For the first time this season, I’m legitimately frustrated to be 10,000 miles away from any television showing an SU game. I hate to miss these rare opportunities to watch SU speak the basketball gospel to a godless ACC squad. Granted Georgia Tech rarely emerges as a high profile ACC representative, but any member of that conference-of-the-soulless deserves equal disdain, and missing yesterday’s game hurt.
It’s also frustrating to rely entirely on box-scores that don’t tell the whole story, and media reports that focus by necessity on the big issues and obvious narratives. Only if I had seen these first 6 games with my own eyes would I be able to understand what the real problem is with Mookie Jones (is his defense so terrible that even a team desperate for 3 point shooting can’t find a single minute for its best shooter? And if so, why? Is it a lack of effort on his part? Or is he just clueless out there? And if so, how could he still be clueless this late into his career?); and I might also have a better appreciation of why CJ Fair is getting huge minutes while the more experienced and seemingly high-potential James Southerland is riding pine (is it just how the roster has played out, based on depth and needs? Or has Southerland shown some weaknesses that I can’t see from the box?). My appreciation for Fab Melo’s struggles would also be more comprehensive, although frankly that’s less of a mystery: he’s simply going through what countless other freshman centers have gone through. Still, it would be nice to have a sense if he’s going to be dominant by next year, or if there’s a chance he’ll be a total bust. Only my own eyes can earn me that kind of an opinion, not box score analysis. At this point, I have nothing to offer on any of these questions.
Last season I was also in China, but I didn’t feel as uncertain about the team because it was loaded with known quantities — with the exception of Wes Johnson I knew all the guys by face and had a handle on their relative skills, options, and upsides — so I wasn’t all that upset missing the pre-season games. Once the Big East season began I fired up the online pay-per-view ESPN college basketball package and started hauling my butt out of bed at all sorts of weird hours to see the games. It worked fine and eventually I got just as familiar with the team as everyone back states-side. I’ll do the same thing this year, but it’s different because right now I’m missing out on a lot of formative moments and pattern-building that may reflect what’s going to happen for the whole season. And, frankly, it’s annoying as hell that I couldn’t pick Dion Waiters or Baye Moussa Keita out of a lineup — because I just haven’t seen them enough except the occasional still shot. For now, I can only look at my computer screen in confused wonderment, happy to be 6-0, but entirely unsure of how this season is going to play out.
After playing back to back games against Tim Hardaway Jr and Glen Rice Jr, I can only assume our next opponents will come at us with Cedric Ceballos Jr, Mitch Richmond Jr, and Nick Van Exel Jr. I await.