NASHVILLE -- I guess it's basic human nature that we try to build fences and walls, to divide the included from the excluded, to protect what's inside from what's outside. There's nothing worse than the idea that the world doesn't make sense -- that's the fundamental building block of organized religion, hierarchical goverment, and the insurance industry. And it's also the fundamental tragedy of the term "mid-major."
It's a horrible little term, really. It suggests that there's something above and below it (or to the left and the right of it... so confusing), and that it's, well, major. Or that it's in the dead-center of something really big. Or maybe mid-
is the -ito
of the American sports language. When pushed for a 15-second definition on the radio, I just say it's a quickie description of all the schools that are in the middle between the BCS or made-for-TV conferences, and the Division II colleges that aren't eligible for our true National Championship. It's the best I can do.
Neither side of the hyphen really describes what's going on here, and so it's open to wide abuse. I mean, you have pundits trying to redefine the term so as to extract certain teams out of conferences -- so that hundreds can be safely and easily ignored, and so that the list can be rewritten on a whim depending on who's winning right now
(what? Northwestern State isn't in the club anymore because it's rebuilding? And where was Butler last year?).
And you also have a Wikipedia entry
for the term now -- a major source of traffic for this site, one which twists itself in knots over the course of its 4,000 words (and I thought my definition
was long-winded), one that counts Conference USA as a mid-major conference, even though it was a league designed specifically to get on television as much as possible (it's not my fault or responsibility that it's failed). Though I use it to wipe my ass every week, I agree with that Top 25 poll thingy, which doesn't exclude so-called "low major" conferences like the America East, Southland and MEAC-- I do think that 31 coaches trying to judge 225 schools on equal merits is a really silly exercise.
I'm not married to the term "mid-major" (damn you, Kvancz!), but it's a hooky amalgamation that most sports fans know, and it's allowed me to have a clever website name. It's catchier than "Other," "non-BCS conference", "low-resource basketball," "smaller than big," or anything else I could come up with.
The idea of this type of coverage is to be non-exclusive: the top conferences will get all the television games and writeups and hype they want and need, and the "other" 225 schools that are eligible for the NCAA Tournament and National Championship battle for scraps. The conferences with 30+ RPI's aren't "too small to cover," they have a chance so they get the same respect.
And to that end, we kick off today's roundup with the most underserved conference of all, and the one in which I've spent the past week.Conference Shootaround!Southwestern Athletic:
In my game last night, Mississippi Valley State held off Alabama State 59-57
in Itta Bena... once Trey Johnson
graduates, look for Standford Speech
to say something about who's the best player in the SWAC for 2007-08. He hit the key triple to send the Hornets home unhappy, and his poise and confidence are really growing. As for Trey himself, he went 9-for-25 in a showcase game on ESPNU and his Jackson State Tigers took a 73-62
loss to defending champs Southern. Deforrest Riley-Smith
, the Jaguars' only senior, had 37.Colonial:
Four undefeateds became three last night in a full slate of league games; Drexel (12-2, 4-0 CAA) ran its win streak to 10 with a 65-54
road win at James Madison. Hofstra (9-5, 4-0 CAA) continued its two-year regular-season hex over Old Dominion in a 70-58
win that featured 34% Monarch shooting, and Virginia Commonwealth went to 4-0 win a 64-44
victory over Northeastern. But how about George Mason, who won its first CAA game by grinding The Dub (a/k/a North Carolina-Wilmington) into The Nub. The Patriots forced UNCW into a 20% team shooting performance and won 55-34
Other nuggets: two successful roadies in the Big South
, with runaway favorite Winthrop embarrassing Charleston Southern in their own building, 75-52
, and Coastal Carolina beating North Carolina-Asheville in Asheville, 68-60
. It was the first road victory of the year for the Giant Teal Chickens of CCU... in the MEAC
, Florida A&M's league run came to an end with a 76-74
hold-off win against Hampton; Delaware State shot 60% (including Roy Bright's
8-for-13, 22 points) in beating Morgan State in Baltimore, and are the league's only 3-0 squad... and in late-nite WAC
action, Nevada held off Boise State 90-86 even though Nick Fazekas
was carried off the floor
with an ankle injury. BSU went for the 93-90 win late in the game, but to paraphrase Wilco, the Statue of Liberty play only works once.Top Five Tuesday
Most of my mail recently has been about my recent conference picks over at the WWLIS
. As is often the case, I'm either a genius or an idiot, depending on what school you
went to (my own quality education doesn't factor, I guess). But I have to admit that I wasn't whole-hearted in some of the selections, and second-guessed myself. So here then is the Hedge Fund edition, schools that I didn't pick but could very well be champions in the end.5. Texas Southern (SWAC)
-- I picked the Jackson State Trey Johnsons now, Arkansas-Pine Bluff before the season, and I just have a gut feeling that TSU's athleticism is going to make some noise in March when it comes to putting together a Dayton play-in matchup. Things change from one moment to the next in this conference; it's a SWAC thing, you wouldn't understand.4. Northern Arizona (Big Sky)
-- I picked Weber State here in a down league, but the Lumberjacks have assumed the early part of the Sky season as if it were a statement-making mission. You might remember that NAU had compiled a 20-win season and seemed poised for a NCAA berth, but Montana crushed their dreams on national TV and Delaware State kicked sand in their faces in the NIT (in slow motion, of course). Few teams in America shoot better from 3 (42%) -- in fact, only nine of them do.3. Vermont (America East)
-- Albany is the best team in the league by far, but they lead the conference in "huh?" losses (see Utah Valley State and Sacred Heart), the most recent being a loss to Binghamton on Saturday in which the Scoobies decided not to show up for the second half. An untimely shutdown (like, say, in March) would tragically erase anything the team's done. And a Catamount championship would be unexpected in Mike Lonergan's second year, but Vermont may have the superior killer instinct and a higher level of consistency this year.2. Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
-- I'm unfazed by Lipscomb's 3-2 start, but there's no denying the Bruins' 5-0 beginnings, their championship experience, and the re-emergence of big Boomer Herndon
after early health issues. A big statement at home in the first round of Nashville's Battle of the Boulevard against the Bisons could make me have third or fourth thoughts.1. California-Santa Barbara (Big West)
-- I've been pimping the Gauchos in my ESPN chats all winter, and I actually changed this pick right before it ran, mostly because of embarrassing 30+-point loss to Long Beach State last Thursday would have embarrassed me if I didn't change it. But I have lost a little sleep over it (okay, maybe two minutes); over the weekend, UCSB went back to a hot defense that kept Fresno State to 42 and held a decent California-Irvine squad to 35% shooting. Feb. 10 is the rematch between the 49ers and Gauchos... be there!K-Dub's Krazy Fact of the Day
That George Mason bitch-down on UNCW, with the 20% shooting performance by the Seahawks, made me think about good and bad shooting. It made me think of the best D1-on-D1 shooting performance of the year, Richmond's 71.8% mark against independent Longwood (a few percentage points less, and that's an embarrassing loss... the Spiders only won by nine
The Dub's flub was, in fact, the third-worst shooting night of the season so far. Believe it or not, there have been two that clocked in under
20%. Take Grambling State and its 19.6% mark against Texas A&M in that 101-27 game
on Dec. 28, which will undoubtedly be mentioned again and again in this space in multiple contexts. But then there was Rutgers and its 9-for-47 (19.1%)
against Kansas State on Nov. 15. That one happened in front of the Scarlet Knights' own fans, in an arena where they practice every day.