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Mid-Major Love Trumps BCS Infatuation

Even when he's right, he's wrong.
Billy Packer was on Mike and Mike this morning, yearning for the good old days when freshman didn't play and bemoaning the lack of talent and continuity in college basketball now that kids can go one-and-done and head for the draft. He believed that teams don't come together like they used to because players are only out to showcase their NBA-ready talent, and the product is worse for fans because they can't have players grow on them like they once did.

Billy Packer needs to open his eyes. I know that there have been some changes since the idyllic days of John Wooden; the national media is persistently focused on star freshman like John Wall and Jared Sullinger. John Calipari is always one step ahead of the NCAA posse, and in the meantime he calls having five players drafted the "greatest day in program history" at Kentucky. That doesn't mean that the style of college ball Billy Packer misses is gone. He's just not paying enough attention to see it.

Herein lies the beauty of the basketball programs maligned as "mid-majors" by those whose living comes covering the BCS conferences. While OSU fans are rushing to embrace Jared Sullinger before he follows the path of Greg Oden before him, the programs on the tier of the national stage that X occupies have a more nuanced understanding of their players. BYU's Jimmer Fredette averaged 7 point and 18.5 minutes as a freshman; as a senior, he's a POY candidate. VCU faithful got four years of Eric Maynor, including his brilliant effort against Duke in 2007. Steph Curry scored 21.5 PPG as a freshman at Davidson, shot them to the Elite 8 as a sophomore, and still came back for his junior season.

It was a great shot though
Closer to home, Xavier develops players with four years in mind. Jason Love averaged 1.1 points in 4 minutes as a freshman; he anchored the paint last year as a senior. Tu Holloway has matured from a 3-star recruit who averaged 5.5 points with an A/TO of barely over one into a do-everything guard who is the most clutch closer in the NCAA. Jordan Crawford got the headlines last year, but where we X have been without Tu's 26 on 13 shots against UC? Everyone remembers Craw's 35-footer against K-State that gave Gus Johnson a stroke, but Tu had 26 points that game and took half as many shots.

The best examples of mid-major basketball - my basketball - are not the stars though. They're players like Dante Jackson. Dante poured them in at high school in Greenfield, but he has been asked to do almost everything but be the primary scorer at X. He brought the ball up as a freshman and sophomore, moved to the 2 with the emergence of Tu, and slid to the wing to accomodate Craw and then Cheek. His touches are limited; according to Ken Pomeroy he's never used more than 15% of the possessions he's been on the floor. His role on the offense has been mostly that of a spot-up shooter.

Love this guy.
All he has done in response is guard the other team's toughest players, refuse to surrender easy buckets, bury clutch threes, and become the emotional leader of the team. OSU fans become infatuated with a new player every year, as Thad Matta brings in five-star recruits to fill the holes left by one-and-done players; good riddance to him. When Sullinger winks and smiles drops double-doubles, Buckeye fans are infatuated. When he leaves, they move on. When Dante storms the court with the blue flag flying and neckties anyone who thinks he's not going to have to earn his points from the line, Xavier fans are in love. When he follows Kevin Frey and Stanley Burrell and BJ Raymond and 100 other Xavier players that Billy Packer has never heard of, he'll never be replaced. ESPN can keep their Super 60, I'll take five guys who bleed blue.