The other day I did quite possibly the loneliest thing a basketball-deprived maniac could ever imagine. I followed @FakeNBASeason. The gist of the Twitter account centers around some guy (or group of people) simulating a season on NBA 2K12 updating occasionally with game briefs and stat lines. A brilliant idea indeed during the NBA-less state we’re experiencing, but I feel like I’m in “Marvin’s Room” every time a tweet appears on my time line. It’s completely and utterly ridiculous, yet David Stern, Billy Hunter, Dan Gilbert’s secret LeBron tramp stamp tattoo and Michael Jordan’s wardrobe aren’t allowing me to be great.
Still, a silver lining exists in the form of the 2011-2012 college basketball season. There was a reason many of this year’s collegiate standouts treated declaring pro last spring like sleeping with the last possible option in your phone. The NBA lockout has the potential to make this one of the most anticipated and exciting college seasons in recent memory and the talent pool proves such. Jeremy Lamb returns for his sophomore season at UConn taking up where Kemba Walker left off (he just has Scottie Pippen’s game and wingspan written all over him). Jared Sullinger, destined not to become Eddy Curry, reportedly shed some pounds and has Columbus already talking national title. John Calapari re-upped on freshman phenoms led by Anthony Davis whole only averaged 33-22-7 his senior year in high school.
And lastly, UNC has Harrison Barnes. This time last year, I sipped the kool-aid by proclaiming him to be the best thing to happen to Carolina basketball since Joe Forte (remember him?). Seeing as how I have the luck of the current day Herman Cain, Barnes started off slow, I panicked, called for his head, them calmed down and watched him blossom into the freak of nature everyone billed him as. It was like fan photosynthesis. This is exactly why I’m hopping right back on the saddle and proclaiming the “Harrison Barnes Nationwide Tour” nearly ready to commence.
Keep in mind UNC returns basically the entire congregation. Yep, Kendall Marshall (if he developed a jumper this summer, Sweet Baby Jesus – © Frank Ocean), Jon Henson and Tyler Zeller are all down to give it one more shot to play into April; not to mention freshman stud James McAdoo – Bob’s nephew – lurks in the abyss. Word around Chapel Hill is that Marvin Williams even attempted to return for his sophomore season and the Hawks damn near let him until they realized they still weren’t going to be able to take Chris Paul.
Barnes’ regular season campaign for player of the year, #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and possibly #1 pick in the 2012 draft will have tons of moments to cement themselves. But just like the Heisman in football, chances to impress the country will lie on the biggest of stages. And for Young Harrison, they’ll be two nationally televised, insanely hyped, overly analyzed road games.
December 3, 2011 – UNC @ Kentucky
If I’m still following @FakeNBASeason by this date, Lord help me and Jesus be a fast break. Again, I swear I’m not dissing the powers that be who run that account, but there can only be so much self-inflicted lockout torture one man should endure. The same way everyone billed the LSU/Alabama game last Saturday as one filled with guys who’ll soon be playing on Sunday, it’s the same way here. If there’s no season by tipoff of this game, this could be the closest NBA game we see all year.
It is hard to give a damn about the college season before Christmas break, but UNC/Kentucky is a reason to get wasted midday and watch quality basketball. If star power is what you’re looking for, then consider this your fix. Not only will Barnes, Davis, Roy Williams and John Calipari be involved in the game, but a puncher’s chances remains you’ll find the likes John Wall, LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins (in a straight jacket), Drake and Kim Kardashian sitting courtside. The last one was a stretch, but a confident darkhorse candidate in celebrity betting pools.
For Barnes and UNC faithful’s sakes, this game presents a marathon of lead changes showcasing talents from both teams. The final five minutes translates into Barnes vs. Davis producing a flurry of dunks, jumpers and clutch defensive moments. Obviously, in this script, it ends with Barnes hitting the game winning shot finishing with a stat line of something like 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists. A season defining moment in December is possible if it’s done against the #2 team. On the road. With Kim Kardashian courtside.
The only thing better would be if Gus Johnson some how found himself in Rupp Arena that day near a microphone.
March 3 – UNC @ Duke
If I’m still following @FakeNBASeason by this date…you know what, forget it. There’s no second point. Moving right along.
Three months after his showdown in the Bluegrass State, the last regular season stop of the “HBNT” stops at the place where it only really matters. UNC hosts Duke a month earlier in Carolina, but let’s be serious for a moment. For as great as the Duke/UNC rivalry is, Cameron Indoor Stadium - the college equivalent to Madison Square Garden - is one of the great reasons why. Remember Danny Green placing his man region right on Greg Paulus’ cheekbone? Had that happened in the Dean Dome, the play would have been magnificent. Since it happened in Cameron, however, said moment lives in infamy. If Green can somehow have a Hall Of Fame pro career (or at least team up with LeBron again to continue their obvious dancing chemistry), they may actually put that statue of him and Paulus on UNC’s campus somewhere. And if that happened before Kareem gets one in L.A., best believe there will be hell to pay.
This early spring/late winter contest will hopefully be defined by one match up – Austin Rivers vs. Harrson Barnes. On paper, they represent everything a basketball geek would want: two perimeter studs both on the national radar, the greatest rivalry in college basketball and the very last game of the regular season with potential rankings for the ACC Tournament (and beyond) at stake. And that’s not to mention the shots Rivers threw at UNC before he even got his PIN # to enroll at class at Duke.
Personal disdain in my heart hopes Duke loses by 40. However, the logical fan in me prays Barnes and Rivers have a shoot out that rivals Bird vs. Wilkins in the ’88 Eastern Conference semis. Imagine the insanity on Twitter if these two went for 40+ in a game that obviously comes down to the last possession or possibly even overtime. It'd be like Penn State all over again, except with probable cause.
What could make this even better, you ask? Yep, Gus.
And that brings us back to the present day. If Barnes somehow lives up to the hype I’ve unfairly placed upon him, he’ll be the number one pick more than likely. If, and I say this as with a bottle of whiskey and pistol by my bed, there is no NBA season this year, and Dan Gilbert somehow winds up with the #1 pick again in July 2012, you’re just going to have to pray for that man. But we’ll worry about crossing that bridge when it gets here.
Oh yeah, one more thing. Go follow @FakeNBASeason.