CBB '24 - Week 5 Card: Back Of The Napkin

Tennessee travels to Rupp, Duke travels to Chapel Hill, and we travel back in time to a less cynical era and an autograph-seeking Young Commish

CBB '24 - Week 5 Card: Back Of The Napkin
Not so fast, Top Ten teams on the road

Back Of The Napkin

We have 25 yes votes for the Super Bowl Tournament. We need 25 more.

1. Josh Pastner's unrequested bromide still lives with us today
2. Roast the Commish: If you thought our Dayton-Richmond ML price was bad, wait until you see what happened with the total
3. Random Player: Gonzaga's Luka Krajnovic as a difference maker
4. Duke-UNC, Houston-Kansas, Tennessee-Kentucky highlight the first, and possibly last-ever, nine-game card

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1. Live Your Truth Advice

ESPN's fourth-best manufacturer of hollow, ratings-adjacent college hoops hype, Sean Farnham, has overused a schtick on the air in recent years. It involves forcedly endorsing the Davenport Hotel, where his company sends him to stay while he's in Spokane, a location from which he is known to cheerlead over the airwaves for whatever qualities (or, more importantly, the exaggeration thereof) compel Gonzaga's detractors to detract.

The hotel's restaurant named a truly mid dish after Farnham, a fitting act that he interpreted as an accolade. He has enjoyed sharing this information during, per an informal tally conducted at a HQ, at least nine live broadcasts in recent seasons. Doing this has allowed him to flex apparent regional bona fides (and send out this well-intentioned appropriation of the service industry). It constitutes a more self-aware and therefore less forgivable version of when your old uncle tells the same story for ninth time but thinks that it's only the fourth time. I won't print the name of the dish here, as doing so embodies the whole one-trick problem, but let's just say its promotion led to a spike in local shrimp sales. (The sales were local, thankfully not the shrimp).

Fortunately, the Davenport has seen more distinguished days before and since the Farnham schmaltz. These instances include several U.S. Presidential stays, events held for infallible aviators Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, as well as the author's recent celebration of his own wedding night in the Presidential Suite, which if I may say so, was distinguished in a very different wa- [ANGRILY REDACTED BY MRS. COMMISSIONER].

My preferred connection between the Davenport and a (now) ESPN commentator is of a different sort. It occurred the evening of Jan. 9, 2001. A top 25 and eventual National Runner-Up Arizona Wildcats team had just descended on the Inland Northwest to feed on Washington State the following night, and they were staying at the nicest digs in the area code. These guys were such a big ticket draw for the locals that the Cougars moved the game to Spokane, 90 minutes away from Pullman, even though their arena and Spokane's are the same capacity.

A terrified 14-year-old Commish, passing through the Davenport lobby with family, immediately saw something different: College basketball royalty – Gilbert Arenas, Jason Gardner, Richard Jefferson – were all standing there by the front desk. I frantically searched for Lute Olsen, who seemed like the coolest coach in the country, ever distinguished for dignified business in his trademark Navy blazer. Lute was sadly not with the team that night. My second target was Luke Walton, a sophomore on the team who a friend had told me had a famous dad.

Walton seemed extremely uninterested in meeting a fan. He grunted, "what do you want?" I realized I hadn't thought through the answer to this question before I went in on approach. I grabbed the first thing I saw, a damp cocktail napkin from a nearby table, and handed it to him, and asked for his autograph. No one had a pen. Walton looked at me. I looked at Walton. Who would blink first? It lasted half of one second but in one's memory it seems like a lifetime.

As I was halfway to melting in adolescent embarrassment - this instance kickstarted a Teenage Commish phase of almost religious interest in and adherence to deodorant - bounding out of nowhere came a curly haired gesticulator. He bellowed, "Ooo-kayy, ooo-kayyyy what'll it be my friend?" like the human instantiation of a golden retriever, or an overly excited waiter in a diner.

He produced a pen, as if I had asked him for his autograph, seized the napkin, scribbled something, and said words I don't remember. Someone had saved me from Luke Walton – I was too grateful to intake anything else. All I remember was this guy's boundless, bordering on unnecessarily manic, enthusiasm for a stranger.

Walton walked away, but not after giving an eyeroll in reference to the curly-haired man that has stayed with me today. If you were a star player on a high-major basketball team, and you were hip checked away from even undesired autograph seekers by 23-year-old graduate assistant Josh Pastner, you might have reacted similarly.

I must have looked unintentionally forlorn prior to Pastner coming to my rescue. The napkin read, "Stay Positive! - JP."

I have this napkin now, in the year 2024. It's in a Ziploc sandwich bag with the Scotch Tape piece that used to adorn it to a teenage bedroom wall still affixed. I still think about Pastner's message and our brief interaction, particularly when I feel a sense of anger, frustration or unease.

Recently, people have sent the Commish some solicited (and unsolicited) advice regarding some professional matters. Unsolicited advice bothers a lot of people. Sure, it can be sententious, or more confusing than helpful. To me, much more bothersome than unsolicited advice are the people who give you advice that they, were they in your position, wouldn't have the courage to act on.

But Pastner, as his exhausting rise to coaching success showed (only eight years after our interaction he would go from student assistant to succeeding John Calipari as head coach at Memphis), appeared to fully live out his napkin creed in virtually every public exchange, press conference, and interview. He did so as a public figure at a time when public figures, constantly subjected to the barbs of an angry and jaundiced world, garner no trust.

He was even embroiled in an extortion plot that included false allegations against him of sexual assault (the allegers are now in jail). That would turn a lot of people's character. By all public indications, his character has remained intact.

His enduring message doesn't just remind us that a man with this fashion sense can become one of youngest D-1 head coaches ever, beat attempted extortion, post a 109-114 record over seven years in the ACC and still go on to a career in broadcasting.

It reminds us in a world of increasing cynicism, a world as we'll discuss in forthcoming emails where we all "know" too much and have to tell everyone about it, that it's still possible for someone to give helpful and uncynical advice.

And that those rare breeds who live out the advice they give, particularly in the face of cultural or personal headwinds, deserve more recognition.


2. Dayton Flying (Right Through That Under)

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I recount the above anecdote not only because the topic of flawed advice was top of mind. I relayed it because Josh Pastner's face, doing color on the intro to the Virginia Commonwealth-Davidson broadcast on CBS Sports Network, was the first thing I saw when I came to last Saturday.

I had been out cold since the end of the immediately preceding game, thanks to the most heart-wrenching college basketball beat HQ has ever personally suffered - ironically on this contest's most-bet game in Week 4, Dayton @ Richmond.

We begged SVP to cover it on his best segment, but I'm not sure how his producers would have cut the footage down enough. (He did not cover it, but he did cover the disgusting ending to Iowa State-Kansas, which won several of you lucky bastards 4,000 points and kept the weekend from being a total bloodbath for all of you).

The game total in the public markets was 132.5. 35 combined points were scored at halftime.

The teams combined for a 98-point second half, including 22 points in a final 58-second stretch featuring nine fouls, including four fouls on Richmond, who was consistently ahead by five points. Foul shooters made 17 of 18 free throws.

The final combined score was 133.

Robn's game total, however, was 134. So the insanity above that won the bet for public bettors sadly left Robn Over bettors Tim Merck and D.J. Leary one point away from victory.

More importantly, Richmond's win that ended Dayton's nation-longest win streak also ended Robn'ers chances of winning roughly 7,500 points. An overwhelming 87% of the action in that market was on Dayton to win.

On the EXTRAS market front, the battle of the "AJ" props – both Hoggard and Storr – garnered the most attention, spicing up a game that was otherwise a predictably stingy road slog for Michigan State.

Congrats to Darrell "9.9" Mitchell and Mark "The Long, Cold" Winters, for their respective big wins on each player.


3. Random Player: Luka What We Have Here

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Gonzaga is having a down year. There's no other way to slice it. The depth isn't there. The chemistry, communication and perimeter shooting isn't there. The Top 25 streak is already over, and the NCAA Tournament streak is in significant jeopardy unless they can pick up notable wins (hello, Kentucky!).

An opportunity the old fashioned way comes this Saturday against Saint Mary's at home (Zags are 0.8x on the card to win, Gaels are 1.25x to win) where Gonzaga will at least have one extra tool to use: former Croatian League MVP Luka Krajnovic.

Luka's pedigree might initially scream "Tommy Lloyd project" - the now-Arizona coach was the Zags' go-to guy to not only acquire, but develop Eastern European and other far flung talent. But he's not a rough-around-the-edges foreign big like Przemek Karnowski, J.P. Batista or Oumar Ballo. He's a great ball handler and a proven scorer. He led the highest level of Croatian basketball in scoring as an 18 year old. He seems more like one of Matt Painter's endless supply of three-bombing white guards than a typical Gonzaga import.

Krajnovic broke his hand during a pre-game shootaround hours before UCONN lit up the Zags in December, and he's been out ever since.

His return was roughly earmarked for somewhere between this Saturday's game and next Saturday's must-win at Rupp Arena. But he surprised everyone when he came off the bench Tuesday night against Loyola Marymount and scored 6 points in 7 minutes.

Few's system, notorious for picking winners and losers and resulting in lopsided playing time metrics, often maroons unknown or lesser known entities on the bench, especially during big games. Similarly, the system overloads others, including starting guards Ryan Nembhard and Nolan Hickman.

Was the LMU game a test-run for Luka's availability in a must-win game against Saint Mary's? Or will Few's usual tendency of forgetting he has a bench relying solely on the known entities on his roster keep Krajnovic on the pine?

Krajnovic's scored in every game in which he's played more than a minute this season.

Hence our first ever EXTRA "will they score" market on this week's card:


4. Four Intra-Top Ten Matchups

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When was the last time we had four intra-top ten matchups in one weekend? I mean five is the end-of-the-bell-curve, absolute mathematical limit, so four seems pretty darn rare.

Houston is a road favorite at Kansas, so I look forward to all of you yet again taking the Jayhawks and somehow winning.

The Tennessee wagon heads to Rupp to face a Kentucky team that is potentially down both D.J. Wagner and Justin Edwards.

Duke travels to Chapel Hill where we have this week's SUPERCOMBO EXTRA market ft. R.J. Davis.

Iowa State heads to Baylor, a game that features our first ever "which teammate will score more" market.

No, the Mountain West is not forgotten. Utah State tries to keep the momentum going in San Diego against the Aztecs.

The 97-team tie for first place in the Pac-12 will only get messier when Colorado goes to a banged up Utah team coming off an horrific Pacific Northwest road trip.

Oh, and then No. 6 plays No. 2 on Sunday.

Week 5 Card

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Week 5 Card - Feb. 3rd
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Week 4 Leaderboard, Responses and Graded Responses can be found at the bottom of this post.

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