CULLOWHEE, N.C. -- Lots to get to today, just like every Monday. And if you haven't signed up to play Bally's BracketBusters Racket
yet, you have a lot more to get to than I do. Roll the HTML!The Big Games!at Virginia Commonwealth 80, Old Dominion 75 (Colonial) (box)
-- The VCU Rams are the only 8-0 team in conference play after knocking off hated rivals ODU in the Siegel Center, a place where the Monarchs have never tasted victory. And it's time to give some bigtime mid-major love to Eric Maynor
, a sophomore guard who's been playing like a graduate student as of late. His 23 points, including 13-from-15 from the line, was the difference here; you could see his confidence growing at the end of his 4.7 ppg freshman season under the Capel regime, and he's been a real breakout star under Anthony Grant -- his doubled minutes and nearly quadrupled scoring output (14.5 ppg) is testament to that.Southern Illinois 58, at Creighton 57 (Missouri Valley) (box)
-- In a league that may end up with every team finishing .500, the Salukis went into the Qwest Center and survived a slow grind as sophomore Bryan Mullins
nailed a last-second shot -- pretty much the highlight of his career so far. The cannibalization in the Valley may end up hurting it this year; of the eight sub-100 RPI teams, only three (No. 9 SIU, No. 35 Bradley and No. 24 Missouri State) are under 40. And Mo-State, which knows full well how much stock to put in the RPI, became Evansville's latest victim in Evansville, 63-56
. Each of the 10 Valley schools has an overall winning record now. But is that a good thing?at New Mexico State 80, Nevada 73 (WAC) (box)
-- A number of wire services listed this NMSU win as an "upset," but if you've been following the WAC race you know better than to trust the coaches' polls for things like that. After a first-half tussle was broken open late with an Aggie run, Reggie Theus' bunch overcame a 9-for-12 shooting night by The Big Freak
to win its 14th of 15. NMSU is are led in points and rebounds by 6-5 Justin Hawkins
(16.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg), who is perhaps the most underrated mid-major player in the country right now. Both squads are now 5-1, have 32 wins and six losses between them, and the return date will occur -- fittingly enough -- on the final day of the regular season (Mar. 3) in Reno, most probably with a one-seed in the balance.Appalachian State 81, at Davidson 74 (Southern) (box)
-- After weeks of doubt, I'm ready to join the App-State bandwagon (if it'll stop to pick me up). Davidson's 10-game win streak, seven-game conference string, unstoppable SoCon momentum? All history, and because of the East-West division we have to hope for a to see these two go at it again. Little D.J. Thompson
has been on all the big-media checklists of sub-BCS gems, but check out the considerable contributions of Donte Minter
, a 6-8, 250-lb. load who starred in their win over VCU in late December (a 25 and 10 dub-squared) and collected 16 big points on Saturday. He's a trickle-down transfer
from Virginia who underwent knee surgery, but is performing some serious operations himself in big games.Conference Shootaround!
The two sub-200 RPI squads in the America East
continued their odd cat/dog mating ritual over the weekend; Vermont (13-6, 5-1 AE) shook off its loss to Albany by going into the always-tough Mid-Majority Event Center in Binghamton (the naming rights claim has yet to be disputed) and eked out a 65-61
victory. The Great Danes (12-7, 5-2 AE), for their part, took out Hartford at home on Sunday. 80-67
. The two conference leaders will meet again on Feb. 11... Winthrop (15-4, 5-0) has very little margin for error in the Big South
as it seeks a presumptive 13 or 14 seed, and it had its first real scare in a come-from-behind 62-59 squeeker
against Radford... In the MAAC
, it's Loyola (Md.) on top; after a Jersey sweep over Saint Peter's and Rider over the weekend, the Greyhounds are a half-game ahead at 6-1. While Marist's Jared Jordan
is getting most of the league love, Loyola's high-scoring Gerald Brown
is building a case for MAAC POY...Holy Cross is one game clear in the Patriot at 5-0 over Lehigh and Bucknell; the streaking 'Saders won their seventh straight on Saturday at American in overtime, 69-64. Center Tim Clifford, whom I gave some ESPN love to last Friday, stepped up big with 19 points and nine rebounds... In the NEC, it's Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut State at 6-1; Heart completed its Western Pennsylvania sweep with a 72-64 win at Saint Francis (PA) keyed by Jarrid Frye's 22 points... Butler is 5-1 in the Horizon, after thrashing Wisconsin-Green Bay 80-59.The Bulldogs are down to No. 8 in the performance-based Blue Ribbon Power Poll as the Horizon League's low strength of schedule begins to eat away at its world-beating accomplishments of 2006...
Recent TMM profilee East Tennessee State (14-7, 8-1) kept its six-game streak alive, breaking open a close game late on Friday against Kennesaw State and winning 78-66 in scorching Atlantic Sun action. Music City squads Belmont (7-2) and Lipscomb (6-3) won their Saturday contests, and lie in wait in two-and three-seed position... Another of Friday's spotlight teams, Idaho State (10-9, 4-1 Big Sky), wasn't as lucky; Montana State ended their five-game league unbeaten run with a 58-57 razor-thin margin, though the Bobcats led pretty much throughout... The third school from Friday's column, Austin Peay, went to 8-1 in the Ohio Valley after beating resource-challenged Tennessee-Martin on the road, 75-60. But you can't keep Samford down for long; the Bulldogs have matched a two-game slide with a two-game streak and are right back up there with an 8-2 mark...
Frisky backcourt-driven Toledo is 5-0 in the West, while big, gritty Akron holds down the East in the Mid-American. But the RPI leader is still 3-2 Ohio, which took a heartbreaking 72-69 overtime loss to Miami (Oh.) on Sunday. The Bobcats are still trying to find stability at the point after the sudden and surprising departure of Tony Chatman last week... Oral Roberts and Oakland are neck-and-neck in the Mid-Con at 5-0 in advance of their showdown/throwdown at ORU on Thursday... Delaware State keeps rolling in the MEAC at 6-0; tonight, the Hornets get a home shot against their closest competition, 5-1 Norfolk State...
The two teams from last year's Sun Belt title game, Western Kentucky and South Alabama, are caught in a tie at the top of the East Division at 7-2. You may have heard the name Courtney Lee a whole bunch, but WKU's best player of late has been Tyrone Brazelton, who's led the Toppers in scoring four of the past five games (including 17 in a 73-70 win over New Orleans)... Northwestern State, defending champions of the Southland, won its third straight game by beating Lamar on the road 81-68, evening its overall record at 9-9. Newcomers Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are in charge of the West, running its record to 5-0 after a 89-63 bitchdown at Texas-Arlington's theater-like setting...
Texas Southern, one of my "Hedge Fund" conference picks two weeks ago, now leads the SWAC by a half-game at 5-1 after beating Arkansas-Pine Bluff on the road 58-56; Jackson State took its second conference loss against five wins at Grambling State. Trey Johnson scored 39, but nobody else scored more than 9, an imbalance that's been rare this season ... Out on the Pacific Coast, Long Beach State (13-5, 4-1) clings to a one-game lead in the Big West; a team that's averaging 91 points per ballgame slammed hapless California-Riverside 99-65 on Saturday. Six 49ers were in double figures... Santa Clara, San Francisco and Saint Mary's, potential heirs to UMPFN's WCC throne, all are keeping pace with the Unnamed Program at 3-1.
K-Dub's Krazy Fact of the Day!
Let's talk about blocks, bay-bee. Let's talk about you and me. Longtime readers know about my near-intimate affection towards blocks/personal fouls ratio, which is a decent little measurement of how good a big man is at making his presence felt without being a foul-trouble liability. It rewards unsung folks like Maine's Olli Ahvenniemi, who went 5:1 in a win over Maryland-Baltimore County last week, or Aliou Keita, who also went 5:1 in yesterday's Drake game.
But the season leader in B/PF has a name that's much easier to pronounce. That's right, it's my first opportunity of the year to mention Kenny George, the 7-6, 335-lb. sophomore behemoth from North Carolina-Asheville. George leads all comers with a 2.7-to-1 blocks-to-fouls ratio (24 blocks against nine fouls), which is the only statistical category that's going to find and reward the guy. He averages about 10 minutes per game, and is shooting 72% from the floor -- not surprisingly, he hasn't attempted a 3 yet. Do not (I repeat, do not) get in this guy's way.
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