Monday, March 10, 2008

Championship Week diaries: Day 2

Missoui Valley

--Four title games through Sunday, four demolitions. I truly, truly love me some mid-major college hoops--yes, I watched all the way to the bitter end of the Drake-ISU blood-letting--but goodness gracious I'm hoping one of tonight's games stays within single digits. At least a little bit of drama would be a nice change-of-pace, ya know?

--I'm well aware of Adam "David Eckstein" Emmenecker's avalanche of awards and feel-good puff pieces, and let me make this clear: Emmencker is one hell of a college basketball player. But let's also make this clear: Emmenecker is a bit turnover-prone and is not the best player on his team. That player, as the Butler game made clear, is Josh Young. Which is what was the single most impressive thing about Drake's scorched-earth, hide-the-women-and-children victory yesterday: Young went an anonymous 3-of-8 for 7 points. And Drake still had the game decided by halftime. There's a reason they ran away with a conference that should not have been, um, runawayable.

--I don't know if I've ever seen a team who takes as many threes from as deep as Drake. They must have taken a dozen shots from [pick your favorite metaphor of distance ... I'll go with the apropos "downtown Des Moines"] and never flinched. It's one thing to be comfortable shooting the three; it's another to be comfortable shooting the NBA three. It doesn't really strike me as a problem (the Bulldogs have shown they've got the range and fer Chrissakes they have a Korver on their team) but I do wonder if that increases the likelihood of the sort of 4-for-25 disaster that ran SIU out of the NCAAs last year.

--You could see where the Osiris Eldridge hype was coming from and I'm quite sure ISU didn't win 13 Valley games by accident, but ... they were brutal yesterday. Two steps too slow on defense, way too many forced shots on offense (with Eldridge a major factor), and no one besides Eldridge making even the slightest impression on the game after the 9-4 start. If I'm a Committee member and this was my only bona fide look at this team ... there's not going to be much benefit of the doubt, is there?

I said Saturday I thought a runner-up ISU would sneak in over an ousted VCU, but after yesterday--and after more carefully considering the Colonial's representation on the Committee--I think I'm leaning the other way now. If it comes to a head-to-head for the final bid, I think the conference title and slightly superior nonconference performance (the Maryland win in particular) swing it for the Rams. More on the bubble in a moment.

--Really like the Sunday afternoon CBS spotlight carved out for this game. It shouldn't sound like a bigger deal just because Dick Enberg is calling it, but ... it sounds like a bigger deal just because Dick Enberg is calling it. And the Valley final deserves to sound like the biggest deal possible.

The Bubble

Both good news and bad news from the mid-major perspective yesterday. The good of course came in the ACC, where Virginia Tech missed again on a top-50 win (they're a lovely 0-6) and Maryland crashed-and-burned at Virginia. Both those teams would be toast if today was Snub Sunday. Kentucky was probably in regardless (a hot team six games over .500 in the SEC named "Kentucky"? Yeah, they were getting a bid), so the 'Cats shoving Florida further down the ladder helped, too.

But Ohio St.'s win over those overrated flunkies from East Lansing really hurt--the Buckeyes shouldn't get in just because they squeaked out a couple of desperation wins at home over a pair of teams that aren't that good to begin with, but they will. Syracuse's win over Marquette Saturday likewise shouldn't have moved their needle so much, but it did--I think the winner of the 'Nova-'Cuse Big East tourney game gets a bid. Oregon's late surge in a conference as stacked as the Pac-10 probably has them in, too.

Where does that leave our current hopeful mid-major bubblers? As I'm not convinced at all by the resumes of the likes of New Mexico or UAB, I'm currently with the guys at Bracketology 101: if the bubble stays exactly where it is, I think both ISU and VCU shoehorn their way in (I think St. Mary's is safe. W's over Drake and Oregon are gold and the only "bad" losses were to a decent San Diego team in an Diego. They're good to go).

But that's the problem: the bubble isn't going to hold. Butler, Memphis, Xavier, Davidson, and Gonzaga aren't all going to win their conference tourneys. Ole Miss, Va. Tech/Maryland, and the mass of A-10 schools aren't all going to fail to make a run.

My current guess? VCU is the last team into the field. ISU is out. I'm hoping I'm wrong about that second one, but it doesn't look good.

1 comment:

David said...

You were right, you did give up after tuesday...how am I supposed to not pay attention in Employment Law without your words of interest concerning mid-majors, jerry? Oh well...if you've caught up on Lost, let me know before it's on tomorrow night, we'll throw a party.