PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Despite the efforts of "Operation In Our Sites," the government's poorly-planned and badly-named offensive to try and shut down the pixelvision feed aggregation sites (a topic broached on Stardate 15), National Pixelvision Day II is saved. Remember, that's tomorrow evening, so come here to the site or follow us on Twitter at @midmajority. We will watch mid-major basketball online and tweet with the hashtag #pixelvision, and hopefully it will be just as awesome as last year. In the meantime, let's read some letters.
Hey Kyle, Thanks again for all of your hard work. It's an awesome resource and an awesome website. On Saturday during the NU/GSU game, you mentioned NU's hellish schedule as one reason why the Huskies were having such an off year. As a student at a Patriot League school where every member plays each other a neat and stately twice per season, I was wondering how leagues like the CAA that have a lot of members but no divisions make the schedule?
- Steven H.
Thanks, Steven. Since the Colonial expended to 12 teams over a large geographic area and chose not to set up a divisional structure, they've had to be scientific about maintaining an 18-game schedule that makes sense for everybody. It's kind of a neat system. Here's a PDF that explains it, and the matchups are set years in advance. Every team has five "permanent partners" with whom they play home and home every year. Two more matchups are "double games," home and home. The remaining four games on the schedule are single-shots, two home and two away. It's not perfect, though. For instance, the matchup we saw last Saturday, Georgia State at Northeastern, represented a meeting of permanent partners, even though the teams are at opposite ends of the league. Considering that none of the Virginia-based teams will ever make a conference road trip that long (1,100 miles), the fairness of that is debatable.
A couple of Oh, Bracketbusters thoughts; firstly, I almost had some sympathy for ESPN sending Sacramento State to SEMO; all this year's home teams west of the Rockies are either significantly better than them, or else are fellow Big Westeneers. Sending Seattle to Northern Illinois is cretinous and unnecessary, and smacks of the treatment handed to SIU-E last season - "they're only an indie, lets CRAP on them, what can they do, boycott us?" Oh, en passant, the Wiki pic isn't anywhere near creepy enough - you should have gone with an old beard-era snap.
- Paul H.
Indeed, at least the CAA edgelanders know they're taking those long trips, many years out. The primary flaw with the BracketBusters system has always been the scheduling. Once ESPN has the matchups they want, the commissioners gather together and hash out the rest -- in the past, they used faxes and GoToMeeting. That process seems to have been improved, since the commissioners were involved over the weekend and all the matchups were announced at once (saving me about four hours of research). But this hasn't changed: smaller leagues, and independents, get screwed. I understand that BracketBusters is a condition (real or implied) for leagues who want scraps of ESPN coverage, but what is Seattle doing? This does nothing for them except hit them with a last-minute travel bill.
And I guess that now it can be told: I grew the beard when my first wife was overseas serving in the military, in an effort to make myself too ugly to attract any women whatsoever. It worked perfectly.
Be honest, did the game between top 10 Mountain West teams [San Diego State and BYU] pique your interest even a little? I know they're above the Red Line, but they are the little guys among the power conferences and the magnitude of that game was off the charts. I won't tell anybody if you voluntarily watched some of it (Jimmer Fredette alone is reason enough to catch a couple minutes).
- Anthony S.
Not one second. I saw an overtime game the next night where the entire scorekeeping system broke down, the PA played "Space Jam" four times, and the first 1,000 fans got a free backpack. I will always, always, always prefer something like that to sharing in the perception of televised greatness. It's what TMM has been about for seven years: building one's own connection to the sport and having one's own unfiltered experiences.
That's out of step with what normal college basketball fans think and want, of course. They want something to talk about, that's really all they're looking for. We have seen many Jimmer Fredettes come and go: young Caucasian men who take a third of a college team's shots, score a third of their points, and fall out of the general basketball hypeversation when no professional team is willing to allow them to replicate that pattern. There will be another one, perhaps next year. But for now, young master Fredette is the focus of conversation, the enemy of existential loneliness. Last Friday, I was introduced to somebody at a dinner table: first my name, then the quick-sketch data point that I am a college basketball writer. "Oh," he said. "Did you see what that Jimmer guy did the other night?" One beat, a head tilt, furrowed brow. "Who?"
America East: Last night, we made another trip through the icy dark of New England night to experience #AEMadness. What we learned is that it's worse than you think. Boston University, which has been battle-scarred and beaten (preseason all-conference Jake O'Brien is OFS with a broken foot), rallied with a huge offensive night (including John Holland's 2000th point) to take down the league leaders from Maine, 88-78. The Black Bears' defense hadn't exploded like that since that Notre Dame game. So now Vermont slides back into a tie for first. Of the BracketBusters games we're really looking forward to is the Catamounts' ESPNU battle at Charleston of the SoCon. For Vermont, they've already won: they get to leave the Northeast, where there's more snow than places to put it.
Ivy League: Perhaps it was that most of my mid-major education happened at the Palestra, but the start of Ancient Eight basketball always plays my heartstrings like an Autoharp. I mean, it's so easy to romanticize it, especially if you've been blessed/cursed with a liberal arts education. Much of the blame/credit for my approach to Our Game in general lies with Ivy League exposure. So many constant elements from year to year: Fridays and Saturdays, cramped little gyms, scramble bands, a level of play that doesn't survive well outside the confines but is fascinating in context. The sameness helps offset the pain of passing years. Poetry, poetry, poetry. The evolution of rivalries has been slightly jarring lately, though, from the long-running Penn-Princeton axis to the rise of Cornell to now, which is a gateway to a new and possible Harvard-Princeton era. Having witnessed both teams twice, I'd favor the Crimson at this point. Superior front line and very solid backcourt play.
But the saddest thing, perhaps of everything across the landscape of Hoops Nation this season, has been the fall of Cornell, from the very top to the very bottom. To quote a famous Penn grad, the whole pageantry of the year was awake tingling near
A story, a true one. Once, I lived in Eugene, Oregon, where I attended a Pac-10 football school. Eugene is and was a strange little city, where people feel free to experiment with different ideas and be artistic with their lives. There was this pizza restaurant two blocks from the campus' main gate, which became a sort of pizza laboratory. The owner created bizarre mixtures of toppings and put them on the menu -- nothing but the finest gourmet ingredients. There was one with beef shreds and blue cheese, and a Greek pie with sausage. My favorite was the "lemon chicken." (I ate meat back then.) The really strange thing was that these combinations "just worked." If you didn't like it, you got your money back. That didn't happen very often.
So this place had weird food, before there were cable networks to aggregate it and make it all seem normal. The owner really pushed the angle, even created an identity. He called himself "Dr. Pizza," or something like that, I don't exactly remember. He built a whole narrative around the character: he'd received a special degree from a far-off university (not the U of O), and these pies were created and calibrated -- with science! -- to achieve maximum flavor/enjoyment ratios. The shop was a cult favorite: never crowded, but those who loved it loved it. I ate there at least once a week. Okay, twice a week.
I visited Eugene two years after I moved back east to Philadelphia. One of the first things I did was have dinner at my favorite pizza restaurant in the whole wide world. But the menu was simplified -- a la carte toppings?! -- and when my peppers-onions-extra cheese pie came to my table, it looked like any other pizza. It wasn't the worst ever made, but the crust was full of air pockets and the sauce was thin and pink.
Later on, I tracked down some of my old buddies and asked them what the deal was. What the hell happened? Was the place under new ownership? Dr. Pizza hadn't sold the place, but he'd dialed back. "Yeah, Kyle, it sucks now," was the general reply. "As you found out for yourself, it's pretty much like Domino's. Very disappointing." I was disappointed and pissed too. I'd been dreaming of weird pizza for weeks, but I'd flown across the country for something I could have walked across the street for.
I was also young then, and had no idea how to run a business yet. Dr. Pizza ran into an age-old problem: increased overhead leads to increased risk. Attempting to offer the best of everything leads to economic danger. In order to sustain his niche business, he had to make sure his niche was big enough to support his efforts. It turned out that it wasn't. Me, I was angry that he'd "sold out" or something. Over time, though, I learned to appreciate the hard choice Dr. Pizza made. He hadn't shut the store, gone down with the flaming boat or stuck vainly to his guns. He had embraced reality, made the appropriate adjustments, absorbed the slings and arrows of those who didn't fully understand, and survived. He stayed in business.
So anyway, here's that link again. We don't have to pour water in the sauce quite yet; there's still time.
Game! Of! The! Night!
Hofstra at George Mason (Colonial) Patriot Center - Fairfax, VA 7:00 EST
While we watch the CAA race leaders from Virginia Commonwealth University tonight, two from the peloton are facing off tonight in the home of Mason Nation. Jim Larranaga's crew is alone in second at 9-2 (17-5 overall), and have a seven-game win streak that dates back to a bad road weekend in early January. Back then, after losses at Hofstra and Old Dominion, there was no choice but to read those results as somehow standings-defining. But in the four weeks since, the Patriots have been much better at holding on to the ball -- they haven't been under-turnovered, net minus-27 -- and the offense has emerged as the conference's best. In league play, Mason has earned 1.14 points per possession, and they're CAA-tops shooting the two (54.8 percent) and the three (a flat 40). Floridian 6-foot-4 senior guard Cam Long, a post-Final Four recruiting grab, has shot a cool 61 percent during the streak. And does anybody beat them at the Patriot Center? No. They're 10-0 there.
Hofstra will try. In the first meeting back on January 5, the Patriots were pretty much Jenkins'd, as senior star Charles went off for 32 points on 9-for-13 shooting. The Pride pulled away early in the second half with a 12-0 run, and that was that. Hofstra hasn't been pulling away much lately. They're oh for the last week, losing by 15 at VCU and dropping a 65-60 decision at home against mid-table Drexel. The Pride's recent problems stem from something that Jenkins can't really help with: they're getting straight-up thumped on the offensive glass (VCU: 11, Drexel: 20). And there's the Hofstra heel: a 45.3 percent rebounding percentage that ranks 10th in the conference, just ahead of William & Mary and Towson. Its going to take a lot of Chuck to buck that.