Dick Jerardi: Don't hate me, because I don't care

Tom Crean has Indiana ranked in Top 10.
Tom Crean has Indiana ranked in Top 10. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: January 11, 2012

THROUGH the years, I have been accused of hating Villanova. Or, more recently, of loving Villanova. I don't respect what Temple has done or don't understand it. I hate La Salle. Or, back in the day, loved La Salle. I favor Saint Joseph's or ignore St. Joe's.

I have never aroused much passion one way or the other from Penn and Drexel fans, so I am taking that as a sign they are either ignoring me or think I have been reasonable.

Here is a news flash . . . I don't care.

It is not that I don't care about basketball in the city. I do. There is nothing like it anywhere in America. Whenever I talk to people from out of town, they marvel at what we have in this city.

What I don't care about are the results. Who wins or loses really does not matter to me. I don't care who gets what recruit. I don't get caught up in conspiracy theories that fans hold close so they can justify their feelings.

There is no such thing as a perfectly objective reporter. We all have a point of view. Or should. The object is to tell readers something they might not know, while attempting to find the best version of the truth, with plenty of hopefully informed opinion splashed into stories.

If you ask me whether I ever have "rooted" for a team I cover, the answer would be a qualified yes. Before I lose my media pass, the qualification is that, if I get to know players on a team and they are having one of those special seasons, the stories inevitably get better if the team keeps winning. So what I am actually rooting for is the story.

If you ask me whether I hoped one of John Chaney's teams would make the Final Four, the answer is absolutely. Did I want the 2003-04 St. Joe's team or the 2005-06 Villanova team, two of the best we've ever had around here, to win that final game and get to the Final Four, the answer would be the same. I sent Jay Wright a one-word text when his team broke through to the Final Four in 2009 with that amazing end-to-end game-winner - "legendary." I wasn't cheering, but just showing appreciation for a goal achieved.

Again, none of us is perfectly objective. But it is always important to remember we are covering human beings with feelings. And that is especially important to remember at the college level.

My one hard-and-fast rule is that I don't criticize college players. If a player has a bad shooting night, I will cite his stats and leave it at that. Coaches obviously are different. They are eligible to be praised and criticized. The difference is simple. Coaches get paid, players don't. At least the players in this city don't get paid, as far as I know. But I don't know everything.

And I really don't hate your school.

COACH OF THE HALF-YEAR

I mentioned Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Tony Bennett (Virginia), Kevin Willard (Seton Hall) and Steve Prohm (Murray State) in my Monday wrap. Should have included Tom Crean (Indiana) and Ron Hunter (Georgia State).

Crean has brought IU from nowhere to the Top 10 in one exhilarating half-season. The Hoosiers have a great young post player in freshman Cody Zeller, some toughness on the perimeter and shooters everywhere. IU is as offensively gifted as any team in the country. The Hoosiers shoot 50.5 percent overall (No. 4) and 47.6 percent from the arc (No. 1). Zeller's post presence changed everything, as these same players were no factor before he arrived.

Georgia State was picked 11th in the Colonial. Hunter arrived from IUPUI. His team's 11-game winning streak just ended in a close loss at George Mason. Hunter won't get noticed, because he coaches at a commuter school in downtown Atlanta. He should. His team has been a revelation.

PLAYER OF THE HALF-YEAR

Nobody is having a better season than Creighton sophomore Doug McDermott. He just got a career-best 44 points Saturday at Bradley. He was 18-for-23 from the floor. He averages 25.2 points (second nationally) on 63.2 percent shooting (eighth best). And he is not just shooting layups. He has range and a post game that has so much variety defenders have no idea what is coming.

THE CAA STORY

Georgia State is near the top. George Mason is at the top, with 18 straight regular-season league wins over two seasons. First-year GMU coach Paul Hewitt inherited some good players and has sustained the winning. His teams at Siena and Georgia Tech always played a pleasing style. This is no different.

GMU just happens to be at Drexel tomorrow night. The Dragons have won eight of nine. Their only loss during the run was at Georgia State.

GMU is the league's top scoring team (70.4 points). Drexel has the best scoring defense (55.6 points). Drexel holds teams to only 26.3 percent from the arc (sixth nationally).

The biggest differences from last season to this for Drexel are: free throw shooting (a best-in-the-league 72.2 percent after just 61.6 percent last season); and the play of sophomore point guard Frantz Massenat, who leads the league in three-point shooting (47.4 percent).

Drexel big man Samme Givens is not getting to the foul line as much, but he has improved his shooting dramatically, from 52.9 percent to 75.0 percent.

By the way, the CAA has five players in the NBA - J. J. Barea (Northeastern/Timberwolves), Charles Jenkins (Hofstra/Warriors), Eric Maynor (VCU/Thunder), Gary Neal (Towson/Spurs) and Larry Sanders (VCU/Bucks).

WONDERFUL AWARD

The voting just began for the Lowe's Senior Class Award. It is about basketball and more, specifically "community, classroom, character and competition."

Sixty names are on the ballot. Ten finalists will be announced on Jan. 25. Penn's Zack Rosen, still alive for the Bob Cousy point guard award, is on this ballot as well and embodies every bit of the "Four C's." He will be getting my vote.

THIS AND THAT

* City Six in the RPI: Temple (25), Saint Joseph's (49), La Salle (94), Villanova (107), Drexel (121), Penn (130).

* Add up the career wins for Atlantic 10 coaches Rick Majerus (Saint Louis), Mike Lonergan (George Washington), John Giannini (La Salle), Phil Martelli (St. Joe's), Fran Dunphy (Temple) and Jim Baron (Rhode Island) and you get 2,417.

* Niagara freshman Juan'ya Green (Archbishop Carroll) is averaging 19.1 points per game.

* Even though Xavier won at Fordham Saturday, there are still issues. Tu Holloway had 0 points in that game. And that is hard to imagine.

* At-large bids over the last 6 seasons: Big East (42), Big Ten (29), ACC (26).

* Saint Joseph's is second nationally in blocks (8.5 per game). Kentucky (9.3) is first.

* Syracuse still has a man-bites-dog relationship between steals (186) and turnovers (192).

* Galloways can shoot it. SJU's Langston Galloway is 41-for-84 (48.8 percent) from the arc while La Salle's Ramon Galloway is 36-for-77 (46.8 percent) from deep.

* Penn's Zack Rosen is 61-for-66 from the foul line (92.4 percent), fourth in the country.

* The Pac-12 is just 10-19 against the other Big Six conferences.

* The Big 12 is 100-26 in non-conference games.

* Interesting story in "Sports Illustrated" about the team UCLA could have - if Mike Moser, Chace Stanback (both UNLV), Drew Gordon (New Mexico) and Matt Carlino (BYU) had not transferred. Stanback (14.8) and Moser (14.2) are the two top scorers for UNLV (16-2). Gordon (12.7 points) is a very solid player for the 14-2 Lobos. Carlino, who became eligible in mid-December, is averaging 13.9 points in eight games for 14-4 BYU. The Bruins are is 9-7.

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