NASHVILLE -- There is nothing in the world more fun that this fortnight, this extended Championship Week. Days full of games, wave after wave of cheerleaders, pep bands, student sections and players' moms. Every two hours new ones come along come, a blurry time-smear of orange, red, green, blue, gold.
It's also the first March sighting of "Basketball Guys"... you know, those silver-haired dudes in jumpsuits who stand around in groups staying close to the game, talking about the old days when there was no 3-point line. Some of them are convinced that there's still one last D-I job left in them if they just make the right contact, even if they haven't coached anybody for over a decade.
Promised it yesterday, overnight delivery today. We've been here at the Atlantic Sun tournament for the past couple days, and thought it would fun to show our readers what kind of stuff goes into making this March magic. Here, then, is your exclusive behind-the-scenes backstage pass to the A-Sun.
The nerve center of conference tourney sports information, the media guide table. Each team has a stack of the original media guide from the preseason, then a special "postseason guide" full of stats, news clippings and facts. Sports information directors are awesome.
Conference tournaments generate a lot of environmental impact. Here's the table with boxscores for completed games, color roster "flip cards" for future games, and a stack of updated brackets.
Ever wonder why sportswriters are fat? It's because we sit around drinking a lot of sugary beverages. Sierra Mist is the official unofficial drink of the A-Sun press row.
The A-Sun is experimenting with a new format: two men's quarterfinals and two women's quarterfinals on the same day. This means we get to catch up on how the llladies are doing. Mercer's dazzle uniforms are pretty sweet.
We made a comment yesterday that Belmont's band was noticeably outdone by Campbell's on Wednesday, and I wondered if Belmont (a school noted for its music program) had sent the B-team. They had. Last night, the A-squad showed up for the Bruin women's game with crosstown rival (and host) Lipscomb. Man, were they good.
Lipscomb won on a bucket with 10 seconds to go
Speaking of food: just because this is a low-RPI conference doesn't mean we don't get power-conference food. Local Nashville barbeque joints have rotated catering duties for each of the sessions, and it's a bad place to be a vegetarian.
Each table in the hospitality room is set off my this lovely centerpiece. The ball is upside down because I was playing catch with a kid right before I took this picture. I got yelled at.
After the games, everybody comes to the interview room and finds out what the winning coaches and players think. Most of the time they say, "survive and advance" or "we're taking it one game at a time." Hey, there's our little buddy! He's an A-Sun star! Saint Joseph's.
What do you do when you're having trouble closing games? End the game early. The Hawks (18-10, 9-6) broke through in a national way by knocking off top Atlantic 14 squad Xavier 71-66
last night, taking a 10-point lead into the final minutes. It did get scary, though -- going from 60-50 to that final margin of five must have made a few fans on Hawk Hill awfully queasy. But we said it in December and we're saying it now: this is the second-best team in this league, and they've conclusively proven it. Now all they have to do is get to the A-14 finals to force the selection committee's hand.
Five Hawks finished in double figures, led by senior Pat Calathes
' 17. It was indeed SJU's Senior Day, as well as the final game in the old beloved Fieldhouse. It's a proud day to be a Joe. George Washington.
We asked the musical question a few weeks ago: what happened to GW? Or rather, what happened to the nationally-worthy story of GW falling off? This, after all is a school that's gone to the NCAA Tournament three straight years. Yesterday, the Colonials' lost season (5-10 in the A-14, 1-12 on the road) reached its cruddy nadir, as captain Maureece Rice was thrown off the team
for repeated rules violations. But it could get even worse: they may not even make the league's Atlantic 12-team tourney.
And because you can't spell Boubacar without 'Bou
UC Santa Barbara? The Big West race has been all about the Cal States (Northridge and Fullerton) all season, but the Guachos have won their last five league games and look strong headed into next week's Anaheim action. Last night's 77-66
win over Northridge forced a three-way tie at the top at 11-4 (Alex Harris
had 25), and Pacific is a half-step back at 11-5. With four 11-game winners, this is about as hot a one-bid race as the MAAC. With warmer weather, of course.How 'Bout™
award winners? We mentioned this yesterday, but recent interview subject Jason Thompson of Rider
was anointed Player of the Year in the aforementioned MAAC. In the CAA, Eric Maynor of VCU
was named POY. The baddest player in the Badlands Conference is one Mr. George Hill of IUPUI
, who played all year with a metal screw in his foot.
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