By Mark Titus
Ed. note: This college basketball season, FOX Sports is proud to announce a brand new newsletter for all your college hoops needs.
Subscribe now and follow along as Mark Titus, a former Ohio State walk-on and co-host of the “Titus & Tate” podcast, breaks down everything you need to know about college basketball.
Read along below to get a taste of what you can expect from the mind of Titus every week, and be sure to sign up to have it delivered to your inbox! Let’s strap in …
The Opening Tip
Welcome to the inaugural FOX Sports College Basketball Newsletter with Mark Titus!
I know what you’re thinking.
A newsletter? In 2020? What’s next -– a Myspace page? I mean, my God, Titus … if you want to write a bunch of drivel that nobody is going to bother reading, why not just write another book?
Look, I get it. Reading more than a few sentences at one time is no fun. I accidentally did it the other day and I had to take the rest of the week off because my brain was so fried. I’m well aware that a third of you have already bailed and scrolled to the bottom to find the unsubscribe button, while another third of you scrolled to the bottom to first check how long this thing is before you commit to reading it. And I’m guessing the rest of you are just mindlessly moving your eyes back-and-forth across the page, waiting for something exciting like “FREE MONEY” or “DUKE LOST AT THE BUZZER TO STEPHEN F. AUSTIN AT HOME AS A 28-POINT FAVORITE” to grab your attention.
With that in mind, I’ll try not to take too much of your time. We’ll just skip the part where I was going to explain how one of my motivations behind the newsletter is to farm as many email addresses as possible so I can sell all of your information to the Russian mob, use the money to fund an AAU team where I pay all of the best players in the country to play for me, and then steer all of those players to Ohio State. Who cares about that though, right? BORING!
Here’s what we really need to talk about: This season is going to be the most absurd college basketball season of all-time. And yes, I know I said that last season, but it was true then too! Now, eight months after the most recent “wildest season ever” ended with the 2020 NCAA Tournament getting cancelled, all signs point to this being … *Chris Harrison voice* … THE MOST DRAMATIC SEASON EVER.
We are officially one week away from real life college basketball happening, and all I can really say for sure is that … uhh … I think we’re still one week away from college basketball happening? I mean, the Ivy League just hit the eject button on the entire season last week, New Mexico State announced it is moving its entire operation out of New Mexico, and the conference expected to be the best in the country this year, the Big Ten, still hasn’t released its conference schedule. Some teams are cancelling practices and games on a daily basis, some teams are set to play each other six times in a two-month span, and some teams are going to need an advanced math degree to figure out where they land in their conference standings.
And that, my friends, is why we need this newsletter. Think of this as a weekly therapy session, where all of us diehard college basketball fans can come together and laugh through the pain as this season unfolds and the threat of a second consecutive NCAA Tournament getting cancelled looms.
But what if you stumbled onto this thing and aren’t particularly a college basketball diehard? What’s the sell then? Why invest in a season that may or may not make it to the finish line?
Well, you see, that’s the deal with this great sport – the very thing that brought us to our darkest despair in March is the same thing that gives us sustenance as college basketball fans. I’m talking, of course … what’s that? Duke technically being the first team eliminated from the tournament? Wait … no! We can’t make two Duke jokes in the first section of the very first newsletter. We have to pace ourselves or else we’ll run out of gas way too quick and end up shamefully limping across the finish line.
You know, like the 2007 Duke team.
Anyway, where were we? I think I was going to make some hacky grandiose point about chaos being a double-edged sword or something. Whatever.
I’ll just drop a few bullet points to get you excited for the season and we can move on:
– Eight of the top 15 teams in the preseason AP poll (Gonzaga, Baylor, Iowa, Illinois, Creighton, Tennessee, Texas Tech, and West Virginia) have never won a National Championship, while a ninth team (Wisconsin) won their only title while World War II was still going on.
– Meanwhile, of the four biggest brands in college basketball -– Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina -– only Carolina will be better than they were last season, and that’s only because the Tar Heels were an abomination to the sport a year ago. In other words, if you hate it when the same teams win championships all the time, you just might like where this season is headed.
– Five-star recruits are freshmen at the following schools: Oklahoma State, USC, Stanford, Florida State, Texas, Howard, Arizona State, Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn. If those schools don’t stand out to you as basketball powerhouses that typically land five-stars, well, it’s probably because they aren’t.
– Mick Cronin is the head men’s basketball coach for the vaunted UCLA Bruins, and his team is not only ranked but has also been picked to win the Pac-12.
– Shaka Smart has hair.
Send me your best/funniest stories about your interactions with college basketball coaches/players and I’ll start featuring my favorite ones in the newsletter. Remember … we’re trying to all have a laugh, not ruin anyone’s life. So please make sure to conceal identities as best you can. For example, instead of using real names, you can say “an ACC coach” or “the star center for a West Coast school” or “definitely not Mark Gottfried.”
Email Titusandtate@gmail.com with your stories and maybe I’ll give out a $5 Chili’s gift card or something. I make no promises.
Big Ten Stat of the Week
The Big Ten Stat of the Week is a celebration of the best instance of a stat that attempts to highlight how great a Big Ten team/player/coach/etc. is but instead comes across as hilariously trivial. Oftentimes, this means including a million qualifiers (the only left-handed PG to bank in three straight free throws on a Tuesday night game where the outdoor temperature is between 35 and 45 degrees) and/or ridiculously arbitrary qualifiers (the only player to average 13.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, and shoot 48 percent from the right elbow).
If that explanation doesn’t make sense, maybe this tweet from Purdue celebrating their recruiting prowess will give you a good idea of what I mean.
Blue Blood Power Rankings
There’s a lot of chatter out there about who deserves to be considered a blue blood, to the extent that the criteria has never been murkier. For me, blue blood status cannot be easily attained, but it can be easily relinquished. It’s all a very fluid situation that can change in a matter of minutes.
Here’s how I see it right now:
1. The city of Indianapolis
Indianapolis has long been the gold standard for college basketball cities, and the NCAA’s latest discussions surrounding the idea of hosting the entire 2021 NCAA Tournament in the 317 area code only further supports that notion. I mean, name me another city on God’s green earth that could host an entire NCAA Tournament.
What’s that? You can actually name a bunch? Fine … In that case, name me a city that’s so obsessed with amateur basketball that they’d not only be willing to allow 68 teams full of players, coaches, and support staff to descend from all over the country in the midst of a global pandemic — but they would actually see the opportunity to do so as an enormous honor.
Kansas was the best team in the country all of last season -– one that started for the Jayhawks with Snoop Dogg and stripper poles and was supposed to end with Bill Self giving the “suck it” crotch chop to the NCAA as he climbed the ladder to cut down the 2020 National Championship nets. Unfortunately, not only were we robbed of that storybook ending, but this year’s Kansas team seems to be a step or two down from the juggernaut the Jayhawks had a season ago.
Be that as it may, I believe in the reigning Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Garrett. I believe in Bill Self, and most importantly -– I believe in the vision of Snoop Dogg throwing cash.
3. The Entire Big Ten (except Northwestern)
No single Big Ten program deserves blue blood status right now, but the conference as a whole is an absolute wagon and should be acknowledged as such. Some people are even saying the Big Ten might get 12 teams into the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Who are these people? No idea. But I’m sure they’re out there!
By the way, Big Ten Stat of the Millennium: The Big Ten has sent six different programs to the national title game since 2000, the most by any one conference. Please don’t check how many of those the Big Ten actually won.
4. Whoever Wins the Maui Invitational
Nothing gets the blood flowing through my veins quite like convincing myself that the winner of the Maui Invitational just might be the best team in the country. We’re only two weeks away from a tradition unlike any other!
I’m throwing UConn on the list only because the Huskies are back in the Big East and it wouldn’t be a proper season preview unless I did my part to get everyone excited about the idea of the old Big East being back.
Ahhhh, yes -– UConn duking it out with the likes of Butler, Creighton and Xavier. Grandpa used to tell me stories about how much those programs hated each other in the 70s, and now I get to see it for myself!
One of the staples of this newsletter will be assessing the biggest threats facing the sanctity of college basketball as we know it. Here’s where we stand today.
1. Former Kentucky Coaches
After spending an entire summer telling media outlets that he took full responsibility but also did nothing wrong, that he was retiring for good, and that THIS TIME HE MEANT IT when he said he was done doing interviews … and after spending two years in exile in Greece … Rick Pitino is once again back on a Division I basketball bench. Now Pitino will be molding the young minds at Iona College, where he has gone on record saying that he will not use this stop as a springboard to another job.
But if you thought Pitino would be the scuzziest former Kentucky coach in college basketball this year, it’s with a heavy heart that I inform you that you’re sorely mistaken. That’s because the higher-ups at Tarleton State, who were apparently living under a rock from 2007-2012 and/or do not have access to Google, hired Billy Gillispie to be their head coach as they make the transition into Division I this season. Yes, that Billy Gillispie. The one who has three DUI arrests, has a history of alleged mistreatment to players, and has been busted for violations of NCAA practice limits. Oh, by the way, he doesn’t exactly have the greatest on-court coaching resume either. In his last three Division I seasons, Gillespie went a combined 48-50 at Kentucky and Texas Tech.
Not to get too critical here, folks, but I think hiring Gillispie to do literally anything is a full blown pants-on-head stupid idea and whoever is responsible for this decision probably deserves everything they are about to have coming their way.
I don’t want to come across as a doomer but I also see no point in sugarcoating things, so let’s just acknowledge the reality before us -– there’s a chance the NCAA Tournament will again be cancelled. And yes, I know that you think that’s impossible because there’s too much money at stake and a bunch of smaller schools and conferences would go belly up without that revenue and it could be the end of college basketball as we know it and blah, blah, blah.
To that I say: Uhhhhhh … duh? That’s exactly why I’m so concerned. Of course there’s a ton of money at stake. There always has been. You think there wasn’t a Scrooge McDuck vault on the line when the tournament was cancelled in March? You think the suits at the top of the college sports machine wanted to have to choose between keeping their third vacation house or their second yacht? They didn’t cancel the 2020 NCAA Tournament because the money didn’t matter then and it suddenly does now. They cancelled it because the logistics of pulling off a college basketball tournament in the midst of a global pandemic were insurmountable. And since then, the pandemic has only gotten worse. Two of college basketball’s most prominent coaches, Tom Izzo and Jim Boeheim, recently tested positive for the virus.
I still remain pretty confident we’ll crown a national champion in 2021. For one, the NCAA finally showed some signs of being proactive when they announced on Monday that the entire 2021 NCAA Tournament would be taking place in one location rather than spread all over the country like it usually is. Also, we have a much better understanding of the virus than we did in March, and with that the cost/benefit analysis is clearer when assessing the risks associated with playing in a climate like this. Even so, I just can’t allow myself to be so naive as to think it’s impossible for COVID-19 to lead to the cancellation of another tournament, and if -– God forbid -– that happens, it would obviously destroy the very foundation of the sport to an extent that almost nothing else could.
Almost nothing else …
3. Brad Davison
OH YEAH -– HE’S BACK, AMERICA!
The man who became a household name across the country two years ago when he took five -– FIVE!!! -– charges against NC State has still not graduated.
The man who has been accused of tripping opponents, punched players in the groin (on multiple occasions), and flopped his way to numerous Wisconsin wins is about to embark on one more season in Madison. And not only that … Davison is going to be the face of a Badgers team that is ranked No. 7 in the Preseason AP Top 25 Poll and could contend for a national championship this season, which is another way of saying you’re about to see this man on your television a TON this winter.
Is now a bad time to mention that the NCAA is allowing an extra year of eligibility for winter sport athletes and Davison could theoretically return for a fifth year next season?
“Big J” Journalism Corner
The best #content of the week
There is no better content on the internet than a hastily made recruiting graphic, especially when that graphic has ten thousand schools on it. The best part of this, by the way, is that Keon Coleman is almost certainly going to end up playing football over basketball, as evidenced by 247sports.com listing him as a four-star football recruit but an unranked basketball recruit.
Scoop of the Week
The Scoop King himself Jon Rothstein sent shockwaves throughout the college basketball world this past weekend when he broke the news that two-star recruit Jaden Brownell has committed to UIC.
This, of course, was a tough break for Brownell, who was hoping to make the announcement on his own Twitter page until Rothstein unfortunately beat him to the punch by … negative eight minutes?
Well … I guess that clears up the mystery of who Rothstein’s source was.
Headline of the Week
This is actually from a little over a week ago, but it’s just too good to not be included. I present to you from the AP on November 9, 2020: Loaded Pac-12 eyeing multiple bids to NCAA Tournament
Multiple? As in more than one? So you’re saying that a power conference, who is already guaranteed one spot in the tourney by virtue of its automatic bid, is looking to secure at least one at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament as well? Well I’ll be damned.
Not-Book Club (i.e. the best thing I read this week that isn’t a book)
College basketball icon John Thompson passed away in August at the age of 78, and before he died, he apparently put together an autobiography that’s due to be out in December. Last week, The New York Times published an excerpt from the book where Thompson argues that college athletes deserve to be paid. It’s likely not going to change your opinion on the matter one way or another, but give it a read nonetheless if for no other reason than when John Thompson speaks, it’s never a bad idea to listen.
This Week In Titus & Tate
We have a jam-packed week of content on the Titus & Tate podcast, as we are in the midst of our four-part college basketball preview counting down the Top 100 Storylines entering the 2020-21 season. Parts 1 and 2 of the preview were released last week, while Part 3 was released on Tuesday and Part 4 is coming Friday. We also plan on doing an instant reaction NBA Draft bonus episode immediately after the draft on Wednesday night, so look for that on Thursday.
Oh, and one more thing: Tate and I are hosting the FOX College Hoops Preview Show with Titus & Tate on Monday, November 23 at 10 p.m. ET on FS1. We have an absolutely loaded lineup for the show, as we will be joined by the likes of Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, Bob Huggins, Mick Cronin, Dana Altman, and Fran McCaffery, as well as preseason AP All-Americans Luka Garza and Cade Cunningham. There will be a handful of other guests too, but we’ll leave those as a surprise for now.
Clear your schedule, tell your friends, set your DVR … do whatever it is you gotta do. The Duffle Bag Boys are going to be on national television for what may or may not be the last time ever!
See you next week!
For more from Titus, click here to subscribe to his weekly newsletter!
Get more from College Basketball Add to your favorites to get information about games, news and more.