Each Wednesday, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper righthand corner of the blog. You can also e-mail me or send me your entries via Twitter. Per the usual, let's begin in video form.
Tim from Lexington, Ky., writes: Mr. Brennan, it's obvious you are biased against Kentucky. Fact: Enes Kanter wants to be a college student, the family has offered to pay back the money that is in question. Fact: Enes knows he will make money in the NBA for sure, but he wants the college experience and has done everything he could do to make sure he would be eligible. On the flip side, Cam Newton's father knowingly shopped him around to the highest bidder and now he gets to play in the national championship. Enes should be able to play too! ESPN hates UK and that is pretty obvious. Please stop hating UK because we are the elite program!
Eamonn Brennan: I wish there was a better way to communicate how much I am groaning right now. Groan. GROAN. See? Text doesn't do it justice. Because I am seriously getting my groan on over here.
This e-mail is a fantastic example of nearly every single e-mail I get from Kentucky fans about Enes Kanter, and there are lots of these e-mails. "You hate Kentucky! Enes Kanter wants to be a college student! Cam Newton's dad is evil! Why does ESPN hate Kentucky? Is it because we're so awesome?!? LOL GO BIG BLUE!!!"
Sigh. Let's try and sort this out:
1. I'm not sure why so many college hoops-related e-mailers (and not just the Kentucky fans, though they seem to do this more often than usual) assume that writers at national sites are biased for or against various programs. I won't speak for everyone writing about college hoops everywhere, of course, but we're really not. I don't know how many times this needs to be repeated. I don't care whether Enes Kanter players for Kentucky or not. If the NCAA allows him to do so, great. In fact, in a perfect world, I wish Kanter would get eligible, because he is reportedly a very good basketball player, and I really like watching really good basketball players play college basketball.
Other than that, I have no skin in the Kanter standoff. I like Kentucky's program. I think John Calipari is a very smart guy, an undeniably skilled coach and a master recruiter. I am not rooting for any outcomes, Kanter-related or otherwise, in regards to Kentucky basketball. Please stop thinking otherwise. You're making yourself angry for no good reason. Just chill out, you know?
2. Even if I was ruthlessly biased against Kentucky, and even if the whole world was out to get Big Blue Nation because it is "the elite program," or something, you, Tim, would not be qualified to say so. You are a Kentucky fan. You are, by definition, biased. There's nothing wrong with that, of course; passionate fans make college hoops great. But your Big Blue-tinted glasses make it impossible for you to judge bias. It's like people on extreme sides of the political spectrum arguing that moderate mainstream views are either liberal or conservative. You don't get to decide.
3. ESPN is not a living thing. It is incapable of expressing hate.
4. If you understand anything, understand this: It doesn't matter whether or not Enes Kanter and his family want to pay back the money he received in Turkey. This isn't a few-thousand-dollars-in-high-school situation. This is an argument over whether Kanter was paid as a professional. If he was, then his NCAA eligibility is kaput. It's really that simple.
And, per the NCAA's release Wednesday, and from everything we know about the case thus far, it's safe to say the NCAA sees a distinction between Kanter's case and Cam Newton's. Kanter received money. Newton did not. For all the various and unsavory details surrounding each case (especially Newton's; Kanter's family has done nothing wrong), that's what's going to matter. You can argue this until you're blue(er) in the face, and you'd certainly have reason to do so. But if that's the way the NCAA sees things, that's the way Kanter's eligibility case is going to go. End of story.
Did we get all that? Great. Because despite what the Hoopsbag inbox's unbalanced yield, there are like 344 other college basketball teams to talk about. So let's do that now.
Last week, after discussing Duke's debatable nonconference scheduling strategy -- in which Duke plays most of its road games at neutral court sites -- I asked Duke fans for their feelings on the matter. If you're a Dukie, does this bother you? Do you wish your team challenged itself more frequently in November and December? Or are you basically cool with this? The responses were pretty interesting:
Tom from Austin, Texas, writes: Regarding Duke and scheduling out-of-conference road games: Duke plays as many OOC road games as most of the other big-boys. Only, Duke's road games are rarely in the opposing team's road venue because when Duke comes to town the opposing team wants to get to the biggest arena available for a very important reason ... money. You can discount these games as "neutral-site games," but that is just disingenuous.
Plus, what is the real value of playing true OOC Road games anyway? Is there even a correlation between throwing your team in to the fire early and winning in March? If so, I'd love to see the study. I sincerely doubt the results would benefit the opposing viewpoint.
John from Chicago writes: As a Duke fan, I think it's very smart. In place of true road games, Duke plays NCAA tournament "simulator" games. Butler in New Jersey, Marquette/Kansas State in Kansas City, Oregon in Portland, etc. All at big arenas, and often times clustered very close together. There's also a full slate of true road games in the ACC, each of which is the opposing team's Game of the Year. So why not use your pre-ACC schedule to get ready for the NCAA environment? Makes a lot of sense to me, especially for the younger players.
Ben D. from Cambridge, Mass., writes: As a lifelong Duke fan, I just wanted to take a stab at answering your open question to Duke fans in the last mailbag. Of course as a basketball fan I would love to see Duke schedule an extremely tough schedule every year, because even if they lose, those games are fun to watch. But as a Duke fan I am happy with the way they do it now. Admittedly, it doesn't make as much sense to me to schedule difficult road games like Tom Izzo and Michigan State, and I trust Coach K. Coach K has taken teams all the way plenty of times before, and his non-conference scheduling definitely plays a large role in how his teams develop over the course of the year, and thus ultimately how his teams end up playing and who they become when tournament time rolls around. If Coach K thinks a "lame" non-conference schedule is best, then I believe him!
Butter from Durham, N.C., writes: From the perspective of a Duke guy, I think Coach K knows a little bit more about how to prepare his team and maintain his program than the average fan with an ax to grind against Duke. He probably views neutral-site games in huge venues in heavily-populated areas as more beneficial than going to smaller on-campus arenas, because of the exposure that he can sell to recruits and because most tournament games are played in large venues. But I do understand the complaints: Duke haters don't have a lot to go on right now.
Phil in Atlanta, Ga., writes: As a Duke fan, I love K's strategy because he schedules to prepare for the specific season. His nonconference games vary between competitive low majors and mid majors that play certain styles. He wants to play against some zone, some princeton style offenses and in the regional venues he wants the players to see. When the tourney visits Greensboro, he schedules a game there. He hits Madison Square Garden every year for recruiting, etc. It's smart and strategic. The only people to rip for scheduling are those who do it badly and then lose out on making the dance. If a coach's strategy doesn't work out but he doesn't complain about it then hey, it didn't work out. It doesn't work out for all but one team every year.
Brad Andrews from Plainview, Texas, writes: Can you tell me why everyone is talking about the women's UConn basketball team and their 89-game win streak but no one is talking about Wayland Baptist University 131-game win streak? I understand they are not Division 1, however that is a phenomanal win streak. Also they are the winningest womens college program in the country in any division. Can we get a mention on ESPN?
Brennan: That is indeed an impressive win streak. But since it happened in the mid-1950s, decades before the NCAA started sponsoring women's basketball, it's probably not a fair comparison. Anyway, here's your mention.
Kyle W. from Raleigh, N.C., writes: What will it take to get respect for Washington State? The Cougs are 10-2 with their only losses in close games to Butler and K-State. They also pounded Gonzaga and Baylor and Klay Thompson is averaging 22.3 PPG. What more could they possibly need?
Brennan: I don't disagree with any of what you're saying. If Washington State isn't getting "respect," it's probably primarily due to the fact that the Cougars started the season pretty far off the radar. More respect will come with more wins, which always bring more exposure. Easy enough, right?