GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Super-size fast-food. Big Dog t-shirts. Enzyte.
This is America, and everything is big. Real big. We all want to be big-time, and some of us do it by leading pieces with the kind of stuttering, oddly conversational, and totally incomplete sentences that have vaulted hack sportswriters to multi-million dollar careers. Others of us do it by convincing themselves that their smaller university is a major program.
I read lots of reader e-mails and chat questions about how big-time their school is, too big-time for my niche coverage, and I laugh. Laugh, laugh, laugh. Not because I recognize that they're trying to put me out of a job by taking away my source material, I always enjoy the twisted logic that goes behind these arguments. Never get the same argument twice.
Truth is that power-conference schools would be known from coast to coast even if they didn't play sports at all. But as it is, they churn out tens of thousands of rich graduates, some of which help kick back money to help its athletic departments go out and clean clocks at a high level. With the exception of the Ivy League and a few others, if a school oft-mentioned in this space didn't have a basketball team, it wouldn't have any sort of name recognition a day's drive from campus, in any direction.
Not that that's a bad thing. The America that's concerned with power and ginormousness and domination is a country that lost its way a long time ago. At the beginning, over 200 years in the past, we were a rag-tag bunch in shabby clothes with limited resources. We used ingenuity and systems, the long-distance cannon, as well as the occasional backdoor cut to overthrow our well-funded oppressors in their clean red uniforms. (Paul Revere was the first advance scout, you know) In the 1770's, our fledgling government couldn't be described as anything more kind than mid-major.
Even though two centuries of manifest destiny and poorly-planned conquest has made our nation too big for its original britches, there's still a little tri-cornered hat on each of our souls. When a No. 14 seed beats a No. 3 in March, the underdog's struggle evokes the efforts of revolutionaries that built this great country, and while people may not know why they cheer, it's because they're cheering for the real American spirit, not the one that replaced it. For a second, a brief second, we're all reminded of who we really are under the layers of history.
And whether you're in denial about it or not, you're with us. No matter what you say, you don't want to be on their side. You're an underdog, and you're a patriot. Cal State Northridge.
A few Big Westers were telling me over the summer to look out for the Matadors, but I really didn't take them too seriously. A lot of the same cast from last year, and they were a mess last year whenever I saw them play. The coaches and media agreed, picking this team to finish sixth.
But Northridge is steadily climbing up our State Of The Other 22 index, currently checking in at No. 34. (By the way, you can finally see the whole 246-team shebang in real time right here
.) Their 11 wins are just three fewer than they had all last year, and they're well on their way towards eclipsing last year's 5-9 conference record. Three wins in a row to start the conference season -- including last weekend's 88-84 statement over decisive league favorite Santa Barbara and last night's 82-47 megathumper over UC Davis
-- with the type of offense CSUN hasn't seen since the Big Sky days.
I'm always suspicious whenever a school announces they're bringing in a "top junior college player," but ex-Long Beach City College guard Deon Tresvant
has a game that's translated well to the run-n-fun BWC. He set all sorts of California juco scoring records last year, and leads the Matadors in scoring with 13.2 ppg, aided nicely by a 31-point effort against the Gauchos last Saturday. Dude's shooting 43 percent from 3, and he's taking a lot of them (39-for-91). Which is all good, because I was really hoping this league wasn't going to be a boring UCSB walkover. The Gauchos, for their part, lost their second straight game last night
, falling to UC Irvine. Murray State.
Don't look now, but here come the Racers (8-7, 5-3) in the OVC. Last night, Murray beat its second straight league-undefeated team, taking down Austin Peay at home, 82-70
. Both league leaders, Peay and SEMO, are now 6-1 after facing the buzzsaw that is the Murray State Racers.
The Racers cut you up with good shooting -- 56 percent last night, and 49 percent in eight OVC games so far. Bruce Carter
, last year's top newcomer in the conference, is averaging 11.8 ppg on 49 percent shooting. The 6-4 senior has absolutely exploded in the past week with 22 against SEMO and 26 against Peay.
And, like the 2005-06 team that won the conference title and nearly knocked off North Carolina in the NCAA first round, it's all about floor percentage. Even though the administration has changed (current Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin to Billy Kennedy), and last season's team had 11 new players, the team's offense makes the most of its possessions. In FP%, the stat the measures possessions in which at least one point was scored, the Racers rank OVC-best with 54 percent of their runs up the floor yielding scores.
Also on your Friday...
Firstly, How 'Bout™
Chattanooga? Over the past couple of weeks, the Mocs have emerged as the only serious threat to take down Davidson in the SoCon, and are 6-0 in league play after dispatching UNC Greensboro at home, 78-73
Moccasins Mockingbirds Mock-Necks
... Chattanooga shot 50 percent from the floor, and got 22 points from Stephen McDowell
, who transferred in from South Carolina and has made an instant impact.How 'Bout™
New Mexico State? The team with almost as much adversity as New Jersey Tech is the WAC's only 3-0 team after beating Boise State by three on the road in last night's G!O!T!N!. Far, far too much Jahmar Young
, who was the Aggies' other
clearinghouse nightmare in recent months. After a few solid performances in limited minutes, the BSU game was the 6-4 frosh's first taste of WAC stardom. He shot 12-for-19 for 33 big points, and made all six of his free throws (he hasn't missed one in 2008). He's either very much for real, or Boise State really needs backcourt help.
But, this being NMSU 2007-08, they might not have Young for very long.
Also, How 'Bout™
South Carolina Upstate? In our game last night, the mighty mighty Spartans blew out Gardner-Webb (as in, the
Gardner-Webb) 73-59 for the school's first-ever Atlantic Sun win. First home game in a month, and they won despite a bus of G-Webb supporters who came in from Boiling Springs (half-an-hour away) that drowned out their fans. We have a special treat off this game a little later, so stay tuned.
Finally, How 'Bout™
Saint Louis? Scored 20 points
last night and shot 15 percent. You can find snappy comments about this everywhere else on the web, with bloggers falling all over each other to be more clever than the last. We're staying on the sidelines for this one.
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