HOUSTON -- Think of it this way: this is the only time when team rankings are based in reality. It's all posturing and conjecture in November, it's a popularity contest every Monday afternoon, and it's not necessary to hash over the imperfection of a convoluted process
that will take place in downtown Indianapolis, once again, in just over a week. When a league's regular season is complete, teams have played an equal number of games in conference context, and are sorted by winning percentage and logical tiebreakers. This is where you stand among your peers, right now, and your position is indisputable. Upsets are real and true upsets
here: underdogs in league tourneys, when they defeat favorites, are eliminating teams with superior accomplishments.
The regular season and conference tourney are both necessary, because they provide two separate and important measurements of quality. (It's not the difference between a "marathon" and a "sprint," because those comparisons are an insult to marathon runners.) The first two months of the calendar year test the endurance and structural integrity of a team, placing demands on its ability to remain consistent, resilient and uninjured. In March, the team organism enters a world of harsh, cruel Darwinism, life and death
. The name of the game is survival and survival only, advancement follows naturally.
To a follower and fan of the game, the latter is much more interesting and thrilling. That's why, as happens every March, thousands of new and different folks will enter this general area. We've upped the bandwidth on the site in preparation... so, welcome back.
If you're an early returnee, just a reminder to actually attend one of these conference tourneys happening all across Hoops Nation in the coming weeks. These are really special and wonderful events, and last week we asked you to provide some of your favorite tourney memories. Here are a couple from the mailbag, and we'll be posting more as Championship Fortnight continues. (If you want to enter yours, go ahead and use The Formâ„¢
Bill is an IUPUI fan who went through the cycle we speak of often here on the site. In 2007-08, his Jaguars were 15-3 in the BLC and 26-7 overall, and anticipation and NCAA hopes built up slowly as the regular season wound on through the winter, cementing the emotional involvement of the fans in IUPUI Gym a/k/a "The Jungle." But in March, the team fell a heartbreaking seven points short
of a return to the Big Dance after five years away.
It came at the end of last year's Badlands Tournament: Both IUPUI squads lost in The Summit League (yes, they have us capitalize the "The"), and I realized that in the mid-majors, windows to reach the NCAAs open and shut in an instant. For the Jaguars, there would be no falling back on an at-large bid, despite the excitement George Hill brought to an arena.
That window of putting up a banner in The Jungle was gone, and it was back to the upper half of the Badlands (at least this year). For most mid-major conferences, teams get one or two shots at a title before having to reload for another shot. Watching both IUPUI teams finish in the middle of the conference this season only reinforces that the chances to reach the NCAA are fleeting and must be seized when they are presented.
Here's a great one from John, for whom the CAA event is an annual opportunity to strenghten family ties.
2009 will mark the 11th year that our sorted group will be attending the CAA Tourney down in Richmond. In the early years, we weren't family yet but through marriages to sisters, a good portion of us are now family. Throw in some close friends in our group and we have most of the conference covered. Our family group includes one from JMU, one from GMU, one from ODU, and one from W&M - well, he actually went to Michigan but his wife went to W&M but he represents the Tribe well. Our close friend group includes one more from JMU, one from Towson plus (and every group needs a fickle member) a Fairfield alum who supports either Drexel or Northeastern depending on the day. Actually I believe the "Stagger" from Fairfield really just comes for the cold, frosty beverages anyway.Hello, Bally Tuesday
We have seen some great games over the years â€" the Tony Skinn game, the incredible buzzer beaters the past two years between W&M and Georgia State, the look of disbelief on the VCU fan's faces after losing to W&M last year, not to mention the draftiness of the Richmond Coliseum (Mausoleum) on those Friday play-in games of year's past when the place was only about 10% full. The familiarity of going to the tournament year after year has grown on us all.
Though we don't really know everybody, we have a sense of comfort in seeing everyone again. Richard from UNCW, the VCU pep band leader, the cowbell guy from the Georgia State band, the cheerleaders from W&M (who really need to get some sun), "Metternick" from ODU and all the caazone bunch, and even the sarcastic VCU fan (whose face is always etched in my brain) for acknowledging this JMU fan's presence by "thanking me for coming out to support the conference" after the Dukes were long sent home. We are there for the whole tourney â€" starting on Friday â€" and we will be there again this year. No doubt we will be donning our jackets on Friday to ward off some of that Richmond Mausoleum draftiness. We all can't wait.
The Tom Petty song contest
is now closed, and we have a winner. A clear one, in fact: "Mac Hopson" (to the tune of "Free Fallin'") was the overwhelming choice of voters by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. Travis in Idaho, please drop your mailing address in The Formâ„¢
, and use the same e-mail address you used with your original submission. With Ballys going at $40 a pop on the grey market, you never know what lengths people will go to in order to get their hands on one. Delivery by Selection Sunday is guaranteed.
And now, the end is near. For Season 5 Bally
contests, anyway. Recent activity
notwithstanding, the single most common complaint is that there aren't enough cartoons
on the site. Every season, it's been the New Year's resolution that always gets broken first. It's not a question of creativity -- I have a Moleskine full of strip sketches dating back to 2006. I always run into time constraints: inking, finding a Kinko's with a scanner that doesn't have a glass covered in scum, and the extra stuff one has to go through with Photoshop coloring on a laptop.
Here's your final assignment: give me the plot of a four-panel Bally strip by Friday. No weekend vote this time; I will choose the best one based on funniness and timeliness, then draw it up by next Tuesday. The co-author and contest winner will get a Bally in time for their Selection Sunday party.
But if you've been shut out from Ballyville this season, don't worry. There may or may not be a special announcement on that front sometime in the next month. Maybe.Seedz
With the conclusion of the Southern Conference season last night, seeds are now set for that league's weekend event in Chattanooga, hometown of both Samuel L. Jackson and Jim Nabors. With this season's addition of Samford from the OVC to bring the membership back to an even dozen, the SoCon has moved back to its SEC-style crossover bracket. Teams are once again given an alpha/numeric indicator, instead of the No. 1 through No. 11 seeds the conference handed out last season.
Southern: N1. Chattanooga 15-16 (11-9); N2. Western Carolina 16-14 (11-9); N3. Samford 14-15 (9-11); N4. Appalachian State 12-17 (9-11); N5. Elon 10-19 (7-13); N6. North Carolina-Greensboro 5-24 (4-16) ... S1. Davidson 25-6 (18-2); S2. The Citadel 20-11 (15-5); S3. College of Charleston 23-7 (15-5); S4. Wofford 16-13 (12-8); S5. Georgia Southern 8-21 (5-15); S6. Furman 6-23 (4-16)
U'useless Stat of the Day
In honor of the start of Championship Fortnight, a U'useless tourney fact. Of the 30 conference tourneys held last year, only one went completely according to seed: the six-team Big Sky event, won by regular-season champion Portland State. All five games were won by higher seeds: the 3/6 and 4/5 first round tilts, the two semifinals, and the championship. The average margin of victory was eight points.
Perfect chalkiness is tough to achieve, and upset-filled tourneys are used as both evidence that they're the most exciting thing ever (that would be us), and also that they should be eliminated altogether (by folks who haven't thought the issue through properly).In 2006 and 2007, the Horizon League held high-seed parties, and the 2006 OVC and Patriot championships were upset-free. In 2005, the WCC and MEAC went according to the regular-season standings. In 2004, the WAC and MAC did too. In five years and 150 events, that's only nine that didn't have any upsets. Exciting!