This became even more obvious when the NCAA nabbed USC freshman O.J. Mayo for accepting complementary tickets to last Monday's Nuggets-Lakers game. Not from a scout or an agent, mind you -- instead from personal friend and Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. According to the rules, players are forbidden from receiving "free or reduced-cost admission to professional athletics contests from professional sports organizations, unless such services also are available to the student body in general." After being cited for a violation, Mayo was restored his eligibility after donating the total value of the tickets ($460) to a charitable organization. That charity, for all I care, could've been the Human Fund.
You have to love it when the NCAA rules with an iron fist, specifically in cases like this that have virtually no bearing on the sanctity of the game. It's even more exciting when the bylaws look obsolete enough to have been written by King James I. Maybe there once was a day when Mayo would look up to 'Melo and gifts like this were frowned upon. I don't doubt that. But now, well, Mayo's only a few months away from being 'Melo, isn't he? And this whole thing seems quite pointless in the grand scheme of what could go wrong.
I could probably go on forever?that'd be all too easy. But we're all about solutions -- not problems -- here at Campus Quick Slants. That's why I've put together a quick list of some new rules that, with all due respect to Bill Maher, the NCAA should consider the next time it has a powwow ...
NEW RULE: Replace the possession arrow with a Magic 8-Ball
Hey, if you're going to insist that an inanimate object determines critical possessions, why not add an element of chance to the equation? And who wouldn't want to see Bobby Knight heave something into the stands that said "It doesn't look good" late in the game?
NEW RULE: James Brown and Len Elmore are no longer allowed to call NCAA Tournament games.
Both seem like upstanding gentlemen, but their combined effort during last year's tournament, according to scientists, slowed the rotation of planet Earth. Seriously. Your days are now 24 hours and 40 minutes long.
NEW RULE: Players are no longer allowed to style their hair before games
Fellas, looking good for the camera will not impress scouts. Actually ...
NEW RULE: Dick Vitale must stop wishing he had Dante Calabria's hair
With all due respect, Mr. Vitale, you do this every year during your call of Duke vs. North Carolina. It's not helping. (It's good to have you back though!)
NEW RULE: Slam dunks are now worth only one point
Dr. Naismith would not have awarded two points for a tomahawk jam that splintered his peach basket.
NEW RULE: Replace regular season polls with gold stars
It could be like Pizza Hut's "Book-It" program: Win a game, get a star, earn a tournament berth. Meanwhile, Bob Huggins-coached teams could still receive stars for reading actual books.
It's time to be realistic.
The average sports fan couldn't name 10 college basketball players or care less about the regular season until three weeks before March Madness. Relying on this "extensive" knowledge, he or she will enter multiple bracket pools and pick upsets based on pure instinct and chance. Inevitably, an improbable outstanding showing by an office secretary or someone's 11-year old daughter who picked winners based on team colors will end the dream of winning a few extra bucks and a world of pride.
See, it's fun to pick upsets and be the token genius in the office, but it's a lot harder to do if you don't know who's any good. At last check -- unless my Google skills have vanished like Bobby Petrino into the night -- a simple web search for "college basketball sleepers" gives you very little with which to work. So I'm creating a short list of teams for you each week. I'll call them my "Silent But Deadlies" because they haven't gotten nearly the amount of coverage they've deserved. And they could very well be causing a serious stink in a few weeks:
How quickly we forget the Musketeers took Ohio State to the wire last season, nearly causing Gus Johnson's head to explode.
Officially this year's Team That Will Tank Your Bracket, but re-grouping after a rough start and playing well as a team despite two suspensions and Jim Calhoun's tirade on the press.
Never underestimate Billy Donovan's schemes, players, or growing pattern baldness. Never.
It's easy to forget that three weeks ago, the Vanderbilt Commodores found themselves in the desirable position of being 16-0 and off to the best start in school history. Now ... umm ... pffffft.
With the season more than halfway over and the tournament getting closer, you have to wonder which Commodore team will be gracing your brackets come March. Umm, will the real Vanderbilt please stand up? One school of thought would suggest that a team talented enough to win its first 16 games should be good enough to make at least a little bit of noise in the tournament. The other would indicate that getting rocked by 20+ points, on the road, against two quality opponents (Tennessee and Florida) is a pretty bad omen. It's your call.
Here's a tip, though: You absolutely, positively cannot trust a college program noted more for its brains than its brawn. This would've been Commandment 10-A if Moses had his way -- picking the academic All-Americans over the actual All-Americans is almost always a recipe for disaster. As a bracket-picking society, we need to accept this concept as a global constant ... like the speed of light or pi.
As it stands, Memphis is one of two remaining undefeated teams in Division I college basketball at 19-0. They're winning by about 21 points per game -- usually, that's a pretty good indicator for tournament success -- and they've got a dangerous mix of a NBA-caliber roster and a veteran coach with Italian heritage. (My grandmother swears this is crucial.) So with only one of 12 games remaining against a ranked opponent (Tennessee), you'd have to like their chances of staying perfect. Even if they don't, shouldn't they still be one of the odds-on favorites headed into the tournament?
Well, not necessarily. Not when you're playing in Conference USA. I know this only because I'm hearing more and more pundits say "Well, they are in Conference USA," and surely that must be the be-all, end-all explanation for all things 2008 Memphis basketball, right?
Actually, I'm not even sure what that means. We tend to come up with little barbs like this to diminish anything potentially noteworthy. It's our natural defense mechanism, like insisting the hottest girl at the bar must've been drunk before hooking up with your below average-looking buddy. Some things can only be rationalized through cynicism. In this case, that cynicism is the "strength of schedule" statistic with which everyone seems obsessed nowadays. Indeed, Conference USA is weaker, as a whole, than many other conferences. But logically, if Memphis beats every opponent on its schedule, what's to say it's not the crème de la crème? What else can it do? Is there any real correlation between the quality of someone's schedule and the quality of their team?
1. Better basketball idea? Advertisements atop backboards / Padded scorers' tables
2. Stronger conference?Pac-10 / Big 12
3. Tastier burger? Whopper Jr. (Burger King) / Classic Single (Wendy's)
4. Better mascot name? Gael Force One (Saint Mary's) / Seymour d'Campus (Southern Miss)
5. Better 80s toy?WWF Wrestling Buddies / Popples
6. Better NBA prospect? Jerryd Bayless (Arizona) / Donte Green (Syracuse)
7. Better Flo Rida fashion fave? Apple bottom jeans / Boots with the fur
8. More overrated?Drake / Washington State
9. More ferocious movie monster? That thing in Cloverfield / Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man
10. Next undefeated to fall?Kansas / New England Patriots
The Super Bowl is as much a pop culture event as it is a football game, what with all the media hype, parties, andpretty girls who are paid to attend them. So if you plan on hitting up any parties this Sunday, especially one of those running a cheesy little pool, you'd better pay attention to some of the random prop bets upon which you might have to wager guesses. A few suggestions: OVER on Jordin Sparks' national anthem BEER as the subject of the first commercial, and NO streaker.
(Oh, and the Giants +12 points).
Ty Hildenbrandt writes Campus Quick Slants every Wednesday. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments, questions and random observations