Ever hear the older generation wistfully recall the days of regularly scheduled baseball doubleheaders? They always make them sound like a sort of sports nirvana. I'm too young to recall those days. In fact, I've never attended a baseball doubleheader in my life. I will admit, they do sound mighty fun.
But college basketball is my sport of choice. And this past week made me think about, and appreciate, the college hoops doubleheader. First, there was the Sunday double-dip on television -- a jaw-dropping game-winning shot by Duke, followed by an extremely entertaining battle between Washington and Gonzaga. Then Tuesday, I attended the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York -- a gutty win by St. Joe's over Kansas, followed by road-weary Michigan State holding off Boston College.
Just as with baseball, I'm sure, there's something sweet about watching a couple of quality college hoops games back-to-back. So give it a shot if you have the chance. Don't wait until March Madness. You'll be missing out.
P.S. Some peanuts and Cracker Jacks wouldn't hurt.
|Want to contribute to the College Hoops Report Card? Send your questions, and nominations for the subject categories, here.|
But Foye's already a pretty big name. And lots of people are talking about Lafayette. So I'm going with a more unheralded player this week: Washington forward Jamaal Williams.
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound senior led the Huskies with 22 points and 7 rebounds in their 99-95 win over in-state rival Gonzaga -- their first win against the Zags since 1997 (they had lost seven straight in the series). And Williams is a big reason Washington is 7-0 overall -- he's second on the team in scoring (13.9 ppg) and rebounding (5.4 rpg).
"We're pleased with him," UW coach Lorenzo Romar says. "We always knew he could score. He used to just do it in the low post, but now he's expanded his range out to 18-19 feet. He's done a good job."
Williams is on a Washington team with plenty of talent -- but that situation is nothing new for him. Want to know who was on his eighth-grade AAU team with him? How 'bout Tyson Chandler (Chicago Bulls), Josh Childress (Atlanta Hawks), Cedric Bozeman (UCLA) and Jamal Sampson (former Cal standout and NBA player).
Williams originally enrolled at New Mexico, to play for current ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla. But Fraschilla was replaced by Ritchie McKay, and Williams didn't feel McKay's guard-oriented offense suited his skills. So he decided to transfer. Romar had known Williams since he was in the eighth grade -- he went to junior college with Williams' mother -- and welcomed him with open arms at Washington.
In his first season as a Husky, Williams averaged only 17 minutes per game. But he provided instant offense, averaging 9.9 points per game and shooting over 56 percent from the field. This year, he's the Huskies' starting power forward. Although he's a bit undersized, he'll be relied on to be one of the team's top scorers.
He appears up to the challenge. He can score with his back to the basket or from the perimeter. He has excellent touch on his jumper. And he's a very smart player. "I really think he could sit down right now in a broadcast booth and be a great analyst," Romar says.
But for now, Williams has things to accomplish on the court -- especially Saturday, when he faces his old team, New Mexico, at the Wooden Classic in Anaheim. "When I got to Washington, they asked me for the media guide what one team I would want to schedule most," Williams says. "I said New Mexico right away."
Wishes do come true.
|Check out ESPN.com's College Hoops index for everything you'd want to know about the game.|
That's when Adams and Rodgers came in. And the Cats came back, cutting a 26-9 deficit to 29-27 at the half. But the Cougars took control again to start the second half and went on to win, 69-65.
I give Olson a lot of credit for sitting Adams and Rodgers, and particularly for keeping them on the bench as long as he did, even while Houston raced to such a big lead. I think many coaches would have put them back in the game much sooner. But it is very troubling that two senior leaders like Adams and Rodgers would make such a mistake. The 'Cats are a disappointing 3-3, and Olson must hope desperately that his players got the point.
Rodney Carney, Memphis (Saturday at Cincinnati): 11 minutes, 0-4 FGs, 0 points.
JamesOn Curry, Oklahoma State (Monday vs. Northwestern State): 21 minutes, 0-5 FGs, 0 points.
Memphis is so loaded with talent that the Tigers were able to overcome Carney's disappearing act and post a 91-81 win. But Carney came in averaging 17 points per game, and he's the senior leader on a very young team. He needs to perform more consistently. Plus, in the last few minutes of the game, TV cameras showed Carney smiling and chuckling on the bench. Maybe he was just happy Memphis was ahead. But if he were my player, I'd have liked to see him appear a little more concerned with his own poor performance.
As for Curry, he's the lone returning player with any kind of experience for Oklahoma State. If he doesn't score, the Cowboys will have a hard time beating anybody -- and they couldn't catch Northwestern State, losing 68-64. This Saturday, Curry might have to match Adam Morrison basket for basket for the Cowboys to have any chance against Gonzaga.
"I couldn't ask for anything better for Coach. It's an honor to be playing for him. Why wouldn't you want to play for a Hall of Fame coach who's got numerous guys in the NBA? ... He never left my side. That's the type of guy he is off the court. I love him to death."
Anderson, you might recall, was in the hospital for almost two weeks last season with a life-threatening infection in his leg. Calhoun sounds like the kind of coach, and person, we'd all like to play for. And it sounds as though Anderson, a former starter, is not too upset about coming off the bench in his senior season. He shouldn't be -- Anderson is still the Huskies' third-leading scorer (12.0 ppg), and he's a key cog on a team many predict will win the national championship.
Thoughts from games I watched this past week:
• Very surprised to be saying this, but after watching them play (and beat) Kentucky on Saturday, I think I'd rather watch this group of Tar Heels than the national-championship squad of a year ago. They're young; they're hungry; and, best of all, they're underdogs.
• After watching Villanova knock off Oklahoma, I'm convinced the Wildcats can make it all the way to the Final Four with their four-guard lineup -- and without Curtis Sumpter. They lit up the Sooners, shooting 57 percent.
• I'll admit to sometimes falling victim to the proverbial East Coast bias since I'm from New York City. But after I watched the Gonzaga-Washington game, their rivalry has become one of my favorites. Both teams were so intense, and I'll be watching both as often as I can.
• A Kansas fan sitting near me at the Garden Tuesday night had an altered "King Kong" sign that read "King Kaun" -- referring to sophomore Kansas center Sasha Kaun, who came into the game against St. Joe's averaging 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. But he was anything but King Kaun against the Hawks, with just 2 points and 1 rebound in 17 minutes. He was also 0-for-3 from the foul line, contributing to Kansas' putrid 6-of-19 mark from there overall -- which essentially cost the Jayhawks the game.
• As always, the St. Joe's Hawk mascot, which is famous for constantly flapping its wings from start to finish, was on top of its game. At halftime Tuesday, when both teams were still in the locker room, he was just wandering up and down the sideline, flapping away.
• Boston College freshman Marquez Haynes sported an interesting look Tuesday, with an unusually placed headband that looked as though it might pop off his head at any time, and an extra long-sleeved white T-shirt under his jersey. Remember when the full T-shirt under the jersey was really popular? Does any prominent player still rock that style? It didn't look very good on Haynes ... kinda made him look like a running back wearing shoulder pads.
• Speaking of football, I got a kick out of watching Michigan State coach Tom Izzo stalk the sideline with his play card like an NFL offensive coordinator. Izzo's known for installing tons of different offensive sets.
• MSU center Paul Davis (18 points, 7 rebounds) and BC big man Craig Smith (18 points, 9 rebounds) posted similar numbers against each other. But Davis clearly got the better of the battle. Six-foot-7 Smith struggled to get his shot off against 6-11 Davis and committed six turnovers. He also missed critical free throws down the stretch, while Davis knocked down several late. It will be very interesting to see how Smith fares against Duke's Shelden Williams and Wake Forest's Eric Williams, who are a little closer to his size.
• As in years past, Jimmy Valvano's famous ESPY Award speech was shown on the big screen at the Garden. And, as in years past, I got goose bumps. "Don't give up; don't ever give up." Simple, yet powerful, words to live by.
This piqued my curiosity. Turns out Wright played all four years at Bucknell. He played on the JV team his freshman year, then spent three seasons on the varsity. As a junior, he led the Bison in scoring at 11.9 ppg. And as a senior, he was a co-captain on Bucknell's 1982-83 squad that went 17-11.
In 74 career games, Wright averaged 6.4 points. More impressive, he was a recipient of the Benton A. Kribbs Most Valuable Player and the Malcolm E. Musser Leadership awards. No wonder he became a coach ... and a very good one.
What's even more impressive is that the play was drawn up for Shelden Williams, not Dockery. And Dockery's shot was a lot longer than Laettner's -- almost from half court. And thanks to them, we get our first No. 1 vs. No. 2 regular-season matchup in more than seven years this Saturday when Duke plays Texas.
My reading recommendation this week is "Palestra Pandemonium: A History of the Big 5" by Robert S. Lyons. The subject matter definitely will intrigue real college hoops fans. So why don't you give yourself an early holiday present? Then go see the real thing yourself.
This week's poll question centers on North Carolina. Hopefully, many of you got a chance to see them play this past week -- at Kentucky or vs. St. Louis. Do you prefer watching this young group try to defend Carolina's title, or would you rather watch the May-Felton-McCants group try to win again? Vote in the poll at the top of this page. And please send me questions, or nominations for the different subject categories, for next week's column. You can e-mail me here.
Now, a couple of the best questions from you guys this past week:
What grade, on the whole, do you give Kansas' much-heralded freshman class? What freshman class do you grade the highest so far this season?
-- Joseph Quinn
After seeing them in person, I'd give the Jayhawks' frosh a C- overall. They've all shown flashes of brilliance, particularly Brandon Rush. But they're all going through growing pains. It's natural ... but the bottom line is Kansas is 3-4 and its wins have come against Idaho State, Chaminade and Western Illinois. These guys must play better. And they will.
It's close -- I'm tempted to go with North Carolina -- but I have to go with Memphis' freshman class as best in the nation so far. Shawne Williams is leading the Tigers in scoring (17.4 per); Antonio Anderson dropped 32 on Cincinnati this week; and Chris Douglas-Roberts, Kareem Cooper and Robert Dozier are making significant contributions.
I'll ask a question about the ACC. Besides the regular stars in the conference, who else has really impressed you thus far in the season?
-- Christina Lindley
Wake Forest's Trent Strickland had been more of a role player over his first three years at Wake, but this year he has really stepped up, averaging 15.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. And I love watching Duke frosh point guard Greg Paulus. He doesn't wow you physically -- he doesn't look particularly fast or make many flashy plays -- but his vision is outstanding. He makes great passes look simple. And he's only going to get much better.
Whaddya know, there's a great doubleheader coming our way this weekend! So put off your holiday shopping a little longer, sit back and enjoy.
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 2 Texas (Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS): As mentioned above, a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup is pretty rare. Must-see TV, indeed.
No. 15 Kentucky vs. No. 16 Indiana (Saturday, 3:45 p.m. ET, CBS): This game won't go out to the whole country (some will see Oklahoma State at Gonzaga), but this one's the better matchup of those two. How do the Hoosiers bounce back from the Indiana State loss? How do the Wildcats respond, knowing for sure they won't get Randolph Morris back this season?
No. 6 Boston College at No. 17 Maryland (Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, check local listings): For extra credit, try to find this one on your TV on Sunday night. It's BC's inaugural ACC game, and the Terps' rowdy home crowd should give them quite a welcome.
Kieran Darcy is an editor at ESPN.com and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.