Early February is the worst time of the year for basketball. College teams are in the middle of their conference schedules, meaning that fans are condemned to wonder whether their favorite team has in fact been playing the same team for three weeks in a row. The NBA nears its All-Star Game, which I defy anyone to care about, and (lamentably) it looks as though the L.A. Lakers are jockeying for the final seed in the western conference. This is neither exciting nor inspiring, and the fact that such a rally is expected of the three-time champions makes it no less evil.
The biggest news, though, is that in America's traditional winter pastime--IM basketball at the University of Chicago--some teams have apparently given up entirely. Nobody's forfeiting their schedule, and nobody's showing up and then refusing to play; doing either of those things would require an effort of adolescent theatricality that the truly lazy would never undertake. No, I mean that captains are creating bureaucratic problems, and problems for this column (which I'm cool with, by the way) by not writing their names on the score sheets. I mean that games are becoming increasingly low-scoring: several games this week were won by teams mustering 40 points or fewer, which is fine for a junior high J.V. team, but not for an undergraduate student body full of people who have constructed elaborate lies about having been stars in high school. Finally, efforts to lobby the officials--a delicate art that requires both the finesse of Tip O'Neil and the attention-grabbing violence of Cesare Borgia--are reduced to exasperated players and fans throwing up their hands and yelling "come on" or "that's gotta be a foul." What in the name of Pete Newell is going on here?
Perhaps the problem is a lack of incentive. Despite the best efforts of this column, there's little fame to be gained from the IM ranks. No one gets free jerseys for making the Dean's List (and no celebrities would come to the defense of someone's eligibility). Few scouts ever make it to Henry Crown Field House, preferring to leave it as the last bastion of pure athletic competition. Although DirecTV, beloved of homes with an unobstructed southern exposure everywhere, has a contract with the Athletic Department to televise our playoffs, subscriptions have thus far been very, very few. In such an atmosphere, it's hard to elevate the game above the midterms.
In fairness, not everyone has succumbed to the mid-season doldrums. Freshman Soccer continue to show that their equally adept at a game that involves scoring points and popularity in the United States; after their 84-37 defeat of Graham, it's pretty hard to deny that they're the team to beat. Vincent and Henderson A also played a very competitive first half Monday night before Vincent pulled away down the stretch, 62-46, thanks to some lights-out shooting from behind the three-point line that strained the bounds of credulity. Both teams seem to have playoffs in their future.
Flint also displayed a little bit of housing-system pride, defeating Dodd-Mead, 76-41. Traditional power Hitchcock-Snell, responding to the challenges of disappointed alumni, rallied from their week one loss to Rickert by defeating Palmer, 42-26. Rickert continued their winning ways, defeating Chamberlin 45-28. Wallace kept the streak alive for houses situated squarely in the middle of campus, defeating Bishop 43-31.
On the women's side, the mysterious Orange Pants defeated Stony Island 40-29. The lawyers-in-training of Apathy defeated Wait, What is Basketball? 39-38. Hitchcock-Snell confirmed that their dorm is a (possibly shady) basketball factory by defeating Flint, 27-20. The Scoops defeated the Theta Kites in a battle of ranked teams from last week. Finally, demonstrating that sometimes no effort is more respectable than a half-hearted effort, Wallace forfeited to Chicago Soccer.
There's not much of a thaw in this week's rankings, since so many, many scores are missing.
1) Chicago Soccer (media poll)
1) Vincent (coaches poll)
2) Durex Trojans
Honorable Mention: Wallace, Homewreckers, May, Law 1
4) The Scoops
Honorable Mention: Chicago Soccer