Yknow, I love reading Bill Simmons. Honestly. He’s funny and a good sports writer. Certainly, I don’t go to him for any sort of indepth analysis, but for more lighter things like an endless supply of 90210 references and a RainMan-esque ability to recall the 1980s Celtics, he’s the cat’s meow. Now, I don’t really know how much he loves college basketball. I know he LOVES NBA Basketball. Writes about it all the time. Endlessly? Needlessly? Who knows, but I also know that even though he loves the NFL, he doesn’t seem to know much about NCAA Football. So, maybe he similarly doesn’t know a ton about college basketball. But he sure has been writing a LOT about it recently.
And he finally took time out of his busy schedule of angrily rebuking Scoop Jackson to comment ever so briefly on the Pac-10. Here is the article. And here is what he had to say about Pac-10 Basketball.
UCLA fans are like Toronto Raptors fans: There are more of them than you’d ever think, they take every slight personally, and they’ll absolutely keep sending angry e-mails to people like me until their team is given the credit they deserve. Even my accountant Tony (a UCLA fan) sent me a mean e-mail when I didn’t mention the Bruins in Tuesday’s column, telling me in no uncertain terms, "I’m going to butcher your taxes this April unless you write something." OK, he didn’t say that. But he did tell me to move back to the East Coast if I was going to keep ignoring the Bruins. I was wounded.
Anyway, I called an audible and TiVo’ed the UCLA game Thursday night. The reason I haven’t been monitoring them is simple: the Pac-10 sucks. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. For instance, Washington State’s team looked like an intramural team of stoners who would give themselves a name like "The 420 All-Stars" — they even had one starting forward with a scraggly beard who looked like he should have been hanging out on a street corner trying to sign people up for Greenpeace. UCLA is considerably better than anyone else in that conference. Which isn’t really that interesting in the big scheme of things. That’s why I didn’t write about them yet. Here’s the most interesting thing about them in relation to last year’s team: They lost Jordan Farmar to the Lakers and they’re much better off. Why?
Because Darren Collison gets to play all the time now. In Thursday night’s road win, Collison was the dominant player on the court, even if his stats (7 points, 8 assists) didn’t reflect it. He’s an old-school point guard who controls every aspect of the game, never turns the ball over, never shows off, never even changes his expression, doesn’t give a crap about shots and only cares about running his team. Needless to say, I love the guy — his decision-making is freakishly good for college basketball. He always makes the right choice. He’s steady. And those traits carry over to that entire team — they’re just one of those well-coached, well-oiled, well-run teams that never beats itself and makes opponents pay for every mistake.
After Tuesday’s column, when I wrote the section that Texas A&M and Wisconsin were the only two blowout-proof teams in college basketball this season, some UCLA fans wondered why I didn’t include the Bruins in that group. You know what? They’re right. Nobody’s blowing out UCLA. They’re too smart and too good. Whether they have enough size to win a championship … that’s a whole other story. I say no. (One more thing about Collison: Currently he’s ranked No. 38 on Chad Ford’s Top 100, 17 spots behind Acie Law IV. That’s not a reflection of Chad — he talks to GMs and scouts, gets a feel for what they’re thinking, then makes his list accordingly. Which is fine. We already knew that NBA teams are dumb. I just know that Law and Collison will eventually be remembered as two of the better guards from this year’s draft class. Too bad there’s not a way to wager on this.)
End Simmons.Now, as I noted before he’s not exactly your go-to guy on analysis. Plus, he starts off the article about how foolish it is to write an article about another writer (which I’m doing right now!). Nonetheless, he has a VERY passionate following and people take a lot of his thoughts as gospel truth. So, here he clearly comes out and says, with no hint of regret: "The Pac10 sucks. Dont let anybody else tell you otherwise." I just wanted to comment on this clear sense of East Coast Bias (even though Simmons lives in LA, hes a diehard Bostonian (!)).
Firstly, he seems stunned that there are TONS of UCLA fans and that they are passionate. OH.MY.SCIENCE. That’s like being stunned that there are a lot of USC football fans. I mean yeah, there are a ton of bandwagoners with their clean and spiffy IHeartPete TShirts, but its also a historic program with decades of tradition situation right smack dab in the 2nd largest city in the most powerful country in the world. Also included in that massive city? The epicenter for media. Would anybody be shocked that USC has a large following of passionate fans? Why would they be similarly shocked about UCLA’s following, considering a)they were a true powerhouse under Wooden, b)they won a National Championship about a decade ago, and c)nearly won one JUST LAST YEAR!
That first thought tipped me off that maybe I should extra special LESS attention to the value of his words. Which is why I’m wasting time writing it out. Oh, logic, I miss you ever so dearly.
In classic Simmons fashion, his conclusion that the Pac10 sucks seems based on his limited viewings of things as compared to stats or other more long term things. And it basically boils down to 2 things. 1) that UCLA is head and shoulders above everybody else and 2) that Wazzu players don’t shave. That doesnt mean the Pac10 sucks, it just means UCLA is the 2ND BEST TEAM IN ALL THE LAND (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and Eastern Washington people try to hide their general unattractiveness behind a wall of caveman-esque facial hair. Who amongst us can disagree with that????
As quick analysis of the ESPN/USA and AP Top 25 shows the following rankings per conference:
5 teams: Big East
4 teams: Pac10, ACC
3 teams: BigXII (which Simmons seems to LOVE)
2 teams: BigX, SEC
and then a bunch of leagues with 1 team like WAC, Horizon, Mt. West, USA, and Missouri Valley State.
So, right now, the Pac10 (which has UCLA, Wazzu, Oregon, and USC ranked, with Arizona and Stanford also being in contention there) has tied for 2nd with most ranked teams. Im not going to go through all 64 teams on ESPN.com’s own bracketology, but they have 6 Pac10 teams making it (up to and including Stanford). Without a further analysis I cannot be sure, but I get the feeling that sending 60% of your league’s teams to the Big Dance is probably at the top if not near the top of all the NCAA leagues out there.
Now, certainly, this Bracketology isn’t set in stone and maybe we’ll only send 5 this year. And certainly Simmons isn’t exactly a very reputable source for actual, genuine knowledge. And yes I love him for all the reasons that you do. But this is the very thing people point to when they say "East Coast Bias." Maybe he doesn’t think the Pac10 is as good as the Big East or the ACC or perhaps even the BigXII. Reasonable arguments could be made for all that. But to say it "sucks."
Quickly, on Braun. This year is a mulligan, right? Because of injuries, right? Right? But next year with all the quality freshmen we have is to be the BIG YEAR, right? So, wouldn’t it make more sense to try to have a coach who is good at turning good players into great players than one who is good at turning mediocre players into good players? Just a thought. Keep tuned as Ragnarok continues through all the levels of analysis on the Braun situation. And Go Bears!