161st Round Opponent: IllinoisRecord:
20-12 (16-5 Northeast Conference
)Big Nonconference Wins:
December 9 at eventual MAAC two-seed Rider
(76-74)100 Games Project Appearances: #65Key Players:
Big Gordon Klaiber and little Tamien Trent are the inside-outside mechanism that has driven the Knights' success. They are also stars of their own cartoon
FDU uses the chess piece for its logo, which is in the shape of a horse's head. It can be moved two squares along a rank and one along a file or two squares along a file and one along a rank. The knight is the only piece that can jump other pieces to land on an open square*
, much the way FDU leapt over Monmouth
to win the league title.Season Story:
The Knights kept pace with Monmouth in January, but a 64-56 Hawks win on January 29 in Teaneck showed how thick the division line was between the two. NEC respect finally came on February 18, with a 62-58 return smash. FDU won five of its last seven, and ducked the Hawks because six-seed Wagner
took care of them in the semis.Cinderellability:
Um, negative.Clip Show:
February 21: On Friday, the Monmouth Hawks (13-12, 12-4 NEC) were walking on air, enjoying the finest of what the NEC has to offer, and they had two home games scheduled for the weekend. But a steal by Fairleigh Dickinson's Chad Timberlake with 23 seconds left changed the mood in MU-land - it iced a 62-58 Knights win and moved FDU to within a half-game of the Hawks at 11-3.Southeastern LouisianaSeed:
February 22: St. Francis (NY) 110, Fairleigh Dickinson 103 - Nope - not an overtime game, and not something straight out of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The two teams created an old-school NBA score in just 40 minutes despite each shooting just a little over 50% - needless to say, the game's pace was a little on the fast side. Gordon Klaiber, FDU's monstrous inside presence (relatively, mind you - this is the NEC) dropped 34 points and 13 boards - their flashy guard Tamien Trent ladled in 36.
The boys from Teaneck (15-11, 11-4 NEC) had crept by archrival Monmouth (13-12, 12-4 NEC) for the top slot over the weekend, but Fairleigh Dickinson failed to capitalize. As for the top seed, it might come down to tiebreakers. Monmouth and FDU split the season series so it might be settled on the fourth tiebreaker, which is the record against the third-place team. If it does turn out to be these Terriers, and Monmouth wins there next Monday, MU would take the top slot by virtue of a season sweep. One-seed gets to play the title game at home should they make it that far, so it's important.
March 10: (1) Fairleigh Dickinson 58, (6) Wagner 52 - The Knights aren't all about Steed and Stallion, you know. Italian big-boy Andrea Crosariol had 18, and guard Chad Timberlake justified himself with an 11-point performance after an oh-fer in the semis. FDU fought off a brave bunch of Seahwaks, who dug themselves out of a 2-15 start and rode a six-seed all the way to the title game.
151st Round Opponent: Oklahoma StateRecord:
24-8 (16-3 Southland
)Big Nonconference Wins:
Since five of their eight preleague "W"'s were over non-D1's, the best we can do here is a 56-48 win at eventual WAC finalist Boise State
on November 21.Key Player:
Ricky Woods is a 6'5" forward who's the heart of the Lions' Dirty South D.What's a...?
A lion is a large carnivorous feline mammal (Panthera leo) of Africa and northwest India, having a short tawny coat, a tufted tail, and, in the male, a heavy mane around the neck and shoulders.*Season Story:
The story is defense. In the Southland, you're likely to see lots of guard-oriented attacks and lots of three-point strategies. But SELU stifled each and every one of them, allowing just 55 in a game. They had to - they only scored 63.Cinderellability:
Unfortunately, none. The Cowboys won't give the Lions much time to set up in the halfcourt.Clip Show:
January 12: Southeastern Louisiana 56, Sam Houston State 54 - We sold this yesterday as big O versus big D, and the defense won. (I've also heard that it wins championships, but the evidence is inconclusive.) Southeastern kept the Bearkats' normally streaky offense in check, and backup guard Neill Berry laid it up and in with less than a second to go to clinch the home win. Last season, SELU came out of nowhere (or rather Hammond, Louisiana - population: 17,000) to win the Southland regular-season title with an 11-5 record, but did not appear on your office-pool bracket because eventual 16-seed Texas-San Antonio nipped them in the Southland semis. The Lions (8-5, 3-0 SLC) intend to correct that this year.Utah StateSeed:
January 30: Southeastern Louisiana 63, Texas-San Antonio 54 - SELU (14-6, 6-1 SLC) certainly remembers the Alamo - the UTSA Roadrunners knocked them out in the Southland semis last year. They got a modicum of revenge for that result by going into San Antonio and knocking them off - all this despite being thrown in a 13-point ditch, outshot and outrebounded. The key stat? Twenty Roadrunner coughups. The SELU defense saves the day!
February 6: The prowling Lions of Southeastern Louisiana (16-6, 8-1 SLC) continue to amaze with their defensive prowess: they allowed Stephen F. Austin half of their season scoring average in a 54-33 beatdown. They've won five in a row, and my only suggestion to folks searching for a feel-good team to root for next month is to order your merchandise now for March delivery.
February 14: Southeastern Louisiana (17-7, 9-2 SLC) finally went down, victims of a buzzer-beating layup by McNeese State's Ronald Dorsey. The final was 71-69, an uncharacteristic score for a team averaging under 54 points allowed per game. The Lions hadn't lost a regular-season home game in just under two years, and they did so to a 3-7 team.
March 14: (2) Southeastern Louisiana 49, (1) Northwestern State 42 - After leading the league in '04 and dropping a semifinal heartbreaker, the Lions came back with shoulder-chips and a halfcourt lockdown, the likes of which the Southland has rarely seen. After holding the three-point-happy teams of the SLC in the Forties and Fifties all year on their way to winning 23 games, wiry forward Ricky Woods (16 points) led SELU to the Promised Land in a signature muddy slog.
141st Round Opponent: ArizonaRecord:
24-7 (15-5 Big West
)Big Nonconference Wins:
Twin killings of Brigham Young
(71-57, 84-62) turned out to be for regional superiority only, but they also thrashed eventual six-seed Utah
71-45 on December 4.Key Players:
Spencer Nelson is a 6'8" hustler who leads the Aggies in scoring at 16.4 a game. Just behind is former MMBOW Jaycee Carroll
, the first freshman ever to be named the Big West Conference's Tournament MVP - he can nail threes, oh yes he can.What's an...?
An Aggie is a lover and afficionado of agriculture, one who works the land.Season Story:
The second consecutive Pacific-USU regular season death-struggle was forecast, but a frustrating double-overtime loss to the Tigers in mid-January took a lot out of the Aggies. They stumbled two days later at Cal State Northridge
, and since UOP was off to an undefeated season, the Aggies were forced to toil in the shadows. The February 12 rematch featured one of the greatest last-minute comebacks of all time by the Tigers... but in the end, revenge was USU's.Cinderellability:
A classic wolf in Cinderella's clothing, with teeth the better to eat you with. Their record and profile hides how good USU is - if the games lasted 36 minutes, they would have swept Pacific and we'd all be talking about the Aggies instead. A very, very possible 14-over-3 here.Clip Show:
December 24: Big West: Idaho 69, Utah State 62 - Because the students were away, this game was moved from the 7,000-seat Cowan Spectrum to Idaho's old, dusty Memorial Gym (seating: 1,300). Utah State (7-3, 0-1 BWC) outshot Idaho 52%-44%, but the undersized Vandals (2-8, 1-0 BWC) outrebounded the visitors 37-26 - they used their zone to pick off long rebounds, and quickness to beat them to the offensive glass. Because of "the way things work," the Big West tournament may have upped its drama quotient immeasurably this past week - no matter how many important non-conference wins a team gets, at-large dreams can vanish with one simple sentence: "Yeah, but they lost to Idaho."PennsylvaniaSeed:
January 14: Pacific 73, Utah State 66 (2OT) - If only this game was televised, so I could pass out burned DVD copies to all the people who blather on at me about how boring mid-major basketball is. This battle between last year's co-regular season champions had it all: lead changes, scoring spurts, screaming fans, and serious tourney seeding implications. Pacific (11-2, 6-0 BWC) held the nation's field goal percentage leaders to 33%, but the Aggies (11-4, 2-2 BWC) had the rebounding edge and hung in with timely runs. The Tigers took control at the beginning of the second overtime, sparked by a thundering Christian Maraker drive-and-dunk, and he pulled down all of nine rebounds after regulation time had ended.
February 14: Pacific 64, Utah State 63 - With 31 seconds left, homestanding Utah State was leading 61-53. Warm up the bus, right? Wrong! An improbable series of events which included a lot of missed free throws brought UOP back into the game, and Christian Maraker's jumper with two ticks left won it. We'll now have to make the pair of Pacific-Utah State games a bonus two-DVD gift set, and hope like hell they meet up again in the Big West finals.
March 13: (2) Utah State 65, (1) Pacific 52 - UOP's nation's-best win streak is over at 22, but if there's any justice in the world they should get a chance to start a new one next weekend in the NCAA Tournament. Utah State, a 24-7 team that hung around on the outskirts during January and February, finally got sweet revenge on the Tigers; they held their opponents scoreless for over eight minutes in the second half. They won in convincing fashion after two narrow regular-season losses in which USU dominated, but could not hold off miraculous last-minute heroics by Christian Maraker and the Orange and Black. This victory is also a wad in the collective eye of the Selection Committee, who won't get a chance to snub the WAC-bound Aggies, like they did after a one-loss campaign and a semifinal drop last year.
131st Round Opponent: Boston CollegeRecord:
20-8 (13-1 Ivy League
)Big Nonconference Wins:
Their 2-2 record in the Philly Big Five (wins over LaSalle
and St. Joseph's
) will have to suffice.100 Games Project Appearances: #2
, #56Key Player:
Senior Tim Begley is a big guard who can drain a sweet trey if you give him a half-a-second's chance.What's a...?
A Quaker is a member of the Religious Society of Friends. The Quakers are a group of Christians who use no scripture and believe in great simplicity in daily life and in worship,*
or a group of basketball players who believe in administering beatdowns to the rest of the Ancient Eight.Season Story:
A horrid December on the road only steeled pundits' cases for Princeton
, but one spurt
changed the Quaker season from lost to found. They'd only lose one game in Ivy play, a sleepwalk against Yale
, before wrapping up the conference on February 27.Cinderellability:
Hard to say. BC's been known to play down to its level of competition, and this just might be the time they get caught napping at the wrong time. Likely to be a game with five minutes to go.Clip Show:
February 2: The hated Princeton Tigers would end up pulling out a win up at Jadwin that night, but Penn still sat atop the Ivy League with a peerless 2-0 record. The Palestra was filled with hope again, the Penn season was alive again... and all it took was a single run.Wisconsin-MilwaukeeSeed:
February 27: Pennsylvania 80, Columbia 72 - Congratulations to the Quakers! The first ticket to the NCAA Tournament was punched last night as Penn (17-8, 10-1) clinched the Ivy League regular-season title. They stormed to a win on the Lions' home court, bolstered by 68% second-half shooting and a late 18-4 spurt.
121st Round Opponent: AlabamaRecord:
24-5 (16-2 Horizon League
)Big Nonconference Wins:
Signature victory was a 88-78 win on December 30 at Manhattan
that subsequently lost its luster as the Jaspers' season progressed, but they beat a good Hawaii
team on the road (er, ocean) in the Bracket Buster. They also out-Princetoned Air Force
, 50-45, on November 28.Key Player:
Ed McCants is UWM's primary weapon (17.4 ppg), a 6'3" guard who puts up a lot of three-shots and makes his fair share (37%). Joah Tucker is a 6'5" bullet who can shoot from just about any place on the floor.What's a...?
A panther is a name commonly applied to the leopard, especially to a black leopard. It is also used locally to designate various other cats including the jaguar and the puma.*Season Story:
The Panthers were all about win streaks - six to start the season, eight in January, and another niner that started on Groundhog Day and extends into the Tournament. They had one difficult stretch in December - a referee-aided loss to Valparaiso
, followed by two regularly-scheduled losses to Wisconsin
- but UWM's been letting the freak flag fly all season long.Cinderellability:
This might be your 5 over 12 for the year, because bloated-record SEC teams are always prime upset material. Here's hopin'.Clip Show:
January 25: Their seven-game winning streak has taken them to the top of the Horizon League. As the Panthers know all too well, there's only one game that counts if they want to get on the Big Bracket: the conference championship game. Tournament participants in 2003, they let the Dance card slip away on their home floor to Illinois-Chicago last March. They have four returning starters, and don't intend to make the same mistake twice.St. Mary'sSeed:
January 27: Anyway you slice it, there's cheese on that there Horizon. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (15-4, 8-1 HL) won its eighth straight game in a non-conference matchup; the flip side of a Purdue low point (coach Gene Keady spent a good deal of the second half hiding his face with his hands) is increased legitimacy for UWM's Dance dreams. 73-68 was the final in a game where the two-point favorite Panthers beat the spread on the road. Wisconsin-Green Bay (13-5, 6-2 HL), UWM's Saturday opponents, won 60-54 at Detroit to stay in second.
March 9: (1) Wisconsin-Milwaukee 59, (3) Detroit 58 - The Panthers' march to the title seemed inevitable until this game. Detroit held a slight lead down the stretch (56-52 with four minutes left), but made too many mistakes and missed too many free throws. But as with so many HL results this season, the officials decided this one - a foul with four ticks left and the score tied at 58 put UWM's Adrian Tigert on the line. He hit the second one, and that was that. As former UDM coach Dick Vitale might say, "Heartbreak city, baby!"
101st Round Opponent: Southern IllinoisRecord:
24-8 (11-4 West Coast
)Big Nonconference Wins:
No win has ever done more for this program than a 61-52 victory at California
, which sent them to the Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals in New York back in mid-November.100 Games Project Appearances: #3Key Players:
Aussie big man Daniel Kickert and inaugural MMBOW Jonathan Sanders
set the pace.What's a...?
A Gael is a Gaelic-speaking Celt of Scotland, Ireland, or the Isle of Man.*Season Story:
I don't mean to downplay the accomplishments of the Gaels, because they are a solid team that is well within speaking distance of UMPFN
. They have benefited most of any of the WCC's teams from the Unnamed Major Program's overbearing presence, to be sure. They deserve everything that's coming to them, as well as the good fortune and increased recruiting mojo that go along with at-large consideration. I hope they close the gap, and soon.
Back in November, when the college basketball media was looking for a feel-good story, they found little St. Mary's College of California, who had bravely made it to New York City for the semifinals of the CvC tournament. What was forgotten was the exact way they got there - by beating California at California. Colorado
, as well as NIT sparring partners Nevada-Las Vegas
and Arizona State
, all did the same thing. The Gaels ran off streaks of nine and six against inferior non-league opposition and WCC teams in various states of disrepair, even beating UMPFN in an early-2005 showdown. But they looked lost and unfocused in the title game, and that's why they had to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. It hurts to say this, but they are overseeded.Cinderellability:
January 9: St. Mary's 66, UMPFN 61 - Well, that didn't take long - now the folks who compile those goofy "mid-major polls" have to pick someone else. Homestanding St. Mary's used Mr. Three to take down the Unnamed Major Program From the Northwest, knocking down 16 of them. Senior guard Paul Marigney scored 30 and was responsible for seven of those treys. UMPFN (11-3, 1-1 WCC) had won 17 straight conference games dating back to an early-2003 loss to Portland, and it was the Gaels' first victory against them after a string of 17 straight failures. The floor was indeed stormed.NevadaSeed:
March 8: (1) UMPFN 80, (2) St. Mary's 67 - They tried to squeeze some drama out of this WCC season, but in the end, it was the same old story. The Unnamed Major Program From The Northwest are WCC champions once again, after running roughshod over a conference they outgrew a long time ago. To celebrate their sixth league championship in seven years, and seventh consecutive trip to the Tournament, I'm going to go down to the nearest playground and beat up some six and seven-year-old kids.
Meanwhile, in the other locker room, the Gaels of Saint Mary's College hang their heads and place their overnight orders for cases of Pepto-Bismol. The score of this game, and the fact that they went seven second-half minutes without scoring, puts them on the far outer limits of Bubbleville. It will depend on power-conference tournament results whether they make it in or not, and I'll bleed a little with them if they're left out on Selection Sunday.
91st Round Opponent: TexasRecord:
24-6 (16-3 Western Athletic
)Big Nonconference Wins:
December 4 vs. Nevada-Las Vegas
(84-78); vs. Vermont
in the Bracket Buster (74-64).Key Player: Former MMBOW Nick Fazekas.What's a...?
A wolf is a carnivorous mammal of the genus Canis in the dog family.*
A Wolfpack (one word) is a gathering of these noble beasts.Season Story:
After losing coach and leading scorer, everyone (including myself) picked someone else - Texas-El Paso
maybe, perhaps even Rice
. A nationally-televised OT loss in January to UTEP seemed to signal that this was not Nevada's beautiful WAC, but the closely-fought revenge match a month later signaled that things were "same as it ever was." A quarterfinal loss would not keep this Pack from Dancing.Cinderellability:
Very high. Look out, Longhorns!Clip Show:
January 13: Texas-El Paso 83, Nevada 80 (OT) - UTEP (11-2, 4-0 WAC) has passed its early tests against Rice and Nevada, and have established themselves as the true team to beat in the conference. But it wasn't easy on this night, against the team with whom they shared last year's regular season championship. In front of a national ESPN2 audience, the Miners let a 24-point first-half lead slip away by allowing a 31-3 run, and needed a last-second trey from Filiberto Rivera (23 points) to force overtime. Quipped Miner Coach Doc Sadler, "I think UTEP fans got to see two different teams tonight. The one that played defense and the one that didn't." Omar Thomas was UTEP's leading scorer with 28, and Nevada (10-4, 4-1 WAC) was led by WAC player of the week Nick Fazekas' 29 points.Southern IllinoisSeed:
February 6: Nevada 76, Louisiana Tech 58 - In the most decisive result of Really, Really Exciting Saturday, Nick Fazekas scored 27 points and Nevada (15-5, 9-2 WAC) dominated the previously surging LTU Bulldogs, who were led by former MMBOW Paul Millsap with his 20 and 8. Insodoing, they served notice to the rest of the WAC that the Wolves are top dogs. Did we mention they get to host the conference tournament, too? Yep, it all adds up to big trouble for everyone else.
February 14: Western Athletic: Nevada 62, Texas-El Paso 60 - The Miners had All-Everything Nick Fazekas handled well (15 points), but their shooting failed them down the stretch - Miguel Ayala and Omar Thomas missed threes that would have put UTEP ahead. Nevada (18-5, 11-2 WAC) retains iron-fisted command over the league, and UTEP (19-6, 9-4 WAC) finds itself not quite so Bubblicious as a result.
February 20: Nevada 74, Vermont 64 - You can either contain Taylor Coppenrath or not (18 points here), but the real key to beating Vermont (19-5, 14-1 AEast) is stopping sharpshooter and former MMBOW T.J. Sorrentine. T.J. had 24 total, but only nine of those were in the second half. Nevada's (20-5, 11-2 WAC) Nick Fazekas had a very Tournament-like game, scoring 31 and grabbing 14 boards.
March 11: (8) Boise State 73, (1) Nevada 72 - Perhaps the day off between the first round and quarters hurt rather than helped the low seeds, no? Jermaine Blackburn, a 6'6" Bronco guard, found the ball in his hands after a missed free throw with one second left, and stunned Nevada with his 15th and 16th points of the night. But the final moments were set up by the Wolfpack's failure to hit from long-range: they only hit one of their seven trey attempts, while Boise's bombs were on the mark. BSU did what Cinderellas tend to do, hitting a solid 9 of 20 from three.
71st Round Opponent: St. Mary'sRecord:
26-7 (16-4 Missouri Valley
)Big Nonconference Wins:
Versus Tournament teams Vanderbilt
(67-53) and Texas-El Paso
(68-62) at a Las Vegas tourney in late November, at Kent State in the Bracket Buster (65-54).Key Player: Former MMBOW Darren Brooks.What's a...?
A saluki? Long story.Season Story:
A seven-game win streak coming out of 2004 showed that the Salukis were ready to take charge of the league once again, but a January 22 loss at Wichita State
and a drop four days later at Southwest Missouri State
left SIU looking wobbly. No matter - they won 11 of 12 down the stretch and wouldn't let a quarterfinal loss to SMS stand in their way.Cinderellability:
Off the charts.Clip Show:
January 23: Wichita State 58, Southern Illinois 56 - The Shockers had the boards (42-32) and the defense (held SIU to 32% shooting in the second half), but the Salukis had enough streaks and runs to keep it close. WSU's Illinois transfer forward (and possible "evil twin" of your humble narrator) Kyle Wilson scored down low with a half-minute remaining; as time ticked away, Southern could not piece together a successful overtime-forcing possession. SIU lost its fourth MVC regular-season game in the last three seasons, and both teams are now 6-1 in the toughest mid-major league in all the land.
February 8: Missouri Valley: Southern Illinois 58, Drake 57 - Faraway, so close. Sure, SIU's RPI is great, but they're really struggling right now. At Drake, they had to be bailed out by bigman Josh Warren's last-minute jumper - they shot 40% and only made two free throws all evening. The Bulldogs' season could have been given a brief glimmer of meaning if only they could have converted either of their two chances in the final five seconds: a jump shot (blocked), or free throws (missed front end of the one-and-one). The Salukis (16-6, 9-3 MVC) survive and stay in second; the Bulldogs fall to four and nine.
February 27: Southern Illinois 65, Wichita State 55 - Saluki Jamaal Tatum led the gym with 16 points and his team survived a messy second-half; insoding, SIU (24-6, 14-3 MVC) wrapped up the one-seed in the Valley and their fourth straight regular season title. Southern Illinois has now won seven in a row, and have one more tuneup (Indiana State) before they march into St. Louis for Arch Madness.
March 7: Isn't foreshadowing fun? SMS has been pockmarking the Salukis' sides with thorns lately, knocking them out of the 2004 semis and giving them their second MVC loss of the regular season back on January 26, a 92-77 decision at the Bears' den. Reigning MMBOW Darren Brooks had 25 points and eight rebounds, but it was an 11-2 run that did the Salukis in. Despite this result, Southern Illinois (26-7, 16-4 MVC) will get an at-large bid (again).
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