January 30, 2008 11:38 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
HUNTSVILLE, Tex. -- We promised you a Badlands Conference logo winner, and by gosh, we are going to deliver. Finally. After three weeks.
We were looking for a logo to replace the up-arrow that the former Mid-Continent Conference chose when it changed its name over the summer. We don't particularly like the new name, or the idea that "mid" is somehow negative (glass... half full!). We also believe that the Badlands Conference moniker shows off the actual region most of these teams are from, and it's kind of Bad-Ass as well. ("Summit" makes us think of Tennessee women's hoops, frankly.) All of this is why we provided our hivemind, unsolicited and free of charge.
We've chosen the entry of Mr. Nate B. from Iowa, and in TMM contest tradition we're obscuring his last name so he won't be denied a job in the future because of past shameful mid-major dealings. For Nate's effort, he will receive one (1) fuzzy, adorable, orange Bally Basketball, virtually identical to the one who accompanies me everywhere. (If you want one for yourself, our movie contest runs until next Tuesday!)
There were some good entries, and some bad entries as well (no offense -- don't think you're going to win a Bally for putting the name in 16 point Times over a picture of a gopher). But Nate's entry really captures the spirit of the league. It's two-color, which makes it easy to reproduce on a gym floor, and the green is nice ('cause the BLC is money, baby!). And the rounded form is an echo of the rainbow logo of the past. A tiny bit old, a tiny bit new. A little bit country, and a little bit alt.country. The more we look at it, the more we like it.
The re-branding may start immediately.
George Mason. In the great CAA championship game of 2007, Will Thomas was the best player on the floor... but the rest of the Patriots just couldn't find him. He played nearly the whole game, made all four of his shots and both of his attempted freebies, and his dunk with three minutes remaining put an exclamation point on the game that VCU (and Eric Maynor) would so famously erase soon thereafter.
Thomas would not be denied in the G!O!T!N! rematch, would not be nearly so invisible. Eight of nine from the floor, 21 points, 15 rebounds, and when he wasn't doing all that he was killing the VCU defense softly by just standing there. Now, after a 63-51 Mason win, the Patriots are just one game back of VCU at 7-3, and are one RPI position back at 59. The two-bid CAA is a live and well, my friends, and when the BracketBusters matchups are announced next Monday, you'll see just how important last night's win was.
Ohio. I was thinking last night, you know... the Bobcats don't get quite as much love as they should. I mean, c'mon, they beat New Mexico State, Maryland and Saint John's... while those teams' struggles mean that those wins don't look quite as good as they did back in November and December, they're still big wins for a MAC team. And the defense is a little spotty and they don't rebound and... it's just too east to find reasons not to take this team seriously.
Last night on the Full Court thingy, Leon Williams delivered yet another message to the nag, nag, nag crowd. With 22 points and 12 rebounds (his ninth double-double), he helped the Bobcats pull away from Central Michigan in the second half for a resounding 62-47 win. Ohio is now 14-6, 5-2 in the tough MAC East, and their No. 48 RPI will get them the kind of BracketBusters game that might improve their seed should they survive the MAC tourney. The answer to any question about Ohio right now is a Leon Williams thunderdunk.
New Jersey Tech. A special welcome to all those now jumping on the NJIT bandwagon... we've been aboard since mid-December, just waiting for you to join up. We have a team here that could challenge and surpass the record-setting 2004-05 Savannah State team that went 0-28... NJIT has 29 scheduled games, and hasn't won yet.
Last night, the Highlanders lost their 22nd game against zero wins, a 72-54 home loss to Loyola (Md.), one of the best teams in the MAAC. Because we're all about positive thinking, not like those snarky "sports bloggers" making ha-ha jokes with hilarious list-based comedy, Dan Stonkus had a 10-and-10 double-double. That's something right there.
But in the end, NJIT is providing a serious cautionary tale to all those SIU-Edwardsvilles, Houston Baptists, all the programs that think they're ready for the big time. Don't go Division I unless you're ready to, and don't come to the party without money. NJIT's budget last year was $6.4 million, the 40th smallest in the NCAA's top flight.
Point Production! Last night, if you've asked your cable or satellite provider for ESPNU, you were probably transfixed by the 121-116, three-overtime OVC thriller between Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri State. It was a huge win for SEMO, a team that lost six straight conference games after starting 6-0. Austin Peay? The Govs will be alright, it was only their third loss in 12 OVC contests. Plus, Derek Wright had 43.
But here's the really odd part about last night's game. In the past 10 meetings between the two teams, the combined point total was risen or matched the previous game every time. On Jan. 8, 2004, APSU and SEMO were locked in a 52-48 defensive struggle, all the way up to last night's 237-point explosion. In a struggling U.S. economy, it's good to know that there are some sectors that are still producing positive year-over-year results. Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri provide the OVC, and Hoops Nation, a stimulus package we can believe in.
And before we forget...
Speaking of the OVC, How 'Bout™ Nikola Stojakovic of Morehead State? Fourteen assists last night to help the Eagles overcome Tennessee Tech by twelve. Morehead is really improved from last year, the team is 8-5 in the OVC in the second year of local hero Donnie Tyndall's administration, moving from 4-23 two years ago to 12-18 last year, to a healthy 10-10 overall record now. And they're undefeated at home (8-0).
And speaking of overtime, How 'Bout™ David Kool of Western Michigan? The sophomore played 43 minutes of a double-OT game at Buffalo, and scored 35 as the Broncos (5-2 MAC) emerged with a 100-90 victory to keep the Bulls winless. No free tacos when the opposing team hots the century mark, but Buffalo fans could use some free beer to cry into.
OK, speaking of the OVC again... How 'Bout™ Murray State? The Racers climbed back into a 9-3 tie atop the conference with the aforementioned Austin Peay Govs, and did so by shellacking Samford 62-34. This was the premier rivalry as recently as a couple years ago, and Murray, Ky. gave Samford a little defensive going-away present before it leaves for the SoCon next year. A team that hits 56 percent of its 2-pointers was held to just 27 percent from the floor.
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