FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Sometimes I just have to pinch myself (even though dreams can be complicated enough that I wouldn't wake up if I did). Three years ago, I was just another computer programmer with a college basketball blog, and the next thing I know I'm talking over BracketBusters highlights with the legendary Lowell Galindo
. I know that people are supposed to be all cool or whatever about being on TV... but as soon as I stop being thrilled to death about this stuff, it's time for me to go back to my old job and let someone else do this.
So I got to spend most of Saturday in the ESPNU studios in Charlotte, watching all the games on a bank of screens. (It wasn't ex-Wonk John Gasaway's house
, but rather the next best thing.) Somewhere in the middle, I got to tape a segment for SportsCenter U, and I'm glad to say I didn't embarrass myself. There was, however, a "two-shot" that I completely blew, looking into Camera 1 when I should have been looking at the anchor. When you do that, it looked like you're distracted and looking off into space like an idiot.
Here are some other observations and hard lessons about doing TV from the weekend:
- I'm not sure if we've covered my appreciation for SportsCenterU
, but I TiVo it all the time for its great highlight packages of mid-major games. The show reminds me a lot of what SportsCenter was like back in the Eighties, before personality cults and slick production squeezed every last drop of spontaneity and joy out of the presentation. And I'll take Mr. Galindo and Adrian Branch
over the more well-known pairs any day, they have more genuine and unforced camraderie than Mike and Mike ever will.
- Ever seen Sports Night
? It's totally like that.
- The first thing they ask you in the studio is if you've brought your earpiece, and the producers knew immediately I was a newbie amateur when I told them I didn't have one. All the big-time anchors carry around their own precision-molded personalized models wherever they go, because the generic one they keep on set feels like there's a knife sticking in your ear.
But you don't want to hear about me, you're here for a BracketBusters wrapup. So we'll take it conference by conference, Boubacar-style. The Valley.
Just like old times, a league projected for a single bid before the season swept its televised Busters. There was the massive statement-maker in Indianapolis, where Drake toppled Butler in the Bulldog Classic by seven
... we think there will be a lot fewer Drake doubters now. Also in Valley-on-Horizon action, Illinois State showed it might still be in the running for a Valley tournament championship with a 54-46 win at Wright State
, breaking the Raiders' 11-game win streak. If the MVC ends up snatching the Horizon's second bid, you'll know how and when it happened.
Oh, and that's not all -- the Valley's old guard had a great day on Saturday too. Bradley beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee by 12
in the 2005 vs. 2006 Sweet 16 battle, and . Creighton won at Oral Roberts 65-64
on late heroics from Booker Woodfox
, and Southern Illinois destroyed Nevada at home 74-49
. All told, the conference went 8-2 this weekend, with only Northern Iowa and Wichita State losing their non-TV games. The MAC.
Perhaps the biggest impact of any team was made by Kent State, which dropped Saint Mary's (the only WCC team participating) 65-57
in a rough n' tough scramble. The Golden Flashes look safe for at-large consideration for now, as long as they can finish their conference business and make it to at least the MAC semis.
And look at those Ohio Bobcats! Their star has faded a bit these past few weeks, but they came from 15 down and gutted out a 69-57
home win over George Mason. The other premier CAA-MAC battle went the other way, however, when Akron lost to VCU 57-52
in the early Saturday game. The Zips returned Jeremiah Wood, who played well in his first game back from an ankle injury. While it didn't mean quite as much in the big picture, Miami (Oh.) and Horizon mid-tabler Valparaiso turned in the most exciting TV game of the day, a double-overtime thriller that ended in a 99-94 Valpo win
. The MAAC.
A two-bid MAAC is an extremely hard sell, but the conference distinguished itself in fine fashion on Saturday. All four of the teams in the current first-place logjam won their games, and none was more impressive than Siena's 360 job on Boise State, 93-70
. Alex Franklin
, the team's primary rebounder, made both of the Broncos' all-WAC bigs look like they had their feet nailed to the floor. The Saints also held the nation's top shooting team to just 42 percent.
Rider clipped Cal State Northridge by one
, but the 12 NBA scouts there to see Jason Thompson
saw an 11-and-13 double-double. In non-televised action, Loyola (Md.) beat UC Davis by five
, which the Greyhounds will savor until they have to return the game next year. And in the annual Best Game You Didn't See, Niagara used a buzzer-beating 3 from Stanley Hodge
to beat Appalachian State, 76-75
. The CAA.
The Colonial came into the weekend as the all-time winningest conference in televised BracketBusters, but it split the two games featuring its conference leaders with the MAC. It's safe to say that George Mason needs to win out and take the tourney in Richmond if it wants into the Dance, and VCU could stand to make it to at least the league title game. The WAC.
We've been stunned all season that the WAC, a multi-bid conference every year except one over the last two decades, is so weak this year. There was the excuse of hard scheduling and too much time on the road back in November, but this weekend showed how far the league has to go to achieve prominence again. There are a lot of young teams here.
Aside from the bad losses by Nevada and Boise State, Utah State did enough to defeat former Big West-mate UC Santa Barbara on Friday, 72-59
, but current Big West team Pacific took care of San Jose State by nine
in the non-televised portion. And in a game that was a horrible matchup to begin with, best-on-paper New Mexico State beat rebuilding BWC champions Long Beach 80-48
. Nobody learned anything from that.
It rhymes with "shout-out," 'cause that's what it is...How 'Bout™
Saint Joe's? We don't want to leave our friends from Le Quatorze Atlantique out of the equation. The second-place Hawks downed Rhode Island on Sunday 90-83
to break one game clear of the middle at 8-4. URI is now on a four-game losing streak and giving up a whole lot of points. There are three teams at 7-5 that have no at-large credentials whatsoever: Richmond, Temple and LaSalle, none of whom have won more than 14 games overall. We never thought we'd say this, but there are scenarios out there that would bring this conference just two bids.
Xavier, 12-1 and a lot better than everybody else here, completed a sweep
of archrival Dayton yesterday. Despite having a 39 RPI, the Flyers are in 12th place in the Atlantic 14!
And How 'Bout™
Cornell? Ten and oh with four to go in the Ivy League. The Big Red is doing what Penn or Princeton always does, which is sweep through inferior competition and line itself up for Hoops Nation's first NCAA bid. After beating second-place Brown 74-65
on Saturday night to go three up on the field, they could clinch that bid this weekend.
Finally, How 'Bout™
Robert Morris? In a league race that didn't take BracketBusters weekend off, the Colonials (14-2) made a giant statement by shredding Wagner (13-3) in a first-place battle. In the 74-52
victory, RMU blew the Seahawks' doors off in the second half, and finished with six (count 'em) double-figure scorers. But Sacred Heart is still a game back as well at 13-3, the Pioneers beat Quinnipiac at the Q-Pod on Saturday by a 88-74 count
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