LOUISVILLE -- In our third installment of the Boubacar this year, let's wrap up the sights and sounds (both literally) from the Columbus pod of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
Wisconsin-Green Bay. I knew coming in what Columbia was about (and, perhaps, what Columbia's 2016-17 team is going to be about as well), and Delaware State is still trying to figure out who and what they're going to put out on the floor this season. The strongest impression I got from the event was that UWGB is going to be a lot better than expected in the Horizon League.
Sure, they finished 18-15 last year and stopped being a factor early, but the four starters that return, mixed with some new faces, are very likely going to improve on that win total and hit 20. The Phoenix were very three-heavy last year, and all that stuff returns... Troy Cotton has a wonderfully fluid shot, and can penetrate well too. Ryan Tillema can go on unconscious streaks from outside, as he did yesterday in the consolation game. Rahmon Fletcher is a freshman starter at guard who already has great artistry in the air and speedy feet. The quick judgment in transition and a fix for his flappy jump shot will come later.
But this team has bigs that can bang, right now. There's a rotation of four capable six-niners, starting with aforementioned Mike Schactner... Randy Berry, Pat Nelson and Tevah Morris did a lot of lane-clogging against Delaware State last night, keeping the Hornets to just 21 rebounds. Expect more of the same later on. Fine, so "Phoenix" sucks as a team name, but this team is going to X out a lot of Horizon League opponents come January and February. Just you watch.
Taking out an ad in the Preseason NIT program. When you go to the Preseason NIT, you can buy a beautiful souvenir program for $5 (covers involving big red dogs has been covered here before). It's like most overpriced magazine-format publications you'll find at sporting events: flimsy, short on information, long on ads.
But there's something different about the glossy 32-page P-NIT book: several schools have taken the opportunity to pimp their programs in the program. NJIT, Saint Joe's and High Point took out nice tasteful full-pagers highlighting their academic strengths, but across from the profile page on Washington, there's a full-color, full-page"by-the-numbers" ad with pictures of Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson.
And then there are our friends from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who took out a half-page ad listing the program's recent triumphs, along with the invitation to "LIVE FOR IT." I'm used to sloganeering when it comes to selling season tickets, but this sounds like a threat.
I'm not sure what taking out an ad in the P-NIT program accomplishes, but if just one bored fan sitting in College Station this week decides to ditch his Texas A&M affiliation and "LIVE FOR IT" with the Islanders, then I'm 100 percent for this.
6-9 white guys. Forget Ohio State, the Columbus pod of the NIT Season Tip-Off was a showcase for pale power forwards with soft scoring touches and noses for the basket. Shachtner of UWGB shot 8-for-9 yesterday against Delaware State in the dinner-hour game, after holding his own against Ohio State with a 17-point performance on Monday. Columbia's John Baumann had his effectiveness limited by the host team's big-man rotation, but went off for 21 against DSU (a team that matches the general talent level he'll face in the Ivy for his senior season) in the first game.
As a 6-2 white guy who might have been a power forward if I hadn't smoked two packs a day during high school (it does stunt your growth, it really does), these performances got me all tingly -- even though the bracket architecture denied us the Baumann-Schachtner matchup of our dreams. Instead, for the first time anywhere, here's The Mid-Majority's All-6-9-White-Guy Team. Because they are all, truly, in fact, 6-9 white guys.
Finley and Kingsley currently lead all 6-9 white guys nationwide with 22.0 ppg averages, and none has lower than a 16.6 right now (Landry). So we're talking about a team that can drop a C-note on you, anytime, anywhere. As long as they can bring the ball up the floor, that is.
The Ohio State breakdance team. TOSU represents everything we generally loathe here at The Mid-Majority... largest student population of any U.S. university, the highest athletic budget. The program is dripping with money, the only athletic department in Division I that spends over $100 million a year. No, seriously, I saw it... a river of liquid money flowing through the back channels of Value City Arena.
But last night during halftime of the Ohio State-Columbia game, Ohio State earned a very small and very fresh spot in my heart. The Scarlet and Gray, you see, has a breakdance team. It took over the floor and put on a very hot show for a half-capacity Buckeye crowd that was tempered by post-football-lossitis and, presumably, Blue Jackets fever. I post this here only in order to help inspire mid-major schools to start their own -- I want to see your school's breakdance team take these guys, just like that scene in Breakin, when TKO stunned Electro Rock on its own floor.
So, are they any good? What do you think?
(I added music in post since the arena audio was scratchy... I didn't think they'd mind. You'd think $100 million should be able to buy you some giant Bose speakers.)