PHILADELPHIA -- Just a quick check of the tally board: mid-major wins are still ahead of last year's total at this time, 60-54. Seven of those came on "Black Saturday," when you had such corkers as Wichita State's 64-61 nailbiter over Syracuse
, in which they held on after building a huge first-half lead, Western Michigan over San Diego State
, last year's champions of the Airport Handshake Conference
, and of course the biggest upset of the year
, North Dakota State over highly numerically popular Marquette. Sunday brought more joy, with Cal under Nevada
and Drake over Iowa State
. No Iowa state title for the Cyclones this year.
Our 60th collective victory of the year came last night in Boulder, when the WCC took down a bad Big XII team in a 78-72
Pepperdine win over Colorado. The Vance Walberg era hadn't started off very well with a three-game deathmarch
against the Big West in mid-November, but perhaps this means that the Waves are gaining confidence as they campaign to wrest the league title away from the hands of UMPFN
.Top Five Tuesday!
Not every school can afford halftime entertainment like the Jabali Acrobats
or Quick Change
, much less adequately fill the time during the eight media timeouts each college game requires. I mean, the cheerleaders can only go out there so many times, you know? So that's where on-court contests come in, those two-minute time-fillers that make you say, "Maybe I won't go to the bathroom right now. I want to see who wins this $25 gift certificate to Smokehouse Billy's."
On-court contests have come a long way in the past few years... it's not just halfcourt shots or mini-H.O.R.S.E. games anymore. On-court contests at mid-major games in the 21st Century are all about disposaibility, over-the-top sponsor tie-ins, and balancing entertainment against severe cost control. Here, then, are the five best ones.5. Deal or No Deal
-- It's hard enough getting one's head around the fact that Howie Mandel was able to revitalize his career, but the game is fun and translates well to college basketball. You can give away prizes like free dinners or season tickets, and the booby prizes can be used sweat socks from one of your team's walk-ons (this actually happened last year at a Big South school). Cheerleaders can take the roles of the briefcase babes, but if you have a smaller athletic budget, you can use paper bags instead.4. Big Shoes and Shirt
-- Everyone loves kids. When kids have to put on a jersey, shorts and shoes that are eight sizes too big for them, dribble down the court and back, then make a layup, it's adorable. Less so if all you can find are two students... it just doesn't have the same effect. The best part is that all you need is a couple of old uniforms and stinky sneaks from before the last time your school switched uniform manufacturers.3. Bungee Shots
-- I hadn't seen this one before the BB&T Classic in Washington last weekend. Two kids from the student section are attached at the pants by a 20-foot cord, then they had to make as many shots as they can in 60 seconds for a big prize. It seemed as if the organizers were matching up solidly-built dudes with spindly weaklings with no leg strength, counting on the entertainment value of a guy going in for layups while the other flopped around like a rag doll.2. Hot Hot Hot Cold
-- Wrap a dude's eyes up with a blindfold, lead him to halfcourt, then have him spin around five times with his forehead against a baseball bat. Then put an enveloped coupon ($5 off a can of paint is a good choice) somewhere on the floor, and ask the crowd to cheer when he gets closer and boo whenever he gets father away. This is best during big local rivalry games, where you have one side of the stands earnestly helping the poor stiff out, and the other side screaming when he's 20 feet away from the prize.1. Reclining Shot
-- If your school's athletic program is supported by a company who sells furniture, this is a good one. Hitting a free throw standing up is hard enough (ask any 7-footer with huge hands), but sinking one while lying down in a bed or reclining in a chair is a whole different ball of wax. Just make sure you don't scratch up the court while dragging the Barcalounger or futon out to the free throw line, and enjoy the excitement of horribly forced mechanics. The most likely result is a four-foot airball.
It's worth noting that reader Ron from Binghamton actually won this one, and took home a recliner for his efforts. Here's his secret, just in case you ever find yourself shooting a free throw from a La-Z-Boy: "I went with the 'push from the chest' and banked it off the glass and it went in on the first shot."
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