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Basketball

BLUM: College Basketball is truly, madly, deeply crazy

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All of us are a product of the era we grew up in. I would be considered to be born on the blurred line between the end of Generation X and the start of the Millennials. We were always stuck in the middle. Growing up, we used technology, but didn’t get the benefits of all of all of it. Computers were bulky, modems took actual minutes to load web-pages and would cause legitimate fights between siblings as you couldn’t use the computer and be on the cordless phone at the same time.

“SCOTT GET OFF THE PHONE MY GIRLFRIEND AND I WERE TRYING TO INSTANT MESSAGE EACH OTHER ON AOL.”

People used check-books regularly, would call a phone number to get the temperature, read the newspaper daily and had to watch the local sports at 10:25 to find out who won that night.

My generation doesn’t really associate with the classic 70’s and 80’s Rock & Roll era with big hair, mustaches and Ronald Reagan. Those people were old. But we certainly came well before the One Direction, Hunger Games, Barack Obama, man-buns and why-is-the-side-of-that-person’s-head-shaved-but-their-hair-is-long generation.  

Ours was an era in transition and looking back gives a feeling of fondness and confusion. What exactly was going on back then?

The best reflection of any generation is the music. Take a look at any of the top 20 Billboard hits from 1995 to 1999 and you get a pretty good idea that those of us that were teenagers in the late 90’s had some odd soundtracks to our adolescent years.

For instance here are the top five songs from 1998:

1.       Next – Too Close(This was an all-timer at the high-school dances.)

2.       Brandy and Monica – The Boy is Mine (I still don’t think they’ve solved this dilemma 18 years later.)

3.       Shania Twain – You’re Still the One (Country was starting to go mainstream.)

4.       Savage Garden – Truly Madly Deeply (Everything was very dramatic.)

5.       Will Smith – Gettin Jiggy With It (Yep, that was the title of a song from a soon-to-be two-time Oscar nominee)

How Bizarre. How Bizarre. There were one-hit wonders all over the place. Songs such as Tubthumping, Sex and Candy and Make Em Say Uhhhhhhh were all top hits. (Those songs combined would be the start of an interesting Saturday night.)

Every week back then was a new, strange experience. There were seemingly no rules.

The 2015-16 college basketball season is shaping up like the late 90’s music scene: a year in flux and confusion. Once you think you know what is going on, here comes 98 Degrees out of nowhere to steal the spotlight for a week.

So far there have been 11 weeks of college basketball rankings and five number one teams. After Oklahoma’s loss to Iowa State, it is likely there will be a different No. 1 team next week. Michigan State has spent the most time at No. 1 and they are now out of the top 10. Kentucky spent two weeks at No. 1 and they are currently barely hanging on in the rankings at No. 23.

The only undefeated team is SMU and they aren’t even eligible to participate in the NCAA Tournament due to NCAA violations.

Locally, the Iowa Hawkeyes started the year by losing to Division II Augustana in an exhibition, lost two games in Orlando to unranked Dayton and Notre Dame, blew a 20 point second half lead to Iowa State and are now deservedly in the top 10 and playing arguably the best basketball of anyone in the country.  

Northern Iowa knocked off No. 1 North Carolina, No. 5 Iowa State, but are 2-4 in the very mediocre Missouri Valley and just scored an ugly 41 points in a loss at Loyola.

Paula Cole having a No. 1 single makes more sense.

Just a week ago, Iowa State and Steve Prohm were getting all sorts of criticism after dropping three of four in conference. Some even predicted the Cyclones would have a difficult time staying above .500 in the Big 12 and the NCAA Tournament was in jeopardy. A mere six days later, the Cyclones are 3-3 in the Big 12, have a win over the No. 1 ranked team for the first time since 1957 and now boast two wins over the current top 10.

Out of the 351 college basketball teams, only Oklahoma and Iowa State have two wins over the current AP top 10.

The Cyclones have three wins against the current RPI top 25, the most of anyone in the country. They have played the 12th most difficult schedule up to this point and their RPI ranking has jumped back into the top 10.

A few days ago, most bracketologists had Iowa State as a five-seed trending the wrong direction. Now they are two straight wins (@ TCU, vs Kansas) away from being in favorable position for a two-seed. Not to mention, wins over TCU and Kansas in the next week would rocket Iowa State right back into the Big 12 race.

Steve Prohm has his Cyclones in solid position once again. They never panicked. As N’ Sync poetically theorized in their 1998 No. 1 jam I Want you Back, “I told you not to worry, I said everything would be alright.”

This is as unique of year as I can recall in college basketball.

Last year’s freshman class was ultra-talented. Mega stars at Kentucky and Duke made it very difficult to compete when they were at their best. Wisconsin and Arizona were also loaded with experience, veterans and depth.

This year is different. There are no elite teams.

The freshman class isn’t nearly as deep, the best talent in the country (Ben Simmons) is having a hard time doing it all at LSU. Kentucky’s and Duke’s youngsters aren’t quite ready, Michigan State and Kansas have shown spurts of vulnerability when shots aren’t falling. Oklahoma and Iowa State aren’t great defensive teams, Villanova and Louisville aren’t great offensive teams and nobody is perfect.

We are closer to the opening day of the NCAA Tournament than the start of the season and we have less of an idea of the top ten teams are now than in November.  

The 2016 NCAA Tournament will be a mad scramble. I could make a logical argument for 30 teams to make it to Houston and the Final Four. The chaos is just getting started, buckle in and be prepared.

Like Third Eye Blind said, “I wonder how it’s gonna be when it goes down?”

So as Montell Jordan suggested, Let’s Ride, it’s going to be quite the final two months. We will probably look back at this 18 years from now and say, “Wow, what a strange year in college basketball.”

Because if you learned anything from the late 90’s music scene,You don’t want you to miss a thing.

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