The West Coast Conference and Missouri Valley have a lot in common these days: both are inspiring mid-major geeks almost to the point of bad poetry, both have decent records against power leagues (MVC: 3-7, WCC: 8-10), and both can say that every team but one has a winning non-conference record so far (MVC: Drake, WCC: San Diego). But the Valley has the edge in something called "conference RPI." So let's begin there, shall we?
Ball State 65, Indiana State 59(story) - I've been hyping this game for a week now, and this physical Hoosier hoedown certainly lived up to expectations. Both teams played in-your-jersey defense all game, and the refs took a "no autopsy, no foul" approach. Indiana State struck first with an 11-2 run to start the game, but Ball State charged to a nine-point halftime lead and withstood 50% Sycamore shooting to eke out the six-point win. The key to victory? BSU's refusal to concede an inch of the baseline to reigning MMBOW David Moss, who was held to eight points on eight shots and didn't score a basket until five minutes left in the game. Cardinal senior swingman Terrance Chapman collected 16 points, 11 rebounds, and six stitches in his face.
Purdue 62, Evansville 61(story) - Remember yesterday, when I said that the Purple Aces might have enough to beat the Boilers? Carl Landry didn't agree; his putback of a missed shot with three ticks left salvaged the Boilermaker Blockbuster for Purdue. Evansville, in their road blues (?!?), had staged a rally to erase a nine-point halftime lead, and played nip-and-tuck with their hosts down the stretch before falling just short.
Bradley 76, Pepperdine 58(story) - Led by Marcellus Sommerville's dub-dub (20 points, 11 rebounds), Bradley blew out the WCC Waves and held them to 20 points below their season average. So let's check the pre-season predictions: 10th, 10th, 8th (Blue Ribbon), "transition year". The Braves have now won four straight, and have beaten DePaul, Butler and now Pepperdine - not exactly chopped liver, those. Their only loss was to a presently 4-1 Bowling Green team that lost to DePaul by 10. So do the Internet a favor and give some props to Bradley, okay?
Wyoming 68, Creighton 64(story) - The Bluejays (8-2 after a 6-0 start) played from behind for most of this one, becoming unglued after an early rim-hanging technical. Despite a late rally and the 17-point/eight-board effort of starchild Nate Funk, the team shot 32 percent from the floor and were killed on the boards, 50-30. Weary Wyoming was playing its fifth straight roadie, coming off tough losses at Kansas State and Dayton.
San Francisco 67, Pacific 64(story) - Hosts Pacific outrebounded and outshot USF, and Christian Maraker had a double-double, but the Dons only turned it over five times on the whole game. With 12 seconds remaining, the Tigers were holding the ball, up by one. Six-oh speedbug Andre Hazel stole it and former all-WCC John Cox (who led all scorers with 22) was hacked; he missed the first of a one-and-one. But teammate Tyrone Riley rebounded, was mistakenly fouled, and made both freebies. Tiger Marko Mihailovic's desperation heave at the buzzer didn't go, and new Dons coach Jessie Evans gained his first signature win in the West Coast Conference after seven years building Louisiana-Lafayette.
Gonzaga 85, Georgia Tech 73(story) - Here we go again! Past everyone else's bedtime in a city with no clocks, the Zags knocked off GT on national TV. Gonzaga had two 15-point leads and won the Las Vegas Showdown nightcap going away versus an ACC team that hadn't lost since last season's national championship game. Power trio Adam Morrison, Derek Raivio and Ronny Turiaf combined for 62 points.
Old Dominion 86, East Tennessee State 65 (story) - About two weeks ago, I said that ETSU wouldn't win if Tim Smith kept having off-shooting nights. Well, the defending SoCon champions and consensus favorites for 2005 can't seem to do it when he does score points either (18 tonight). The problem is that no matter how bullish they are on offense, they play like matadors on the other end (allowing a league-high 77.7 points per game). And the Colonial's Old Dominion (9-1), who shot 56% and outrebounded the Bucs 33-22 despite a size disadvantage, is really that good.
Denver 80, Eastern Washington 61(story) - Not trying to heap more poop on the defending Big Sky champions - it's just that like ETSU, everybody has them down as repeating. Though they've played only three of their nine games on the road, their 2-7 record is dotted with bad losses to bad teams. Denver, who is now responsible for two of those losses, is not a bad team. Remember all that mileage that Santa Clara got out of a win over Stanford? The Pioneers came within a possession or two of beating the Cardinal last Monday. They're now 5-3 with no embarrassing losses to speak of, and completed a home-and-home sweep by destroying EWU - at EWU - powered by Erik Benzel's 30 points. Denver's recent history involves a lot of Sun Belt West second-division finishes, but they might soon start drawing fans for their basketball instead of cheesy promotions like "special halftime appearances" by senior guard Rodney Billups' older brother.
Utah State 86, Brigham Young 62 (story) - In the back end of this Beehive State home-and-home, the Big West's USU won for the first time at BYU in almost two decades, and notched their third straight win over the Cougars. Runs of 13-4, 11-2 and 12-2 salted this away - no pun intended. Spencer Nelson with 26 and 11, and former MMBOW Jaycee Carroll with a career-high 21 points.
And lastly, our latest installment of "Revenge Of The Lower Divisions":
Longwood 75, Howard 69(story) - This was Longwood's 400th victory in its history, and it came at home against a lowly MEAC school. The Lancers pulled off the upset despite turning the ball over 20 times. For more on Longwood and its slow climb to Division I, check out Ken Pomeroy's interview with coach Mike Gillian from last month.
Gettysburg 75, Navy 69(story) - Tiny Gettysburg College is a $30,000-per-year Lutheran liberal arts school on a verdant campus nestled in amongst the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania. They play their ball in the Division III Centennial Conference with Johns Hopkins and Muhlenberg. And you can put the Bullets, um, Wizards back on the seemingly endless list of teams that can kick Navy's ass, something they hadn't done for 12 years.