henderson on Google Images are “party,” “high school,” and “douche.” To the surprise of no one, Henderson was suspended last week for the thing that the Marshall Hendersons of the world get suspended for, i.e., “violation of team rules.” Meanwhile, the Rebel football team is coming off a ridiculously surprising 7-6 season that led into a ridiculously successful recruiting class that included no. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche.
Barrett took the time to answer our questions regarding the controversial Henderson’s recent suspension, the expectations for the Rebel football team, and Oxford’s justifiable discomfort in the midst of all this positivity.
For our final Man of the Hour, as the early games wind to a close, we turn to a mid-major hero whom I dismissed without cause in my Midwest Region picks, but who is currently putting me to shame with a great performance against Cincinnati. He is:
Both Butler-Bucknell and Arizona-Belmont will be decided on the final play
Butler won by 12 and Arizona won by 17. Then again, these games technically weren’t over until after the final play, so technically I was correct (which is the best kind of correct).
At some point, Gus Johnson will trend on Twitter
Somebody get Darryl Worley back in the studio, because I’m starting to think we need him to call out America for forgetting about Gus.
(Shout-out to Grantland’s four country music fans who will get that joke.)
#Haith will also be trending
[***WAIT FOR MIZZOU GAME***]
Trey Burke will spoil the Nate Wolters coming-out party
Burke was just 2-for-12, but Wolters went 3-for-14. He finished with just 10 points and his team lost by 15. I’m officially on the board.
Before 2 p.m. EDT, the annoying commercial of this year’s tournament will have already revealed itself
I can’t tell if the commercials this year aren’t annoying or if they’re all just equally annoying. Either way, no clear-cut favorite has emerged. Yet.
One of the unfortunate realities of sportswriting is that you're often compelled to make bold predictions, only to suffer all the indignities that follow. Only a true masochist makes predictions, because when you're wrong — and you're always going to be wrong — it becomes a feeding frenzy for the bottom-feeders of the homer ecosystem. Here's what I wrote about the Villanova-Syracuse game on Friday:
As the box score shows, ’Nova shot lights out and got to the line at an incredible rate. These are not repeatable skills for a mediocre offensive team, so I fully expect Syracuse to come in and dominate.
Here's what happened:
Bolstered by the heroics of freshman guard Ryan "Archie" Arcidiacono, ’Nova went on to win by four in overtime. Along the way, they repeated the unrepeatable skills of shooting very well and getting to the line, and threw in a lot of offensive rebounds for good measure. I knew retribution was coming. When I checked my Twitter feed a few hours after the game, it was full of "barbs" from the Wildcats partisans. And the tone — my God, the tone! Brotherly love, my ass. One gentleman from the "Nova Basketball Report" even went back to the article itself and left this gem: "You couldn't be more wrong about nova... good call jackass." Three others liked it.
If you were lulled into a stupor watching Bo Ryan run slow, agonizing circles around Tom Crean as the eleven o'clock hour approached last night, you might have missed the hidden gem on ESPNU. And that's too bad, but I'm here to help. Because while Indiana was losing its first home game, an Ole Miss Rebel named Marshall Henderson was putting on the greatest sideshow of the season, and his whole nutty carnival act climaxed with a buzzer-beater that tranquilized the entire Vanderbilt student body. Compared to BadgerBall, it felt like mainlining raw caffeine to the brain.