WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. -- Let's go straight to the mailbag, no delay, no bullpoop.Kyle, all these heroic recaps of "mid-over-major" results are great and everything, but what about the December games that really matter, the early conference stuff?Stan K.
You're right, Stan. It's easy to get caught up in the small-conference booty haul (especially when it's well over 100% larger than last year's), but it's important to keep tabs on the early results that will shape March seeds.Atlantic Sun
Your two clear favorites here are Belmont and Lipscomb -- they played for the title last year in a nailbiting championship contest, they both have loads of returning talent, and they're both from Nashville, which is where all the magical music happens. And with the A-Sun fully under way, both are already 2-0. Granted, they took turns on lowly Jacksonville and second-year D-I North Florida, but 2-0 is still perfect.
It's hard to divine any edge at the moment -- Belmont swept a home-and-home with IUPUI, and we don't quite know what that
means yet, and Lipscomb just last night put in a strong showing at Vanderbilt, leading for most of the "third quarter" and only losing grasp of the game with five to go. The revelation so far has been senior Trey Williams
, who's 13 points over his average from last season (17.4 ppg).
Then there's the other 2-0 team in the league, East Tennessee State (5-5 overall). The Buccaneers' recent history is filled with ignominy -- dropping football two years ago meant they had to leave the SoCon, and then they lost in the first-round on their home floor in the 2006 A-Sun tourney. ETSU beat Stetson and Mercer, two teams that don't stand to figure, but have had a tougher time out of conference. The Bucs lost to Vanderbilt 102-64
on Tuesday. Maybe they were just wearing them down for Lipscomb?Colonial
Eight teams have played four games, so there's not much to report here. Old Dominion, Towson, Hofstra and Northeastern are the 1-0 teams... NU's 58-51
win over defending champs North Carolina-Wilmington last Saturday is the biggest eyebrow-raiser, as the defection-addled Huskies snuck past at the end. It's a little strange seeing a team that's defended halfcourt like a line of scrimmage playing uptempo ball, and 6-10 junior Vladimir Kuljanin
seems to have a greater role in the Benny Moss regime.Mid-Eastern
You had to have been there -- the atmosphere was electric on Wednesday when Morgan State beat in-city rival Coppin State 86-82
to start their MEAC slate. Full house, a fight in the stands, and disgraced former California head coach Todd Bozeman's first college win in a decade. The biggest difference between the old days (Coppin regularly beating Morgan like one of the band's bass drums) and now (turning the tables) is that Bozeman has brought in some real players. Ronald Timus
is a 6-6 senior with around-the-basket smarts, and Reggie Holmes
is a pure shooter who can run off just about as many 3's in a row as you need. Exciting times ahead for the Bearrrrrrrrs.Northeast
NEC play got going last night in earnest, and . The other semi-stunner was Sacred Heart over preseason consensus favorite Robert Morris at home, 90-74
. It was obvious at the P-NIT that Heart has some serious shooting capacity (dropping 81 on North Carolina wasn't a clue?), and I'm not betting against their hot n' cool backcourt of Jarrid Frye
and Tavio Hobson
. And in the game I was at, Long Island beat league champs Monmouth in the Hawks' building for the first time since 1999, 74-71
. For a team with momentary 7-2 NCAA star John Bunch
, they sure give up a lot of dribble-drive layups to guards.Others
Yesterday was the OVC's opening day for most teams, and it featured a 54-53
spinetingler at the top of the projections, with favorite Samford topping second-favorite Jacksonville State. The SoCon's two divisions are headed up by 2-0 Appalachian State (East) and 2-0 Davidson (West)... no real shock there. In the Metro Atlantic, Iona is 0-1 after a 69-55
Thursday loss to Rider and sits at a dismal 0-6 overall, all this after an NCAA appearance and the loss of 40 points of scoring to graduation. Coach Ruland, you have my number in case you ever want to vent. I'm here for you.Chat Fever!
And even if you're not Jeff Ruland, you can come chat with me today in ESPN.com's SportsNation.
See you there!