RENO, Nev. -- I'm sorry, what was that? This post is late somehow, not nearly early enough, making me tardy, irresponsible, untrustworthy? Well, from where I'm sitting, it's still morning, all bright and bushy-tailed like a Tahoe snow-bunny. TMM Mobile HQ is on Pacific time, b#%*&s!
Sure, interesting mid-major things are happening back on those other coasts and in the middle there, so let's give it all a cursory mention. Cleveland State beat Butler
, and the 6-0 Vikings are quickly becoming into the Wright State of the 2007-08 Horizon season. App-State made all its free throws and gave Chattanooga its first SoCon loss
. ORU nipped IUPUI
in the G!O!T!N!.
Blah, blah, blah. Now let's get to the important stuff. Like Jim Morrison said once, "the west is the best." I think he was ad-libbing, and he may have been on something. Here comes the blue bus... Utah State.
Utah State's west of a lot of things, was in the Big West once, and is currently sitting atop the Western Athletic Conference. The Aggies won their eighth straight game last night, an 82-78
hold-off over Boise State. A special congratulations to Stew Morrill, who became USU's winningest coach
with the victory.
The Aggies (13-5, 3-0) aren't really on the national radar, though, mostly because of the horrible start they had. For instance, in what should have been a Big West victory tour in November, Cal Poly and UC Irvine kicked them around and won by double digits. But in their first three WAC tilts, USU has found balanced scoring (a different leading point-getter all three games) and have won the turnover and foul battles in each game. The Aggies also get 4-12 Idaho at home this weekend, which will give them a nice chance to go 4-0 in conference and 11-0 at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
But then comes the hard part. Utah State hasn't played a road game since Dec. 8, and they're 1-4 out there. After Saturday, six of eight are on the road, including the annual South/Eastern trip (Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State) next week and the Nevada/Hawaii/San Jose nightmare going into BracketBusters time. Pacific.
Everyone had Santa Barbara picked to win the Big West at the beginning, then focus shifted to Cal State Northridge once the Matadors won their first five league games, but let's not forget about the 12-5 (3-1) Tigers, who are sneaking back into the race.
Last night, Pacific beat Cal State Fullerton at home 89-82
in one of those games that weren't really as close as all that. The Tigers went 3-crazy, draining 14 of their 22 attempts (Mr. Calculator says that's 64 percent, and also that that's good shooting). Pacific has six players in the regular rotation that shoot 50 percent or better, and their three double-figure-scoring juniors means they'll be a league factor until at least 2009.
And though last year's 12-19 season was tough to sit through, this is the conference's most consistent team. Four 20-win seasons since the century turned, including that run of three straight league titles that yielded two first-round wins in 2004 and 2005. The upper walls at the Spanos Center are literally covered in banners. The UC Davis band.
If you classify the SWAC and MEAC bands in their own separate Premiership (save for Maryland-Eastern Shore's), then the Aggie band must be, definitely has to be, the best mid-major band in these United States of Hoops Nation. The Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh!
is, as they'll tell you, one of the very few completely independent, student-run bands there is.
And it's not just the wacky outfits and the flair-covered slouch hats and the t-shirts that say, "HELL YES I'm in the Cal Aggie Marching Band," they have as much creativity, if not more, than the more famous Stanford guys down the road. The CAMB does theme nights at basketball games like Winter Olympics Event night and Pirate Night.
As is tradition, after the final buzzer, the band filed out of The Pavilion, then set up shop outside and played a 20-minute concert. Maybe it's because UC Davis students are so used to having a totally awesome band on campus, but only 10 or 12 people stayed for the show, and most of them looked like band groupies (they're so good, they have them, honest). The tuba section came and ran figure-8 patterns around us spectators, then the saxophones and the majorettes, then one drummer let a little kid pound away for a while. Everybody was pretty excited.
Of course, it helps when the basketball team's just played out of its minds, defeating UC Irvine 74-57
. Last time I was out here, two years ago,
the Aggies were thwacked by Long Beach State. But now, they have a pretty decent team to play for, as the Aggies are 8-9 in their first year as a full-fledged Big West member that's eligible for all forms of postseason play.
What's left on the left coast?How 'Bout™
Saint Mary's? No, they didn't play last night, and have been idle for almost a week, but there's never any excuse bad enough to mention the 14-2 Gaels. No. 9 in our State Of The Other 22 index, No. 4 team in the RPI, and their only sin is that they don't play at 7 pm ET on ESPN all the time. Three double-figure scorers headed up by super-freshman Patty Mills
(15.4 ppg), and only four teams lock down the arc better. SMC allows just 27.7 percent of opponents' 3-pointers to fall.
And finally for the week, How 'Bout™
[school redacted]? The [nickname redacted] hasn't won since Dec. 8, and not in the four games since Eddie Sutton was named as interim head coach. Overall, we have here one of the softest and most giving interior defenses in college basketball, averaging 54.5 percent allowed on two-point baskets. The offense isn't so hot either, because whenever the ball leaves a shooter's hand (2, 3, or free throw), it's only going in 50.7 percent of the time. They haven't shot better than 44 percent from the floor since Sutton came on board. Will he get his 800th win (he's still two away)? Maybe not!
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