December 10, 2007 11:29 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- I was looking over the schedule, trying to find some games to go to this week. Maybe you were too. There's hardly anything going on out there in Hoops Nation this week. Virtual bupkis. Not enough nothing to cancel the G!O!T!N! for the week, but all across the land, the "athlete" part of things is taking a back seat to the "student" side. It's Finals Week.
We've got exams over here as well. Starting tomorrow, we'll be running the Second Non-Annual Mid-Majority Finals Week, something we haven't tried in three years. Longtime readers will remember how much fun that was back in 2004, and we'll be doing it again this year with some better grading technology: "scantron" web forms instead of e-mail entries. That was a lot of answers to sift through the first time, let me tell you. I don't know how teachers do it.
Just like back then, the test will be in four parts: History, Geography, Mathematics and Bracketology. The top three winners each get a free stuffed Bally that squeaks when you bounce him. So start cramming like you haven't crammed since that History of Underwater Basketweaving class that you slept through.
Our Nation's Capital. We've spoken before and fondly about Dayton, Ohio... it's where we spend at least one March Tuesday a year, watching two league champions battle it out for a place on the Big Bracket in one of our favorite accidental, controversial NCAA traditions. Another one of our favorite traditions is the annual Supercut at a strip mall on the day of the play-in game. There are a lot of strip malls in Dayton.
Simply put, Dayton is the capital of Hoops Nation, mid-majordom in a nutshell. Not big or good enough to be Cleveland or Cincinnati, but it makes do with what it has: Kohl's, Bob Evans and "aviation heritage," if not the actual aviation industry. But this past weekend was a spectacular celebration of all things Dayton, as both of its local hoops teams soared high and free.
The University of Dayton Flyers took to the road, and beat Louisville for the third straight time, held off the Cardinals' second-half spurt, and stunned 19,128 fans at Freedom Hall by holding on for a 70-65 win. UD is 7-1 now, thanks to a huge 28-point performance from senior guard Brian Roberts, who shot 10-for-17 and chipped in five boards.
Wright State, which was not named after UD freshman phenom Chris Wright, ground down mid-major super-darlings Butler 43-42 for the third straight time in a Horizon League championship replay at the Nutter Center. For such a slog, there were only 11 total free throws. A.J. Graves and Mike Green shot a combined 4-for-23, which is something the Bulldogs just can't get away with. The Raiders also forced Butler into 12 turnovers, a 25% markup from the kind of numbers they were putting up last year.
So Dayton, the city, is full of great and fearsome basketball men. Ironmen. And in that spirit, here's an official tribute to Dayton's rallying hoopsters by Dayton's finest defunct rock band, Guided By Voices. [link]
Saint Mary's. The Gaels made their presence known with a big win over Oregon a few weeks back, but they turned in the most exciting mid-major performance of the Wooden Classic on Saturday (sorry, Davidson). Battling every inch of the way against a very decent Money West team, SMC posted a 69-64 win over San Diego State.
You likely already know about Patty Mills, Saint Mary's freshman star and the closest thing I have to my own Wikipedia entry. He had 15; the presumed star of the team coming into the season, Diamon Simpson, lit it up for a 13-and-16 double-double. But a real key was an out-of-a-seeming-nowhere performance from senior Tron Smith, who was the second-most efficient Gael on the floor with 20 points and five boards. There are just so many names that casual fans will be hearing when it comes to this team -- Mills, Simpson, Smith, large inside presence Omar Samhan -- which is always the No. 1 leading indicator of a team that is balanced, deep and ready to do a lot more damage.
We also love, love, love the school's new logo. Thing of beauty. That's enough to get you on the bandwagon right there.
Upsets in general. I had a couple e-discussions Saturday night with some Upset Club members who were -- excuse me here -- upset that the Rhode Island win over Syracuse didn't come through on the wire. I watched that game on the toob, and it certainly had everything you wanted in an upset: passion, chest-pounding, and Syracuse losing. The whole thing made me rethink some stuff.
Up until now, Atlantic 14 results have not been counted as upsets either way. But now that ESPN.com has me covering the conference again, and the conference's average $14 million athletic budget puts it more in line with the Valley and WAC than C-USA or Mountain West, we need to address this. So we have.
From now on, an "upset" also means a win by the Atlantic 10 over anyone in the Big Six conferences, which includes the aforementioned URI and Dayton wins over Big East schools. Wins by those 14 A-10 squads over the two Money Leagues (C-USA and MWC) will not be counted, because there just isn't the degree of difficulty involved. Wins by the other 20 lower conferences (and independents) over the Big Six or the Money Conferences continue to be counted as upsets.
Like Illinois State over Cincinnati, the Valley over the Big East. That'll always be an upset. San Diego State losing to Saint Mary's isn't that big of an upset, but it's not our fault SDSU can't buy basketball wins with all the money it spends on men's hoops ($2.6 million, as opposed to SMC's $1.2 million). And, of course, there was Stephen F. Austin's win over Oklahoma, which I TiVoed to check out all the new guys on SFA's roster. I got more than I bargained for, and hoo boy, so did the Sooners.
So as to keep the apples-to-apples thing going, we've added six Atlantic 10-over-Big Six wins from 2007-08 in our ongoing comparison tally, as well as the eight from this year. So 2007-08 currently leads last season in upsets by a 79-74 margin. The 2006-07 season didn't see its 79th upset until Dec. 16, so we're about a week ahead of things.
Confused? Lost? Don't worry, we'll have a cartoon explaining this a lot more succinctly later.
Bally's Alma Mater. We don't count it as an upset in dollar-centric terms, but the East Carolina Pirates -- a squad that we ourselves dismissed as a school that "plays like a Big South team," before it beat George Mason last weekend -- topped N.C. State over the weekend, and things are wrong there. We only mention that because of our family ties.
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