161st Round Opponent: North CarolinaRecord:
13-18 (9-9 Mid-Continent
)Big Nonconference Wins:
December 30 vs. Bowling Green
(77-53); it was their only non-league win over a D1 opponent.Key Players:
Pierre Dukes (see below) is the folk hero, but senior forwards Rawle Marshall and Cortney Scott score all the points: nearly 39 per game between them.What's a...?
A Golden Grizzly is a imagination-figment that loves to take swings at merchandising cash. OU were known as the Pioneers before switching to Division I.Season Story:
When basketball season broke in Rochester, MI, nobody had any idea what was to come. When it was late February, nobody did either. In a league that was all about Oral Roberts
and Missouri-Kansas City
all year, Oakland streaked to three shock tournament wins out of the seven-seed. The only glimmer of future glory they provided was a 60-50 win over UMKC in Kansas City on February 12.Cinderellability:
They won the play-in game against SWAC champs Alabama A&M
and will go home from Charlotte on Friday night very, very happy.Clip Show:
March 6: (7) Oakland 67, (2) Missouri-Kansas City 63 - Hosts Oral Roberts made it through easily, but their regular season nemesis did not, as Oakland won their first-ever tournament game. We've had a lot of fun with the UMKC Kangaroos this season, what with their horrible logo, fun team characters, their seven-game season-opening losing streak and their 11-game tear directly thereafter. We're going to miss them here at TMM, but nobody ever said the conference tournaments weren't cruel. Actually, someone probably has said that, but they're tragically misinformed.Central FloridaSeed:
March 8: Oral Roberts would appear to have the auto-bid wrapped up, after their Wonder Twin Powers took care of business once again: Caleb Green scored 22 on 8-of-11 shooting, and Ken Tutt had 18 with eight assists. But does Oakland have one more upset left in them? In a tourney with plenty of upsets, the Grizzlies held off a game bunch of Chicago State Cougars by making their free throws down the stretch. They'll meet tonight in front of a heavily pro-ORU crowd; ORU wins, and they're Dancing for the first time since 1984.
March 9: (7) Oakland 61, (1) Oral Roberts 60 - It's been said many times, many ways, but this is what March Madness is all about. A backup junior point guard named Pierre Dukes, who averaged 5.4 points a game this year, hit a three-pointer with a single second left, and a Mid-Con afterthought stole away the title in the top seed's home city. Golden Grizzlies fans can make their Dayton-area hotel reservations now because they'll almost assuredly play in the 16a-16b play-in game due to their 12-18 record, but it doesn't matter. They're champions.
151st Round Opponent: ConnecticutRecord:
24-8 (15-7 Atlantic Sun
)Big Nonconference Wins:
November 20 vs. Utah State
at Top of The World Classic in Fairbanks, AK (55-52); gave eventual Mid-Con 2 seed Missouri-Kansas City
two of its seven December losses. Key Players:
The Golden Knights' triple threat is 6'2" Gary Johnson, 6'6" Joshua Peppers and 6'8" Anthony Williams - most of the points come from that triumverate. What's a...?
Presumably, a Golden Knight is a armored medieval warrior encased in glittering golden armor. I'll get back to you on this one.Season Story:
First of all, remember that each of the eight teams that made the Atlantic Sun tournament had a winning record (thanks to 0-for- Campbell
) - this made forecasting very hazy. Gardner-Webb led for most of the year and defending champions UCF lagged behind in a swarm of middletons, but in the end it was the Knights' championship experience that carried them through the thicket of brackets to the golden victory. Cinderellability:
Not much. In the Tournament, size matters... and UCF doesn't have much.Clip Show:
February 25: Central Florida 58, Gardner-Webb 55 - G-Webb (15-11, 12-7 ASun), who finished ninth and out of the conference tournament last year, could have clinched the regular-season title and the tourney one-seed right there on their home floor. The Runnin' Bulldogs From Boiling Springs came roaring back from a sharp halftime deficit, but defending A-Sun champions UCF (19-8, 12-7 ASun) didn't let them pass, instead forging a first-place tie. Golden Knight bench hero Justin Rose scored 15, a total which included the last bucket of the game with 30 seconds left.BucknellSeed:
March 6: (2) Central Florida 63, (1) Gardner-Webb 54 - After two nailbiting wins to dispatch the eight and four seeds, the Runnin' Bulldogs from Boiling Springs finally saw their luck run out Saturday. G-Webb last saw the lead halfway through the first half, and then UCF made sure they'd never see it again with a scorching 15-2 run. The Golden Knights are conference champions for the second straight year and the fourth time in their history (1994, 1996) in their final A-Sun season (they're leaving the Mid-Majority for the C-USA). And they love proving people wrong - they were picked sixth last year, and eighth before this season began.
141st Round Opponent: KansasRecord:
22-9 (13-4 Patriot League
)Big Nonconference Wins:
December 29 at St. Joseph's
(69-62), January 2 at Pittsburgh
(69-66). The latter was the greatest win in Patriot League history.100 Games Project Appearances: #10
, #33Key Players:
Shooting guard Kevin Bettencourt is all heart, and center Chris McNaughton is all muscle.What's a...?
A bison is a bovine mammal of western North America, having large forequarters, a shaggy mane, and a massive head with short curved horns.*Season Story:
Before their three straight victories over top 100 opponents, the Bison looked a little lost. During the run, they looked like a PL dynasty in the making. After allowing Holy Cross
to soak up the media attention during the regular season, they came back in the end to win the conference.Cinderellability:
May keep Kansas within 10.Clip Show:
December 29: Bucknell 69, St. Joseph's 62 - This was the second straight win over the top half of the RPI for Bucknell (Niagara last Wednesday), so I'm as ready as anyone to join the chorus of those who would give them the Patriot League crown before it's actually awarded. Most importantly, this will likely keep them from having to make an extra trip to Dayton for the Tournament play-in game. A 17-6 run in the opening minutes of the second half, as well as blistering 63% shooting against a loose St. Joseph's defense, lifted Bucknell to victory. OhioSeed:
March 12: Bucknell 61, Holy Cross 57 - Bucknell's shock win over Pittsburgh on the first weekend of 2005 may have been the worst thing that happened to them this year - coach Pat Flannery had to take an exhaustion-related medical leave for a few games, in large part due to his inability to say "no" to the swarm of media requests. Holy Cross sped by the Bison in the standings during this time with 16 straight victories, and Bucknell basketball became as like yesterday's crumpled newspaper, blowing down a windswept and deserted alley.
But when it truly mattered, Flannery's Bison rose to the challenge. Early on in this game, they stormed to a long lead and sent the ESPN commentators scurrying for their media guides. Bucknell held a 20-point lead with 15 minutes remaining, then they bravely held off the Crusaders' late mad rush which included traps and presses that adhered to the Bison's "under armour." Two-guard Kevin Bettencourt took a key charge and made free throws down the stretch to provide heroics, and Bucknell is off to the Tournament for the first time since 1989.
131st Round Opponent: FloridaRecord:
21-10 (15-7 Mid-American
)Big Nonconference Wins:
November 29 vs. San Francisco
(81-66). Don't laugh, USF went 16-13 this year at played in a tough WCC. Was given a seemingly meaningless Bracket Buster game against eventual Horizon League runner-up Detroit
, and won 66-65.100 Games Project Appearances: #89
, #93 Key Player:
MAC Freshman of the Year Leon Williams is a fearless post banger who moves very deliberately and loves contact.What's a...?
A bobcat is a wild cat of North America, having spotted reddish-brown fur, tufted ears, and a short tail.* Season Story:
They didn't play a game until November 29, which gave pundits time to ruminate on how right they were to pick the young Bobcats (two freshman starters) dead-last in the MAC East. They ended January at 5-4, but two four-game win streaks - each highlighted by stirring home wins over Miami (Oh.)
, respectively - put them in position to crash the MAC party out of the four seed. And with four scoring runs against three teams that the 'Cats caught napping, they did just that.Cinderellability:
Low. Tournament teams don't take plays off.Clip Show:
March 12: And then, using composure, poise and patience, Ohio climbed back in the game. Taking advantage of [B] Bortz' fourth foul, the undersized 'Cats established a swarming presence down low, clearing out space above to array their outside weaponry. And their young guns came through time after time, nailing jumpers on one end and brickwalling the Bulls on the other. In eight short minutes, the score was 62-60; the white-clad four-seeds had executed a stunning 24-3 scoring run. It was a rite of passage in which the upstart Ohioans shed the yoke of their collective childhood.Northern IowaSeed:
111st Round Opponent: WisconsinRecord:
21-10 (11-7 Missouri Valley
)Big Nonconference Wins:
December 1 vs. Iowa State
(99-82), February 19 vs. Western Michigan
in Bracket Buster (86-75)Key Player:
Junior guard Ben Jacobson (not to be confused with assistant coach Ben Jacobson) is one of the nation's deadliest three-point threats (68-150, 45.3%) and led the team with nearly 18 points a game. What's a...?
A panther is a leopard, especially in its black unspotted form.*
Yet, the Northern Iowa panther has very little similarity to the Lafayette
leopard, who doesn't give its prey scholarships.Season Story:
Cynics might say that the Panthers' inclusion is due to UNI's proximity to Committee chairman Bob Bowlsby's old house, or lingering good karma from last year's Tournament, but I'm just happy to see the greatest mid-major league in America get the respect of three bids. They hung around the edges while Southern Illinois
, Wichita State
(and for a brief time, Illinois State
) duked it out, and lost in the quarterfinals of Arch Madness. Let's just say this: fans of MVC finalists Southwest Missouri State
and their seven-game February win streak aren't too happy right now.Cinderellability:
Not too shabby - I'll take most Valley teams up against most teams from the Big Ten any day of the week. A 6-11 upset here is a sexy pick in office pools. Clip Show:
March 1: Northern Iowa 67, Wichita State 66 (story) - It's painful watching them keep losing, because it heightens the twin possibilities that the Valley will only get a single bid and the Big East will get (shudder) eight. Six-three Panther guard Ben Jacobsen lit up the scoreboard with 24 points, and hit the winning three-point shot on WSU's home floor. Wichita has lost five of their last six - the Shockers are now so off the bubble, they're chewing gum. "This really hurts," coach Mark Turgeon told the press.
March 6: The toughest mid-major league in the nation is down to its final four after Saturday's quarters. All three top seeds took care of business, but the streaky SMS Bears knocked out the defending Valley champs. Northern Iowa had been a sexy MVC pick about a month ago by chin-stroking and one-eyebrow-raising pundits, but the Panthers' Dance dreams are dashed.*
*(Not so fast! Thanks again, Mr. Bowlsby!)