DAVIDSON, N.C. -- Welcome to your weekend Big B, the final one of November. Hard to believe it's almost December already. Season's almost a month old. Say, how's the family? Kids alright? Good, good to hear. This weather we're having... never thought we'd still be in short sleeves and singing Christmas carols at the same time. Global warming, I guess, right?
Yeah, you got me, I've never been one for small talk. Let's Boubacar! George Mason.
The Patriots won 85-38
last night, and the word "clinic" doesn't even begin to cover it. This was like one of those basketball summer camp experiences where the organizers overbook on instructors, and the poor kids leave with so many different ideas in their heads that they end up as crappy ballplayers (1983 Hoopkids camp weekend, I'm looking at you). While GMU's experiences in Orlando showed that three good players can overcome a single great one, the lesson in yesterday's session was all about how deep this team is.
We've all sat through failed mid-major upset attempts in which the starters rush out to an early lead with favorable matchups, that end sadly in 15-point losses because most of the power-conference teams have three guys on the bench who were chased around by half the coaches in the ACC and Big XII out of high school. What a luxury it is to have guards like championship veteran Jordan Carter, a dangerous midsize shooter like Cameron Long (shooting 60 percent so far, by the way), and a DeMatha boy like Isaiah Tate for the next four years. What mid-major team wouldn't love to have a Vlad Moldoveanu, a big Romanian dude with a nice three-stroke and solid U-18 European Championships experience.
This Patriots team is stocked, and like the picture indicates, the CAA world belongs to Jim Larranaga right now. Everyone in the CAA not named George Mason.
Oh yeah, Drexel was on the floor last night too, but you'd never know it from the boxscore. Despite some early hints to the contrary, this is most likely the rebuilding year we thought it might be over the summer. And then there's VCU, which was thoroughly outclassed by Hampton
last night, 64-55. Look past the fact that Hampton got to the line for 41 shots and fouled 13 times fewer, that's not the Rams' central-core problem right now. Last year's Duke-beating heroes won a lot of games because they overcame their defensive lapses by winning the turnover battle, something they did night in and night out, all year long. That's not happening (coughs last night: VCU 21, Hampton 13).
The upshot of all this? I think that the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks are going to sneak in and win a lot more games than they were initially projected to. T.J. Carter
is all the way back, the scoring is balanced, they're getting solid production from the freshmen and getting to the line. You can still shoot over the Seahawks on the other end, and you can take the ball away from them relatively easily, but they're still scoring a whole lot more points than they have in the recent past. I can see them pulling some key splits with some of these early favorites, while sweeping the Georgia States and Towsons and Delawares. They could go into Richmond with a four seed. Maybe even a three. The MAC's second bid.
Every year, the MAC enters November with the same collective dream: that second bid that's eluded them since 1999, the end of the "one-bid" label that makes casual basketball fans think it's a crap league. And that extra invite is won or lost in November, as every MAC coach and fan knows, and the league is once again doing everything it can to lose it. The MAC currently owns a 29-38 nonconference record, including a 2-4 mark against the Valley and a 2-6 against the surging Horizon League. All of which isn't going to win you much selection committee love.
It's probably too early to toss out the two-bid talk and focus on the always-hot MAC race, because there have been bright spots. Before tanking at Valpo
the other night, Western Michigan beat "it" team Davidson. Miami is Pollitz
prize-worthy. Though Ohio lost to Temple
last night to go 0-2 on its Eastern swing, our spy at the game
loved Leon Williams' performance, saying he "got to the rim with ease," and was "a freaking monster inside."
But MAC fans are sick of moral victories. This weekend would be a good time to start making some headlines: in addition to hot mid-on-mid action like Kent State at SoCon power UNCG, Toledo's at Pitt and Miami's at Louisville. Appalachian State.
We've spent a lot of time in Boone this week, but it hasn't gone so well for the Mountaineers lately. In addition to losing their conference opener against Davidson on Tuesday, App lost the return BracketBuster game to Wichita State last night, 62-53
But head coach Houston Fancher is looking on the bright side. He points out that at this time last year, a team destined for 25 wins had only one D-I victory (against Campbell
), and this team has three wins against four losses. And while the team lost a lot of senior leadership, it still has a lot of frontcourt talent -- probably still the best in the SoCon -- including a healthy, productive Donte Minter
"We're so frontcourt-heavy, I think that makes the young guards a little gun-shy," said Fancher said glumly in his office last night, reflecting on the loss. "They're focused on pounding it inside instead of shooting it... There's a team in there somewhere, we're going to find it." Drake (preemptively).
People have been very kind and very supportive of the new The State Of The Other 22 computer ratings model (a subset of The State of College Basketball
), except for the whole "Drake thing." Due to having hardly any game data so far (just two D-I games), the 3-1 Bulldogs have the number one team in the overall index for the past week, because they thrashed Wisconsin-Milwaukee (a team with strong SOS) and hung close to red-hot, Oregon-upsetting Saint Mary's. Teams get numeric scores based on their efficiency and statistical performance, and those are adjusted based on the opponent's position in the index. UWM's and SMC's ratings have been decent so far.
But tonight is the night that the Bulldogs go down. At their Iowa Realty Invitational, they've invited D-I newbie North Carolina Central to play them in the first round, in keeping with the tradition of tourney hosts picking the weakest team as an initial opponent. The Eagles are 1-7 and the 262nd-ranked team in the poll, and have given up an average of 100 points a game so far. I've done a little number crunching, and for Drake to maintain that top spot, the Bulldogs will have to do a number of key things, like scoring 2.63 points per possession and holding NCC scoreless for the entire evening. Can they do it? Tune in and find out!
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