DALLAS -- Big, big weekend in Hoops Nation. Huge. Make sure to check out these six big showdown/throwdown/hoedowns at the top of league tables this weekend. As a bonus, we're offering some sample pregame warmup music for your iPod, so you can truly get pumped up for these hot matchups.Holy Cross (10-0) at Bucknell (9-1) (Patriot)
(Fri.) -- Since the Crusaders beat the Bison up in Woo-Town last month (when I intimated that the league should FedEx the trophy toot-sweet
to HC), Bucknell hasn't lost, and have suffocated the Patriot League with the same staggeringly efficient defense they showed last year. They've shaken off the dead-eyed slough they exhibited in December, and have proven they want to win this thing -- but how will they deal with the injury to leading scorer Donald Brown
? Oh yeah, and Holy Cross? Oh, they've just won 12 straight and have the league's best player
.iPod music: Tear Da Club Up Thugs "Get Buck, Get Wild"Creighton (11-3) at Southern Illinois (11-3) (Missouri Valley)
-- SIU escaped with a one-point win
at Creighton on Jan. 20, in a game that served as the first glimpse at the idea that these two were the elite pair of squads in the league. And they're the only real locks on NCAA bids, this one's for momentum towards the one-seed. If you peep our MVC
aerial, you'll see that Creighton's offensive edge and SIU's defensive edge cancel eachother out. Expect another buzzer-beater.iPod music: Blue Oyster Cult "Death Valley Nights"Butler (11-1) at Wright State (11-2) (Horizon)
-- If a team won a lot of games, even if they weren't against big names, you'd notice it. But the 18-win job that Brad Brownell has done in his first year at Wright State has been overshadowed -- full-lunar eclipsed, even -- by the nationally-ranked Bulldogs and their insanely good ball control. They're stuck on ESPN360 for the BracketBusters, for Pete's! And granted, Butler destroyed WSU the first time around
at Hinkle. But the Raiders are the best field-goal shooting team (46.3% in league games) and free-throw shooting team (76.3%), and nobody defends the perimeter better (30.8% 3FG% against). A win here at home would certainly get your attention, though.iPod music: "Mr. Cellophane" from 'Chicago'Akron (9-1) at Toledo (7-2) (Mid-American)
-- What we have here is a clash of MAC division leaders, but it goes deeper than that. Last March in the conference semis, seven-seed Toledo derailed the Zips and took away the Kent State-Akron regional rivalry title game that we were hoping for. We talk a lot about the relative weakness of the West, and we're not buying Toledo and its inflated record quite yet (and they did lose to Kent the other night), but a win here over the clear class of the MAC would result in a significant deposit.iPod music: Soulfly "Eye for an Eye"Austin Peay (13-2) at Samford (11-4) (Ohio Valley)
-- Peay's 66-48
win at home over the preseason favorites last month was the first signal that this team might truly be a contender in the OVC, and Samford suffered a hangover loss to Murray State two days later. But the Princeton-style Bulldogs have bounced back to win two straight; let's see how the top 3-point shooting team in the league handles the second-slowest team in the country (56.9 possessions/40 min.) away from home.iPod music: Twista "Slow Jamz"Vermont (10-1) at Albany (11-2) (America East)
(Sun.) -- These cats and dogs are one-two in the A-East in wins, and nearly every meaningful offensive category. Both have a POY candidate: Vermont's Mike Trimboli
and Albany's Jamar Wilson
. But UVM won the first meeting; yet if this comes down to free throws, Vermont is eighth in the league in conference games (65.3%) and last when you measure all games.iPod music: George Clinton "Atomic Dog"Conference Shootaround!
It was a relatively light Thursday, but one with several games of intense mid-major interest.
In the Atlantic Sun
, one of our overachievers from Top Five Tuesday
, Jacksonville, did what the rest of the league has been having trouble doing: beat league-leader East Tennessee State (18-8, 12-2), snapping the Bucs' 10-game streak 74-66
. The Dolphins have been unbeatable in their new old downtown home
, and have a bunch of freshmen who are contributing big points... Another of those teams, the NEC
's Quinnipiac, topped downward-spiraling Sacred Heart 79-75
at the Q-Pod. Ladies and gentlemen, the
Bobcats are in two-seed position. This is not a misprint! ...
Seven and seven in the 'Valley
might mean snake-eyes... that's the record of Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Bradley at the moment. UNI, for their part, fell for the second straight time last night in a 69-57
home loss to Drake, a game the Panthers were never really a part of for the last 30 minutes. Anyone want to step up and get into fourth-bid position? Anyone? ... The Big Sky
-leading Weber State Wildcats edged Portland State on the road 64-62
to go 10-4 in conference, but get this. They have three games in hand over nearly everyone else, and only have two regular-season games left
: on the 14th and 26th. Should they wrap up the one-seed (and the right to host the semis and final, "well-rested" will be an understatement.Long Beach State didn't fall victim to the ESPN/Whelliston curse, but they almost did; in Big West action last night, LBSU came from behind to beat Cal Poly 80-77 and maintain a razor-thin lead at 7-2. The nickname "49ers" is a hoops misnomer (school was founded in 1849, see), making them sound like a Princeton-style team. This year's version is capable of scoring twice that... Drexel (18-6, 10-4) doesn't like that you've forgotten about all those Big East wins, that you're on to Colonial-come-latelies like table-topping Virginia Commonwealth and streaking Old Dominion. The Dragons made their big statement last night, running away from 11-3 Hofstra in OT, 95-87. RPI Watch: VCU 46, Drexel 47...
Austin Peay (13-2) reestablished their hold on the OVC by thrashing lowly Eastern Illinois 98-71. Using our new favorite toy, the Tempo-Free Aerial, you can see that the Govs have good offense and good defense... Nevada (22-2, 10-1) beat Fresno State in WAC play 81-68, and The Big Freak had 33 and 15... Sun Belt clarity has been achieved, it's Team USA and everyone else. South Alabama avenged a bad December loss to Western Kentucky by a 73-71 count in oh-tee. As is WKU's custom when they play badly, the Toppers jacked a lot of dumb 3's (8-for-24)... Hello, Southland! Northwestern State's streak came to a close at home against Sam Houston State, 90-80; the Demons share the east lead with fellow 8-3 Southeastern Louisiana. I got to witness Texas-Arlington win its fourth of five in a 67-65 win over Lamar at "The Stage"...
Butler (23-2, 11-1) 92, Cleveland State 50 in the Horizon (box); anything to maintain the interest of the poll voters, right?... Marist is first to 10 wins in the MAAC, but needed a free-throw with 0:00.00 left to defeat Fairfield at home, 65-64... Oral Roberts is on top of the Mid-Con, where the view is GOOOOOOD, but second-place Oakland took a drop to the last-place YWMLeathernecks of Western Illinois, 64-63. Sigh... Deadspin was so great until Will Leitch moved out to Hollywood and started hanging out with Jimmy Kimmel. Wait, do I have that right?
K-Dub's Krazy Fact of the Day!
You know, it's high time we checked back in with our friends at Virginia Military Institute. It hasn't given up on its freewheeling 100-shots, 50-3's, 30-forced turnovers style, even though it's taken its lumps. The Keydets are 11-15 overall, and 4-6 in league play. But it's been a real kick: in 10 games, VMI has topped the 100-possession mark and has exceeded 100 points 14 times (A HREF=http://www.bbstate.com/schools/VMI&a=schedule>details!). VMi leads the country in assists (21.5 per game) and the Big South in turnover rate (17.8%), and feature the nation's leading scorer in Reggie Williams (28.6 ppg). Defense? Not so much.
VMI has four games remaining in its regular-season schedule, and only one of them -- Feb. 24 at High Point -- is against a team with a record above .500 in Big South play. Imagine that they beat North Carolina-Asheville at home on Saturday and Radford on the road next Wednesday (VMI won the first games in both series), and avenges a 122-117 loss to Liberty when they bring the Flames into Lexington on Feb. 21, then lose as expected at High Point. VMI would be 7-7, and would likely earn a campus-site home game in the BSC tourney as a four-seed. At this point, that would be a great victory for the Keydets' Krazy style, so let's all root for that.
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