December 21, 2007 11:19 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
NEW YORK -- A quick few words about mid-major upsets, followed by a lot of words about mid-major upsets.
I go on the electronic sports talk radio some. The hosts usually don't know who I am, don't read this site or realize that "oh, you wrote that ESPN.com story?" I don't mind any of that. What I do mind is the automatic, easy, no-brainer question for the "mid-major guy."
"So, Carl Millstone, because teams like Butler and Southern Illinois are doing so well, do you think the gap between mid-majors and majors is shrinking?"
This question makes me want to break a lot of FCC rules, the ones George Carlin talked about all those years ago. It's the product of the same sort of cheap exceptions-proving-rules logic that I spend so much time railing against. It's like those guys who spend five minutes on a college campus, see three hot girls walking around, and jump to the conclusion that the girls at that school are hot.
Here are the records of the 22 smaller conferences and independents against the Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC, Big XII, ACC and the two money leagues (C-USA and MWC) for the past two-plus seasons. Atlantic 14 wins are counted only if they're against the Big Six.
2007-08: 103 upsets in 1100 games (.093)
2006-07: 129 upsets in 1217 games (.105)
2005-06: 128 upsets in 1100 games (.116)
Upsets are usually measured in volume and headlines, and we're up considerably from last year. But on the whole, in percentage terms, we're sliding backwards and will continue to do so. That's primarily because there are more of us than ever before (and more on the way), schools moving up from Division II and the NAIA. The pace of upsets is not keeping up with the number of extra games, creating an optical illusion that makes people ask stupid questions.
You know how to shrink the gap between the little guys and big guys? Money, just like in every other life-related context. Smaller schools don't have the resources to compete financially with the crushing and powerful machinery of the Big Six programs, they can't compete consistently for recruits, can't outbid to keep their coaches, and they can't build and maintain facilities as nice. But like Tupac Shakur once said, that's just the way it is, baby. Or was that the Rembrandts? Bruce Hornsby? I forget.
But that's what makes the following all the more sweet.
Miami (Oh.) Former MMBOW Michael Bramos wasnt supposed to play last night. Ankle was bad, they said. But the 6-5 junior leapt into action last night, scoring 19 points in a gigantic 61-58 overtime road upset at Illinois. The win was payback for a two-point coulda-shoulda from last year at Assembly Hall; Bramos scored 15 of those points after halftime and hit what would eventually become known as the game-winning 3. That's superhero stuff right there. MAC Man!
Tim Pollitz, who was MAC Man in the league tourney this past spring, chipped in 17 points and 13 rebounds, helping nullify Illinois big man Shaun Pruitt's 24-and-15 double-double. Now, the Redhawks move on to Kansas to try their luck against the Jayhawks. Maybe they'll find more success forcing tempo and hitting 3's than Ohio did. Wouldn't that be something?
Oral Roberts. The two-time defending champions of the Conference formerly known as the Mid-Con might have lost their power duo of Caleb Green and Ken Tutt, so you can be forgiven for moving on to seemingly sexier Summit teams like IUPUI, North Dakota State or IPFW. But two rising juniors, Robert Jarvis and Marcus Lewis, are stepping into the high-scoring shoes and combining for 27.5 ppg so far, and the defense is just as good as it's ever been.
The new generation of Golden Eagles are 7-4 (2-0 in league) and made their annual Big XII statement last night with a stifling 74-59 win over Oklahoma State last night on ESPN2. Five Eags scored in double figures, and a run halfway through the first put this game away for good.
Also, a big Mid-Majority virtual man-hug for Yemi Ogunoye, who had more Boubacar nominations from ORU fans than points last night -- mostly for his lockdown job on hyped OSU star James Anderson. The 6-9 senior is making a case for league defensive player of the year, and is officially the baddest MF in the Badlands Conference.
The Upset Islands. After a relatively quiet and reserved Rainbow Classic last year, Hawaii is upset central for mids again in 2007-08. The Islands are a place we've never been, but all those Hawaii Five-O reruns make it all look so beautiful and exciting. And that was just Jack Lord's hair! It's where where they film Lost, and it's also where Georgia and Tulane, you know, lost.
Once again, not as much of an upset, but Saint Mary's (even though you're not in the BracketBusters anymore, WCC, we know you're still with us) beat the Green Wave of C-U$A 64-57 behind another great game by Patty Mills. The Australian had 23 points on 9-for-18 shooting, and five of those misses were from 3. Step over the line and shoot, it's alright if you do.
The other Rainbow ruckus was caused by East Tennessee State, which missed out on the first wave of Atlantic Sun upsets, which is a shame because the Bucs have the most talented team in the league. ETSU got its SEC pelt last night at the expense of Georgia in a 76-58 game that wasn't even that close. Star guard Courtney Pigram, slept on a bit since a disastrous 35-minute, 0-for-9 performance against UNC-Asheville last month, led all scorers with 18, and the Bucs' forwards got pretty much any shot they wanted despite being outrebounded at the other end.
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