Missouri Valley: Southwest Missouri State 92, Southern Illinois 77 (story)
- The homestanding Bears took a 14-point lead into halftime, and stepped on the gas out of the break with an 11-4 run. Despite what the two teams' records would indicate, this was a classically-styled "romp" - a 57%-38% field goal margin and an eight-rebound edge. SIU (13-5, 6-2 MVC) went five minutes without a basket in the second half and made a 10-0 late spurt to make the scoreboard look good - they've now lost two MoVal contests in a row for the first time in, like, forever. They also just made SMS' (8-8, 3-6 MVC) entire season.Mid-American: Miami (Oh.) 85, Western Michigan 60 (story)
- In the tussle between division leaders, the East won in convincing fashion. Miami (11-5, 6-2 MAC) has built a reputation this year for grinding out tough wins, so the "60" isn't much of a surprise. But then there's that other number - the Redhawks shot a blistering 58% against the league's best defense, and outrebounded the MAC's top rebounding team 41-34. They were up by as many as 32 points in the second half, but refused to let up. Said
point guard Chet Mason to the Cincinnati Enquirer
, "We told each other the score was 0-0 and not to look up at the scoreboard."
The effects of these two eerily similar results will likely be far-reaching. Because I don't have a better name yet, I label certain mid-major teams with strong profiles heading into the end of the regular season as "bulletproof." Which is to say, they'd still be placed on the Big Bracket if they did not win their conference's automatic Dance card. Western Michigan (13-5, 6-2 MAC) and SIU are now likely off that list now, barring dominating table-runs and spectacular "Bracket Buster" performances in late February.
Consider the Valley: if Wichita State
(15-2, 8-1 MVC) goes the distance and sweeps through Arch Madness, the Saluki loss - with support from the drop to the Sun Belt's Arkansas-Little Rock
in early December - may be pointed to as the specific event at which a possible three-bid mid-major became just another one-fer. SIU now is in a position where they need to win out or else, and only Wichita remains "bulletproof" against a possible Illinois State
surprise at the MVC tournament. Unfortunately, the Selection Committee is far less forgiving than we are.
In the world of mainstream college basketball punditry, conferences are generally weighed by how many Tournament bids they garner - for most, those simple digits make up the math that determines "quality" and "respect." But for some of us, March begins and (mostly) ends before Selection Sunday, and we measure conferences by the intensity of their league tournaments. In that regard, these two games just made things a lot more interesting in the heartland.Shootaround!Missouri Valley:
Yes, parity kills when it comes to the Tournament, but great basketball is great basketball. Creighton
went into Bradley
and achieved a home-and-home sweep with a 74-65 win, powered by four double-digit scorers and a hot second half. Northern Iowa
peeked above .500 again at 5-4, dropping once-promising Indiana State
at home by a 69-61 count. Former MMBOW David Moss
had a season high of 28 points for the Sycamores, but UNI broke open a close game in the final five minutes.America East:
If perchance Vermont
(13-3, 8-0 AE) should fail, the two Boston-area clubs are just a step and a half behind. Both bolstered their records to 7-2 last night with home wins against the league's detritus: Northeastern
beat Stony Brook
65-56 (former MMBOW Jose Juan Barea
led the gym with 26), and Boston University
whacked New Hampshire
79-63 in a game at The Roof with no announced attendance figure
. Were they all lost in the Labyrinth?Colonial: North Carolina-Wilmington
(11-6, 6-2 CAA) gained second place outright by snapping its tie with Drexel
(9-7, 5-3 CAA) in a 63-62 overtime white-knuckler. Oversized guard Halton Lane tipped it in with three seconds left in OT to win it for the Seahawks. The normally hot-shooting Dragons were kept to 40%, and their normally sure hands coughed up 20 turnovers. Old Dominion
is still perfect at eight-and-oh, as they were 71-62 winners over fast-fading Delaware
. This was a contest where the Monarchs sprinted out to huge second-half lead, then took a nice team nappy-nap late in the game. Seems to be a troubling pattern for them.Horizon:
Anyway you slice it, there's cheese on that there Horizon. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
(15-4, 8-1 HL) won its eighth straight game in a non-conference matchup; the flip side of a Purdue
low point (coach Gene Keady spent a good deal of the second half hiding his face with his hands) is increased legitimacy for UWM's Dance dreams. 73-68 was the final in a game where the two-point favorite Panthers beat the spread on the road. Wisconsin-Green Bay
(13-5, 6-2 HL), UWM's Saturday opponents, won 60-54 at Detroit
to stay in second.Mid-American:
The immediate beneficiaries of Western Michigan's slipup are the Bowling Green
Falcons - they move back into a tie at the top of the MAC West at 6-2 after winning 77-73 at Central Michigan
. Sharpshooting forward John Reimold had 19 points and eight rebounds, and his winning trey was a physics major's dream that bounced high off the rim and in.Southern: Davidson
is 8-0 in the SoCon South division, but had their hands full with a struggling East Tennessee State
team (6-13, 2-7 SoCon). 63-62. ETSU's waterbug guard Tim Smith nearly won it singlehandedly with his 31 points, and hit a trey with three ticks remaining to cut the lead to one. The Bucs fouled, the second free throw was missed intentionally, and ETSU was out of timeouts so they couldn't set up a desperation play. Davidson coach Bob McKillop won his 136th SoCon game, a league record.Game! Of! The! Night!
Off to the Sun Belt we go. Aforementioned Saluki-slaying Arkansas-Little Rock (11-7, 4-2 SBC) and Arkansas State
(12-5, 4-2 SBC) have carried the Razorback State flag proudly - this cross-state clash will also determine who gets sole possession of first place in an East division where Western Kentucky
and Middle Tennessee State
have so far slipped. The Trojan-Indian war starts at 8:00 PM Eastern, and can be experienced here
via a free-of-charge webcast.
Inspired by ESPN's roundtable discussion
about best places to watch a game, I decided to put together my list of five arenas not named "The Palestra." Here goes.MacArthur Court, Oregon
: This is where I got my college basketball education, back in the early Nineties. Back then, we didn't have fancy online class registration or even the "Duck Call" telephone option - so we'd register for courses on the Pit floor. We all stood in line at makeshift tables trying desperately to get our names on clipboarded sheets. I remember the feeling of looking up into the darkness where the ghosts were, at that huge overhanging balcony - I felt very, very small and wanted to curl up in the corner and suck my thumb.Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
: An out-of-body experience, to say the least - while inside, any thought or conversation not having to do with basketball is completely irrelevant, and it's the unholiest din I've ever heard. It's truly impossible for someone not affiliated with a Tobacco Road school to leave with their Duke-hating tendencies intact.Memorial Hall, Delaware State
: There is absolutely nothing I've seen that matches a Saturday afternoon game between the Hornets and a local MEAC rival at old run-down Memorial Hall. Most folks bring their families and dress up, eat soul-food buffet off paper plates, and both teams' bands drop backbone-slipping bombs on each other. During media timeouts, the halfcourt stripe becomes a line of scrimmage as the two cheerleading squads hurl insult-chants at each other and perform "top that" moves.Boylan Gym, Monmouth
: I love going here, driving out from Philly to the Jersey Shore on a cold winter night to see a Northeast Conference game. It's the kind of wood-hearth warm and toasty that makes going home difficult, and I've had a lot of gentle reminders from security that the game is over. It's cozy, low-ceilinged, and the fans are always good and loud.Lavietes Pavilion, Harvard
: Second-oldest gym in the nation with great bouncy acoustics. Upon entry, the trophy cases and framed pictures reach high to the ceiling and surround you, as if to say, "we may not be good, but we've been around a lot longer than you."
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