We know why you're here. We don't approve of it, but we accept it.
We know you only watched bits and pieces of the Maui Invitational because it was an alternative to Thanksgiving family interaction. We know you've only seen Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins for 60-second spurts on SportsCenter. We know you have, at best, a limited understanding of the majesty of Ron Baker's hair, and the inability of any conscious being to resist it.
We know you're only here because football is over. It's cool. You've been missing out, but it's cool.
Anyway, as someone who's been here from the beginning, I figured I'd answer some of the most frequently asked questions hardcore football fans might have at this most delicate time of transition. Read up, and come March Madness you'll be able to convince Brent that you've been a hoop head since the start of November. Because Brent's a dick and Brent is always in need of a good sports shaming.
Who is good?
Terrific first question! I can already tell this is going to be a rewarding exercise for both of us.
The best team right now is widely considered to be Syracuse. The Orange are 22-0 -- the best start in program history --and are ranked at the top of both major polls for the first time since 2012. They played in what was perhaps the best game of the season so far on Saturday, when they hosted and defeated Duke--
I bet Duke's probably pretty good, right?
Okay I wasn't even close to being finished, but yes! Although the Blue Devils might not be quite as formidable as you were imagining.
Duke began the season ranked No. 4 in the country, but has suffered a total of five losses, including three in ACC play. They now sit at No. 11 in the current Associated Press Top 25, but Coach K has high hopes that his uber-talented team, led by super freshman Jabari Parker--
Yeah I've heard of him.
--can put it all together and make a deep run come March.
Weren't Kentucky and Louisville supposed to be good again?
They were, and they still might be.
See this is my problem with college basketball. I've missed the first, like, three months and we still don't know if these teams are any good or not.
The Wildcats and Cardinals, winners of the last two national championships, began this season ranked No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the AP and coaches' polls. Things haven't gone quite as swimmingly as planned, as the two teams have combined to lose nine games, and the only win either has over a top 25 opponent is Kentucky's Dec. 28 victory over Louisville.
Still, both teams are in the thick of their conference championship races and figure to be major players when the field of 68 is unveiled in six weeks.
I like dunks. Have there been any dunks?
You betcha! I've picked out a few of my favorites for you to enjoy.
Here's a 360 dunk from Oklahoma State's Markel Brown:
They lost the game to Kentucky, but check out this dunk from Louisville's Russ Smith:
Or what about this dunk from Wichita State's Tekele Cotton:
There have been many more terrific dunks this season, and I recommend you seek them out yourself when you have some spare time.
Aren't there a lot of good freshmen or something?
You said it!
Heading into the season, most of the talk about freshmen was surrounding a group of players that became known as the "Big Three."
We've already talked about Duke's Jabari Parker, who was an early front-runner for national Player of the Year after becoming the first player in college hoops history to score 20 or more points in his first seven games. He has since come back down to earth just a little bit, but is still in the running for ACC Player of the Year and All-American honors.
The most highly-touted of the Big Three was Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, who was the No. 1 player in the class of 2013 and considered by some as a lock to be No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He hasn't been quite as phenomenal as many were predicting, but he has still been very good, leading the Jayhawks in scoring at 16.0 ppg.
Kentucky's Julius Randle rounds out the Big Three. The Wildcat big man is averaging a double-double (16.1 ppg/10.1 rpg), and has scored in double figures in all but three of UK's 21 games. He's so popular in Lexington that people are modeling their snowmen after him.
Solid snow day pic.twitter.com/UDVw4mAlhv— David Boldrick (@DeeBold) February 3, 2014
As solid as the Big Three has been, it is two relatively unheralded freshmen who may have made the biggest splash this season.
Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis is probably the biggest reason why the Orange are still undefeated. He has made play after play in key moments, and has committed more than two turnovers in a game just once. Meanwhile, Kansas big man Joel Embiid has emerged as one of the most dominating post players in the country, and the new favorite to be the first name called at this June's NBA Draft. Embiid has only been playing organized basketball since 2011, so no one thought he would be this developed three months into his college career.
So which one of these guys is the Player of the Year favorite?
Actually, that distinction probably belongs to Creighton senior Doug McDermott at the moment.
You might remember that McDermott has been a first team AP All-American after each of the previous two seasons, and--
And was the only member of last year's first team to return to school for another season.
McDermott recently moved into 18th place on college basketball's all-time scoring list, passing legends Reggie Lewis and Hank Gathers in the process. He ranks second in the nation and first in the Big East in scoring, averaging--
You mean the Missouri Valley?
No, Creighton plays in the Big East now.
Well, the non-FBS or "Catholic 7" members of the conference elected to split and form their own league, and they took the Big East name (and a few programs from other conferences) with them.
So how did McDermott play against Syracuse?
They're in the ACC this season.
What about Connecticut?
They're still in the league that used to be the Big East, which has been renamed the American Athletic Conference.
McDermott scored 14 points in a Jan. 25 win over the Hoyas, who are one of the 10 members of the new Big East. Creighton, Villanova, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, DePaul, Seton Hall, Xavier and Butler are the others.
Is DePaul still bad?
Heh. I like when players make last-second shots to win games. Have I missed any of those?
Those shots are actually commonly referred to as "buzzer-beaters" -- named after violent early 20th century clock operator Herman Buzzer -- and boy have there been some dandies.
Colorado, which had a very formidable team before star Spencer Dinwiddie was lost for the season to a torn ACL, hit a terrific buzzer-beater to knock off Kansas.
Just last Saturday, California's Justin Cobbs hit this buzzer-beater to knock off previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Arizona:
And if you like crazy buzzer-beaters, then you're going to love this 3/4 court shot by Sacramento State to beat Weber State:
Cool. I live on the West Coast and would enjoy seeing a team from this part of the country win the NCAA Tournament. Is there a chance of that happening?
Well, we showed you Arizona losing to California last weekend, but the Wildcats are actually very good. They won their first 21 games thanks to the terrific play of Nick Johnson and super freshman Aaron Gordon, but received some bad news after the Cal game when they found out starting forward Brandon Ashley will be out for the rest of the season with a foot injury.
If Arizona can't win it all, then No. 5 San Diego State might be your next best West Coast bet. The Aztecs are 19-1 with a close loss to 'Zona and quality wins over Creighton and Kansas. They are currently feasting on a Mountain West Conference that isn't nearly as formidable as it has been in recent years.
Outside of that, Gonzaga is pretty good again, and UCLA has the talent to beat just about anyone and make some serious noise in the big dance
But they probably won't?
They probably won't.
So this new ACC is the best conference?
While the ACC is certainly a formidable league, the Big 12 and the Big Ten appear to be the two strongest conferences this season. The two leagues have a handful of national championship contenders and a combined 10 teams ranked in the latest edition of the USA Today coaches' poll.
As for the ACC, they've got No. 1 Syracuse, but they've also had a tough time shaking off the rough start by three of their biggest names. For the first time ever, the heralded trio of Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State all lost their first league game. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels followed that up by getting off to a combined 1-5 start for the first time ever, and then the trio all lost on the same day (Jan. 11) for the first time since 1996.
Anything else I need to know?
Well, there's actually one other undefeated team left besides Syracuse, and it's Wichita State. You may remember the Shockers making a magical run to the Final Four last season, where they nearly knocked off eventual national champion Louisville.
Gregg Marshall's team is even better this season, led by preseason All-American Cleanthony Early and breakout point guard star Fred VanVleet. Also, Ron Baker's hair...
Pretty cool, right?
I know, I know.
Anyway, if Wichita State can make it through tough games at Indiana State and at Northern Iowa this week, then Ken Pomeroy gives them about a 70 percent chance of finishing the regular season undefeated. They would be the first team to achieve that feat since Saint Joseph's in 2003-04.
I want to win my work office pool, is that going to happen now?