February 18, 2008 11:51 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Plenty of folks have the day off for the holiday today, but we have a patriotic duty to provide you with a Supersized Boubacar that takes into account all the action from the weekend that was. We'll get to that in a second, but I wanted to share with you my most recent fantastic idea: The Mid-Majority Network.
TMMN, a broadband network that may be available on cable and satellite in the upcoming unlimited-bandwidth 3,000-channel era, would be very simple in production and delivery. Nothing but mid-major scouting tapes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At games, you always see those team staff with the handy-cams making recordings for future review and exchange (they're always aiming the camera at the scoreboard during time outs, I love that). In the future, folks will just make a DVD copy and send it to us. We'll show it all on our network.
Imagine tuning in at 2 a.m. on a Friday and seeing Troy playing Florida Atlantic in a Sun Belt showdown from two weeks ago. If that doesn't interest you, maybe we'd have some WCC or Big South at 4 a.m.. TMMN would be ignored by 99 percent of the population, but it would instantly become the only entertainment option for pro scouts, assistant coaches and nutty fans. Some would simply throw out their remotes and watch TMMN all the time.
If anybody knows anybody who can help make this happen, please drop a line. I haven't been this excited about something since Friday.
Drake. No article or entry in the history of this site has received more voluminous pleasant response than our interview with the Rev. Dolph Pulliam from last week, and we thank you for your kindness. Now, his era has been bridged with the present -- with a 65-55 pullaway victory at Northern Iowa, the Bulldogs have won their first MVC championship since 1971.
While inadvertently catching the end of the Memphis-UAB game on Saturday night, a thought struck. I'm not saying that the talent level is anywhere close, or that the nonconference schedules are in the same universe, or that Drake's approach is anywhere near as excited as DDM. But Memphis has received at least 1,000,000 times more credit for running table in the 10th-rated conference in the RPI than Drake ever did for running table in the 8th. And even if Memphis did lose that game on Saturday, both teams at one loss wouldn't be considered anywhere near the same universe. Perception rules.
Siena. We visited Albany on Saturday (and helped break Wifegate), and were reminded once again that Matchups Are Everything... any linear No. 1 through No. 25 method of deciding "who's best" is as archaic as typewriters and leeches.
I mean, look at the Saints (16-9, 11-4), easily the best team on paper in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Long, athletic, and smart, Siena scores a lot of points, protects the ball despite playing a uptempo style, and forces a ton of turnovers -- the lack of size prevents them from rebounding a lot, but they make up for that by excelling in nearly every other category. And they send out a seemingly endless supply of runners and jumpers from a rich bench. They've already beaten a "nationally ranked" team (Stanford), survived a temporary injury to key big Alex Franklin, and would appear to be the conference's best hope to win an NCAA game.
But Siena can't beat Loyola (15-12, 10-5). The Greyhounds are not as deep, don't shoot as well as a team, and have rebounding problems of their own in general with their similar level of size. But the athleticism for Loyola comes from the taller end of the roster, which gives Siena fits. In two meetings, the 'Hounds have outrebounded Siena by 13 and 16 and it's led to a sweep: 85-56 in the first game, and a pullaway 83-76 overtime win Saturday that was close because of runs against Loyola's bench. These two will likely meet again at the MAAC tourney.
IUPUI. In Saturday's G!O!T!N!, Ooee-Pooee beat Oral Roberts for It the team's eighth straight victory overall. It was the first time in two years IUPUI had beaten ORU, and it was the G'Eagles' (13-1) first Badlands Conference loss this season, 69-66. It was a fiercely fought battle, and the Jags won even though the ORU defense clamped down on its normally hot shooting.
And when it was complete, despite the fact that the Jaguars are still in second place with a 13-2 record, the fans stormed the floor. We still have mixed feelings about in-season bum rushes (I got kicked in the head when Loyola Marymount beat Gonzaga last year)... because come on, IUPUI is still in second place.
Penn and Princeton.
You can't spell "apocalyptic" without two P's, and the Ivy League world as we knew it is officially over. For the first time in recorded history, both the Quakers and Tigers were swept at home over a weekend -- by Yale and Brown, no less! We were present at the fourth chapter of that, the Bears' 65-63 overtime win at Princeton Saturday night which featured a breakout losing-cause offensive performance by PU senior Noah Savage (35 points, 11-for-17, 7 3-pointers). Many fans of the Tiger-men were observed leaving Jadwin Gym, stunned, mumbling incoherently to themselves.
Penn beat Yale. The rest is true, though.
And then there's Cornell, 8-0 and winners of 10 straight after a sweep of its Harvard-Dartmouth weekend. The Big Red are two games up on Brown -- like Penn was all those years, Cornell is likely to be that first team in Hoops Nation to clinch an NCAA bid, on account of the Ivy's continued lack of a postseason tournament. That's surely the next sign of the endtimes.
The CAA's two-bid hopes. Nothing says "ouch" as a home loss, and both of the Colonial's Top 75 RPI teams took painful drops on Saturday -- on TV, no less. VCU was nipped in a come-from-behind job by hated rival Old Dominion and senior guard Brian Henderson (20 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the game of his season) -- it was a 67-66 ODU victory that made life worth living again for thousands of Monarch fans.
Meanwhile, over in Fairfax, this succinct gamecap from D.C. Sports Bogger Dan Steinberg on UNCW's 75-73 shock win over George Mason... "When Will Thomas made a free throw to move Mason into a tie with UNC Wilmington in the final six seconds tonight, the sold-out Patriot Dome got very, very loud. When T.J. Carter then drove the length of the floor to hit a game-winning layup at the buzzer, it got very, very quiet." So too did the league office, with its two top teams now in virtual "play-in" positions in the RPI: 65th (GMU) and 66th (VCU). Both teams will need BracketBusters wins to keep the CAA's third consecutive at-large bid dreams alive.
We'll talk about this again tomorrow once the latest results in the slow-motion Atlantic 14 bloodbath come in, but weekends like this are always such a weird emotional ride -- you can be disappointed about the decreased likelihood of multiple bids (which impresses casual fans and broadcasters), or thrilled to pieces (like us) about the fact that there's lots of incredible February basketball being played and a deep pool of teams. Strange split, that, even if it leads some to call parity-driven non-BCS conferences "fringe leagues".
Conference leaders! As we do every Monday, holiday or no, it's time to make sure that we pay attention to each and every league leader. This is also the place where we make at least two or three information-related screwups that we'll have to fix later with
strikethroughs, so we're going to be extra-diligent, promise.
Let's get to the streakers first, because they're the specialest. Butler is flying high in the Horizon with a 13-2 record, and avenged an earlier loss to Cleveland State over the weekend, 51-46. But looming just behind, just like last year, there's that other team that beat the Bulldogs... Wright State (11-4), masters of the closer-than-close win. During the Raiders' 10-game win streak, half of the games have been on-possession decisions. Wright will travel to Butler on Feb. 28.
Belmont (11-2) is cruising along in the Atlantic Sun, on a seven-game win streak after Saturday's 10-point win at South Carolina-Upstate. The Bruins are scoring a scorching 84 points in conference games, which is just as many as Duke's averaging in the ACC. The staggered-schedule Big Sky, where teams have played anywhere from 11 to 14 games, might have the same complicated last-weekend seed scenarios as last season, but Portland State is emerging as a clear No. 1 with a 10-2 record and eight straight victories, including the weekend's 76-73 home win over defending champs Weber State. The NEC is still hot, with Robert Morris, Wagner and Sacred Heart all with 12 wins, within a half-game of each other. RMU has won nine straight, though.
American, with five straight W's, also is the Patriot League's overall win leader with 16 -- on ESPNU yesterday, the Eagles beat Colgate 68-60 behind Garrison Carr's 28, and only have one more road game remaining in their final three. Austin Peay is just where we left them last week, on top of the OVC, three clear in the loss columns. The Govs (14-3, five straight wins) took out cross-state nemesis Tennessee Tech 80-76 on Saturday and is inching ever closer to the RPI's top 100.
The MAC is escaping the CAA's problem for now, by offering a clear front-runner (Kent State, 10-2, four straight wins, 43 RPI) and a bunch of teams below that could present tough March matchups and a potential two-bid scenario should the Flashes fall. At the time being, Kent is taking care of any and all league business, most recently showing 7-5 Ohio its proper place in a 72-62 win. KSU is two games clear in the East and has that gigantic BracketBuster at Saint Mary's on Saturday.
Speaking of Out West, Cal States Northridge (9-2) and Fullerton (10-3) are in a virtual dead heat atop the Big West; they still have a meeting at CSF (which won the first matchup) on Feb. 28. And then there's Saint Mary's, keeping pace with Gonzaga in the WCC at 9-1. Patty Mills scored 22 and the Gaels swept Loyola Marymount with a 80-49 road win.
In the MEAC, top team Morgan lost a step on Saturday when defending champs Florida A&M nipped the Bears in an 90-89 thriller that MSU pretty much led throughout. Lamar Twitty, a junior holdover from last year's leaguewinners, had the game of his career with 28 points and 10 rebounds... but when Daryl Demps won the game with a free throw, FAMU's game release proclaimed him a "yearling." (I am so using that from now on whenever I need a poetic synonym for "freshman.")
Can't stop SWAC leaders Alabama State (10-2), though -- three games beyond the pack with six games left after completing a sweep of in-state rival Alabama A&M, 85-70. In the same geographical area, Lamar (9-1) and Stephen F. Austin (9-2) lead the Southland's two divisions. After beating Northwestern State on the road by eight, SFA is a super-impressive 21-3 overall.
In the Sun Belt, Western Kentucky (13-1) saw an opening -- when South Alabama (13-2) lost at Middle Tennessee State last week, the Hilltoppers had an opportunity to make a weekend statement. And so they did with a 71-66 win at MTSU. The two East division frontrunners will culminate their season series on Thursday at WKU (that one Topper loss is USA's doing).
Winthrop (8-3) is back on top in the Big South, a half game up on death-spiraling UNC Asheville, losers of three straight. The Eagles' defense has been phenomenal, allowing just 55 points a game; the team reclaimed its longtime throne after topping Radford 74-59. Friday's BracketBuster opponents, Davidson (17-0), is on the longest streak not named Memphis -- at 15 straight, the Wildcats have already nabbed the SoCon regular season championship.
How 'Bout™ Maryland-Baltimore County? We didn't forget the Retrievers in our conference rundown, just wanted to isolate them for some extra America East wuv. We were present for that 76-73 thriller-chiller win yesterday over the Terriers of Boston University, in front of a packed RAC. "It was a dogfight," deadpanned UMBC head coach Randy Monroe afterwards, and that one never gets old in the grand old Canine/Feline Conference.
At 18-7 (10-2), UMBC with its four double-digit scorers and extreme ball-control is offering the best basketball the A-East has going, but the Retrievers' visible profile is held back a bit by strength of schedule concerns. Like American (see above), UMBC has never made the NCAA tournament... it could be a real big year for DelMarVa mids.
And How 'Bout™ San Diego? Just a half-game behind Gonzaga and SMC in the WCC, with a chance to make a big statement tonight on ESPN2 at home against the G-Men. The last meeting was a 80-70 Zag win on Jan. 19 up in Spokane, but that was the last game the Toreros lost -- they're 8-1 in the league with a seven-game streak built on hot shooting and ball control. And don't forget, the conference tournament will be there in San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
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