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NCAA Basketball Debrief: Seriously, Gus Johnson Needs To Call The Final Four

You'll be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees, but Gus Johnson needs to call the Final Four. We're not kidding around this time. Also: We look back at the week in college hoops in 10 up, 10 down.

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Deftly maneuvering through New York City holiday foot traffic this weekend, I was unfortunately not able to take in Saturday’s excellent Kentucky-North Carolina game. Instead, I had to risk decapitation from anxious shoppers on Fifth Avenue; head down, and eyes fixated on my phone’s twitter feed. The game, as far as I can tell, was great, but UNC's win seemed to be overshadowed by the guy calling it. Lucky for viewers, Gus Johnson was behind  the mic for yet another game that came down to the wire. It seemed too-fitting, just the latest in a long line that was significantly enhanced because he was intent on going hoarse.

So it was that, a sporting event that I didn't even see or hear that forces me to finally type this: Gus Johnson needs to be on the call for the Final Four this season, next season, and every season after that. 

For the past five years, it seems, there has been a movement growing in size demanding the Johnson kick Jim Nantz aside and allow Johnson, surprisingly a 15-year vet at this calling games thing, serve as one half of the "A" team for CBS' college basketball coverage. It’s an easy statement to say to sound cool amongst friends, but recently what was once chic has turned to conventional thinking, and now it’s almost cliché to discuss as really this can be categorized as a necessary move that will ultimately be enacted. All of us have discussed it, tweeted it, Liked it, and implored CBS to actually do it when in the company of our friends, so why not just frieken DO IT?

Johnson exudes the passion and energy on par with college basketball itself, a sport where no one player or even team could ever be remotely close to being bigger than its peers.  Jim Nantz does not.

In deep with the NFL season until February, it’s unlikely Nantz is up to speed on what’s happening in college basketball before he’s dispatched to various games with Clark Kellogg for six weeks leading up to March Madness. Even worse, Nantz makes quick work of the Final Four, boarding a private jet to Augusta, Georgia as soon as One Shining Moment begins. He sounds like the voice of small-time audiobooks. That translates perfectly to describing something as idyllic as the Masters, not Gordon Hayward's half-court prayer.

The New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman pens it best: "Nantz's voice is better-suited for describing putts on the bucolic greens of Augusta than heart-palpitating buzzer-beaters."

Recently, Johnson made an appearance on the BS Report. Naturally, his conversation with Bill Simmons turned to the NCAA Tournament, and it wasn’t necessarily Simmons driving the bus. Asked what his favorite game he ever called and he emphatically declared last spring’s Sweet 16 match-up between Xavier and Kansas State as the one. No, not a game where Al Harrington got buckets, and not the time when Chris Johnson displayed getting-away-from-the-cops speed. It was an amateur event, where the Musketeer’s Jordan Crawford hit about seven improbable three-pointers, only to see the Wildcats Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente counter until escaping on to the Elite Eight after two overtimes. From there, Simmons was ready to switch gears and halt the college basketball talk, but Johnson refused to digress. As a fan of a sport that's miles behind football in popularity, this dialogue felt like a small victory.

I’m not here to link up to all his great calls, or even that soundboard that turns me in to a five year old when I get a hold of it. We have all killed endless lunch hours stimulating ourselves to this guy's electric voice. But I am ready to formally declare Gus Johnson as the official-unofficial voice of college basketball, and the leading candidate to supplant Jim Nantz to call the next 20+ Final Fours.

Now, if only we could find an adequate color guy to partner with him.

To the week that was...

10 Up

  • Duke - Let's hold the undefeated chatter for now, but it's clear any team will have to be nearly perfect, and also hope the Blue Devils spent the previous night with their head in the toilet (or a season-ending injury to Kyrie Irving) if their going to have a chance to hit them with a loss.
  • Jim Valvano - Let's never ever let a December pass where we don't devote a week to this guy's life. We have all seen his ESPY's speech, so check out this gem (date unknown) when Valvano appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman.

                              

 

  • Brigham Young and Vermont Athletic Departments - We often see programs reward their senior stars by scheduling a road game in or near that player's hometown, but normally they're played in cities with a population far greater than 14000 people. The Cougars treated Jimmer Fredette to a homecoming in Glens Falls, New York last night, and it got the whole community in quite a frenzy.

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  • Drexel's Chris Fouch - Ever heard of him? Well, if you dig kenpom.com, you know that Fouch sits third on the Offensive Rating list. This means that he's in the top 99.9 percentile of college basketball players when it comes to producing points for his team from offensive possessions used...or something like that. The Dragons currently sit 5-1, led by Fouch's 22 PPG.
  • Cock Skin Jar -  That's an anagram (or "Nag a Rams" as Google so playfully suggests on their auto-search feature) for Syracuse's Rick Jackson. Our own Sean Keeley built a list of anagrams using this year's Syracuse Orange roster. Part of me thinks this guy is a magician, the other part says he's just able to operate on two hours of sleep.
  • The Actual Rick Jackson - In case you didn't know (because Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman had absolutely no idea) Jackson is fast becoming one of the top big men in the Big East. Third in the nation in total rebounds, the center is averaging 13 and 12, and gives Boeheim a formidable post player, as they remain undefeated.
  • Marcus Jordan - OK, let's pump the brakes, Jumpman's spawn had an awesome and timely play en route to UCF's upset of the Florida Gators, but it was a bit too below the rim to be labeled as greatness.

                               

 

  • LaceDarius Dunn - Following a September that scared us all, Dunn has returned from a three-game suspension and doesn't seem to have missed a step, shooting 16-26 from 3-PT range to lead an undefeated Bears team.
  • Shay Shine - Once again, we like dunks, and we like dunks on video. With that, I give you High Point's Shay Shine.

                               

 

  • Cute looking freshman with great basketball bloodlines - I am referring to Gonzaga's David Stockton and Tennessee's Tyler Summitt. Both are reserves, and collectively average roughly 11 minutes of floor time per game, but boy are they likely on the fast track to becoming coaches. So fundamentally sound!

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10 Down

  • Virginia Tech - Wasn't this team supposed to be dancing? Nothing is certain now, as the Hokies sit 4-4 following a loss to Virginia. Malcolm Delaney...the alleged elite college basketball shooting guard? Well, he's already turned the ball five or more times in four games this season, and is shooting 31 percent inside the arc, good for 877th in the country. Time to crank up the bubble watch.
  • Craig Robinson - Sure it's his Oregon State players who play the games (they've already posted losses to Texas Southern and Utah Valley), but Robinson continues to deflect blame and buy time in the media in regards to his unspectacular 32-36 record in Corvallis. I'll stop here, and refrain from dropping a joke referencing his brother-in-law.
  • Kenny Boynton - The Gators sophomore spent the summer sweating bullets and hoisting jumpers under the watchful eye of a shooting coach provided for him from former Billy Donovan stud Mike Miller. The result one month into the season: an underwhelming 26 percent (13-54) output. Hopefully that shooting coach didn't burn a hole in Donovan's wallet.
  • UCLA - Adding insult to, well, insult, the Bruins were on the wrong end of a controversial call last Thursday in Allen Fieldhouse, only to follow that near miss up with a 66-57 home loss to Montana. "We deserved the boos," UCLA junior point guard Lazeric Jones said.
  • Wrong balls - It took the first 7:22 of last night's Oakland - Illinois game before someone realized something was wrong. That something was a women's ball, being used by men. The Fighting Illini's Mike TIsdale was the first to recognize it, and the swap was promptly made by referees. Interpret this as you wish, but when using the 28.5" basketball, the Grizzlies took a commanding 15-6 lead, while Illinois shot 3-13 from the field.

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  • Bob Knight & The "Plumber" Brothers - Never one to miss an opportunity to be completely ignorant, Bob Knight created an awkward segway during halftime of Tuesday's Kansas - Memphis game. Twice, three times maybe, he omitted a Plumlee brother, and referred to (presumably Mason) as "Plumber." 

                         

  • Hoops in Boston - It seems like every major city gets at least one must-see inter-conference match-up. Even Seattle, the country's largest city without an NBA franchise hosts Gonzaga's "Battle in Seattle," but Boston simply does not do much to lure a few popular programs to the TD Garden for a little Saturday matinee. Last weekend powerhouses Boston College, UMass, Northeastern and Drexel squared off in a doubleheader nobody saw. Why can't this city secure UConn and another Big Six conference team to the Hub in December?
  • Kansas State and the Free Ones - No Final Four contender should be this bad at shooting from the free-throw line. The Wildcats are 53.4 percent from the stripe, and their two highest usage players (Jacob Pullen and Rodney McGruder) are only hitting 2 of 3 from the line. To give you some perspective, Kansas and UNLV have a higher field goal percentage than the Wildcats figure from the line. 

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  • Alcorn State - Resting comfortably in the bowels of the college basketball world, the Braves spent the week getting blown out by Kansas State and Nebraska, making them losers of 34 of their last 36 games. The only squad who may be worse? The 0-10 Centenary Gentleman, who are kindly knocking on the door.

It was tweeted

Please folks, don't waste Isaiah Thomas' time. For it is precious, and he laughs at your defensive schemes.

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The Three-Day Weekend Preview

It's a three-day weekend in these parts, and in slow moving fashion our weekends are beginning to take shape around a complete slate of college basketball as football gives way.

Thursday (all times EST)

  • Kent State @ Florida (ESPN2) 7:00pm
  • Georgetown @ Temple (ESPN2) 9:00pm
  • Butler @ Xavier (ESPN) 9:00pm

  • Friday

    Throw on something dapper and hit up a Christmas party, or you'll be stuck Gamecasting William Jessup - Sacramento State or, even worse, Iowa State - Iowa.

    Saturday
    • UNLV @ Louisville (ESPNU) Noon
    • Saint Louis @ Duke (CBS) Noon
    • Wisconsin vs. Marquette (ESPN2) 2:15pm
    • Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh (ESPN) 3:15pm
    • Indiana @ Kentucky (ESPN) 5:15pm
    • Washington @ Texas A&M (ESPN2) 4:30pm
    • Gonzaga @ Notre Dame (ESPN2) 6:30pm
    Sunday

    Isn't it about time for your Fantasy Football playoffs?