January 28, 2008 4:51 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
HOUSTON -- I was thinking over the weekend, while I wasn't at any games, about all the games I go to. A total of 57 games so far this year, headed for yet another 100-game season. Having done 100 twice now, it's tough to find triple-digit motivation anymore. Need to turn it into some kind of contest.
There are two kinds of people who go to more games than I do: stats crews, and... refs. Like Steve Welmer, who has the knack of showing up just about anywhere. While I've been resting up, he's been making hay. Thanks to Basketball State, we know Welmer is up to 70 games after officiating yesterday's Michigan thing. He's only taken three days off since 2008 started.
All I can say is: it's on like pajamas. This is going to be the biggest, most amazing race between people with vaguely similar names since Dan vs. Dave. Welmer might have the edge by +13 now, and I'm going to stay pretty even through February. As long as I can keep it within 20, I think I can make a comeback in early March when I can get four games a day during conference tournaments. I actually lost sleep trying to figure this out.
We'll be tracking this once a week for the rest of the season. And tomorrow, some long-overdue housekeeping, a Bally to be given away, and a new contest will follow. But first...
Super Finishes! For basketball excitement, what can beat a buzzer-beater? Don't answer that, it's a logical rabbit-hole that folds in on itself. Check out Tennessee State's win at Tennessee Tech, a 73-72 win sealed by LaDarious Weaver's final-moment 3.
Pat Calathes of Saint Joseph's nailed a 3 with four ticks to go to give the Hawks a 68-67 Big 5 winner at Temple, leaving Owls fans crying in their beer. In the Horizon, J.R. Blount's drive with four seconds left was the difference in a 65-63 Loyola win over Valpo. And it was Blount's 1,000th point, too! Beat the horn by 13 seconds, but Jarrell Brown hit a runner to lead Army over Navy in the non-Star Game (that's later), 69-67.
There are reverse buzzer-beaters too, the ones that miss. Quinnipiac star DeMario Anderson missed a catch-and-shoot that might have given the Q a win in Saturday's G!O!T!N!, but Sacred Heart survived 75-74 when it fell short. Despite that, the G!O!T!N! virtual camera crew wanted to pass along thanks to Quinnipiac for its amazing reception.
And then there were the non-virtual gamecasts. In the OVC's big ESPN2 game, on Saturday at Murray State's Regional Special Events Center (a building with a name that makes naming rights suddenly sound like a great idea), there was a reverse buzzer-beater as well. Southeast Missouri's Roderick Pearson missed a shot at the horn blew, allowing surging Murray State to escape with a 86-85 eeker. After time expired, the fans stormed the floor. (I know it's fun, but please stop storming the floor in January, especially against teams you've beaten 13 out of the last 17 times.) It was the Racers' seventh in a row to climb within one game of Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference at 8-3.
Win Streaks! By now, pretty much anyone who likes college hoops knows about Drake, which apparently couldn't lose if it wanted to. We were right last week about Northern Iowa presenting some serious matchup problems, but the Bulldogs were able to play slowdown ball along with the Panthers (51 possessions, right around Princeton-level) and come away with a 58-54 home victory.
That's 17 in a row for Drake, a perfect 9-0 Valley record, and the second straight leading-scorer title for Klayton Korver (23 on Saturday), another product from the Korver basketball factory of Pella, IA. Interesting funfact: Korver had a slow start to the season, and is shooting 34 percent from 3 (36 percent overall - yuck). But that obscures his 17-of-35 (48.5 percent) mark from beyond the arc in the last five contests.
There are some other long win streaks that you might not be quite as familiar with. There's that seven-gamer of Murray's we were just talking about, but did you know that Rider also has won seven straight? The school that brings you NBA prospect Jason Thompson and his 13 double-doubles is one of three teams tied atop the MAAC at 8-2 (with Marist and Siena). Oral Roberts, longtime kings of the league formerly known as the Mid-Continent (and now known as the Summit elsewhere, the Badlands Conference here) are on a seven-game tear too. The board here lit up from ORU fans after their 80-75 win out at Southern Utah, looking for love for junior mighty-mite Robert Jarvis, who scored 34 points and nailed 6 3's. Jarvis is hitting on a ridiculous 46.2 percent of his treys for the year (60-for-130).
Davidson, at 11-0 in the SoCon, hasn't lost since that heartbreaker at N.C. State on Dec. 21, and that's a nine-game overall streak. Then there's South Alabama, a/k/a Team USA, a/k/a "South in Your Mouth." Western Kentucky, at 8-1 in the Sun Belt's East division, can't get in a word edgewise or elsewhere because the Jaguars are a perfect 9-0 with a 13-game win row. On Sun Belt Sunday, USA destroyed Denver 71-33 in one of those collegiate arena football scores.
Dax Crum, Southern Utah. Speaking of the Badlands Conference, FOB Jeff Goodman scoops everyone again, with the awesome story of a T-Bird walk-on who was born without a right arm. If sports is good for anything, it provides a context for the seemingly impossible.
First of all, congratulations to Jeff for just sitting back and letting the people tell Dax's story, and not applying the layers of corn syrup that less classy and accomplished writers might. In another and parallel life, we're pretty involved in the Olympic Games, a world so full of overcome disadvantages that there's a public backlash against "Up Close and Personal" moments. If there's anything that against-all-odds stories like this have in common, it's that the subjects are too focused on their goals to chase sympathy and attention. We applaud Dax's humility, poise and determination.
Utah State. At face, the Aggies' 100-70 beatdown at the hands of the New Mexico State Aggies on Saturday -- USU's first Western Athletic loss of the year -- would seem to be a signal that the NM-Aggies are surging again after their midweek loss to Nevada. But this is the WAC circa 2008, where nothing is what it seems and even less makes actual sense.
USU left four off Saturday's squad for team-rules violations, making the U-Aggies just the latest WAC team to suspend players. We know the league's getting just one team into the NCAA's, but following the league's been an exercise in frustration this season. If we wanted off-field distractions and plot twists between game-related events, we'd watch big time wrestling. Or the NFL.
Also out of the weekend...
How 'Bout™ this Atlantic 10? Xavier is totally in control, after Sunday's 12-point pullaway road win at UMass. So much for road woes. The X is 5-1, and a half-game back are Charlotte and Saint Joe's.
Ooooh, and How 'Bout™ Texas-Arlington? The Mavericks lost their first two Southland games, but have won four straight to lead the SLC West by half a game at 4-2. Now they go to RPI and State index darling Sam Houston State on Wednesday. See you there!
Also, How 'Bout™ Cornell? Expected non-factors Penn and Princeton haven't played an Ivy game yet, but the Big Red have emerged as the only 2-0 team after completing 14 percent of the 14 Game Tournament. Four wins in a row, the latest being the kind of 18-point beatdown of Columbia the P's are more known for. We're still picking local boys Brown (1-1), and that's where Cornell will be on Friday. We'll be there too, perhaps even with The Official Wife™ in tow.
And How 'Bout™ some of our division and conference leaders? Chattanooga rallied late to top App State in the battle of the SoCon NorDiv 89-77. Jacksonville is still a game out ahead of the Atlantic Sun at 6-1 after a 17-point win at USC Upstate. North Carolina-Asheville is a perfect 5-0 in the Big South, but watch out for Winthrop, which is 4-1 after two defensive lockdowns against VMI and Coastal in which they gave up an average of 42 points.
Finally, How 'Bout™ our Top 20 high-flyers, No. 2 Virginia Commonwealth and No. 3 Butler? After two Cleveland State losses in Wisconsin, the Bulldogs are back atop the Horizon League at 8-2, a half-game up. VCU (15-4, 8-1 CAA) got ready for its Tuesday showdown at George Mason (which lost at UNCW) by thwacking Drexel. Yeah, we didn't forget... they've won seven in a row too, and look poised for yet another long win streak.
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