Observations From The Couch: Was The Champions Classic Actually Good For College Hoops?

Rich Barnes

140 characters sometimes isn't enough to express an opinion. Luckily, there's this blog to share some thoughts about what is going on in the world of college basketball and the Syracuse Orange.

On Tuesday, men's college basketball reached historical levels of regular-season hoopla and exposure because of the Champions Classic played at Chicago's United Center. The event showcased probably the four best teams in the nation with Michigan St. Spartans defeating Kentucky Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks edging Duke Blue Devils.

The Champions Classic was fun and exciting, and for a college basketball nut like myself it was enjoyable and made me wish, one day, the Syracuse Orange could take part in the fun. However, there's another part of me that is thankful the Orange did not take part in the hoopla-filled, exposure fest because, in the end, what did it really accomplish? Better yet, what did we actually learn?

If you scrolled through Twitter land after the Kentucky-Michigan State game -- which featured the Spartans racing out to a double-digit lead that the Wildcats rallied from, however, eventually lost 78-74 -- you took away two things: 1) Despite the loss Kentucky is going to win the National Championship because they will get better as the season moves along -- a thought that disregards the fact every other team in the national will improve too; 2) freshman rule the landscape of college basketball (and they have for the past few seasons now).

The latter takeaway, is a tough one to accept because this shouldn't be the case. Sure, a few diaper dandies are fun to track and watch, but if Michigan State showed me anything Tuesday, with its pretty seasoned core of players, it is a veteran team is more fun to watch than a bunch of freshmen not playing defense and playing one-on-one hoops.

I understand this group of freshmen are fantastic basketball players and most of them would have made the jump straight to the NBA if it wasn't for the silly one-year-in-college rule, but (blahhh), this is maddening.

I don't know who is to blame for this freshmen fascination, which has boiled over because there are outstanding first-year players this year, but I can't help think players like C.J. Fair or Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart are going to get the shaft this season.

The Champions Classic was great for college hoops, but overall it highlighted what is wrong with college basketball (and I didn't even mention all of the fouls).

Speaking Of Freshmen...

As I was tossing around ideas to rant about, I caught myself sidetracked on the thought about the fascination surrounding freshmen basketball players and it hit me: they're like the new kid at school.

Remember back in the day when a new boy/girl walked into your middle or high school classroom and there was this big mystery surrounding the new kid? (I went to a small school in Central New York, so it might have been different for me than at larger schools where kids can get lost in the shuffle.)

At my school, the new boys always got the girls for the first month or two because they were different, new and were not like the other boys they already knew everything about. The intrigue around freshman basketball studs are about the same, though, the intrigue usually doesn't stop until his team loses a few games or he heads off to the NBA Draft. Of course, that is when a bunch of new new kids get tossed into the mix.

So Far, So Good For Syracuse Hoops

Not going to breaking down too much of Syracuse's first two games of the season, but regardless of how everything works out for the Orange it is going to be a lot of fun to watch Fair this season.

The senior is already showing so much promise with his mid-range jumper and 3-point shot. It is going to be very tough to guard him, as a team needs a forward that can not only play inside but can also contest outside jumpers. There's not many forwards that diverse on defense. My only concern: is he going to settled too much for jumpers and not use his unique ability to score around the rim?

However, Fair can take those types of shots if Jerami Grant is going to clean up his misses. Grant is showing to be a fantastic two to Fair's first punch in the SU offense. Grant has great instincts around the basket and will get a lot of opportunities for put-backs if Fair is attempting more jumpers.

Oh, and as for those Grant to the NBA talks. I might hold them off until the 2014-15 season. Understanding Grant is a fantastic athlete, we're quickly finding out his jumper is very inconsistent and needs refining -- as a small forward that's not an ideal weakness to have. At this point, it looks like the sophomore would really benefit from another year developing his jumper, like Fair has done the past two seasons. Though, nobody will stop him if he wants to make the leap after this season.

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