Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball ("Bison Beat Bucky!" (1) T-shirts sold separately):
TO STORM OR NOT TO STORM
Within the last 10 days, those crazy college kids from Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Georgetown, St. John's and Tennessee have stormed the basketball court to celebrate big victories -- and for the chance to act like lunatics on TV. ("Look, Martha, there's our boy! Yes, the shirtless one with his face and torso painted, howling like a savage and jumping on that other child's back. ... Is that a whiskey flask in his back pocket?")
After watching all these giddy group gropes, it's high time to publish the Forde Minutes Court-Storming Protocol Guide. Students are advised to read the following rules and to act accordingly the next time their team agitates them to the edge of hoops ecstasy:
• The Old Money Principle (2): Look up at the ceiling of your gym and count the banners. If your school has won three or more national titles in its history, you shall not rush the floor at any time. Schools affected: UCLA (11 titles), Kentucky (seven), Indiana (five), North Carolina (four), Duke (three).
Your program has won big games before. Act like it.
The Old Money Principle clearly puts the Indiana student body in violation of The Forde Minutes' protocol. Especially when the vanquished team, Illinois, owns zero national titles of its own. How terribly tacky.
The Illini did not even qualify for a Minutes Protocol Exception (3), which states that if your august basketball program has hit the skids to a dispiriting degree (Indiana has missed the last two NCAA Tournaments), a storming is allowable under certain conditions:
Condition A (4): The opponent is ranked No. 1 and/or undefeated at least halfway through the season (14 or more games). Illinois was merely ranked fifth in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and already had a loss on the season.
Condition B (5): Your august program defeats a top-five team on a suitably miraculous shot (25 feet or farther) at the buzzer, spurring spontaneous joy that overrides better impulses. (The Indiana-Illinois game went down to the wire, but it wasn't won at the buzzer on a prayer.)
Condition C (6): You are so intoxicated that you cannot remember the opponent's ranking, or how many titles your school has won. But be forewarned that The Minutes will not pay your bail if you're the lone trespasser on the court and wind up in cuffs.
Condition D (7): You see college hoops fan Ashley Judd (8) sitting at the other end of the court, and you know that the shortest distance to her is a straight line.
• The Upper-Middle Class Principle (8): If your school has won multiple national titles, you are generally discouraged from storming the court unless you have defeated one of the above blue bloods, and only at the last second. Schools affected: Kansas, Louisville, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Michigan State, Connecticut, North Carolina State.
However, stormings are allowable under the following conditions:
Ancient History Exception (9): If your national titles predate Texas Western's, you are free to storm the court for any dramatic win over a top-five team. Schools affected: Oklahoma State, San Francisco, Cincinnati.
Semi-Ancient History Exception (10): If your national titles predate the 3-point shot, you are free to storm the court for any dramatic win over a No. 1-ranked team. Schools affected: Louisville and North Carolina State; Kansas and Michigan State halfway (one title before the three, one after).
Current power Connecticut (two titles in the last seven years) is discouraged from rushing the court under any but the most extraordinary circumstances, such as beating the No. 1 team on an eyes-closed, left-handed hook shot from half court.
• The Middle Class Principle (11): If your program plays in a major conference, has some basketball heritage and takes itself fairly seriously, court stormings should be reserved for: upsetting a top five team; knocking off an unbeaten league rival of particular dislike; ending a period of extreme and elongated futility against an arch rival; clinching a conference championship.
Under this principle, Iowa is hereby indicted for its floor rush Tuesday night after beating No. 11 Indiana. (In fact, it's flatly inexcusable on any level, other than the boredom that January in Iowa City can precipitate.) Michigan is granted clemency under the elongated-futility-against-an-arch-rival clause. Georgetown, St. John's and Tennessee were all cleared for liftoff last Saturday.
(Although The Minutes fully understands the Rocky Top rush, the SEC did not. It fined the Volunteers $5,000 for failing to keep the students off the floor, a violation of the league's sportsmanship policy. The Minutes fails to see the clear and present danger. This isn't football, where the fans mount heavy metal objects and send them crashing down upon the mob below. First time they tear down a basket stanchion, a fine will be in order. Not until then.)
• The Lower Class Principle (12): If your team plays in a mid-major or low-major league and manages to coax (or trick) a BCS-conference school into visiting and you win the game, a storming is allowed. Exceptions: Memphis, Gonzaga or any other school whose program is demonstrably larger than its conference profile. Also: beating a certifiably horrible BCS-conference school (Baylor, Arizona State, Purdue, South Florida or anyone with an RPI worse than 150) is not worth the effort.
The Bottom Feeder Principle (13): If you're North Dakota State, still on the D-I taxi squad, and you shock Wisconsin? Go crazy. Even if it's a road game. Break into the home gym and storm that sucker.
• The Morehead State Principle (14): The Eagles are 0-15 against NCAA competition. Any 8-0 run is justifiable incentive to rush the floor.
IT'S GETTING LATE EARLY IN THESE LEAGUES
It's still January, but The Minutes is ready to declare winners in a few conference races. (Hey, if they can call states in presidential elections with one percent of the vote counted, we can call a league champion or two before Super Bowl Sunday.) No fewer than five leagues already have one team that has put itself far above the competition:
League: Atlantic Coast Conference (15), where even Billy Packer would have a hard time getting chesty about an ACC with one team in the current RPI Top 20.
Winner: Duke (16). The Blue Devils already are two games up in the loss column over North Carolina State, Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Consecutive road games at Carolina and Maryland Feb. 7 and 11 could make the race mildly interesting. Or end it altogether.
Only potential spoiler: N.C. State (17). Wolfpack conceivably could be favored in every remaining game, but it doesn't get a rematch with Duke in Raleigh.
League: Big 12 (18), where the same two words you heard all football season still apply: hook 'em. If you can find another lock NCAA Tournament team in this motley conference right now, your vision is better than The Minutes'.
Team: Texas (19). The Longhorns also have a two-game lead in league play, over a half-dozen pursuers. Nobody has yet come closer than 19 points to the Horns in five Big 12 games.
Only potential spoiler: Oklahoma (20), and we're stretching to say that. The offensively challenged Sooners have averaged 56.4 points per game in 2006 -- but they do get Texas on their home court Saturday.
League: Conference USA (21). You think this league lost something in realignment? Just because eight of the 12 teams are ranked 200 or worse in the RPI? Nooooo.
Winner: Memphis (22). The Tigers have played only three league games, and there are two other unbeatens in C-USA play, but let's get serious: anything less than 13-1 in this conference would be a disappointment for a group with this much talent.
Only potential spoiler: UAB (23). The plucky Blazers are 4-0, play a problematic style and have two shots at Memphis, the first of which is Saturday on the road. But with senior Demario Eddins out for the year with an Achilles tear, The Minutes does not foresee a legitimate threat to the Tigers.
League: West Coast (24). After a couple of pretty good years, there are a whopping two teams with overall winning records.
Winner: Gonzaga (25). With road wins already at Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Diego, if the Zags don't run the table it would be a shock.
Only potential spoiler: Loyola Marymount (26), if you insist. The Fighting Bo Kimbles are 5-1 in WCC play and lost only by a dozen in The Kennel, but five of their final eight games are on the road. The Zags will win the league by at least three games.
League: Big West (27). It isn't very big this year.
Winner: UC Irvine (28). Anytime a team called the Anteaters is in first place, it's a good thing. They're deep and experienced, they lead by two in the loss column and they have five of their remaining eight league games at home (albeit, where they lost earlier this year to D-II Cal State Stanislaus).
Only potential spoiler: Pacific (29). The Tigers owned the league last year, and could again by season's end -- but they'll have to hustle. They've already been beaten by Cal-Irvine once.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COURTESY CAR
And earned the right to run over a certain Conference USA officiating crew with it: Houston's Tom Penders (30). You probably heard that Penders drew a T last Saturday for having the gall to collapse on the sidelines during the Cougars' loss to UAB -- and that officials upheld the T even after they discovered that, gee, Penders wasn't lampooning a call, but was being wheeled out on a stretcher. Thankfully, Penders feels well enough now to laugh about the incident.
"It's a good thing I didn't die," he told the Houston Chronicle. "They [the Blazers] would have gotten two more free throws and possession."
COACH WHO SHOULD RIDE THE BUS TO WORK
Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (31), whose Orange have led a total of zero minutes and zero seconds in their past three Big East games. Granted, the competition has been brutal (Connecticut, Villanova and Pittsburgh), but since when is Syracuse supposed to roll over like that? They trailed UConn and Villanova 12-0 each before scoring, and were down 7-0 before getting on the board against Pitt. How 'bout answering the opening bell, guys?
SWAPPING E-MAILS WITH...
...Kentucky guard Patrick Sparks (32). Since transferring from Western Kentucky, his shooting has proven to be the true bellwether for the Wildcats: when the senior makes two or more 3s in a game, Kentucky is 23-3. When he doesn't, Kentucky is 18-9. His latest big bomb was a 3-pointer measured by the school's sports information department at 29 feet, and it came with 30 seconds left in a comeback win over South Carolina. The Minutes ruthlessly interrogated Sparks this week on that shot and other pressing topics.
Forde Minutes: A 29-footer with 30 seconds left? Was there even a moment's thought when you were going up that, gee, I'm pretty far out here?
Patrick Sparks: No. I just shot it. We needed a bucket and I was open.
FM: You've now taken three of the most memorable shots in recent UK history: the last-second 3 where you drew the foul against Louisville last year; the rim-dancing 3 against Michigan State in the Elite Eight; and the 29-foot hoist
against South Carolina -- fair to say you like taking the big shot?
PS: Yes, I'm willing to take the big shot. I'm not afraid of the outcome. You can't make it if you don't shoot it.
FM: You once scored 71 points in a 32-minute high school game. Kobe (33) scored 81 in 42 minutes Sunday night. You win on points-per-minute. Was your performance better?
PS: I only played 28 minutes, but it wasn't better than 81 in an NBA game. That's impressive.
FM: What's the one thing a visitor to your hometown of Central City, Ky., must see or do?
PS: Great question. Everybody knows Central City for being home of the
Everly Brothers (34), but the small-town atmosphere is what's great about living there. Plus, the hunting and fishing is great, too.
FM: What's the craziest thing a UK fan has ever said to you, requested of you or done to you?
PS: We have the greatest fans in college basketball. There's probably
nothing I haven't 'John Hancock-ed.' Their passion is what makes playing at UK
The Minutes is always vigilant for crimes against basketball fashion, and this year it is pleased to report one positive trend: Headbands have almost universally moved north on the craniums of the players. They're no longer being worn as earmuffs, but actually rest above the ears, as intended when James Naismith or John Wooden or Slick Watts or Bill Walton -- somebody -- invented the garment.
Now, here are the looks that still violate Minutes ordinances:
Knee-high navy blue socks, as worn by Xavier big man Brian Thornton (35). White? Maybe. Dark blue? Ugh.
Tights, as worn by Fairleigh Dickinson guard John Blackgrove (36). Men in tights might work in Sherwood Forest, but not in college basketball.
Sketchy beards, as worn by the Syracuse trio (37) of Gerry McNamara, Darryl Watkins and Eric Devendorf. Is the snow piled too high up there to get to the store and buy a razor?
The hobbit hair of Gonzaga's Adam Morrison (38). You can keep the 'stache. Just do something with that 'do.
Coaches Division: the orange suspenders of Tennessee's Bruce Pearl (39). At least they weren't an orange-and-white checkerboard pattern.
BOX SCORE OF THE WEEK
Massachusetts 60, Temple 34. (40) Nobody's teams are more famously hot-and-cold than John Chaney's. This might have been the game where the Owls reached absolute zero, shooting 26.5 percent from the floor and 10 percent from 3-point range in scoring their fewest points since 1973.
They actually led 13-12 at one point, then proceeded to score two points in the final 9:16 of the first half. They followed that up by scoring three points in the first 9:54 of the second half. That's five points in a span of 19 minutes, 10 seconds -- nearly impossible in modern basketball, unless it's played by kindergartners.
But that's Temple, a team that can beat Army by 32 and Miami by 17, then lose to Auburn by 31 and UMass by 26. When the Chaney mojo is good, it's very good. When it's bad, it's unwatchable. In this case, Mother Nature might have sensed the presence of the bad Owls; angry weather in the area knocked the broadcast off TV for about 10 minutes.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.