Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday Rankings - 1990 College Hoops

Before getting to the rankings this week, if the NBA ever has another labor issue, I’m pretty sure the owners can just play this video to make their case that the players are overpaid. Marquis Daniels……..pause for the collective “Who?” from the audience………of the Boston Celtics had this piece of bling made: a diamond-studded replica of his own head. Just watch it being made:

Diamond Head Made by Jason of Beverly Hills from vKofJBH on Vimeo.

If you read yesterday’s post, I teased today’s rankings with a mention that currently #1 ranked Syracuse hasn’t held that top spot since 1990. Well, these rankings will rank today’s top 8 teams, and compare them to a team and a song from 1990. I’ve already covered my thoughts on Syracuse and their fans after watching them dismantle UNC at the Garden early on this season, so let’s get right to comparing teams of 2010 with 1990…………

1. Syracuse
1990 Hoops Doppleganger: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (#1 seed, national champs)
1990 Hit Song: “The Humpty Dance” by The Digital Underground

The currently #1 ranked Syracuse team has one big thing in common with the 1990 champs, and it is not pictures in a hot tub with a known gambling kingpin. It is the presence of a transfer named Johnson elevating the team to new heights – Wes at Syracuse this year and Larry at UNLV in 1990. Wes Johnson took an extremely round about path to Syracuse but he has now solidified the Orange attack. (The NY Times had a great article on that path – better than I could recap here) The biggest difference between the two teams is that UNLV was the consensus #1 to start the 1990 season, and this year’s Syracuse squad was unranked (and lost to a D-II school in an exhibition game).

Why the Humpty Dance? Because the Digital Underground was a compilation of unknowns which together produced the #63 song in 1990, but the song that is still a party-starter at any bar at any time. Syracuse is a combination of unknowns – not a single “top 50 recruit” among the entire roster. Is Wes Johnson the Tupac Shakur? Tupac was a young unknown with a checkered past when he joined the group and went on to be the greatest lyricist the hip-hop/rap world has ever seen. Johnson could be playing himself to a lottery selection and his own version of “America’s Most Wanted.”

2. Kansas
1990 Hoops Doppleganger: Duke Blue Devils (#2 seed, national runner-up)
1990 Hit Song: “Just A Friend” by Biz Markie

The 1990 Duke team was in the middle of their 4 straight trips to the Final Four, and was led by sophomore Christian Laettner and freshmen Bobby Hurley. Yet their leading scorer was actually senior Phil Henderson and they also had one of the best names in the history of college basketball in Alaa Abdelnaby manning the center position. This year’s Kansas squad has strong point guard play in Sherron Collins, and also has a big man similar to Laettner that can dominate games in college, but his lack of athleticism will challenge his pro prospects. The Jayhawks also have the athletic Morris brothers, which makes them stand out from the 1990 Blue Devil team that would eventually get run off the court by UNLV.

For the song, why Biz Markie? Why not. Before the song got reintroduced to the world through the Heineken cab driver commercial, it was one of the catchy songs that will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Kind of like that Duke team, and like this year’s Kansas team – they may disappear for a while, but when you look up and see them, they’re pretty damn good.

3. Kentucky
1990 Hoops Team: Illinois Fightin’ Illini (#5 seed, 1st round upset) or LSU Tigers (#5 seed, lost 2nd Rd)
1990 Hit Song: “I Wanna Be Rich” by Calloway

This year’s Kentucky team had to be split between two teams from 1990, one of which is more aligned with their coach, and the other with their players. The 1990 Illinois squad was remembered as the “Flyin Illini” because of the guard play of All-American Kendall Gill combined with Nick Anderson and Marcus Liberty. That’s not the key similarity with Kentucky – the common ground is that Illinois went on probation the following year after recruiting violations regarding offering money to Deon Thomas. (side note – that was the situation where now Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl blew the whistle on UI-Chicago’s current coach Jimmy Collins, an Illinois assistant at the time. The end result was that Pearl was blackballed from coaching for years before getting a restart at UW-Milwaukee.) And since John Calipari is coaching Kentucky, well, judging by his track record, it’s just a matter of time until Kentucky ends up on probation, just like UMass and Memphis previously.

The similarity with LSU? LSU was led by a dynamic point guard in Chris Jackson (later known as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) and a freshman center that you might have heard of – Shaquille O’Neal. Kentucky is led by a dynamic point guard in John Wall and a freshman big guy in DeMarcus Cousins. Perhaps if Illinois & LSU had combined and paired up Nick Anderson with Shaquille O’Neal they would have had as much success as the two had in leading the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals half a decade later.

As for the song, since John Calipari is involved, there are going to be one-and-done players who are more focused on getting rich. And who knows, they may already be getting rich just playing for Calipari. (I have no proof and am not accusing Calipari of anything…….directly. The guy is a weasel and I wouldn’t put anything past him.)

4. Duke
1990 Hoops Team: UConn Huskies (#1 seed, Lost Regional Final)
1990 Hit Song: “Step By Step” by New Kids on the Block

Duke is one of only 2 teams to be among the top ranked current teams that is also one of the dopplegangers from 1990. Kind of like Cindy Crawford, the top model in 1990 and still capable of bringing the heat in 2010. This year’s Duke squad is a donut team with a huge hole in the middle. They are dominated by perimeter players like John Scheyer and have no internal toughness (Kyle Singler is softer than Kirstie Alley), which is very much like the 1990 UConn squad, which relied on Chris Smith, Tate George and Scott Burrell.

Why the song? Well, I could try to make the case that the Duke team has slowly crawled their way into position for a #1 seed in a “step-by-step” process. Or I could make the case that Duke and New Kids are both a group of unathletic white guys trying to show they have some rhythm. Or I guess I could just say that it’s New Kids on the Block and they seem the most fitting music group to describe Duke. I think we’re good, here. Also, doesn't Joey McIntyre kind of look like Bobby Hurley? Just a little? Maybe it's just the hair. And the guy in the back left kind of looks like Mike The Situation from Jersey Shore...

5. Kansas State
1990 Hoops Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (#4 seed, Lost in Final Four)
1990 Hit Song: “Poison” by Bel Biv Devoe

The 1990 George Tech team with “Lethal Weapon 3” was among my favorite teams. They had Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver launching threes and flying up and down the court with reckless abandon. Defense was a foreign word to them, but when they were hot, they were as good as anyone, evidenced by their run to the Final Four. This year’s Kansas State squad has some similarities based on the frenetic pace that Denis Clemente runs the Wildcat offense and distributes to Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly. Kansas State has the potential to make a deep run in the tourney, but they also look like het classic team that gets a high seeding and bows out early.

Another strong three-name squad from 1990? Bel. Biv. Devoe. Poison was the greatest song from Bel Biv Devoe, and it just seems appropriate for Kansas State. I want to see Frank Martin stomping up and down the sideline belting it out: “It’s drivin’ me outta my mind…..that’s why it’s hard for me to find…..can’t get it outta my head…..”

6. Ohio State
1990 Hoops Doppleganger: Syracuse Orangemen (#2 seed, Lost in Regional Semi)
1990 Hit Song: “I Remember You” by Skid Row

This is the doppleganger that the rankings were made for, the 1990 Syracuse team led by the best player in the country, Derrick Coleman and supported by Billy Owens and LeRon Ellis. This year’s Ohio State squad is led by the best player in the country in Evan Turner, with a strong supporting cast of David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Bufford. The 1990 Syracuse team was a few years removed from their loss to Indiana in the National Championship, and the current Ohio State team is a few years removed from their loss to Florida in the final game.

People kind of forgot about Ohio State when Evan Turner missed some time with broken vertabrate after falling on a dunk. Yet, slow and steady they have worked their way back into the national picture, and people are going “I Remember You” when they see them on television and realize they are almost in the top 5. And if those people are living in North Dakota? Then they probably even look like Skid Row. (side note – got into an argument about the popularity of Skid Row last night. My wife claimed I only know them because I’m old, and my brother-in-law said he was break dancing in 1990, when he was 3, so he only knew rap. But everyone knows “18 & Life” right? Right? Anyone? Skid Row is hair band classic – and I would argue they are as known as Claudia Schiffer. My friend Mack said she didn’t recognize the name, but I feel pretty confident that she would know the words if she heard it. Mack is the same girl who can rap every word to Tupac, Dr. Dre, Vanilla Ice and Rob Base.)

7. Villanova
1990 Hoops Doppleganger: Arkansas Razorbacks (#4 seed, Lost in Final Four)
1990 Hit Song: “Pump Up The Jam” by Technotronic

The 1990 Arkansas team was part of the Nolan Richardson “94 feet of hell” teams that would press the entire game regardless of the score and got up and down the court as fast as any team not named Loyola Marymount. The 1990 squad was the MayDay connection of point guard Lee Mayberry and shooting guard Todd Day (who both went on to very average careers playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. Neither could quite live up to the previous Razorback the Bucks had success with: Sidney Moncrief). This year’s Villanova team has the guard combo of Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes and the team will only go as far as their guards can carry them. The big difference is that Villanova doesn’t play defense at all – they are 14th in the Big East in points per game.

Why Technotronic? Because the pace of a game between this year’s ‘Nova team and the 1990 Arkansas would be as frenetic and hypnotic as the “Pump Up The Jam” anthem. From the opening tip to the final buzzer, you’d be stomping your feet and bobbing your head just like you do as soon as the song comes on. You can’t help it. There are certain songs that automatically make you bob your head – “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” by Dr. Dre, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc. Pump Up The Jam……Pump it up…..

8. Purdue
1990 Hoops Doppleganger: Loyola Marymount (#11 seed, Lost in Regional Final)
1990 Hit Song: “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” by Michael Bolton

Alright, absolutely no disrespect to Hank Gathers at all. Obviously losing a guy to a knee injury does not even come close to comparing to having one of your stars dying on the court. But Purdue is trying to figure out a way to replace their emotional leader and a regular double-double machine. The run by Loyola Marymount under Paul Westphal was an emotionally driven and great story that probably could have went even further had they not run into a juggernaut in UNLV that played the same style of basketball, only better. Hard to believe that they scored 100 points against UNLV…and still lost by 30. This year’s Purdue team is much more highly regarded than the LMU team was in 1990 and will definitely have a better seeding, giving them more time to adjust to the loss of Robbie Hummel.

The sappy song from Michael Bolton – not the guy from the Office Space movie – is fitting and is so anti-Matt Painter. That’s why I’m giving it to Purdue. They are a hard-nosed, tough team, so what better song than a cheesey love ballad from a guy who stole Dee Snider’s (Twisted Sister) wig for a few years before he passed it on to the lead singer from Nickelback.

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