NEW ORLEANS -- We discussed this a little yesterday, but there's a growing drumbeat sounding across Hoops Nation; thunder in the distance, if you will. I'm talking, of course, about the potential fall from grace by the sore thumb in our midst, the eternal oddball, the one voted Most Likely To Succeed (by poll voters). And I'm talking, of course, about the Unnamed Major Program From The Northwest
UMPFN has been UMPFN for the past two years here on The Mid-Majority, and it's an acronym that has drawn considerable controversy in that time. People say that I begrudge the G School's success, that I want to punish them for being good and bringing ACC teams to the shiny new building that was built on the foundation of NCAA success in the Nineties. UMPFN's had a tough road to hoe this year, losing six games out of conference. Last night, it dropped a decision at Saint Mary's, 80-75
, its first conference loss in two years in a league it's lorded over for seven seasons.
But what people don't really understand is that UMPFN is a badge of ultimate respect: the people there have transcended mid-majordom, -- so much so that they don't need me or this site to tell their story. Sure, we have stuff like value-priced UMPFN Sucks
t-shirts, but that's really just a cash grab. (And to that guy from Santa Clara who ordered 20 of those shirts before the WCC tournament last March, thank you once again.) I want every mid-major school to follow the same path, and get their own acronyms. That's right -- the goal of this website is to make itself completely irrelevant.
But if UMPFN's struggles continue, the school will find itself back in my area. That's just the way things work: if the losses mount, the "what's wrong with _____?" articles come (it's already happening), then the poll votes go away, the TV cameras go somewhere else and the big-boy basketball writers pick other schools to write puff pieces about. In a conference like the WCC, UMPFN is in a precarious situation due to its conference; in college hoops' short attention span theater, it's the only thing about the WCC Joe Fan cares about, and if UMPFN falls off faster than you can say Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes
, what's going to separate the WCC from the Big Sky? That's what makes UMPFN's potential plunge such a potential tragedy.
So here's the new deal: if UMPFN fails to make the NCAA Tournament this year or next, the acronym and moniker will be removed in a special ceremony at Mid-Majority World Headquarters in Pawtucket, R.I. on September 1, 2008. We will welcome the program back with open arms. A personal invitation to the event will be extended to Mark Few, and we will have cake. The only thing about it all is that nobody will be eating it too.Conference Shootaround!MEAC:
The HBCU conference take center stage on King Day, and if you have ESPNU I hope you caught a little of the action. The first game saw Delaware State do it to Maryland-Eastern Shore 61-47
in slow motion (104 total possessions; the average Virginia Military Institute performance features 100 on its own). The Hornets are now 5-0, and Norfolk State is a half-game behind at 5-1 after a 68-54
win over Morgan State. The Spartans' five wins in league are their only victories of the season; they're 0-9 otherwise. Welcome to the MEAC!SWAC:
At my game last night, Alcorn State held off Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 61-57. Pine Bluff is one of the most frustrating teams in the country (and yes, I picked them to win the league for Blue Ribbon
last summer); their defense is so good, but their offense is so, so, so bad. The Golden Lions went seven minutes without a point to start the second half. The Jackson State Trey Johnsons
still lead at 5-1; Trey's 30 helped beat Prairie View A&M on the road, 74-62
Other yummy mid-major nuggets in your tummy: The MAAC
has also traditionally played on MLK Day. After Monday, Marist, Loyola (Md.) and Manhattan are all tied at the top at 5-1. The Red Foxes took out Siena in overtime at the Pepsi Center 84-75
, Jared Jordan
with 24 and 11... Dangerous Atlantic Sun
wild-cards East Tennesee State is 7-1 after knocking off Jacksonville 71-59
. The Bucs lead the league in overall wins (13), defensive efficiency (.925 points allowed per d-possession) and assisted basket percentage (84% of their hoops have a dime attached)...Winthrop is 4-0 in league (14-4 overall) after a 61-42 bitch-down on North Carolina-Asheville. The Eagles have given up only 44.7 ppg over the past three Big South contests... Howie Dickenman's Central Connecticut State Blue Devils are tied atop the NEC with Sacred Heart after a 61-48 win over Long Island-Brooklyn... After doubting Appalachian State yesterday, the Mountaineers went out and beat Western Carolina 100-91 in SoCon action...
And in the Missouri Valley, Wichita State defended homecourt in a 62-59 win over Creighton powered by a monster game by Kyle Wilson, who went 10-for-15 and ended up with 25 points. Wow, that was huge. After going 1-4 to start conference play, the Shockers have won two straight and now enter a stretch of three-of-four against the Valley's sub-100 RPI'ers (#Bradley, their Nov. 20 playdate, is No. 27). The Jays, Missouri State (75-66 winners over Illinois State) and Southern Illinois (72-62 winners over Drake) are all 5-2...
And congrats to San Francisco (7-11, 3-0 WCC), which is now the only undefeated team in the West Coast Conference; they won 72-71 over Pepperdine. Danny Cavic scored a career-high 19. UMPFN is dead, all hail the New Dons Order!
Top Five Tuesday!
Yeah, we have to follow the theme here, so here are the top five recent wins by true mid-majors over UMPFN.
5. Nevada 84, UMPFN 72 (12/30/2006) -- Still don't believe that UMPFN has transcended mid-majordom? When this "Battle in Seattle" was played at Key Arena, the Spokane squad brought its own PA announcer and pregame highlight clip and were the clear "home team" in NBA surroundings. Dinnt matter, Nevada's The Big Freak went off for 24 and UMPFN lost.
4. Loyola Marymount 80, UMPFN 74 (2/8/2003) -- LMU has the worst record against the Unnamed Program over the past decade (1-21), but this win at Hank's House in the midst of the 2003 season sure was sweet.
3. Butler 79, UMPFN 71 (11/24/2006) -- My favorite part about this win is that virtually nobody -- nobody -- was calling this a battle between two elite mid-majors or any crap like that. So this really was a mid over mon-mid upset.
2. Saint Mary's 89, UMPFN 81 (1/8/2005) -- This was a great SMC team, but this win really helped propel the Gaels to the second bid.
1. San Diego 72, UMPFN 63 (3/10/2003) -- The only time in the seven-year UMPFN era when the school needed to rely on the kindness of the Selection Committee to gain access to the Tournament. UMPFN's only at-large bid in its history came when Jason Keep and the two-seed Toreros caught them napping at USD's Slim Gym (a/k/a the Jenny Craig Pavilion). But UMPFN came out okay, they beat Cincinnati in the first round and went on to lose to Arizona in one of the greatest games in NCAA history, that double-overtime 96-95 thriller people still talk about.
K-Dub's Krazy Fact Of The Day
Eryk Thomas of East Tennessee State had one of the weirder statlines of the season so far in that win over Jacksonville: 12 rebounds and eight steals. Glass and picks are two great tastes that usually don't go great together, but if you're a limber 6-6 dude and can accomplish something like that, go to town.
Nobody's achieved the elusive steals/rebounds double-double so far, but a WCC player is the only one who's come as close as Thomas did last night. In a Dec. 19 overtime win over Boise State, Loyola Marymount's Australian import guard Damian Martin had 10 rebounds and nine steals in 43 minutes of action. And get this: with all that production, he only scored two points!
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