When it comes to the word interesting, we all grasp its basic "hold one's attention" definition. However, when it comes to what we each find interesting, interpretations will vary, often dramatically so. Case in point, the 2012-13 college basketball season.
The current campaign has been rife with upsets over highly ranked teams few are convinced should be for reasons other than someone must. If last minute tightness and buzzer-beating heroics offset 39 minutes of minimal offense and defensive grappling, this is the season for you. Exciting and competent do not always intersect.
Is that assessment overly Debbie Downer-ish, perhaps. Then again, even the sport's most ardent supporters acknowledge on-court competency is down. Certainly scoring is.
And yet...and yet what lays ahead, especially the world is flat NCAA Tournament, epitomizes interesting. Like most sports fans I pride myself on believing at all times I can see clearly into the future, able to predict game outcomes and Final Four participants in a single half-baked thought.
No chance I am that daring this year, certainly not right now. Trying to decipher which of the 25-30 teams in any current bracket are locks for a deep run is headache inducing. So much smoke came out of ears during my latest attempt that the some around me thought a new Pope had been selected (Yes, I will be here all week).
Last season we had Kentucky and a whole bunch of teams playing for second. Most years the true list of contenders is shorter than Georgetown's rotation. This season, the lack of star players, experienced rosters and consistent (good) shooting makes the field truly wide open - and from an outcome perspective, truly interesting. How's that for some positivity?!?!
(Wait, isn't this a local college basketball poll? Why are we discussing the "interesting" national scene?)
Oh, because the Hoyas, winners of six straight and a team I already write about tons, are the clear frontrunners and I didn't have any obvious angles on chaotic VCU, enigmatic Virginia, or the outplayed and outwitted Maryland Terrapins. Oh, guess I did. Well, next time.
Also - and the actual truth-, a few of us voters offered our take on the most "interesting" players in the DMV, whatever that means.
This week's ballots include those submitted by our panel of local and national media types, college basketball bloggers and a super secret longtime basketball observer who wished to both remain anonymous but make participate in the ranking fun.
For our overall purposes, we included programs in D.C. and around the Beltway, north to Baltimore, south to Richmond and Norfolk (essentially the Comcast SportsNet region) plus all Division I spots (27 overall) in between. I asked each voter for his or her top five teams and to share the reasons why they picked whom they picked. Ranked teams listed below, followed by total points, followed by first place votes, followed by my musings along with those from my fellow hoop heads.
1 - Georgetown (65, 12 1st place votes)
*Greg Whittington who? With Otto Porter and Markel Starks leading the way, the Hoyas are getting improved production from Mikael Hokpins and GASP, Aaron Bowen. (Troy Machir, CollegeBasketballTalk.com/NBC Sports)
*I'm as shocked as you are that Georgetown is doing this well without Greg Whittington. (Brendan Darr, 106.7, The Fan)
*Six straight wins, eight of nine since starting Big East play 0-2. There is plenty interesting with the way John Thompson III has directed his team during this winning run. Perhaps most of all, how the typically read-and-react Hoyas are seemingly dictating game style to their eventually vanquished foes. (Standig)
Most interesting player...Markel Starks because even his stellar postgame theatrics (start at the 4:50 mark) and hyperbolic quotes cannot overshadow his significantly improved game. The junior arguably has more responsibility and thus pressure on him than any recent guard under John Thompson III. He's certainly the most entertaining. (Standig)
Another candidate for most interesting player...Aaron Bowen...Bowen has gone from one of the last players off the bench to playing key minutes for the Hoyas this year during Whittington's absence. What makes him so interesting is that on one possession he may hit the side of a backboard on an open jumper, yet on another display his unique athleticism by throwing down a putback dunk of destiny. (Andrew Geiger, Casual Hoya)
2 - VCU (50)
*Win at Charlotte on Saturday began a string of six games where Rams play teams with winning records in A-10, including GW on Saturday. (Kevin Dunleavy, Washington Examiner)
*Other than two bad weeks, one in late November and the other in late January, this team has been near unstoppable. The idea they couldn't survive in a tougher conference seems beyond laughable now. (Darr)
*Got it done on the road beating the Bobcats and ruined MJ's 50th bday week! (Scott Jackson, ESPN 980)
*Three straight conference wins after two losses, but fans will have to wait until Mar. 2 for the best A-10 matchup in years when Butler comes to call. (Rich Dubroff, CSNbaltimore)
Most interesting player...D.C.’s own Treveon Graham, a sophomore who is doing a nice impersonation of graduated Bradford Burgess, while the Rams wait for Burgess’s brother Jordan to become academically eligible next year. (Dunleavy)
3 - Virginia (32)
*The Cavs are tough to beat, play a tricky system and are well coached. When they shoot like they did against Maryland, extremely tough. (JP Finlay, CSNwashington)
*Impressive win at MD as Tony Bennett's team continues the process of making us forget they lost to ODU. (Jackson)
Most interesting player... Mike Tobey, a 6-11 freshman currently sidelined with mono, has a rare arsenal of low-post moves, shoots with either hand, and is playing at his fourth school in as many seasons. He also looks like a really tall version of Leonardo DiCaprio on a bad hair day. (Dunleavy)
And another candidate for most interesting player...Justin Anderson because when you look at the way Tony Bennett teams typically play, you think of a certain type of player. The dynamic 6-foot-6 freshman guard and reigning ACC Rookie of the Week does not fit the steady but not spectacular mold. In two wins last week over Clemson and Maryland, the Montrose Christian graduate averaged 15.5 points per game, more than double his season average (6.9 ppg), to push Virginia into 3rd place in the ACC. (Bobby Bancroft, 106.7 The Fan)
4 - Maryland (24)
*Too inconsistent. No idea what to expect one night to the next. Playing Duke at home on Saturday could likely be the season for the Terps. A win and they're back on the good side of the bubble. A loss and it looks like NIT time. (Finlay)
*Not sure that Terps’ rebounding and defensive woes Sunday against UVA were all about being tired. With a lack of quality victories, Duke game Saturday might be a must win. (Dunleavy)
*Nice win at Virginia Tech but loss to UVA reminds us you can't spell NIT without UMD....never mind. (Jackson)
*They're only ranked this high because there's no one else in the region that's really any good. With four losses in seven games and Duke on the horizon, it's conceivable they could drop out of this poll altogether a week from now. (Dubroff)
*Most interesting player...Nick Faust, because nearly two seasons into his College Park career it remains unclear exactly how interesting the Baltimore product's game truly is. The wing guard with athletic gifts can seemingly do everything, yet has seemingly mastered little, perhaps in part because of Mark Turgeon constantly shuttling the sophomore from position to position, role to role. The Terps have Dex Wells and Alex Len, but need a steadier Faust if they are to avoid that whole bubble bursting thing. (Standig)
5 - Towson (8)
*Georgetown-transfer Jerrelle Benimon is a lock for CAA Player of the Year. If there was a national award for Transfer of the Year, Benimon would be a lock for that as well. No transfer has impacted his program as much as the Warrenton, VA native. (Machir)
*Most interesting...Jerrelle Benimon is this year's Royce White. No, I'm not saying he has an anxiety disorder. I'm just saying he leads his team in most statistical categories and it's damn impressive. (Darr)
Others receiving votes: Richmond (6), George Washington (4)
Most interesting...George Washington's freshman guard Patricio Garino, because unlike most newbies, he entered college with an advanced knowledge of defense. Also more than one basketball observer has told me that the 6-foot-6 Argentine with perimeter skills is a legitimate NBA prospect down the line.
Voters (with links to their respective Twitter profiles): Nicole Auerbach (USA Today), Bobby Bancroft (106.7 The Fan/CBS), Brendan Darr (106.7 The Fan/CBS), Rob Dauster (CollegeBasketballTalk/NBC Sports), Rich Dubroff (CSNbaltimore), Kevin Dunleavy (Washington Examiner), JP Finlay (CSNwashington), Andrew Geiger (Casual Hoya), Michele Gordon (Comcast SportsNet), Scott Jackson (ESPN 980) Ryan Kish (GMUhoops), Troy Machir (CollegeBasketballTalk/NBC Sports), Steven Spector (ESPN 980), Ben Standig (CSNwashington), Craig Stouffer (Washington Examiner)