In just its sixth year of existence, the Legends Classic isn’t exactly legendary or classic, and as early-season tournaments go, it certainly isn’t as renowned as the Maui Invitational. But this year’s Legends Classic was played in Brooklyn’s new Barclays Centre and featured the no. 1 team in the country (Indiana), the no. 1 recruiting class in the country (UCLA), another team that should comfortably make the NCAA tournament (Georgetown), and a team that is Georgia (Georgia). Because of this, this year’s Legends Classic was must-see TV for me. If you didn’t feel the same way, here’s what you missed: four takeaways from Monday's and Tuesday’s games.
Indiana Answered Some Questions
Because of their inconsistency a season ago, the two big questions concerning the preseason no. 1 team in the country this year were whether they could handle being the hunted rather than the hunters and whether they could beat a halfway decent team outside of Assembly Hall. Both questions were answered last night, even if they were answered less emphatically than Hoosiers critics might like.
Last week, we looked at the Dangerous Outsiders, the Royal Blues, and the Title Snipers. See the box below for those links. This week, we turn to four legitimate championship contenders, starting with the Wolfpack of NC State yesterday and continuing with the Ohio State Buckeyes today.
Ohio State: The Sneaky Contenders
The Gist: One of the great stories in American politics is how Abraham Lincoln secured the Republican nomination for president in 1860. It's worth reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's excellent Team of Rivals for the full story, but the broad outline is that although Lincoln was a visible public figure by that time, he wasn't expected to win. (Unlike today, where the conventions are a three-day coronation, the 1800s versions involved uncertain outcomes, electioneering, and backdoor deals that often shifted crucial votes; sort of like a modern-day caucus on steroids.) William Seward was the front-runner, and the vote-leader in the first two rounds of ballots. But he fell just short of the necessary majority both times (too radical), and Lincoln's supporters slowly but surely whittled away votes from the less popular candidates. Seward's supporters held firm, but they wrongly expected their numbers to increase without much sweat. Finally, on the third round of voting, the relentless Lincolnites swayed enough minority candidates, and suddenly their man was the head of the ticket. The reaction around the country, and even at the convention, was mild to major surprise. "Wait, Lincoln won?"
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Jeremy Lin had 28 points and 14 assists, and his teammate Steve Novak scored 14 fourth-quarter points as the Knicks beat the defending champion Dallas Mavericks 104-97. Hey-oh, looks like we need to hand out some Novak-olades, am I right?! Come on, let's spread it around! Novak-olades! The next big thing. It's going to be great, we just have to get Novak-climated! Wait, where's everyone going? Are we Novak-uating? Mom? Dad?
Kobe Bryant ripped Lakers management for the way they've handled the potential Pau Gasol trade, saying: "If they're going to do something, I wish they would just (expletive) do it." Bryant added that he felt the same way about war with China. "Let's get it on!" he shouted crazily.
While the rest of the country watched the Packers choke in the NFL playoffs Sunday and made Discount Double Check jokes that quickly became more annoying than the commercials themselves, most college basketball fans in the heartland of America devoted at least half of their attention to the Ohio State-Indiana rematch. Two weeks earlier, largely because Ohio State’s three best players battled foul trouble all game, the Hoosiers upset the Buckeyes in Bloomington and sent a message to the rest of the country: Their win over Kentucky wasn’t a fluke. Thanks to upset losses by both teams earlier in the week, the rematch didn’t have quite the luster leading up to it that it would’ve otherwise had, but it was still a significant game. One team was going to get back on the winning track, while the other was going to fall behind in the race for the Big Ten title. In the end, Ohio State smothered Indiana defensively and cruised to a 17-point, 80-63 win over the Hoosiers on the back of Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s offensive explosion. We’re still two months away from the NCAA tournament, and this was only one game, but let’s overanalyze it anyway.