AUTHOR'S NOTE: Once every so often, I get so excited about something that I tend to bite off a bit more than I can chew. It has become readily apparent to me that my most recent something involves my sacred duty as a Mid-Majority correspondent. Finding the tenets of this website to be in line with my personal ideals, I thought it would be a fantastic idea to recap every single basketball game I attended this year. However, mere attendance requires very little work while elucidating the thoughts and emotion surrounding that attendance requires substantially more. That is why, with six (!) recaps awaiting submission and a pilgrimage to Long Beach State at the end of the month, I've decided to mop up my unfinished business before moving on to anything new. Although I'm continuing to partake in Our Game in person, I haven't been writing about my recent travels, at least until I can knock out these six recaps. Since all of these recaps are startlingly tardy, I've decided to adopt a (hopefully) more interesting approach than having to read about a month old game. By describing my emotions then and my impressions now, I hope to (somewhat) redeem myself and provide an interesting review. So without further ado...
Once every four years or so, whispers begin about how this year is the year of the Atlantic 10. The league is deep, the league is well stratified, the league will put AT LEAST four teams in the NCAA Tournament, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, these high expectations often come crashing down when A-10 members beat up on each other in conference play. The league is frequently too deep for its own good, and schools can only look on in horror when their Atlantic 10 bubble team falls to Fordham in late February. In a conference above the red line, this would supposedly illustrate the gauntlet teams have to face in conference play. In the Atlantic 10, it supposedly illustrates how Team X is "a pretender rather than a contender."
Saint Louis came into the night's contest against the Dayton Flyers with the expectations that Rick Majerus' legendary defense would lead the charge of a larger than usual number of Atlantic 10 teams into March. Where the Pac-12 is collapsing, the A-10 is picking up the slack. One of these surprising Atlantic 10 teams is the Dayton Flyers. Coming into the game the Flyers held a respectable record of 10-4 with wins against Alabama and Minnesota. Saint Louis entered with a record of 12-2 and with wins against Nova, Washington, and Oklahoma. Quietly, the contest was shaping up to be an elite matchup.
Neither team disappointed. It was a tale of two halves - the Billikens largely controlled the first and went to the break with an eight point lead. Fans in my section were grumbling about the Flyer defense - especially the 10-0 run they allowed in the last three minutes of the half. I leaned back in my seat and pondered my rooting interests. Ordinarily, I'd cheer fervently for the underdog (Dayton, in this case). However, with the unique situation the Atlantic 10 finds itself in year in and year out, I felt I should root for Saint Louis. If the Billikens could emerge from A-10 play smelling as much like roses as possible, perhaps it would reflect kindly in their case to the selection committee. A win by the Flyers would logically speak to a deep league, but it was more likely that in this case Saint Louis would be vilified as an overrated squad.
As the Saint Louis lead began to disintegrate in the opening minutes of the second half, it seemed as if this one would be destined for the latter. Sure enough, a neck and neck half and a Flyer dominated overtime period later, Dayton emerged with a hard fought best win to date and a 1-0 start to league play. Saint Louis came away with a sickening knowledge that despite the fact that good teams do lose league road games, these sort of things are more easily forgiven in the Big Ten.
Oh the Atlantic 10. As of this writing, the top three teams in league play each sit at a less than encouraging mark of 5-2 and none of them (UMass, La Salle, St. Bonaventure) are in the conversation for an at-large berth. Dayton is coming off an inexplicable home loss to 4-18 Rhode Island. Saint Louis is coming off a road loss to UMass. The buzz surrounding the league has quieted and my worst fears have been confirmed. At this point, no one will emerge smelling like roses. Whether the selection committee will dole out punishment or rewards remains to be seen.
I thought I was seeing two tournament teams at the time, but now I'm not so sure. To use a flimsy analogy, the selection committee is like your grandmother: she's used the RPI since she was a little girl and she'll be damned if some newfangled "tempo-free stats" tell her what do. Neither team has the stellar RPI that would overlook a multitude of sins (the Billikens reside at 43, the Flyers at 60), but Saint Louis at least has a Pomeroy ranking (14) that should make the committee take notice. Will they? Probably not, but such are the struggles of your superior sub-Red-Line squad. Throw a few punches and hope grandma doesn't see the ones your brother lands.
at DAYTON 79, SAINT LOUIS 72 01/04/2012
SAINT LOUIS 12-3 (0-1) -- B. Conklin 4-10 5-5 14; C. Ellis 3-12 4-4 12; M. McCall 4-11 1-4 10; D. Evans 3-7 6-7 12; K. Cassity 0-1 0-0 0; K. Mitchell 5-11 1-3 11; J. Jett 3-4 0-0 6; R. Loe 2-6 2-3 7; C. Remekun 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-62 19-26 72. DAYTON 11-4 (1-0) -- K. Dillard 5-14 7-7 18; C. Johnson 2-4 5-6 11; P. Williams 3-9 4-4 11; L. Fabrizius 4-8 0-0 11; A. Gavrilovic 4-6 4-7 12; D. Oliver 1-5 2-2 4; J. Parker 1-3 2-2 4; M. Kavanaugh 4-6 0-0 8; R. Hill 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 24-28 79.
Three-point goals: SLU 5-19 (K. Mitchell 0-2; B. Conklin 1-1; K. Cassity 0-1; C. Ellis 2-7; D. Evans 0-1; R. Loe 1-2; M. McCall 1-5), UD 7-14 (P. Williams 1-2; C. Johnson 2-2; L. Fabrizius 3-6; K. Dillard 1-3; D. Oliver 0-1); Rebounds: SLU 27 (D. Evans 7), UD 40 (C. Johnson 10); Assists: SLU 10 (K. Mitchell 4), UD 12 (K. Dillard 10); Total Fouls -- SLU 25, UD 22; Fouled Out: SLU-B. Conklin; UD-M. Kavanaugh.