Have you seen the IT Crowd episode where Moss and Roy use a computer gadget that feeds them lines about football AKA soccer in order to fit in with first the post guy and then some men at a pub? Like that app, this post will bring the knowledge to talk about college basketball’s “ludicrous displays.” Whether you just want a cheat sheet or you’re genuinely interested in getting into the game, this compendium of phrases and terms is for you.
1. Introduction to College Basketball History. Do not let Canadians fool or mislead you: while the father of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, was Canadian (and a great person), basketball was developed in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts as a healthy indoor sport alternative to freezing your balls and/or ovaries off in outdoor sports in the New England winter. Just one year later, the enterprising Senda Berenson, a physical education instructor at Smith College adapted the game for women. However, basketball truly came into its own when Dr. Naismith coached at the University of Kansas, and his disciples (Forrest “Phog” Allen, Adolph Rupp) took the sport to new heights at Kansas and University of Kentucky, respectively. Between then and now, we’ve banned Dean Ball (a reference to former great UNC coach Dean Smith who liked to turn games into giant games of keep-away [called “four corners offense”], forcing the introduction of a shot clock), introduced the dribble, and found Michael Jordan.
2. College Basketball Set-up 101. Two teams meet on a basketball court or “the court.” There is one, round, orange ball with a texture like goose-pimples. Each team has five players on the court at any one time and up to eight scholarship players on the bench. Game starts with a tip-off, where a referee throws the ball up and two players, one from each team, jump and try to “tip” the ball towards their teammates. The game is divided into two 20-minute halves with a 15-minute halftime. If a game ends in a tie, the teams play in 5-minute overtimes until a winner is decided. The record for number of overtimes is seven in a game between Cincinnati and Bradley in 1981 (Cincy won).
3. College Basketball Lingo.
* walk – you must dribble every time you take a step. If you do not, you better hope you’re in the act of shooting (you get two steps) or else you’re going to be called for a “walk.”
* jump ball – Are two players going for a ball and neither seems to have the advantage? Are they all tied up? That’s a “jump ball” and teams take turns getting possession of the ball. In the NBA, the players jump for it (like in the tip off described above), hence the name. College is just weird.
* getting T-ed up ““ technical foul. Don’t mouth off to the officials, hit someone in the face, or take off all your clothes and you should be fine.
*soft D ““ This is not a comment on the status of someone’s genitalia, but rather a comment on how hard or soft someone’s defensive effort is.
* draining it from downtown ““ a colorful way to talk about “sinking a long trey,” which is a colorful way to talk about hitting a long three-point shot. Sometimes to celebrate a great trey, I sing the words to “Downtown,” Lucille Bluth style.
* points in the paint ““ You know how there’s a rectangle, often painted, beneath the basket and extending to the free throw line? Well, you do now. That’s the paint. Generally, getting a lot of points in the paint is evidence of a successful, aggressive interior game. You probably do a lot of rebounding, you sassy molassy.
* slash to the rim ““ One way to get points in the paint is to slash to the rim. Move fast and cut through defenders like they’re butter and wham, pretty arced shot or a nice lay-up will do you well. If you’re lucky, you might draw a foul and get sent to the line for an “and-one” free-throw situation.
* pound it down low ““ Commentators love to say this, double-entendre notwithstanding. It’s another good way to get points in the paint – get the ball to your biggest, baddest center/post player and watch him shuttle that ball up and into the basket.
* perimeter game ““ An alternative to getting the ball inside, a perimeter game relies on long two point shots and some nice treys to fill up the scoreboard.
* man-to-man defense ““ The name gets at the heart of this term – each player is matched up with a player on the other team based on strengths/weaknesses and told to stick to that player like glue. This technique is employed if you are well-matched with your opponent.
* zone defense ““ But what if you’re not well-matched? What if you’re scrawny and can’t run in a straight line? Then you employ the zone defense. You hope that you match up better as a cohesive team than as individuals, like in man-to-man.
* post moves ““ It’s when your big center (the player near the bucket) acts like a ballerina, and spins and twirls and pivots to avoid defenders and get the ball in the bucket. It’s so graceful and artful and just, ugh, beautiful. I’m serious, when you get a post-man that can boogie? It’s like angels.
One of the best parts is coining your own phrases. Like last year, when Kentucky had star point guard John Wall, every time he made a swift cut to the basket, I’d call it a “Papa John’s Pizza Pie Delivery Service.” This year, I have an infinitely more streamlined and broadly applicable “Three Stooges Play,” which generally refers to any play where a number of errors happen in short succession, often creating a hilarious on-court scene.
A note for those filling out brackets – TART is in first place, followed closely by Mosh Moshkla. It’s still anyone’s game, though, so stay tuned. In the meanwhile, share your favorite basketball moves, memories, and phrases.