With December 23rd marking the high holiday of Festivus, I thought it would be nice to celebrate the near end of the nonconference season with some airings of grievances and feats of strength from around the college hoops world. And, in the spirit of Festivus, the negatives get to go first:
Airing of Grievances:
The new rules: I have to say, I hate them. This might be one that I'm wrong on in a few years as everyone adjusts to how the games are called and what you can and can't do, and it's not logical to expect the refs to call games perfectly right away, but what is or is not a foul has been called pretty inconsistently all year, and it seems like some refs are overcompensating for not allowing any contact up top by letting people get hammered inside. Elsewhere, a focus on these new rules has resulted in refs regressing in every other area.
The discussion of polls: Every year it comes up. My take: they're not necessary, they probably draw fewer eyeballs to college basketball rather than more, and I am pretty sure the AP poll only exists to make those writers (especially ones who tweet their ballot out on Sunday nights) feel important. But, it's also not a big deal to me to just ignore them. I honestly don't know who is ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on. I don't even know where my favorite team is ranked. But the polls aren't going anywhere, so it's easier to ignore them than fight them.
Stats vs. Scouts: Baseball was ahead of their time on this one, and, sadly, it seems like other sports are catching up. A lot of people out there think that advanced stats don't provide any help in understanding the game, and might mislead people. Well, all stats mislead when used incorrectly, but it's been fairly well proven that "advanced stats" (which aren't all that advanced to begin with) do a pretty good job in understanding how good teams are. It's pretty easy (for most people) to see how well they work in tandem: if a guy is shooting x% on two point jumpers or a team is only grabbing x% of their offensive rebounds, someone can go queue up the tape and see why. Advanced stats are great for figuring out where a team excels and needs to improve, and great at pointing out where to go to find these things. But one can't work without the other, and people who say they can are disingenuous at best, and have their heads buried in the sand at worst.
Conference realignment: I am going to be a big grump here. I hate that Syracuse and Pitt are in the ACC. I hate that Louisville is in the AAC for a year. Creighton in the Big East doesn't feel right. Hell I'm still adjusting to Nebraska in the Big 10 and Colorado in the PAC 12. What it's done is given us a bunch of conferences that aren't balanced and it's impossible to know who the true conference champion is. Wisconsin very well might be the best team in the Big 10, but they get a lot of help by only having to play Ohio State and Michigan State at home. Kudos to the Big 12, who plays everyone home and away, for doing it right.
Feats of Strength:
Freshmen sensations: At the start of the year, it seemed impossible that the Freshmen would live up to the hype. But here they are, living up to it. Andrew Wiggins is leading Kansas in scoring and is probably the best perimeter defender in the country. Jabari Parker is averaging over 22 points and almost 8 rebounds a game. Julius Randle is a double double machine for Kentucky. And none of them might be the #1 pick in the draft. Joel Embiid of Kansas is shooting 71% from two, and is already one of the best per minute rebounders and shot blockers in the country. Oh and he's only been playing basketball for a little over two years.
Shabazz Napier and Jahii Carson: I took some heat making those two my first and second team All-Americans at point guard, but so far they've rewarded me by being the country's best two point guards. Napier pulled off his best Kemba Walker impression with a buzzer beater against Florida, and has a triple double on the year, and all Carson is doing is ranking 31st in assist rate (with just a 16% turnover rate) and shooting 50% from three. No big deal.
Brad Stevens: He's not a college guy anymore, but Stevens has led the Celtics to the second best record in the Atlantic Division, without Rajon Rondo, and with maybe two NBA players on his roster. That's a stretch, but not by much. The Celtics were/are in full on tank mode, yet Stevens has done a masterful job with this group, proving that him being one of the best Xs and Os guys in college was no fluke, and proving that, despite some high profile flops, college coaches have what it takes to succeed in the NBA.