161st Round Opponent: DukeRecord:
19-13 (17-4 Mid-Eastern
)Big Nonconference Wins:
A 71-56 win in November versus Jackson State
(14-17, 10-9 SWAC) in Las Vegas will have to do.100 Games Project Appearances: #29
, #52Key Players:
You won't find a more unselfish crew in the Tournament. Guards Darrin Shine and Aaron Williams, swingman Jahsha Bluntt, and forwards Troy Roundtree and Terrance Hunter are all players who have stepped up at different times this season.What's a...?
A hornet is any of various large stinging wasps of the family Vespidae, chiefly of the genera Vespa and Vespula, that characteristically build large papery nests. *Season Story:
It's customary for a MEAC team to compile an pathetic won-lost record whilst traveling the highways and byways, renting themselves out as palookas, picking up $50,000 guarantee-game checks. But once the league schedule started in Oh-Five, Del-State began a quick ascension to the top with a seven-game win streak. A brief two-game stumble, and then a rush to the crown; they've won eight in a row.Cinderellability:
Zero, because they don't have the size to compete outside the cozy confines of the MEAC. But that won't stop these Hornets from being lovable. They're very inventive and precocious - in their game against Michigan State
in December, they delivered a surprise note-perfect Princeton
impression for the first half, and held the Spartans at 22 points before halftime. Then their three-point bomb itch needed scratching, and they got blown out.Clip Show:
February 2: Delaware State has won five straight and moves into a tie with Coppin State for first at 7-2; they beat Bethune-Cookman 63-61 in a makeup game from Monday that was postponed to travel problems. Last night's Hornet hero was senior forward Terrance Hunter, who hit a medium-range jumper with two ticks remaining.Eastern KentuckySeed:
February 15: Delaware State (11-11, 9-4 MEAC) has lost two in a row after reeling off seven straight, and find themselves in third after a 75-74 drop at Morgan State - and whaddyaknow, Sam Brand hit the winning free throws. The Hornets' problems can be traced directly to their road record: 3-11.
March 13: (1) Delaware State 55, (2) Hampton 53 - It's a long way from dingy little Memorial Hall in Dover to the Dance, but the Hornets have now walked that long mile. The school's first championship in any sport came when Aaron Williams hit a 12-foot jumper in the key with one second remaining, dashing the hopes of a Pirate team that had charged out of early-season adversity to make a run at the top. The MEAC's representative is a diligent crew of yeomen who earned the bid by gutting out wins and streaks.
151st Round Opponent: KentuckyRecord:
21-8 (13-5 Ohio Valley
)Big Nonconference Wins:
A season-opening 73-66 win at Dayton
November 20 started the Colonels on a 8-3 nonconference stretch. Key Players:
Matt Witt is the best point guard in this league, he also leads EKU in scoring (14.1 ppg). Michael Haney is a classic mid-major rebounding force (8.3 a game), the kind who gets swallowed up when power-conference teams come to call (he's 6'6", 210 lbs.)What's a...?
Colonel is a commissioned rank in the U.S. Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps that is above lieutenant colonel and below brigadier general.Season Story:
EKU wasn't really mentioned a lot on this site during the year, because they were lurking around while Tennessee Tech
battled for the lead in the standings. Then there was Southeast Missouri's
surprise seven-game tear, and that got all the OVC ink. But the Colonels quietly put together a strong run at the end to earn the two-seed, swept through the conference tournament, and come into Indianapolis riding a six-game unbeaten streak.Cinderellability:
If Kentucky gives them a 30-point head start, maybe.Clip Show:
March 6: (2) Eastern Kentucky 52, (5) Austin Peay 46- If space aliens - or, for that matter, national television viewers - touched down for the first time on the Ohio Valley Conference yesterday, they'd go away believing that the league had all the offensive output of the Ivy League circa 1948. Ridiculously bad shooting, fudgy fingers and defensive sludge aren't neccesarily the hallmarks of the OVC, but it doesn't diminish the fact that we have a deserving champion. Zach Ingles scored 15 points to lead the Colonels (21-8, 13-5 OVC), and it's EKU's first trip to the Dance in 26 years.NiagaraSeed:
141st Round Opponent: OklahomaRecord:
20-9 (15-5 Metro Athletic
)Big Nonconference Wins:
The only impressive one we can find is a 78-71 home win over the Patriot League's American
on November 20.Key Player:
Big Canadian forward Juan Mendez, the all-time Division I scoring leader from the Great White North, was fourth in the nation with 23.6 ppg.What's a...?
Purple Eagles exist only in the fertile fields of a child's imagination. Sometimes they go for rides on the backs of orange unicorns.Season Story:
There's no denying their offensive weaponry - they scored a very North Carolina-like 85 points a game. On the other side of the ball, they had the worst defense in the MAAC. Watching Niagara was frustrating, because it was an exercise in hoping their explosive offense would outpace their porous defense. They won 20 games, but also lost to teams like Loyola (Md.)
. But the Purple Eagles are in the Dance for the first time since 1970, and that's all that matters.Cinderellability:
Low. When a power-conference team sees a squad that allows 78 points a game to inferior competition, it starts dreaming about dropping 100.Clip Show:
December 6: Loyola (Md.) 97, Niagara 89- Bottom beat top in the MAAC. Shane James, a member of the Canadian junior national team, went 9-for-9 to lead Loyola, who outshot the Purple Eagles 55%-39% and scored 37 of their points on 58 free throws. Despite the fact that Niagara's bruising bigs pounded Loyola on the glass by a 46-33 margin, the Greyhounds now have as many conference wins as they did all of last year.VermontSeed:
December 12: Buffalo 95, Niagara 92 (2OT)- Philadelphia has the Big Five, but the City of Buffalo has the Big Four. For the second straight year, the MAC's Bulls beat the MAAC's Purple Eagles in a nail-biting, pants-soiling thriller. In the second overtime period, Buffalo went up by three on a pair of free throws with two ticks left, and UB's Roderick Middleton fouled on the inbound to force two Purple Eagle free throws. Charron Fisher missed the first, intentionally missed the second, and the ball went out of bounds off Buffalo. Mark Bortz, who led the Bulls with 32 points, stole the inbound and that was that. Big Juan Mendez tried to singlehandedly lift Niagara, but his 33 points were not enough.
December 23: Bucknell 76, Niagara 74 - The consensus MAAC favorite Purple Eagles have been difficult to figure out early on. They pushed Providence to the limit in the Preseason NIT and lead the nation with 90 points per game, but they've taken red-faced road losses at Loyola (Md.) and Bucknell. The Bison were able to keep the country's second-leading scorer Juan Mendez (26 ppg) in check, holding him to 18 points in 23 minutes and fouling him out with six to go in the game. More buzzer-beating thrills here: Abe Badmus, one of TMM's favorite point guards, rose up high to get a rebound with seconds to go; out of a timeout, swingman Charles Lee hit an open long-range jumper as time expired.
January 21: The Niagara Purple Eagles (10-6, 5-3 MAAC) and their whopping 3rd-in-the-nation 87 points are not dominating this conference because they suffer from sudden and random defensive lapses - they survived a visit from pesky Rider (9-7, 5-2 MAAC) in a 102-97 NBA game. Canadian superhero Juan Mendez, stronger than a blast of Arctic air, had 31 points and 11 rebounds.
February 27: Rider 113, Niagara 106 (OT)- For the second straight matchup, the Broncs and Purple Eagles scored over 100 points a piece, but this time they did need overtime. RU's (17-10, 13-5 MAAC) Jerry Johnson scored 28 - including his 2000th career tick - and Niagara (18-9, 13-5 MAAC) was led by David Brooks' 31 points. The two teams finish the MAAC regular season tied at the top, but Niagara takes the one-seed on tiebreakers. Would a title-game rematch in Buffalo make for some great television? Yes! Yes!
March 8: (1) Niagara 81, (2) Rider 59So much for any drama in Buffalo - after Purple Eagles-Broncs III was hyped with clips from the two barnburning games these two teams played in the regular season, millions of ESPN2 viewers switched over to the Valley game when this got out of hand. Big Canadian Juan Mendez opened the proceedings with a dunk that rattled dishes out in Batavia, and stormed to a 27 and 13 performance. Niagara goes to the Dance for the first time in my particular lifetime - it's been 35 long years.
131st Round Opponent: SyracuseRecord:
24-6 (19-2 America East
)Big Nonconference Wins:
December 30 at Holy Cross
(64-59), and a couple over middletons from the MAAC.100 Games Project Appearances: #26
, #78Key Players: Twin turbines
Taylor Coppenrath (a Kevin McHale-like post presence) and T.J. Sorrentine (a John Stockton-like pointman).What's a...?
A catamounts is a short-tailed wildcat with tufted ears; it's short for catamountain, or literally "cat o' the mountains".Season Story:
They opened the season at Kansas
, and lost by only seven. But the signature stretch of the Catamounts' season was their 15-game win streak, finally snapped by Boston University
on February 12. They lost their Bracket Buster showdown at Nevada
by 10, but weren't challenged much in the conference tournament.Cinderellability:
High. If both Sorrentine and Coppenrath are on, there's nobody in the land they can't hang in with.Clip Show:
January 9: Vermont 67, Maine 66 - Rock star Taylor Coppenrath tipped in a layup with seven seconds remaining, and UVM escaped their primary league rivals in a game of extended runs. Guard Ernest Turner, a UNLV transfer, scored 28 points for the Black Bears (7-6, 2-2 AE); but it was not enough to take down the mighty Ultra-Violence Mechanism. Catamount pointman T.J. Sorrentine matched Coppenrath's output with 25.Old DominionSeed:
February 14: Boston University 61, Vermont 55 - So much for the no-name theory. Rashad Bell had 29 and Chaz Carr pumped in 24 more, and the Terriers (18-5, 12-2 AE) shocked the world-beating Catamounts (18-4, 13-1 AE) at the glistening new Agganis Arena. Part of the reason why Vermont is so good is because they have that all-important inside-outside attack. Even though Taylor Coppenrath rocked the house with 37 points, there was no help on the perimeter - T.J. Sorrentine went 2-for-16 from the field. That allowed BU's stingy defense to sneak in a little bit, and that was all the difference.
March 13: (1) Vermont 80, (2) Northeastern 57 - The nice part about this third league championship victory in a row for UVM is that it wasn't all about the two Catamount senior stars, Taylor Coppenrath and T.J. Sorrentine. Okay, so it was a lot about Coppenrath, who scored 37 points, nabbed nine rebounds, and owned the paint. Sorrentine chipped in with 11, but sophomore forward Martin Klimes - a man upon whom Vermont will rely upon heavily next year to keep the momentum going - scored a career-high 15 points. Quote machine Tom Brennan, retiring coach of the Catamounts, had this to say afterwards: "When I was broke, when I had nothing, people took me in, and now I've won the lottery three times in a row."
121st Round Opponent: Michigan StateRecord:
28-5 (18-3 Colonial
)Big Nonconference Wins:
November 22 vs. Kent State
in Corpus Christi (64-59), December 22 vs. St. Joseph's
(66-62).100 Games Project Appearances: #81Key Player:
Alex Loughton is an 6'9" Aussie whose heart is far bigger than his raw ability - he can post up and nail big jumpers, and has been known to simply will an ODU victory to happen.What's a...?
A monarch is one who reigns over a state or territory, such as the CAA.Season Story:
For much of the year, the Monarchs were head, shoulders and torsos above the rest of the CAA - but they hd the odd habit of taking large percentages of games off. Virginia Commonwealth
was the first team to catch them napping, but the loss steeled their focus. They'd lose but once after that, and won both rematches with VCU, the final one in the conclusive CAA contest in Richmond.Cinderellability:
Post force Arnaud Dahi, the Ivory Coast Ice Monster, suffered a severe shoulder injury in the CAA championship game. If he's okay, an upset of MSU and Where's Paul Davis should be do-able. If not, it will take Total Team Effort, and a surprise performance by 7'3" work-in-progress Sam Harris. To coin a very bad catch phrase, a Coppenrath-Loughton matchup would be Salivation Salvation in the Mid-Majority household.Clip Show:
January 6: Old Dominion 60, Drexel 59 - You can't tell much about this game from the boxscore - both teams shot around 40%, were even on rebounds, and neither club turned the ball over that much. But ask one of the 2,000 or so who showed up at Drexel's DAC, and they'll tell you how truly ugly this contest was. Old Dominion (12-2, 2-0 CAA) was on their way to a rout at 49-32 when narcolepsy struck. They ended up scoring only 19 points in a sludgy second half that saw neither team score for five entire minutes; the Monarchs' Arnaud Dahi had to bail his team out with a last-second jumper.Texas-El PasoSeed:
January 20: Old Dominion 67, Hofstra 66 - As was the case in their recent squeaker against Drexel, Old Dominion raced out to a big lead and then hit the cruise control button too early. The second half was filled with streaky back-and-forth runs, and the homestanding Pride grabbed a 66-64 lead on a Antoine Agudio trey with two minutes to go. But the final basket would be ODU's - reserve swingman Kiah Thomas answered with a three, and the Monarchs stayed perfect in conference (16-2, 6-0 CAA). Troubling foreshadowy statistic of the game: Old Dominion was outrebounded by a smaller Hofstra team, 42-27.
February 17: George Mason 74, Old Dominion 58 - Shall I compare last night's performance by the Old Dominion Monarchs to a summer day? Hell, no. The CAA leaders shot just 33 percent from the floor, because their hosts did a lot of spear-shaking on the defensive end. By handing ODU their second conference loss of the year, the 'Mason Pats (15-10, 10-6 CAA) made a solid case for an upper tourney seed; they currently sit in fourth position as five teams battle to the wire over final positioning going into Richmond.
March 8: (1) Old Dominion 73, (2) Virginia Commonwealth 66 (OT) - The Monarchs' fuse was finally lit by CAA player of the year and soon-to-be tournament MVP Alex Loughton. He drove the lane hard with just under a minute to go, converted the shot and was fouled. That three-point play tied the score at 55, and set up the intrigue of the extra session.
In overtime, Loughton scored six of his 28 points. But the Aussie big man was seemingly everywhere on the floor, freeing up room for shooters and grabbing rebounds and forcing held-ball stalemates. On a night when his fellow whiteclads were seemingly shaken by the title game pressure, big number 40 stepped up and took over. The Rams staged one final stand, hitting a series of three-pointers, but Old Dominion stood firm at the line.
111st Round Opponent: UtahRecord: Western Athletic
)Big Nonconference Wins:
They racked up a 10-2 record before the calendar turned over, but most of it was against the Panhandle States and Occidentals of the world. Two postseason teams were victims of the Miners back in November: Delaware State
(83-50) and Arizona State
Omar Thomas is a 6'5" Philly-boy slasher/driver who leads the team with 20.4 ppg. His partner in crime is fellow senior Filiberto Rivera, a 6'2" Puerto Rican assist machine who gets him the ball when and where he wants it.What's a...?
A miner is one whose work or business it is to extract ore or minerals from the earth.*Season Story:
They zoomed out to a 4-0 start in league play. Then they hit a rocky patch, losing three of five including a 62-60 revenge decision to Nevada
. But there's a happy ending: with the Wolfpack out of the tourney picture early, they became WAC champs and head to the Tournament on a seven-game tear.Cinderellability:
Medium. They might strike gold, but Utah presents a tough mountain to climb.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.
February 4: Tulsa 65, Texas-El Paso 54 - The Golden Hurricane (5-14, 2-8 WAC), playing for nothing but pride, had this one in hand early on, leading by as many as 17 in the first half. UTEP made their run, but the knife-twist was delivered with two minutes to go and Tulsa leading 56-53: TU's Jarius Glenn hit a three-pointer with a second left on the shot clock, off an inbound. UTEP falls to seven and three and Nevada now has first place to themselves - the Pack beat Southern Methodist last night, 73-59.
March 13: (2) Texas-El Paso 91, (8) Boise State 78 - You couldn't blame the Broncos for not having enough energy down the stretch - they had pulled two upsets (#1 Nevada, 3 Rice) in three days and may have been a bit tuckered out. Shots fell short and hustle points were lacking, and UTEP led by 10 at halftime and as many as 20 before easing up late. Senior Miner guard Filiberto Rivera scored 32 points, and El Paso completed one of the more difficult tasks in college basketball, the three-game season sweep.