Busting Brackets had a chance to do a little Q and A with Troy Machir of Sporting News fame. For those who are (somehow) unaware, Troy used to be a big deal for college basketball. I mean, he still is, but as far as covering the sport on a daily basis. Before joining Sporting News as a Associate Social Media Director, Mr. Machir was a member of NBC Sports’ really good College Basketball Talk (CBT).
Okay. Okay. You didn’t come here to listen to me gibber-jabber. Everyone wants their Troy Machir fix. So, um, here (Busting Brackets in bold font, Tory in that fancy-smancy Italic):
Troy, college basketball is considered a relatively niche sport. When did you fall in love with it and how did that result in you covering it?
I was born a CBB fan. I grew up in Washington, D.C., where college football is nonexistent. My mom and dad went to Georgetown, and were diehard fans. My Saturdays as a child were built around Big East basketball.
Growing up, it was always my dream to be a college basketball player. If that didn’t happen (Which, c’mon I’m 6-3 and haven’t been able to dunk since 2004 and have a terrible jumper), I knew I wanted to work in CBB. During my senior year in college, I joined my buddy Rob Dauster on his college basketball blog and things kinda took off from there.
Even though CBB can be considered niche, it does have a really tight community between its fans and the people who cover it. How do you think the CBB community is different from others? Can you give any examples of how the community has altered your daily routine?
In my opinion, the fans and game atmospheres are what makes college hoops so truly unique. There’s just something special about being packed in a small arena like sardines on a cold winter afternoon screaming at the top of your lungs. Sure, all fan bases pro and college have great traditions, so it’s hard to say how college hoops really differs from any other sport, because all fans are unique. Though, I will say, I’m glad college hoops isn’t college football. Some of those fans are truly delusional.
You and Rob Dauster (CBT, your former BIAH bestie) have some of the most interesting Twitter exchanges. You’re clearly friends, but if Twitter had a “punch button” (in the same way Facebook has a poke button), how many times would you hit it on a tweet directed at you from Dauster? Side question, who is a better baller: You or Dauster?
Rob is one of my closest and dearest friends. I lived with him for two years and spent a month in the car with him driving around the country covering hoops. I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t admit that I wanted to crack him in the side of the head no less than 35 times.
Honestly, the Twitter banter we have is so great. I think it helps us relieve stress because we can absolutely rip into each other, and for the most part (I’ve crossed the line once or thrice) it doesn’t faze either of us. But now that we don’t work together and don’t live together, people definitely think we hate each other. Every now and then we will get tweets asking us why we dislike the other so much. But in truth, he’s one of my best friends and there are very few people I’d rather sit down at a bar and watch sports with other than him.
Now, as for hoops, it’s pretty simple. Rob is a much, much MUCH better shooter than I am. He’s a gunner with decent ball skills but nothing else. He’s one-dimensional. I’m a defensive juggernaut and high-post passing wizard. I’m the ultimate stat sheet stuffer. Sure, he played college hoops and I didn’t, but C’mon, this is D-III we’re talking about. Although we’ve never actually played one-on-one, it would probably end in a stalemate because neither of us are in the best shape.
You’re probably most (Internet?) famous for your College Basketball Must Follow Lists. Oddly enough, it seems like some bloggers/writers get real mad when you don’t include them. First, it’s obviously a ton of work (especially the full database version), how long does it take and how do you decide who goes on them? Secondly, have you ever regretted doing them now that people expect it to come out yearly?
I love doing the lists. One of the reasons I gravitated to college hoops is because of the enormity of the sport. There are over 350 different teams. So new information and content is always becoming available. Instead of tackling the same subjects most other writers do, I’ve always focused towards topics that people haven’t touched. Plus, coming up with a list like this required a tremendous amount of research, which I love to do. The first one I did back in 2010 took forever, probably a month or so of at least an hour a day. After all, the internet is a vast, always changing place, so it is extremely difficult to keep up with everything.
While there are people out there who know the Xs & Os better than me, I really made it a goal of mine to know more about the news/media/blog landscape than anybody else. I like to think that I have a great understanding of it, and while it’s tough to fit EVERYBODY on the list, I like to think I do an adequate job.
You’ve covered CBB in a variety of different roles and have a great sense of what is going on in the realm of the sport. Who do you think has the most insane/irrational fanbase in the nation?
That’s a good question. I think the Kentucky and Louisville fan bases have the largest number of nutjobs among them, but they are also probably the two biggest fan bases in the country, so it kinda makes sense. The crazy Louisville fans are more hateful, the crazy Kentucky fans are more ridiculous. I’ll also throw in Cincinnati fans as well, some of them tend to be pretty aggressive. All the large traditional powerhouses have a good number of irrational fans, but with good reason.
Now, to make new friends. Who do you think has the most rational?
It’s tough to generalize about fan bases because they are so diverse. Marquette fans seem to be pretty understanding and knowledgeable most of the time and they treat me well on Twitter, so I’ll go with them.
Kentucky is Kentucky, Duke is Duke and so on. What other programs who are not exactly elite do you think have a chance to bubble up and join them within the next few years and why? Sleeping or soon to be giants if you will…
If Gonzaga ever makes a Final Four, you’d have to assume the discussion would turn to them finally being an “elite” program, but we have to wait until that happens.
If Gregg Marshall stays at Wichita State, that’s a program that is going to be not just a “mid-major power,” but a national power for the next handful of years. The Shockers Final-Four run was no fluke.
Other than that, we know what teams have a chance to be successful for decades at a time, the UCLAs, Michigan States, Michigans, Indianas, Floridas, etc. They’re not going anywhere.
College hoops is benefiting from all the “super-freshmen” this season. Even with Wiggins, Parker, Randle, etc., do you think players like Marcus Smart and Dougie Fresh are essentially being forgotten about by casual fans because they are not new and shiny? Even as people who cover the sport, don’t we sometimes push established players to the side for the sake of potential too often?
I don’t think anybody is forgetting about Marcus Smart or Doug McDermott. In fact, if you were to ask 10 completely random casual fans, Id bet that a majority of them would be able to identify Doug McDermott over Aaron Gordon.
Is the national broadcast media pushing aside a bevy of players for the sake of a handful of freshman? Yes that case can certainly be made. But the general CBB media knows what’s out there. They know that the Marshall Hendersons, Jahii Carons, and even the Elfrid Paytons of the world deserve recognition.
I’m not too old. You’re not too old. Still, this has to be one of the more exciting regular seasons that college basketball has had in recent memory. Do you think an old man who claims the 70s and 80s were a better time for college hoops would feel the same? (follow up) If he did, would you punch him in the throat?
On any given night, I have four games on my laptop at once, a game on my IPad and a game on my TV. Sorry old man, hoops is MUCH MUCH better today.
BB Note: That is all code for, Troy is more than okay with beating up on old people.
The new handcheck rules were created (really, reemphasized) to increase scoring and decrease contact. I feel it’s worth a few months of iffy-hoops if it means the sport will eventually look less like a YMCA pickup game and more like basketball. Still, people seem really unhappy with it and are (rightfully so) bothered by the length of some games. What is your stance on the new handcheck rules?
I don’t like it from a pure viewing aspect. Games are longer, the pace is choppy, and there are way too many stoppages. I’ve always enjoyed watching teams trade possessions, shot after shot, without having to call timeouts or go to the foul line. It makes for a better product.
People who complain about CBB usually use the pace, scoring, talent or things of that nature as a way to put it down. Some of us enjoy CBB for being different from the NBA or for other reasons. What do you say to the folks who constantly talk trash about CBB?
I’m all for people preferring pro ball over college ball. I get it. I also get preferring the college game over watching the Bobcats vs. the Raptors. To each his own. But personally, I’d take a Big Ten game on a cold January week night over the Heat vs. The Clippers on a Sunday afternoon. Again, it’s personal preference and I get it.
Tell us why Andy Enfield, FGCU or anyone else involved with ripping Dunk City from your clutches owes you money.
I just want some damn recognition. It’s pretty simple really. I was the first to use it on Twitter (On the @CBTonNBC account the school repackaged my tweet and it took off. Man if they gave me a #DunkCity t-shirt with my name on the back, I’d be cool with letting this thing go but until that happens, I won’t stop complaining.
Finally, can you leave us with a funny story or anecdote about anything related to CBB and yourself? I mean, the people want to know or something.
Oh this is easy. The Finals of the 2011 Big East Tournament. The Kemba Tourney. I’m sitting on the section 200 press row with Rob, like right above where the players enter the court. UConn and Louisville are in overtime at Madison Square Garden, and the entire place is standing. It’s as loud as it’s been all week. The Cardinals call a timeout to draw up final play when Rob taps me on my shoulder and tells me to look down the row. And there, roughly five yards away from us, was some guy absolutely PASSED OUT ASLEEP on press row, head hanging over the top of his chair and everything.
I mean, it’s one thing to fall asleep at a Maine vs. Binghamton game, but this is OVERTIME OF THE BIG EAST TOURNAMENT FINALS AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. Now I have to assume he was a media member because he was sitting on press row, but we never found out because umm, it was the finals of the Big East Tournament and we had more important things to do. But man oh man, I will never ever forget looking over and seeing some dude passed out as Mike Marra missed a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Busting Brackets would like to thank Troy for his time. If you like college hoops, sports in general or any form of Twitter banter and pop-culture references, follow him @TroyMachir