PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- So much has changed in a single calendar year. On February 1, 2010, the iPad had just been announced, and no mere civilian had touched one yet. Now, they're on press row at college basketball games. The Robot has grown a soul, exhibited feelings, taken a name. (It's "Doctor Thunderpants.") Back in that distant recent past, people were excited about the "Olympic Winter Games," still dreamed of visiting Egypt on holiday, used Facebook. One trip around the sun, so far, so long.
Nothing has evolved more than the art and science of watching sports on computers. ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sportz, finally took those seriously, subtracting 357 digits off the title of its online video service (opening the door for us to steal the old name). Back in July, I cancelled my DirecTV service when I realized that all I was using it for was Game Lounge. For me, watching sports had moved to other screens. Every Major League Baseball game was available via tablet device, which worked just as well on the porch as on the couch as in bed.
F___ flying cars, that's all I ever wanted out of the 21st Century.
But my younger self, even my 2009 self, could never have foreseen this. Small-time Division I basketball always seemed so immune to broadcast. But once I saw raw Jumbotron feeds paired with student radio coverage, Hi-8 corner scouting cameras twinned with silence, and completely illegal rips of local TV in browser boxes, I knew we were living science fiction. You can't spell "the future" without #pixelvision.
One year ago, we gathered together for an incredible event. February 2, 2010 was National Pixelvision Day, a five-hour festival of online, 480-pixel basketball coverage. Folks live-tweeted their #pixelvision game on Twitter, and we came within a few hundred thousand tweets of making the hashtag a "trending topic." (Nearly 0.13% of all global tweet traffic.) There was a Tom Petty halftime show. It was awesome.
And now, the sequel. National Pixelvision Day II is this Thursday, February 3. Things are a little different now, because we have #pixelvision and a tweet box embedded in the site to make things easier and more futuristic. But if you were here for the first one, you know what to do. If you're new here, please go back and review the original transcript. What we will do on Thursday night starting at 7 pm is blow out Twitter with mid-major basketball action, and chat here on the site. Everybody will be assigned a game -- tweet in to @midmajority on Thursday and you'll get a link back.
We won't know which games will be available until Thursday, but here's the whole lineup.
7:00 - Bryant at Robert Morris
7:00 - Central Connecticut State at Saint Francis (PA)
7:00 - Georgia Southern at Chattanooga
7:00 - Valparaiso at Cleveland State
7:00 - Wofford at Charleston
7:00 - Fairleigh Dickinson at Wagner
7:00 - Winthrop at Gardner-Webb
7:00 - IPFW at IUPUI
7:00 - Liberty at Coastal Carolina
7:00 - Loyola (Ill.) at Wright State
7:00 - Monmouth at Mount Saint Marys
7:00 - Sacred Heart at Long Island
7:00 - Presbyterian at North Carolina-Asheville
7:00 - Quinnipiac at Saint Francis (NY)
7:00 - Vermont at Hartford
7:05 - Butler at Youngstown State
7:05 - Furman at The Citadel
7:15 - Belmont at Jacksonville
7:30 - Virginia Military Institute at Charleston Southern
7:30 - Illinois-Chicago at Detroit
7:30 - Binghamton at Maryland-Baltimore County
7:45 - Lipscomb at North Florida
8:00 - Denver at Arkansas-Little Rock
8:00 - North Dakota State at Centenary
8:00 - Davidson at Samford
8:00 - Florida Atlantic at North Texas
8:00 - Louisiana-Monroe at Middle Tennessee
8:00 - Murray State at Tennessee State
8:00 - Oakland at Western Illinois
8:00 - South Alabama at Western Kentucky
8:00 - SIU Edwardsville at South Dakota
8:05 - South Dakota State at Oral Roberts
8:30 - Tennessee-Martin at Austin Peay
8:30 - Eastern Kentucky at Tennessee Tech
8:30 - Florida International at Troy
8:30 - Utah Valley at Texas-Pan American
8:35 - Chicago State at Houston Baptist
8:35 - Montana State at Northern Arizona
8:45 - Morehead State at Jacksonville State
9:00 - Montana at Weber State
9:05 - Hawaii at Boise State
9:05 - Eastern Washington at Northern Colorado
10:00 - California-Davis at Cal Poly
10:00 - Cal State Northridge at California-Riverside
10:00 - New Mexico State at Fresno State
10:00 - Loyola Marymount at San Diego
10:00 - Pepperdine at Saint Mary's
10:05 - California-Irvine at Cal State Fullerton
10:05 - San Jose State at Idaho
10:05 - Portland State at Sacramento State
11:00 - Gonzaga at Portland
11:30 - Pacific at California-Santa Barbara
If you have any questions, hit us up on The Form™. Mailbag day is tomorrow, and I'm sure we'll be talking about NPD quite a bit.
Metro Atlantic: The BracketBusters pairing announcements were yesterday, but last weekend was a total MAACitbuster. (Hold your applause.) Save for phenomenal Fairfield, who isn't allowing much of any opposition scoring, the standings were turned inside out. Iona, the presumed top challenge to the Stags, has dropped three in ten days: at Canisius and Loyola, and at home versus Rider. And just like that, the Gaels are in a tie for third. Iona's defense exploded against Loyola on Sunday, and our old chum Jimmy Patsos has suddenly won five of six to move into contention. But nobody expected a Peacock Party this year. Saint Peter's is all alone in second, and has not allowed a shooting performance better than 41 percent or more than a point per possession during a four-game winning streak. As such, a team that tops out at 6-foot-7 is also padding their rebounding totals too.
Big Sky: Northern Colorado built its program the hard and fast way, moving from a two-win independent season in 2004-05 to a Big Sky home in 2006, peaking with a two-seed, 25-win campaign (and a berth in the "CIT quarterfinals") last year. It got Tad Boyle a better job. Under B.J. Hill, the program kept rolling, starting 2011 conference play 7-0. In a blink of a week, they're 7-2 and in second place behind Montana after a Weber buzzer-beater and a sad 33 percent shooting night at Northern Arizona on Monday. Adversity is a dish best served as an hors d'śuvre, but we'll see if the Bears can bounce back. Meanwhile, the league champions are rolling since a 63-45 beatdown by and at NoCo on January 6. Now, Montana gets its own Weber-NAU experience, both on the road. The Grizzlies swept the pair to open Big Sky play.
Ohio Valley: Another fantastic table top, this one involving five teams all with thriple-digit RPI's. Austin Peay, the early leader, has lost four of six after a 6-0 start and took a 69-56 board beatdown at surging Morehead State over the weekend. Murray State, a 2010 Sweet 16 team in an alternate universe, has won 11 of 13 -- those two losses being ultra-rare home drops. And Tennessee Tech, which survived a four-game road trip with three wins, is in there too. So, in order to figure this all out, it's a good time to pull out our favorite toy, the real-time, logo-enriched tempo-free aerial.
That errant Tiger is from Tennessee State, a scatter-kaze team that began OVC play 7-2 and was slowed down in a pair of losses at Morehead (60 possessions) and EKU (61) over the last week. Crazy race. In related news, hapless Southeast Missouri has drawn equally sorry Sacramento State (5-16, 2-8 Big Sky) in the BracketBusters. Considering that few in the Cape Girardeau area will bother getting into their cars to show up at the Show-Me Center that that, it's a shame that a team has to travel across two time zones to get there. Oh, and course: SEMO will have to return that game.
MEAC: We talked about the increase of excitement in this season's SWAC standings, but this year in the other HBCU conference there actually is a tussle. The last five first-place finshers (either Morgan State or Delaware State) have won the league regular-season championship by at least three games. In 2011, we have a race. Title-holders Morgan, long-dormant Hampton and whoa-what Bethune-Cookman have five losses between them, and we're heading into a stretch when games between the three will be plentiful. BCC is definitely the best story; a potential first-time NCAA participant. And the Wildcats won their seventh straight on the road last night at North Carolina Central (technically a non-conference game). They haven't won more than seven road games in a season in their D-I history.
Elsewhere, Morgan held off North Carolina A&T with late free throws, 68-66. Also, we have have a fourth contender for the top spot very soon: Norfolk State. The Spartans are on a five-game run, and beat Coppin State 110-108 on Monday. That game featured two buzzer-beaters and two overtimes. Seriously: keep some mindspace open for the MEAC.
The final drive to close our Season 7 Membership gap and travel somewhere, anywhere in February isn't off to a great start. We may have maxed out with support and goodwill, which was something of an inevitability anyway. But there's still time (Friday), and more millionaires than Australians... and these things maintain our hopes for different yet related reasons.
Game! Of! The! Night!
Wichita State at Indiana State (Missouri Valley) Hulman Center - Terre Haute, IN 7:05 EST
The Valley race has been a two-horser all along, all the way back to October. A senior-heavy Missouri State team has been vying with a hard-boiled Wichita State squad for MVC control, and there were even some hopes that both would represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament... the first two-bid season since 2007. But 11 games into the league slate, our computer Robot rankings system that runs the State of the Other 25 has turned the corner and swapped one team out. It now forecasts a Missouri State-Northern Iowa title game, with a single bid on the line. The Panthers are on a seven-game streak on the strength of their extreme ball control, and Sunday's minor classic might have been a preview of something bigger in St. Louis.
At the moment, Wichita State has lost to both those teams... both at home, and by one possession each time. Besides those two losses, the Shockers haven't lost since December 4 at San Diego State, which has certainly been a much tougher place for visitors than Charles Koch Arena this season. But there's no questioning the grit of Gregg Marshall's paint pals. Led my J.T. Durley (11.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg), they're one of the best rebounding teams in the country, grabbing 56.5 percent of available rebounds (16th in Division I) and allowing a Valley-low 44 percent of enemy two-pointers to fall. It's the guard play that hasn't been top-level, and that's something the virtual top two have plenty of. Three-point shooting, turnovers and finding steady point guard play have been exposed heels.
The other team in the mix has been surprising Indiana State, who came into league play with a 5-6 record but won seven of their first eight Valley games -- mostly on the strength of inside play that denied offensive rebounds and second chances. That stretch included wins over both Mo-State and No-Iowa, but then they hit the Roundhouse. In one of the best Valley regular season games in years, Wichita State outlasted the Sycamores in triple overtime.
This, then, is the return match, a week and a half later. Since the Sycamores' collapse in the third OT period, they have indeed been renegades of funk. They lost at home to Evansville (in come-from-ahead fashion) and at Creighton too, shooting 36 and 38 percent respectively. They lost their rebounding mojo, and were outboarded in both games. Will the sight of yellow and black spark a desire for revenge? Can #TreeFever make a comeback? Tune in tonight and see.