INDIANAPOLIS -- Making the transition from nonconference to conference season is always a little rough. Not that we're getting dragged into something we don't want to be dragged into -- they just require such different mindsets. For two months, it's all rah-rah beat the power conferences, and then it's back to focusing on one-seeds and four-seeds. It takes a few weeks to get used to the shock.
But with only four teams left with no league games played (WCC, Patriot, Big South and Atlantic 10... stragglers), we're getting back in the flow. And so are you. So let's go... Super-statements!
Every win, when it comes down to it, is a statement. The statement is, "We're a better team than the other one on this particular day," spelled out numerically in four to six squarish, lighted digits. But when conference season comes around, wins mean a little more, especially if they're against key league rivals. That's why they're super-statements!
Let's start in the Horizon League, where Butler beat Valparaiso, 73-65
on Saturday. Valpo established themselves early, but all those Bulldog seniors and that big-time HL experience shone through as Butler overtook and eventually pulled away from the visiting Crusaders. It had the format of just another Butler win -- only 10 turnovers, which helped the home team overcome rebounding and shooting-percentage deficits. Oh, the 33-17 free throw margin helped too. But the good news for all involved is that there's a rematch at the ARC on Feb. 5. See you there!
In the MAC, we're starting to get a better idea of Akron's capabilities after their marshmallowy-soft and tasty nonconference schedule. On Saturday, the Zips zipped by Miami (Oh.) 69-54
, dropping a fearsome 21-1 run across the half. Just when you think you have the Wood-Dials axis taken care of, spla-dowww!
Here comes freshman Steve McNees
, dumping 20 points on you and making all six of his 3's. First time in his 13-game career he shot over 50 percent (6 for 8).
Also on Saturday, South Alabama drew Western Kentucky into a 65-61 dirge
, making an early SBSS (Sun Belt Super-Statement). Sixty-five missed shots in the game, and that was just from the floor. Both teams missed a ton of free throws, and neither side shot better than 68 percent from the line. Team USA is 4-0 in the Belt and 12-3 overall. North Carolina-Asheville.
This probably goes without saying, but for those of you members of the Upset Club, the mailing list is about to get as dead as a Milli Vanilli fan club listserv for the next two months. But there are still a sprinkling of non-conference games left on the schedule, and a few thrills. Like what happened Saturday at South Carolina.
The first thing I thought when the score -- UNC Asheville 61, South Carolina 58
-- came over the wires was something like, "oh no he dinnt." Oh, he did. The 7-7 behemoth Kenny George
collected his third double-double of the season with a 16 point, 13 rebound performance, shooting 8-for-11 from the floor. Five of those boards were the offensive kind, giving the Bulldogs a few extra chances in a less-than-good 43 percent shooting night. The end result was an upset win for a Big South team over an SEC squad, the first time that's happened with a team not named Winthrop since 1996.
The man's a legend now. First-place teams that you'd never expect to be first-place teams right now.
Delaware is a surprising 3-0 in the CAA, a game clear of the pack after a 67-63 in at Drexel
. If you want to know how many different e-mails I received about this particular result, count all your fingers and toes, and then your ass about 20 times. I got the message. Thanks. Your first-place team in the Horizon isn't Butler or Valpo, it's good ol' Florida State-beating Cleveland State
, which swept the Chicago schools at home over the weekend. Love that defense they're playing.
We haven't given nearly enough credit to Southeast Missouri State
, which is 6-0 in the OVC. The Redhawks are fast, fun, and they block a lot of shots too. Saturday's game at Austin Peay looks like a early race-shaper, which is somewhat relative in the longest, grindiest conference season there is (20 games total). In the SoCon, the true challenger to full-on Davidson supremacy has now been correctly identified as Chattanooga
, which is 5-0 and currently rated a smidge or two higher than the Wildcats in our State ratings. We'll have to wait until Saturday the 19th for the first interdivisional meeting between those two.
And then there's the Valley. That's where Drake, Illinois State and Indiana State are all 3-0, leading some confused MVC followers to read their newspapers upside down, thinking that the standings were flipped by some idiot copy editor. Nope, it's all real. More about that in another place, soon. New Jersey Tech.
We here at COH Watch™ were really nervous about NJIT's matchup with Penn on Saturday. For Penn, of course. The Quakers proved their generosity to transitional Division I schools by losing at Florida Gulf Coast nine days ago
, letting a team so anonymous they have "FGCU" on the backs of their jerseys rock them with a 17-4 run out of the gate. Final score in that one: New Guys 60, Smart Guys 30.
But it turned out that 28 points from Brian Grandieri
and a raucous 2,758-strong crowd at the Palestra was just too much for a team that could, ostensibly, challenge Savannah State 2005's perfect 0-28 record. The 0-17 Highlanders -- currently in the bottom five nationally in nearly every comprehensible offensive category -- have now removed a key roadblock to history in its own 29-game schedule. They'll now move on to two other Ivies (Cornell and Columbia), both of which have six wins apiece. Since there's no ESPN-NJIT channel yet to track this fascinating unfolding, The Mid-Majority will be your personal headquarters for all things Highlanders.
And after drawing attention to this, the people at the school will probably never speak to me again. I can't help it, this is living history.
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