The American Athletic Conference is not awful.
When Magical Mike Aresco decided to chase football money, and The Catholic Seven rebelling, the former Big East Conference commissioner was an easy target for jokes. After all, he spurned a proven basketball track record for football glory (and money)…with the Tulane Green Wave.
A few years removed from the formation of the AAC, as well as a newly designed Big East, and some considerable praise can be lavished on Aresco and his band of misfits. The conference’s doers of violence on grass and turf have a Fiesta Bowl, two Peach Bowls and a “national championship;” and the unpaid laborers of the hardwood have performed even better.
Bluntly put: The American Athletic Conference has quickly risen from an upstart league to one that’s far better than simply being some extra mid-major.
While I prefer discussing college basketball by using more than just two terms (mid-major, power conference), the AAC leans closer toward power conference than it does mid-major. Furthermore, if we were to talk about this with terminology I believe more accurately describes the sport — low-major, mid-major, major-conference, power conference — the American is at the very least a major conference.
People will naturally want to point to the addition of Wichita State as the biggest helping hand. And yet, it hasn’t only been the Shockers who have expedited this rise.
Cincinnati, with Mick Cronin perpetually close to having an aneurysm, is one of the better programs in the nation; Houston is a top 25 program; Memphis could Memphis its way back to relevance with one good coaching hire; SMU, had Shake Milton not been hurt, is an annual NCAA Tournament threat; special things are happening around UCF (when healthy/not often); UConn, despite Kevin Ollie’s tenure warranting the boot, has illustrious tradition and a national championship in the AAC era (an indisputable championship, unlike UCF football); and so on.
Hell, we didn’t even mention Temple and I bet you’re already all hot and bothered.
Laugh, cry, giggle at the league that’s not a traditional power like a Pac-12 or SEC, yet the AAC has earned its place as something we should take seriously. Something that’s a net-positive for shooty hoops.
Grayson Allen Overcame A What Now?
This is not to pile on one specific college basketball personality, but we need a launch point for a conversation that is being had on planet Earth.
Grayson Allen isn't perfect. But he took everything the world could throw at him, and he persevered. It's fitting that after four years he is leaving Cameron a winner. Great great career.
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 4, 2018
First sentence is solid. Not a soul is perfect. As for everything that came after, holy smokes, Batman! We have ourselves a strange narrative to push.
The world didn’t toss anything Allen’s way. No one outside of his own being made him trip opponents, throw tantrums on the bench, or look like Ted Cruz.
Okay. It isn’t his fault he looks like Cruz.
Anyway, Seth Davis is not the only important college basketball media member who does this sort of tomfoolery, nor is it only limited to white guys who play for the Duke Blue Devils. It works in various ways, with some people preferring to operate using negative, unsolicited slander as a backdrop for conversation.
Dan Dakich likes to call unpaid laborers selfish without having any proof; Dick Vitale — as long as you’re his friend — will protect a coach at all costs; Seth Greenberg likes to generalize an entire generation of players he hasn’t been coaching for six years; etc.
We cover college basketball poorly. Myself included, as I often use keywords like “children” for impact when discussing the negatives of the labor exploitation organization known to most as the NCAA.
Placing a higher standard of conduct on the teenagers than we do the adult coaches, while making sure we force professional vernacular in the confines of a national league that pretends the players are nothing but amateurs, I wish we did better.
If — theoretically speaking — players were paid, the negative stuff a Dakich or Greenberg sometimes say would be fine. It comes with the territory. Under this guise of student-athlete, which both Dakich and Greenberg champion, it is unsettling that people feel so easy calling into question a teenager’s character.
Is Marvin Bagley selfish? The hell if anyone actually knows, but there’s no proof or evidence hanging around to bring up that he might be in the first place. To do so, to not even dig but simply say it, that person must really want to have a different take for the sake of having one.
He’s a high usage player who is sometimes a liability on defense. When he’s injured, other Duke players are, of course, going to have better counting-stats, as Bagley’s usage rate then needs to be spread throughout the rest of the roster.
This is not difficult to figure out.
Barring inside information, in which Dakich has none, it is irresponsible to call a player selfish.
You can have plenty of basketball conversations around Bagley — his defense or need for the high usage to be effective — all of which never questions his character.
Wait… what were we talking about again?
Allen could have taken the path of least resistance and turned pro last spring. He came back for all the right reasons. He showed his true character. Give the kid his due, even if you don't want to.
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 4, 2018
The right reasons?
Let’s be Camp Crystal Lake clear:
(We have now entered Camp Crystal Lake. Proceed at your own risk)
Whatever “reason(s)” a player returns or goes pro is the “right” one because it is that player’s life and not ours. We love telling other people what to do with their lives. Hooray, us experts in other people’s lives. Unless the wrong people were in the player’s ear, giving him nefarious advice, there are only right reasons for doing whatever.
Aside: Most of my squad died during the Suicide Mission in Mass Effect 2 (RIP Jack and Miranda). The reasons for that happening were apparently my wrong choices. In turn, there are exceptions to the aforementioned reasons rule of law.
I don’t know what Allen’s true character is. At the same time, I’m certainly not here to rag on him in any form or fashion. He didn’t get in as much trouble this year, has had a solid season, and his four years with the Blue Devils should be celebrated…
IN TERMS OF BASKETBALL!
Davis doesn’t know Allen’s true character either, for what it is worth. Access or not, no one ever really knows another person, especially when the relationship isn’t friend-to-friend or family-to-family. Whatever version of Allen Davis has interacted with over the years is vastly different than the sort Allen has had with non-media members.
Again, this is all part of the issue. We can 100 percent celebrate Allen in terms of basketball (ITOB?). We DO NOT need to have this weird infatuation with everything in sports becoming a morality play.
A redemption story Grayson Allen is not. He’s a good basketball player on one of the best basketball programs in the history of the sport. Like the Blue Devils themselves, Allen is polarizing, often judged too harshly, while also being given a blind pass by those who honestly believe whatever has been happening in Durham the last few decades transcends sports.
Remember, kiddos- college basketball, its players, and those who coach it, are just people who are operating within the realm of sportsball. That is, literally it. None of the people involved need to be elevated to the point where we discuss them in terms usually reserved for mythological figures.
Coach K isn’t Zeus and Grayson Allen isn’t Hercules. I promise. I also swear that it is OK it’s that way.
Otherwise, we will continue to pretend to act in shock when “leaders of men” like Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo fail to live up to this weird, other-worldly standard. If we can simply accept sportsball doesn’t inherently make a person a better member of the human species, we’d all be so much better off.
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