Keys for the #3 Indiana Hoosiers against the #1 Michigan Wolverines

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Fans, analysts and (surely) the teams themselves have had this one circled all season.

Indiana and Michigan were projected to be the Big Ten’s two best teams before the beginning of the 2012-13 college basketball campaign, and each has held true to form — even if in inverse order to this point.

And at 9 p.m. today, the Hoosiers and Wolverines — both with 7-1 Big Ten marks — will go at it for sole possession of first place in the conference in Assembly Hall.

The No. 3 Hoosiers have won 14 of the last 15 home games against the Wolverines, who are No. 1 for the first time since the infamous “Fab Five” squad, but this unquestionably is the most talented roster Michigan has had since Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King were causing sparks to fly in all directions in Ann Arbor.

How does Indiana win tonight?

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Trey Burke leads Michigan in upset over Ohio State

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Trey Burke and Jared Sullinger were best friends growing up, and they both attended Northland High School in Columbus, Ohio. But on Saturday night, they were playing against each other, and it was all business.

Despite having won midweek at Minnesota, Sullinger and the Buckeyes came into Saturday’s night matchup in Ann Arbor needing a win in order to stay within striking distance of conference leading Michigan State, and more importantly, to stay in contention for a NCAA Tournament 1-seed. OSU had won six straight against the Wolverines, including a 15-point drubbing at Value City Arena on January 29.

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ESPN’s College Gameday Travels to Ann Arbor for Michigan-Ohio State game Saturday

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Roughly five months ago, ESPN’s College Gameday graced the Michigan campus with its presence and played host to one of the most exciting games ever witnessed at the Big House. It was the first night game in the stadium’s history, and Notre Dame was the selected opponent for first-year head coach Brady Hoke’s first big test.

The Maize and Blue lived up to the hype, topping the Golden Domers, 35-31, thanks to a last-minute touchdown pass by star quarterback Denard Robinson.

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ESPN College GameDay Likely Visiting Madison for Wisconsin/Nebraska Game


According to Benjamin Worgull of Badgernation.com, there’s a “99 percent chance,” of ESPN College GameDay visiting Madison for ABC’s primetime match-up between the #6 Wisconsin Badgers (3-0) and #9 Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-0).

The game will mark the Cornhuskers’ first-ever Big Ten game and it will most likely be the only match-up in the country between top-ten teams next week. [Read more…]

Watch Iowa OL Julian Vandervelde on ESPN College Gameday Tomorrow

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Iowa Hawkeyes senior OL Julian Vandervelde will be featured on Saturday’s ESPN College Game Day show preview show.  The feature is expected to air at approximately 9:30 a.m. CT/ 10:30 ET on the weekly college football preview program.

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Michigan State versus Illinois Preview, Predictions

By Jeff Ghiringhelli, feat. the two Pauls

Photo’s courtesy of Illinois Loyalty.com (be sure to check out that awesome website!)

There always seems to be an added excitement around campus when College Gameday comes to town. Even those that do not follow sports very closely know that there must be a big game. Tonight’s clash pitting Michigan State against Illinois is no exception.

All of a sudden, it appears as though a Big Ten title being delivered to East Lansing is no longer a foregone conclusion. An 18-point loss at Wisconsin was bad enough, but to make matters worse Spartan team leader and point guard Kalin Lucas went down in the second half with a sprained ankle.

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Fridays with Izzo:Free Throw Contest vs. Bruce Weber

By Paul M. Banks

Welcome to a new quasi-weekly feature where we discuss some of the biggest topics in the Michigan State Spartan world, including the insight and observations of legendary MSU coach Tom Izzo. This installment highlights his charity free shooting contest against close friend, and Illinois Head Coach, Bruce Weber.

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Connections, Nepotism Brings ESPN College GameDay to Champaign Saturday

By Paul M. Banks

Once again the old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” rings true.

This time it’s applied to ESPN’s location selection process for broadcasting their national college basketball pregame show. From 2003-07 Illinois had MORE WINS than any program in the nation. But ESPN College Gameday never visited once (not even during the Champaign Campaign season of 2004-05, when the Illini tied the all-time record for single season victories).  But tomorrow “ESPN College GameDay Driven by State Farm” will broadcast live from the University of Illinois prior to the prime-time basketball matchup between the Fighting Illini and Michigan State. UI is one of just eight universities chosen by ESPN, out of 343 Division 1 basketball programs, for a live GameDay broadcast this season.

So it’s finally happened for the Illini! Unfortunately, it’s in a year that’s actually been very disappointing for the orange and blue. The Illini find themselves on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble and not even remotely close to a national ranking. So why this year? Because the school has the right connections.

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Northwestern-Stanford Live Blog

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By Paul M. Banks

No Sideshow Bob, no problem. With Stanford’s Disney movie-loving Lopez twins (You know, Brook and the guy who looked like Sideshow Bob, or maybe Robin is the one with the hair I might have gotten them confused) now graduated, I think this is the year the Cats nip the Cardinal.

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Northwestern-Notre Dame Private School Battle for Chicago’s Heart

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By Paul M. Banks

Welcome to the Chicago Invitational Challenge Live blog day one. It’s both an invitational and a challenge. Not just an invitational, nor merely a challenge, or tournament. But a challenge and an invitational. The fun started at noon today with the mid-majors going at it, but the action ramps up with Iowa St. vs. Saint Louis. Where it’s currently 30-27 ISU.

This is actually a pretty good undercard bout as the Cyclones boast two players who have a very high chance of going in the first round of the NBA Draft: forwards Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap. And SLU has former ESPN analyst and coaching legend Rick Majerus at the helm. He’s spent most of the first half here at the UIC pavilion pacing back and forth in front of me. And at approximately 7:30 we’ll move on to the main event, the title fight, Notre Dame-Northwestern, the battle between two of Chicago’s most beloved private schools. Never mind the fact that ND is a longer drive from the Second City than Champaign, and in another state and time zone from Chicago, this will truly be a match-up between two Chicago teams. Here at the “Chicago Invitational Challenge”

In the words of the Black Eyed Peas, “Let’s get it started in here! Let’s get it started in HAAAHHHHH!”

ISU-SLU 41-31 14 min left.

Attendance here is…a bit sparse. As are pretty much all holiday tournaments. Mostly because everyone plays on an out of town neutral court, so it’s harder to get people to travel. But  that’s truly a shame, as some of the basketball that’s played at these things is about as good as you’ll find all season. It’s still early, I’m guessing more people will come for the battle between “the two schools full of private snobs, and elitists,” or whatever people say to deride these two schools with a very high tuition. After my experience at the Bears game earlier this month, and at every Cubs game I’ve ever attended, I think elitist and snob is a complement. Pro sports, or at least the people who ended up sitting next to me at Cubs and Bears games, could learn a thing or two from the “snobs” and “elitists”. Maybe that’s why I like college sports so much better than the pros, less people on parole (or will be someday) in the stands next to you.

Or simply Bears fans are utterly disgusting sometimes…then again you heard what a Notre Dame fan did to Jimmy Clausen. And from what I hear, Clausen provoked him. Gives a new meaning to the term “Fighting Irish.”

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If I knew how to photoshop, I would put Clausen’s head on the leprecaun, with two black eyes, and have him lying on his back.

alright enough with the distractions, Iowa St. has opened a bigger lead on the Billikens now, and they’re threatening to turn this into a route. Both teams are undefeated and unranked currently, but the ‘Clones are the only team that looks like they should be ranked right now. Reigning Big 12 player of the week Craig Brackins leads the way with 15 pts so far, ISU 56-SLU 43, 4 min to go.

Iowa St. Head Coach Greg McDermott sums up the last game perfectly, “we found a way to win an ugly game, we finally got our offense in rhythm during the 2nd half.” Exactly ISU wins the 65-54. After falling behind in the 2nd half, the Cyclones stopped the Billikens on 9/10 offensive series.

Craig Brackins was a fun interview subject, one of the reporters asked him about his Tweets today. I hyperlinked his Twitter if you want to follow him, but he has to approve each and every one of his followers. If I were him, or in his situation, I would do the same. A lot of weirdoes out there, especially on online.

I have to admit I like the ND band. They play more original music, like Jimmy Buffett “Fins” and Styx “Come Sail Away”.

ND owns the series over NU 63-23-1. and this is their first meeting since 1984, which the Irish won by about 20.

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I hope this game moves at a much higher tempo than the last one. So far, not so much. ND leads 5-4 with 16:10 left in 1st half. So far they seem to be owning the paint on both ends. Stats would not exactly confirm that, but they’re using the superior size and more athletic bigs to intimidate the Cats from getting down low. I think that’s why Bill Carmody started Kyle Rowley tonight. He’s the biggest guy on the roster, even though he’s…well he’s far from leading the team in minutes per game for a good reason.

Northwestern takes their first lead on a Juice Thompson field goal, 9-8 with 13 min left in half. Now that Minnesota has knocked off Butler, NU’s lone loss this season looks a bit worse than it did before Wednesday. That said, they can redeem themselves here by giving #23 Notre Dame their first loss of the season. Good defense in this game so far, and bad shooting at both ends.

TSB readers know what I think of Tyler Hansbrough, well tonight I get to watch his little brother Ben, a two guard for the Irish. A good excuse to put my all time favorite Tyler H. pic. even though I loved Beeker from the muppets, so I hate doing that to Beeker.

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Shooting getting uglier, but Northwestern takes a 16-10 advantage with just udner 8 min left in half. 6 pts in a game like this is…15 I guess. And what I mean by that is if you lose a game 90-82. that’s a much closer game and a lot better effort than say a 58-50 game. Seriously, the margin is the same, but it makes a difference trust me. We need a scale for this. we need a stat to measure this.

When NU forward/center Luka Mirkovic took and missed a turnaround baseline jumper, I heard someone on the NU coaching staff say “what the hell”? classic.

Even better than Rick Majerus tell one of his players “you gotta watch the f–king press” right in front of me last game.

At another timeout I hear that the new coach at Notre Dame, football I mean this time, will be Bob Stoops. seriously. And of course, every time you mention Charlie Weiss, a fat joke must follow. But I’m a professional, so I’ll let people in the comment threads handle that…if they so desire.

25 all with a min left in half. low-scoring like soccer here tonight.

John Shurna hits a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng three as time expires to give NU a 30-27 advantage heading to the break. Shurna is starting to maybe come into his own this year. His time spent playing with the under 19 national team is paying off. He’s made a big leap from his freshman year.

When Shurna was at the podium last year, his soft-spoken, quiet nervousness reminded me of Paulie Bleeker (the guy played by Michael Cera) in the indie smash “Juno”. They kind of look alike too. I think at least.

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So when the All-American team decided to have a “white-out,” naming 3/5 Caucasian players to the first team, for no inexplicable reason, Luke Harangody received more votes than any other player in the nation. The nation? are you serious? the nation’s best player? as Duke Vitale, whoops I meant to say Dick Vitale would say ARE YOUUU SERRIOUSSSSSSSS??!!!!

I just don’t see it. I know this hasn’t exactly been Harangody’s best half ever, as he’s 3-9 shooting for 7 pts so far. Shurna leads the game with 14 pts on 5-10 from the floor. Still I don’t see what all the Harangody hullabalooza is all about.

On the strength of two Juice Thompson 3 pt FGs, NU leads 41-38 with 15:27 to go. You knew the Juice would start hitting those sometime, and that time is now.

I still love the ND band, their 80s music choices are killer. Just heard the “A Team” theme after some “867-5309 Jenny”

46-38 Northwestern now with 13:55 left. A big Jeremy Nash 3 pointer right after a Juice Thompson drive to the hole. The Juice is indeed loose.

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If you believe in “halftime adjustments” and I sure do, then Carmody really has made some great adjsutments in the locker room. Cats lead 50-38 with 11:42 left. Upset alert?

Yes, very much upset alert. The Irish can’t seem to find a way to consistently solve NU’s smothering defense.

Hi drama here as NU’s lead gets all the more slimmer. 57-51 just over 5 minutes to play.

Usually a coach should be happy when one of his players makes a 3. But on Alex Marcotullio’s last 3 bomb, which he made. Carmody looked about as dejected and frustrated as a coach can look.

61-56 Cats 1 min to go. The upset is a brewing, remember in 1995 when no one gave NU a chance to beat ND in football, and they won 17-15 sending shockwaves throughout the sports nerd world? Some dude here has a shirt with that score on it today, and they showed him on the jumbotron!

Jim Phillips, CEO of Northwestern’s Athletic Program Part 1

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By Paul M. Banks

In 2008-09, Chicagoans became well aware of how Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, along with team Vice President John McDonough re-branded the Blackhawks from red-headed stepchild to main event on the Second City’s sports stage. Forbes named them the biggest turnaround in sports business history. When you’re a university Athletic Director, you have responsibilities which often come quite close to matching those of a professional franchise owner.  Northwestern’s A.D. Jim Phillips is looking to be the next executive to accomplish such a feat.
“John McDonough is a close friend, I spend a lot of time with him, as well as executives from some of the other pro teams because they know the market,” Phillips said when I visited his office for an extensive interview earlier this year. Phillips went to Wrigley Field for the 2009 NHL Winter Classic, as well as several other Hawks homes games, taking in the buzz surrounding the team. “I wanted to see what they were doing to revitalize the program, and John is the architect of all that.” daleyhawksjeryse1

Phillips articulated what fundamental principles he noticed working effectively, and how he’s implementing them at Northwestern University.

“One is the fan experience; people want to be entertained, as this economy has affected everybody. I can’t control the product on the field, the wins and losses, but I can hopefully control something with the experience. Getting good tickets and finding a place to park can’t be a hassle. We can’t have a hassle at the concession stands. There has to be lots of family friendly things to do before the game, as part of a broader vision of fan experience.

“Second is target-marketing. Surely, it’s a target audience that will make a difference for us, studies have shown. Pricing is also a critical component, we held the line, and in several instances we even decreased even though other teams in the Big Ten increased their prices. Also, certainly the internet has really taken the head over the direct mail. But there’s still a huge area for that contact. When somebody from our office calls you to thank you for being a season ticket holder and asks you, was it a great experience? Did you enjoy yourself? Was it affordable, something you want to again?”

Like Rocky Wirtz, Phillips is a man of the people: greeting everybody in his path, getting involved in the community, talking in-depth with fans and media alike. He gets to know the journalists covering his team, as Phillips knows increasing awareness for his program is an essential component of his innovative marketing style.

“You certainly got to allow people to have access to your team, that’s what we’ve done with Stretch with the Cats before the spring game, autograph sessions, etc. to break down the barriers that may be real or imaginary within teams or organizations. Hopefully, we can build on the successes of the program and further that. Certainly, the last 15 years we’re third in conference in Big Ten championships behind only the Big 2, but we haven’t had a litany of success over say the past 50 years, especially in the ‘70s there were some rough times,” Phillips articulated.  northwestern

Despite the program posting a very respectable 6 bowl appearances in the past 14 seasons, they may still be haunted by the ghosts of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Wildcats failed to record a winning season from 1972-1994, including an especially putrid period in 1976-1981, when the Wildcats went 3-62-1. But encountering and conquering challenges is nothing new to Phillips.  When he served as Northern Illinois University Athletic Director, he and former Iowa AD Bob Bowlsby arranged a football game between NIU and Iowa at Soldier Field. The September 1st, 2007 match-up was a sell-out; setting a Mid-American Conference attendance record for a home football game at 61,500.

“When I signed the lease agreement at Soldier Field, my hand literally shook because of what they wanted to rent the facility and I thought: how many tickets do I have to sell in order for this thing to break even? And we did a lot more than break even, but that’s just part of being aggressive through marketing and promotions.”

What’s Your Favorite League Overall?

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By the TSB Staff

October brings the busiest time of the year for sports, and the multitude of choices might cause overload for the fan. It’s a plethora of choices on parallel with the amount of art displayed in the churches and museums of Florence, Italy. When I visited the “flowering city on the Arno River,” I was amazed by how much marble and canvas had been aesthetically crafted across the city, the multitude of options made it hard to choose what I wanted to see it first and fit it all in the time I was allotted. That’s what it currently feels like as a sports fan in autumn, especially so on the weekends. So how do you prioritize which game you want to watch? I unleashed my editorial staff to make their case for each one. –PMB

H. JOSE BOSCH:

College football is, without a doubt, the best sport in America because college football appeals to that small part of all of us that never wants to truly grow up. College football takes us back to the times when the beer was cheaper, the breasts were perkier and the days never ended; they all just blended together in one hedonistic mess.

College football has bands and student sections and cheerleaders and almost all of them are under the age of 25, which makes for a lot more fun for everyone else who is over 25. They look better, cheer better and have a lot more fun. At the best stadiums they create a toxic environment that is America’s closest answer to the mass hysteria you see in South American soccer stadiums. While bags of urine aren’t thrown on the field, bottles of urine certainly roll their way down stadium steps from time to time. And that is almost as awesome.

College football reminds us of our own football glory days. Those times in college when we tried to convince our friends that we totally could score a touchdown from five yards out if we were given four downs. Why? Because college football still seems so accessible to the former athlete. We went to class with these guys, ate at the same student union and went to the same parties. So many of them seemed so normal that you almost felt you could be a part of that group.

Who watches an NFL game and thinks they can compete at that level? But, for some reason, even though almost all Division I football players could easily kick our ass, we somehow believe we could hang with them if only some coach from the past had believed in us.
College football also has true upsets and underdogs. It still absolutely sucks for the favorite when they lose a game for two main reasons: without a playoff a loss can mean your national championships hopes could vanish and they don’t have the solace of a big paycheck to come home to. Oh, not to mention they have to walk around campus for a week while everyone else around the critiques why they sucked so much.

If those kinds of raised stakes aren’t enough to pump you up than you seriously have no soul.

College football is the best sport in the country. Period.

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PAUL SCHMIDT:

There’s lots of reasons to love college basketball. There’s the obvious arguments, like the college game is pure, without the obvious faults of the pro game. They always play defense in college basketball, and the wide variety of talent bases and schemes always make for intriguing game play.

There’s two things in my mind that always set college basketball apart from every other sport.  First would be the student bodies and fan bases. Quite simply, college basketball fans are the most rabid and informed of all fans. The arenas are, in general, conducive to making things as loud as possible (I say in general because if you’ve ever been to Allstate Arena, where DePaul plays, well…). Every fan base has its own crazed section: You’ve got the Cameron Crazies, the Izzone, The Paint Crew, The Orange Krush…just to name a small few.  Some stadiums you just don’t sit down.  At Florida, in one half of the stadium you wear blue, the other half orange.  In short, the crowds, the stadiums, the atmosphere and yes, the cheerleaders, all make college basketball what it is in person and at home on TV.

The second…quite obviously…is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  There is nothing quite like it in any other sport. The NCAA has even tried to re-create the same atmosphere with its other sports by holding selection show specials, and amping up the one-and-done atmosphere (most notably with the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and the NCAA Baseball and Softball College World Series’), and have only gotten into the same zip code with atmosphere and dedication of its fans once (surprisingly, the NCAA men’s hockey tournament).

Is there any greater day than Selection Sunday, with the culmination of all of the major conference tournaments, and then finding out if and where your team is going in the Big Dance?  Is there any event that really lets you feel like the little guy has a chance to win?   The NCAA Tournament is just the perfect combination of sport, marketing and opportunity.  Maybe it was all by accident — but it certainly was a happy accident.

Let’s say in the next NCAA Tournament, that a 16 seed beats a 1 seed for the very first time. That, right there has not only become the biggest sports story of the year, but one of the biggest news stories as well.  The David-vs.-Goliath story, the anything-can-happen story. The perseverance wins over all story, saying that if you work hard, and put your mind to it, that you can overcome any obstacles and achieve anything.

How many other sports do you know that can accomplish that in just one game?

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PETER CHRISTIAN

My favorite league? Come on. There’s no doubt it’s the NHL. Sure it’s run by some second rate moron who wouldn’t get in to Death Valley Community College if he applied today, and the league’s ratings suffer because the TV contracts they have are about as lucrative as an eyeball on your kneecap. However, from a pure entertainment standpoint it is the clear winner in my mind. I love all sports but hockey is the sport that clicked first for me. I’m happy watching any part of any game of hockey at any level, so it’s only natural that the league that showcases the world’s best talent is my favorite. But that’s not the only reason.

The NHL has a little bit of everything. Flashy players? Check. Gritty, hard hitting action? Check. Jump out of your seat, Holy-Shit-did-that-just-happen moments? You bet.

Hockey combines athleticism, hustle and hard work with a specific skill set that really defines the personality of its players. Hockey players on principle are guys that are extremely loyal and aren’t afraid to take or throw a punch to prove a point all while showcasing their very specific talent of being able to skate on a pair of blades that are less than a quarter inch wide while using a curved stick to handle a rubber disc on ice. Think about that for a minute. I don’t mean to take anything away from athletes of other sports, but when you really think about all that hockey players DO before they even add in the components of the game (checking, poke checks, goalies, offsides and penalties) it is quite the amazing feat.

Currently the NHL is at a tough spot because they have too many teams (from a financial standpoint) but are exactly where they need to be from a talent level. So if you focus on what’s on the ice only, you’ll be happily entertained, you’ll constantly be on the edge of your seat and you’ll get to see a good mix of scoring, hitting, fighting, strategy and world class skating.

That’s why I love the NHL.

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TOM LEA

You know that time of year when the weather changes and people start to complain about aching joints and muscle pain. Well, considering that time of year is now, at least in the Midwest, some of you probably don’t need to be reminded.

Anyway, when that time of year rolls around for me, I don’t get muscle or joint aches, I simply get the shakes. And it’s entirely because I am so pumped for the NBA season. I mean, once October rolls around and NBA preseason action starts, I am salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs at the thought of the start to the regular season. So, as I sit here and write this, a mere 9 days away from tip-off to the Cavs-Celtics game, I am doing so drenched in sweat while fighting with my hands so they stop shaking long enough to allow me to type.

Now, one may ask where I get this borderline psychotic love for a professional association that so many can’t stand. I simply respond, on TNT.

I mean, where else can you get quality play-by-play announcers and the best studio show for each and every telecast? You got guys like Barkley, Marv Albert, Kenny the Jet, the Czar and Craig Sager. If you didn’t know any better and just looked at a picture of those guys, you would think they are the stars of some VH1 celebreality show. Only they aren’t fighting for anyone’s eternal love, they are just fighting to get enough love for one night. And in Albert’s case, doing so while avoiding harassment charges.

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In all seriousness though, you have some of the most athletic human specimens in the world playing a sport that showcases their skill better than any other. When you see how high some of these guys can jump, how quick they can handle the rock and how well they act like they give a shit each and every game- it makes for high quality drama.

And when the playoffs come around, I mean, I seriously go into a 50 day love affair with my TV. I seriously don’t have a social life and any thing I do have revolves around watching the games that night. I’m beyond obsessed. So much so, that I probably need to see a therapist.

In fact, I just bought the NBA league pass for my computer, so I will have every NBA game at the very same fingertips I am writing this piece with. The thought of that is scary enough. But hell, it’s almost Halloween and I’m in that kind of mood. This is the first time I have ever done this and I am having a hard time typing right now because my hands are shaking with sheer excitement.  This season on The Sports Bank I plan on doing a weekly write-up where I will discuss the best games I saw during the week, the funniest thing I saw during the week, developments, surprises, trends, etc. I will also have a counter where I put up the games I watched and the total number I have.

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