There's something stale about writing about "your" team. At least, as far as I'm concerned.
For the first dozen games or so, I tried to write about Belmont. I attempted to describe the nuances of each game, analyzing the ins and outs of Coach Byrd's dunk-rule, Marshall's texter (a post that uncomfortably went national), and the team's perpetual love-hate relationship with their current and future conference.
But as the season wore into the new year, it no longer felt pure. In some ways, I was cheating. My status as a four-year Belmont athlete during my time there afforded me a lifetime pass to every game on Belmont's campus -- roughly three miles from my house.
So while others in the project were gallivanting across the country, I would work late at my office in downtown Nashville, navigate to campus, take in a few hours of hoops, and drive home. Mind blown, right?
During S1-S6, Kyle lived the mid-major struggle -- and in my opinion, that struggle exemplifies this project's purpose. It's not about the easy road.
So on a sunny Saturday, I tried a different approach. Middle Tennessee State was making a trip to Vanderbilt. (Granted, Vandyland is all of two miles from my place of sleep, but at least I had to pay to get in.)
The Blue Raiders of Murfreesboro are owners of one of the gaudier records in all of Hoops Nation. Vanderbilt, while a solid above-the-line program, must be secretly mystified by Bally, as they consistently gift Hoops Nation with RLUs, most notably in the NCAA tournament.
So, of course, the sportzified story of the game was "this one looks like a 12-5 game! Omg!" At last check, though, NCAA tournaments don't feature home court advantages. But hey, who's keeping track.
Beyond the tourney chatter, though, was a stellar hoops game. The upper bleachers of Memorial Gymnasium had a noisy contingent of MTSU fans, some who stood and thumped their chests with every three-pointer and jam.
If the Vandy crowd was anything like the MTSU crowd, there might have been a safety issue. But Vandy folks, with their hands on their laps, mostly just observed the Middle shenanigans as if at a zoo.
Both teams had plenty to cheer, as the game was a boxing match of threes, alley-oops, dunks, drives, and post-moves. The game was dead-even after 38 minutes, even though Middle star forward/center JT Sulton fouled out with almost six minutes to play.
On a crucial inbounds after a Vandy hoop, MTSU guard Bruce Massey was streaking across the court and didn't see the Commodore attached to his hip. As he turned to move up court, a collision occurred. Of all the possible calls, the referee deemed the crash a travel on Middle -- and a major opportunity was squandered.
Yes, the struggle. The great struggle.
at VANDERBILT 84, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 77 01/28/2012
MIDDLE TENNESSEE 20-3 (9-0) -- B. Massey 3-6 4-4 10; L. Dendy 8-11 5-6 22; M. Knight 3-10 3-4 10; J. Sulton 5-8 2-5 12; R. Cintron 3-4 0-0 8; J. Jones 1-1 0-0 2; K. Hammonds 2-3 0-0 6; J. Gallman 1-2 0-0 3; J. Oden 0-0 0-0 0; S. Jones 1-2 2-2 4; T. Walker 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 27-47 16-22 77. VANDERBILT 16-5 (5-0) -- J. Jenkins 10-18 2-2 26; J. Taylor 6-14 4-6 17; L. Goulbourne 3-5 5-7 11; F. Ezeli 5-8 11-13 21; B. Tinsley 3-4 2-2 9; K. Johnson 0-3 0-0 0; D. Parker 0-1 0-0 0; S. Tchiengang 0-1 0-0 0; R. Odom 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-54 24-30 84.
Three-point goals: MTSU 7-13 (L. Dendy 1-2; J. Sulton 0-1; J. Gallman 1-2; K. Hammonds 2-2; B. Massey 0-1; M. Knight 1-3; R. Cintron 2-2), VAND 6-19 (L. Goulbourne 0-1; S. Tchiengang 0-1; B. Tinsley 1-2; J. Taylor 1-3; J. Jenkins 4-11; K. Johnson 0-1); Rebounds: MTSU 21 (J. Sulton 5), VAND 27 (L. Goulbourne 8); Assists: MTSU 15 (B. Massey 5), VAND 11 (B. Tinsley 4); Total Fouls -- MTSU 23, VAND 18; Fouled Out: MTSU-J. Sulton; VAND-None.