SONG SELECTION: Mr. Lee by The Bobettes, 1957
Found on Essential Doo Wop Rockers 2014 compilation album
With the fall foliage changing colors
As the first onset of winter’s chill
And the frost from the pumpkins settles in
It is time to come inside and take in the glowing warmth
That is another thrilling season of men’s college basketball
That little paragraph is done in tribute to longtime disc jockey at WXRT, 93.1 FM in Chicago named Frank E. Lee. For those that did not follow him online or listening en route to a random Chicago Cubs baseball game on the ‘L’ elevated train en route to Wrigley Field, he would lead off his weekday stint playing a snippet from the first minute of doo wop lyrics of the above song title at around 1 p.m. Central Time. Frank would frequently offer listeners some simple prose before giving us the latest tunes from the likes of Arcade Fire, Jake Bugg, Best Coast, Lucius from Brooklyn, The Cranberries, or classics from The La’s, The Call, John Fogerty, or The Rolling Stones. At around the same time, I would often find myself in the garage staring at the above clock with its’ rather large digits either pitching the previous night’s trash or refilling the water needed for that evening’s dinner.
Nothing pretty, but I simply call it effective.
(Ironically enough, when I originally typed this blog shortly after Halloween 2015, Frank E. Lee has resurfaced many times on WXRT–mostly filling in for midday host Terri Hemmert when she had to undergo various medical procedures. As of July 1, 2017–he is a rotating host with fellow veteran DJ Johnny Mars on the shortened version of Saturday Morning Flashback. The popular program was on from 8 to 11 a.m. Central Time after spending more than 25 years on for an entire four hour block until noon until November 18, 2017 when it finally reverted to starting at 9 a.m. and ending to go back to their regular alternative/independent rock promptly at noon).
Now with the rest of the preview:
And so, without further virtual adieu–I welcome you to my…
2015-2016 NCAA MEN’S DIVISION ONE COLLEGE BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW
Welcome back to my longtime fans and any new fans that might be checking this blog out for the first time.
This past off-season was the most fluid and most unpredictable of any time that I can remember. As a longtime Superfan of the sport since 1979, only the time between 1995-96 and 1999-2000 come very close to overall anticipation and excitement for what was to transpire.
Between the high profile transfers and some players deciding to wait one more year before trying their hands at the NBA Draft, coupled with some graduations of many key players on teams from the defending champions of Duke, along with Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Louisville, Arizona, and especially at Wisconsin–I personally think anywhere from 15 to 25 different schools could clearly say that on paper that might have a chance to cut down the nets next April and win the national championship.
Of course, there is one huge caveat at this upcoming Final Four–can they survive shooting against that very odd and dark background that NRG Stadium uses down in Houston? I recall many players grimacing at both baskets while going back to their coaches’ huddles during some TV time outs during the South Regional as if some spy novel cover involving Yasmin Rad was going to take place.
At first glance, it is a far cry from what the old Astrodome did during All-American and future Hall of Famer in Elvin Hayes when he turned his multi-million dollar performance in halting UCLA’s famed then-record 46 game winning streak in the first nationally televised college basketball game in February 1968. That court surface was right smack dab in the middle of the baseball diamond.
Where were the fans? Nowhere near press row, that’s for sure.
New rule changes meant to speed up the game and clear up clogging inside the paint
In a blog that I posted in June, I detailed at length about the revised rules that the NCAA and the NABC mutually agreed to for this upcoming season:
The biggest change that is directly affecting the coaches will be not having enough time outs at their disposal. Instead of having five per half, there will only be four (but no more than three can be carried over to the second half). In addition, it will be interesting to see how quickly play will resume after a player has picked up his fifth foul and therefore be disqualified from the game. The other rule worth keeping in mind is the one will be when a coach calls time out within 30 seconds of any media time out (which typically occurs on the first dead ball after four minutes of play).
We will see more commercials! In other words, we will automatically go to that TV time out and not have to go through one set play at the 16:09 mark, then a silly foul stops play just seconds before the cameras fade to the TV time out. The only time it will count against a team will be before the first media time out with less than 16 minutes to go in the second half.
In general, the teams that can perform their sets without too many difficulties and adapt to almost an NBA style that Fred Hoiberg did to near perfection while at Iowa State–the goal for every team is to get a quality shot within 30 seconds.
Of course, it would not affect the high flying dunkers, so this rule would not apply to them. But this may affect the Ivy League and the Big Ten the most, with their generally slow and methodical styles of play. Couple that with the widening of the lane to four feet, it will be interesting to see how far the referees will determine what is a foul and what won’t be a foul after the consistent outcry from coaches far and wide mostly when a player drove into the lane and gets hacked in the process. Sometimes, a Flagrant 1 is usually commonplace where a player tries to take more than the ball (i.e. hand checking)–whereas the Flagrant 2 foul is the more stringent and that would lead to automatic disqualification from the game. Widening the lane out to four feet should hopefully help in this regard, but I feel these moves may take a few years before true peace can be fully achieved.
The entire Final Four for the first time ever, will be seen on cable
Farewell to “One Shining Moment.”
In comparison, this news was not as drastic a move as when Playboy magazine announced on October 13 that they will no longer be showing nude ladies in print starting with the March 2016 issue (but thankfully, changed back to nude pics starting with the March/April 2017 issue). By the time that issue rolls around, most people will see a more glossier, coffee-table style magazine featuring ladies in mostly sultry and provocative poses. Around the same time, most casual fans of college basketball will realize that the Final Four not only be airing exclusively on cable for the third straight season–but the bigger news is that for the first time since 1981, CBS will not be carrying the National Championship game.
Rather, college basketball’s premier showcase will air on TBS. In the end, it will be the same type of broadcast that fans have grown accustomed to since 1991 with Jim Nantz leading the charge. The only small victory will be for the ladies reading since they will be getting one extra Monday night of their favorite CBS shows: Supergirl, Scorpion, and NCIS: Los Angeles. I expect the ratings to probably drop off a bit without ESPN involved except before and after the game with Dick Vitale’s timely rants and raves outside at one of the NRG Stadium parking lots. Or, pray really hard that Wayne Larrivee & Company could do the Bleacher Stream again and get fans really excited all over just like during the thrilling finish in the 2015 national semifinal when Kentucky’s pursuit of an undefeated season went down in flames to the gutsy, determined effort placed forth by Wisconsin.
Top Five Games To Watch
Monday, November 16 Belmont at Arizona State
Will the Bruins surprise again another top team on the road? Last November, they shocked North Carolina and they bring most of their key players back. Former Duke great Bobby Hurley will try to get the fans involved after helping guide the Buffalo Braves to the school’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance last March before eventually losing their first tournament game in the final minutes.
Tuesday, November 17 State Farm Champions Classic, Kentucky vs. Duke
The United Center in Chicago will host this edition to round out the ESPN 24 Hour Tip-Off Marathon. Hopefully this game will be much closer than last year in Indianapolis.
Also that same night two hours later, Georgetown at Maryland
Reunited, And It Feels So Good. Look for the fans to really get into this match-up in a hurry.
Games worth DVR’ing will be earlier that day, starting at 10 a.m. Eastern time with Horizon League favorite Valparaiso taking on Rhode Island, the same school that Bryce Drew played his last collegiate game in the 1998 Sweet 16 round of the Midwest Regional in St. Louis. Other games worth taking a peek include Alabama at Dayton at 1 p.m., Colorado at Auburn at 3 p.m., and Oklahoma at Memphis at 5 p.m. Those four games could go a long way to determining their possible seeding presuming they do well in conference and win their conference tournaments outright come the first few weeks in March.
The rest of the full day of hoops action can be found here, from my original blog post from August 22:
Saturday, December 26 Louisville at Kentucky
Will the investigation of the sexual allegations at Louisville be finally settled by then? More importantly, will Louisville Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino still be roaming the sidelines by the time most Americans are returning and exchanging their gifts from the day before?
Saturday, January 23 Arizona at California
This will be a benchmark game for the Golden Bears if they wish to unseat the Wildcats. With their mostly sad news on Friday that Ray Smith, a 5-star freshman tore his ACL during practice and is out for the entire season. Arizona joins Illinois when they lost Tracy Abrams for the second time in as many seasons, and Ivy League champion Harvard will carry on without Siyani Chambers as walking wounded schools looking to shore up things and hopefully scrape together that right mix similar to having the right boards, screws, and dowels necessary to complete your favorite furniture from IKEA.
Speaking of dicey situations, something else to monitor will be the situation that Roy Williams is inheriting with North Carolina. Multiple possible violations were reported throughout the summer affecting many past players in the simple fact that they skipped classes and had other people give them passing grades just so they could make their team flights for all of the road games. Regardless of your opinion on this subject, Tar Heels fans could be bracing for the worse and they might (and I emphasize the word might) miss out on the 2016 NCAA Tournament–pending the results of the NCAA’s findings.
The 2015-2016 Big Z Cool Names Team
This is my list of the coolest sounding names in college basketball today, organized by position:
Center, Kentucky Skal Labissiere–cleared to play after a lengthy NCAA investigation which finally concluded on Friday, October 23. After surviving an earthquake in his homeland, expect UK to be dangerous yet again come tournament time.
Forward, North Carolina State Abdul-Malik Abu. 6’8″, 240 pounds–wonder what NBA scouts will be looking at when he plays against the best teams night in and night out in the ACC?
Forward, Clemson Jaron Blossomgame. I just like how that name sounds, don’t you?
Guard-Wichita State Fred VanFleet. Teaming up one more time with Ron Baker, this duo of Shockers has been simply a joy to watch (and listen if you care to find them online). Expect another outstanding year for the Shockers.
Guard-Purdue Stephen Troya. With the football team floundering in the basement, Matt Painter hopes to bring a Boilermakers revival to West Lafayette and most of North Central Indiana.
Teams That Might Creep onto the Bracket Radar By Super Bowl Sunday
Just around the time when the “Dog Days” of February roll around, most Americans are busy going to their favorite Wal-Mart or convenience store and grabbing as many bags of chips, containers of dip and lots of beer and wine to stock up for our unofficial American holiday.
What teams you may be wondering could be in my second installment of “Under The Microscope” this coming season? Well, I am so glad you asked:
With SMU being excluded from postseason play in 2016, I expect the extra bid to either go to Wyoming in the Mountain West or possibly Northern Iowa or Illinois State in the Missouri Valley. Don’t count out also Oregon in the Pac-12 and maybe just maybe, Northwestern in the Big Ten. Another school worth checking out is LSU in the SEC, with Ben Simmons entering the fray as a 6’9″ power forward from Australia–where possibly a second coming of when Shaquille O’Neal began to dominate on the college hardwood over a quarter century ago.
The full list will be included in my first exclusive blog of the season to be presented during the week of November 9, when I showcase the 68 teams that will be earning those coveted bids to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Hope to see you all then. Have a great week, and remember–eat your Halloween candy in moderation.