"To win the game is great. To play the game is greater. But to love the game is the greatest of all." - an inscription on the concourse wall of the Palestra - Jonathan Tannenwald
As long as horchatas are drank, superhoops are sunk, and Bally boings, The Mid-Majority shall not perish! - Charles Fenwick
Thanks to Mid-Majority for celebrating college basketball at the purest level with optimal coverage. Further thanks for not only introducing us to personalities and teams across the country, but also for allowing us to be part of the conversation. This unique experience will be dearly missed. - Afi Ahmadi
CHICAGO -- Necessity is the mother of invention, but another thing that Mom does is feeds and cares for you. On Saturday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse, as "Underdawgs" author-slash-Indianapolis Star superwriter David Woods and I competed to see who could close the press room (he won), I experienced a powerful late night hunger. Fortunately, Butler has Final Four-level catering now, and there was some stuff left over from the pregame Qdoba spread. Not enough to put together a real man-sized meal, though.
Mexican food is a big part of what The Mid-Majority is all about, because it's what the American road is all about. Everybody knows that salsa outsells ketchup now, and you can't get through a week of serious travel without eating food that ends with "o." And don't get us started on horchata, the milky cinnamon rice drink of Aztec kings. Saturday's game, Butler's 20-point guarantee-game win over Mississippi Valley State of the SWAC, was pedestrian enough, but the night may go down in culinary history.
All that was left of the spread was a pile of taco shells and several tubs of condiments. So ravenous was I that I combined the ingredients in the only sequence possible. Several spoonfuls of fresh chunky red tomatoes went into the crisp folded bread, and then a ladling of the verde, and then the red mash of processed, grocery-store quality salsa. There was one more small tub, full of rich green guacamole. I packed it into the taco, a spackle to hold the unit together for handheld consumption.
The taste was... explosive. The mixture tingled my senses, and the soft guac served as a smooth chaser. The salty crispiness of the shell was the perfect counterpoint to the natural fruity sugar of the tomatoes. I had experienced a foodgasm, and there were witnesses.
I did what anybody would do after a life-changing experience: I tweeted about it. "Is there a name for a taco that's just guac and different kinds of salsa? Because I just had one in the Butler press room and it kinda blew my mind."
The @ responses came in, but one stood out.
So all hail the Guaco, and all hail Kurt Svoboda in the Harvard sports information office.
You can make a Guaco yourself. Any college student on a budget can. All you need are shells and condiments, most of which can probably be stolen/borrowed from a commissary or maybe even a Taco Bell. The cost of a Guaco is close to free, and the nutritional value is quite high. At right around 200 calories, you can eat two or three and call it dinner. As such, the Guaco is the ultimate mid-major taco. When you don't have the financial resources to afford meat or beans, load up a shell with salsa and guacamole, and have yourself a Red Line Upset kind of feast.
Red Line Upsets
Some power-conference schools have been exceedingly magnanimous this year, seriously. If the Wake Forest Demon Deacons keep wanting to give up RLU's, nobody here is going to stop them. Their fourth of the year was UNC Wilmington's 81-69 ball control festival. That puts the Deacs right on par with Auburn (not pictured) and Wyoming of the Mountain West. The Cowboys' fourth Red Line loss came late Friday night to longtime TMM favorite UC Irvine. The Anteaters zotted their way to a 83-68 shooting spree, making 58 percent of their shots and scoring 1.23 points per possession. Only Saint Mary's has shot better in an RLU this year (Nov. 26 vs. Texas Tech, 59 percent).
Irvine's parent school in Berkeley is in the news for its self-reported NCAA violations in 2008, but the 2011 basketball team just got served with a Red Line Upset. On Sunday, the Bears were clocked at home by Southern Miss of Conference USA by two points. Six-foot-eight Golden Eagle Gary Flowers had 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting and hit the winning bucket. In its first season as part of the mid-majority, C-USA has (only?) seven RLU's on the season.
New on the toteboard is the Mid-American Conference. On Saturday night, Ball State tallied the first RLU of the year for the MAC, a 79-77 overtime shootout at DePaul. The Cardinals won despite going 18-for-31 from the line, but made up for it with 53 percent floor shooting. The next day, Kent State joined the Big East-beating party with a gear-grinding 56-51 home win over South Florida, after trailing for the first three quarters. That game, televised on ESPNU, made Kent State students happy about sports. (via 30fps)
But the best RLU's of the weekend had to be a couple of Atlantic jobs from Saturday. East Tennessee State, two-time champions of the A-Sun, stunned Mississippi State with offensive boards and senior scoring. And after trailing for 33 minutes against Saint John's, humble A-14 member Fordham roared back and won an 84-81 decision at Rose Hill Gym. Afterwards, the fans stormed the court at the oldest arena in Division I.
There have now been 70 Red Line Upsets this year out of 506 chances, with a winning percentage of .138. We're definitely behind in both percentage and volume, as last year on December 13 there were 87 and the Other 24 was winning 15 percent of the time. The RLU scoreboard on the front page tells us, we're almost perfectly in line with Season 5 (2008-09), when the numbers read like this: 71/520 (13.7%). Perhaps last year was a spike, an aberration, a year of secret magic.
MMBOW #4: Charles Jenkins, Hofstra
It's been a fine, fine month for the Colonial Athletic Association. Teams have won 60 percent of their games, the conference RPI is 9, and there are two teams (VCU and Old Dominion) in position to make the CAA a two-bid league again. The goodies extend down the line: George Mason's 8-2 record, 6-1 Drexel's big early season wins, and the exceptional performances by one of the league's hidden gems. Charles Jenkins is our fourth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week of Season 7.
Nobody in the Other 25 had a better week, as far as individual statistics go. On Wednesday, in an overtime win at Binghamton, Mr. Jenkins played all 45 minutes, shot 14-for-22 from the floor, and finished with 40 points. Only Lehigh's C.J. McCollum and UConn's Kemba Walker have scored more in a game this season (42 each), and only five have reached the big four-oh. The 6-foot-3 senior from Queens also added six assists and five rebounds. It was such an impressive performance that the Wall Street Journal took note. The article includes this great quote.
[Jenkins'] father once told him that when he goes to sleep, across the world someone is awake, working to get better. The thought still wakes him up at night.
"I'd rather be up and tired then be sleeping," he said.
On Saturday, he was very much still awake. In a slight 63-59 loss to Florida Atlantic, a result that wasn't his fault at all, No. 22 in white scored another 32 points on 9-for-14 shooting. At press time, Jenkins is the fifth-leading scorer in the nation at 25.3 ppg, tied for 28th on the points per 40 minutes list at 26.3, and has averaged 38 minutes per game. He's on his way to receiving a third consecutive Haggerty Award as the best college player in New York City, but for now, he's our MMBOW.
Game! Of! The! Night!
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at New Mexico State Pan American Center - Las Cruces, NM 9:00 EST
We don't highlight guarantee games too often, but this one is a chance to talk briefly about two interesting teams. The recipient of today's cash prize will be the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the champions of the SWAC. The Golden Lions will also go down in history as the winners of the last P.I.G., as they topped off their first-ever league championship with the Dayton-based victory over Winthrop that temporarily had the program at 1-0 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. That was the last game they've won to date. This year's squad is 0-8, has the nation's worst rebounding (42.2 percent of availables), and are on their annual money mission -- which has led them through places like Northwestern, Hawaii, and UTEP. UAPB came within four points of beating Auburn. They won't play a home game until January 4. And then there's New Mexico State, which will be paying for this with a check when it's over. But at 2-7, at least the Red Aggies of the WAC can still "buy a win." Last year's team won 22 games and featured junior swing Jahmar Young (20.3 ppg), but he was arrested for assaulting a cop in April. Oops. The 2010-11 edition has just one senior on the roster, plays indifferent defense, and was swept in their two-week, four-game local series with New Mexico and UTEP. When Marvin Menzies took over in 2007, outgoing coach Reggie Theus left him an offcourt circus. Menzies held the line exceptionally well for a season or two, but this program is as much of a mess as it was four seasons ago, plus it's minus all the wins from back then. Sad situation, really.
Please make sure and vote for your favorite of the five finalists in our "The Moment" writing contest. Voting closes Wednesday. As we've seen over the weekend, this is an opportunity for conference and school pride, and there have been Twitter campaigns mounted. So if you like Illinois State, Butler, Lipscomb, Davidson or UNC Wilmington, or just good writing, make sure and exert your influence.
Also, don't forget that we have another contest going on. This one's an art contest! Render the Season 7 Incomplete Circle logo and win a Team Ballz. We have Incomplete Circles made out of pixels, crayons, Play-Doh and bread so far. What can you make?