KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- At 7:48 p.m. Central Standard Time on Tuesday night, I became infected with The Knowledge. After nearly 48 hours of conscientious objection, of no TV or radio or websites other than Google Maps, of looking the other way when passing by USA Today newsboxes, I now know who won the Super Bowl
. The record, and the mythical title of Last Man in America To Know, will have to wait for another year. Because, surely, if a campaign is going to go down in flames, this is how it should go down.
There are no words. Thank you, Valpo.
Actually, there are a few more words, come to think of it. I generate thousands of words here and elsewhere, and when I'm done with an article it's on to the next one -- there's not a lot of time to ponder and reflect on things until the season epilogue.
But I learned last night that a few words I wrote last year started a chain reaction of events that ended up having a special and lasting effect on some great people, and I'm honored and humbled to have made a small difference.
Last season, ESPN.com had its real experts -- and me, for comic relief -- choose favorite college atmospheres as part of Student Spirit Week (the practice was not repeated this year, BTW). I was asked to contribute my five favorite mid-major arenas, and I dutifully did so, taking an hour to file the story from a truck stop early one morning. One that I picked was Valpo, which I've always loved for its comfy and cozy Midwestern family atmosphere.
What I didn't know at the time is that the lists that the seven of us submitted would be put into a poll, and that folks would be allowed to vote. Most of my picks languished near the bottom, behind the Kentuckys and Dukes and Indianas. But what I found out last night is that the Valparaiso student section organized a massive ballot-stuffing campaign, and were so successful that the ARC finished all the way up at No. 9. And now, I'm told, head coach Homer Drew shows that final tally to every new recruit that comes for a visit, telling them that the school has a certified top-ten arena atmosphere.
All I can say to this is that Valpo fans don't need to stuff the ballot box to get their point across. As anybody who watched the game on ESPN2 last night knows, The VU student section (and the legendary Six-Man Crew
, who were dressed as superheroes last night) is ahead of just about everybody in the country, purely on merit alone. Dratler.
I was chatting up Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the Bulldogs' nationally televised last-minute 71-68
win at Valpo (more flava here
), trying to get him to look past the team's upcoming Horizon League opponents for just a second and talk about the mega-Buster against Drake later this month.
"If I thought about Drake right now, I wouldn't get any sleep," he sighed.
There was something in the way he said it that gave me the ultimate insight into the metaphysical secret that will rock the basketball world, and when it hit me, it all made sense -- there isn't any other acceptable theory. Drake is
Butler, and vice-versa. At the same time that the Indianapolis manifestation was winning at Valpo, the Des Moines one was pulling its own 73-70 come-from-behind stunner
at Illinois State to . Our inability to see Drake and Butler as a single entity is a failure to have achieved the oneness with the universe such a revelation would require.
Think about it: both wear blue and white, both are called the Bulldogs, both have young and energetic head coaches, who lead ultimately selfless, ball-control teams that can beat anybody at any speed on any court. Sure, you scoff now, but have you ever seen Drake and Butler in the same room together? No, you haven't.
And that's why on Feb. 23, when the two teams meet in the old-school mid-major game of the century, mountains will crumble, the sky will explode, and the universe will collapse on itself. The endtimes are truly near, and just remember who warned you about the upcoming Hoopocalypse.
Oh, also...How 'Bout™
Creighton? If you were tuned into the ESPNU last night looking for the Drake game, you saw CU destroy Northern Iowa by 24
in the game of young P'Allen Stinnett's
young life. The Bluejay freshman phenom shot 10-for-15 for a career-high 23 points, and did it in just 21 minutes because Dana Altman is all about getting minutes for everyone this year. They're 7-5 now, but whatever this team accomplishes this year will be multiplied by factors in 2008-09. I've said it before, but Stinnett is going to come to define this league as the decade closes, and opposing Valley fans are going to have nightmares of the flashy Las Vegas native flashing that horribly ugly blue mouthguard of his.
Or How 'Bout™
Radford? Let's check in on Brad Greenberg's first-year rebuilding project down in Virginia. The Highlanders had their second road win of the year last night, a 108-102 high-octane affair
with our friends at VMI, and that's impressive because this is a team that enjoyed only one victory away from home in an 8-22 disaster last season. The 7-15 record obscures the fact that this team is much better on offense, scoring on 50.4 percent of its possessions now. And with only one senior, this could be a team that rises back to the Big South's top half in 2008-09.
And How 'Bout™
Niagara? In the weather-postponed game, the Purple Eagles showed why they're lingering in out Other 22 index, taking out a surging Loyola team in western New York by a 83-79 count
. It's struck me lately that while the MAC is having a two-bid kind of year, the MAAC is turning into the MAC of recent years... with five teams all with excellent shots at the title, but no two-bid hopes because of November and December failings by the conference as a whole (46-59 nonconf. record, RPI of 18). This here, as MAAC fans know, is a perfect storm of seniors across the league, but the coaching and recruiting groundwork is in place for a two-bid year sometime in the next five or so seasons -- that's something that hasn't happened since 1995. Right now, a solid league-wide nonconference scheduling strategy might be all that's missing.
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