I REALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THIS IS, Ala. -- Travelling the highways and byways (mostly byways) of SWAC country is always a strange adventure. One of the most odd things about Alabama is that everywhere you look, there are references to the three American Idol
stars the state has produced. This morning, I passed by two tourism billboards featuring Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, and that "rocker dude" with the Fabio hair. The cover story in the local newspaper is "How Good Is Taylor's New Album?" It's like living in a world where there are no boundaries between TV and real life.
And I have no choice but to tell you, friends, about all of this, and I'm sorry. My traveling companion for this trip, a longtime friend of the site named Mike Brodsky, was called away to England on business, and England is a place with no mid-major basketball. So the front seat is empty and I have to talk to myself on these 500-mile drives.
What's not empty is the slate of hot early-season league games, nor is the Mid-Majority Mailbag. So let's do a little of both!Conference Shootaround!Missouri Valley:
Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois are both 3-0; the Panthers held homecourt over surprising 9-6 (2-2 MVC) Evansville in a 64-61 decision
the other night, and the Salukis had a few problems with Drake in dispatching the Bulldogs 59-54
on the road.
But the most interesting result is Wichita State 84, Bradley 63
. The Shockers ended their four-game slide, and the Braves struggled for the second straight game without guard Jeremy Crouch
, who is out for 4-6 weeks with a cartilage tear. Crouch's stats aren't that hot, but Bradley needs his legs to maintain the uptempo style they need to play in order to survive. At the moment, the Braves are 1-3 in the league and losers of three of four.Sun Belt:
I have personally seen Louisiana-Monroe play, and even I can't explain their 4-0 start on the Belt's west side, especially with its 41.4% shooting. Just have to take the hat off to 5-11 dynamo Tony Hooper
, who's scored 58 points in his last two games, the most recent being a 77-69
win over Arkansas State. The Warhawks, fresh out of a 6-10 Southland season, are supposed to be down around where Louisiana-Lafayette and Denver are. The two have three wins between them, and when they faced off last night, it resulted in a 66-64
Topsy-turvy wackiness on the first night of SLC play. Defending champions Northwestern State lost at Texas State 85-81
in a fast-and-loose game in which both teams shot around 41%. Then 2004-05 champs Southeastern Louisiana, after a promising 8-6 start, dropped a 69-45
decision to Sam Houston State, which will probably end up as the 2006-07 champions.
Other nuggets: presumptive frontrunners Albany and Vermont won their first America East games the other night, and Maryland-Baltimore County beat
a Binghamton squad 73-71 that may just be the biggest win in Retriever D1 history (we're checking the books). The Bearcats, you might remember beat Miami (Fla.) on the road the other week in the biggest win in their
history ... Lipscomb fell to 2-2 in the Atlantic Sun after losing 75-72
in overtime at East Tennessee State, the site of the Bisons' title game loss to Belmont (who's 4-0 after railroading
Kennesaw State). If Lipscomb wants to win the league, they'll have to win in Johnson City, the A-Sun league tourney's there again... Idaho State (6-8, 1-0 Big Sky) knocked off my conference pick, Weber State, on the road last night, 58-55
. John Ofoegbu
isn't an obscure cuss, he's a guy who had 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting...
Big West play continued last night, and RPI leader Long Beach State (76) ripped apart a 10-win California-Santa Barbara team, 101-65
. UCSB had a great non-conference run, but the Gauchos just don't match up well against the hot 49ers. Defending champ Pacific is 2-0 at the moment... The Mid-Con is off and running; Oral Roberts, Oakland and Valparaiso all won... Take a look at this boxscore
out of the NEC... Mount Saint Mary's and Long Island needed four overtimes to reach the same number of possessions in an average SWAC game. The LIU Blackbirds prevailed 78-76, and they're 2-0 along with Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut State...
WAC play is also underway, except for Nevada; did you know that New Mexico State has won 10 in a row after starting 1-3? It's true! The Aggies beat Hawaii 92-86
to get their league schedule started on an up note.Kyle, I don't know Bill Trocchi, but I read Bill Trocchi's "Mid-Major Report" on Sports Illustrated's website. And you, sir, are no Bill Trocchi.John, Omaha
Thanks, John. I'm going to take that in the true Lloyd Bentsen sense, and accept it as a reverse compliment. Or a triple-reversed compliment.
I'm all for increased coverage of the lower 20 conferences, I really am -- there's a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of work to do. But when SI.com began its focused coverage nearly a year ago, I took it personally. Not because I felt they were infringing on my territory, but it was as if by selecting Julia Morrill to write on mid-majors, the organization had specifically targeted me.
I knew deep down that SI had gone all Terminator 3
and researched my weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and had come back with a classified scouting report that detailed how powerless I am against beautiful, Ivy League-educated, lacrosse-playing redheads from my family's home state of New Hampshire. To this day, The Official Wife forbids the utterance of her name in our house. SI played dirty, and they know it.
But I miss Julia, mostly because we occasionally crossed paths over the course of the 2005-06 season, and because she really is a kind and sweet angel of a person. A great reporter, too. However, I have never seen this new guy at a game (and I've been to 48 so far this season) and have never exchanged word one with him, which leads me to believe that he doesn't really exist.
My current theory (following the Schwarzenegger sci-fi theme) is that Bill Trocchi is really T.R.O.C.C.H.I. -- Total Reporting Object (Cybernetic Cyborg-Human, version I)
, an unstoppable machine designed by part-time mad scientist Grant Wahl. T.R.O.C.C.H.I. is enabled with the latest mid-major scoreboard technology, as well as a full database of sports information directors' phone numbers. In a laboratory deep beneath the streets of New York City, T.R.O.C.C.H.I. churns out copy at a rate not even I can match.
But if it turns out that Bill really is a person, I'd like to invite him out to a SWAC game. I'll even share any notes I have on any team he wants to know about. But if he/it ever, ever, ever
uses my term "Hoops Nation"
again, the offer is null and void.K-Dub's Krazy Fact of the Day
Points per possession is a great stat -- hey, if it was good enough for Dean Freaking Smith
, it's good enough for me. One is good, above one is better, and below one is neither. Coach Smith, it's said, would come into the locker room at halftime and bark at his assistants for the team's "number." If the offensive digit was less than one, his team was going to get a little more than a pep talk.
Keeping your opponents to less than one point per possession is generally considered "good defense." And keeping them to below half a point
is "motherhumpin' great defense." So far this year in hot D1-on-D1 action, this has happened 10 times. And yeah, most of those performances are power conference teams taking out their issues on the mid-majority. Witness Texas A&M's 101-27
hurting on SWAC squad Grambling State last month: the Tigers scored .36 points per possession.
One of those 10, however, was performed by one of our own. Aforementioned A-Sun undefeateds Belmont played North Florida back on Nov. 30 to a 87-32
tune. How good was the Bruins defense? The Ospreys scored only .49 points every time down the floor.
And hey, kids, don't forget to stop by my chat on ESPN SportsNation
today. You can ask me anything as long as it has nothing to do with American Idol
. Happy SWAC weekend to you all!
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