Thursday, April 2, 2015


As a quick FYI to my loyal readers, I am stepping away from my weekly column at I would not rule out the possibility that I will return someday. But I needed to take a break from the 52-week grind, at least for the time being. I want to re-focus myself and set up some new challenges.

In the early 2000's I went to graduate school at the University of Illinois. In 2005, my final year of graduate school, my wife and I had enough season ticket priority to get tickets at courtside. Of course 2005 was a dream season. #1 ranked Wake Forest and Chris Paul visited Illinois during the ACC/Big Ten challenge and Illinois crushed them. It was the beginning of the Chris Paul vs Deron Williams’ rivalry, and I got to see it up close. And then the wins kept coming. Illinois lost just once in the regular season and my wife and I went to 5 of the 6 NCAA tournament games on Illinois' run to the title game. The night after the title game loss my wife and I went to dinner and ran into Coach Bruce Weber who was at the restaurant picking up dinner for his family. My wife said, "Great job coach!" and Weber said in an incredibly raspy voice, "Thank you!" I will never forget that magical run.

In 2007, I started writing about college basketball. I would watch a bunch of games on Saturday, think of a few statistical things I wanted to do to entertain myself, and blog about it. I never thought I would make any money writing about sports. But I owe a huge debt of gratitude to John Gasaway for encouraging me at Basketball Prospectus, and for continuing to drop my name when he moved to ESPN. John and Ken Pomeroy not only invited me to be the third ever author in the Basketball Prospectus book, they also inspired me by all the creative stuff they had written for so long. There were others I should thank from this time period. People like Eric Angevine, and Mike Miller who was the voice of NBC's College Basketball Talk in that day, made me believe that what I was doing was interesting. And I cannot tell you how many times a link or a tweet from CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander came at exactly the right time to encourage me to do more.

In 2011, Chris Reina from offered me a job as a college basketball columnist. It was a dream come true to earn money for something I loved. I covered 5 NCAA tournaments for from 2011 to 2015. I wrote at least 200 weekly columns in that time span, and probably closer to 250 columns overall. Here is my digital archive.

My most famous pieces were probably my statistical ones, like this one on how star ratings predict player performance. The follow-up, showing the variation in performance by star rating was also important, as was this piece on JUCO recruits. But there were lots of unique pieces I wrote in this time period. Here is an article I wrote about the timing when coaches lose their jobs. But my favorite pieces were probably my running diaries of March, starting with the first day of the major conference tournaments, and wrapping up with the national title game.

Other dreams came true in this time period. My preseason prediction model was featured in ESPN the Magazine and Sports Illustrated. The Sports Illustrated publication really resonated with me, not only because my name was on the cover, but because I still have a subscription to that magazine dating back to when my late grandfather first ordered it for me as a teenager. I owe Luke Winn a huge debt of gratitude for pitching my rankings to his editors. I knew when my work was featured in SI that I had come full circle.

But it also felt like an ending in some way. Writing something for Sports Illustrated had essentially been my goal since I got started as a college basketball writer. It occurred to me when that dream came true, that I needed some new dreams.

I will forever be thankful to for not only giving me the opportunity to get paid to do what I love, but also for challenging me. Writing a weekly column takes discipline, and churning out content 52 weeks a year inspired me to invest in college basketball at a whole new level. Things change the more you invest in a sport. Today I look forward to events like the Nike Hoop Summit (the most under-rated high school hoops event), I love the Thanksgiving tournaments, and I care whether elite freshman live up to expectations. Twenty years ago, I cared about none of those things.

But I thought my material in 2014-15 became too much of a repeat of 2013-14. One of the things that happens when you write a weekly column throughout the whole year is that you tend to find a set of annual topics that you can use to fill the space. And I was getting angry at myself for writing the same story every year. A sense of creativity was a key part of why I was doing this.

I also have a couple of larger college basketball projects that I want to work on. But instead of investing in those long-term projects, I found myself worried about my weekly column. And lately, I have started attending fewer college basketball games. And that is when I knew it was time for a change. When writing a weekly column was taking away from my ability to work on some unique projects and causing me to attend fewer games, I knew I had to switch things up. I love writing game stories. I love writing recaps. And I am sure I will do those things again. But for this year at least, you will have to live with a little less. I am not going to do a Way-Too-Early Top 25 or a Nike Hoop Summit Recap.

I will have preseason rankings in the fall. And I am not done writing about college basketball. If you continue to follow me on Twitter, you will still see my latest work. But after 5 years covering the NCAA tournament for, I need to step away for now.