After a four day hiatus, the Hoops Odyssey is back in lovely Carbondale and we couldn't be happier. With its plethora of casual fine dining establishments and a moderate climate that in the winter hovers right around freezing, Carbondale is often referred to as the Allentown of Illinois - not to be confused with the Barcelona of Wisconsin, which is obviously Milwaukee.
Anfernee's back in Memphis.
At the heart of the Carbondale scene is Southern Illinois University, which was founded in 1869 as Southern Illinois Normal University - assumably paranormal activity was frowned upon. Originally, SIU was a teaching college but recently the school has made a name for itself on the basketball court. The Salukis have gone to the Tournament six seasons in a row.
This time, though, we're not in town for the basketball, at least not today. Tomorrow, we'll be making the trip to Peoria with the Salukis to check out life on the road for a student athlete, but today, we're in the heart of Jackson County, Illinois, for the scenery. And, thanks to an overactive GPS system we got a lot of just that - scenery. An unmarked, winding two lane country road, Route 9 takes you nine miles east from Route 3 to Route 127. And with icy conditions in a rear-wheel drive car, it's kind of like an old-country roller coaster. Lots of dogs chasing tires. Lots of deer darting into the road. Lots of blind turns. I've got Cyrus clinching the Impala's armrests and incessantly pumping the imaginary passenger-side brake with his right foot.
This man takes his make-up very seriously.
I've got to tell you. It feels good to see the big man scared. Since the day's roadtrip started in Memphis, Cyrus and I have been locked in a heated debate. Cyrus believes that Memphis got a raw deal in last night's game against Tennessee. "If the Tigers had just hit a few more free throws and the refs hadn't saddled Joey Dorsey with four fouls midway through the second half, Memphis would've dominated."
Beale Street has obviously gone to my partner's head. The Volunteers proved last night that they were the best team in the county. Tennessee walked into FedEx Arena and dominated Memphis on its own court. The paint in the lanes might as well have been orange. The Volunteers grabbed 15 more rebounds than the Tigers and scored almost twice as many points inside.
But somehow, Cyrus remains unimpressed. He manipulates the fact that Chris Lofton only had seven points as an argument for Memphis' supremacy. "Dude, everybody talks about Tennessee's edge coming from Lofton's experience and maturity. So much for that. Lofton went 2-11 from the field. He was terrible."
"Yeah, and Tennessee still won!" I yell as I deftly avoid a three-legged chow that tries to take a bite out of the Impala. "How can Tennessee beat Memphis and not be #1 in the country?"
That's a huge tea kettle.
"You're missing the bigger picture."
Okay, so here's the bigger picture:
Cyrus' Top Five
Jacob's Top Five
Cyrus' Underrated Teams
Jacob's Underrated Teams
I guess we're all entitled to our own opinions here, but the way Cyrus keeps turning up Phil Collins and screaming about Derrick Rose's 23 point, five assist performance in last night's game makes me hit the gas peddle a little harder and take the turns a little sharper. Cyrus screams. My mood improves. And the roadtrip carries on to the sweet sounds of "Sussudio".