I’m not actually house bound, it’s just that I have no need to venture out and motor through the slush. (Though I did take a four mile trek for exercise this a.m.) My cupboard is filled with enough white bread, that slices placed end to end would go from here to the Carrier Dome. So, I’m good. And toasty here in front of my screen.
As for the term “cagers”, a forerunner to street lingo “baller,” there are as many tales of its origin as their are guys and gals, declaring they have an explaination for it. We know for sure that once upon a time, not too long after James Naismith fashioned our favorite winter indulgence, to keep his students fit and inside during the cold, basketball courts were surrounded with wiring, i.e. cages, to: 1) Keep the fans sitting on the edges of court safe, or, 2)To keep those playing, safe from those fans watching, or, 3) To prevent cagers from fighting over the ball when it went out of bounds, or, 4) All or none of the above.
Now you should have a sense of my title, and so, on this Tuesday afternoon, with the steps swept and the drive cleared, I’m just catching up on college hoops.
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Do not misunderstand, it is indeed a pleasure — some might refer to it as a necessity or indulgence — for an addicted basketball buff as myself to watch games on the Lord’s Day.
In the evening no less, when families have traditionally gathered around after Sunday supper, an extra helping of granny’s caramel apple pie, while listening to paw paw as he reads some Mark Twain with Kate Smith crooning on the Victrola. To, you know, invoking the terminology of the day, bond.
It was, if memory serves, the ACC that breached the sanctity of the seventh day, which is holy, and upon which we have been commanded to rest by He Who Himself Rested, at least according to a King James other than one now caging/ balling in Cleveland.
But now it is the fourteen schools that comprise the Big Ten, who, ever in competition with their Power 5 brethren, have agreed that, if it’s okay in the Bible Belt, it sure is fine and dandy in the heartland.
Since my addiction to hoops does not rest on Sunday, I found myself tuned into an encounter of minimal impact on the hoops universe, the b-ball equivalent of Mickey Gilley sangin’, “All the girls all get prettier at closing time.”
According to Ken Pomeroy, a fellow who has fashioned a lofty station when it comes to rankings and Charles Barkley be damned analytics, Iowa, coached by cranky Fran McCaffery, whose demeanor foretells a call to Larry Eustachy in his future, are the 38th best team in the country. On Sunday evening, coming off four losses in their last six tussles, the Hawkeyes trekked to Evanston.
Where they did battle with traditionally inept Northwestern, which, walking onto the court for tipoff, had more victories so far this conference campaign, than NCAA tournament appearances in its entire history. One. Though that came in Piscataway, N.J. against feckless Rutgers, those who judge said matters, declared it would stand as a W. Mr. Pomeroy remains unimpressed, ranking the purple Wildcats, the alma mater of Charlton Heston and Michael Wilbon, as the 145th finest contingent in the land.
It’s not that the school hard by Lake Michigan with its verdant campus– at least in the summer — is without NCAA basketball tradition. Patten Gymnasium, now long gone with a tech center rising in its stead, hosted the first NCAA tourney in 1939.
Its successor McGaw Memorial Hall did so too, in 1956, when Bill Russell and K.C. Jones and their fellow Dons of San Francisco conquered the very same Iowa Hawkeyes mentioned above for the national title.
McGaw Hall was named for one Rev. Francis McGaw, whose singular claim to fame was that his son Foster McGaw was rich enough to underwrite the building of the gymnasium and dictate it be named for his paterfamilias.1
Because it seems to be the nature that some matters should be clarified, I’ll get to the game after one final edification. Sunday’s tilt was contested in Welsh-Ryan Arena. Which is, to be frank, McGaw Memorial Hall after Extreme Makeover Arena. That renovation was underwritten by one Patrick Ryan — Can you see where I’m headed here? — who felt an eponymous renaming of the edifice would be appropriate, since he was footing the bill, as long as it included recognition of his in-laws, the Robert Welshes, Mr. & Mrs.
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Northwestern is now coached by Chris Collins, son of Doug, disciple of Coach Krzyzewski, who hopes to turn the program into the Duke of the Midwest. A goal not dissimilar to that of his predecessor, Bill Carmody, a disciple of the venerated Pete Carril, he of Princeton Offense fame. Carmody unfortunately won only 47% of his games, significantly less in the Big Ten, and, after thirteen seasons, was let go by the unusually forgiving doormat.
Collins isn’t faring much better, but the Wildcats, breaking a ten game losing skein, did prevail in a barn burner Sunday afternoon.
Northwestern controlled OT, after a back and forth second half. Iowa pushed the game to extra time, when Jarrod Uthoff drilled a cockeyed, over the shoulder, sidewinder trey to tie it up.
Iowa coach McCaffery displayed his increasingly annoying character by bellowing at the refs while he attempted to trample them before exiting the court upon his team’s demise.
My point, beyond an excuse for the above palaver. This meaningless encounter was an exciting, extremely watchable college basketball game.
Conference games in February, even among also rans, are the treat of treats, that last bite from the juicy middle of a cheeseburger cheeseburger, the full expanse of a spoonful of ice cream, pecans, whipped cream, fudge and cherry, the first bite into one of Benny Impellizzeri’s pizza pies.
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And so it goes.
Butler survived a trip to Omaha, besting Creighton, 58-56, on a Roosevelt Jones bank shot with 1.9 on the clock.2
West Virginia’s Juwan Staten went end to end, with a swirling 360 dgree reversal of course to get to the hoop, for a last moment winning layup, to beat visiting Kansas, 62-61. It was the 20th W of the year for Bobby Huggs’ Mountaineers.
The thrill of victory.
After a stunning ball fake at the top of the key, and a pivot to the hoop, Boston College’s Patrick Heckmann missed an open layup, which would have won the tilt had it dropped, at the end of OT#1 against Miami.
The Hurricanes survived in 2 OTs, 89-86.
The agony of defeat.
College hoops in February.
League races tightening.
Selection Sunday approaching.
You can’t cage that.
— Seedy K