The On-Ball Defender!

Your Guide to College Basketball Superfandom

With the sun setting early and cabin fever quickly taking hold, you begin looking forward to March. You’ll spring forward; re-acquaint yourself with natural light and inexplicably wear shorts in 45* temperatures. You recall memories from Marches past, but try as you might to place yourself at a spring picnic or at the St. Patrick’s Day parade, you muster images only of Coach Hunter falling off his stool, Dunk City, and Christian Laettner hitting the shot. One word rings louder than all others: Madness. Your adrenaline spikes, and you stand resolute: “This year, I don’t wait for March. I cherish college basketball all season long.” It’s your bridge from miserable time-change to glorious time-change, but without the bracket, where do you even start?

Ratings and Rankings

You quickly google pre-season polls and find North Carolina at #1 according to the Associated Press. You scan the list and see some usual suspects like Kansas, Kentucky, and Duke. Former Cinderellas Wichita State and Butler appear. You wonder how in the world LSU made the cut and how Maryland ranks so highly. It becomes evident you need to know more about these teams — more about ALL the teams. You end up on Ken Pomeroy’s site for offensive and defensive efficiency projections and bookmark it so you can read plenty more about statistical analysis of your new favorite sport. You scour for narrative about the rankings and find Sports Illustrated’s incredible tandem of Luke Winn and Dan Hanner. Context! Beautiful context. You promise yourself that you won’t miss an installment of Luke Winn’s Power Rankings all year long.

College basketball is your bridge from miserable time-change to glorious time-change, but without the bracket, where do you even start?


Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of teams and coaches and players, it dawns on you that college basketball has an infinite number of stories and personalities. Dana O’Neil answers that question you had earlier about LSU. Gary Parrish riles you up about Kentucky’s newest five-star freshman, Skal Labrissiere, then Luke Winn fills in the detail on his remarkable journey to Lexington. Pat Forde brings your blood to a boil over the Louisville sex scandal while Matt Norlander brings tears to your eyes with his story on Butler’s Andrew Smith. The heroes and villains emerge, and you can’t wait to watch it all unfold on courts across the country. After a deep breath, you realize all these brilliant writers must have twitter accounts, so you follow them.


Of course, the games are the lifeblood of the college basketball experience. For all the prognostication and all the pre-season reading, nothing beats the Champions Classic with Duke playing Kentucky next Tuesday night. You’re already looking forward to the top-5 Maryland vs. UNC matchup during the B1G-ACC Challenge. And you’ve already emailed your parents for their cable log-in so you can watch as many early season tournament games on as you can. I mean, your Mom pays her cable bill with a check so she doesn’t actually have an account with Xfinity online, but you DID convince your one friend who hasn’t cut the chord to share his info with you.

It begins tomorrow. Pittsburgh and Gonzaga tip from Okinawa, Japan followed by more than 10,000 games over the next four months. Each one serving as the tiny spider bite or secret ooze that changes you from whimpering, season-affected chump to college basketball super hero. You watch, you read, you argue on twitter, and you harness all your power. You transform yourself form the person who mixes up the ACC with the AAC to the person who marvels over Kris Dunn’s steal%. You become The On-Ball Defender!

Kevin Triskett is an obsessive, lifelong college basketball fan. He spends the off season sippin’ bourbon, listening to podcasts, reading mostly non-fiction, and rooting for the Browns. Follow him on twitter and instagram.

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