From cult hero to mainstream sports star, Jimmer Fredette captivated what felt like the entire world last week following a 43-point performance against then-undefeated San Diego State. It was the greatest two hours in the history of CBS College Sports, and inspired the scribes to be turn their eloquence up a few notches on a sport usually not given space on the newspaper canvas until the start of spring.
Following BYU’s victory over the Aztecs Fredette’s game and persona was dissected ad nauseum. Bob Ryan called him "an old-fashioned, well-rounded, maniacal scorer." Dick Harmon called him "a brand that works." And our own Sean Keeley pegged Jimmer as "The Anti-Jay Cutler." Fredette was also called a lot of other things that, when aggregated together, just confused people.
Nonetheless, the point was made. It’s clear Fredette is not only very good, he’s one of the most quintessential and fascinating college basketball players in at least the past decade. He might be one of the most quintessential college basketball players ever; you’ll be hard-pressed to grovel a comparison of the Indiana State version of Larry Bird even fellow Cougar Danny Ainge out of me. When those two were torching the game, my then twentysomething parents had yet to even cross paths.
So let's limit the discussion to more recent years. Is Jimmer Fredette the most fascinating college basketball of our generation? Only a handful of players come to mind when I seek to draw comparisons and space is limited, so let's allow the wayback machine to hurl us back only as far as the early aughts. Because before then, I'm guessing many of you wore diapers or were simply a mistake waiting to happen when Al Maguire elbow-jerked his way to the most awesome spontaneous dance ever.
seven six players who sort of compare to Fredette's level of fascination, but really don't when you think about it. Here's why...
Eric Devendorf – OK, cut me some slack. We need to warm up here. No need to scale Mt. Fuji when you can loosen the muscles hiking a few foothills. To his credit, Devendorf averaged 14.5 points during his time at Syracuse and fascinated fans with his frequent follies ranging from suspensions to, uh, declaring early for the NBA Draft. He also hit one of the more memorable buzzer beating shots that was called off, and was probably always a hoot to be around during the weekend. Sure he's hardly half as intriguing as The Jimmer, but I've done my warm-up lap.
Stephen Curry - Non-BCS conference star, tremendous ball handling skills, deft four-point shooter, lovable; you could argue that Curry grandfathered in the fandom for the everyman, undersized crafty guard. Fredette and Curry never squared off against one another, but we wish they had. The edge Jimmer has here is being the leader of a top 25 mainstay. Some will disagree, thinking my thought process is backwards, but Fredette is more fascinating in that he leads a more visible basketball team. The Cougars play in the Mountain West, yet are battling for a tournament No. 2 seed AND just knocked off the conference favorite. They’re technically supposed to make a run to the Final Four. Davidson just hit lightning in a bottle. The fascination level was much more short lived.
Tyler Hansbrough – Wait sorry. Wrong article. God dang delete button is broken again. Moving on…
Kevin Durant - Tough to compare in that he was a one-and-done star who played in only two NCAA Tournament games, Durant still was able to generate a ton of pub because, like he does now in the NBA, he scored at will on the perimeter. A consensus first-team All-American just like he was a consensus first-team All-Likeable, nobody had beef with Durant, we were just in awe of his abilities. But the fascination quickly fades when you throw a Texas uni on the kid. Playing for one of the largest schools in the country doesn't quite create the same sense of intrigue. Precocious athletes are supposed to end up in Austin, no?
JJ Redick - One of the most recognizable college basketball players in the past 25 years, Redick fascinated nearly as many people as he pissed off -- and he did it for four full seasons. Duke's all-time leading scorer was as much of a sniper as Fredette, and did it on national TV about 78 times a season. Everyone knew who Redick was, and he drew high ratings for the simple fact that people wanted to see him fail. The hate that he pulled out of men, women and children was unlike anything I have ever seen in college sports. He made us wonder why we cared. So why does Fredette beat him in a fascination contest? Redick peaked too early, through no fault of his own, going mainstream by the end of his freshman season. Fredette, a senior, has been a known commodity to you and I for a few years now, but is just landing onto the general sports fan scene -- bringing with him a cult like following and heaps of fables locked away on various cable outposts. Redick, conversely, was never a mystery.
Jameer Nelson – An underdog in this fight, Nelson’s 2003-04 season draws very close comparisons to Fredette in 2010-11. The Hawks went undefeated, and were No. 1 in the country, entering March, and Nelson had that passive-aggressive swagger and killer instinct not often seen in the college game. He also was a deceptively outstanding three-point shooter, knocking down 40 percent of the deep balls his senior season. But only averaging 20 points a game is what kills this argument, as Fredette is currently scoring at a rate that one of the most accomplished Atlantic 10 players can hardly light a candle to.
Carmelo Anthony - 'Melo hit the ground running from the moment he arrived in Syracuse, averaging 22 points a game and, as you know, leading the Orange to their first national title. Talent coupled with poise is what drew a national audience to Anthony, as he hit from all over the court with ease all-season long. But just like Durant, it's hard to deem Anthony as fascinating on a Fredette level because we never had time to actually absorb what was happening. Jimmer,as I've said, carries the perfect four-year arc from complete unknown to niche superstar to a booming crescendo where he has become a national figure that's got a few more things to accomplish before he exits stage left. No other college basketball player in recent memory has carved out a parallel experience, at least in my lifetime, and Anthony was supposed to be great. Fredette, we never saw him coming out of Glen Falls, NY.
So there. I rest my case. If an imbecile named Snooki can make millions or Hubert Davis can hold a TV gig, then Fredette can be the most fascinating college basketball player of our generation. Let's hope the Cougars stay healthy, avoid bad luck, and play well into the month of March.
Now to the week that was …
- Videos of missed dunks. Lately I've noticed that ESPN's Not Top 10 - a staple to the beginning of every Friday night - has been featuring an embarrassingly high amount of missed dunks by college basketball players. We get it, these kids are a combination of overanxious, and far inferior to NBA players. But two dunks that made the rounds last week can be attributed to nothing more than bad luck, and flimsy breakaway rims.
- Tournament resume/bubble watch chatter. It's on. According to me, Feb. 1 was the first day serious people were having serious discussions on tournament resumes and bubble watches. There's a bevy of writers who think they can peg the field of 65 weeks in advance of Selection Sunday (I don't try and play prophet), but as college basketball coverage ramps up, why don't you just stay in these parts and check out Chris Dobbertean's weekly Bracketology piece.
- Coastal Carolina. Named after a rooster-like character that appeared in a beast fable part of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Coastal Carolina's current 20-2 start is about as likely as animals talking (which is what happens in beast fables, per Wikipedia). The Chanticleers are undefeated in the Big South due in large part to a 50-percent team shooting percentage.
- WCC teams not named Gonzaga. Ever played that addicting flash game "Defend your Castle"? That's what I liken to the recent demise of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. After years of little peckers trying to take their throne, the Bulldogs just can't toss away the onslaught of their ruthless opponents. Sitting tied for fourth in the league, Gonzaga is now one of six teams in contention for the regular season title - a title they've tied or won outright every season dating back to 2001.
- Thomas Robinson copes with a loss. One of the sadder moments of the week - of the season for that matter - was the loss of Kansas forward Thomas Robinson's mother. One of the more uplifting moments of the week and, yes, the season, was Robinson's return to action Saturday night against Kansas State. Imploring head coach Bill Self to continuing coaching him and treat him just like his teammates, Robinson simply sought normalcy as the Jayhawks looked to start another epic home court winning streak. Robinson responded last night with 17 points in 20 minutes, including an emphatic dunk in garbage time that was followed by a slap of the backboard - clearly a release of emotion and tribute to the woman who raised him. Hats off to this young man. He won the weekend.
Cybersquatting. Following the aforementioned Jimmer Fredette's 43-point outburst against San Diego State, a few starving Americans hoping for a quick buck looked to capitalize on the guard's ascension on Google Trends. For a few days, the URL www,jimmerfredette.com was run by a web designer looking for work and the twitter handle @jimmerfredette was up for sale. But now the URL re-directs you to NCAA.org, and the real Jimmer Fredette tweets using @JimmerFredette_, so order has been restored.
BracketBusters. It's one of the better TV gimmicks out there, but looking at this year's BracketBuster schedule and it appears the mid-major inter-conference series has lost a bit of its luster. With no non-BCS conference schools outside of the Atlantic 10, Mountain West or Conference USA serving as top 25 mainstays (we're looking at you, Butler), we're left with Utah State - Saint Mary's and VCU - Wichita State. Meh.
- A really big winterstorm. Because one in three American's were affected by this sweeping winterstorm that stretched from Missouri to Maine, naturally it did a number on many college basketball team's travel plans. Who got the worst of it? That would probably be the Georgia Bulldogs. Just trying to get 700 west to Arkansas, the Bulldogs were grounded for hours in Athens, then were supposed to be bussed to Augusta to catch a flight there, then they didn't do that, then they went to sleep, then woke up this morning and got on a plan bound for Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. The game was moved up two hours, which was enough to allow students in for free. The Bulldogs WON/LOST.
- UCF. After beginning the season 14-6, the Central Knights have quietly faded into the abyss of Conference USA. Marcus Jordan, who is battling foot injuries, is averaging a few points less in league play, and the entire team is struggling to score. A school whose acronym takes on a double meaning, UCF is having a hard time just getting going in conference play.
- Oh, and, this is why I'll never be at ease when 35,000 feet above sea level. I was flying across the country this week, so I refused to even touch this story until I returned home, unpacked, and nestled into my own bed with a little hot chocolate. Even more unsettling is the eerie coincidence when these incidents occurred. Again, notice how I refuse to go into detail. Just click through at your own peril.
This Weekend's Schedule
- Michigan @ Ohio State (ESPN) 7 p.m.
- Gonzaga @ Portland (ESPN2) 11 p.m.
- Harvard @ Princeton (ESPNU) 7 p.m.
- West Virginia @ Villanova (ESPN) noon
- Butler @ Cleveland State (ESPN2) noon
- Illinois @ Northwestern (CBS) 1 p.m.
- St. John's @ UCLA (CBS) 1 p.m.
- Baylor @ Texas A&M (ESPN) 2 p.m.
- Memphis @ Gonzaga (ESPN) 4 p.m.
- UNLV @ BYU (Versus) 4 p.m.
- NC State @ Duke (ESPN) 6pm
- Kentucky @ Florida (ESPN) 9pm
- Michigan State @ Wisconsin (CBS) 1 p.m.
- Ohio State @ Minnesota (ESPN) 2pm
- Florida State @ North Carolina (FSN) 2 p.m.