Saturday, March 15, 2008

Championship Week diaries: Day 7

Mid-major-wise, Friday and the lonely isolation of the Patriot final is the calm before Saturday's storm of auto-bids.

Hope you rested up--that Big West final tonight isn't going to be finished for a long, long time.


--You know what I think would really drive me out of the coaching profession (if, hypothetically, I ever entered it)? Plays like the one that finally sealed Colgate's fate--the Raiders were down three with the shot clock off, their coach calls a timeout, draws up a play, and as the players are starting to execute it the guy with the ball holds it out like Hamlet contemplating the skull of Yorick. Steal, foul, ballgame, play never even run, effort undertaken not to strangle player and resulting increase in blood pressure cuts seven months off coach's life.

--Here's your object lesson this week in the importance of turnovers. American got ourebounded, outshot from both the field (the Eagles went 6-25 in the second half) and the line, and equaled on threes despite taking nine more shots from beyond the arc. But they only committed five turnovers to Colgate's 16--ta da, that's 11 more shots, five more free throws, and there's your bid.

--Obviously American's not entirely chopped liver with a win over Maryland on their resume, but, uh, they're going to have to shoot a lot, lot better from deep (4-of-17 vs. Colgate) to even hang come the tourney. Full kudos for their first bid (and for Garrison Carr hitting several "Wow, that's a bad shot ... nevermind" shots), but this final just wasn't played at the level we saw in the Bucknell-Holy Cross Friday afternoon Patriot classics from the last couple of years. So it goes.


--I've been telling everyone who's asked (well ... OK, just "everyone") that the best bet for a great-big-giant-whopper of an upset this year was going to be Stephen F. Austin. They've got the scoring margin, they've got the quality upset, they've got the league title--the same recipe Northwestern St. took with them from the Southland when they beat Iowa two years ago, the same recipe Winthrop had when they pulled the only quality upset of last year's tourney. It was going to happen.

Well, right up until they turned the ball over 17 times against Northwestern St. and lost by three. Damn it. This would be more acceptable if computer-approved Sam Houston St. or even league co-champ Lamar were still around to collect the auto-bid, but instead it's Southland 7-seed Texas-Arlington vs. the under-.500 Demons for the title. In short: a league with two excellent upset candidates and a third reasonable one is going to instead send a team a) with the kind of shot at an upset that Larry the Cable Guy has at an Oscar b) that's going to bump up some other team that ought be a 16 to a 15, a 15 to a 14, and basically lower the mid-majority's chances for a mega-upset across the board. Robert Morris taking the pipe was bad; this was worse.


Also appropriate under this heading: if Va. Tech gets in because they "looked like a tournament team" against UNC today, I hope Dickie V and Mike Patrick fall down a flight of stairs. A short flight, yes. But still.

All right: the JCCW will be back full-throttle tomorrow.

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