Brumby's Daily Column: October 14, 2005

Brumby looks at some of the news articles that are revolving around college athletics for the day and provides some thoughts on them and the world of Illini sports.

In today's look around the college basketball universe, I make the first stop at Gregg Doyel's rankings of the power forwards in college basketball. While I definitely agree with having California's Leon Powe and Oklahoma's Taj Gray as the number one and two power forwards in the nation, I disagree with his third. It is not that I just disagree with it, it is that I basically think he is high. Sure, the CBS Sportsline preview magazine named this player a Pre-Season Second Team All-American and every one else loves him, but why?

This is the same player that was 5-for-20 in the NCAA Tournament last year against Illinois. The same player who will be playing without Kevinn Pinkney in the post. The same player that makes DJ Squalls look like a body builder. Yep, it is Nevada's Nick Fazekas. I dare any one to find me a more overrated player in all of college basketball this season. I don't think it can be done.

The Big Ten has two entrants in the Top Ten on Doyel's power forward list, Purdue's Chris Landry and Iowa's Greg Brunner. I think Landry is being overlooked by people, especially the media in the Big Ten area because there is no one else on Purdue that can play basketball and all the opposing defenses know they need to key in on Landry. Brunner is an interesting case. He came into Iowa with Jeff Horner, and they were both supposed to help bring the Iowa program to a record above .500 in the Big Ten. I don't think there is a better rebounder in the Big Ten than Brunner who averaged 8.3 rebounds per game, and he is just 6'7".

The Best Name in College Basketball Award: Of course, this goes to Stanford's Matt Haryasz. He is number 16 on Doyel's list of power forwards, but he is right up there in the pantheon of great college basketball names with Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje and God Shammgod.

For those of you that hate ESPN, there was an article in last week's Business Week entitled ESPN The Empire that you might find interesting. The entire article talks about the place ESPN sits in the sports world, and the struggles they are fighting right now to remain the premier location for all fans to go for the latest sports information at any time.

While I liked the article, and what it portrayed to the user, I really think they missed out on quite a bit, but that is to be expected. In the numerous discussions about what ESPN is trying to do, they continued to state that ESPN was trying to bring sports information to their core demographic in as many ways as they want it, and highlighted the ESPN Mobile service (this is bound to be a failure) as a way of doing this. While the article was a great marketing ploy for what ESPN says they are doing, it is not actually what ESPN is doing.

ESPN is trying to broaden out their horizons from just the hard core sports fan that turned the four-letter network into a household term, and for some crazy people a child's name. Look at how they have been covering sports for the last five years, and how they have removed most direct analysis away from their shows for the talking heads that are more entertainment than anything else. Sure, I get a kick out of watching Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless "argue" during Old School / Nu Skool (we won't get into the other implications ESPN is portraying with a segment like this as those could be a whole sociological experiment), but that is entertainment, not sports. ESPN has become more about entertainment than they have sports. Why?

They know the hard-core sports fan will still watch their channel(s) for their sports highlights (Sports Center, Baseball Tonight, NBA 2 Night, College Hoops 2 Night, and NFL Prime Time) despite being annoyed by the talking heads.

They know that the hard-core sports fan will still watch their channel(s) for the games they want to watch despite the imbeciles that for the most part are broadcasting their games.

What they don't know is how they are going to get more casual eyes to watch their channels, but they decided they would create stars from their personalities to make them the show instead of the sports to get those casual fans to turn into the station. Just look at how they market Chris Berman, Stuart Scott, Dan Patrick, Dick Vitale, and John Madden (ABC Sports fits under the same corporate umbrella).

Now, ESPN is getting ready for the fight of their life. After a failed hostile takeover attempt of Disney, Comcast is now deciding to try to create their own sports network instead of just buying ESPN. The regional Comcast Sports Net stations were Comcast's first major foray into sports, and now they are portraying OLN into a true competitor with ESPN by signing the NHL package, and bidding for other national TV rights packages. ESPN is noticing this, and they are attempting to outbid them at every move to ensure their superiority in the rights to content over Comcast / OLN.

Meanwhile, the hard core sports fan has been relegated to watching shows on the sport specific networks to get the actual analysis of their sports. As any NFL fan lucky enough to have access to the NFL Network knows, they have the best NFL coverage this side of Jaws on EA Sports NFL Match up on ESPN. As any NBA fan that has NBATV knows, they have the best coverage of the game without the craziness of Screamin' A. Smith despite having Dei Lynum as studio host.

It will be interesting to watch how the battle between Comcast and ESPN continues to develop. ESPN cannot live without Comcast, and Comcast cannot really live without ESPN, but they would both like to live without the other. Hopefully it means sports coverage on TV will get better for the fan, but I know it means it will just be dumbed down in an effort to get the most audience possible.

Since I spent a lot of time tonight reading ESPN Insider's coverage of the NBA, I thought I would drop some Illini-specific information from ESPN's best online NBA analyst, John Hollinger. Key work there is "NBA" analyst, as it appears John is not the world's largest college basketball fan, and you will see why in a few minutes.

Brian Cook - Hollinger Profile

Cook's PER makes it seem like he didn't improve, but he completely revamped his game in the offseason. To everyone's amazement, Cook started drilling 3-pointers in preseason and never stopped, nailing 39.2 percent. He has a fast release too, making him a real threat on the perimeter and drawing opposing big men out of the paint.

The question for Cook is if he's relying on the 3-pointer a bit too much. Nearly half his attempts were from beyond the arc and he averaged only one free throw attempt for every 12 field-goal tries, one of the worst rates in the league and a horrid ratio for an alleged post player. Cook has enough skill to do some damage in the paint, and if he can develop the inside portion of his game as well as the outside, the Lakers really will have an offensive force.

Otherwise, he'll probably continue in his current role as a backup power forward for several years. His improvement as a shooter has been startling and the effort he obviously put in certainly is commendable, but one wonders if the focus on shooting isn't detracting from other facets of his game.

Most similar at age: Pat Garrity
Does anyone else find something weird in this? How about this line, "To everyone's amazement, Cook started drilling 3-pointers in preseason and never stopped."? Yeah, that one got me, too. It is like Hollinger just did not know much about Brian Cook's game before he got into the NBA. That being said, I think outside of Hollinger's shock that Brian could actually shoot, it is a pretty fair analysis of where he sits in the eye of the NBA right now.

Luther Head - Hollinger Profile

Head improved dramatically in his senior year at Illinois, vaulting himself from a virtual unknown into the first round of the draft. Head is a good athlete, an active defender, and shoots well from the outside, so the mystery is what took him so long to put it all together. His challenge at the NBA level will be finding a position. He played shooting guard in college and the transition to the point is often a tough one, but he's at least an inch too short to play shooting guard full time.
The answer to the mystery on what took Luther so long to put all his skills together is simple: it was not until his senior year that he was (a) completely healthy and (b) completely away from the off court problems that hampered the entire first half of his junior season. As Luther said in an interview on Tuesday night, he did not become a complete player until he was hurt. Again, further proof Hollinger, while he has the pulse of the NBA game, just does not have the pulse of the college game, but who can blame him?

Deron Williams - Hollinger's Profile

Scouts are in love with Williams, but I have my suspicions. He shot 43 percent from the field and 67 percent from the line, neither of which augur stardom. Additionally, for a college point guard to average fewer than one steal per game suggests insufficient athleticism. Finally, he lost weight right before the draft and looked impressive in workouts, but I'm suspicious as to whether he can keep the pounds off. He certainly can pass and is an OK outside shooter, but I think they might have been better off taking Chris Paul.
No comment.

In some other basketball news, I saw on NBA TV that the Houston Rockets waived Charlie Ward due to his knee problems (it was basically a retirement for the former Heisman Trophy winner). Now, that is one less point guard ahead of Luther Head in the rotation for Lord Van Gundy down in Houston.

In his second pre-season game, Deron Williams appears to have shaken off the jitters that he had in his first game. In Utah's 92-99 loss to the Pacers, Deron played 23 minutes, scored 17 points, handed out 6 assists, and only had 1 turnover. [Recap | Box Score] is looking to provide more content to its users. If you are interested in writing for, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Brumby at with some samples of your writing if you would like to cover Illini sports for this web site.

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