A crash course on college hoops
Football season is over. Now it is college basketball's time on the big stage. NCAA Selection Sunday is less than five weeks away.
But there are millions of football fans who have spent the past six months immersed in all things college and NFL football and may only now be paying attention to college basketball.
This is a primer for those people. It's a quick guide to help them bone up on the 2010-11 basketball season so they can speak somewhat intelligently about it and, more importantly, in five weeks make mildly informed picks in their NCAA tournament pool instead of completely ignorant and insane picks. Consider this column a public service.
Also consider this column a Jimmer-free zone. No disrespect to BYU superstar Jimmer Fredette, to all praises be, but if you're so far behind on this college basketball season that you're unaware of The Jimmer, then you're lost beyond saving. Just know that Jimmer Fredette is basically the Tim Tebow of the hardwood -- Jimm Freethrow, if you will -- college basketball perfection made manifest.
In fact, out of respect to The Jimmer, I will rate all of the following storylines on a 0-to-10 scale of Jimmers, 10 being as important as Jimmer.
Michigan State isn't any good. (3-of-10 Jimmers)
The Spartans opened the season ranked second, but they are now 13-10 and 5-6 in the Big Ten. They've lost five of six in the conference -- their last two defeats coming by a combined 46 points. The program's 13-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances is all but over.
It's so bad that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert recently sent Tom Izzo a text that read "Hang in there." Really. When the owner of what is perhaps the worst team in NBA history is taking pity on you, you know you're having a rough season. But at least Izzo didn't take the Cleveland job in the offseason. The grass is not always greener on the other side. Sometimes it is not green at all. Sometimes it's dead. Sometimes the only sign of life is some tumbleweed. Tumbleweed that just got blown into the air. And is now dunking on three Cavaliers.
North Carolina still isn't North Carolina. (3-of-10 Jimmers)
The mighty Tar Heels lost to Dayton last year in the NIT title game. It was an embarrassing season for the program. This one didn't open much better with a 7-4 start and Roy Williams acting like he hated every moment of his daggum' life.
Since then things have improved a bit. The Tar Heels are 17-6 and have crept back into the Top 25. But they're still not much of a threat -- as evidenced by their loss at Duke on Wednesday night, in which they were outscored by 20 points in the second half.
So while in years past you could have waded into a conversation with college basketball fans and talked up Michigan State and North Carolina, that won't work this year. You'll sound as dumb as you would talking to a baseball fan and saying how good the Yankees will look this year. (Oh. That's for another column. But until then, don't say that the Yankees will be good this year. Trust me on this.)
Jared Sullinger is your non-Jimmer Player of the Year so far. (5-of-10 Jimmers)
Ohio State is the only undefeated team left in the country and Sullinger is averaging 18 and 10. The freshman is the best Ohio State big man since ... since ... since ... I can't do it. I can't put him in the same sentence as ... you know. It wouldn't be right. He doesn't deserve to be linked to that guy in any way. So I'm going to just say Sullinger is the best Ohio State big man since Greg Oden to spare him of any cruel Kosta Koufos comparisons.
The SEC is the Big East and the Big East and ACC are the SEC and Pac-10. (6-of-10 Jimmers)
When making fun of conferences -- one of the most important parts of being a college sports fan -- you must make sure all of your taunts are in-season. So while the college football season was all about ripping on the ACC and the Big East, you'll now want to direct your dismissive scorn toward the SEC and the Pac-10. The SEC has only three teams in the current Top 25 -- none higher than 17th -- while the Pac-10 has only one ranked team: No. 15 Arizona. And the Pac-10 soon will be adding 10-14 Utah and 15-10 Colorado, which is in ninth place in the Big 12. So don't use all of your Pac-10 jokes right away; you'll want to save some for the long run.
Meanwhile, the Big East has eight teams in the Top 25 and six of the top 12. All that separates the Big East from all-sport dominance is a slight football rule change that awards points for dunking a football over the crossbar.
Texas, San Diego State, BYU, Notre Dame and UConn are your "surprise" teams. (2-of-10 Jimmers)
All five of those teams started the year ranked outside of the top 20 and now are in the top 10. So credit their success to hard work and reaching their potential, or to poll voters having no idea what they're doing. (I'm going with a little from each category.)
Of course, only one of the five "surprise" teams above has The Jimmer, so take them seriously at your own peril. And while Texas, San Diego State, Notre Dame and UConn are decidedly Jimmer-free, UConn has a Jimmer-like substance in Kemba Walker. He is a very good scorer. As is Jordan Hamilton of Texas. And Notre Dame has Ben Hansbrough, who is the younger brother of Tyler Hansbrough, the former North Carolina star who was once worshipped nearly at Jimmer levels.
Speaking of brothers ...
T.J. Fredette spits hot fire. (9-of-10 Jimmers)
Take J.J. Redick's poetry, Shaq's rapping ability and mix it with Fredette genes and you have T.J. Fredette: The Jimmer's rapping older brother. Here he is performing before the San Diego State-BYU game a few weeks ago. OK, so he may not exactly spit hot fire. But you know those little disposable Sterno cups? Take one of those from under the mashed potatoes tray at a church potluck meal and put it in a sweater vest and that's T.J. Fredette.
I just hope CBS is ready to replace its "One Shining Moment" performer with T.J. Fredette if/when The Jimmer wins the NCAA tournament this spring. The nation will demand it.
"The ball is tipped ... and you know this. Word."
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. His first book, "The View from the Upper Deck," is available from only the finest bargain-book retailers. His next book project will be released soon. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.