SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- I attended my first-ever Summit League game last night. Oh sure, I've been to plenty of Mid-Continent Conference
games before, but things are different
now. They've got a new name, new colors, and a new clip-art logo. Are their feelings of inadequacy solved? Hope so!
Folks from the conference have said the name change had a lot do do with getting those three letters out of the title: M, I and D. We here at this website, naturally, were mortified and offended that anybody -- much less a league that is referred to by minds more closed as a low
-major league -- would ever think of dropping the most wonderful prefix in college sports. One might think a conference full of teams that have never won a non-play-in NCAA game would aspire
to the title of "Mid."
When we got over the hurt, we wept. Then, in November, we gave the league our own name. If you've been on the train this far, you probably know that we refer to the conference as the "Badlands Conference" whenever we can get away with it (much like we do with the A-14). Because that's where most of these teams are from, and it sounds cooler.
Now all we need is to foist a better logo on these people. With several thousand of you folks out there in the audience, we have to have at least two or three with bootlegs copies of Photoshop. If you can create a Badlands Conference logo that's at least 10 times better than what the league's hired designers came up with, and send it into bally [at] midmajority.com, you could win this Bally
(or, at least, an identical one). You have a week, then we'll put it to a vote. Xavier.
More fool us for sleeping or even napping on the Musketeers, even for a moment. The State Of The Other 22 index kept its belief in the X over the past few weeks as they skidded to two straight losses, but others of us wavered. This week, they showed all of Hoops Nation who the real best team in this conference is.
First, Xavier (11-3) tore apart Kansas State, 103-77
, jumping out to a 22-5 lead and running up the score on a Big XII team like they were playing a Big South squad. Seven
Musketeers finished in double figures, and they kept man-child Michael Beasley to five points. Xavier scored on 63.8 percent of its possessions.
Which was, of course, all just a warmup for last night. The Musketeers buzzsawed visiting Virginia, 108-70.
Once again, seven scorers with at least 10 points, and they shot 64 percent from the floor, the second-highest figure against a power-conference school this season (App State hit 66 percent in beating Arkansas right before Christmas). The Musketeers passed the 100 mark with six minutes to go, and the game wasn't even really as close as the 38-point margin indicated. For a while there, it looked like Xavier was going to double them up.
Two wins over teams from the Big XII and ACC, respectively, and these aren't hanger-on programs just in it for the football. Both Kansas State and Virginia won games in the national postseason last year, and both came into their Xavier beatdowns with at least nine wins. We're just kinda scared to see what they're going to do to Auburn next Sunday in their final tuneup for league play. The A-14 in general.
I just want to take a moment to note that I didn't write more than five words about this conference for over a year, but ever since ESPN.com put me back on the beat (which spilled over to this space), I've been overwhelmed by the passion and intensity of the league's fans. I think every single person who's helped double the site traffic this year has been from an Atlantic 14 school.
Every time I say anything about Dayton, Xavier, Rhode Island, Saint Joe's or UMass, I get a pile of e-comments, and there are always a few GW fans who wonder why I don't mention them very often (trust me, it's for the best). I talk about the loyalty and knowledge of the Valley fans all the time, but I don't think there are any fans as passionate than those in the A-14.
Which is amazing, because the conference was about as boring as anything could ever be these past two or three years. Teams stumbling all over each other for two months, then splitting the season championships and forcing two bids that one or the other couldn't back up. Since the St. Joe's run, it's been a real dark period for this conference, basketball-wise. I have all the respect in the world for anyone who stuck through that (I sure didn't), and I'm sure it makes this year all the more sweeter.
And as an impartial observer, covering this race is going to be plenty sweet. There's an elite class, and then there's a strong midsection that is capable of sneaking up and winning games too. Temple's backcourt will steal a few surprising wins, you can bet. Saint Louis is coming together at 9-5, and has toughed out a few W's lately. Fordham's talent should put them near the top, but they've been experts at getting in their own collective way... that's not to say they won't be dangerous. And nobody wants to face speedy Charlotte at less than 100 percent -- just ask Davidson and Southern Illinois.
The basketball's been great too (111-62 nonconference record). Just these past few days, there have been great wins for the underhyped teams in the league. Witness 11-2 UMass' 95-89
win over a very good Houston team, and Richmond -- Richmond!
-- forcing Virginia Tech into a slowdown grind and emerging with a 52-49
victory. The Spiders may be 7-6 heading into the conference season, but if I know Southern Virginia at all, the trash-talk from this win is going to last all year. Chris Wright, Dayton.
A lot of what we do here is make speculative comments about performances, then hope that people will fill us in. Can't be everywhere at once, you know. So we have our answers about the Flyers' superfreshman who's averaged in double figures and shot 60 percent from the floor, thanks to our sizeable Dayton contingent.
Turns out that Wright injured his ankle before the holidays and didn't tell anyone. Once he was forced to fess up, he was put on a PT leash and is coming back around slowly. Given half his regular minutes against Pittsburgh and Akron, he put up just three shots, connecting on none, but made all six free throws over the two games. If anything, Wright's injury has shown that the Flyers' second line can step up and play big against very good competition. Did we mention that the A-14 race is going to be exceedingly exciting? San Francisco.
With Eddie Sutton's admission that he won't stay at USF beyond this season
, it's official. The Dons are a joke team, and this is a joke season, with no purpose whatsoever beyond getting Sutton his 800th win.
This is offensive -- more offensive than the Summit League name change. Stunts like Sutton's one-year celebrity appearance on San Francisco's bench are what make people think this level of basketball is a joke, that reinforce the image in power-conference fans' minds that all that goes on down here is fake-ass basketball that doesn't matter.
We've never done this before here at the Mid-Majority: there's very little we can do to protest this, but we'll do what we can. For the rest of the 2007-08 season, we will not mention San Francisco in this space, in any capacity, and will substitute a blank bar in place of its school name when non-800th win events force us to take notice. But we do hope that Jessie Evans, who was forced aside to make room for this stupidity, gets the head coaching job he deserves next summer.
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