The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, October 21, 2020

“Listen, there is no norm this year, buddy” — Quentin Hillsman talks Syracuse — Must-click women's basketball links

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“Listen, there is no norm this year, buddy”

I had to laugh when Kelly Graves said this on Wednesday afternoon. There’s a college basketball season coming at us fast and furious, but what kind of season, who is likely to prevail, even what possible criteria the NCAA could use to determine who should be seeded where — all of it is unknown.

What does a top four seed even get you? Graves was publicly pleading with Oregon fans, if they are watching the Ducks, to “watch safely. We don’t want people in big groups sitting around a home and watching our football team or our basketball teams. Because that’s the worst thing they could do.”

Up is down. Kelly Graves is telling fans not to gather and watch his team play. We all get why, but that sure limits what a home pod provides (not that a stacked Oregon team is going to struggle much to reach the Sweet 16, I believe).

And with only a handful of out of conference games, exactly how will the NCAA Tournament selection committee handle seeding? What happens if a player, or even Graves, tests positive for COVID?

Graves said the latter question came up on a coaches’ call this week, and the Pac-12 doesn’t know yet.

Unlike past years, when he’s been “all about ball”, as he put it, Graves recognizes that the experience this year has to include what he refers to as “some fluff”. That means movie nights — in small groups, he hastened to add — and things like meditation, ways to connect when even a customary rite of passage like the team dinner is simply impossible right now.

He even credited his team for practicing with masks at all times, without complaint.

“It’s always going to come down, at least from my perspective, to the health and safety of the student athlete,” Graves said. “I’m a dad — listen, I’m coming at it a little differently. And I’m an established coach, I’ve been around. Whether I need to pad my record with more wins, and oh, we can’t lose these games because — I’m not into that. I want to make sure that our kids are safe, they’re healthy. They’re having a good experience here as best they can.”

I couldn’t help but wonder whether the same approach will be taken by coaches less established, less secure than Kelly Graves. Again, though, it was striking to hear a competitor like Graves putting basketball second. It’s right, it’s a perspective necessary in 2020, but it is still jarring.

Graves seems to have made his peace with it. He ended his answer with this statement, a kind of 2020 anthem, really:

“Yeah, I wish I had a different answer for you, buddy.”

This Week in Women’s Basketball

Syd Colson joined the Warrentine Podcast. It’s must-listen.

Cheryl Reeve likes where the Lynx are headed.

Jacob Mox looks at the most singular performances in WNBA history.

Georgia is going to look a little different this season.

Idiotic school decision has legal consequences, not for the school, though! Where to even start with this one…

Trinity Baptiste shares her story with PJ Brown.

Renee Montgomery is all-in on combatting voter supression.

Don’t miss Mirin Fader on Andrea Aquino.

A check-in with Adam Fox, Chicago Sky executive.

Nick Niendorf gets you prepared for the Chicago Sky offseason, with a player-by-player breakdown of the team’s capsheet and James Wade’s offseason decision tree.

Really interesting deep dive on what happens AFTER players win MIP, from Jenn Hatfield.

Jackie Powell gets you ready for New York’s consequential offseason.

Terrific Mike Anthony column on how Geno Auriemma has been changed by 2020, and all the years before it.

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Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Quentin Hillsman, Syracuse coach

We spoke to Coach Q this week after his first week of practice. Listen to him here.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Sarah Kellam @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.