YOUNGSTOWN, Oh. -- It takes me so long to write these Boubacar intros, you can't even imagine. The pressure to write something clever and erudite is just... so immense. Usually takes about an hour just to have an idea, and that's after banging my forehead on the table until something figuraliterally bleeds out.
Not today, though! We have contest winners to announce! The results of second annual Mid-Majority Finals Week
are in, and we have three academic champions! Each will receive a stuffed Bally in an individually wrapped, production-numbered and signed (by me, not Bally) Ziploc travel bag, which is certified by the TSA to be safe for your liquids and medications. Just cross out my name first before you use it for that purpose.
There was a tie at the top: Eric G. from Massachusetts and Tim B. from Florida. Congratulations to you both! The third winner is B.J. S. from the Republic of Hotmail (who hasn't responded to my congratulatory e-mail yet) who broke a 13-way tie for second with his essay. If my notification e-mail was spam-filtered, please go ahead and use the feedback form
to send your mailing address, and drop a quick note on what your essay was about so I can filter out the jokers.
As promised earlier, we'll be posting some of the best answers to the essay questions. Later, though... it was a pretty heavy weekend in Hoops Nation, and we have a lot to discuss. The State Of The Other 22.
A couple weeks ago, I was wringing my hands and apologizing about
why Central Michigan was messing up the new State Of The Other 22 computer index, what with their 0-4 start and everything. Turns out that they've gone 4-1 since, including a remarkable 78-67
second-half pullaway at Michigan. Sure, the Wolverines have lost a few to mids this season, but this was the first one that happened at home. The Chippewas were led, as usual, by Giordan Watson
, who has quietly become the MAC's fifth-most prolific scorer.
Then the same night, another team the computer has been loving, South Alabama, went ahead and knocked off Mississippi State 71-67
on a neutral floor in Mobile. Elsewhere, Niagara took out Saint John's, 77-73
, despite shooting just 36 percent (the Purple Eagles' secret: ball control). That's a Big Ten, SEC and Big East team, all defeated by oddball teams that were in the TSoMM Top 15's inaugural edition two weeks ago. I'm as stumped as you are.
And of course, there's Drake. The Bulldogs had been No. 1 for a week before having its numbers pulled down by cheap wins in its own tourneys, but they backed up their earlier TMM love by handling Iowa 56-51
in HD on the Big Ten Network. That crystal-clear picture and sound was great for watching Josh Young stroke a couple of NBA-length three-balls. And did you know that two starters, Adam Emmenecker
and Jonathan Cox
(10-and-10 dub-dub) are former walk-ons? Computers aside, it's a great story.
The way the index works in a pistachio nutshell: teams are graded on their per-game performances in possession-based stats and efficiency, which are multiplied by the opponents' RPI and strength of schedule. Because of the relative newness of the computation engine, I'm not quite sure what this index is measuring, except that teams that are ranked higher win 68 percent of the time (a number that climbs every week, and is somewhat depressed by first-week results from the shake-out period). The short answer is: we're trying to keep the hype out of it and measure quality. Me.
The computer is sure smarter than I am... remember that rant I went on a couple weeks back about how Old Dominion was a team that made folks want to claw their eyes out because of their awful guard shooting? (I'm not linking, I'm too embarrassed about it.) Last night, the Monarchs' guards all shot 50 percent or better, and they knocked off Virginia Tech at home, 72-69
. ODU had a 45-33
lead at halftime and held 'em off down the stretch, overcoming a 20-rebound deficit with 49 percent shooting.
The Monarchs have a lot of talent, don't get me wrong. But one of the ironclad rules of basketball is that if you shoot badly, you have to win the rebound or turnover battles if you want a chance to win. ODU's improvement over the past two weeks has a lot to do with their ability to prevail two out of the three key margins, and that's translated into a three-game win streak. Which brings us to... Southern Illinois.
No other team in Hoops Nation is so dependent on its shooting (I've checked, it's true). You can pretty much put it down in pen that the Salukis are going to force more turnovers and kill 'em on the glass, which keeps the scores low and the margin for shooting error high. But they've been using every single percentage point of that spread, and it's resulted in disaster so far this early season.
On Saturday night, SIU went to visit Saint Louis -- a squad that had earlier lost to Sam Houston State and put up 39 against Boston College -- and were in the middle of rolling to a televised (ESPNU, but still) road win. The Salukis enjoyed an 11 point lead midway through the second half, but completely collapsed down the stretch and 56-51
. They shot 40 percent for the game, mostly because they didn't score for the final 4:17
of the game. SIU is now 4-4, and would likely be 7-1 if they'd only shot a percentage point or two better overall.
So I'd like to hereby institute the Boubacar's ARRRGH! award, which is especially reserved for teams that are way too good to lose, but they still go ahead and break your heart anyway. The ARRRGH! award is like the America's Cup, passed from team to team as events and challenges warrant. Old Dominion, you're out and absolved. SIU, ARRRGH! Upsets in general.
Last season on Dec. 17, we had tallied 85
upsets of small-conference teams over the Big Six and two money conferences (note: Atlantic 14 wins over the Big Six are counted, but victories over the MWC and C-USA aren't). Thanks to this weekend's explosion of mid-major fun, we have 94
. In 2005-06, the 94th upset occurred on Dec. 21, so we're still a few days ahead time-wise.
Much as like on previous Mondays, we celebrate the other upsets out there from the weekend. Illinois-Chicago of the Horizon League now owns the Windy City (owns it!) after the Flames' 85-80
win over the Big East's DePaul Blue Demons. Owns it! Tennessee Tech OVC-vercame Oregon State 79-62
in a wire-to-wire win, even though they lost the key three battles, because they won the fourth one -- foul shooting!
Colorado State lost to its second D-I relative newbie in two weeks, dropping a 89-63
decision to North Dakota State. Montana State beat Wyoming 79-72
at the Wyoming Shootout behind 23 by Divaldo Mbunga. And Butler smacked Florida State 79-68
at the John Wooden Tradition, despite the continued absence of Pete Campbell.
And Nevada beat Central Florida in a WAC-over-C-U$A spectacular. It might not seem like an upset on its face, but these days, any time the WAC wins these days
, it's an event.
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