Every year the NCAA Tournament rolls around and everyone begins to fill out brackets for office pools, family pools, or a friend’s pool, and winning choices become based off extensive research, the records of the squads, allegiances as an alum, the colors of the uniforms or whose mascot could beat up the other team’s. If the last one happens to be true, Ohio State might never win a game.
I’m not any different. I make my picks too on the basis of team record, coin flips, tea leaves and chicken bones. But I also look at the NCAA Tournament from a slightly different angle.
Every March, our home office and living room are taken over by charts, diagrams, color-coded magnets, grease boards, maps, statistical guides, action figures (OK, those are already there) and tens upon tens of notebooks – all containing tiny, tiny writing that fills up every page of every notebook, front to back, making all the pages look grey instead of white. If you looked at one and didn’t know better, you’d maybe worry that I was a real-life version of Kevin Spacey’s character in the movie Se7en. I assure you, I’m not.
I’m just scouting for the Suns.
Not that I’m paid by the Suns to do so. Or that I’ve been asked by the Suns to do so. Or that the Suns either know or care that I do so. I’m ready, just in case the team asks. During this time of year, the finest players in college basketball are on display for all to see, and I, like all other Suns Super Fans, am constantly thinking about the future of our beloved “Purple Gang” – prospects they might and should consider as the Babby/Blanks/Gentry brain trust prepare for the next draft.
By the way, I don’t have any predictions this early. I’m still recording my own observations, and running scenarios based on a list of scenarios: how the Suns might finish in the standings, where they might select, team needs, possible free agents, conceivable injuries. I am busy compiling massive amounts of data from my many deep, deep sources that I cannot reveal except to call them “S.I.,” “T.S.N.,” the “I*TER*ET,” and “SUNS.COM.”
These criteria are all fed into highly advanced computer programs of my own design, which are so powerful they once blacked out all the Encanto neighborhood for 23 minutes. My Commodore 64 computer can barely run these programs without sparking,smoking and making hideous screeching noises. That’s how complex they are. Fortunately, I have a small army of treadmill-chained gerbils augmenting the power of the Commodore’s processing systems.
Over the years, my system has produced some very interesting results. I’m not sure the eggheads at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology need to look to their laurels, but I just might be on to something,. Or, as my wife frequently worries during this time of year when she hears screeching noises from the computer, I’m simply on something.
However, the results are mixed.
In 1996, my system suggested the best pick for the Suns was Steve Nash. The Suns seemed to agree, and things have worked out splendidly. However, in 1999, my system indicated the proper choice for a top Suns draft pick was a six-slice toaster (Sorry, Shawn Marion).
In 2002, the system was right on the money, plucking Amar’e Stoudemire from the available draft-eligibles, and again the Suns and I happened to be on the same wavelength. Then again, in 2003, the system confidently chose George Gervin, an all-time scoring great who retired from the NBA in 1986 and is now 59-years old. The Suns opted for Zarko Cabarkapa.
So, yes, there are still a few bugs in my system. Still, all of my data, research and keen musings are available whenever the Suns need them.
Here, I’ll give you just a few samplings from this year’s notebooks, based on my trained and insightful observations of just one player in the 2012 NCAA Tournament :
“Player X displays excellent hops. Can jump higher than me. So can Player X’s coach. And mother. And grandmother. Consider signing them all???”“Player X does not look very engaged when he sits on the bench. He seems more interested in the fan eating a hot dog behind him. Hmm, a hot dog sounds good.”“Player X makes poor decisions with the ball. When a teammate misses a jump shot, your next pass to him should not be made from a distance of eleven inches, aimed straight at the bridge of his nose.” “Player X exhibits substantial leadership skills. First off the court after warmups, first to the locker room at halftime, first to exit arena after thirty point first-round loss. Note: Player X exited arena with 15:41 to go in second half.”“That was a good hot dog.”
Now, of course, much of my work is done as the Final Four arrives this weekend. I’ve catalogued the findings of my keen scouting eye on most of the teams that have participated, and now all that remains are to make a few last notes on this quartet of teams. Whether or not the Suns will ever call upon my expertise remains to be seen (Ring, phone, ring!!!), but as I wade hip-deep through the great steaming piles of priceless information covering every square inch of the home office and living room, I can’t think of a better way for a Suns Super Scout to spend March.
Or, as my wife calls it, “The month we don’t invite anyone over.”
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Adam Beechen will be at Phoenix’s All About Books and Comics, 5060 N. Central on Saturday, May 5, from 11:30 until 1:30 and 2:30 until 4:30, as part of Free Comic Book Day. Stop by and talk Suns basketball with Adam!