The Rhythms Of Basketball Season

What a great opening week of college basketball in which we were treated to such matchups as No. 1 Kentucky vs. No 2 Michigan State and No. 4 Duke vs. No. 5 Kansas. But afterward I got a couple of messages from people who feel that this just served as proof that the regular season in basketball is watered down and effectively meaningless – unlike football, where a loss typically has severe consequences.

I have come to the conclusion that such people don’t really love basketball, don’t appreciate the finely honed skills of ball-handling and shooting, the athletic prowess manifested in speed and spring and body control, and don’t love the nuances of lock-down defense, anticipation in the passing lanes or a perfectly executed block out.

They see the game as a destination where those of us who love it see it as a journey.

Watching a team progress week by week with all the adversities and small triumphs is a beautiful part of the game. Football can’t duplicate the kind of scheduling basketball enjoys – there are too few games and little chance to recover from a bad one. Football has its own rhythms, and why should all sports be alike?

Rarely have we seen so many super elite freshmen as we did last week – Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Kentucky’s Julian Randle all could be top five NBA picks in June in this one-and-done era.

You won’t have to wait for top 10 teams to be on the tube to catch exciting basketball either. The UH Rainbow Warriors are already showing a penchant for an up-tempo full-court pressing style. This team will be a delight to watch with veteran forwards Christian Standhardinger and Isaac Fotu joined by a quartet of backcourt players who can play at warp speed. Newcomers Garrett Nevels, Keith Shamburger and Quincy Smith are joined by senior returnee Brandon Spearman.

The chemistry is good to start and should get even better as the season wears on.

* Roger Goodell has the perfect opportunity in light of the Incognito-Martin brouhaha in Miami to completely end the hazing rituals that persist on some NFL teams. Considering Goodell’s oft-espoused obsession with the NFL “shield,” why would he continue to tolerate silly anachronisms among the league’s highly paid workers? Everything from the tie-downs to the ice baths make some of the locker rooms seem like high schools, and that’s just the innocuous stuff. One tradition of forcing rookies to pick up $25,000-$35,000 dinner tabs with veterans carrying $1,500 bottles of wine to go seem ill advised in a league where reportedly 67 percent of players five years out of the league are either bankrupt or in serious financial difficulty.

The solution seems remarkably easy. Just announce that any violations of the new conduct standards will be greeted with serious fines and suspension, for players involved and the coaches that supervise them. Think that will work? Sure did in Bountygate. Just ask Saints’ coach Sean Payton, who is $5 million lighter in the wallet.