Will attention on Marshall Henderson focus more on his on-court performance, instead of his antics off it? (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
As an army of ghosts, goblins, witches and werewolves prepares to descend upon neighborhoods from coast to coast, we thought it might be worthwhile to hand out a few college basketball-inspired tricks and treats of our own before the autumnal extravaganza begins in earnest this evening. Let's take a look:
TRICK: Our first trick goes to Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, who will receive a Costco-sized package of Dove from us this Halloween. With a mouth as profane as his, Henderson could stand to abide any good grandmother's advice and wash his mouth out with a plentiful helping of soap. His act is one part entertaining and three parts tiresome, so let's knock on wood to hope that he figures out a way this season to let his highly-impressive (and efficient) game do his talking.
TREAT: It's still October, so we're going to hand out treats in the form of a bag of candy corn (it's striped, after all) to our intrepid game officials. The new rules instituted this offseason by the NCAA to eliminate hand-checking on the perimeter and bumping of cutters is designed to improve player movement and make the game more free-flowing. The NBA went through a similar transformation during the last five years, and the preponderance of open-floor offenses in the league has made the professional game a much better product as a result. Now, the zebras just need to implement it.
TRICK: Some trick-or-treaters simply can't get past others' success, and they're smaller for it. There's no narrative more annoying in college basketball these days than the "[John] Calipari cheats" meme. The Kentucky head coach hasn't always been an uber-recruiter (he had one legitimate NBA player in eight years at UMass), but he has always been a winner (at least in the college game). Yet many people in and around the sport simply won't let go of the idea that he is some kind of masterful Dr. Evil on the recruiting trail, offering "one millllll-ion dollars" to the best prep talent. For these people, we're giving out black licorice vines in the hopes that the candy stains their teeth as much as bitterness has stained their souls.
TREAT: There's a little costumed pirate or ballerina somewhere in all of us, and for that reason, every college basketball fan is getting a box of sour patch kids this Halloween. Why? Because we'll be getting a full season of the Maple Jordan himself, Andrew Wiggins. Imagine if we'd been able to enjoy 35 collegiate games of Kobe or LeBron as a precocious 18-year old -- that's what we'll be getting with the Kansas freshman. We'll also be getting a lot of this. target="_blank">And this. So let's just sit back, kick our feet up, rip into those tasty morsels of sugary goodness, and enjoy the show.
TRICK: We're giving a few gnarly oranges and an apple to members of the national media who don't pay attention to college hoops until mid-February. Seriously, at that late point of the season, they may as well stick with football or move on to baseball. There is no greater spectacle in American sports than the NCAA tournament, but there's plenty of compelling stuff leading up to those few weeks at season's end. November through February is when true fans take the time to learn these teams, to get to know their players, and to develop the passionate following that culminates with March Madness. Besides, many members of this media cohort could use a healthy snack or two.
TREAT: We've got a giant heaping of chocolate bars ready for returning All-Americans Doug McDermott (Creighton), Russ Smith (Louisville), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and CJ Fair (Syracuse). The college game is enriched when there are several outstanding returnees who give up NBA dreams to return to school for another year, and all four of these superstars could find themselves in the conversation for National Player of the Year this season. Eat up, fellas. You guys deserve it (and thanks to amateurism rules, they probably can't afford it).
TRICK: If you see some shifty tricksters hanging out by the edge of the yard, possibly casing the place but just as likely to have taken a turn into the wrong neighborhood, say hello to the NCAA's enforcement staff and hand them a bottle of Xanax. From revelations of paying convicted felons for information to chicanery involving the search function on their apparel website to public braggadocio about nailing a player before finishing an investigation, the organization's approval rating surely hovers somewhere near that of Congress. Unlike the blowhards in DC, though, the public can't vote these guys out of office.
TREAT: Our final treat on All Hallow's Eve is a tube of Neosporin and a hefty dose of confidence to one Kevin Ware, the Louisville player whose tibia broke in half during last year's Elite Eight game against Duke. Reports on his condition some seven months later suggest that his leg has completely healed (excepting the scar, of course), but we continue to worry about the long-term psychological effects of his gruesome injury. Rick Pitino says that the junior guard will return to full contact practice very soon, and there won't be anybody in the country cheering for his success more than us.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
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