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Old School – College Basketball Observations, Missed Predictions, and Fighting in Sports

Now that bowl season is winding down, college sports fans will soon have their attention fully on college basketball. Teams will soon get into the grind of conference play. Typically, teams will play on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the conference schedule (unless TV says otherwise) so my plan with the column is to get something posted every Wednesday afternoon in order to reflect on the previous week and look ahead to the upcoming games.

Some Observations

I have had the opportunity to see a few good teams play in person. I have season tickets to the local college team in Charlotte, the Charlotte 49ers, and I’ve seen Davidson and Miami in person. I also had a chance to see the Ohio State Buckeyes play at South Carolina.

Davidson was able to knock off then No. 11 Kansas at Kansas which was pretty impressive, a lot more impressive than their previous game I saw at Charlotte, where the Wildcats led at the half yet managed to lose by 23. The Fightin’ Steph Currys are well coached by Bob McKillop, and I think they will do well in Southern Conference play and should fight College of Charleston for the conference’s bid.

Miami has former George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga, so it goes without saying they are a well coached team. The Hurricanes got off to a rocky start, but I would credit a lot of that to guys being in and out of the lineup and having to adjust to their new coach. I look forward to seeing Larranaga get a chance to coach head to head against Roy Williams and Coach K.

The thing I took away from seeing Ohio State in person is that with Jared Sullinger, the Buckeyes are a top-5 team. Without him they are still good, but more like a top-20 team. Sullinger has dealt with back spasms this season and if the Buckeyes want to make a deep run in the tournament he needs to be on the court.

Predictions Review

If you read my season preview, you know that some predictions are already unlikely to come true. The “March Sadness” prediction for Indiana looks horribly wrong now that they have wins against Kentucky and Ohio State.

A couple of other predictions on shaky ground could be picking Arizona, Temple and Cleveland State to the Sweet Sixteen.

Arizona has dropped out of the rankings (as have all other PAC-12 teams) and don’t really have a good win on their resume (no bad losses though).

Temple has shown some vulnerability as they have a bad loss to Bowling Green and have lost to teams with a little more size down low in Purdue and Texas.

Cleveland State has gone 12-3 but their big victory against then number 7 Vanderbilt may not be as good of a win as I might have thought back in November. Vanderbilt is now unranked (and I picked Vandy to the Elite 8).

But hey, my “March Sadness” prediction for Butler (8-7) is still on course! The Bulldogs are having trouble scoring, ranking 266th in points per game (63.7 per game).

Trending 

Up – Indiana

The Hoosiers have beaten a number one and a number two ranked team this year. Tom Crean has brought IU back from despair.

Down – Xavier

The Musketeers have been in a tailspin since their ugly cross-town brawl in Cincinnati, losing four of their past five. It’s become evident that this team will go as far as Tu Halloway and Mark Lyons can take them. All suspensions have come to an end, and I think conference play will restore their confidence and swagger. Xavier has won the Atlantic 10 regular season the past five years.

TBD – Syracuse

The Orange have a couple of solid wins against NC State and Florida, but their non-conference schedule gave them no other challenges and rarely left the state of New York. They are ranked number one in all of the polls, but we will see how good the Orange really are now that they get into Big East play.

Fighting in Sports

The game was tightly contested most of the way. Players from both sides got chippy with each other and play got really physical. Referees let the game get away from them, and an ugly fight broke out. Benches were cleared and coaches struggled to hold back their teams. The game was called as everyone was sent back to their respective locker rooms.

No, I’m not talking about the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl for it all from a few weeks ago, this was a fight that happened in an exhibition game this past summer between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Bayi Military Rockets in China. This one got real ugly as fans also joined in on the fun, throwing bottles and drinks.

But there were no suspensions for any of the Hoya players and no national media spin demanding suspensions or expulsions to be handed out by Georgetown or the Big East.

It was reported throughout the internet, some footage of the fight landed on Youtube and it was largely shrugged off. No one got up in arms, made a big fuss, or demanded certain actions to be taken.

The exact opposite reaction happened a few weeks ago in the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl.

When the Xavier-Cincinnati fight happened, it was being broadcast on ESPN. We were immediately given instant analysis by Andy Katz in the ESPN studios. Footage of Yancy Gates landing a sucker-punch on Kenny Frease was replayed over and over. There were no major upsets that day, and it was a relatively slow sports news day (especially since Tim Tebow wouldn’t be playing in a game for another 24 hours). So the story was given top treatment on ESPN, and other outlets and talked about for the next week. Radio hosts made grandiose statements calling for season ending suspensions, and even the revoking of scholarships!

And for once, someone actually landed a punch in one of these brawls! Most of the time guys just swing wildly before it is broken up. Remember when Larry Johnson and Alonzo Morning got in a fight and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy tried to break it up by clinging onto Alonzo’s leg?

The point I’m trying to make here is just to show how society has double standards, in this case fighting in sports. I just think it’s crazy how society reacts to fighting in different situations and sports:

  • - In baseball, benches clear, including everyone from the coaches, to the relievers out in the outfield bullpens. Generally just one or two guys are thrown out and everyone gets a big chuckle out of it. (Remember Pedro vs. Don Zimmer?)
  • - In hockey, referees don’t even stop a fight until someone hits the ground. Then the fighting players spend some time in the penalty box and later are free to return to the game.
  • - In football, linemen push and pull, punch and kick, scratch do just about anything during play. But when play stops and guys are still fighting, everyone acts like it was a criminal offense that people might get a little violent in a violent sport.

Basketball has become a physical game. If referees don’t police it well, it is not unreasonable to think that people may fight, especially in a close competitive game or heated rivalry.

I’m not saying it is right to get in fights. As Christians we are taught to turn the other cheek. But there’s no need to overreact and overdo the punishments. The correct courses of action were taken here. Players were suspended, they will serve out that time, learn their lesson, have a chance to prove that they have learned a lesson and everybody can move on. Especially when these are 18-22 year old young men who are in college to learn.

Looking ahead

Wednesday:

#3 Duke at Temple – I’ll feel better about my Sweet Sixteen pick if Temple knocks off the Dukies.

#20 Marquette at #9 Georgetown – The Golden Eagles had a disappointing blow out loss to Vanderbilt a week ago. Georgetown won at then No. 4 Louisville last week.

#22 Kansas State at #15 Kansas – The team from the other Manhattan has quietly gone 11-1 winning the Diamond Head Classic on Christmas weekend. Kansas is at 10-3 and I can’t help but wonder why these two teams’ rankings aren’t flip flopped.

Thursday:

#13 Michigan at #12 Indiana – After beating Ohio State, the Hoosiers should have all the confidence in the world.

Saturday:

#20 Marquette at #1 Syracuse – Syracuse will get their first test of the new year, though somehow they still get to play yet another home game.

#6 Missouri at #22 Kansas State – Missouri survived a scare last week at Old Dominion. It’s even tougher on the road at Kansas State, you have to deal with Wildcats head coach Frank Martin’s death stare.

#16 Mississippi State at Arkansas – The Bulldogs go on the road to take on Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks. State fans may smell bacon, but I smell an upset…

Sunday:

#19 Wisconsin at #13 Michigan – Another top-25 matchup for the Wolverines.

Monday: 

Cincinnati at #9 Georgetown – Yancy Gates comes back Wednesday for Cincinnati. The Bearcats need him to be in full form by Monday night’s game at Georgetown.

Tuesday:

#5 Baylor at #22 Kansas State – These two teams along with Missouri have the best shot at removing Kansas from their annual Big 12 throne.

Aaron May is a staff writer and video editor at Sports Spectrum magazine.