Last night, Jackson State held off Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the G!O!T!N! by a 72-67 count, stifling the Golden Lions' second-half comeback from out of a 17-point halftime hole. The Tigers withstood disqualifications on fouls to nearly their entire starting five, to win their 4th straight league contest. Jackson is now a full game up on Texas Southern. Also, the above video is probably NSFW, but it's awesome enough for everywhere else.
Matchups for the 8th annual BracketBusters event were announced yesterday. You can get a full list of all the matchups here, including all the non-televised games. We'll have plenty to say about the event itself later, but the thing to remember is that for most teams, it's a SchedulingBuster -- the home teams have to return the games, which plugs an important hole in the November or December 2010 2011 calendar. Siena at Butler is the big TV game, obviously, since they're the only two sub-Red Liners you don't have to make a complicated at-large case for. Also, in sidenote: it's awful nice that ESPN has put all the games on real TV, and not their pay-per-Pixelvision. That was garbage. In the MAC last night, Western Michigan rebounded nicely from its last-second heartbreaker at Kent State, shooting 59 percent and winning at Buffalo by 15 points. Despite being 4-4, the Broncos have the best profile of any of the West division teams; they played Temple tough, routed CAA Buster-TV squads Northeastern and VCU, and have David Kool (21.1 ppg), arguably the best player in the conference and the frontrunner in the POY race. WMU shoots great, plays decent defense, but when they lose it's because of dumb fouls and poor inside play.
Congratulations to my co-author Tony Ingle, whose Kennesaw State team outmuscled Stetson 73-62 last night. The real difference in this game was the Owls' board work; KSU outrebounded the Hatters by 16. Kennesaw, in its first season of full Division I membership, was 6-12 (1-6) just two weeks ago, but the Owls have won five straight to even their record at .500 and get back into the hot mess of the Atlantic Sun race. Coach Ingle, when he was at Cherokee High School in north Georgia, coached a young blonde kid by the name of Josh Holloway. Told me he was a serious kid, a good shooter.
Also among the 23 games on last night's slate, King College of Tennessee beat Appalachian State 87-76. Wait, who? King is a transitional school... to Division II, and was just too much for the SoCon's Appies on this night. It was the tenth time one of the Others has beaten a Division I team this season, a "Black Line Upset" of sorts. King teams are called the Tornado in honor of a big American-Style Football win in 1922. After this, maybe they should call them the Smoke Monster!
The hottest team in the Atlantic 14 is Charlotte (16-5, 6-1), winners of five straight, tied with Temple a half-game back of Xavier, and currently carrying an RPI of 42. They sadly died last season, with a 11-20 (5-11) mark, but a lot of fans have been hoping that Charlotte will somehow get back in the show this year. The shooting skills aren't very good (41.3 percent in A-14 play), and Charlotte seems to get really disoriented in transition. Do they have the stuff to make the Tournament? It all might come down to their Title R compliance.
Paradise (or Sanity) Lost
For the past 24 hours, the web has been abuzz -- aflame, even. (Well, at least the part people like us are on. The 4Chan people, or those on social networks in Japan or India, don't much care.) According to anonymous sources on a "sports blog," a 96-team NCAA Tournament in 2011 is a "done deal". There's also been a linky link circulating amongst the revolutionaries, a PDF containing minutes from a Division I Championship sports management cabinet meeting last September. "If" isn't really part of the equation anymore. "When" will take care of itself, and this excerpt from those minutes should make the "why" part of things as clear as a bottle of "Multi-V" Vitamin Water™.
When ESPN and Turner take over the television rights of the NCAA Tournament, there will be explanations and talking points. More teams means more excitement, a bigger product. And it's just like a lot of the bigger state high school tournaments, right? Or a national cup in World-Style Football, where every applicant is put on the bracket with an opportunity to lift the chalice. More chances, more dreams, less heartbreak.
Which, of course, will all be bullshit. This is about generating money; it's right there in black, white and yellow (emphasis mine). But where will this money come from? The way that these broadcasters will make the rights fees they're promising to the NCAA is advertising, and many of the companies that pay for that are losing money, shifting priorities, becoming irrelevant or going out of business. The idea is that the economy will come back and everything will be okay again, but I believe that when it does, the concept of value will be radically transformed. Dollar figures won't mean what they used to. The Sports Bubble isn't going to pop, it's going to explode.
I'm still bitter about not being able to go to the Olympics this month, and it's now an idea that's buried under two separate and distinct layers of dirt. It's not only because I dearly love the Games, the dream I chased as a child when I strapped on a pair of thin skis and sought to be the first-ever American to win the 50k Nordic race. I see what's going on out there, and I want to see it first-hand. NBC is going to be soaked in a tide of blood-red ink. Vancouver is reportedly a military state now, with the city plunged into endless debt. Logo police enforce the interests of the paid sponsors -- even putting the muscle on librarians and their crackers-and-juice kidz parties -- making sure that Coke and McDonald's are getting the "clean city" they paid for. This is going to be Ground Zero for the Sports Bubble, and an indication of what's coming for other sports, including Our Game. I wish I could write about it.
I've talked to a lot of people about an expanded NCAA Tournament over the past year. Just about everyone says it's a "bad idea." When I ask them why, however, they have trouble articulating their reasons. It's usually something about the integrity of the bracket, and that things are perfect the way they are. Then I realize that these folks are generally too young to remember what it was like with 32 or 48 teams, when it was a Tournament of Champions that only had room for Duke or Carolina. They've grown up with 64 and 65, and that's the status quo, the way it is. Just like 96 will be in a quarter-century; I have no doubt that we'll have another generation of purists standing against the 192-team bracket.
I'm going to venture a guess that a 96-team bracket, to most of us diehards, represents a negative spiritual impact on a deeper level. Our Game revolves around a powerful notion -- the idea of a gateway, a door, through which the worthy enter. That's the basis of the dominant religion in our country: if one leads a good and pious and redeemed life, they will be one of the 144,000 to enter the gates of heaven. Here on earth, if you work hard in high school, you can pass through the gateway to higher education. From there, you might do well enough that you get a good job, at a good company, beating out all the other applicants to your chosen position. This is mirrored in popular culture: for instance, there are American Idols, and then there are the pretenders who can't even pass the audition.
The way we've constructed our parallel sports world works like this too: there are Olympians and non-Olympians, playoff teams and non-qualifiers, NCAA-caliber teams and those not good enough to Dance. Every wild card, extra round of eliminators, committee decision, and at-large serves to cheapen the accomplishment of "getting in," lowers the toll. A 96-team bracket would be the final straw for Our Game, especially if it's in the name of money.
I've said it before. If 96 happens, I'm out. Men's Division I basketball will have lost its meaning, and it won't be worth putting my life and livelihood -- or anyone's -- on the line anymore. But that isn't a threat or anything; The Mid-Majority will continue in another form. I always have a plan, as John Locke says, and I know that very few of you will follow me to the other side of this island. No matter what, we will continue to chase truth, justice and college basketball. Yes, this site is on the ropes now, fighting against unseen forces that would impede its destiny. But just because I'm losing doesn't mean I'm lost... and, oh yeah, don't tell me what I can't do.
Game! Of! The! Night!
Yeah, like you're watching basketball tonight. There's another kind of Season 6 on.