College Basketball Has Officially Arrived

David WilliamsSenior Analyst IJanuary 20, 2008

Tyler Hansbrough's North Carolina squad couldn't pull out the win over ACC foe Maryland Friday afternoon, losing 82-80.  The loss was the Tar Heel's first of the season.

For all of you college football fans out there who are still getting over your hangover from the wild, unpredictable ride that was the 2007 season, I have the perfect solution for you.
No, you don’t have to curl up into a ball and hibernate for the next nine months—although, Ohio State fans may want to try that out to avoid some embarrassment from the past couple of championship games. 

And no, you don’t have to spend weekends with your families because you have no more excuses to sit on your couch all day. 

College football fans, I have your remedy—and that remedy is college basketball.
Okay, I know what some of you are thinking—college basketball started a couple of months ago, and I'm a little late.  And what’s the big deal anyways? 

Well, with many of the first important conference games showcased this weekend, the heart of the college basketball season has officially arrived.  The inner beast of my college basketball fandom has arisen from its slumber. 

All it took was an instant classic between perennial basketball powerhouses—Maryland and UNC—to get my juices flowing.
The back-and-forth shootout between the Terps and the Tar Heels showcased everything that had been missing since last March. The game featured a fast, up-tempo game with skilled point guards, physical big men, and passionate, energetic coaching.

Carolina’s quick transition game proved to be a deadly weapon, as talented guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington led the charge on several fastbreak opportunities.  But every time UNC struck with a momentum-changing shot, Maryland’s James Gist or Greivis Vasquez answered the call.

"College football fans, I have your remedy—and that remedy is college basketball."

Ultimately, Maryland big man Bambale Osby’s layup with 21 seconds left was the deciding basket in a back-and-forth contest that featured 17 lead changes.  Maryland came out on top 82-80 and in spite of the high score, the Terrapins’ best asset yesterday was its physical defense on All-American power forward Tyler Hansbrough.  Both forwards Gist (22 points, 13 rebounds) and Bambale Osby (12 points, 5 rebounds) out-muscled one of the most dominant players in college basketball. “Psycho T” still scored 17 points and 14 rebounds, but he had to work hard for every statistic he got.
This back-and-forth game was just one of the first of many promising match-ups in the ACC, which is looking like one of the best conferences in college basketball again this year.  With Duke, Virginia, Clemson, Miami, Florida State, and BC also looming in the background, no ACC team can afford to ease up for a minute during conference play.
While the Maryland-UNC game was an instant classic at the midway point in the ‘07-‘08 college basketball season, there were other quality games around the country:

—Third-ranked—and still undefeated Kansas scraped its way out of Columbia, Missouri with an important win over Mike Anderson and the Mizzou Tigers.  Despite the Jayhawks not scoring a basket in the last seven minutes, and a poor performance from Brandon Rush, the Jayhawks won an important Big 12 contest. 

—Kansas and Memphis remain the two only undefeated teams left in Division I play.

—Unranked USC traveled to Pauley Pavilion in Westwood and surprised the previously undefeated, fourth-ranked UCLA Bruins.  This game served as a platform for a breakout performance from a certain star freshman forward.  To the surprise of many, the key to the Trojans victory wasn’t wunderkind O.J. Mayo, but his counterpart Davon Jefferson, who scored 25 points as the Trojans won 72-63. 

—USC’s victory over UCLA proved that this team has enough talent to play with anyone in the country.  Whether they capitalize on this abundance of talent in the coming months is anyone’s guess.

—Seventh-ranked Tennessee has quietly risen to 16-1, despite the fact that star guard Chris Lofton is having a terrible shooting season.  Led by senior guard JaJuan Smith, the Volunteers defeated a young Ohio State Buckeyes squad 74-69.  Unfortunately for Ohio State fans, the Buckeyes still struggle against the SEC—even in basketball!

—Ninth-ranked Texas A&M got blown out for the second time in two contests – this time at Kansas State.  K-State has plenty of young talent with a talented front court in Bill Walker and Michael Beasley – and the Wildcats may be better than people think – but the Aggies have proven this week they may not be who we thought they were.

—Fifth-ranked Duke is still trucking along after a convincing victory over the then-ranked Clemson Tigers.  Blue Devils super-frosh, forward Kyle Singler, may be that piece the Blue Devils were missing last year.  And a confident Greg Paulus is a more than just a formidable point guard.

Is UNC really a dominant team that had an off day, or do they have deeper flaws?

Should we call Kansas the best team in college basketball?

Will Memphis go undefeated in the regular season?

Can Eric Gordon and D.J. White carry Indiana to a national championship? 

These thought processes have all begun in the past day or so.  I can’t believe I’ve been missing all of this action.
So for the next few months, when your significant other is complaining that you need to spend more quality time on the weekends since it’s not football season anymore, tell her it’s basketball season now—surely she'll understand.
Or you might have even more free time to watch sports after she dumps you.  But hey, at least you get to spend quality time on the tube with Tyler Hansbrough and Eric Gordon.  And that ain’t so bad.
Gentlemen (and ladies), prepare yourselves for a marathon of a season.  This is going to be fun.

David Williams is a columnist for  Feedback can be sent here.