Game 100: (5) Michigan State 72, (13) Vermont 61NCAA Tournament, Second Round (Austin Bracket)
Sunday, March 20, 2005
DCU Center - Worcester, MA
Fitting then, that this is the final chapter: the Vermont
Catamounts, the feel-good story of the year, fell to the Michigan State
Spartans. It's a happy close, because the loss did not dim the luster of their America East conference championship, or the excitement of their shock win
two days previous. What gives the end its bitterness is that victory was oh-so attainable - when there are no players between one and the basket, it's difficult to fully credit the opposition with convincing success when those shots don't fall.
It always ends with a loss, it comes eventually. Michigan State's victory was another in a series of Tournament games in which mid-major upstarts fall to soulless basketball automatons from large conferences, teams with precise moving parts and hollow eyes. It was another victory for the mass media over The Mid-Majority, prefab over do-it-yourself, Blockbuster over mom-and-pop video stores, gold-inlaid raised text over handwriting. Battles are won, but never the war, and that's the way things go.
But while the pundits yammered on about their perceived lack of intensity, the green-shirted players did what they had all season: they calmly ran their offense, never panicking. As Vermont's season slowly died, it was not a twitching and convulsing end, like a bagged cat coming to grips with the fact that it's slowly sinking into a deep body of water. Taylor Coppenrath, T.J. Sorrentine and Tom Brennan went down like the dignified champions they are.***
And so the 100 Games Project has come to an end, a successful one. It began in November, with exhibition matchups
and guarantee games
, on through conference season for a wide array of blowouts
and come-from-behind nailbiters
and overtime games
. There was even a halftime show
. After they jostled for seeding position
, I watched teams storm through their conference tourneys to win title games
, on to the Tournament to shock the world
The Project often took to the road: we visited exotic locales like Boston
; New York City
; Bowling Green, Kentucky
; Charleston, S.C.
. It went through beautiful old buildings like The Palestra
and the Brooklyn Paramount
, proud old gyms like St. Joe's Fieldhouse
and Rose Hill Gym at Fordham
, sparkling newer facilities like the Binghamton Events Center
and Evansville's Roberts Stadium
, and some, er, not-so-nice ones: Richmond's Ashe Center
, Rider's Alumni Gym
and Worcester's DCU Center
, to name a few. Sometimes we've had problems getting to the games
. There was a Red State Basketball Goodwill Tour
and a fierce rush of 23 games in eight days
at conference tournament time.
Along the way, I met a lot of great folks: a Hall Of Famer
, members of a booster club
, an NBA scout
. I got to interview the Delaware Blue Hen
and my wife
. There were characters who filled in for me when I suffered from writer's block: Ace, the stuck-in-the-past typewriter-wielding journo
); K-Dub the annoying hipster
; my inner child
; even a guest blogger
As the recaps stopped taking the form of sideline fan blog entries and became actual coverage, things got a little bit experimental. Open letters
, and of course plenty
But it was serious every once in a while: there were historical overviews of and tributes to the MEAC
. There were profiles of programs on the way up (Albany
), and ones who can't seem to escape from oblivion (Army
). Included in the Project were games involving teams from 16 of the 23 mid-major conferences (missing: Big Sky, Big South, Horizon, Mid-Con, Southland, WAC and SWAC).
And so here it is, a completed 100-chapter document (with over 1000 pictures
) the likes of which has never been finished, much less attempted. It is a sprawling, wildly-undulating, imperfect overview of one single season, not seen from the altitudinous perch of big-conference power, but from the outside, the bottom and the middle. It's not neat or tidy, or carefully tied up in a pretty bow, but this is what a basketball season really looks like.***
An undertaking like this is just not possible without help. Way back in 2004, before the daily audience of this site began its steady increase, the 100 Games Project captured the imagination of a core of followers that served as its base of support all year.
So first of all, I want to thank the great fans of Western Kentucky
and Oral Roberts
. They were the first to notice, and while some schools were more interested in ordering me what to write about their teams (the reason I stopped posting my upcoming-games schedule), their internet communities stepped forward and provided support, information and a level of humanity that seemed to exceed the limits of digital bandwidth.
I was never able to catch up with my inbox these four months, but I've read every single e-mail message of support I've received, and I appreciate every single one - especially the ones from overseas from basketball lovers who delighted in the opportunity to read about American college basketball without the Illinois
orange-colored lens of ESPN. Some have been very elaborate and heartfelt, and it was a constant source of frustration that I could not respond to every one in kind. To cavalierly send back a form letter would have been a far greater insult than silence.
I also want to thank the many sports information directors and university public relations departments who were nice enough to show my me, and my website, respect. They allowed me credentials to watch games up-close and obtain access to players and coaches, which translated into better and more complete game stories. Some schools were not quite as kind to me, but I grew to understand that their dismissive attitude wasn't personal, but more related to the non-traditional media I work in.
And there were a few people who really stepped up and played key roles in the Project, and I will never forget their friendship and support. Bob Cook
and Janet Paskin
wrote wonderful pieces on the site. Chris from Hoop Time
schooled me on how basket-blog coverage could be done in a thorough, classy, respectful fashion. Tony Robillard from Boston University
rescued the Official Camera Bag Of The Mid-Majority from the Labyrinth
between Games 28 and 29. Cortney Basham (from the fine Bracket Board
site) and David Carter were gracious hosts when I travelled to Western Kentucky. K.J. Cardinal from the America East office "got it" early on, and never failed to provide help and access. My good friend Anthony Montana, his wife Amy, their two cats (and his great blog
) hosted me for the MAC tourney in Cleveland. Ron Ratner from the Northeast Conference understood my fan-boy fascination with Tim Capstraw
, and very nearly put us in the same room together.
And lastly, Mike Brodsky (very literally, Northeastern's 1 fan) helped get me into the Worcester sub-regional this weekend, and sacrificed his Sunday ticket so that I could see Games 99 and 100 with the woman who sacrificed the most for this 100 Games Project, the very lovely and wonderful Official Wife Of The Mid-Majority™.
There's a letter that I received shortly after the infamous Taylor Coppenrath the rock star
article, and it hasn't been surpassed as my favorite one. It's also apropos to Game 100.
Saw your story on midmajority.com and it is hilarious. I passed it along to one of our players (David Hehn is our music guy) and he loved it.***
Again, nice job.
University of Vermont
Office of Athletic Communications
What does any of this mean? I'm not entirely sure yet. I attended 82 contests during the 2003-04 season, but all I had to show for it was a stack of ticket stubs. Plenty of people go to lots of games - stat crews, scouts, etc. - but nobody cares. The difference here, of course, is that I wrote about all the games I went to, took lots of pictures, and published the articles for thousands of readers.
It's unlikely that I'll ever do anything like the 100 Games Project again. I'm very proud of this accomplishment, as anyone who proclaims a difficult goal
and achieves its completion would be. But back on November 11, I hadn't realized that I'd be presenting a new way to look at college basketball, attempting to capture an essence that people pay money to get close to - something that often has little to do with points and rebounds and assists, any of the action on the floor.
It remains to be seen whether any of this matters. I would love to do a national version of the 100 Games Project, visit the venues of the west and south, find and tell their stories. But this Project has been funded completely from the family bank account (not one single person clicked on the donation link all season), and came to be an immense burden - both financially and health-wise. I didn't get much sleep.
But I never started this to make a quick buck. I've turned down every one of the sponsorship opportunities that presented themselves over the course of the year, because I have no intention of turning The Mid-Majority - or myself - into an ugly billboard or a beholden entity. I just want to go to basketball games and write about them, and that's all.
So I can't do this type of thing again without some sort of subsidy. And granted, it's not up to me to decide whether or not this document has been "good" enough to merit one. If it's been decided that it has, you'll be hearing from me. If not, I'll simply fulfill the wishes of the site's many detractors and fall back into anonymous obscurity.
I'd like to think that there's room for coverage of college hoops that celebrates the whole big messy big picture instead of the AP Top 25, or jock-tosterone, or the tiresome my-team-or-else mindset. But if there isn't, or if I'm not anointed as the chosen chronicler of the sub-250 RPI's, that's all well and good too. I'll find other things to spend my time on.***
For all intents and purposes, this is the last substantiative post on The Mid-Majority, perhaps ever. Though Tournament blowouts were few and far between, the "Year Of The Mid-Major" turned out to be "Just Another Year." Our grand plan to propel four small colleges into the Sweet Sixteen sadly failed, derailed on a gloomy Sunday. Twenty-two conference winners now wait for the pain to pass, so that they can reflect on the great achievements each has accomplished. No matter what they say about the America East or Big Sky or MEAC, a championship is a championship.
But there is one team from The Mid-Majority left standing - the Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Panthers. With inspired play and teamwork, they've defeated two bloated, overrated squads from major conferences and will become media darlings for four days. The proud champions of the Horizon League, who battled bravely all year against equal and superior competition, deserve it. We will root for them from afar until our lungs turn inside out, all the way until the inevitable loss comes.
Because down here, it always ends with a loss.***
Yes, yes, you're right, that's no way to end things. Let's all sing a song.It's that little souvenir of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside
So I cynically, cynically say the world is that way
surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Here's where the story ends
Oh, here's where the story ends
TMM9 Summer Camp
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Red Line Upsets
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800 Games Project (Season 8)
100 Games Project (Season 1)
Kyle's Travel Maps (Seasons 1-7)
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Glossary (Season 7)
Historical Design Gallery