Missouri Valley: Illinois State 77, Evansville 58 (story)
- The Redbirds have overachieved this season with explosive offense and discipline - they used a 50-point second half and extreme ball control
to sink the Aces. Three-point specialist Trey Guidry scored 25 points in just 21 minutes. So what now? Is ISU just muddying the conference picture, or are they making a real run at Tournament glory? This weekend should provide some clarity: they'll get their first shot at league-leading Wichita State
. In the middle of the table, Bradley
will attempt to avenge their MoVal-opening loss at Creighton
on their home floor tonight.Shootaround!Mid-American: Ball State's
(9-6, 4-3 MAC) recent run came to a thudding halt, as a flat and sloppy
effort doomed them in Zip-land, 79-63. Akron
(12-5, 6-3 MAC) is now mere percentage points behind Miami (Oh.)
in the MAC East and was keyed by 6'6" Zip Romeo Travis, who scored 25 points as his old high-school teammate LeBron James watched from the stands. Ohio Valley:
There are no more undefeated teams in the Other Valley, after Tennessee Tech
(10-7, 6-1 OVC) fell to Austin Peay
79-77 in an overtime thrilla in Clarksvilla. After a tight 44 minutes and 49 seconds, Tech fumbled into a turnover as they tried to hold for the last shot, and star guard Anthony Davis hit the winning jumper seconds later. The fans were whipped into a frenzy and chanted their traditional war cry, "Let's Go Peay."Game! Of! The! Night!
All due respect to Creighton-Bradley, but there's an intradivision battle of league leaders in the MAC this evening. Western Michigan
has been the best team in the conference so far, but Miami (10-5, 5-2 MAC) has been "grinding"
its way to the top of the East. WMU will be fightin' mad after having their 25-game home streak snapped last Saturday to Ball State, but they'll be the road team in Millett Hall, where they've only won at in five out of 53 historical attempts. It promises to be tight, tough and scrappy. 7 p.m. Eastern, non-free webcast here
(or you can listen to the Valley game at 8:00 over here
if you don't have the "pass").
If you don't already have enough reasons to hate ESPN, consider this. When ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" host Jay Crawford interviewed Bucknell
assistant coach Nathan Davis and guard Kevin Bettencourt this morning, he sprung a question about coach Pat Flannery's medical leave of absence: "Can you speculate, or not speculate, the media is already doing that, can you tell us, is there any information that it is serious?" Chris A. Courogen, perhaps the closest person to the veins and arteries of the Patriot League not named Feinstein, knows nothing of this "speculation"
. ESPN has cooked its own journalism for years, but attempting to sex up a Cinderella boilerplate story by blowing up a very personal issue into an "angle" is truly, truly stomach-turning.
While most college basketball sites are preoccupied today with the pinnacle of Division I and priding punditry in re: early one-seed jostling, we're more fascinated with the sixteen-seeds. When Tournament time comes, students and alums at these five schools will be more joyous than the other sixty combined. Because "good teams from bad conferences" are penalized more than rewarded, conference RPI is as reliable a leading indicator as we have at this still-early date.
One conference we're virtually guaranteed to see represented in Dayton on Wednesday, March 17th is the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The swickety-SWAC has the worst conference RPI
by a long shot, and when you apply the weights and measures vis a vis
game locations, it's threatening to dip below .4000 (which is probably like some sort of hoops Mendoza Line
). But the league 21st
toughest schedule out of the 31 conferences, which would help them a lot if they actually won any of its 28 power-league games instead of raking in guarantee checks from schools from Satan's Evil Conference. The SWAC race will be extensively covered here (of course), but in much more detail when it sorts itself out - four different teams ( Mississippi Valley State
, Alabama A&M
, Alabama State
) have spent time in first place so far.
The SWAC may be a lock for "16b," and there's a bloc of four that are separating themselves from the bottom to become the likely set of true sixteens. The high position is held by the Big South
, which has been rocked with numerous losses to Division II teams and bad dropped decisions to cellar-dwelling denizens of other minor leagues. They'd probably be in worse shape if Virginia Military Institute
hadn't upset Virginia Tech
back on December 4. If Winthrop
and their decent defense continues to improve and ends up winning out, they'd probably be the 16 most likely to stay close to a 1 or even achieve The Unthinkable
. If there really is a gap between the top two or three teams in the country and the next bunch, this wouldn't be as impossible as one might think.
And then, in the second 16-seed position, we have the Big Sky
. What a mess this has turned out to be! When it was clear early on that Eastern Washington
was unable to hold the mantle of defending champion, we made googly-eyes at Weber State
, but they've let us down too. Montana State
currently leads at 5-0, but it's been at the expense of the flawed clubs that make up the Big Fog's lower stratosphere. We'll probably have to wait until the conference tourney for clear viewing.
While there's a large and special place in my heart for the MEAC, the computers that spit out the papers the Selection Committee members like to spill their coffee on don't give a hoot about that. Longtime scholar-ball fans usually word-associate " Coppin State
" with the Mid-Eastern
Athletic Conference, and they're looking like the strongest team in that league going into February. This is another weaker conference held down by a wide swath of mediocrity, and might be ranked lower if not for South Carolina State's
shock win at Miami
of Florida right before Turkey Day.
Then there's the Northeast
Conference in the current "16a" play-in position. The NEC is probably hurt more than helped in this regard by Monmouth's
threat to run the table, as they were truly horrible in the 2004 portion of the proceedings. We will be watching their contest with 6-1 Fairleigh-Dickinson
on Saturday very closely, as if it were a true championship preview or something.