OJ’s Mayo : The End Of The Affair

May 13, 2008

There is a point in any vacation when the undeniable pull of reality begins to weigh heavier than the call of leisure, and no amount of spa treatments, in-room movies, or overpriced mojitos is going to make the looming spectre of Monday morning any less forboding. The same holds true with blog sabbaticals, such as the one we’ve taken for the last month. As we sat on the hypothetical lanai of our virtual timeshare, enjoying our cyber vacation in the wake of the NCAA Final and the symbolic end to the college basketball season, we knew something would interrupt our reverie and draw us back into the blogging fray, Buzz Bissinger be damned. Maybe it would be the arch ceremony of the NBA draft. Maybe Bobby Knight would take a job coaching the Lady Blue Devils. Maybe Eric Musselman would update his blog/resume to include that summer he spent as the hot dog-eating coach at Camp North Star.

 

But in what feels like a fait accompli conclusion to the O.J. Mayo Era at USC, the school and player justified our decision to follow them this season by providing the most inevitable story in college basketball short of Kelvin Sampson seeking treatment for cell-phone addiction. To recap, former Mayo confidant Louis Johnson told ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” that Rodney Guillory, mentor/father figure to Mayo, had given money and gifts to the hoops phenom for years, most of which was financed by high-powered agent Bill Duffy’s BDA Sports. The story includes a Ronnie Lott-owned car dealership in Tracy (the Central Valley’s Oakland to Stockton’s San Francisco, no compliment intended for either), and visits to the Red Lobster in Inglewood and a store called Men’s Land in Carson. The Profumo Affair this was not.

 

Unfortunately there is no entertainment to be derived from this sordid affair, at least until a sex tape of Keena Turner and the tall, ugly Kardashian sister somehow emerges. Besides the sheer inevitability that the coupling of USC and a fatherless, suggestible prep phenom would produce, the story has a cast of characters as utterly irredeemable as that of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”. Guillory’s role as head villain is cemented by his having a credit card for a seemingly phony charity for sickle-cell anemia (if not for his expensing a meal at Red Lobster). USC and head coach Tim Floyd, whose office Guillory sat in as Mayo’s letter of intent was being faxed, have just about exhausted their supply of Faustian bargains. Duffy, thus far relatively and strangely absent from criticism, was either directly funding Guillory or had a gross lack of organizational oversight. As for Johnson, despite his self-flagellation and penance on ESPN, it’s pretty clear that had he not been frozen out of Mayo’s inner circle, his whistle never would have been blown. In fact, it could be said that the most innocent character in this mess is O.J. Mayo himself, which is not meant to exonerate him any more than it is to say that Rodrigo was more innocent than Iago.

 

And so our look at a tumultous year in the life of a basketball phenom comes to an ignominious conclusion. For Mayo, this should matter little. Ironically, just two days ago ESPN’s Chad Ford reported that Mayo’s draft stock was rising as NBA teams, “are reporting that their background checks are coming back as positive for Mayo”. USC will either continue operating as the most well-paying college program in the country or finally collapse under the weight of the Mayo and Reggie Bush scandals. And somewhere in Inglewood, a lonely man will weep into his Buffalo Shrimp as his expense card is denied.

 

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OJ’s Mayo – Best Friends Forever

February 18, 2008

Opponent: UCLA 

Result: Loss, 56-46 

Stats: 4 pts. (2-8 FG, 0-0 FT), 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 10 (yes, 10) turnovers 

The truth about college basketball and its hold on the general public is that it is a transient thing. For all of the holiday tournaments and inherent tradition of the conference schedule, the sad fact is that most viewers have two basic questions when watching a college hoops game: “How will this team do in the NCAA Tournament?” and “How will these players do in the NBA?” They want to be able to say that they picked UConn for the Final Four because they saw them dismantle Marquette in January. They want to know who can solve their NBA team’s problems at the point, and say they saw him when. Although we here at Pyramid of Excess obviously appreciate the implications of a mid-season Creighton/Southern Illinois game ourselves, we understand. It’s a crowded entertainment world and you have barely enough time as it is to catch up on the latest Maroon 5 album (Here’s a tip to save your time – it sucks). 

It would be tempting to say that last night’s game went a long way towards answering both of those questions regarding USC and O.J. Mayo. For Mayo, this was easily the worst game in his young career. He struggled squarepegs1.jpgto get his shot off, made terrible decisions with the ball, and didn’t get to the foul line once, an unforgivable sin for a scorer like him. Part of this was due to the absence of starting point guard Daniel Hackett, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his back much more slowly than he did that pre-season “elbow” from Mayo’s fist. With Hackett out, more of the ball handling and distribution duties fall on Mayo’s shoulders, and thus far he is responding with all of the aplomb of Sofia Coppola in “The Godfather III” (though we trust with more sexual chemistry vis-à-vis Andy Garcia). Part of it was due to the defense of Russell Westbrook, not only UCLA’s most athletic players but one of the most athletic players in the country. But to say that Mayo is any less of a prospect based on this one game is unfair. As everyone but John Hollinger knows, Mayo not only is not a true point, he really hasn’t been asked to do this very much, at least not at the college level. His prospects as an NBA offguard should no more be judged by his work as a point than should Coppola’s performance as a dead fish be a barometer of her directorial acumen. 

The game probably did go further towards answering the question of the Trojans’ Tournament prospects, but even that is still subject to Hackett’s availability for the rest of the year. With Hackett, this team can be a destructive bracket spoiler. They would have a true point, scoring wings in Mayo and Dwight Lewis, and extremely athletic big men in Taj Gibson and Davon Jefferson. They also have a pretty darn good coach, no mayohackett1.jpgmatter that he seems to dress with Brian Fantana’s hand-me-downs, and one who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for teaching defense. Playing what is rightfully considered one of the best defensive teams in the country, USC played an exceptional defensive game themselves. They forced UCLA to run the clock out or take bad, hurried shots on numerous occasions, and surprisingly did it without any of Tim Floyd’s usual junk defenses for most of the game. But frankly without Hackett this is a team that may struggle to even reach the Tournament, and it’s not just that they miss him as their primary ball-handler. The USC rotation with Hackett was pretty thin already, with only about 7 guys getting regular minutes. Take one starter away from a team with that little depth and you’re Tournament toast. Mayo will bounce back from this game and USC could still have a Tournament future, but strangely the immediate future of both is going to be determined by the one guy least happy about the O.J. Mayo era.


OJ’s Mayo – The Herschel Walkers Of College Basketball

January 23, 2008

Opponent: UCLA 

Result: Win, 72-63 

Stats: 16 pts. (5-12 FG, 4-5 FT), 1 rebounds, 4 assists 

It is always tempting to make far too much out of a high-profile upset in college basketball, particularly when the victor has been looking for a reason to feel good about itself while the hoopserati (Screw it, I’m making that up, just remember where you heard it first when Seth Davis is dropping it in March.) has been looking for chinks in the armor of the upsetee. So apparently we are finally seeing the true face of a burgeoning power in USC while UCLA couldn’t, in the words of my dad, “hit the broad side of a barn”. But as we sat watching that game, sandwiched between fat, alcoholic chainsmokers in a sportsbook in Reno, the fat, alcoholic, chainsmoking capitol of the West, we couldn’t help but think that if anything, this game confirmed what we have been saying about both teams all along. 

Yes, USC finally looked like a team. Our man OJ was monk quiet in the first half before helping to lead the second half charge. Freshman-in-name-only Davon ali-larter2.jpgJefferson was obviously the key to the game, a big man with too much athleticism for UCLA’s big men. Taj Gibson showed more than a pulse, while Daniel Hackett was almost unnoticeable, which, like an NHL defenseman, is one of the best things you can say about a college point guard. But the reason the Trojan win didn’t exactly shock as much as mildly surprise us is that their performance wasn’t entirely unexpected. We’ve been saying since we started the OJ watch that anything, ANYTHING, could happen with this team – they could go to the Final Four or they could incite an oncourt intra-squad brawl. The supposed dissing by Josh Shipp seems to have (some would say sadly) provided the long sought after motivation for the Trojans to finally play as a team. Not only did USC utilize its considerable athleticism to run the Bruins into the ground, they also played with the most purpose we’ve seen from them on the defensive end. And frankly none of this means shit to us, because even Sybil had her good days. So although the win Saturday was a nice confirmation of their potential, we don’t expect it’s the last we’ve heard of either the “What’s wrong with the sullen Trojans?” or “Athletic USC finally playing as a team” headlines. 

As for the Bruins, the game was both an anomaly and an illustration of our worst fears. Although this was one of their poorer defensive efforts, it was bad shooting that did them in. Not all of that can be chalked up to USC’s bricklayer2.jpgdefense. It wasn’t just Luc Mbah a Moute (an argument for coming out early if there ever was one) bruising the rim from outside, the Bruins missed a lot of easy shots inside. Just not their day? Well, yes and no. It’s doubtful UCLA will have another game where they misfire this badly, but they have not shown a great ability to put anyone away beyond the Portland, Youngstown, and Idaho States of the world. They still have done nothing to assuage our concern that the one thing they lack is a true offensive killer. Josh Shipp looks it at time, but he’s no Arron Afflalo let alone Reggie Miller. Kevin Love is the inside scorer Ben Howland has been looking for, but he was reduced to chucking up 3s at the end of Saturday’s game, which USC must have looked at as a late Christmas present. The Bruins fate as national champs may be determined by sophomore Russell Westbrook, who as the Bruins’ most athletic player has mixed in transcendent performances with wildly erratic ones, as witnessed by his 2-11 day against the Trojans. The funny thing is that there seems to be much less, if not any, slack cut for UCLA as their young stars (Love, Westbrook) continue to develop and blend in with the upperclassmen. Who knows, this very well could be a team whose best has yet to come. 

The one conclusion that can be jumped to as a result of Saturday’s contest is that it may have been the watershed game in what is shaping up as the Year of junkyard21.jpgthe Junk Defense. Mad scientist Tim Floyd has led the charge, throwing out 1-3-1 and triangle-and-2 defenses to nearly topple Memphis State earlier in the season, a defense so effective that Bob Huggins took a break from his busy day of academic counseling to call Floyd and use it to beat Marquette. The junk defense seemed to confound UCLA at times on Saturday, but it remains to be seen what this all means. While some things in basketball just go in and out of style, up-tempo is the hottest style of play in the NBA but no one in college hoops even remotely resembles 1988 Loyola Marymount, the junk defense preys on teams who have only one or two offensive threats. Given that this pretty much describes most teams in the one-and-done era of college basketball, this may be just the beginning of the Age, rather than Year, of the Junk Defense. Still we doubt that its efficacy can persist through the latter stages of the Tournament, and by late March it will be as distant a memory as Clemson.


OJ’s Mayo – Man And Superman

January 4, 2008

Opponent: Cal 

Result: Loss, 92-82 

Stats: 34 pts. (12-21 FG, 7-10 FT), 3 rebounds, 3 assists 

It is a particular kind of deal with the devil that college basketball coaches make homer04.gifwhen hitching their wagon to a high school phenom who has no business being in school. On one hand a truly exceptional player can make even the worst coaches, Rick Barnes for instance, look like they know what they’re doing and buy them a few more years before they’re run out of town by torch-wielding alumni. On the other hand, lean too much on your freshman superstar and you run the risk of alienating the rest of the team. You know, the team you’re going to have to coach next year. Of course, a team of smart players realizes that there’s a superstar in their midst and recognizes their role in making the team better, and even a coach as dim as Rick Barnes eventually has to wise up and do everything he can to get him the ball. 

And therein lies the rub for USC. The problem Tim Floyd, a much better coach than Barnes, has is that he has a team of outstanding athletes, they’re just not smart or willing enough to recognize that at the very best they are going to be second fiddle on their team. Much has been made of the inordinate number of shots that OJ Mayo has taken for his team, but after watching him several times on TV and seeing him in person last night, it’s clear that if anything USC needs to get the ball in his hands more often. Mayo was fairly efficient from the field, only othello-iago1.jpgonce or twice did he force a shot. Those rare moments were more than outweighed by the instances where he dearly wanted to go it alone before thinking better of it and deferring to his teammates, as if suddenly chastened by the subconscious voice of his coach, or the sullen glare of his point guard. 

More than that though, Mayo is simply the best player on the court when he is on it. Few people were willing to scold Kevin Durant for taking so many shots last season, and indeed still don’t now that he’s chucking in Seattle, but the truth is that he attempted a greater percentage of his team’s shots (34%) than Mayo is (31%). That’s not to say that Mayo is Durant, he’s not, but he’s at least a great enough playmaker that the offense should be running through him. Defenses would surely have to start doubling him, meaning that even Taj Gibson, an outstanding freshman last year who now seems utterly lost, would suddenly find themselves with a lot more breathing room. Alas, isolation plays, so ubiquitous in the NBA, are considered untoward in the college game, where the only person that ever kept Michael Jordan under 20 points a game is still Dean Smith. 

It’s not an easy position for Tim Floyd to be in. He still has a talented core of players who will be playing for him long after OJ Mayo is sharing an uncomfortable left-behind.jpghandshake with David Stern. But so did Rick Barnes, it’s just that his remaining players were good with the role they played with Durant, and are likely even more pleased with the one they play without him. Not to mention that the Longhorns probably didn’t despise each other. In a telling sign, prior to pre-game introductions last night the Bears were assembled in a giant group hug while on the other side of the court the Trojans were scattered around awkwardly like some party where no one knows each other. They’d be a great farm team for the Knicks. USC is confounding. There’s enough overall talent to give just about anyone a run on the right night, but until they warm up to each other, and wise the hell up, their stay in the Tournament will be a short one.


What We Saw Last Week, What We’re Looking Forward To This Week

December 18, 2007

What we noticed last week when we weren’t wondering who’s been getting the Rankin/Bass residuals for the last 40 years:

  • I don’t know if anybody woke up Sunday morning next to anything as regrettable as Rick Pitino. Well maybe Evan Rachel Wood, but manson1.jpgthat’s it. It’s fugly for Louisville right now. They dearly miss David Padgett, the kind of dirty work guy no one appreciates until he’s gone (much like Chris Penn, god rest his soul). His and the shorter term injury to banger Juan Palacios have affected the team, but more like a nagging cold, whereas the continued petulance of leading scorer Derrick Caracter has affected them more like an open, festering head wound. Still, should they get just a couple of those bodies back and survive the Big East regular season, the Cardinals will be an excellent buy low candidate come March.
  • Arizona State, on the other hand, woke up Sunday morning feeling pretty good about themselves, but that’s par for the course when you go to a school with warm weather, loose attractive women, an endless supply of ecstasy, and lax academic standards. The scary thing about the Pac-10 is you have three teams that are locks for the NCAA Tournament (UCLA, Washington State, Arizona), two that are near locks (Oregon, USC), and four more that are anywhere from probable to possible (Stanford, ASU, Cal, Washington). Doubtful that they can send nine teams to the Tournament, so likely there needs to be a litmus test for postseason eligibility, such as losing to Oregon State.three_stooges_doctor_small.jpg
  • Completely off subject, former Tonya Harding bodyguard Brian Sean Griffith, formerly named Shawn Eckardt, Griffith died last Wednesday at age 40, “of natural causes, according to the Washington County medical examiner’s office.” Natural causes, at 40. The Washington County medical examiner has a fairly broad definition of “natural causes”, having last appeared on the national radar when they found that Kurt Cobain was killed by a naturally occurring bullet in his head.

 What we’re looking forward to this week between shots of tequila nog:

  • Santa Clara at Stanford, Wed. 12/19 – A matchup of two insufferable Bay Area schools. Ask yourself this: have you ever met someone from Stanford and you didn’t know they went to Stanford within five minutes of meeting them? We didn’t think so. One guy I went to grade school and high with went to Stanford and he never stopped talking about it. In a fitting bit of poetic justice, he was last seen james_spader2.jpgworking at our hometown Blockbuster. As for Santa Clara, remember the old Onion “Second Hand Smoke Increases Second Hand Coolness” article? Santa Clara kids employ the same logic, concluding that thanks to their school’s proximity to Stanford the two are somehow academically equitable. Another acquaintance and SCU alum intimated years ago how much he liked watching the Cardinal get beat because they were the Broncos’ greatest rival. If he meant rival for reservations at a Palo Alto Buca Di Beppo he’d be right. Take two parts Stanford smugness and one part 4 year Jesuit college stupidity and you get the typical Santa Clara student. Steve Nash is a notable exception. The game marks the return of Brook Lopez, but may be better known Friday morning for Santa Clara, a sneaky threat in the WCC to Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, upsetting the Cardinal.
  • Gonzaga at Oklahoma, Thurs. 12/20 – Upset Alert #2. The 18th ranked Zags will have to work very hard to get out of Norman unscathed. The Zags will have to contend with a tough Sooner squad and rangy center Longar Longar, perhaps the only possible challenger to Folarin Campbell (see 11/28 post) for best name in college basketball. But this may end up being the showcase for Sooners forward Blake Griffin, probably the most underexposed freshman in the year of overexposed freshmen. It’s a sportswriting cliché to say so-and-so power forward would make a great tight end, but I’d bet Griffin could suit up next Sunday and drop less balls than Vernon Davis.
  • Duke at Pitt, Thurs. 12/20 – The “hey let’s go to Reno” of this group, Pitt-Duke will be either the best or worst matchup of the week. One thing’s for certain, when announcers try to rationalize the validity of December basketball with bullshit comments on how early wins and losses affect tournament seeding while you’re watching Maryland-Boston College, this game actually could, and should, come back to haunt one or the other. Not that that’s really added incentive.
  • Tennessee at Xavier, Sat. 12/22 – The overall impression of this way-too-highly ranked Vols team is about as enthusiastic as the response you’ll get from anybody who has seen “I Am Legend”, but we’re willing to give Bruce Pearl a little more rope than Will Smith.
  • Georgetown and Memphis, Sat. 12/22 – On a weekend of blockbusters this is undoubtedly the biggest game of the year thus far that didn’t involve Cal State East Bay playing a country we’re currently occupying.

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  • Texas at Michigan St., Sat. 12/22 – Everybody is slowly finding out how good Texas is, but this may the game we find out how good the Spartans are.

OJ’s Mayo – What Would Jimmy V Do?

December 6, 2007

Opponent : Memphis

Result: Loss, 62-58 (OT)

Stats: 16 pts. (6-20 FG, 3-3 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists

Give credit to the Trojans for taking one of the best teams in the country to the wire, even if the game was at times as pretty to look at as a festering boil. USC’s success in this game had as much to do with Tim Floyd’s crazy-ass team morale building ploy in the Anaheim Classic final (see 11/27 post) as it did with the crazy-ass junk defense he pulled out of his butt against Memphis last night. For much of the game, USC looked like a cohesive, talented unit. Floyd played three guards who can handle the ball against Memphis’ constant pressure D, and the insertion of Davon Jefferson, the only 21 year-old freshman in the country who doesn’t play for BYU, into the starting frontcourt next to Taj Gibson has made them dangerous down low.

For his part, OJ Mayo also spent 3/4s of the game again trying to prove that he can be a team player before saying fuck it. And that “aw fuck it” moment is exactly when the warts start to show for this team. The Trojans at times still have the look of a team that could be very, very dangerous in March, yet at other times have the look of a team that could be involved in a knifing incident at practice. In other words, they’ve played four weeks of the season and still seem to be the same talented tinderbox they were when we started this thing. Which I guess is why we decided to do it in the first place. You just get the feeling that something is going to happen, you just gotta hope it’s going to be on Youtube when it does.

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What else we noticed in the Jimmy V Classic:

  • Let’s put away the anointing oils for Mayo and Derrick Rose for the time being. They’re good, they’re going to be good, but they’re not Kevin Durant. And even in 2007 it’s problematic if the best freshman jump shooter in the country is a 7 footer, even if he has a Euro name. 
  • Memphis and UCLA are my two early favorites for national champs, but neither has looked particularly invincible in their last games. Like the Bruins, Memphis’ perimeter shooting isn’t as reliable as you’d like in your national championship contender, and in the Tournament one prolonged dry spell can kill you. But also like UCLA, they do have the one weapon that can compensate for offensive struggles – athletic, suffocating defense. They flat get at it. And hell, if you want to win it all you’re going to have to win these kind of ugly games at some point.
  • That’s a great win for Notre Dame, especially on a night when their usually reliable shooting wasn’t there, at least until it counted. If the Irish can break even in the Big East, we look forward to seeing them get run off the floor by some athletic low-major team come Tourney time.
  • God are we wrong so far about Kansas State; they aren’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Bill Walker is starting to show signs of life though, which along with the still beastly Beasley will be outright frightening when he is finally fully healed. But if guard play is indeed the key to March success, K State wouldn’t be able to win the play-in game right now.

Preseason Tournament Wrapup II : OJ’s Mayo – Top Dog/Underdog

November 27, 2007

Let’s imagine you’re Jermaine Jackson. Of the Gary, Indiana Jacksons, not the former NBA journeyman. You’re 10, you play bass, you sing for your brothers’ band. You have a nice voice, better than about 95% of the rest of humanity. All in all, you feel pretty lucky. Then along comes your little brother Michael, thin, a little girly, but with the voice of a thousand androgynous angels. All of a sudden you’re behind him, playing bass and getting thrown an occasional backup vocals bone. You start to feel neglected; you notice that dad spends more time berating Michael than the rest of you. Soon the band breaks up and you go your separate ways. Sure, you do ok, but mostly your life revolves around autograph sessions at The Wherehouse and occasional roles in “The Facts Of Life”. Meanwhile, Michael has sold so many albums that Tibetan sherpas know his name and is so damn rich he lawyers his way out of more felonies than any black man since O.J. Simpson.  

So what does this have to do with anything besides the fact that Joe Jackson raised the biggest family of freaks this side of “The Hills Have mcmahon.jpgEyes”? Well now let’s imagine that you’re in the 95th percentile of college basketball players, the top dog on a major D1 squad, a school like Memphis, UCLA, Indiana, a team that has now brought in a stud freshman, some punk kid who immediately usurps your status as top dog. What then? Do you stand aside, let the kid take over and try to complement him, do you disappear under his shadow, or do you wage a futile battle against the inevitable tide of second banana status?  

Obviously the first scenario is ideal, and we’ve seen it happen already with UCLA and Memphis, where their freshman phenoms are living up to the billing while the upperclassmen continue to play well. In Indiana and NC State, we’ve occasionally seen a glimpse of the second scenario. Eric Gordon has been flat-out awesome while pre-season Big 10 Player of the Year candidate D.J. White has struggled at times. NC State (watch out for this team, by the way) has one of the best freshmen not to have appeared on a magazine cover, J.J. Hickson, a beast in the paint who thus far seems to have pushed Brandon Costner out of the low block, where he has at times excelled (21 points and 3-4 from 3 against South Carolina) but at times has looked utterly lost (the Old Spice final against Villanova). As for Kansas State, they seem to be running the seldom seen offensive Box and 1 with Michael Beasley, though we’ll reserve judgement on this so far awful-looking team until Bill Walker is right. 

And then there’s USC. Having as many helpings of OJ Mayo as we did pumpkin pie and Slivovitz (family tradition) over the holiday weekend, one can’t help but be impressed. Even at this point of the season it’s apparent to everyone that Mayo is USC’s best player. Well, apparent to everyone but Daniel Hackett. Team janbrady.jpgchemistry in general may be an issue for the Trojans, at times you wonder if anybody on this team even likes each other, but it’s a lot tougher to tell that stuff live than on TV (Of course, coach Tim Floyd not starting Mayo and Taj Gibson in the Anaheim Classic final “to foster a sense of team unity” speaks volumes.) What is clear even watching them on TV, however, is that Daniel Hackett is not happy about the OJ Mayo era. Pouting at mid-court after Mayo had the audacity to take a big shot against Miami of Ohio wasn’t exactly a study in subtly.  What’s also starting to come into focus is that little preseason “accident” (see 11/18 post) Mayo and Hackett had. To paraphrase Chris Rock, I’m not saying OJ Mayo should have clocked Daniel Hackett in the jaw, but I understand. 

What else we noticed in Anaheim :

  • Want another example of how much the Trojans don’t seem to like each other? In the final against Southern Illinois, Mayo ran into a crushing screen while pressuring the ball in the backcourt. Everyone could see it coming, the players, the 12 fans in attendance, anyone watching at home. Yet apparently none of Mayo’s teammates felt the urge to tell him it was coming. Guess they didn’t want to spoil the surprise.
  • Speaking of the “fans” in attendance, we’re guessing that tournaments like Anaheim are created simply for the TV revenue, because judging from the look of things the gate wouldn’t pay for a single day of OJ Mayo’s salary, I mean education.
  • Southern Illinois is at the same weird stage of program evolution that Gonzaga was a few years ago. They’re no longer going to sneak up on someone, but they’re not quite one of the big boys. They shoot well enough and play a bruising style that can piss off a lot of teams and throw them off their game, but a squad like USC, athletic at all positions, is exactly the kind of team that’s going to give Southern Illinois problems in the Tournament.