Cub Scouts: College Hoops Begins, Pt. 1
John Wall, another Aussie guard at St. Mary’s and the other college teams in Colorado.
by Cub Buenning
Time moves fast. Summer months come and go and before long, the threat of snow is in the air. Day bleeds into night, your favorite show always ends earlier than you’d prefer and the same could be said for the alarm clock. Before you can blink you are done with school and suddenly sending your progeny off on that very same educational path.
Just “yesterday” North Carolina was putting the finishing touches on one of the most impressive tournament runs in the college game’s history. The NBA season ended just weeks later and before long, baseball was all the mass American sporting audience had left to concern themselves with. Dog days, indeed.
But just as that summer break as a kid seemed to go way too quickly, the long days of sun are over and we are rushed indoors for a few. From the dimly lit high school gymnasiums to the rowdy intimacy of on-campus barns to the bright lights of the professional arenas, basketball is back. Months of dormancy break; leading to a sudden urge to stay awake long into the morning hour to watch irrelevant teams play mostly irrelevant games.
Last year, we here at Cub Scouts put in yeoman work during ESPN’s inaugural 24-hour College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. This year, I am going to take a different approach and give you some general thoughts from the first week of action. Tomorrow expect a thorough review of tonight’s marquee double-header of Gonzaga traveling to East Lansing to play Michigan State followed by Kansas in nearby St. Louis to face the Memphis Tigers. Time to belly up to the table!
The college season for Cub Scouts started with a rare viewing of a scrimmage, in this case, the Kentucky Blue/White game. For a glorified practice, getting a record 14,000 fans to come watch the new tricked-out outfit is pretty epic. The newest installment didn’t disappoint either giving the Wildcat faithful oodles to ohh and ahh about. Freshmen aplenty were impressive and John Wall proved plenty precocious that night, as well as during his premier last night hitting the game winner against Miami (OH).
In a sea of college football on Saturday, the Big Ten Network came through with a cross-state battle between the Michigan Wolverines and their brethren from Northern Michigan (Say yah, eh?). The Big Ten will indeed be better this year from top to bottom and the Wolverines combination of experience and new talent should have them near the head of the class. No joke, Manny Harris could average 20/7/5 this year.
Then came last night’s start to the 24-hour marathon. While I was not able to view even one second of the 2 a.m. (MST) tip between Monmouth and St. Peters, I watched most of the remaining games. (Side-you can thank my five-month old daughter for distracting me during portions of the San Diego State/St. Mary’s game.)
Speaking of which, even with the departure of the ethereal Patty Mills, the Gaels of SMC will not disappear. This morning, they were extremely impressive in dispatching a pretty solid Aztec squad. Coach Randy Bennett’s Aussie replacement goes by the name of Matthew Dellavedova, but this “mate” is a different kind of a player at a long, lanky 6-4. Omar Samhan is back in the middle for his seemingly “eighth year” in the East Bay and should give this team another good shot at usurping the retooled Bulldogs from Gonzaga (Speaking of which, more on the new-look Zags to come tomorrow after their measuring-stick game tonight in East Lansing.)
As for things much closer to my Denver-area home, some new programs are becoming major players. In a town that is mainly obsessed with the pro teams (all currently in first place, I might add) the big-conference teams of Colorado University, Colorado State and Air Force Academy are stuck in the doldrums. The last couple years have been thinner than Shawn Bradley, but now there is hope: from two teams that weren’t even playing D-I ball when I was a prep player in the early 90s. One calls the Washington Park neighborhood of downtown Denver home and another from the vast farmlands north of the city.
The Denver University Pioneers are now major players in the Sun Belt Conference and one year after being the youngest team in Division I (and a respectable 14-15 record), the Pios return the same roster and might be sole team from the Front Range with a legitimate chance to be dancing come March. They did drop their opener, but it was a close game against Northern Iowa, the favorite to win the always competitive Missouri Valley. Homegrown product, Nate Rohnert leads this team that is loaded with local flavor.
The Bears from Northern Colorado are also making some noise for more than just being from a town that can often stink from a local meat packing plant. The Big Sky has had little to worry about since UNC came into the league in 2006, but this year might be different. During their first three games (all wins) nine of their players have scored in double figures at one point. As some of you saw early this morning, the Bears played a great second half to secure an impressive 81-75 road win at Hawaii, again, boasting eight players that got at least 6 points and led by their “little engine,” senior guard Will Figures with 15. A game that was close for the most of the first 30 minutes was blown open by a strong run of inside-outside play. Much love to the UNC Bears.
In other action, last night, things got off to a bizarre start as the UCLA Bruins got beat in 2-OT by their Orange County friends from Cal State-Fullerton. While the core of Ben Howland’s team is now gone, there is still a vibrant young group that should be better than what they put forth last night. Somewhere Ced Ceballos is grinning.
The two teams I featured over the past two seasons will be playing title-favorites, when Gonzaga plays at Michigan State and Memphis plays the Kansas Jayhawks. Check back tomorrow!
I will take a quick break next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, but the regular format for “The Week that Was” will return the following Tuesday. Enjoy the games today and in addition to the double-header tonight starting at 8 p.m. (EST), the Temple/Georgetown game at 4 p.m. (EST) is extremely intriguing.