Duke-Louisville is a matchup I’ve been looking forward to all year!
That is a sentence that is only true in one month of the year: March. This is not March, despite what Jon Rothstein would lead you believe. That means these teams are meeting on a football field this weekend, and I’m far less enthusiastic about the contest.
But college basketball season is almost here. Some schools have already gotten practices tipped off, but things begin in earnest on Oct. 14, when many schools have midnight madness festivities.
For some fans, attention turning to the hardwood will feel like a welcome distraction.
Michigan State (2-3)
Things are not super great in East Lansing on the gridiron. A program that has made its bones on getting the most out of its talent is not getting it done this season. I love Mark Dantonio and believe he’s a good coach, but for now, they might just want to sit back and let Tom Izzo do the heavy lifting.
Honestly, it’s an October tradition for Kentucky fans to drop off the face of the football earth, and I don’t blame them. It wasn’t supposed to go this way. Mark Stoops was supposed to usher in a new era with shiny facilities and a ratcheted-up talent level.
What happens if Mark Stoops finally gets that sixth win? https://t.co/TnXdpWnzxs— A Sea of Blue (@ASeaOfBlue) September 28, 2016
But hey, maybe you can watch football games on the fancy new video boards in the basketball arena?
Check out the presentation of the new video board at Rupp. pic.twitter.com/NWUr6LQQHi— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) October 9, 2016
The defense has betrayed Gary Patterson, and they’re No. 69 in the nation in yards per play allowed. The preseason Big 12 No. 2 pick almost lost to Kansas last week, so just go ahead and pack it in for the fall.
You got a new basketball coach in Jamie Dixon, who came over from Pitt to lead his alma mater. I think Horned Frogs fans will be at home watching a Dixon team play, because his last two seasons with the Panthers were not the best, as far as defense is concerned.
Frogs keep the points. Lead 24-23 with 1:21 left in the game. Now it's up to the defense. pic.twitter.com/MEE2dAk55J— Frogs O' War (@FrogsOWar) October 8, 2016
Basketball Kansas isn’t prone to spitting up on itself in a big moment, though.
Notre Dame (2-4)
The only time in history a right-thinking person was inclined to root for Notre Dame in any sporting event was in the Elite Eight against Kentucky two years ago. So maybe ND fans should embrace the slightly likable portion of their sports program and go full-bore into basketball?
A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year was pretty neat for the Ducks. Dana Altman’s got that thing cookin’ in Eugene, and he’s pulling in talent to boot. He signed nearly as many four-star recruits in the 2016 class (four) as football coach Mark Helfrich did (six). He’s also got a much younger coaching staff, so no worries about that message getting stale any time soon.
It doesn’t seem like things are getting much better for Sonny Dykes’ bunch. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Cal doesn’t play great defense. The Bears rank No. 112 (out of 128 schools) in defense, per S&P+. They just lost to Oregon State, maybe the worst loss of the Dykes era.
While Dykes’ teams have gotten better record-wise each year, this season doesn’t look to have a particularly optimistic remainder to it, with USC, Washington, Washington State, and UCLA still on the schedule.
Meanwhile, basketball coach Cuonzo Martin can show you a thing or two about improvement. An NCAA Tournament berth has the program headed in the right direction, and Martin has sophomore Ivan Rabb back, who is on the short list for best players in the country .
This guy deserves a Rutgers team that can make it look like the Scarlet Knights aren’t responsible for an existential crisis.
Optimism abounds with new coach Steve Pikiell at the helm, because it honestly can’t get much worse on the hardwood.
The Scarlet Knights recently finished off a crucial recruiting weekend, which, on its face, is great for the program’s future. One problem: That recruiting weekend was last weekend, and that means as many as 50 prospects went to the Michigan game. Welp.