February 27, 2008 11:21 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
RICHMOND, Va. -- We don't do a lot of Mid-Major Mailbag action around here anymore (we get plenty interactive enough with the chats, you know). But there's something about the combination of assisted research and the last slow Wednesday of the season that makes us want to break out the blockquote tags. This, recently, from brilliant reader Max:
Hey man. You probably already know this or mentioned it somewhere, but I got bored and checked the records for the games the mid-majors hosted this year (based on your Oct. 1 column you did at ESPN) - the big dogs of course came out on top, but only by 24-19! Wow! My fear is that if this info gets out, we may be facing the facist wet dream of a guarantee-game mandated non-conference sked by the big boys, exempting only games played as part of incestuous inter-BCS-conference "challenges" and the like. May God have mercy.
My goodness, that's a future freakier than Total Recall. And I didn't know that! But I think we'll continue to see a fair number of these games in the future, but more of the USC at The Citadel variety and fewer of the Michigan State at Bradley types. With the loss of the 2-in-4 rule, power-conference teams can go play in a Multi-Team Event every year to play schools with decent RPI's, and they can get a relatively easy road win by playing a Big South or Atlantic Sun team or something. Those schools are good about not walking into losing propositions when they don't have to.
All of this makes for a great excuse to revisit some of our numbers that we were following on a weekly basis before league play started.
We last looked at this in late December, but we do enjoy counting the "upsets" -- or rather the wins by conferences below the Red Line against those above it. Our only exemption is Gonzaga (placed above the Line for these purposes), and our only exception the Atlantic 14. Wins against the Big Six power conferences are counted as "upsets," while those against the "money leagues" (C-USA and Mountain West) are not.
With only March to go, there have been a total of 131 such wins in 2007-08. We're already ahead of last season, when there were 129. That was a slight increase from 2005-06, the "Year of The Mid-Major"; there were 128 during that magical season.
But as we often note, we look at the percentages too. There were 1114 games that involved one team above the Red Line and one below.
2007-08: 131 upsets in 1114 games (.118)
2006-07: 129 upsets in 1217 games (.105)
2005-06: 128 upsets in 1100 games (.116)
So with some wins since our last check (we count things like Saint Joe's over Villanova), the littler guys have gained three percentage points. Whoo! This will likely come back down again after the postseason, but for now we can say that the eight richest leagues beat the lower ones 88.1 percent of the time.
"Parity," my toe.
Drake. Oops! This wasn't supposed to happen -- an 86-80 drop at Missouri State for the Bulldogs, coming off their huge ButlerBuster. The Bears led pretty much wire to wire, and it was a win fueled by emotion -- it was the last-ever contest in the venerable John Q. Hammons Student Center, and most probably the last home game for Barry Hinson as Missouri State head coach. One of our favorite coaches in the world, he's been on the hot seat these past few years, and a current 15-15 (7-10 MVC) record means he's likely headed elsewhere.
As for Drake, there's been a somewhat disturbing trend lately, as much as it pains us to bring it up. With the exception of the Butler game, which ended even up on the floor, each of the D-Dawgs' February opponents have outshot them. Last night, the Bears shot 60 percent, the seventh straight Valley opponent that hit a better percentage.
And the somewhat undersized Drake rebounding attack has lost a bit of its effectiveness -- they've been outboarded in each of the three losses that have come over the past fortnight. MVC teams are learning how to beat them. Drake is now 24-4 (14-3), is probably still safe for an at-large bid with an RPI of 14, but they should really consider not losing in the quarterfinals at the St. Louis tourney late next week.
Southern Illinois. There was a moment back in December, I was at SIU Arena interviewing head coach Chris Lowery when a woman in a maroon t-shirt walked by. The Salukis had just lost to Butler, were 5-6, and seemingly going nowhere. "We still love you, coach," the woman said. Then she leaned in and stage-whispered semi-ominously, "But we love it when you win, too."
That lady must be ecstatic these days, as SIU has won five straight to move within a half-game of two-seed position in the Valley, which they can claim outright with an Illinois State loss tonight and a win in the final SIU-ISU showdown on Saturday. What was unthinkable just two months ago could be March reality -- the Salukis could make the NCAA Tournament. The italics indicate disbelief.
Last night's punishing, muscular 11-point win at Bradley was a strong indication that the team's road woes are behind it, that the team's magical formula of tons of defense and just enough offense is starting to work again. There were four double-figure scorers led by Randal Falker, who has overcome a so-so start to lead the team in points (12.8) and rebounds (6.8), and string together a link of 50 percent-plus shooting performances that stretches back 11 games.
Looks like Arch Madness could become a Dawg eat Dawg world, but we don't know who's for dinner yet.
And there's also...
How 'Bout™ VMI? The fast n' fun Keydets (14-13, 6-7) have been mired mid-pack in the Big South and we haven't had that many opportunities to chat them up, but last night's come-from-behind win on regional TV was definitely worth a HB. Duggar Baucom's charges were down by seven with six minutes to go, but put together a rapid-fire 9-0 run to claim an 81-79 win. Reggie Williams, the nation's second leading scorer at 27.6 ppg, led everybody with a big 34 points and 12 rebounds. It was his fourth straight double-double.
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