A season begins. A blog is born.
Welcome to the brand new Hoop Thoughts blog, the most significant sports invention since James Naismith nailed up his peach basket. I hope this will become a forum where passionate college basketball fans can convene for all sorts of hoops-related banter. Tending to this blog may require me to do a little more work this season, but it will also make it a lot more fun.
This blog will be a little different than some of the others you read religiously around SI.com. For the first few weeks, I will update the blog several times a week. When the games begin and the season heats up, I plan to update it several times a day. Sometimes I’ll fire off quick thoughts and reactions to the day’s (or hour’s) developments. Other times I’ll provide links to articles and postings around the web that have caught my interest. You’ll also find here plenty of original reporting, which after all is supposed to be my primary job description. Whatever I post, this blog won’t just be mine. It will be yours, mine and ours. So play nice (and remember offensive comments will be deleted).
Oh, and as long as I’m moving into the 21st century, you’ll be happy to know that I also have a Twitter account and, for the under-30 set, a Facebook page. Please follow/friend/fan me there. Now that I’ve signed up, you may consider the whole social networking thing to be officially uncool.
We are obviously launching this blog today in honor of Midnight Madness, but though the beginning of the season is cause for celebration, I have to make a buzz-killing confession. As I look across the college basketball landscape, I develop an unsettling feeling that something is missing. I’m suffering from Tebow Envy.
I realize Tim Tebow did not win the Heisman Trophy last year, but when college football began this fall there was no question who was the game’s biggest star. And while circumstances and injuries have altered things, the Tebow-McCoy-Bradford axis was a tantalizing storyline to kick things off. Likewise, when college hoops fired up last season, there was no question that Tyler Hansbrough was the face of the sport. I’m sure you remember the early buzz that surrounded the player of the year race between Hansbrough, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin. Griffin eventually ran away with all the POY honors, but along the way college hoops had several individual stars who were able to attract casual fans to the TV set.
And now? Quick: Who is the biggest star attraction in college basketball? I’m talking about a player who requires appointment viewing when you know he’s playing. Hard to say, right? You could go with Kansas center Cole Aldrich or Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody, but by themselves those guys won’t move the needle. I’m usually not one to use NBA potential as a measuring stick, but the fact is, many casual fans get excited about watching college players because they are looking for future NBA stars. Guys like Sherron Collins, Willie Warren, Craig Brackins, Kyle Singler, Kalin Lucas, Robbie Hummel and Evan Turner are very good college players who will play many years in the NBA. But do you see any of them as future pro stars? Neither do I.
In years like these, you usually turn to freshmen to find some sizzle. That’s why if I had to pick one player who does warrant appointment viewing, I would go with Kentucky freshman point guard John Wall, who will probably be the number one pick in next year’s NBA draft. There are some other terrific freshmen worth watching (Georgia Tech forward Derrick Favors and Florida guard Kenny Boynton come to mind), but this group is not as loaded as the Oden-Durant-Conley or Mayo-Beasley-Rose-Love classes that lit up college hoops a few years back.
The flip side to all this is that this will be a great year for team basketball. You remember team, right? The schools that rise to the top will do so by playing with unselfishness and cohesion. That is always the case, but it will be especially true in a season when there isn’t a whole lot of individual star power. That should make for an aesthetically pleasing NCAA tournament.
And of course, whenever I feel disconsolate, I take solace knowing that at least we get to choose our champion on the court, and not via polls and computer rankings. I may be feeling a little Tebow Envy right now, but come March, I’ll bet my college football-loving friends will suffer a deep tinge of Tourney Envy.