?????, ?.?. -- Hello from back here on Sunday evening. As for the future present, we are playing our annual game of Last Man, and avoiding The Knowledge as best as possible. But we must always attend to our regular duties, which is sharing the good kind of knowledge with Hoops Nation. What a crazy weekend it was in the Other 25!
Colonial: Is Mason Magic a renewable resource? Jim Larranaga's team is currently the class of the CAA after disposing of Old Dominion by 17 on Saturday. The Patriots have won nine straight with a sizzling and egalitarian offense. Four of GMU's last six -- including the BracketBuster at Northern Iowa -- are on the road; two of those are at the league's far southern outpost at Georgia State, and the February 15 game at VCU which now looks like a game-of-the-year candidate... especially since those two now seem to be the candidates to bring the league a two-bid March. (Question-of-the-year candidate: what kind of evil schedule only provides one GMU-VCU game per season?) Those Rams have had a tough week, losing at Northeastern by nine last Wednesday and barely scraping by at James Madison on Saturday.
Horizon League: Conference races mean different things in different places. Here, the one-seed also brings hosting duties for the final two rounds of the league tourney. With seven of the ten teams within 3.5 games of current top team Cleveland State, don't book any travel quite yet. Butler, which did pretty well in March last year, completed a season sweep of the Vikings on Saturday with a 73-61 win; only in a Bizarrizon would that qualify as an upending, but that's 2011 for you. Valparaiso, a team that lost at CSU on Thursday, wobbled as well on Youngstown State on Saturday -- the two-win Penguins pushed the Crusaders to overtime before falling 86-78. And look out for Milwaukee; the 8-5 Panthers now officially qualify as "hottest team in the league" after four straight wins. When they make the short trip down to Chicago this weekend for a Thursday/Saturday swing, they'll be well-rested as well as lightly-traveled: just one game in the previous ten days.
Missouri Valley: It was always there, lurking just below the surface. Now, the nether depths can't contain it: ValleyFreek 2K11. After last Wednesday's 12-point Missouri State loss in Roberts Stadium to a surprisingly solid Evansville squad (the Bears' second straight loss), a Northern Iowa team on an eight-game win streak fell hard at in-state rival Drake on Saturday. There were 13 ties and 12 lead changes in the Bulldogs' 72-69 win. But "Blue Saturday" in the Valley was averted when Mo-State came from behind to take out Indiana State at home by a shaky seven. After setting off a #TreeFever epidemic early in the year, the Sycamores have lost five straight.
MMBOW #11: Scootie Randall, Temple
It was a week with so many upsets and upendings that nobody had a week of pristine hooping excellence, two or three incredible performances. But during our brief time in the Philadelphia area over the weekend, we got to see a truly fantastic single-game performance by a player who's emerging as a star in the Atlantic 14. Andrew "Scootie" Randall is our eleventh Mid-Majority Baller of the Week awardee of Season 7.
Mr. Randall is a third-year player for the three-time Atlantic 14 tourney champions, the Temple Owls. His first two years, he came in off the bench and shot some of the most spectacular airballs you've ever seen. This season, he's really come into his own. His scoring average has shot up from 1.9 to 11.4, and he had a career high of 28 on January 22 out at Xavier. The Owls haven't lost since, and Scootie hasn't shot worse than 50 percent in those four games. On Saturday against Rhode Island, he had a perfect first half, scoring 19 points on 7-of-7 made shots (including four threes), and finished with 27 on 10-for-13, adding seven boards. On Wednesday against La Salle in a Big Five game, he scored 14 on 5-for-10 shooting. That's a pretty decent week, no?
But that's not the real question. Where and how did he get that awesome nickname? As the legend goes, not even he knew until he was a teenager. Here, from a long-gone Philadelphia Daily News article from his days in Philadelphia's public high school system at Communications Tech, the apocryphal answer:
As Randall was being born, the attending physician was called away because of an emergency elsewhere in the maternity ward. Before he could return, there Andrew was, scooting into this world.
Scoot on, Scootie! And congratulations on being our MMBOW.
Illinois-Chicago at Butler (Horizon League) Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, IN 7:00 EST
Chicago and Indianapolis -- Capital and branch office -- played in a Super Bowl once, four years ago. In fact, that was my final Last Man contest not played on this site. Last Man XIX was almost too easy: it took place in southern California, where nobody cares about American-Style Football. Still, though, the game ended on Monday morning with an errant glance at a USA Today cover in a truck stop. This game is more dangerous than it looks, and just one look can end it. There is no offseason longer than the one in Last Man. It lasts 51 weeks, and that's a long time to brood.
Anyway. Tonight, it's rare Monday Night Horizon League Basketball, in a stagger weekend where some teams are playing three games. This late in the regular season, it's rare to find two teams that haven't played each other yet. UIC and Butler haven't. The Flames (6-18, 1-11 HL) have been learning the hard way that size doesn't necessarily matter: their rotation of bigs have combined for the ex-MCC's highest percentage of available rebounds obtained (54 percent in conference play), but when UIC gets the ball, they rarely know what to do with it. A turnover rate of 23.6 percent ranks league-last, and it's a team that's made only 25 percent of three-pointers. The offense is anemic already, the team certainly doesn't need to be giving up a Horizon-worst 1.08 points per possession. Does senior guard Robert "Robo" Kreps (15.5 ppg) deserve to go out this way? Does his mechanical heart afford him human feelings? Tune in and find out!
Butler... oh, Butler. While observers thrill at the Bulldogs' dedication to defense, it's been susceptible to nearly the same kinds of scoring runs UIC has yielded. Pick your metric: Brad Stevens' team (15-9, 7-5 HL) affords others 70 points per game at a 66-possession pace, allows 51 percent of two-pointers to fall, gives up 1.04 points per trip. It's a leaky ship. It doesn't help matters that last season's defensive quarterback, Ronald Nored, has been having such a lackluster year that he was stuck on the bench for most of the 12-point win at first-place Cleveland State Saturday. Butler is not in first place. They're still 2.5 games out.
But why is this Disappointment Bowl the G!O!T!N!? Mostly to announce that the return match on February 19 (when Butler might normally be playing in the BracketBusters) will be the second annual, rescheduled #ALLCAPSGAME. HORIZON LEAGUE BASKETBALL IS THAT IMPORTANT.