December 10, 2008 11:19 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
BALTIMORE -- Last Thursday, I saw my first conference tilt of the year. It was at the Truman-era art deco palace known as Memorial Auditorium, one of my favorite places to see a game, and the Badlands Conference clash featured the homestanding UMKC Kangaroos hosting the Oakland Super Golden Crisp Grizzlies. Oakland won.
I love conference play, and so does Oakland head coach Greg Kampe. Where our opinions diverge slightly is on conference play in December. "I hate it," he said after collecting his 400th career win. "One minute we're out playing in the Las Vegas Invitational, and the next we're playing two games that are life and death."
The Mid-Majority's official position is for (thumbs up) anything that makes December basketball meaningful -- no disrespect intended to the vaunted LVI, whose champion will live on in the halls of history forevermore (remind me, who won that again?). In lower-RPI leagues like the Badlands, the Atlantic Sun and the SoCon, every pre-Christmas conference game is one more day you're not getting your brains beat in at some power-conference arena.
What I have a problem with, and this is substantial, is the way the schedules have been set up. Ever since Major League Baseball went to an imbalanced division-heavy schedule and didn't adjust interleague play at all, regular-season records have been absolutely meaningless. If you're a second-place American League West team that drew a strong NL division, and you're in a wild card battle against an AL Central team that pounded on a weak bunch of NL teams in May and June, you're basically screwed. There's no fairness in that, and it's a mentality that's seeping into Our Game.
The issue is that December games are not being meted out evenly. Take the Atlantic Sun, for example. Six of the 11 teams have played two league games already, and congratulations to Jacksonville for jumping out to a 2-0 mark. Campbell, which was busy getting run off the floor at VMI last night, hasn't played an Atlantic Sun game yet, and won't until Saturday. Same in the NEC -- Wagner hasn't played a league opponent yet, but eight teams already have two in the books. Sacred Heart is 2-0 there.
This is wrong, because it forces teams to transition into conference-play mentality at different times. Teams that have to make that adjustment early, especially ones that are working in new players or a new coach, are put at a severe disadvantage. In a one-bid league, or a campus-site league like the NEC, one game could mean the difference between home and away in the tourney, a bye-day off, or a more advantageous quarterfinal opponent. To start the process towards March with a staggered start is a disservice to those who have to begin early.
The answer is easy: do what the MAAC, the CAA and the MEAC are doing. Start on the same weekend. If you're a conference with an odd number of teams, like the A-Sun or NEC, set three dates close together and play two games... you know, just like in January and February. Put them down in stone, and don't let AD's jerk you around. If you're not available to play, you get scheduled and you forfeit. League schedules are serious business, and the process should be respected.
Red Line Upset
Davidson 68, West Virginia 65 -- Stephen Curry is Superman, Batman and Green Hornet all in one man. Seriously, it's getting so difficult to think up superlatives that writers are going to spend the next three months forming superhero triads and four-squares to attempt to capture his awesomeness. After all, Writing About Curry has become a very crowded and competitive field. Even though the team has not found a player to pick up Jason Richards' shots (Bryant Barr, we've had such high hopes for you), No. 30 is jacking up nearly as many shots to match his jersey number every game, and the Wildcats are winning. Five good minutes of hot hot Curry is just as good as your limp, pathetic best 40.
U'useless Stat of the Day
Josh H. writes in with a question.
Got a question maybe you can help me with... last Saturday George Mason beat Drexel by one without having one player score in double figures. When is the last time a team won without having a player score in double figures?
Thanks, Josh H.. If that's your real name. It's a rare feat to have no double-figure scorers and still win. But George Mason had the deed done to them earlier this year at Hampton, when the Pirates used nine players to manage 50 points. In "rebuilding" Butler's statement win over Horizon League favorite Cleveland State last week, eight Bulldogs ended up with that same total. But in the three times that this has occurred this season, George Mason's 56 spread over nine players is a season single-digit high.
Final Housekeeping Notes
The link in yesterday's post about the Bally contest was broken, but many of you found your way to the form and sent in contest entries. I'm so proud of my readers for transcending my failures. For the rest of you, or those who are late to the game, you have until Friday to submit an answer to this question: name one team that was swept in the regular season by the regular-season champs, then won the third game and went on to the NCAA Tournament. Because of the volume of correct responses, this will be a random draw, so your chances of winning are dependent on the number of entries received. Just like those games where you collect candy bar wrappers and send them in.
Lastly, a number of you asked how you could help Navy Seabees NMCB 27 "A" Company (the "Ski-bees" cold weather unit), of which The Official Wife of the Mid-Majority is a proud member, during its holiday stay in western Iraq. They like care packages a lot, especially when they're full of Twizzlers, Slim Jims (TOW: "gross") and Oreos. If you feel compelled to send a box full of American fun, write in with the form and I'll pass along the address. If you wrote in over the weekend, please do so again, because I'm not very good about keeping feedback forms organized. Sorry about that.
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