December 16, 2008 9:03 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
CLEMSON, S.C. -- It's Tuesday, which means that we give away a Bally. Last week's question was an intermediate-level brain buster that a lot of people got right: name a team that lost twice to a conference regular-seaosn champion in January and/or February, then took its revenge at the conference tourney in March and went on to the Big Dance.
Correct answers included the following: San Diego 2008, which lost to Gonzaga twice in the WCC but took out the Zags in the title game; the MEAC's Coppin State 2008 (Morgan State); Oakland 2005 in the now-Badlands (Oral Roberts, Pierre Dukes!); Hampton 2006 in the MEAC (Delaware State); Boise State 2008 in the WAC (Utah State after a four-way tiebreak); the Big South's UNC-Asheville 2003 (Winthrop) and Creighton 2007 (Southern Illinois) in the Valley. There are many others, and thanks to eacha nd every one who took on the challenge.
But the winner this week is Alex in Arkansas, who was chosen among the 200+ correct answers at "random" because of pointing out, quite eloquently, that this happens all the time in the old Sun Belt.
I immediately went back to 1999 when ASU was swept by LaTech during the regular season and finished 2nd, but then went on to the NCAA's...however, Western Kentucky did us the favor of dispatching LaTech in the tourney before losing to ASU in the finals. But, this has happened twice in recent Sun Belt history...the most recent and impressive being 2007 when North Texas finished 3rd in the Sun Belt West, going a combined 0-3 against West Co-Division Champs Arkansas State & Louisiana-Monroe in the regular season before beating them BOTH in the tourney (ASU in the finals). Louisiana-Lafayette also pulled off the feat in 2005, being swept by West Division champs Denver during the regular season and then defeating them in the Tourney championship.
We always like the long answer. Alex, type into the form with your mailing address -- use the same e-mail you used last week, so I can make sure it's really you. It's too late for holiday delivery, but Bally should arrive sometime before conference season gets in full swing.
Red Line Upsets
Cleveland State 72, at Syracuse 69 -- Bucknell. Wichita State and Drexel. UMass and Rhode Island. Add the Vikings to the long and growing list of teams that have karmically punished the Orange's strategy of not leaving town until the Big East drags them kicking and screaming out of the state of New York. You can see the magic moment from your very own courtside seat, complete with Jim Boeheim leaving the court in shame. And while the win pumped up the Horizon's burgeoning two-bid hopes, consider that with the exception of breakthrough Bucknell, the other four Carrier Dome winners made the NIT (with which Syracuse is familiar lately) instead of the NCAA. If Cleveland State falls short, it's time to start talking curse.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 64, at Southern Methodist 62 -- Regular readers are tired of this argument, but SMU has a $27 million athletic budget, just over the median in C-USA, and that should buy it a decent basketball team. At least one that can beat SWAC teams -- for the second straight season, the Mustangs have fallen to a squad from the Swickity (Alabama State, 11/11/07) that makes do with a $5m budget that's funded in great part by guarantee games like this. Avenging the last UAPB-SMU meetings, 40- and 37-point blowouts, Eric Brooks tapped in an offensive rebound with :00.2 remaining for the win, and was fouled for the extra-point pad.
Hello, Bally Tuesday
There will be no contest next week because of the holidays, so this one has to be extra-special. And it won't require the form... this one's e-mail only, baby. Send your submissions into bally at midmajority.com, and you're going to need to make an attachment.
We're making a concerted effort to improve our poet-geek ratio around here, so we're taking a week off from the research trivia. This week's assignment is artistic, and has to do with a certain mid-major superstar who wears No. 30. One of the emerging Mid-Majority tropes is how Stephen Curry is three superheroes in one. Watching him live on Saturday night against Chattanooga (41 points in a 100-95 win) made me realize how true that is.
We the media (especially the ones who are just now getting on the bandwagon and need to write glowing copy to justify the trip expense) are in that uncomfortable intersection between starstruck awe, competition for remaining superlatives and the careful soft-shoe around actual criticism of the 20-25 minutes when he's not clicking. The guy is carrying a backcourt and a team and a school and a conference on his slim shoulders, and the strain is showing. His eyes bulge during timeouts and he clutches his shorts a lot... that wasn't happening nearly as much last year. Is he ready for the NBA? Who really knows. But if he gets through this season alive, he's simply superhuman.
So here's the contest. Make a Photoshop, a drawing, or any other artistic rendering of Stephen Curry as three superheroes in one. You choose the superheroes, and we're not looking for Stan Lee-quality work. Have your eight-year-old draw it if you want (just make sure they get to play with the Bally when you win!). Just capture the essence and inner struggle of the man who just might save mid-major planet with his mighty endurance.
Deadline is Friday, winner announced next Tuesday before we go on holiday break. Good luck.
U'useless Stat of the Night
Pine Bluff's win was big, but in all it was a fairly good night for the SWAC. Usually at this time of year, teams from this conference of historically black schools can be found getting hammered for cash in power-conference guarantee games across the country. On Dec. 15, the margins were more respectable than usual.
Alabama State led Ole Miss deep into the second half before falling by four in Oxford, Miss.. Alcorn State was headed for a win at Central Michigan before five-foul disqualifications ended the Braves' dreams; 74-66 was the final there. And Creighton, fresh off wins over Saint Joe's and Dayton that pumped up the Valley's general rÃ©sumÃ©, shot only 38 percent when Southern came to town. The Bluejays still defended their house with an 11-point win.
So the SWAC was -21 for the evening, following a Sunday in which the conference was +2 in a single-game slate (Alabama A&M over Tennessee State of the OVC, 69-67). To put this in perspective, there have been five days so far this season when SWAC teams have been beaten by 100 points or more: Nov. 18 (-111), Nov. 20 (-127), Dec. 2 (-117) and Dec. 6 (-149) among them.
But the biggest conference-wide system failure of the year came just the other day, on Saturday. With five of the 10 teams in action, Baylor beat Prairie View by 27, Houston over defending champs Mississippi Valley by 34, LSU outhooped Grambling by 46 and Michigan State stomped Alcorn by 58 in a near-doubleup. Only Southern, playing the Southland's Nicholls State, stopped the bleeding, losing by just six. That's an aggregate league-wide loss of 171 points.
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