NASHVILLE -- Look, nobody has to tell me about how long the season is. I've been out on the road for all but two weeks since November 10, and it's taking its toll mentally. Two nights ago, I had a dream that I was organizing Oprah's music collection; she was telling me she couldn't decide whether to go exercising with a Kraftwerk CD or a tape of a 20-year-old A Prairie Home Companion
broadcast. Or maybe it was a waking hallucination. Hell, it could have really happened.
Anyway, a lot of weird stuff occurs in late February. Teams that have worked for 3 1/2 months to build an NCAA resume and eight weeks to create a conference-record castle in the sky are starting to get worn down, waiting for that second wind that will take them through to March. While the coaches and players certainly won't make excuses for themselves, there's no denying the weirdness in some of last night's results around Hoops Nation™. Were these games simply all a Who-Shot-J.R. dream?at Youngstown State 72, Wright State 57
) -- There are a few things that basketball teams can't withstand: a 25% shooting night, or Quin Humphrey
on his senior night (35 points, 10-for 18 from the floor, 11-of-12 from the line). And it's a great opportunity to mention that after years of single-digit win seasons in the Horizon League, the Penguins were actually pretty decent this season, going 13-15 (7-8) with one game to go. And in the long run, this really won't matter to Wright except for momentum purposes. The Raiders have clinched the one-seed (and the all-important hosting duties for the second and semifinal rounds) because of...Loyola (Ill.) 75, at Butler 71
) -- Who knows what the Selection Committee will think, but the poll voters forgave the BracketBusters loss to Southern Illinois and kept the Bulldogs nationally ranked. What happens now that they've lost three of five? Butler's achilles is clearly defined: in their five losses, they haven't shot better than 44% and have allowed their opponents to shoot at least nine more free throws than they. That's a slim margin of error, and a big question mark going into next week's one-and-possibly-done league tourney.
And while you were being wowed by the conference-topping antics of the Raiders and Bulldogs, Loyola and star Blake Schlib
(28 points last night) have quietly begun peaking. The Ramblers have won seven straight and reached 20 overall with super-hot offense -- after failing to score over a point per possession nine times in their first 23 games, only once during this stretch have they gone under the magic 1.00 mark. While nobody's kidding anybody about three bids (Wright and Loyola's RPI's add up to nearly two bucks), there are certainly plenty of Butler/Loyola and Butler/Wright NCAA scenarios left.at North Florida 73, Lipscomb 64 (box)
-- Whenever the Ospreys take the floor, you have to throw the records out... simply because they're ugly to look at. North Florida (3-25, 1-17 Atlantic Sun) is far and away the worst team in the nation as per our performance-based Blue Ribbon Power Poll
, had lost 32 straight games to D1 opponents, and has nothing to play for as a postseason-ineligible reclassifier, but it mustered enough pride to win its first game of the year at the expense of the league's No. 3 seed, holding the Bisons to an embarrassing 35% from the floor. Sometimes you fall, sometimes you fall hard
Astute readers noted that I left out Austin Peay of the OVC
in my roundup of one-seed winners yesterday. It's not like I forgot them -- I mean, I friggin' went there last night -- I just wanted another look before I said anything. It's a finesse team that shoots and defends threes well, but gets in trouble when things get painty. The Govs were able to put up 77
on formerly hot Eastern Kentucky, setting up a two-seed limbo going into the final weekend. APSU has clinched at least a NIT bid at 16-3, Tennessee Tech lost
at Murray by four and finish the 20-game league slate at 13-7. EKU and Murray are 12-7; both hit the road, to Tennessee State and Tennessee-Martin, respectively... Big Thursday night SoCon fun: Davidson won
, Appalachian State won
, both have won six and nine straight each, yadda cubed.Vermont keeps winning; its streak reached 10 in a 57-55 America East win at Boston University. Despite being six games out, BU is actually in No. 3-seed position with an 8-7 record... Upheaval in the Southland: Westsiders Texas A&M-Corpus Christi lost its second league game, dropping a 78-77 decision at Lamar. The East division is tied at 8-5; Southeastern Lousiana defended Hammond from Central Arkansas, and Northwestern State has lost three in a row after streaking to the top of the division in early February... We here at the Mid-Majority love Idaho's Memorial Gym, not only because of the name but because it's an old, weird shoebox of a place that hardly gets used. Last night, because of the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, the Kibbie Dome was occupied so the I.F.O. (Identified Freakish Object) named Nick Fazekas had to do his 21-and-14 thing back in the 20th Century, and Nevada won its eighth straight and 25th overall, 84-68. New Mexico State lingers two games back at 10-3, and the two will resume acquaintances in Reno on Mar. 3.
K-Dub's Krazy Fact of the Day!
It's always a shock when you turn around and see teams that have no scheduled games left, that's always the sign that NCA March Magic™ really is around the corner. Wright State, Tennessee Tech, Western Carolina of the SoCon, Denver of the Sun Belt and Binghamton of the America East are all in the gate. In the case of the last team mentioned there, the Mid-Majority Events Center (naming rights hijacked a while back) has hosted its final men's basketball game of the season.
But because all the teams in these leagues get to go to the conference mini-dance, all five are still alive. Our friends in the independent ranks aren't as fortunate. After Savannah State's game against Longwood tomorrow, we'll say goodbye to the 2006-07 Tigers, the first Division I team this season to completely evaporate into the ether. They'll finish 11-19 or 12-18, and if they win they will have eclipsed their D1 all-time win total. That's right, Sav-State had gone 11-137 in its six D-1 seasons before this magical campaign. Horace Broadnax: coach of the year!
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Hey kids! (Adults too.) Friday is mid-major chat day. Although mid-major chat day receives most of its awesomeness from its inherent Fridayness, wrapping up the last hour or so of your workweek jerking around on ESPN SportsNation at 3 PM ET with me may, in fact, add a tiny bit of awesomeness to your Friday. But you won't know for sure until you try, so stop by!
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