I've been happily rooting against Michigan State basketball for the past 20 years, but I think I may have unintentionally found my new least favorite basketball team: Grinnell College, straight out of Division 3.
Grinnell guard Jack Taylor scored 109 points in a game the other night, and 138 in a game last year, and the media is absolutely eating this crap up, crapping it back out, and then eating the re-processed crap right back up again. The whole spectacle is embarrassing in so many ways, and most of the columnists I've seen who are criticizing this complete sham are missing the whole point because they (a) only looked at the 'total points' section of the box score (b) didn't watch the video of either game (c) don't know anything about basketball, and (d) all of the above. When my brother texted me on Sunday, "Looks like Grinnell is at it again", I sardonically responded "Grinnell is the type of team that Rick Reilly would like". Sure enough, this shows up on the front page of espn.com today. While it's not Jack Taylor's fault that this illegitimate freak show which only vaguely represents sport took place, as a willing accomplice in letting himself become something of a Quasimodo-esque king of fools, he can share some of blame (or credit, depending on how you look at it) that I've mostly reserved for Grinnell's coaches, the David Arsenaults Jr. and Sr.
I want to make it clear that there was nothing spontaneous, impressive, historic, cool, fun, or even exciting about Taylor's 138 and 109 point performances. This was a carefully planned publicity stunt drummed up by the Arsenaults to get some attention (and sell a few books, as Gregg Doyle notes at cbssports.com, in one of the few Jack Taylor articles that comes close to hitting the nail on the head) and continue their lifelong mission of bastardizing the game of basketball as much as it is in their power to do. The casual observer looks at the absurd point tally and thinks that an incredible basketball player got into 'the Zone', things started getting a little out of hand, and suddenly this magical feat was brought to life. Incorrect. I'm not going to say that anyone could have done what Jack Taylor did, given the right conditions, but it's honestly not as hard as you might think. Here's how to do it, in six easy steps.
Step 1: Predetermine that one player is going to score almost all of the points and take all of the shots. He's allowed to chuck up a shot at any time he wants, and all of his teammates need to set picks, pass up wide open shots for themselves, and get the ball to him.
Here's what I mean when I say that this wasn't at all spontaneous. I watched some of the video and student broadcast of the 138 point game, and very early in the game (maybe even when it was still pregame, I don't remember), the nerdy student announcers brought up that the gameplan for Grinnell was to try to set this new scoring record. It was well known even around campus that Jack Taylor was going to do all the scoring, and that Faith Baptist College was just the team to do it against.
Step 2: Scour the entire country for the absolute worst team you can find, and schedule a home game against them.
This is probably the most important step. Grinnell is a tiny NCAA Division 3 team, but might as well be the Miami Heat as far as these pigeon opponents are concerned. Crossroads isn't even in the NCAA. In fact, they're not even in the NCAA's red-headed stepchild, the NAIA (which has two divisions). Crossroads plays in the National Christian College Athletic Association, the NCCAA. In fact, they don't even play in Division 1 of the National Christian College Athletic Association, they're D2. This essentially equates to Division 7 college basketball, and that's before you even figure in all of the junior college and community college teams out there. There's less of a gap between Kansas and Grinnell than there is between Grinnell and Crossroads. By the way, Crossroads is 0-10 on the season. In Division 7. Kuyper College put up 116 on Crossroads, RCTC (I have no guesses as to what that could even stand for) lit them up for 105, The College of Faith hung an even 100 on them. This game somehow counts in the official standings for Grinnell. Out of thousands of teams, Crossroads just might be the worst team in the United States who can consider themselves a "college basketball" team.
Step 3: Tell your scorer not to play defense. In fact, tell him not to even cross halfcourt.
I haven't seen the full game footage of Jack Taylor's 109 point outing (along with everybody else) , but Doyle's critique points out there was an 11-minute stretch where Taylor crossed the midcourt line exactly one time. There was a possession where Crossroads had a 2-on-1 break against Taylor up until halfcourt, where Taylor just stopped and gave up the 2-on-none for a wide open layup which they probably missed anyway. This isn't some punk getting lazy on defense. This is part of the Arsenaults master plan to save his energy and get him a few extra uncontested looks so they can set some hollow and meaningless records and expect to be applauded for it.
Step 4: Your designated shooter needs to get really hot from behind the arc.
Scratch that actually, no he doesn't. He doesn't even need to shoot it that well, he just needs to shoot it a lot. Jack Taylor missed 44 threes against Faith Baptist, going 27 for 71 from three-point range on the game. The basic law of averages is on the Arsenaults side here, I'll admit. If the opponent sucks enough that your entire game plan is one big joke, you can let the same guy shoot it almost every time, and he doesn't even need to make a very high percentage, and he'll still get the points. A lot of the criticisms by people who don't know better are trying to call Jack Taylor a ballhog. That's not the case here. The Arsenaults have him designated as the ballhog for the games where they want to whore themselves out for some attention.
Step 5: Give up dozens of freebie layups to the other team, just so no time runs off the clock and you can get more possessions.
A guy for Faith Baptist scored 70 against Grinnell. A guy for Crossroads put up 50 on Sunday. Is it because these guys are really awesome basketball players, almost as awesome as the great Jack Taylor? No, it's because they were given free layups anytime the Grinnell press didn't force a turnover in the first few seconds of the possession. For the Faith Baptist player, his 34 for 44 shooting night looks pretty good on paper, but by my estimations, that means he must have botched 10 wide open layups.
Step 6: Let the media outlets run with it, and hope that no one realizes how idiotic and unimpressive the whole thing is.
The Arsenaults insist that people like me are taking this thing too seriously, and that they're just out there to try and have a little fun (and sell their stupid "the System" book of course).
Who is this supposed to be fun for? I pulled this stunt when I was like ten and playing some garbage Sega game called NBA Action '95. I put the difficulty on Rookie mode and let Clyde Drexler run wild (Clyde Drexler of all people). It was mildly amusing for awhile, Clyde scored about 120 points in the game, and I got bored midway through the third quarter and never did it again. I mean, the Arsenaults are obviously pretty pleased with themselves, as is Jack Taylor. Is it fun for Crossroads? For Faith Baptist Bible College? For the other Grinnell players? The video of the 138 point game is actually so boring that I skipped around and only watched for about 15 minutes or so. Based on the fact that the Grinnell gymnasium isn't anywhere close to being filled in either of the videos I saw, this brand of basketball must not be quite as compelling for the fans as it's made out to be.
Since the Arsenaults are so concerned with just having some fun, regardless of the hollowness of their accomplishments and the humiliation it created for their patsies, here's a proposition that I think could be "fun": Kansas schedules a game with Grinnell, runs their own version of "the System", Andrew Wiggins goes off for about 250 or so, and then him and Bill Self can strut around like we should all be proud of them or something. If you think I'm exaggerating with that number, consider that a guy for a Crossroads team that can barely run without tripping over their shoelaces already burned them for 50 this year.