College Hoops Recap: Duke and Michigan Lose

Every Monday I write a recap of the previous weekend’s college basketball action for the CBS Charlotte website. You can find links to this content on the freelance page of my website. This week’s article can be found by clicking the following link:

Five Things: NC State Takes Down Duke & Calipari Has His First SEC Home Loss

Here are some observations that didn’t make it into the CBS column:

N.C State hands Duke its first loss

“Unbelievable! Did you see that?!” Dick Vitale utters those phrases all the time while calling a basketball game, but on Saturday he used them after spotting someone in a wheelchair among the mass of fans storming the court after North Carolina State upset Duke. “My heart goes out, I hope he’s OK,” Vitale added.
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College Basketball Guide for NBA Fans

The NBA has cancelled games through Dec. 15, putting the entire season in jeopardy. College basketball, however, remains lockout-free. With the season underway, I thought it would be worthwhile to provide a college hoops guide for NBA fans. Here are some things to keep in mind as you watch:

The Players Aren’t As Good

You already knew this, but I wanted to remind you so you’re not too critical of the quality of play. Unlike pro ballers, college kids are not full-time basketball players (please no jokes about John Calipari’s players). Partly because of the talent differential, college games have less scoring. Try not to yell at your TV over missed 15-footers. And don’t get too mad at the players when they screw up. Remember, they are just college kids. The coaches are the ones making the big bucks, so if you feel the need to direct your displeasure at someone, choose a coach. Just know that such criticism may fall on deaf ears because…

…Coaches Are Kings

Phil Jackson was widely respected, often referred to as a guru/innovator/Zen Master. But Coach K is a living legend; his team plays on a court named after him. Great college coaches are seen as more than just basketball coaches—they are teachers/role models/Leaders of Young Men. Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, and Tom Izzo are household names. Meanwhile, Frank Vogel, Dwane Casey, and Tyrone Corbin are current NBA head coaches. Did you know that?

Like everything in this guide, I am not saying the college or pro way is better. I’m just telling you that while the NBA is a league built on the backs of superstar players, coaches are the stars of the college game.

It’s Not Just About March

There are several intriguing early season tournaments being played this month everywhere from Madison Square Garden to Maui. The cold winter months bring us heated conference rivalries. The league tournaments are wild and crazy. There are meaningful, interesting, exciting college basketball games throughout the season. Even if that weren’t true, college hoops would still be entertaining—March Madness is that awesome.

Just don’t think that watching more games will help you do better in your NCAA Tournament pool. You will, without fail, do worse.

Lower Your Volume

Have you ever flipped channels between an NBA and college game? The sounds are vastly different. For many pro games, fans are still filtering into the arena as the first quarter winds down. On major college campuses, the arena is rocking a half hour before tip for big games. The “de-fense” chants you’ll hear are organized by real life fans, not P.A. systems and Jumbotrons. When the ball is in play you won’t hear rap music over the loudspeakers, but during dead balls you will hear a live band. The louder crowds are largely due to raucous student sections, which, at places like Duke and Michigan, are located courtside for maximum effect.

Prepare Yourself

Because this lockout didn’t exactly come as a surprise, several sure-fire lottery picks returned to school. That means there are probably more future pros playing college ball this year than in a long time, as stars like sophomores Harrison Barnes (North Carolina), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), and Terrence Jones (Kentucky) are joined by first year players Austin Rivers (Duke), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), and Andre Drummond (Connecticut).

While a lockout is never going to be a good thing, for NBA fans looking to get their hoops fix, this season of college basketball should be ideal. So go ahead, pick a school or two—a local team or the alma mater of a friend or relative—and keep an eye on them from now through March. You can tell me how much fun you had at next year’s NBA Draft, when your opinion of your favorite team’s pick won’t have to come from someone else.

Should Coach K Already Have the Wins Record?

Mike Krzyzewski can set the all-time wins record tonight against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. Had some of his wins not been credited to someone else, he would have already passed Bob Knight.

Coach K officially has 902 wins, tied with his mentor Knight for the most among Division I basketball coaches. That total includes just nine victories from the 1994-95 season, Krzyzewski’s 15th at Duke. Krzyzewski left the team after its 9-3 start due to exhaustion following back surgery, and assistant coach Pete Gaudet took over as interim coach. Duke went 4-15 the rest of the way to finish with a 13-18 record.

Krzyzewski’s career record reflects the 9-3 start, but not the 4-15 finish during his absence. I’m not sure how I feel about these games not appearing on Coach K’s official record. Other coaches have missed games (Jim Calhoun comes to mind) and those results still appeared on their individual records, but those were just a few games. This was the majority of a season. I understand arguments for both sides.

Coach K (right) is tied with his mentor Bob Knight (left) for career wins. (Credit: John Pellino/DOIM)

What’s interesting is that the NCAA chooses to leave decisions like this to the school, so it was Duke and Krzyzewski that decided how to record the 1994-95 season. However, on a conference call with reporters in 2007, Krzyzewski said, “I think I should have been credited with all the losses…The bottom line is I’m responsible even though I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t want the wins but you could give me the losses.”

That doesn’t make much sense to me. Either all of the final 19 games should be attributed to Krzyzewski or none of them, but not just the losses. Regardless, if Coach K truly felt this way, his career record would be 902-299, not 902-284, as I’m certain the school would change the record books upon his request.

Again, I’ll leave the debate over how that asterisked season should be handled to others. I am only certain of this: Had the entire season been credited to Krzyzewski, the record-setting victory would have come against Hampton in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. But that’s not nearly as fun as it potentially coming in The World’s Most Famous Arena against an elite program with its own outstanding coach.

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