January 31, 2008 11:19 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
DENTON, Tex. -- While making the long drive up I-45, which is a long drive for someone with nothing to think about, I was pondering the names we give things. A lot of them don't quite fit, and bleed into general use because once people have agreed on a title for something, it's tough to get everybody to agree to think otherwise.
Consider bloodhounds, one of the more gentle dog breeds around, despite the scary-spooky name. "Bombay duck" is actually fish, you know. And don't get me started on sweetbread, which is neither. There are a lot of cases of things that are so closely tied to their descriptors via word association that we never take a moment to reflect on the utter ridiculousness of their names.
Then there's Our Game, basketball. It's a name left over from the peach-container era, and it no longer truly describes what it is. Baskets have bottoms and hold things, and net technology quickly evolved to allow the ball to pass through the goal and fall back to the floor, so the guy didn't have to go up there with a broom every time. And shouldn't it be the other way around, anyway? Ball-basket? That's the object of the game, as any coach will tell you, to put the ball in the basket. The name is going about it all backwards, literally, and this may be a reason why 1-26 teams look so confused out there on the floor.
Plus, "basket" is the worst possible adjective for a rubberized orb. Doesn't make a lick of sense. I think "ball-cylinder" or "ball-net" are much better names for our favorite sport. The hyphen, usually useless, works perfectly as an arrow here, noting the logical progression of success in this game.
Ball, net. Put the ball into the net. Got it? Good.
But it's never going to happen. We have a better chance of renaming the sport "ball-net" than we would with eliminating the term "mid-major." Originally conceived as an offhanded term for Division II teams, it came to be known as some vague in-between, and has turned into college athletics' eight scarlet letters (plus hyphen), the label nobody wants to be labelled with... even though nobody can agree on what it means. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to find a better term, the name is stuck... on what, we aren't entirely sure. At least for now.
Saint Joseph's. Not a bad team, this. The Saint Joseph Lunardis took to the hard A-14 road last night and beat a GW team that, despite its horrid 5-11 record, is very good at home and can play more than a little D (you don't want to see the Colonials in their road gear, though). In a 61-59 final, they had just enough Pat Calathes to finish the job -- he's averaging 18.4 ppg and his 8.4 rpg is second-best in the league. Last night's 21 and 10 was his sixth double-double.
We don't want to tell you how to think or anything, but you have to like the Hawks for achieving a 5-1 record which, incidentally, is tied for the league lead with Xavier. Four wins in a row, nine in their last 10, and they've won the turnover battle six times straight. And they still haven't lost a game by more than six points. Where's the damn love, people?
Sam Houston State. Now that I've seen this team play for 40 minutes, I think our computers are right... this is a good team. Defense, rebounding, toughness... they've got it all (except free throw shooting, which has cost them a couple of games). The No. 9 squad in our State index pulled away to beat fellow Southland West contender Texas-Arlington 73-57. They answered an early 10-0 run with a 13-0 run of their own, and any time UTA thought about coming back, Sam State would drop another run on them.
This is my impression of a Sam Houston run. Run-run-run, layup, grab ball away, run-run-run, layup, grab ball away, run-run-run, layup, grab ball away, run-run-run, layup, grab ball away, run-run-run, layup, grab ball away, run-run-run, layup. Seriously, that's exactly what it's like. The Bearkats are 16-3, 4-2 in the league, and probably won't be appearing on a TV set near you until the Southland final.
Drake. Oh, and the Bulldogs won again. Yawn! Just kidding. Drake completed a season sweep of Creighton last night with a 10-point win. Josh Young, the team-leading scorer (15.9 ppg) who sat out a few games, had 24 to lead all participants. Actually, five Bulldogs have led the team in points in the 10 games since the Valley Wars began, so "leading scorer" is sort of an outdated notion with this team.
The Bulldogs are 10-0 in the Valley with eight regular-season games to go. While it's bloody unlikely that they'll end up 10-8, they have enough margin of error now to perhaps lose one or two and still make it in as an at-large. Not only are they No. 1 in our "Other 22" index, they're No. 3 in the overall index of 341 teams behind Duke and Georgetown. Still subscribe to the old, official way of doing things? Drake's RPI jumped from 8 to 6 after last night's win. That's right, 6! Somebody get them an NCAA two-seed, stat!
Also in Hoops Nation...
How 'Bout™ Northern Iowa? We talked up the Panthers last week as a potential ender of Drake's Valley streak -- despite last weekend's four-point loss, we still think the Feb. 16 cross-state return date in Cedar Falls is going to be a toughie for the Bulldogs. Last night, UNI showed how tough the McLeod Center can be for visitors as it took down the other top Valley squad, Illinois State, 69-61. The Panthers play slow n' nasty (the way Iowans liiiiike it), and they still have Eric Coleman, a holdover from the NCAA days. They're 5-5 now, but we think they're poised to make a move and potentially muck things up in St. Louis.
Also, How 'Bout™ that Metro Atlantic Conference showcase at the Garden last night? The Fighting Ionas of Westchester County led most of the night over the Bronx Boys from Manhattan, then held off a late Jasper run for an exciting 62-60 win. Neither team is a MAAC factor this year, but both rebuilding projects with new coaches are progressing nicely. Iona has Gary Springer (18 and 10 last night) for another year, so look out, future-MAAC.
Speaking of the MAAC, How 'Bout™ Rider? Lots of talk around here has revolved around Siena, Niagara and (more lately) Loyola, but the Broncs are the ones with the 9-2 record, the eight-game win streak and the first-place standing by half-a-game. Last night, the Thompson non-Twins went to fellow 8-2 Marist and delivered a Jersey-style whuppin', commanding the last 30 minutes of the game and winning by 14. Make sure you set the TiVo for the Rider-Siena game on Saturday, which will be fully available on your ESPN2.
And a big ol' How 'Bout™ to William & Mary, 7-3 in the Colonial after a 70-67 win at James Madison, which is now 3-7. Wed honestly thought the two records would be the other way around by this point, but CWM has been finding ways to win games in the tough CAA, and are tied for second despite having a negative scoring margin over 10 league games (62.5-62.9). And the road ahead is tough: two with UNCW and one with Mason (the two teams also in second), and a regular-season closer with VCU, which beat the Tribe silly back in November. But for now, it's gotta be that hott new featherless logo!
Oh, and How 'Bout™ Lafayette? The Leopards are alone atop the Patriot League at 5-1 after shooting 58 percent (including 55 percent from 3) and dumping Army at home, 83-58. Andrew Brown nailed nine of those bombs on the way to 34 big points, and he did it in only 28 minutes, his season average. Lafayette does have the PL market cornered on hot-shooting guards, and Brown's not only leading the team in scoring (17.1 ppg), he's pretty darn efficient as well: 22.9 points per 40 minutes.
We talked about two-time champion Albany's recent run of decent road play in the ESPN chat yesterday, so How 'Bout™ the UMBC Retrievers (14-7, 6-2 A-East), who asserted some dominance by holding off the Danes last night in Baltimore? The 69-65 final hides that UMBC was in control for most of the contest, then allowed a 16-9 mini-run late that let Albany pull close in the late stages. The fact that UMBC only coughed it up six times all game was probably the difference.
|Hickory Picket Fences||27629|
|The Hopping Cats||21526|
|Under a Blood Red Line||10379|
|Jen Folds Five||6895|