December 6, 2007 8:47 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Good morning, Hoops Nation. I've been having a bunch of fun with our new database of officials over at Basketball State. We've got a white pages listing, rankings of fouls called by teams including each ref and average call margins on home teams, and maps of all the games your favorite refs have called so far this season (Ed Hightower sure gets around).
But here's my favorite item the database has dug up so far. There was a Gardner-Webb at Radford game on Nov. 17, the first game for the Runnin' Bulldogs after returning from New York City and the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. In front of 673 Highlanders fans, G-Webb won 93-83 in a game where there were 60 fouls called. In regulation. There hasn't been another game this year that even comes close to that.
No member of that night's three-man team of Damon Williams, Bruce Rothwell and Mike Direnzo is listed as having officiated at any other games between D-I teams this season. But it turns out Williams (who reffed an Allen-Coppin State game at the Hornet Roundball Classic) is the very same Damon Williams who used to play for VMI.
So this past Monday, Radford travelled to G-Webb for the flip side of the home-and-home, and, as previously mentioned here on TMM, Radford won 100-97 in double OT. What we didn't mention Tuesday was that where were 65 fouls called in that game, and six players fouled out. But the official box score does not list any officials. Not a one. Someone had to have called all those fouls. Any guesses who?
Drake. True story: it's 1983, and my younger sister is getting on me for spending way too much time on the Commodore 64, coding alien-attack games in BASIC. "Why do you spend all your time on that stupid computer?" she asked.
"Stupid, you say," I responded coldly, pulling my hands back from the tan-colored loaf of a keyboard. "This stupid computer is smarter than you are."
"Mom!!" she screamed. "He said I wasn't as smart as a computer!"
A stern parental lecture followed, you can guess the rest. But I've spent the last two weeks making excuses for why the Bulldogs are ranked so high in my new computer index: No. 1 last week, and No. 6 this week after two wins over inferior opponents (yes, I'm counting Duquesne there) at the first of two home tournaments, the Iowa Realty Invitational. But last night, they proved that sometimes a computer is indeed smarter than a person. Sorry, mom.
Blowing out a Big XII team is always sweet, but that term doesn't even begin to cover it. The fast Bulldogs made quick work of the slow, sluggish Iowa State Cyclones, winning 79-44 in the first leg of the mythical Iowa championship. Drake led by 15 at the break, and used a gigantic run to open up a 50-22 lead three minutes in to the second half. This was a tasty, frosted, creme-filled win for the home team.
It's still too early to start thinking of Drake as a viable MVC candidate -- new coach, only one winning record in recent memory, and a bunch of underclassmen. But this team is showing signs of excellence that, perhaps, only a computer can see: its rebound percentage is very good (54.2 percent of all missed shots go to the Bulldogs, No. 35 in the land), they score on 52.7 percent of their possessions (36th), and they share the ball extremely well: 15.7 assists per game (okay, the NCAA does keep track of that one). And they have a music video called "Intensity." (No lyrics, sorry.)
The Sun Belt. It's been a good, if not super-spectacular, early season for a conference that's been pretty much pre-assigned to a single bid for the past decade-plus. Sure, the overall nonconference record's in the toilet (.408) and it can't beat the SEC (0-7), but there have been some good signs: a 5-4 mark against Conference USA, even pulls against the WAC and ACC, and winning records against the A-Sun, OVC and WCC. And there have been a few teams distinguishing themselves.
Like South Alabama, coached once again by Ronnie Arrow (who took a few years off to build up Corpus Christi). Team USA is 6-3, and beat Southern Miss last night, 75-68. And 6-2 Western Kentucky, whose 69-62 overtime slog win over Nebraska means that the Huskers can't use the term "Big Red" anymore without paying WKU licensing fees.
And there's North Texas, another darling of the computer poll. The league champs' game with Texas was on the Full Court last night, and I thought they handled themselves extremely well after the Longhorns stormed them out of the gate. The Mean Green pretty much won the last 35 minutes of that game, freshman Josh White was fantastic (28 points), and UNT outrebounded them too! Final score: Dirt Brown 88, Mean Green 72.
Division I. The whole idea of having a high and fancy society, the act of exclusion, is all born out of the desire to keep out the rabble and the riff-raff of lower stations. So why do Division I schools invite the unwashed masses of Division II, III and the NAIA over to their houses during the holidays? Sure it's charitable, but they're just asking for trouble.
And every so often, trouble is just what they get. Last night, Division II Tusculum came over to visit Southern Conference member Elon (which, incidentally, won its first two SoCon games) and unleashed a horrible thumpin'. The 74-60 win, which Elon lovingly and charmingly referred to as a "non-conference" game, was a wire-to-wire win for the intrepid Pioneers.
Tusculum plays in the South Atlantic Conference, better known as the SAC. I'm perfectly sure the college boys haven't figured out any pejorative uses for that acronym yet.
In 2005-06, there were 17 instances of under-underdogs coming up to torment Division I teams (and one from 2004-05 still resonates around the campfires of the South), but that number slipped to just six a season ago. But this year, the lower divisions are back, baby! Tusculum's win was the ninth outer-limits upset of the season. Roll the credits:
Warner Southern 65, at Bethune-Cookman 59 11/10
Texas College 86, at Grambling State 82 11/11
Paul Quinn 84, Southern 81 11/11 (SMU Tip-Off Classic in Houston)
Cal State San Bernardino 71, Weber State 59 11/12 (CBE in Los Angeles)
Central Missouri State 75, Central Michigan 70 11/13 (CBE in Columbia, MO)
at Chaminade 74, Princeton 70 11/21 (Maui Invitational)
Southeastern 67, at Savannah State 65 11/21
Colorado-Colorado Springs 79, at Southern Utah 78 11/30
Tusculum 74, at Elon 60 12/5
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