March 5, 2009 11:55 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
NASHVILLE -- You might recall that there was a marathon chat announced to be held Friday (tomorrow) from the Valley quarterfinals. Due to a number of factors, that's being postponed. Instead, we'll try for a 12-hour chat next Thursday, and do a regular chat at 3:00 EST tomorrow that will overlap with the Bradley-Southern Illinois game. Come by, won't you?
It's also the final day to submit an entry for the final contest of the 2008-09 season: provide a concept for a four-panel Bally cartoon, which I'll draw up in time for next week. The entries so far have been great, except for one small detail: many outlines are longer than an issue of Watchmen. The winning entry will be one that doesn't make my hand fall off, and will be one that uses the setting-setup-punchline system that's kept the funny pages funny for nearly a century. But still, some of these are so awesome, they may just be presented as text-pictures anyway. As always, use The Formâ„¢.
Southland: Fifteen of the 23 leagues on this side of the Red Line are already seeded and bracketed, and team seasons are ending wherever you look. But conferences like the SLC are still figuring themselves out in a safe, non-elimination format in preparation for the second wave of tourneys next week. Sam Houston State (11-4) still holds a one-game edge in the wild West, the side where all the offense is. Every school in that division scores at least 70 points per game (the Bearkats lead all with 78.3 PA), and the Eastern schools are all below 67. So when SHSU plays a team like, say, Northwestern State, an 84-66 result is just the law of averages playing out. But East leaders Stephen F. Austin can play a little defense: check out this blowout win over Central Arkansas, which ended 61-39 but had the amazing halftime score of 33-7 -- just ahead of the six Samford managed in a half against Ohio State earlier this season. SFA clinched at least a share of the regular season title with the win.
Atlantic 14: Duquesne (9-6) survived the G!O!T!N! guantlet against Saint Louis (8-7) last night, a tremendously intriguing 70-68 decision in which SLU shot 58 percent but was undone by a late Dukes rally and 16 turnovers. In the conference's chutes-and-ladders scheduling system, Duquesne is now in No. 5 seed position, a half-game behind Temple with a date at Dayton remaining... the tie-breaker calculator may come out again next week, as Saint Joe's, La Salle, SLU and Richmond all have eight wins in the league's center. Not to spoil anything because you likely know about it, but there's another big game tonight in Ohio at the top of the conference between a red team and a blue team that we'll discuss a little later.
Mid-American: Bowling Green (10-4), a team that we've liked all the way back to last February, when it was clear that a junior-heavy squad might break through to have a huge senior party, is finally showing its true potential. The Falcons dug themselves out of an early 1-3 hole with six straight wins, then jumped into a tie with Buffalo at the top of the East with three straight intra-division wins against the Bulls, Kent State and Akron. They get slumping Miami tonight (three L's in five games) as they try to crack the deadlock. Buffalo's at Kent this evening, a place they've never had much luck. Meanwhile, the two divisions are still perfectly symmetrical.
U'useless Stat of the Day
After some minor inconveniences out on the road these last couple of days, we're at the Atlantic Sun tourney for the day. It's our fourth straight year covering the event, and it's one of our favorites. And despite its recent history of stability (Belmont's won the title three straight years), this tourney has an odd history.
It's no secret that the A-Sun, formerly known as the Trans-America Athletic Conference, has served as a gateway between the lower divisions and bigger and better things. Of the seven teams currently eligible for the crown, only one other school not named Belmont has ever won it. That'd be Mercer, which last went to the NCAA's in 1985.
Since and previous, no fewer than 15 teams have won the TAAC/A-Sun tourney championship. Thirteen of those are no longer in the conference. Central Florida, which at four (1994, 1996, 2004 and 2005) currently holds the most historical autobids, left for Conference USA four years ago. Arkansas-Little Rock and Georgia Southern, which are tied with Belmont at three and are off playing in the Sun Belt and SoCon, respectively. More former conference champions can be found in the Belt (Florida International, Troy), SoCon (Samford, Charleston), Badlands (Centenary, Texas-San Antonio), CAA (Georgia State), even the soon-to-be Great West (Houston Baptist, the 1984 winners). The conference is the college basketball equivalent of Trenton, N.J.: the Atlantic Sun makes, and the world takes.
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