Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Basketball Nation [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012
'Bag: Wherefore art thou, Cameron Crazies?

By Eamonn Brennan

Every week, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the blog. You can also email me or send me your entries via Twitter. (Honestly, the best way to get me is Twitter.)

Per the usual, we begin with video.

@chriscusack1 writes: Perhaps you want to reconsider your choice for the nation's best student section: "Low attendance forces Duke Athletics to sell student seats"

Eamonn Brennan: First of all, the pertinent facts from the Duke Chronicle's story:
Once regularly an asylum for 1,200 Crazies, Section 17 at Cameron Indoor Stadium now rarely plays host to a student-only crowd.

Student attendance at men’s basketball games has fallen consistently over the last five years, even dropping after Duke won its fourth national championship in 2010. This season, approximately 650 undergraduates have attended each game, 150 fewer than during the 2008-09 season. As a result, Duke Athletics has begun to sell an increasing number of general admission tickets in the student section on a regular basis.

“It has nothing to do with the revenue. We just want it to be full,” Director of Marketing and Relations Mike Forman said. “If there were 1,200 students every game we would love it.”

Whoa. I have to say, this is borderline shocking stuff. There used to be things we could count on in life. Taxes. Death. Oscar snubs. (No "Drive?" Travesty!) Insane Duke basketball student sections. And yet, something strange is afoot: Duke students aren't showing up in droves anymore. According to the Chronicle, 400 Section 17 tickets were sold for Duke's home game with Wake Forest last week because of concerns over Wake's struggles and fraternity and sorority rush events on campus. Even then, the section wasn't full, and Coach K had to "gesticulate across the court during play, encouraging the fans to get louder." The indignity!

Apparently, Duke students have become less willing to brave the trials of Krzyzewskiville in the past few seasons, instead opting to stay home, stay warm, and watch the games on TV. Which is understandable, I suppose. I like being home. I like being warm. But I'm pretty sure those two things are not why you go to college. You have your entire life to sit at your desk, do some work and casually follow your alma mater's basketball team on TV. You have exactly four years to be a Cameron Crazie — or any other member of any other student section. Besides, I was under the impression that basketball games were pretty much the only reason to attend Duke in the first place. (Other than, you know, academics.)

But this is bigger than Duke. The Blue Devils have long set the bar for collegiate student sections across the country. On campuses everywhere, students are fighting the good fight, pleading desperately to secure courtside sections from their athletics departments, while those cash-strapped departments weigh the costs and benefits of giving the best seats in the house to deep-pocketed boosters. This is an uphill battle, but at least those students have always been able to say: "Look at Duke. Their students sit in prime real estate, and they have the best home court atmosphere in the country!"

Now, I'm afraid, that status -- which Dana O'Neil and I established on the ESPNU College Basketball Podcast earlier this season, as Chris referred to above -- has to be put in serious jeopardy. Strange times in Durham.

Abe in Missouri writes: Thoughts on Kimmie English's postgame comments to Jason King following the Baylor game?

Brennan: Ah, yes. In case you missed it, English got after me and fellow ESPNU "The Experts" panelist Adrian Branch for saying we thought Missouri was going to lose big at Baylor, or something to that effect. To be honest, I can't really remember exactly what I said about Mizzou on "The Experts," because it was a long show and we talked about a lot of teams and I was working on about three hours sleep and mostly trying not to fall flat on my face on live television. Fun times.

Either way, I — as well as Jason and the rest of our staff here — thought it was great. English is one of the best and most thoughtful dudes in college hoops, and he's also one of the more engaging. After his team's performance Saturday, in what might be the most impressive win we've seen all season, Kim had every right to throw the pregame doubts about this team's lack of size and interior presence back in yours truly's face. I am happy to feast on that crow, my friends. Well-earned.

My only qualm: Kim mispronounced my name! He went with the classic "E-MAHN." It can go one of two ways: It's either "E-man" or "Ay-man." The latter is the anglicized pronunciation; the former is the way my parents have always said it. Either way, the emphasis is on the first syllable, not the second.

Then again, Kim shouldn't feel bad: Katz still struggles with this from time-to-time, too.

John Fox in Cedar Rapids, Ia. writes: Just a thought about the Arkansas/Michigan game. Arkansas made their first 11 shots. In games with hot starts like that the average margin of victory is around 18 points. Michigan held Arkansas to 20 points in the second half and had a shot at winning the game at the end. On the road with such a hill to climb on a day when traveling teams were being crushed by the weather conditions I believe Michigan truly played well.

Brennan: I feel a little like James Carville after Will Ferrell gives his debate answer in "Old School." "We have no response. That was perfect." The Wolverines could have come out of the gate a bit better, sure, but you're right: Given the conditions on and off the court, nearly losing that game was a bit of a victory unto itself. (Hopefully the selection committee remembers as much when it seeds Michigan's resume in March.)

Bob Hadden in Tenafly, N.J. writes: Per your Poll Thoughts ... Duke is not the 6th best team in the country? Not even close? Is 8th best "close?" That's where you had them ranked in the ESPN Power Rankings as of Jan. 19. (I know that was pre WF rout & FSU buzzer beater loss, but...). I agree Duke's defense has been bad, but it's been bad all season long. If anything, it has been improving of late. I'd agree with your initial premise put forth in your blog: Florida State belongs in the top 25. They are a good team!

Brennan: Tenafly, stand up! Speaking of which, Tenafly is where a kid I went to school with "lived" in college. And by "lived," I mean that was the listed address on his fake ID. I always wondered what it was like in real life. Never been.

In any case, on Duke: Correction, actually. Duke's defense has actually gotten worse lately. In the past six games, Duke has allowed 1.15 ppp to Temple, 1.14 to Georgia Tech (the same team that scored .64 against Virginia this week, by the way), 1.04 to Wake Forest and 1.13 to Florida State. The Blue Devils held both Virginia and Clemson to under a point per possession, but barely; and in any case, Clemson is terrible and Virginia nearly knocked Duke off at home, losing 61-58 in Cameron. So, no, Duke's defense is not really all that improved. We saw as much as recently as Saturday.

Does that mean Duke is bad? No. That's not what I'm saying. This is a good offensive team, for one, though it has its flaws in that regard, too. It's just that you can't look at this Duke team with anything less than skepticism right now, and with the possible exception of narrowly defeating Virginia at home, they really haven't done anything to prove they're a top-10 type squad in the past two weeks. The coaches poll voters' decision to keep Duke No. 6 and leave FSU out of the polls is the perfect example of why the polls don't make any sense. Either FSU knocked off a top-10 team on its own floor, or it didn't, you know?

Joe in Columbus writes: Why on earth does Bill Carmody still have his job? In 10 years he is 70 games under .500 in conference. Everyone in the conference is getting better except for us. How do you keep a job by doing that? I guess the only thing I can hope for is a scandal.

Brennan: So this is where Northwestern fans are right now, huh? Yeesh.

Then again, it's hard to blame them: The Wildcats lost those two key games to Illinois and Michigan (very winnable one-possession nail-biters at that), followed up with a huge, huge win over Michigan State ... and then came back last week with 20-point losses at Wisconsin (forgivable) and Minnesota (unforgivable). Is Carmody's job really in jeopardy? I'm not so sure. And if you're hoping for a scandal, well, keep hoping; it just isn't going to happen. There have been signs of progress under Carmody in each of the past three seasons. It's hard to shake the feeling that the Wildcats are right on the precipice of that all-encompassing NCAA tournament breakthrough. But if this keeps up, the wailing and gnashing of teeth in Evanston (and Columbus, apparently) is only going to get louder. Poor Northwestern fans.

@FREEKaTWEET writes: If Iowa State sweeps this week against Texas and Kansas, they have to be top 25, right?

Brennan: Tremendous Twitter handle. Somewhere, Petey Pablo tips his cap chews his gigantic chain in your direction.

The answer to your question: Yes. Of course. I'm not sure how much a win over Texas, even on the road, would do for ISU's national perception. I do know it wouldn't do nearly as much as a home win over Kansas. Hilton Magic? In any case, while I'm sure Iowa State fans would love to see their name in the top 25 yet again — and to be led there by the Mayor himself, no less! — the top 25 is but an ancillary goal. Iowa State needs these wins to bolster its NCAA tournament resume. With the way Royce White is playing, and what is shaping up to be a truly soft bubble, the Cyclones should be dancing for the first time in years this season. The coming week is a major step in that quest.

John in Morgantown writes: Hi. This is not a question. More like a feedback comment. The graphic that is used during the broadcasting of the games to introduce the players, the one that has picture, name, and classification (ex. Freshmen, Sophomore, and so on), should also include the height and the weight of the players. That way fans can have a better idea of the match-ups we will see during the game. Thanks for listening. Regards.

Brennan: This is out of left field, but I wanted to include it because instead of yelling like a maniac — "HOW COME YOU GUYS DON'T HAVE WEIGHT LISTED ON THE TEEVEE IDIOTS LOL" John in Morgantown stated his case in an entirely polite, reasonable fashion. And it's not a bad idea, I guess! Hooray for John.