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November 18, 2008

Reveling in 23 Hours of Hoops

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:06 pm

I said this in passing yesterday but it bears repeating: ESPN has done a truly sublime thing with this “First Annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon,” otherwise known as “23 hours of hoops.” College basketball is still in search of its proper annual commencement. Technically, of course, the commencement this year was Georgia Southern vs. Houston, a game played in a 95 percent empty Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Call this 23-hour thing the season’s effective commencement, then, one vastly superior to the technical one. My indefatigable colleague and two-sport wunderkind Joe Sheehan has already offered his contemporaneous thoughts on MemphisUMass. (The new-era Tiger D looks alive and well. Offense? Stay tuned. Note for example that Tyreke Evans had pretty much the prototypical inefficient but intriguing debut for a Very Highly Touted Freshman. It took Evans no fewer than 17 shots and six turnovers to get to 19 points.) Allow me then to just add a few thoughts on the extreme nightcap, St. Mary’sFresno State, more specifically on a certain Australian therein….

When ESPN’s studio “A” team (two Davises, Bilas, Phelps, and now Bob Knight) visits Chapel Hill for North CarolinaKentucky pre-game hype and uses the occasion to, of all things, wonder aloud “Who is the next Stephen Curry?” I imagine that, somewhere out there on the road, mid-major caliph Kyle Whelliston must be reeling in Fred Sanford-like shock. What was being asked in the Dean Dome, in effect, was, “Who is the next version of the SoCon’s best player?” As it happens the answer proffered was that in fact a WCC player, one Patrick Mills, is the next Curry, at which point I suppose Kyle fell into a delighted coma.

I rise merely to suggest that the comparison is, in November 2008, unfair to both players. True, both are outstanding backcourt performers who made 54 percent of their twos last year while playing featured roles. Nevertheless, the comparison’s unfair to Curry because Mills is not yet even in the same zip code, qualitatively speaking. Curry carried his team’s offense last year and made 44 percent of his threes while taking unbelievably good care of the ball. Mills played a significantly smaller role in his offense while making 32 percent of his threes and taking pretty good care of the ball. And anyway the comparison is unfair to Mills as well: Curry, after all, truly became awed-hush “Stephen Curry” in the March of his second season. Mills, in the November of his second season, has a ways to go to get there.

As it happens, the Gaels didn’t need Mills to be Curry early this morning, as they notched a somewhat underwhelming 99-85 win at home over a painfully young Fresno State team. (Indeed this game would have been uncomfortably close had the Bulldogs not shot a mere 56 percent on their numerous free throws. Not an auspicious start for St. Mary’s, considering their opponent harbored genuine trepidation going into their first exhibition game against NAIA foe Fresno Pacific.)

Last thought for now. Fran Fraschilla nailed it on his call of OklahomaMississippi Valley State last night: what in the world were the powers that be at the NIT Season Tip-Off thinking when they seeded Boston College ahead of Davidson? It’s much worse than malpractice in the field of hoops analysis–it’s bad promotion. Who would draw a larger gate at the Garden: Stephen Curry or the precociously young and rebuilding Eagles? Alas, the epic Blake Griffin-Curry tilt will occur tonight in Norman, Oklahoma, of all places, at 9:30 ET. If the Heels and Wildcats aren’t keeping your interest, tune in.

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