Philadelphia, PA – Time sure flies. One fact I came across in discovery this summer was the permanent omission of "Irene" as a possible future daughter's name. Sorry, but mandatory evacuations on a golf weekend are not my idea of fun.
But I guess I'd first have to get married. Or engaged. Or stop checking fantasy football at 3 a.m. Or stop pouring through college basketball articles at all hours of the night.
We can't grow up too fast, right? And neither, we hope, can the collegiate athletes about to embark on another race to that pinnacle called One Shining Moment. Midnight Madness is just around the corner, then pre-season tournaments, and before we know it, bubble banter will begin.
Until then, in an attempt to slow down life's clock, I tackle the second installment of a two-part series on the major questions in today's game. Agree or disagree with anything you read? Let me know on Twitter (@jtrex0830) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I received some great feedback on Part 1 (CLICK HERE to read) that will be included at the bottom of the column.
1. Preseason tournaments are used as showcase events for the game's major players and teams and are implemented as team-building trips that attempt to mimic the day-to-day pattern of a pivotal postseason event. What preseason tourneys are you looking forward to this season?
Answer: Maui is and always will be the unofficial start to the college basketball season in my mind. The tournament features top-tier teams, a few sleeping giants and games played in tight quarters inside a sweltering high school gymnasium. This year's field provides the first good look at Duke's heralded freshman Austin Rivers, and my interest lies not in his overall skill set but how he distributes the basketball and runs the team's offense. The Blue Devils have a 12-0 all-time mark in the event and face Tennessee in the first round. The Volunteers are finally, fingers crossed, finished with the NCAA fallout from former head coach Bruce Pearl's wrongdoing and can now move forward with promising first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin (a teaser to a later Q&A). The rest of the loaded bracket includes Michigan, Memphis, Georgetown and Kansas.
In a new wrinkle, the tournament expanded to include seven opening-round games on the mainland. Several mid-major schools with promise will receive national exposure, including Belmont and UNC-Greensboro. The winner of the event can hold hope that Connecticut's magic brushes off on its title chances. The Huskies, who won the national title, downed Kentucky for last year's Maui crown.
The Legends Classic, with championship rounds scheduled for November 19 and 21 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, features Texas, Vanderbilt, North Carolina State and Oregon State. Intriguing storylines include an expectations game for the Commodores, who return nearly every valuable piece from last season and sit sixth in my preseason Fine 15, and the first look at the Wolf Pack and first-year head coach Mark Gottfried. Oregon State is a chic pick to surprise in the wide open Pac-12, and I'm interested to see head coach Craig Robinson finally working with all of his own recruits.
The final field that drew my immediate attention came out of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. The field doesn't have the cache of the two events above, but includes teams that would love to pad their portfolios with NCAA tournament-worthy victories early in the season. Minnesota was a major disappointment last season, but returns solid frontline anchors in Ralph Sampson III and Trevor Mbakwe. Fairfield turned its attention to reviving its hoops program by luring former Princeton star Sydney Johnson away from his alma mater. Johnson inherits a program on the upswing with star guard Derek Needham and Boston College transfer Rakim Sanders. Other major-conference players who have no place to go but up include DePaul, Wake Forest and Arizona State.
We will have a complete breakdown of each major preseason tournament as the season draws closer.
2. Brigham Young made headlines this past week by re-instating forward Brandon Davies, who was booted off the team late last season for violating the school's honor code. To put it bluntly, he had premarital sex, which is highly frowned upon in the rules that govern BYU student conduct. What do you think of his reinstatement and BYU's honor code in a general sense?
Answer: I devoted a good amount of online real estate to the Davies' situation last March, an unfortunate situation made even worse by BYU's historic standing in the game. Basically, I applauded BYU's rigorous upholding of its code to a student athlete who likely would have made the Cougars a far more dangerous Final Four candidate. I didn't then, nor do I now, want to get into a moral argument on the code's merits, its place in 21st-century life or even simply its place in a college setting, but I still strongly believe the main point still stands: Davies freely agreed to follow a system of rules and regulations he seemingly believed in, growing up in Provo, Utah and knowing full well the ramifications of any disingenuous acts. He didn't follow those rules, and in a rare case of institutional and moral standard taking precedence over athletic achievement, the outcome was nothing other than justice.
Now, his reinstatement is just as justified. Davies paid a harsh price for his actions, and he now has the opportunity to play the game he loves and lead a very young Cougars team this season. The entire situation, from start to finish, was handled in the proper way. Other programs in similar moral and ethical situations should follow BYU's blueprint. I won't hold my breath.
YOUR THOUGHTS FROM PART 1
As always, the game's business side brought arguments from both sides of the spectrum. Here is the best response of each point of view.
"College athletics is a multi-million dollar corporation. It is time for the institutions raking in the money to stop raking their employees over the coals. These kids are getting paid anyway under the table, most of the time illegally, because that is the only way to keep up. Instituting a stipend requirement would allow the students to make some money and would alleviate some of the stress coaches face from outside temptation." -- Dave, Durham, North Carolina
"Just handing money to these players will not stop the problem. If I have no money, I want $10 and if I get $10 I want $20. Everyone is greedy. The main objective should be to curb outside influences. You hit the nail on the head when you said, 'the NCAA needs to stay aggressive, curb AAU influence and take steps to make it easier for these major programs to have stronger institutional control.' You don't fix the business in the game by adding bigger business. You fix it by policing the illegal activity and throwing the book at those who violate the rules." -- Matt, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
And finally, here is a great point on the tournament expansion topic we covered in Part 1.
"Anything truly is possible. I think the NCAA got it right with the addition of the First Four, but I hope they know when enough is enough. I don't want 16 teams in the NFL playoffs (like the NBA). It dilutes the product and the achievement that comes from regular-season success. At some point we need to put value on a collective body of work and stop rewarding mediocrity. I'm afraid the future holds a corporate NCAA Tournament that becomes bigger than the game itself." -- Paul, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
From your words to the NCAA's ears, Paul. Are you listening Greg Shaheen?