Adams: Side teams for your college basketball viewing pleasure
Hayden Adams | Friday, October 30, 2020
It’s getting to be that time. The time when sports fans shift their focus away from baseball and football to the greatest game God ever bestowed upon His green Earth: basketball.
If you want to know how much I love this game, I can (and probably will at some point) write a quasi-Sports Authority/love letter to the game à la Kobe Bryant’s “Dear Basketball.” But for now, I want to talk about the upcoming college basketball season and what every fan needs to do in preparation.
Recently, news broke that ESPN would be canceling eight events that it planned to host in a makeshift NBA-style bubble in Orlando, Florida — among them the Champions Classic, the NIT Season Tip-Off and the Jimmy V Classic. The main issue being that different conferences have different requirements for how long players can go without being tested after recording a positive COVID-19 test (i.e. Are they free from testing for three months, six months or forever?).
The other issue is that should just one player on a team test positive, the entire roster is barred from competing because, as opposed to football, basketball is an indoor sport and there are not separate position groups to break players and coaches into.
Suffice to say this year is going to be chaotic. With that in mind, though, I propose a way for fans to get the most possible enjoyment out of this most unique of college basketball seasons.
I suggest every fan gets themselves a few side teams.
Hear me out here. What I mean is that, in times such as these, there is a pretty good likelihood that at some point, the team you root for is going to be out of commission, either because they lose an opponent to COVID-19 protocols or they themselves fall victim to an outbreak.
So, in order to compensate, you need to stock your roster with a few eligible teams with whom you are open to a laid-back, noncommittal relationship. Some CBB watch buddies, if you will.
It’s tough to give specific recommendations because you probably are more inclined to root for or root against a team based on your own personal geography, so I’ll just tell you what my plan of action is. I’m not going to be a bandwagon for any already-good teams, and I’ll try not to hop too much on the hype train of any one player. Although, I will still watch a high-profile game for the love of good basketball being played.
So with that out of the way, here’s a few guidelines I’m going to follow to make sure I always have something to follow this college basketball season.
1. Get yourself someone in each of the Power 5 conferences (and Big East)
This one is already pretty easy for me because I have Kentucky in the SEC and Notre Dame in the ACC. “What about (if and) when they play each other in the non-conference this season?” you may be asking. Well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
It is very difficult for me to pick a Big Ten team on principle (that principle being that the whole conference can pretty much shove it). Michigan State is an established blue blood, and Luka Garza at Iowa is already too hyped so I’ll go with Purdue. They’re a pretty unobjectionable, middle-of-the-pack team and play a fun style of basketball, so I’m riding the Boilermakers train (pun intended).
I guess I have a thing for Indiana teams (outside of the Hoosiers) because I’ll take Butler out of the Big East as well. Maybe it’s a little bit of a holdover from the Brad Stevens/Shelvin Mack/Gordon Hayward days, but I like the way they play and they’re pretty consistently a fringe Top-25 team.
The Big 12 and Pac-12 are tough ones. I won’t go with Oregon out west because they are tops in the conference, and certainly not UCLA with their history. Instead give me Stanford, because I feel just a little bit sorry that both Kentucky and Notre Dame have poached players from them (Reid Travis and Cormac Ryan, respectively). As for the Big 12, I’ll take Texas Tech. Despite a national championship appearance two years ago, they aren’t a blue blood and at .500 in-conference last year I think they are just middling enough to make this acceptable.
However, when it comes to all of these conferences, there’s pretty much always a team to root against.
2. Get yourself some teams to root against
Everyone loves a good villain. In fact, I would argue that villains make or break movies, and they do much the same in college basketball.
We’ve had several teams who are the subject of scandals in college basketball, whether for strippers, prostitutes or (the relatively benign act of) paying recruits. Kansas, Louisville, Arizona and LSU fall into those types of categories. You could even throw Duke in there if you believe Zion Williamson and his family were receiving improper benefits (They were.).
Additionally, aside from teams that broke the rules, there are others that are unlikeable for miscellaneous reasons. For example, root for Northern Illinois to lose every game this season. They were reportedly the reason the MAC canceled football (before coming back, in all fairness), which precipitated the Big Ten canceling football, so their season can be burning dumpster for all I care.
3. Get yourself some under-the-radar squads
Have some fun with this. Find those low-key teams outside of the Power 5 that are almost like snacks in your college football diet. They’re interesting mostly for storylines but interesting nonetheless.
I’ll take Loyola Chicago out of the Missouri Valley based almost solely off of the run they made to the Final Four in 2018. Howard will be one to watch in the MEAC with Makur Maker committing to the HBCU.
I like Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference because, aside from BYU last season, they’re just about the only team to consistently give Gonzaga problems. Detroit Mercy will also be on my radar for no other reason than Kentucky coach John Calipari’s son, Brad (who briefly went to my high school’s rival), is on that roster.
And I’ll top it all off with Dayton out of the Atlantic 10. Yes, they were a top three team last season, but they lost Obi Toppin to the NBA and have a cool logo and color scheme, so I give myself a pass on this one.
So there you have it. As you may be able to tell, I’m pretty excited for the college basketball season to get here. When it does, you can bet I’ll be popping a squat on my couch and soaking up all the bouncing balls and squeaking sneakers and screaming coaches I can during a much-needed and (dare I say) well-earned 10 week winter break.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.