No doubt Santa—or the Holiday Armadillo or Flying Spaghetti Reindeer or whatever your belief tradition dictates—has visited most of your houses by now, and you’ve gotten some wonderful presents. Tell us about those!
There’s basketball on today, of course—both the NBA and NCAA, as the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii finishes up this afternoon. Those games:
- 7th Place: Colorado Buffaloes vs. Charlotte 49ers (12pm, ESPNU)
- 5th Place: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. Rhode Island Rams (2pm, ESPNU)
- 3rd Place: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels vs. Bucknell Bison (5:30pm, ESPNU)
- Championship: Indiana State Sycamores vs. TCU Horned Frogs (8pm, ESPN2)
You all, by now, know me: I revel in the weird bits of college basketball and football—strange rivalries like 100 Miles of Hate, student sections that wear blue latex gloves and sing songs called “The Scotsman”, football stadiums that double as a drive-in theater. It’s those bits of weirdness that really endear me to college athletics, because people care about schools that, like, why the hell would you?
But, if my writing hasn’t let you in on these secrets already, those things mean something to Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, to Utah State, to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, of all damn places. They’re the subject of ESPN features on College Gameday that you nod at once a year, but that occupy deep parts of their participants’ attention. It’s a treat to pay even just the slightest bit of attention to those games.
I’ve realized, over the last couple years, that I pay extra attention to a few teams in college football and basketball, for no other reason than they do something amusing or play a style that I find endearing. So, on this Christmas, I’m going to list them:
- Holy Cross Crusaders: This one’s a little more obvious, but since I took a trip out to Boston just to watch them (OK, also to see one of my best friends, but whatever), I’ll list them. Northwestern opted not to extend head coach Bill Carmody’s contract, and in doing so they made an NCAA Tournament or whatever, but they also abandoned a delightfully quirky and outdated offense (and defense!) that made the most of a limited talent pool. I miss it. But Carmody’s still making it happen at Cross, where the Crusaders are 8-4 and should be in a fight for the Patriot League crown.
- Drake Bulldogs: Look, we all hate Iowa. Agreed? Well, if you ever find yourself needing to tolerate basketball in the state of Iowa without rooting for the Hawkeyes or Cyclones, might I recommend Drake? Tickets are $10, you can sit anywhere, and they sell beer in the stadium. I watched their win over Rider last week, and since then they’ve run off three more wins and a title in Las Vegas.
Chicago State Cougars: Chicago State is...not a fun story. They’re chronically underfunded, play in an arena that is a poster child for graft in the Illinois Legislature, and win...about 3 games a year. I feel especially shitty when watching Northwestern host them in a pay game, beating the lights—most of the time—out of a program that fired its last coach, Tracy Dildy, who had to serve as the school’s athletic director due to budget issues, then hired a longtime assistant...for a high school team...because he was cheap and had some connection to the Chicago AAU scene.
But people care about this team! There is a legitimate, active message board devoted to Chicago State Cougars basketball! That is amazing. That is college sports fandom—improbable and inexplicable. So go Cougars! May you continue this weird, unpossible program for as long as possible.
Tell us about your favorite random-ass teams in the comments. Are you a Michigan fan who loves Slippery Rock? A weirdo wisconsin fan living near Boone, NC, who can’t live without Mountaineers football? Explain yourself.
May you all be blessed with the faint hope of an NIT berth, and more than just the occasional appearance on ESPN+. Merry Christmas! Here’s your open thread for the day.