CHARLOTTE -- That was fun. Yesterday, we proved conclusively that you can
talk about mid-major basketball for six hours and that the topic will attract a couple thousand questions, not the six or seven most people would expect. There were a lot of awesome questions about everything from hoops to the Grateful Dead to Lost
to truck stop showers, and I want to personally thank everybody who participated. I'm just feeling guilty (as always) that I couldn't talk to everybody. Yesterday's ESPN.com chat
is now certified as the third-longest in SportsNation history
, at six hours, one minute.
I got a lot of messages during the Davidson-Winthrop game
about The Record, which is held by a personality so big that he goes by two sets of initials: B.S. and T.S.G.. The moon shot of seven hours was a big deal in December, and it was for charity and stuff. A few wondered if there was a Worldwide Leader conspiracy to keep the record safe, or if I just wasn't capable of "Simmons stamina" (ewww).
I did come up one hour short -- I had trained perfectly (voided my fluids before noon so I didn't have to go to the bathroom all day), and I would have been capable of going many hours more, deep into the night. And yes, ESPN did pull the plug on me before 6 p.m. Eastern, but there's no conspiracy.
The true fact is that the questions started to dwindle at 5 p.m., the end of the workweek for all the East Coasters whose mid-major degrees earned them cushy office jobs (or cubicles). So I offer this challenge for the next time (and there will be another attempt someday): we need more support from the midwest and the Left Coast during those late hours. We'll prove that mid-major basketball matters, and that the non-EST time zones matter as well.
I hope Simmons can hear Hoops Nation knocking. Our day will come.
And it is BracketBusters weekend, finally! There will be a lot of great mid-major hoops on TV (if you're a conscientious objector to the whole Tennessee-Memphis thing). Watch everything you can, but turn off the set before 11 p.m. ET if you have ESPNU. You don't want to see what they're showing, trust me.
11 a.m. Virginia Commonwealth at Akron - ESPN2
1 p.m. George Mason at Ohio - ESPN2
3 p.m. Creighton at Oral Roberts - ESPN2
4:30 p.m. Nevada at Southern Illinois - ESPNU
5 p.m. Drake at Butler - ESPN2
6 p.m. Miami (Ohio) at Valparaiso - ESPN Classic
6:30 p.m. Marist at Cleveland State - ESPNU
9 p.m. Rider at Cal State Northridge - ESPNU
9 p.m. UW Milwaukee at Bradley - ESPN360.com
10 p.m. Siena at Boise State - ESPN360.com
11:59 p.m. Kent State at Saint Mary's - ESPN2
6:30 p.m. (Sunday) Wright State at Illinois State - ESPNU Stephen F. Austin.
Sam Houston State, a well-rounded team that had a lot of nonconference success and was featured prominently in our State of the Other 22 ratings for many weeks, is wearing down. The hot shooting that marked their early efforts is slipping, and the defense is springing holes -- in their four conference losses, the Bearkats gave up 93, 96, 78 and 79 points. Last night, SFA avenged an earlier loss with that fourth number, beating Sam State 79-57
The Lumberjacks have now won seven straight, 22 in total, and are 10-2 in the Southland. They don't expend very much energy on offense, so they've got plenty for the stretch drive. One of the slowest-paced teams in the nation, they move the ball until they find the perfect long-distance shot. Then they hit it -- SFA's conference 3-point percentage (44.3) is better than a lot of teams' overall shooting. But their key big man and most efficient player, 6-9 junior Matt Kingsley
(15.9 ppg), hasn't attempted a single 3 all year. All he does is shoot 55 percent from the inside and average 5.5 boards. Kingsley had 18 points and seven rebounds on Thursday. South Alabama.
In a game between two 21-win teams that very well could be a matchup of the Sun Belt's first two-bid class since 1994, the Jaguars buried Western Kentucky in free throws late, 69-64
. By sweeping WKU, Team USA now holds a couple of key trump cards going into the conference tourney. First of all, it will be held at USA's Mobile home, and the tiebreaker is clearly theirs in the case of identical records at season's close.
After the game, Team USA head coach Ronnie Arrow addressed the question of a two-bid Sun Belt, something we've talked a lot about this year.
"I've been asked I don't know how many times, should this conference get two bids in the Tournament?" he told reporters. "I think you all saw what my answer is.''
Also to contemplate while you bust brackets...How 'Bout™
those first couple of BracketBusters games? Winthrop's defense held Davidson to 60 points, a barrier that hardly any Big South teams cross, but the Eagles could only manage 47
and only outscored Davidson 13-11 in the 10 minutes Stephen Curry sat on the bench with two early fouls. More defense in the late show, with Utah State holding UC-Santa Barbara to 34 poercent shooting in a 72-59 win
Or How 'Bout™
La Salle? We talked about them a lot following that big Palestra win over Saint Joe's, but the Explorers exploded another A-14 high-flyer from the RPI table on Thursday. In the 81-78 overtime loss
, Dayton shot a whoppin' 56 percent and got 30 points from Brian Roberts, but La Salle stormed
to the win and is now the second-hottest team in the conference with a three-game streak (6-5). We like to keep count of the .500-or-better teams in this league, and there are currently nine of them. Dayton, the No. 33 team in the RPI, is not one of them (5-7).
Also, How 'Bout™
Robert Morris? And Wagner too? Both won Thursday to stay atop the NEC at 13-2. RMU won its school-record 10th straight by beating Mount Saint Mary's by three
, and Wagner took care of Saint Francis (PA) right up the road in the Pittsburgh Area, scoring an 80-72 road win
for its fifth consecutive. Sacred Heart is still a game back at 12-3, so the hottest NEC race in years is far from over.
And How 'Bout™
Oakland? IUPUI had been rolling along, but came down from the high of giving Oral Roberts its first Badlands Conference loss last weekend. But the Golden Grizzlies beat the Golden Jaguars 84-69
in a second-half pullaway that snapped IUPUI's seven-game win streak. The difference was the board battle -- IUPUI was mostly "pooee" on the glass with only 17 rebounds.
Finally, How 'Bout™
Longwood? The Lancers might be independent and conference-free, but they were able to beat a 6-6 team from the Big South last night by eleven
. Longwood's season is the first in Hoops Nation to draw to a close -- Mike Gillian's bunch finished at 9-22.
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