November 14, 2008 12:36 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
PEORIA, Ill. -- Remember back when you were a kid, it was a hot summer day out in your backyard... you had your 1980's NBA-style short-shorts on with no shirt, just hanging out in the grass your daddy just mowed fresh that morning. Not a care in the world. Then you got really thirsty, and you were too lazy to go in and grab a Coke from the fridge, and that's when you noticed that garden hose snaking around the corner, just a little bit of water dribbling out the end... you picked it up and just let that water splash on your tongue. So cool, so delicious.
But just then, your sister snuck over to the other end, took hold of that little flower-shaped metal wheel. Before you could do anything, before you could hear the creak and the groan of that spigot twist, WAPHOOOSH! That woke you up.
That's exactly what today, November 14, is like. It's a torrent of college basketball right in your face.
Frankly, we've had just about all we can take of previews, overviews, pre-mortems and outlooks (hopefully this A-Sun preview is the last one, and it's an opportunity to hear how I sound at 8 a.m. with no coffee). I personally have been writing speculative articles about the 2008-09 season since September. Enough already. After just a little taste of action this week with the Coaches vs. Cancer tourney, it's time to stuff the scoreboard, cycle the ESPN ticker, and melt down the Basketball State database. Again.
There are no fewer than 112 games on tap for today, the official non-exempt Opening Day for the NCAA. Nearly every one of them feature a team in our district, south of the Red Line. Many of the games are ones that aren't supposed to be won, guaranteed 30-point blowouts in power conference arenas. Some are glorified exhibitions at home against Division II and NAIA squads, 30-point blowouts in the other direction. But a few are going to be highly competitive and meaningful.
One is my game for tonight, the showdown between Illinois-Chicago of the Horizon League and Missouri Valley stalwart Bradley. The MVC recently signed up for a televised challenge in future years with the Mountain West, which is all well and good and all, but I'm more interested in the Valley-Horizon Faceoff Classic, which is very now and very real. These are two conferences that overlap a bit in geographical footprint and two-bid aspirations, and this time it's personal.
The Flames and Braves will play in the first of what appears now to be an eight-game series, with extras possible come BracketBusters time. The VHFC will continue tomorrow with Illinois State-Wright State, and the Year-After-What-Now BB return game between Butler and Drake. We may end up with a 4-4 tie, but we won't really know where things stand until Dec. 20, when Bradley goes to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and UIC plays Illinois State.
So this got me thinking about some of the other challenges we have going this season. Here are a few, then we'll get to the rest next week once some blood is spilled.
The CAA-Atlantic 14 Shootoff: After a pair of two-bid years in a row, the Colonial was thinking big. Plus, with a sagging A-14 in recent years, this started looking like an even rivalry. But the CAA regressed to single-bid status last year, while the Atlantics took off into the same rare air last enjoyed in the 1990's, pummeling the CAA 8-3 in the process. There are 14 games on the slate this season, kicking off with Old Dominion at Charlotte on Sunday.
The Big West-WAC Asswhompathon: Both were multi-bid leagues a few years ago. Now, both are trying to figure themselves out. As the BWC and WAC try to get back to their previous levels, they'll sharpen their knives against each other 11 times after fighting to a 7-7 stalemate in 2007-08. Monday brings Utah State at California-Santa Barbara, a matchup of two teams that could very well be conference representatives come March.
The Atlantic Sun-Big South Basketball Explosion: Two leagues... that don't... like each other very much. Just a little fake Cosell for you there. For various political reasons, these two similarly-positioned conferences don't play this year. The Big South eked out a 10-7 edge in the series, mostly because of Gardner-Webb's desire to meet its new leaguemates before moving across the aisle to the BSC. But this season, the A-Sun and B-South will go to work only four times, and the very ambassadorial Campbell is involved in three of those games. The Fighting Camels will play VMI twice as well as UNC Asheville.
The Ivy-Patriot Brain-anza: This is a favorite of our friends at Hoop Time, who have been following this for years. (Please don't miss the fantastic Robert Mapplethorpe-inspired graphic up there today.) Last year went to the Patriot League by an 11-8 margin. This season's version will also feature 19 games, and kicks off tomorrow with Dartmouth at Army. We're looking forward to Bucknell at Cornell on Jan. 6.
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