Russ Smith

Russ Smith, a.k.a. the BasedKing, goes mainstream

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If you follow me on twitter, than you surely know by now that Russ Smith, the diminutive Louisville scoring machine, is my favorite player in the country.

He was last year as well, but that was before Smith decided to turn off some of his off-court hijinks and focus himself entirely on hoops. Now, Smith is putting together an all-american caliber season, which means that the rest of the country has been let in on my secret.

Luke Winn of shares the same infatuation with the little guy that Rick Pitino has dubbed “Russdiculous”, and while I will claim the glory of “discovering” Smith, I’ll allow Winn his time to shine. Because he not only wrote an amazing feature on Smith — who calls himself the BasedKing, as a roommate he calls Dark Slime and who lives in a fantasy world where he has tea parties at Waffle House (seriously) — but he also put together 11 Russdiculous facts that he couldn’t fit into his feature.

And seriously, everything about this kid’s story is awesome. Which is why you need to go read both of those stories. But I’ll give you my four favorites facts that Winn dug up:

– He once got stuck in an icebath because he drinks too much tea:

The BasedKing holds tea parties at a Waffle House near Louisville’s airport, where he indulges in hot, caffeinated beverages against the advice of Hina, who worries about their dehydrating effect. He once had to rescue a fully cramped-up Smith from a postpractice cold tub.

– His dad once tried to stay in jail to play a basketball game:

As a teenager visiting now-defunct Action Park in Vernon Township, N.J., he was arrested and incarcerated for giving a beating to someone who dared suggest that Big Russ and his friends wait in line, like everyone else, for a water ride. When Lou d’Almeida, the founder of the Gauchos AAU team—for which Big Russ then played, and whose early-youth programs he now manages—arranged to get him out, the response was not what d’Almeida expected. “Some guys heard I was a Gaucho,” Big Russ told him, “and now they’re counting on me to go one-on-one against the best guy from the other side of the jail. Could you wait till next week, so I can play the game?”

– Russ Smith almost left school during his freshman season, but what saved is season was a pep talk and a 1-7 shooting performance … in his boxers:

“The crazy thing is, I didn’t even get fully dressed for it — I had ankle socks on, and I normally play in three thick socks. I didn’t have an undershirt. And instead of my normal compression shorts I was just wearing boxers. I was saying to myself, ‘This is it, I’m going to sit through this game and then leave after.’

“But the team was playing bad against West Virginia and coach Pitino came to me at the end of the bench and said, ‘You’re going in. Go out and play hard, because no one is playing hard right now.’ I was like, alright, every time I touch the ball, I’m going to do something. I think I was 2-for-8, with a few steals, a few rebounds, and we came back from down 11. I subbed out with three minutes left, everybody was happy, and we ended up winning by one on Peyton [Siva]’s layup at the buzzer. After that, I stayed.”

This kid is so awesome.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Monmouth bench mob goes insane after huge dunk

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Monmouth has arguably been the most entertaining team in college basketball through the season’s first three weeks.

Let’s start with the obvious: They’re a mid-major outfit with a 5-foot-8 point guard that headlines a talented back court, one good enough to have notched upsets at UCLA and, this week, over No. 17 Notre Dame and USC at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.

It’s pretty incredible, to be honest. They’ve managed to amass one of college basketball’s best resume despite being a MAAC program with a grand total of four NCAA appearances in their luxurious history.

But what makes this team so much fun isn’t just that they can’t seem to stop beating high-major competition, it’s that, in the process, their bench mob has become one of college basketball’s best.

Want some proof? Watch what happens after this Deon Jones poster dunk:

And here’s the wild part: that wasn’t even close to the best thing the bench did this week.

This was:


But there’s so much more.

Like, for example, the three arrows:

The touchdown pass:

The bench poster:

The heart attack:

They … caught a fish?

And, finally, the ‘OH SHHHHHHHHHHHH’:

Wichita State’s 0-3 week makes chances for at-large bid small

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

We’ve reached the nightmare scenario for Wichita State.

Having entered the season as the overwhelming favorite in the Missouri Valley, a top 15 team and a legitimate threat to reach a Final Four, after two weeks, the Shockers are in serious danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament altogether.

That’s not hyperbole, either.

Wichita State fell to 2-4 on the year after getting mollywhopped by Iowa in the 7th-place game of the Advocare Invitational. They ended up in the 7th-place game because they lost to USC and Alabama in the opening two rounds. The Hawkeyes look like the might be able to eke out an at-large berth if things fall the right way for them, but USC and Alabama are projected to finish at or near the bottom of their respective conferences. Even Iowa would do well to finish in the top half of the Big Ten.

Individually, none of those three losses are particularly terrible, and that’s before you factor in that all-american point guard Fred VanVleet sat out the trip to Orlando with a bad hamstring. They were also without back up point guard Landry Shamet in the tournament and it’s unknown when they’ll actually get Anton Grady back to full stretch. That matters to the NCAA tournament selection committee. They’ll factor it in when they determine where the Shockers will be seeded, or if they will even get an invite.

But throw in the loss at Tulsa from the first week of the season, and the Shockers are now 2-4 on the season.

And unlike the rest of the preseason top 25 — unlike the rest of the nation’s high-major programs — Wichita State won’t have a chance to load up on quality wins during league play. The Valley is better than we probably realized (more on that in a second), but it’s not like there are going to be a myriad of top 50 wins for the taking.

Look at Georgetown, for example. They Hoyas went 1-3 in the first week of the season, a stretch that included a home loss to Radford. But they also play in a conference where they’ll get home-and-homes against the likes of Villanova, Butler and Xavier.

The Shockers need to do their damage during the non-conference. They need to get the bulk of their resume put together before Valley play starts. Assuming they do win the rest of their non-league games, we’re not exactly looking at a daunting profile, either. The Shockers still have to visit Saint Louis and Seton Hall and host UNLV, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico State. UNLV and Utah should look like quality wins on Selection Sunday, but the rest of them?

Wichita State is putting themselves in a position where they may end up needing to win the Missouri Valley tournament just to get into the Big Dance, and the problem is that the Valley looks like it is really going to be tough this season. Northern Iowa notched a win over North Carolina already this year. Illinois State gave Maryland a fight and entered the season as a favorite to upset the Shockers. Evansville has two of the league’s five best players in D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius.

They’re not waltzing through that conference by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s not exactly what VanVleet and Ron Baker had in mind when they decided to return to Wichita for one final season.