LOGAN, Utah -- Yesterday's GMHN closed with a query to the cosmos as to why there will be nearly 300 fewer mid versus major games in 2008-09 than there were in 2007-08. And when I end a daily post with a question, I should expect that my mailbox will contain a few answers. And they arrived! Responses, which contained many solid and plausible theories (some including bullet points), came pouring in from all corners. Because this is a complex question with very intriguing and double-sided answers, I'm going to wring a few days out of this.
Douglass in Indianapolis gets us into the right area of general inquiry.
How would you explain the sudden, unexpected drop in games between large schools and low-budget schools? Let's do what everyone else is doing these days and blame it on the economy. Perhaps the big budget schools are having to trim some fat and cut back on those expensive guarantee games. If the numbers keep going this way next year, we can blame Cleveland St.
It's true, times are changing in college athletics. Keep in mind that most of this season's games were scheduled before the September crashes that shifted the presidential race and shocked the country into conservation. But there were signs and fissures in the financial markets for months, and fear of the future is always a powerful leading indicator. Michael K. throws some more wood on the fire.
This is a response to your question at the end of today's GMHN. I wanted to point out a few factors that might have played into the high drop-off, since I doubt a change that large could be due to any single watershed event (fear of SuperBatFlash Stephen Curry notwithstanding). First, the economy is slumping, and 'guarantee games' are not free. An AD at a low-end (read: less successful (read: less spare cash than UConn)) Big East school who can normally afford to buy 4 or 5 opponents per year might have to scale back to 2 or 3, thereby saving a couple hundred thousand dollars.
Second, with the Big East teams having a schedule with games against so many different high-RPI teams each year, maybe the ACC and everyone else feel like they need to add more variety of power-conference teams to their schedules. I realize they play roughly the same number of conference games, but if Syracuse beats a list of NCAA tournament teams with 6 or 8 names on it, it looks slightly better than Clemson beating Miami twice.
Third, I know there is no real parity, 13% is still just 13%, but as there seem to have been several high-profile mid-major wins over the last couple of years, maybe the big kids are getting scared a little. As Kentucky knows, there isn't a whole lot to gain from playing Gardner-Webb, but there sure is a lot to lose. So maybe cutting back from 13 power-mid games per team to 10 (based on ~100 power-conf-teams) at least minimizes the chance of losing more than once.
Getting warmer. I'm going to throw a few more numbers out there for you to chew on, so we can all get to the kernel of this mystery together.
As you've noticed (unless you read the site with an RSS reader), there's a college basketball scoreboard at the top of the page. It's not just any ticker, all the games we don't care to know about are filtered out. That is to say, only games featuring at least one team south of the Red Line are included. Last season, a year in which 5,593
games were played, 4,430
included at least one school from the Mid-Majority. That's 79.2
percent of all games, and a lot of work for me to get it all straight.
This year, things have changed a little bit. In 2008-09, we have two more RPI counters in Houston Baptist and Bryant, and the number of games has increased to 5,724
. That makes sense, right? But get this: the number of games tagged in our database to include in the score ticker has decreased
... to 4,229
. All of a sudden, the number of games involving at least one mid-major team has gone down to 73.8
I probably don't need to spell it out, but I want to extract one possible theory from the mix. There are a whole bunch of schools making the leap to Division I that are a year away from playing their first full Division I schedule, and they don't count in our world (or the RPI) yet... teams like SIU-Edwardsville, Seattle, South Dakota. For our purposes, they're "non-D1's" for the time being. In 2007-08, there were 330
games involving one Division I team and one outside the NCAA's top flight. This year, there are 346
-- a minor blip of an increase.
And in case you think that power-conference schools are simply passing over mid-majors and choosing to give guarantee money to non-D1's, it isn't happening. In 2007-08, there were 43
cases of schools above the Red Line playing non-D1 opponents. This season, there are 49
. Once again, not enough to call it a trend.
I have the brightest minds in the blogosphere reading along, the audience that puts the "college" back in "college basketball." I know that a lot of you have figured this out for what it is, and have realized that this emerging pattern is both very good for our level of basketball, and in some other ways very, very bad. Some have already figured out that I will have to be very politically correct with my final answer.
So here's my next question: why?Red Line UpsetsTexas-San Antonio 80, at Southern Methodist 75
-- Teams like SMU, Colorado State, Oregon State, DePaul and East Carolina have made regular appearances in this space, so people ask me if they're "mid-majors." Hate to sound like a broken record, but if you have money and are in a conference with resources beyond those in the lower 22, and you can't get it together, then that's too bad... and I have a feeling we'll be seeing some of these coaches at our level soon enough. But seriously, how would you feel to be a SMU season-ticket holder? UTSA broke through with five minutes to go, and this is the Mustangs' third home loss to a Mid-Majority team this season.Buffalo 62, Colorado 60
-- It wouldn't be a proper Rainbow Classic without a few upsets. Calvin Betts
hit a running layup with 0:00.05 left on the clock, making up for the disappearance of a 13-point Buffalo first-half lead. And gotta give the Bulls their props: they're 7-4 and have wins over Temple and Colorado. Not bad for a team that everybody wrote off in September, a program that had won 22 games in two years and was going nowhere. Instead, Buffalo is playing solid D and shooting the 3-ball well, and could make an impact in a weak MAC.They Came Closeat North Carolina State 62, Loyola (Md.) 60
-- We love Jimmy Patsos
, and didn't join in the bashing when he sat in the stands during a game or put two guys on Curry for 40 minutes. But we know how basketball culture works: when you're 4-8, eccentricity makes you an idiot
, and you're a genius
if you're winning basketball games by thinking different. But just imagine if Loyola had pulled off a win in an ACC building last night, if Jamal Barney's shot would have gone in.
Oh, how the conventional wisdom would have changed, what with all those "crazy like a fox" articles clogging the tubes. This is the kind of logic I deal with on a daily basis.Goodbye, Bally Tuesday
Only temporarily, though. We gave away so many last week (three) that we've entered a backorder situation. Next Tuesday, we'll have another Bally
contest, promise.U'useless Stat of the Day
I love the college basketball scoring race. The winners are generally forgotten by the general public, but since they usually come from our corner of the world, they become great heroes of the Mid-Majority. In our time here, we've had Keydren Clark of Saint Peter's and Reggie Williams of VMI, guys who weren't able to lead their teams to the NCAA's, but damn did they score a lot of points. Fun to watch too.
This year's PPG-off is shaping up to be one of the most fun ever, since we have four players who will never go head-to-head but are all vying for that coveted prize (a grey 8 x 10 plaque, if you're wondering). We're discounting Ben Woodside of North Dakota State for now (third with 24.6 ppg), since he's riding that 60-point game... but Josh Akognon
of Cal State Fullerton and UT Martin's Lester Hudson
are tied for fourth at 24.4 ppg. David Holston
of Chicago State, profiled earlier at ESPN.com
, is sitting at 27.8 ppg. Stephen Curry
is leading the race with 29.9 ppg.
Last night saw a lot of movement. Curry scored 29 in Davidson's 79-75 G!O!T!N! win
at Charleston, but Holston picked up a couple ticks with a 40-point performance in a win over Campbell
. Akognon took a step backward, managing just eight points
at home versus Cal State Northridge.
Indeed, any shooter can have a bad night, and you never know when someone's going to pull the Patsos defense on Curry -- his zero against Loyola was just the second
time he wasn't in double figures during his career. But don't count Holston out of this. The Chicago State star has an active streak of 20 straight games in double figures, and has just a single one-digit performance in the past two seasons. Strangely enough, that seven-point night came last January against NJIT