by Cub Buenning

Daskalakus Athletic Center? No…Isn’t it mandatory for Big 5 teams to play all “derby” games at the Palestra? Khalid, can I get a ruling? Wait….one, two, three…

Oh, Drexel is not officially “Big Five,” eh? I was hoping to get some shots of the ancient basketball hardwood that is one of the oldest, in-use gymnasiums in the country. Bob Valvano is explaining this very question I’ve been pondering, but I can’t hear him as my daughter is loudly rambling, while holding her Halloween pumpkin, which now only consists of Tootsie Rolls and bad suckers.

8:05 — The ball is tipped! Penn’s coach Glen Miller spent a couple years at Brown following my illustrious tenure on College Hill. Penn was always the best team in the league when I was in college; it wasn’t even close. Matt Maloney and Jerome Allen were a year ahead of me and they didn’t lose conference games.

8:08 — Damn I wish this game was at the Palestra. Drexel is getting the better part of the early action. Philly does have the best cluster of college basketball teams in the country (Big Five of Penn, LaSalle, Villanova, Temple, and St. Joseph’s). What might be the “not even close” second? (L.A. has UCLA, USC, and Pepperdine. Boston has BC, Harvard, and BU. Cincinnati has Xavier and UC? See what I mean?)

8:10 — OK, here is the deal. I was somewhat “in”famous with the students at Penn during the mid-90’s. For some reason (I’ll submit my pre-game finger rolls, long flowing locks tucked into colored headbands, progression onto the bench as a coach for my senior year) I was adopted and saw these “dorks” (weren’t we all?) twice a year, as the bulk of the group traveled. I’ll finish this story later today, but there are a few dozen individuals probably working in finance or a hospital somewhere that I could introduce myself to them as “Rambis,” and I would be instantly recognized.

8:14 — I was thinking last night about what it would be like to play “late,” but now today has me wondering about playing at 10 a.m.

8:15 — John Saunders has gone to calling Penn’s Jack Eggleston, “Eggy” and it is bothering me. Unfortunately, that was a term used in my childhood to describe a certain type of aromatic flatulence. (Sorry, I was one of four boys.) Good flow and effort early and we get a pleasantly predictable close game. Actually, there is an Eggleston and a dude named, Egge, as well. Oh well…..

8:28 — Drexel makes a two small runs and now leads by ten, spurred largely by some uncharacteristically sloppy play by Penn. For the record, current Temple Head Fran Dunphy was the coach at Penn while I played.

8:30 — I have to drop my daughter off at my parents’ house for the next few hours while I handle my “other” job. I may try and leave a bit before the end of the half and get there for the majority of the second half. This may be it for a few. Drexel up ten with just fewer than eight left.

8:45 — Got my crew ready to roll and with 1:30 left, the game is still at 10. Gonna pick this up in 30 minutes when I get to my parents’ house.

9:24 — Fourteen minutes left and Drexel up 14.

9:26 — In just the few college games I have seen this year, the new three-point line seems to push guys even farther back, almost daring dudes. I hope it makes players drive more and gun less.

9:27 — I can see the Quaker fans and are again reminded of my past with them. Their fans just loved/hated me for some reason. I was called Laettner by many schools for obvious reasons, but Penn thought I more resembled the bespectacled (which they didn’t know I actually was) Laker garbage man and current assistant coach. My senior year in college, I suffered awful back spasms and decided to become an undergraduate assistant, as a coaching career was a definite possibility. By then, I had shaved all of my locks off, and instead of feathering in finger rolls from ten feet during warm-ups, I was patrolling the lay-up line with in a coat, tie, and serious sneer.

“Where’s Rambis? Where’s Rambis?” A few of them inquire aloud, courtside at a packed Palestra.

Then a stare down ensued.

“Is that you, Rambis!?!?”

T’was Rambis.

9:36 — I just realized that Drexel’s coach is former UMass head, Bruiser Flint. The name Egge is still making me a little uncomfortable.

9:47 — Drexel just can’t put the Quakers away. Six points with just over six left. This Tyler Bernardini guy from Penn is starting to find some space. This kid can score the basketball and put up 30 against UNC the other day.

9:54 — Five point game with three left, as Drexel continues to allow Penn to hang around and Penn can’t take advantage of opportunities to even the score.

10:02 — Bernardini misses the second of two big free throws. 1:20 left and a four-point Dragon lead.

10:04 — Sloppy Drexel gets lucky. Four seconds left on shot clock. What?!!?!? They are getting another 35? No possession ever changed.

10:07 — Penn just can’t get defensive rebounds and look to be done, down five with 25 ticks left, and the Dragons on the line. Bernardini fouls out for Penn.

10:15 — The computer was in my bag and then Penn (Egge) hit a three, Drexel missed one of two free throws. Zack Rosen proceeds to force up a three-pointer down three with three seconds left and somehow draws a foul. Timeout, young kid has to make all three to give Penn a chance.

10:16 — Misses first one. Game over. Makes second, 66-64. Great miss! Penn forward Brennan Votel gets the rebound and has a little runner to tie the game, but alas, no luck.

Game. Much better than the two I watched last night.

I have to “pay the bills” and run around town doing my “other” job. I will be missing an average women’s game (Iowa v. Kansas) and Liberty v. UNC-Asheville sans Kenny George. My coverage will continue around the 2 p.m. MST hour as my boys from the Big 12, the Baylor Bears will be in action against Centenary.

2:13 — I am probably most excited to see freshman Anthony Jones play for Baylor. Like I mentioned in my Big 12 preview, this is a team to consider come March. Curtis Jerrells is a man’s man.

2:19 — This is already getting a bit out of control. Baylor is deep and leading 19-5. They have two stud freshmen in Jones and Quincy Acy. Jones just checked in and he is long, but also a bit lost. On defense he could dominate both with length and height, but he is standing up straight way too much (I had experience with being told this very thing.)

2:28 — Centenary just let Curtis Jerrells go coast to coast. I am pretty sure the Gentlemen coaching staff scouted no. 0.

2:31 — The announcers just ran down the list of all the crap that has gone down with the Baylor program over the past few years. One player shot and murdered a teammate to go along with NCAA recruiting sanctions from a despicable cover-up by then Head Coach Dave Bliss just went down, five years ago. If you could believe, this team (with no history) is now poised for a long tourney run. One of the most amazing stories in years, truthfully. SMU football had fewer issues with their death penalty situation in the 80s and they have never recovered. Scott Drew has turned this basketball wasteland into a powerhouse, able to now pull some of the state’s top players. Bears still lead 28-10 with seven left.

2:38 — Gonna have to leave again, but should be back up for the majority of the second half of play. Curtis Jerrells has led Baylor is scoring all three of his years in Waco.

3:26 — I have always been most impressed with Baylor’s backcourt grouping of Jerrells, LaceDarius Dunn, and Henry Dugat, but the Bears’ frontcourt might be even more talented. Kevin Rogers is a wonder at his size and the freshman tandem of Jones and Acy are kind of ridiculous. The other bigs are nice, tall, and serviceable for the minimal minutes they will eventually play. I know this is Centenary (holla, Chief!) but I really like Baylor this year. I’m gonna peep their schedule and find some big games. Bears up by 31.

3:31 — In addition to the half dozen or so of ranked teams in the Big 12, Baylor’s schedule is decent. Although none of these teams should be favorites in their conference. There are games against teams from the Big East, SEC, and the Pac-10, but Jan. 27 in Waco against the ‘Horns looms large.

Syracuse is coming up against Richmond! Didn’t the Spiders beat the Orange in a tournament a long time ago? Or was it Indiana that was victimized? Lots of players I am interested in seeing. I have seen Blake Griffin and Steph Curry a gillion times, but I am interested to see Oklahoma freshmen guard, Willie Warren.

3:36 — Baylor is doubling up Centenary, 66-33, 10 left. I am going to not watch basketball for a minute.

4:07 — Paul Harris wets a deep three early in the Orange’s game. If he can shoot like that he is a guaranteed first-rounder. I totally plan on watching this game, but choose to just have it on and spend some family time/make/eat/dinner. The game was obviously closer than most thought and Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf played huge and were impressive from start to finish.

I will make my focus on the last two games of the night, both on ESPN2. First, will be Oklahoma and Davidson and later, Arizona and UAB. Four hours of evening hoops starting at 7:30 p.m. MST and running until basically midnight. I collect myself, brew some coffee and scoop out a wee bowl of chocolate chip Dreyer’s. Here we go. Keep in mind, that there very possibly might be look-ins into the Denver Nuggets/Milwaukee Bucks game.

7:36 — Blake Griffin always impresses me just on first glance. He is bigger than most think.

7:38 — Max Paulus Goessling scores for Davidson, then stars in another episode of Saved by the Bell. Slater is suspended for this game for having Jesse do his homework for him.

7:41 — Steph Curry is having trouble getting going. Willie Warren is having no such problem, nailing a 3, giving the Sooners an 11-7 advantage at the first break. Andrew Lovedale, that is that dude’s name–another of the classic Davidson guys from the past couple tournaments.

7:45 — Oklahoma guard, Austin Johnson is getting wrung through the ringer trying to chase Curry around the court, now that he is off the ball, playing two-guard, again. Steph getting warm; Willie answers with another 3 of his own, 17-14 OU.

7:48 — Blake is letting his guards get involved and is not pressing the issue, too much.

7:49 — Willie another three! Aggrey, looks like your boy is starting to get his feet underneath him.
No regard for human life!
7:50 — Steph has no concern for the new moved-back three-point line. Under 12 break, 21-17 Oklahoma.

7:57 — Willie is taking things seriously, taking the ball hard to the rack. The Sooners are starting to play for keeps, making a few shots in a row. Blake’s shot underneath pushes the lead to 27-19.

7:59 — I get to see the T-Mobile commercial with the Raconteurs’ song for the 50th time in the last 24 hours; rivaled only by the excessive viewings of the new EA College hoops game.

“Whoa! Slow it down, Cinderella…..”

8:01 — Willie scores another to get to 12 in just the first 11 minutes. The kid is surely not bashful. It’s time to pull the reigns in a bit, though, and feed the big man.

8:03 — This just in… Steph can shoot. Another three to get him to 16 and cuts the deficit to 27-31. This game is starting to get fast and a bit out of control but with a good intensity and sense of urgency.

8:08 — Willie pump fakes and drives but turns over the ball on a nice look to Taylor Griffin. Nice idea, young buck. On the other side, Steph is strapped with his third foul trying to split a quadruple-team. Seventeen points for Dell’s progeny.

8:09 — Fellow Oklahoma freshmen, Ray Willis kid has looked lost and out of control in his first half minutes.

8:13 — Five minutes left in half and Blake Griffin has nine rebounds. Willie with a smooth runner off of the glass for his 13th and 14th points; I am a fan. Griffin snags his 10th board of the night.

8:18: The game slows down a bit with Curry off the floor and the rest of the players playing heavy first half minutes. With just over two left, the Sooners have a six-point lead.

8:25 — Oklahoma up 38-34 at the intermission. Good game, great pace. Should be a good second half.

8:52 — Came back to the game a bit late, as I discovered another college game on Fox, which featured a team that I profiled for the upcoming edition of SLAM. (Hint: West Coast team, filthy deep and loaded.)

8:53 — The Sooners came out quick, to go up 12. Steph quiets Norman crowd temporarily with bucket.

8:54 — Looks like there will be no Nugget updates, as I am now downstairs in my office and things look more than under control down at the Pepsi Center. The under 16 timeout has the Sooners up 12. The winner of this game will take on the winner of the next one (AZ vs. UAB) at the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden. I was talking earlier today with my good friend Allen Hopkins of ESPN and he will be calling those games over the Thanksgiving holiday, featuring Purdue, Boston College, and the winners of tonight’s games.

8:58 — Blake is starting to find some space around the hoop- another double-double for the Okie City native.

8:59 — Whoa! Blake just banged one down off a nice half-court dish, then finishes with a fast-break dunk (three straight buckets) Blake suddenly with 16 and his team suddenly up 18! Wow! 20 and 20 should be well within his reach.

9:01 — Blake is 24-30 from the field this year (that’s 80 percent) and has about 55 boards between the three games. Another shot of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green taking in the game down the road from their new digs up in Oklahoma City. The Thunder really need the top pick in the draft so they can nab their hometown boy.

9:04 — Despite a 21-point lead, this game is not over due to Mr. Curry. A couple Davidson threes puts the difference suddenly at just 12 with 12 left. Again, this game is not over. Curry had 30 in the second half against Gonzaga in last year’s first round (a game they trailed badly at one point.)

9:11 — A bucket underneath, a steal and a long Curry 3 and it is suddenly just a seven-point lead for Oklahoma. The team wisely puts the ball in Blake’s hands and he draws a foul. Fran Fraschilla has been comparing him to Amare Stoudemire all night, but I see more Karl Malone. Griffin makes both to pump lead back to nine.

9:13 — Zack Morris fouls out of the game after a mini-tantrum on the floor.  Kelly consoles him from behind the bench.

9:16 — Willie must be in foul trouble. I was wondering why he had been missing this second half.

9:17 — One of Blake’s biggest weaknesses last year was his free throw shooting. To wit: 6-6 tonight. And he just drew another foul. Remember, Karl Malone.

9:24 — Tony Crocker just nailed a baseline three to put the lead at 14 with just under seven left.

9:26 — Blake Griffin is single-handedly fouling out the entire Wildcat roster. Currently 10-10 at line, aaahhhhh! Jinxed, missing his first before his second makes it a 15-point separation.

9:33 — I think that George Karl let his second unit play the entire fourth quarter to hang on for a win. No starter played more than 27 minutes; seven players in double figures. Cheik Samb time! The Nuggets win again.

9:35 — 20/20 night indeed for Mr. Blake Griffin. Still in the balance at 10 points, no seven with 2:36 left. They need to move this 3-point line back.

ARIZONA AND ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM COMING NEXT!

9:38 — Coach’s son hits a 3 and it is now just six with 1:30. Curry absolutely bricks a wide-open 3, but they regain possession. 59 seconds, Davidson’s rock, down six. Curry nails a corner 3 with half the Oklahoma National Guard draped on him to get to 42 (Career high- a game where he was constantly referred to as having an “off” night) and only three points now stands between the teams.

9:41 — Blake grabs a long offensive board to make fouling necessary. Back to five points. I just heard my second Paul Silas (the player) reference today. Holla Big Paul.

9:43 — Steph is at the line and I can hear the Sooner fans chanting, “One Man Team! One Man Team!” That is crazy….. He can and will be able to get his shot off on any NBA guard. That is just a fact, deal with it, haters.

9:44 — Cade Davis hits some free throws and the win is topped with a Blake Griffin run away dunk (that doesn’t count.) 82-78, Sooner win.

Great game. Steph 44. Blake 25 and 21.

9:52 — I return and see my boy, Chase Budinger nail two straight long bombs then Robert Vaden from UAB hit a long bucket and the score is knotted at 12. I think I am going to like this game. Vaden is a guy that will be drafted this upcoming spring.

9:56 — I can’t really name the support players for Arizona this year. Budinger hits a smooth fade-away to get to double-figures. His high release, height, and two-footed leaping ability will make him tough to guard even on the next level.

10:01 — UAB gets out to a four-point lead halfway through the first 20 minutes.

10:05 — Vaden is starting to put the Blazers on his back. Hitting pull-ups and deep threes on the way to a five-point lead at the under eight.

10:11 — Shots of Arizona Wildcat assistant Mike Dunlap make me kinda sick. He should be the head with a nice long contract. Dude can coach, teach, lead, recruit, win, win, win… He’s gonna make some school really lucky.
Nice Nic
10:12 — Nic Wise has a nice fast-paced mid-range game, popping that 16-footer with ease. UAB just seems to always find a way to score and are the owners of a seven-point lead.

10:14 — Jordan Hill is giving the Wildcats some great life on the boards and in the trenches. But, UAB’s Barrios nails a three, keeping the lead at six at the under four.

UAB is senior-laden, won 23 games last year, and play Memphis twice a year, so they obviously are not fazed by playing in a big-time gym against a national power.

10:23 — Two more threes for UAB and the Blazers are up double figures with a 41-31 lead in Tucson.

Second half

10:42 — UAB CAN’T MISS THREES.

10:47 — Both teams are extremely hot from the perimeter and the Blazers have an 11-point lead.

Andrew Toney’s son is on this team? Dope! I wonder if Moses has a kid that plays in Conference-USA?

10:56 — I am doing too much editing while watching the game. Air Bud nails a three and the lead is down to just eight. The Wildcats Head Coach Russ Pennell does not look authentic. He just looks out of place. UAB Head Mike Davis looks real. His stares and rants are the real McCoy.

11:00 — Robert Vaden’s name should be highlighted with a link to my scouting webpage. Arizona is starting the sneak back into this game as the Blazers are on the back end of the “dying by the sword” portion of all this 3-point shooting. At the under 12, it is a 7-point game.

11:06 — Budinger has not touched the ball in a few possessions and it looks like Hill is the only inside player that Arizona has. They could really use a solid, lunch-pail power forward, or someone like Juwan McClellan.

11:09 — Air Bud nails his fourth three of the game. I am waiting for him to bang on someone.

11:10 — UAB hits another three and another, UAB still by 10.

11:17: The game is at just six points as Hill snares his 20th rebound. Vaden promptly nails another 3.

11:19 — Budinger takes over for a few seconds (26 points at this point) and the under-four timeout comes with just five points separating the teams. This game is getting good.

11:30 — Arizona makes it a three-point game with a minute left!

A stop and a missed Wise three leads to a tied-up jump ball. If Dickie V was doing this game, he would be going berserk.

“OOOHHHH, throw it up! I hate this rule. Let the kids decide the game!”

11:32 — 43 seconds, UAB up 3. AZ with a foul to give; makes a quick one. Seven second differential does not interest the new coach and they foul immediately, again.

11:33 — Front end missed by Lawrence Kinnard. With 30 seconds left, a foul is called on UAB. One of two, then a scramble and a Kyle Fogg put-back ties the game. As a young freshmen, Fogg then wrongfully fouls UAB point guard, Aaron Johnson. 27 seconds remain.

11:36 — Johnson misses the front end of the one-and-one. AZ calls timeout with 17 left and a chance to win.

11:39 — What the hell just happened? Arizona couldn’t have lost this game in regulation but it looks like they will. What the hell did this new Arizona coach NOT tell his players during the end of this game? Nic Wise missed a pull-up 16-footer (with five ticks left) which was rebounded by UAB guard Paul Delaney III. Sophomore Jamelle Horne (who had played admirably all night) inexplicably dove at Delaney and an intentional foul was called with less than a second left. Oh my god. That should never happen ever in a season at this level, let alone twice, let alone twice in a matter of seconds. I’ll spare everyone my “If Mike Dunlap was the coach” speech.

Whew. I’m tired. I love basketball. I love college basketball. So happy it’s finally here!

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