BOONE, N.C. -- As of press time, 63 of the available 100 entries in Bally's BracketBusters Racket
, the only contest in the world that lets you choose all 51 BB matchups, have been snapped up (the limit is in place 'cause I'll be hand-validating the entries, but call it a "soft cap"). Remember: the deadline for entry is Saturday at 11:59 PM Eastern. Three bucks gets you in the pool, jump on in!
There's no real clean segue into this, but I just want to say a few words about Kyle Greathouse
, the senior point guard from Western Carolina. I was in Cullowhee on Monday night and saw the Catamounts get beat by Elon (it was Beach NIght
, by the way). Greathouse was on the floor for 30 minutes -- it wasn't a worldbeating performance by any stretch: no points, four rebounds, two assists. I usually make notes in my Moleskine for future reference, and I copied from the game notes that he was SoCon player of the week a year ago. I noted things like the fact he was blessed with a truly excellent first name, how his shot looked off-kilter and odd on a 3-miss at 14:27 of the second half, how he showed decent floor generalship of the team's freshmen despite not showing up much on the statsheet.
When you're watching a mid-major regular-season college basketball game in late January, there are some things that just never enter your mind. One of those things is the possibility that a player you're watching may never play another game again in his life. Thirty hours after the game ended, Greathouse was in critical condition
at a nearby hospital after a car he was riding in struck a tree on one of the thin, hazardous roads that twist around WCU's hometown, and careened into a river.
And it didn't have to happen. The idiot driving the car clocked in at double the legal North Carolina limit for booze, and Greathouse spent the next day being treated for multiple injuries, which will likely prematurely end a college basketball career that was going to end in six weeks anyway. I talked with Appalachian State head coach Houston Fancher last night, who'd been in contact earlier that day with WCU coach Larry Hunter, who'd spent Wednesday camped out at the emergency room.
"It's pretty bad," said Fancher.
Life is short. Don't screw it up.Conference Shootaround!Colonial:
Is Virginia Commonwealth for real? Sure looks like it, after an eighth straight win to build a perfect 9-0 CAA record. (The real question is: Will the national media please shut up about the Rams?
) Last night's victims: George Mason in the Mason Nation, a 75-62
statement with a minumum of lead changes and maximum B.A. Walker
(24 points). Don't believe in VCU's backcourt yet? The forwards only needed to contribute 12 of those 75 points.
Conventional wisdom (and my dim bulb) says one bid, but don't tell that to Hofstra (8-1 after taking Georgia State to the woodshed, 76-63
). Or conference RPI leader Drexel (No. 46), who have won three since dropping two. The Dragons held North Carolina-Wilmington to 50 points on their own floor
; if "The Dub" (4-14, 1-8 CAA) was a show on the CW
, it would be Free To Be On Hiatus.Missouri Valley:
Top dogs Southern Illinois (16-5, 7-3 MVC) held on to beat Northern Iowa at home 56-54
in its second straight nailbiter. There aren't many fingernails left in the Valley, as the reality that anybody can win on any night is continually pounded home: take Missouri State, for instance, which was flying high 10 days ago but now has lost three straight to go 5-5 (a four-point home drop
to 7-3 conference co-leaders Creighton last night). One fully expected result: RPI second-place (and standings fourth-place) Bradley had no problem with Illinois State, 88-67
Appalachian State is very much for real. After coming out flat against Furman last night, the Mountaineers unleashed a fearsome 18-0 second-half run to blow away the Paladins, 77-63
. As the clock wound down, the fans chanted, "Just like football," in honor of their twin I-AA pigskin championships. What animal's "skin" is a basketball anyway? I'm putting in my vote for blowfish, because some are orange and I'd imagine that you could dribble one. Davidson is really good at shooting the fishskin; the other night at Georgia Southern, the Wildcats turned a 55-46 halftime deficit into a 101-92
Mid-major fun-size bars: Some great games on the docket tonight. Banged-up Winthrop battles
High Point for Big South
supremacy; both are undefeated in the league so far. The two Mid-Con
undefeateds play in Tulsa
: Oakland and Oral Roberts. The top two teams in the Atlantic Sun go at it
in Nashville as East Tennessee State (8-1) visits Belmont (7-2). Belmont gave ETSU its only loss. And it's a division leaders thang in the Sun Belt
with the West's Louisiana-Monroe going down to South Alabama. Here's
your cheatsheet for that one.
Maybe one of those games will be as good as last night's all-time Big 5 classic at the Palestra (Pennsylvania over Temple, 76-74), but not likely. In Fran Dunphy's homecoming, Penn used 13-3 and 15-0 runs to come back from deep, deep deficits... A name you haven't heard much of lately, Manhattan, is right in the thick of things in the MAAC with a 7-2 record; the Jaspers are tied with Marist at the top after taking out Loyola (Md.) in Baltimore 70-68 on Tuesday night. Is this the same team that lost to New Jersey Tech to open the season? Not really; glory-days holdover 6-8 Arturo Dubois has emerged as a big-time MAAC player, averaging 14.0 ppg and 6.2 rpg... Akron is 5-1 in the MAC East after pulling away in the second half against the West's Northern Illinois 87-64... Tuesday night, Holy Cross went to 6-0 (15-6 overall) in the Patriot; the Crusaders' eighth-straight win was a 58-55 overtime tussle at Colgate.
This year's version of America's feel-good conference might be the Ohio Valley - eight of the 11 teams have records of .500 or better. Idle Austin Peay still leads at 8-1, but watch out for surging Tennessee Tech (11-9, 7-4 OVC, five straight W's), which I watched take out Murray State the other night alongside the ESPNU folks. Coach
Eddie Mike Sutton (note: I'm an idiot) is continuing his recovery from a near-death battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, is getting around fine in his motorized wheelchair (with a basketball for a joystick knob), and he has a lot more energy than he did when I saw him at Wisconsin-Milwaukee in November. I wish I could describe what a powerful presence he has now; some folks who've seen the other side seem to have a permanent sparkle in their eye, and a transcendent wisdom that can be quite overwhelming.
K-Dub's Krazy Fact of the Day!
I've said it a few times before, but ball control is the New Sexy in mid-majordom. It's so hot, it's SexyFront. And get your mind out of the gutter, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't turn the ball over, you have a greater chance to win -- it's a logical construct that makes sense. And if you don't have McDonald's All-Americans or an ACC recruiting budget, you need every advantage on the floor you can get.
The mid-major poster boys for the Right Way to Play this year, Butler, leads the entire universe in turnover rate -- only 15.4% of the Bulldogs' possessions result in cough-ups. That's helped them piece together a strong at-large resumé, knocking off Tennessee, Purdue, Indiana and UMPFN earlier this year.
Butler isn't alone: turnover rate helps illuminate the successes of the CAA's undefeated Virginia Commonwealth (16.5&, T-6th) and MAC maniacs Akron (17.8%, T-22nd). It's a glimpse into why Bradley is hanging tough in the Valley -- the guard-happy Braves are the guys who are tied with VCU at No. 6. If you consider that the national median is 21.8%, them's some pretty impressive numbers.
There are certainly oddballs in the top 25: take, for instance, Missouri-Kansas City at No. 12 (17.0%), Wofford at No. 15 (17.2%) and Troy at No. 20 (17.8%). None of those teams are factors in their respective leagues, so what gives? Turns out that defense is pretty important in basketball: those are the only three teams in the top 25 that are giving up more than 1.05 points per defensive possession (over 1 = not good). Hold on to the ball all you want, but make sure the other guys aren't making the most of their chances with it.
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