This was supposed to post on Friday like every week, but the Internet went kerplunk. This point will be mentioned at least once in this article.
The last time we discussed my mission to get a dog, I had found a dog online at a local shelter that seemed great. Well, for whatever reason, that dog shelter never replied to me about my desire to adopt said dog, so I began looking at other shelters.
This past Thursday, I went to one, and they had a puppy I thought was awesome. However, to make sure the person adopting the dog owns the stuff required to take care of a dog, the shelter required I leave with a crate, dog food, and a variety of other things which I clearly could not have taken home on the subway by myself. So I told the shelter lady I'd borrow my parents' car and show up the next morning as soon as they opened, and she told me she looked forward to seeing me.
But the way the shelter lady greeted me the next morning told the whole story. She was so sorry, but another family had shown up a few hours after I left and claimed that adorable puppy for their own. She said, she had another dog downstairs that I hadn't seen the day before that she thought I might like. I told her to bring it out.
For a second, I was crestfallen. Here I was, about to purchase a living thing that would live with me for 10ish years, and I was taking my second choice?
It's estimated that there are slightly more than 500 million dogs in the world. Considering average dogs live between 10-15 years, there have almost certainly been more than a billion dogs that have been alive at some point since the new millenium. And there have been billions more over the centuries and millennia as humans have trained canines to live with us.
And yet, I say with no hesitation or doubt, that the dog the shelter lady was carrying upstairs to show me is not only the best dog in the world, but probably the best dog ever to have been alive at any point in the history of the world.
Her name is Laz. She's a seven-month-old beagle mix rescued from Oklahoma. As a beagle, she's naturally eager, playful and excitable, but when I sit down with my computer, a beer and basketball on the TV, she's perfectly content to relax on my lap and let me pet her. Considering she's lived in cages for most of her life, she understands a surprising amount of the things you supposedly have to teach dogs. She's well-socialized. Although she had an accident when confronted with a scary elevator, she knows to poop and pee outside. This morning, when I tried to play fetch with her for the first time, she understood to go get the ball and, without prompting, brought it back for me to throw again.
My point is, she's the best. She won't win a dog show or anything, but I know it. Walking back from the dog park, I felt embarrassed for the dozen or so other dog-owners who had to spend their lives with their clearly, incontrovertibly inferior pets, all of whom are are less cute, less fun to be around, less understanding, and stupider than Laz.
The sad part is that some of them probably think their dogs are better than mine, and are incredibly wrong.
*~*~* SEGUE ALLOWING ME TO WRITE A COLLEGE BASKETBALL COLUMN ABOUT MY DOG BASICALLY *~*~*
It's December, and most college basketball teams have played about 10 games. There's really no possible way to determine which team is the best. In fact, you could even argue our end-of-the-year tournaments, which, while the most enjoyable time of the season, are half-crapshoot, half-actual-meaningful-way-of-determining-the-best-team-in-the-sport.
Unlike other sports, college hoops doesn't boast anything resembling even schedules for the teams, and besides, there are only 30 games, so win/loss tells us nothing. Much in the same way dog-owners just know their dog is the best with no real evidence, we must resort to stupid, favoritist methods for talking about who's No. 1 -- and we will talk about who's No. 1 ad nauseum, every week, for the length of the season, acting as if a single loss is a paradigm shift rather than a cel on a storyboard.
So let's take a look at a few early candidates:
The way we've always done this: Arizona
Both polls agree! Why even bother playing the rest of the year! /parades /trophies /forgetting both polls agreed about XXXXX team before XXXXX loss
They've beaten Duke, Michigan and San Diego State, haven't lost. They deserve to have the No. 1 ranking next to their name on Dec. 20, with no qualms from my end. They've been played close by Drexel and UNLV, but it's tough to find flaws with this team: they've got a stud in Aaron Gordon, quietly great players alongside him in Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley, a nifty point guard in Brandon McConnell, a 7-footer with a Polish name, and yes we'll watch Rondae Hollis-Jefferson dunk yes let us watch him dunk.
At this point in the season, we bump a team out of the No. 1 contention with a loss, but let's take a moment to appreciate each team for being awesome as they cycle in. Right now, that team is Arizona. It may not win the national title, but it also might, because it is awesome.
Honorable mention: Syracuse, which has the same good wins, no losses, but not quite the name cachet of Duke and Michigan to earn the No. 1 spot. But it's less fun to write about them because they're doing the same thing they always do.
GASP!!!!!1! They've lost a game! But Ken Pomeroy's ratings put Louisville as the No. 1 team in the nation. AND HE'S RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING. ALWAYS. HE KNOWS WHEN YOU WILL DIE.
The Kenpom ratings are pretty confident: They have the Cardinals as the best offense and No. 4 defense in the nation, while no other team can boast two units in the top 10. The problem is that they've only played two teams approaching decency, pasting middle-tier Southern Miss and losing to UNC. It seems pretty much anybody can lose to UNC, and pretty much anybody can beat UNC, too, so who knows what to make of that.
It's worth noting that Louisville was never ranked No. 1 last year until the day after it won the national championship. While these ratings are, in my book, the best day-to-day predictor of what should happen, those predictions also take into account the very large probability that basketball games don't pan out the way they should happen. (That's why we watch.)
Our hearts: UMass
(SIREN: I wrote this on Friday, before they lost to Florida State)
We've been over this, but that was before they were 10-0 and up to No. 19 in their polls. They go really fast and are led by a 5'9 Brooklyn point guard in Chaz Williams who plays like a Brooklyn point guard, destroying everybody off the dribble -- and he also hits 45 percent of his threes. They also film funny YouTube videos.
This year, I am a Minuteman, even if that does cost me my relationship with Missy Elliott and Trina.
Our #B1G Bias: Wisconsin
Death is the worst thing imaginable, but I understand it happens to all of us. It's hopefully many years away, but I don't fear it.
Taxes are awful, because I'm a blogger and need those pennies for food and heat and puppy, but I understand the societal good it does. I know that I can't avoid it, and I don't complain.
I cannot, however, reconcile the fact that my Northwestern Wildcats have to play two games against Bo Ryan basketball teams, this year, last year, next year, and every year. It is inescapable, and it is unbearable.
They reek precision. They never turn it over. They don't let you hit the boards. They don't miss threes. They actually take a higher percentage of three-pointers than Marshall Henderson's Ole Miss team, but they don't do it because of the things you typically associate with three-point mania. They do it because threes, when taken as open looks, mean points, and every point they score brings them closer to seeing the last clutches of life wriggle past their hands strangling your neck, and that your death brings them pleasure.
Honorable mention: Ohio State, who before a miracle win at Notre Dame was 12-0 with 12 double-digit wins. And, like, Michigan State and Michigan and the whole damn conference besides my team.
Your local Rivals! message board: Kentucky
They've lost games, but that's somewhat to be expected from a team built off unbelievable freshman talent. They might coalesce into a juggernaut yet. If I hadn't watched this team play and had just followed recruiting, I'd think these guys were the likely national champs despite the L's. You know, because Julius Randle and the Harrisons and Willie Cauley-Stein and James Young and Alex Pothress and more people who supposedly are the best players born in their specific years..
But watching them play is a tad disconcerting. They're winning by bullying inside and grabbing a poopboat of offensive rebounds, but they have no recourse if somebody stands up even the tiniest bit to the bullydom.
Landing a pair of unbelievably talented identical twins was the most John Calipari thing ever, but I haven't been wholly impressed by the Harrisons. (I also still haven't drilled into my head which one is which. I also still haven't drilled into my head which is Marcus and which is Markieff, and they're in the damn NBA already.) While both are probably going to be great basketball players, in the one-and-done era they need to be great basketball players by March.
Honorable mention: Kansas, because, yeah, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid play basketball.
Respect your mid-majors: Wichita State
I have no idea how Wichita State made last year's Final Four, but it is making it clear it is elite rather strongly in the (Cleanthony) early going this year. Are they the best team in the country? Probably not, but after taking out some solid non-con teams in BYU, Tennessee, Alabama and St. Louis, they're going to enter March with a gaudy win total and a high ranking as the power guys drop games left and right.
Honorable mention: Gonzaga, who is a loss against Maui-powered Dayton from being in the same boat. (Note: Dayton playing in Maui is, like, top three teams in the country. If we could vote "Dayton playing in Maui" No. 1 in the polls, we would. Unfortunately, they play in Dayton, which is No. 117 on "places in the world least like Maui.")
We wanted to show you the RPI just to point out how useless the RPI is, a fact that everybody not on the NCAA Tournament committee seems to realize. However, Wisconsin's a good choice. Good job, useless formula.
Shoddily filmed buzzer-beater of the week
Forgive me for once again bringing up Brooklyn: here's LIU knocking off Lamar at the horn on a Gerrell Martin trey:
It's only fitting the assist comes from Jason Brickman, who leads the nation in helpers.
(Note: we had wanted to include Desi Washington's OT triple against Seton Hall to give St. Peter's its third win of the year -- his seventh three of the game! -- but the video was not shoddily filmed enough. We would also like to point out that St. Peter's remains the Peacocks.)
(Another note: we had wanted to include FGCU's incredible tap against South Florida, but, as Mike Rutherford already noted, that ain't count.)
Game of the night of the week
So, because the column got 86'ed a few days, you lost my Onions! Game of the Night of the Week guidance. It would've been: SMU-Wyoming on Friday (meh) Michigan State vs. Texas Saturday (stand by it) and Boise State vs. Hawaii (10/10 WOULD WATCH FROM 1 TO 3 A.M. ON A SUNDAY NIGHT AGAIN). So here's the rest of the week:
Monday, Dec. 23: Morehead State vs. Tennessee (7 p.m., ESPNU)
None of the Hawaiian games intrigue me, for some reason. I mean, I'm gonna watch them, but, hey, shut up. So let's watch some rebounding! I genuinely want to watch Chad Posthumus, a zombie who is currently second in the nation in rebounding (12.4 per game, top-10 in both OR%and DR%) presumably because players are afraid to box somebody out who will eat their brains. But Big Bad Undead Chad will have to deal with a Tennessee squad that's No. 4 in OR% in the country. Morehead State has done absolutely nothing impressive to indicate it can get a win here, but that's the thing about zombies: they stop showing signs of life, then spring.
XMAS EVE: Spend time with your family, there's no college basketball
XMAS: Diamond Head Classic championship (3:30 p.m., ESPN2)
I'm Jewish, so my day consists of Chinese food, the NBA, and Die Hard, but I'll be sure to mix in the finals of this tourney. My pick: Iowa State and somebody.
Boxing Day?!?!?!?!!: No basketball, so punch somebody
Friday, Dec. 27: Depaul vs. Northwestern (9 p.m., BTN)
I'm actually not joking with this one. I swear. Last week I was joking. This is actually probably the best game this night. It's either that or Seton Hall vs. Lafayette. I swear. I swear.
Look, it's A HUGE CHICAGO RIVALRY. By which I mean Northwestern used to always lose to DePaul and then my freshman year Northwestern beat DePaul and DePaul stopped scheduling Northwestern and my senior year I always used to go to a bar near DePaul that had a $20 four-hour open bar.
Be sure to check here for game result.
Saturday, Dec. 28: Louisville vs. Kentucky (4 p.m., CBS)
ALTHOUGH SYRACUSE VILLANOVA IS PROBABLY JUST AS GOOD
Sunday, Dec. 29: Canisius vs. Notre Dame (5 p.m. ESPN3)
I have a sneaking suspicion that Notre Dame is kinda bad this year, but pushing Ohio State and Iowa and beating Indiana reveals it would be a mid-tier Big Ten team, or something. Canisius has lost to a D-II this year but handled itself well otherwise, so it could make for some really interesting transitive property things by beating a team of Notre Dame's caliber.