Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
2009-10 Summit League Standings
#1. Oakland 23-8 (17-1)
#2. IUPUI 22-9 (15-3)
#3. Oral Roberts 19-12 (13-5)
#4. South Dakota St. 14-15 (10-8)
#5. IPFW 15-14 (9-9)
#6. North Dakota St. 11-17 (8-10)
#7. Western Illinois 13-16 (6-12)
#8. UMKC 12-17 (6-12)
DNQ Centenary 8-21(3-15)
DNQ Southern Utah 7-22 (2-16)
Here are my Season Awards; the Summit’s selections shouldn’t be much different…
Player of the Year - Keith Benson (C), Oakland (16.9 ppg, 10 rpg, 3.3 bpg). Benson edges out his teammate Jon Jones because his work on defense and his rebounding were so far above anyone else in the conference. He was a matchup problem every single night, and his averages against league opponents are worthy of POY.
Newcomer of the Year – Warren Niles (G), Oral Roberts (12.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg). Niles is the highest scoring freshman in the conference, and he started the last sixteen games for ORU.
Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
Oakland (12-1) 18-8
IUPUI (11-2) 18-8
South Dakota State (9-4) 13-11
Oral Roberts (9-5) 14-12
IPFW (6-7) 11-12
North Dakota State (6-7) 9-14
UMKC (4-8) 10-13
Western Illinois (3-10) 10-14
Centenary (3-11) 8-17
Southern Utah (2-10) 6-17
Two teams from the Summit made an appearance on this week’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll. Oakland (#14) and IUPUI (#22) were both rewarded for their dominant conference performances thus far.
WIU senior guard David Nurse was named to the ESPN the Magazine District V all-academic basketball team. Nurse is working on a masters degree in business and has a 3.8 GPA, proving that there are still students among the “student” athletes.
We enter the final three weekends of conference play, and it seems like the top four seeds have already been decided. Oral Roberts dropped two conference games to Oakland and lowly Western Illinois. Unless they can pull off a miracle, you can stick a fork in this team. A fourth-seed in the tournament would mean playing both top-seeded teams in order to make the dance. The eighth and final conference seed is still up for grabs. Western Illinois would like to have it, as they think they can upset anyone in the conference.
Alpha Squads - Oakland, IUPUI
Longshots - South Dakota, Oral Roberts
Bottom Feeders - IPFW, UMKC, North Dakota, Southern Utah, Centenary, Western Illinois. No one seems to have what it takes to win this league besides the top two teams. Oral Roberts is too banged-up, South Dakota plays too small, and everyone else just doesn’t have enough. If someone else not named Oakland or IUPUI ends up winning this conference tournament, it would be a Disney-style underdog story.
Oakland – The only team that can beat this team is IUPUI. And they already faced them twice. You can pencil them in for a trip to the finals.
IUPUI - They have three very dangerous scorers (Robert Glenn–18.5 ppg, Alex Young –18 ppg, and Leroy Nobles–13.5 ppg), they will be a 20-win team, and could be Oakland’s Kryptonite. Remember at the beginning of the year? I said D wins the Summit League. They allow 67.8 points per game; I like love this team.
SDSU – The Jackrabbits live by the three-ball, and they die by the three-ball.
ORU - We keep talking about their close losses, five by three points or less, but at some point, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to make free throws and easy jumpers. ORU does neither.
NDSU – North Dakota relies on their execution of the offense and getting open looks in order to win games. They are not athletic enough to cut and slash. I don’t see this team going too far in the tournament. They have only nine wins and its mid-February.
UMKC – Will likely end up with the seventh seed, but could get as high as fifth. Then again, the Roos have IUPUI and Oakland coming up, so they could miss the tournament altogether.
WIU – The Leathernecks are somehow holding on to that final spot in the conference tournament with a 3-10 conference record. This same record could also get you the eight seed in the Pac-10 tournament this year.
Centenary – Sure, they are on the outside looking in, but they aren’t that far out, and it’s never too late to turn the season around! They swept the season series against IPFW, and they have a chance to sweep Southern Utah and scoot into the conference tournament, with some help.
SUU – The Thunderbirds are 5-6 at home, and winless on the road (0-11). Next game: on the road at IPFW.
Games to watch
February 13: IUPUI @ Oral Roberts - This game lost any significant when ORU choked at home against the Leathernecks, but it’s still the best game of the week.
February 20: Oral Roberts @ Austin Peay (ESPN BracketBuster) – ORU needs this game if they want any confidence going into the conference tournament.
Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
The Summit League (Conf. W-L — Overall W-L)
IUPUI 9-1 16-7
Oakland 9-1 15-8
Oral Roberts 7-3 12-10
South Dakota State 7-3 11-10
IPFW 5-5 10-10
North Dakota State 4-6 7-13
UMKC 3-6 9-11
Western Illinois 2-8 8-12
Centenary 2-8 7-14
Southern Utah 1-8 5-15
Last Saturday, Oakland was able to tie the record for consecutive conference wins with 16, but they couldn’t beat the record, getting hammered by IUPUI 78-54. The Jags capture the top spot in the conference, and all of the sudden, it’s a four horse race for first.
Oakland center Keith Benson earned another Summit League Player of the Week award with his 22.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in two games against North Dakota and South Dakota. Pro scouts are starting to attend Benson’s games on a regular basis now, and he has a good shot at landing a seat on an NBA sideline.
IUPUI crushed Oakland on Thursday, making them the front-runner in the conference. I have said all year long, Oakland does not impress me, and they are beatable on any night. The Jags are picking up momentum, and they are the best team in the Summit as of today. Oral Roberts dropped a close game to their crosstown rival, the Tulsa Hurricanes. The loss was a big punch to the gut of the Golden Eagles (usually blowing a 15-point second-half lead does that), but it may have been a blessing in disguise. Since that loss, ORU has rallied to win back-to-back conference games in blowouts, and they still have their eyes on first place.
Alpha-squads: Oakland, IUPUI, Oral Roberts
Contenders: South Dakota State
Long-Shots: IPFW, North Dakota State
Bottom-feeders: UMKC, Western Illinois, Centenary, Southern Utah
In my standings I have three alpha squads and one contender, but in reality, only three teams can win the conference. Oakland, IUPUI, and Oral Roberts have a combined conference record of 25-5. The bottom seven teams? 24-44.
IUPUI—very impressed with the Jags. Not a single team has been able to stop Alex Young (18.1 points) and Robert Glenn (18.2 points), and having two guys that can carry the team is a really nice asset. They are my pick to win the whole thing.
Oakland–don’t get me wrong, I still like these guys, as they have the most talent in the conference and it should be their turn to make the Big Dance. But they just haven’t been able to close the deal as a favorite… ever. So I will believe it when I see it.
Oral Roberts—seven of their ten losses came by a combined 30 points. That’s 4.3 points per loss. A couple more buckets, a few more free-throws, fewer injuries, and this team could be 19-3, and might be a darkhorse favorite when the conference tournament rolls around. Don’t forget, #12 New Mexico, Missouri, and Stanford fell to this injury-depleted team. Oakland and IUPUI could as well.
South Dakota State—lost to Oakland by three on Saturday, and their only bad game in the conference came early in the season against IUPUI. I still think lightning could strike and they end up in the conference semifinals or heck, even the final, but there is no chance they win the conference.
IPFW—4-1 in their last five conference games (dropped a close one to SDSU 65-64), but their next two games are against IUPUI and ORU, so that run could come to a screeching halt.
North Dakota State—they can be dangerous if they are shooting well, but they just don’t have the guard power that is needed to contend in the Summit. Whenever they face an upper-level team, they get exposed by the better point guards.
UMKC– they haven’t showed me enough to even be considered a long shot. They don’t have the ability to score more than 60 or 65 points a game, and like most of the teams at the bottom of the conference, they lack depth on their bench. 3-6 so far in the conference, and to be honest, I don’t think anyone expected much more this year.
Western Illinois—they are 8-12, but their wins have come from Truman State, Central Arkansas, Greenville, Culver-Stockton, Savannah State, Centenary, and Southern Utah. I don’t think those wins will boost your RPI.
Centenary—the hot start had all the Centenary fans believing (4-2), but since that time they have gone 4-12. David Perez has cooled off considerably, with his scoring average dropping to 16.9 points. On defense they are giving up 81 points per game.
Southern Utah—the Thunderbirds still have eight games to turn this season around and make it respectable, but they have only won one game since Christmas, so those prospects are grim.
Games to Watch
February 6 – Oral Roberts @ Oakland – Oral Roberts’ last chance to close the gap on Oakland before the tournament.
February 13 -IUPUI @ Oral Roberts – IUPUI will be looking to put away ORU, and perhaps clinch the number one spot.
Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
Oakland 12-7 (6-0)
IUPUI 12-7 (5-1)
South Dakota State 9-8 (5-1)
Oral Roberts 9-9 (4-3)
UMKC 8-8 (2-3)
North Dakota State 5-10 (2-3)
IPFW 7-9 (2-4)
Centenary 6-11 (2-5)
Western Illinois 7-9 (1-5)
Southern Utah 5-12 (1-5)
IUPUI beat Oral Roberts at home 90-87. You can now legitimately argue that IUPUI is just as good as Oakland, if not better, and the Golden Grizzlies will be looking over their shoulder the rest of the way.
Oakland is on a 12-game conference win streak right now, dating back to late last year. The record is held by Cleveland State with 16. The way things are going for Oakland, they are going to blow that record away.
In Thursday night’s game, both IUPUI coach Ron Hunter and ORU coach Scott Sutton went an entire game shoeless to draw awareness to Samaritan’s Feat, a nonprofit organization that accepts shoe donations and distributes them to needy children worldwide.
The Summit was quiet last week, with only four games played. However we still learned a couple new things: 1) IUPUI is good. Oakland is still better, but how much better? I can’t wait until these two meet again. The power struggle between these two will be the top storyline going forward this year. 2) Maybe ORU can’t overcome the bad hand they have been dealt by injuries. It’s a shame, because it was looking like IUPUI, Oakland, and ORU were going to battle until the end. ORU just can’t win on the road, and even though the two losses to Oakland and IUPUI were by a combined six points, it’s still clear that they are on the outside looking in.
Alpha Squads: Oakland, IUPUI
Contenders: South Dakota, Oral Roberts
Long Shots: North Dakota, UMKC
Bottom Feeders: IPFW, Centenary, Southern Utah, Western Illinois
In a nutshell, there are three teams that can win the conference from this point in the season and South Dakota State and Oral Roberts are fighting for that third position. The Golden Grizzlies and the Jags are rolling while Oral Roberts is reeling, but they can bounce back. It is going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Oakland: Still Rolling. I am really impressed with preseason player of the year, Jonathan Jones. Is it safe to change his name to Jon Jones yet? This guy is a man, and he owns every guard in this conference. He is clearly the number one player. His stat line is not huge, just 12/6/2 stls, but he doesn’t have to score with all those weapons available to him at Oakland.
IUPUI: Hear those footsteps? That‘s IUPUI closing the gap on Oakland. Big conference win over Oral Roberts at home. People are paying attention now.
South Dakota: The enigma team. They shouldn’t be doing this well, but they are. It probably has something to do with having three players shooting 82% or better from the line. No other team has more than one. That can get you wins in close games they might have lost in the past.
Oral Roberts: Their three conference losses came from the three teams above, does that mean they are the fourth best team? Maybe, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish right here in fourth. Scott Sutton is a great coach, but no coach in America can survive a long season after losing half his team.
UMKC: Just a little short on talent to compete with the big boys, but on a good night, they could squeak by South Dakota and Oral Roberts.
North Dakota State: They are a long way from the days of Ben Woodside. 5-10 is not where you want to be to say the least.
IPFW: I had a fan ask me during one Summit League game “what is a Mastodon (the IPFW mascot) anyway?” I said, “kind of like an elephant.” They could use an elephant in their roster; they’re too small to be a serious threat to anyone.
Centenary: The Gents are already having a better season than last year, and although his production dropped, David Perez is still scoring 17 points a game.
Southern Utah: They lost to IPFW and only managed to score 56 points. They are in serious need of offensive production.
Western Illinois: They blew out Centenary by 19, so we know they can still win. I hate to see teams play poorly, so I hope they can start getting things together in the second half of the season.
Games to Watch
Tulsa @ Oral Roberts, Wednesday, January 20. 7 p.m. – Rumor has it that this game is already sold out. Over 11,000 fans expected for this one, and it should be split right down the middle. Crosstown rivals will be battling for the Mayor’s Cup, and city pride on the line. This game is always good, and both teams want to win it and can.
Oakland @ South Dakota State, Saturday, January 23, 7:30 p.m. - I cant imagine Oakland losing this one, but its #1 vs. #3 in the conference, and it could be a great opportunity for South Dakota to prove something.
North Dakota State @ Oral Roberts, Thursday January 28, 7 p.m. - Oral Roberts is looking to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss at home that won the Summit League regular season crown for NDSU. There is a lot of bad blood between these two schools, and no Ben Woodside to save NDSU. Expect a good, close game.
Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Oakland 22-9 (16-2)
Oral Roberts 21-10 (15-3)
South Dakota St. 18-11 (11-7)
IUPUI 17-14 (9-9)
North Dakota St. 14-14 (8-10)
Southern Utah 13-16 (8-10)
Western Illinois 13-16 (6-12)
IPFW 11-18 (4-14)
UMKC 9-20 (4-14)
Centenary 6-23 (2-16)
Johnathan Jones (G), Sr, Oakland
Garret Callahan (G), Sr, South Dakota St.
Dominique Morrison (F), Soph, Oral Roberts
Jon Avery (F), Sr, IUPUI
Keith Benson (C), Jr, Oakland
6th Man.Hunter McClintock (G), Fr, Oral Roberts
Impact Newcomer. Larry Wright(G), Jr, Oakland. The junior transfer from St. John’s University, should have an immediate impact on the Summit League. Two years ago he led the Red Storm in three-point field goal percentage, and he should be the perfect replacement for Erik Kangas, The Oakland great who set the all-time single season mark last year with 145 threes. Wright’s long-range shooting could be the key to Oakland’s success.
What You Need to Know. The Summit League is like the little engine that could. Every year, it produces a scrappy team that creates some hype in the NCAA Tournament. Last year Ben Woodside and his rag-tag boys from North Dakota State challenged the defending national champs (Kansas), and just came up short 84-74. This year’s Summit League has the potential to produce a similar Cinderella story, with teams like Oakland and Oral Roberts reloading with some really talented players. Watch out for Oral Roberts and their newcomer Damen Bell-Holter (Mr. Alaska 2007, top 50 center prospect on Scout.com) who has the potential to dominate the lesser big men in the conference. Defense is the key to winning the Summit League. Last years champ NDSU held their opponents to 69.1 points per game, and Oral Roberts, in their three straight championships from 2006-08, held their opponents to 62.0, 64.9, and 68.1 points per game.
Predicted Champion. Oral Roberts (NCAA Seed: #14). With all the questions about age and inexperience with the Golden Eagles, it seems that Scott Sutton has the answers with his experience and skill level as a coach. Give him talented players, and his team will always compete. If Oral Roberts clinches another Summit league title, it will be their fourth championship in five years. I think a tough non-conference schedule (at Wake Forest, Missouri, New Mexico, Louisville,and Stanford) will be a trial-by-fire, and help their young freshmen mature quickly. The tough schedule also will help the NCAA Selection Committee give them a more favorable seed, especially if they win a couple of those big games (best bets are at home against New Mexico and Missouri). A #14 seed in the Big Dance will give Oral Roberts the Cinderella tag. A first round win is not out of the question for a Scott Sutton-led ORU squad.
Why: Because you’re just as nutty as we are to spend an entire Friday night watching glorified practice sessions
If you’re a frequent visitor here at RTC you’ve probably seen what we do on weekends during the season, meaning our live-blogging during TV game broadcasts that we call Boom Goes The Dynamite (and if you’re the one person who still doesn’t understand that reference, get yourself over to here). We do this because not only do we love watching college basketball until our faces are numb, but we dig the comments of people who are sitting there on their couches watching right along with us and the in-game discussion it generates. In my view, it’s one of the best things we do here. As you probably know, even though it starts at 6pm in some places and most places don’t have the midnight start time any more, Midnight Madness is this Friday night; our beloved countdown clock up in the right hand corner of the screen will hit all-zeroes, and many schools will be having some sort of event to celebrate the first official practice of the new college basketball season. ESPN and ESPN-U are sending analysts to nine different schools (specifically Connecticut, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Washington, Michigan State and North Dakota State) and will be showing some of the festivities at those venues from 9pm to 1am ET on ESPN-U. ESPN will be simulcasting right along with them from 11:30pm to midnight. By the way, Bill Raftery’s going to be one of the guys at Georgetown, which means we get an early dose of “Onions!!” and “A little lingerie!!” And I say thank God for it.
Our first Boom Goes The Dynamite of the year will take place this Friday night during the Midnight Madness coverage. I’m John Stevens, one of the editors here at RTC, and with some behind-the-scenes help from one or two of my RTC compatriots, I’ll be live-blogging during the ESPN-U broadcast, starting around 8:45pm ET and going all the way through 1am. We’ll be putting up our own thoughts on what we’re seeing and of course your comments as well, but we’ll also be putting up video footage as available, tweets from people who are at the Madnesses watching live, takes from discussion forums, and so on. So if you’re at home watching the broadcast, tune us in as well and get ready to hit the refresh button like a meth-addicted rat in a science experiment. We’ll be waiting.
Like the first trickles of a flash flood, the verbal barrage about our beloved sport really started picking up this week. There’s a lot more previewing, interviewing, writing, talking and salivating going on around the college hoops blogosphere. Let’s take a look at some of the items that are catching our interest…
Dissecting Duke’s Recruiting. Gary Parrish wrote an interesting article last week about Duke’s recruiting over the past five seasons and we had to comment on it because it fairly accurately depicts what the substantive problem with Duke has been in the postseason (i.e., away from CIS). We’re on record as saying that Duke hasn’t had a true game-changing stud since Luol Deng graced the gothic campus with his presence for one season in 2003-04. This is not to say that Duke has been without very good players during that time. Shelden Williams, JJ Redick and Gerald Henderson all come to mind as great collegians. But none of those players, and certainly none of the laundry list that Parrish mentions as some of K’s other ’top’ recruits (McBob, Singler, etc.), are the kinds of elite NBA-level talent that gets teams through the regionals and into the Final Four. There are of course notable exceptions (George Mason in 2006 is the most obvious), but this is Duke, and Duke is always taking a team’s best shot. They’re going to be very well coached, but Coach K and his staff know that well-coached moderate talent will lose out to elite talent more often than not. This is why when Parrish says that Duke needs to secure commitments from Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving in order to compete with UNC, Kansas and now Kentucky on the national stage again, he’s right. The Jon Scheyers of the world are great to have on your team, and will win you a lot of games over four years; but they’re not the players who can carry a team through rough spots en route to the Final Four. If you don’t believe us, check out who was the MOP of the 2004 Atlanta Regional, leading the team in scoring in both regional games and literally saving the team on more than one occasion with clutch buckets (hint: it wasn’t the more celebrated upperclassmen). Box scores here and here. If Duke is serious about getting back to the big stage again before Coach K retires, he needs players like Barnes and Irving to get it done. Fundamentally, Duke fans probably realize this, which is why each of these visits makes for tense moments in Durham.
Midnight Madness. So we’re only eight days away from the start of basketball practice, and thankfully the NCAA closed the loophole that meant we were having these things all month of October, like last year. But ESPNU will be back with coverage from 9pm to 1am EDT next Friday, with a simulcast from 8:30-9pm EST on ESPN. There will be coverage from nine schools this year, including Kansas’ Late Night in the Phog, Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness, UNC’s Late Night With Roy, and several others (Michigan St., Duke, Washington, Georgetown, UConn and North Dakota St.). RTC will hopefully provide live coverage in some fashion, but we’re still working out what that will be. Make sure to check back early next week for more details.
Location: Fargo, North Dakota Conference: Summit League — Tournament Champion Coach: Saul Phillips, hired 2007. Record at NDSU = 42-19 08-09 Record: 26-6 (16-2) Last 12 Games: 11-1, won 7. Best Win: vs Oakland 66-64 on 3/10/09 for the Summit tournament title after the teams had split the season’s two earlier matchups. Worst Loss: Southern Utah, 69-74, on 2/14/09, though the most heartbreaking was the 4-point loss at USC on 12/20. Off. Efficiency Rating: 103.0 (139th) Def. Efficiency Rating: 107.7 (285th)
Nuts n Bolts
Star Player(s): Ben Woodside (5’11″ senior guard), 22.8 ppg/6.3 apg and shoots 84.2% from the FT line and 42.7% from three. Unsung Hero: Brett Winkelman (6’6″ senior forward), 18.7 ppg/7.4 rpg and shoots over 50% from the field and over 80% from the FT line. Probably not as much “unsung” as he is simply playing behind Woodside. Potential NBA Draft Pick: None. Key Injuries: No significant injuries. Depth: 31.0% mins (170th nationally) Achilles Heel: Defense. NDSU lets opponents shoot 45.1% (254th) and 35.7% (251st) from the field and from three, respectively. Will Make a Deep Run if…: …Woodside can still hit shots even with the tougher defenses he’s going to face, AND he and Winkelman get some help from 1-2 other fellows who might find themselves benefitting from the attention Woodside draws. Will Make an Early Exit if…: …they don’t shoot well. This is where they live. This team shoots 49% and 41.2% from the field and from three respectively. That’s 3rd and 5th in the NATION, for those categories. If they don’t shoot well, it’s over.
Last Year Invited: None — this is their first eligible season. Streak: 1 Best NCAA Finish: n/a Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): n/a
Six Degrees to Detroit: None Distance to First Round Site: 235 miles School’s Claim to Fame: Alf Clausen, composer for The Simpsons, is an alum. School Wishes It Could Forget: That it wasted Woodside’s 60-point explosion against Stephen F. Austin in December; Woodside was the story, but NDSU lost that game 112-113 in three overtimes. Prediction: Do you want to see this team coming in the first round? Everyone’s going to be rooting for them. Woodside’s got a shooting eye that can turn out your lights and there’s probably not a lot of game film about. Still, probably a one-and-done debut. It’ll be fun to watch, though.
I’ve often said that the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is like Christmas for me. So what better time to make a Christmas, err, a March Madness wish list? Here, in no particular order, is what I want as the best three weeks in sports begin:
To hug a stranger at a bar while cheering for a player I’ve never heard of at a school I don’t know anything about.
Anyone who roots against a big underdog for the sake of his bracket to be forced to watch exclusively LPGA tournaments through the rest of March.
Another George Mason to make the Final Four. I’m looking at you, Siena.
A 16 seed to finally win a game, and not just for the free Arby’s burger. (This promotion, though, is sort of funny, especially this quote: “Each year at this time, people crave that Cinderella story – the team that takes everyone by surprise. Our new Roastburgers offer an unexpected change from standard greasy burgers.”)
A brawl between Gary Williams’ sweat and John Calipari’s gel in Round 2 (speaking of greasy things)
A cat-fight between Fran McCaffery’s wife and Rick Pitino in Round 2 (sorry, I must have that mascot brawl on my mind).
A game that goes seven overtimes. Six is nothing.
A buzzer-beater that will make Bryce Drew say, “Now that was impressive.”
A moment so memorable, I’ll always remember where I was when I saw it. (Unless I’m with Jim Calhoun. Wait, why would that happen?)
Someone just as fun as Stephen Curry to become the new Mr. March.
Jonny Flynn to keep doing his Energizer impression
To win my pool, though I’ll settle for keeping my bracket alive past the first day.
To watch my alma mater, Penn, try to win a game. What’s that? The Quakers aren’t in the tournament for the second straight year? And they had one of the worst seasons in recent history? Excuse me while I jump from the Palestra rafters.
Jay Bilas to stop hating on the little guy. How many mediocre schools from BCS conferences to do we need to see before we realize it’s the upsets that make this tourney tick?
To find a new villain other than Duke. How about … let’s see … um …. Oh, hell, I’m sticking with Duke.
The announcers doing the Cornell game to abstain from saying things like “I thought Ivy League kids were smart” after a bad turnover. SAT jokes are a no-no, too.
Players to stop thanking God after wins. I’m OK if Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado repeats this gem though: “I’ve got to use my quickness to outquick the opposing opponent.”
Bob Knight to offer a formal apology for once saying, “All of us learn how to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.” Hey Coach, those words you’re stringing together for your new website with fellow jerk knowledgeable hoops personality Billy Packer. I’m not entirely sure but I think it’s called writing.
Gus Johnson to yell even louder.
Any commentator who says the expression “body of work” more than twice in one sentence to stop getting lessons in awful announcing from Suzyn Waldman.
Gonzaga not to ruin my bracket for the millionth straight year. Please? If I win my pool, I’ll split the money with you, Heytvelt. You can use that cash for your supply of – and moving on!
To tune out anything that has to do with the economy, the wars, the demise of newspapers, octomoms and Dane Cook … and get sucked into a world of college hoops for three straight weeks, remembering so many great shots, players and moments that I have enough material to write another column gushing about March Madness 20 years from now.
And, of course, to cry during One Shining Moment. I mean, what?
So that’s my wish list. May Santa, I mean Greg Gumbel, come down the chimney and bring it to me.
From 850 the Buzz, apparently the usage of the word “unanimous” is a little ambiguous at the ACC offices in Greensboro these days, depending on who the player is they’re trying to promote (FSU’s Toney Douglas vs. UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough).
Now… on to the three dance tickets punched tonight.
# 10 – North Dakota St. (26-6, 16-2). NDSU is going to get a lot of national attention in the next week by virtue of the fact that this was their first eligible year in D1, and several players including star guard Ben Woodside redshirted their freshmen seasons to have the shot at the NCAAs they’re enjoying tonight, but remember that our very own John Stevens was all over this story before anybody – way back in mid-December when Woodside ripped the nets apart for 60 big ones. Tonight it looked as if their long-sought-after dream was dead, as the Summit League regular season champs found themselves down ten points with nine minutes remaining in the title game. Slow and steady, the Bison worked itself back into the game, and after Oakland’s Keith Benson tied the game with a dunk with 0:12 remaining, the ball was put into Woodside’s hands and the rest is history, 66-64.
Projected Seed: #13
Something to Remember: NDSU has the fifth most efficient offense in the country, and it’s predicated on great shooting and ballhandling. The Bison are #5 in three-point shooting at 41% and they are #11 in fewest turnovers per game. Whichever #4 or #5 seed gets this team had best bring their defense.
#11 – Cleveland St. (25-10, 12-6). Bubble teams all over America were cursing Gary Waters’ Cleveland St. Vikings tonight, as their Horizon League automatic bid earned over at-large lock Butler took one of the 34 available spots away from some hopeful team. Was it Creighton? Florida? St. Mary’s? We’ll never know for sure, but CSU held Butler stars Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward to a combined 21/12, and in so doing was able to make just enough plays on the defensive end down the stretch to get the upset win over Butler, 57-54 in their house. RTC Live had the liveblog coverage here, but if you were lucky enough to see the television coverage, you saw a team in Cleveland St. that wanted this game just a smidge more than their HL counterparts. The Vikings’ NCAA bid is their first since 1986.
Projected Seed: #14
STR: Cleveland St. played Kansas St. and West Virginia tough in losses earlier this year, and of course they beat Syracuse on the ridiculous 75-footer, so this is a team that won’t be intimidated as an underdog in the first round of the NCAAs.
#12 – Western Kentucky (24-8, 15-3). WKU started this Sun Belt title game on an 11-0 run, but South Alabama wasn’t going to just give the Hilltoppers the game so easily, as the Jags fought back to tie and even briefly take the lead in this one for a period in the mid-second half. But WKU, led by AJ Slaughter’s 18 pts and Stephffon Pettigrew’s 15/7, was not going to be denied, and Ken McDonald should be commended for the excellent job he’s done with a team that lost its star backcourt of Courtney Lee and Tyrone Brazelton (not to mention head coach Darrin Horn). Western Kentucky earned its 21st trip to the NCAA Tournament and its second in a row tonight.
Projected Seed: #11
STR: This is an unpredictable team. Although they finished the season winning eleven of their last twelve games, earlier in the season the Toppers lost by 28 to Murray St., 32 to Evansville and 28 to Mississippi St. They also defeated Louisville by 12. This is probably why WKU ranks #265 in Pomeroy’s consistency statistic.
QnD Conf Tourney Updates.
Big East. Did you hear that the sixteen-team Big East Tourney started today? Georgetown and Cincinnati must not have gotten that memo, because neither team showed up for its own funeral, losing first-round games to the dregs – St. John’s and Depaul, respectively. Yes, Depaul, the same team that was 0-18 in the regular season. At least Seton Hall managed to beat S. Florida and Notre Dame kept its disappointing season alive for another day.
MAC. The MAC first round was today, and there were no major upsets. CMU, Kent, Ohio and Akron all advanced.
MEAC. The MEAC also began today, and the two higher seeds Hampton and FAMU advanced.
WAC. Another opening round, where Fresno St. “upset” the higher seeded Hawaii.
For Tomorrow’s Viewing Pleasure. We’re starting to get serious now. The Big Sky and NEC hold its title games Wednesday, and the A10, Big 12, Big West, CUSA, Mountain West, Pac-10 and SWAC get it started. We’re rapidly approaching bracket nirvana.