I remember leaving Madison Square Garden last year, just like this year, after a miserable Syracuse Orange loss to a miserable former Big East foe. Our 72-84 drubbing at the hands of anemic St. John's was so bad, all my friends and I could do was laugh. Exiting onto Seventh Avenue, before we headed to our respective subway lines, my friend said something I will never forget:
"At least we had a good time making fun of how much our players suck."
(Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson had gone 1-for-8 and 0-for-11 respectively from three that Sunday afternoon.)
My friend was joking somewhat, but that line still stuck with me, mainly, because today's college basketball is designed to make you hate your players.
This is no hot take, it's just an inevitability of the early entry system. If a player was actually good and likable and had nothing to hate about his game... well, he'd already be in the fucking pros. More likely, your team (whether it's Syracuse, UConn, St. John's, or even Duke or Kentucky) is comprised of seriously-flawed players enslaved by the college game due to their inadequacies yet still forced into crucial action.
This was evident yet again after last night's loss to UConn where we saw that:
John Gillon running an offensive set looks exactly the same as a walk-on dribbling out the clock at the end of a game. I hate him!
(Well if he wasn't 5-foot-8 and could actually penetrate, he wouldn't be a 25-year old man still coming off the bench in amateur ball!)
Andrew White can't dribble, can't drive, can't jump, and can only hoist up guarded threes. I hate him!
(Well, the fact that he's a 50-percent shooter from three and still won't sniff the NBA tells you all you need to know!)
Tyler Lydon, oh I used to love you so much when you were a second banana. Now that you've proven to NOT be capable of being an alpha male, now that you pump fake your way into a game of hot potato every time you touch ball, now I hate you!
(Well if he were an alpha dog at that height with that sweet shooting stroke, he'd have been a lottery pick last year!)
We won't even address Tyler Roberson.
Sometimes, in this modern era, memories of players actually end fondly -- no one hated Carmelo for the year he was with us -- but that's a major rarity. The potentially great players for the most part never have a chance to develop into hate-proof upperclassmen. This isn't the 80s. They're already in the NBA by then. Even the freshmen wunderkinds are generally raw, and have many hateable aspects of their games. In a way you hate them even more because you know that you’ve only got another 30 games left of their still undeveloped careers.
Even when you don't hate a player for a game, or a stretch of games (hello, DaJuan Coleman, I love you so dearly!), you know the other shoe is soon to drop. You'll be hating poor DaJuan again soon enough. So will I. It rarely ends without hate these days.
Of course, today, because of that miracle Final Four run, no one now remembers how much they hated Cooney for much of his career (Ed. note: the comments on any #CooneyLegacy post may beg to differ). Or even how much they hated Michael Gbinije during his early years when he could barely dribble. No one recalls hating Malachi for that 0-for-11 night at the Garden, or countless terrible first halves last year. We remember his remarkable offensive explosion against UVA in the Elite 8, him cackling back down the court, finger goggles up to his face after a savage three-pointer right in Malcolm Brogdon's puss.
And then he goes pro after that one game where we actually didn't hate him... and now we hate him all over again for making a "stupid decision."
You shoulda stayed another year Malachi/Ennis/McCullough/Donte Greene. We had so much more hate to give you!