Thursday, January 29, 2009

Before and After, 1/29

Before

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Oakland at North Dakota State: I'm well aware there are bigger, brighter, sexier matchups on tonight's docket. St. Mary's gets their first shot at more-or-less locking up an NCAA bid when they travel to Spokane to take on still-underrated Gonzaga. Patty Mills, Josh Heytvelt, Austin Daye, Omar Samhan, the Kennel ... it's going to be a hell of a game. And over in Logan, Utah St. will put their unreal efficiency numbers--they lead the nation in points-per-shot--to the test against Nevada, the only team with a prayer of stopping the Aggies from rolling to the WAC title.

But I can't help it: I'm fascinated by this year's Summit League. Entranced. Mesmerized. It's a tale of three teams: one is the mainstay, Oral Roberts, who have earned more than their fair share of bids over the past few years and along with IUPUI have bestrode the conference like a colossus for most of this decade. The second is the up-and-comer, Oakland, who have scratched and clawed and gnashed their teeth behind O-Rob (and IUPUI) for years and fervently believed that 2008-2009 was going to be the season it all came together. And then there's the interloper, North Dakota St., eligible for the league's auto-bid for the first time and bringing with them a giant-killing pedigree, the league's best and most recognizable player, and even a media-friendly story you may have heard about how an entire recruiting class redshirted one season so they'd be around for a run at the Dance. It surprised me not at all to find out in a classic rant at Storming the Floor yesterday that Golden Grizzly fans are positively seething at how this season--with ORU and NDSU both two games up in the Summit standings despite Oakland having handed the Bison their lone league defeat--has played out so far.

As I wrote last week, Oakland is a good team. This ought to be their year. But it's rapidly slipping away from them, and the only way to stop it is to do things like beat the Bison again in Fargo. And if OU's Erik Kangas can keep pace with Woodside, they just might do it.

After

Buffalo 74, Western Michigan 71: Buffalo's star player--Rodney Pierce, 7-of-14, 4-of-8 from three--was just a little bit more efficient than WMU's star player--David Kool, 6-of-17, 2-of-10 from three--and that pretty much made the difference in an otherwise evenly-matched and well-played game. (The two teams combined for only 15 turnovers.) Buffalo now has a deathgrip on the MAC lead, a game up on everyone in the loss column and with three straight home contests against the dregs of the league, but WMU can come away encouraged as well: by taking Buffalo to the wire, same as Ohio and Akron did (and preseason league favorite Miami couldn't, even at home), they showed their hot start in the MAC wasn't purely a function of their easy schedule-to-date.

p.s. the "Golden Grizzly" pic that leads off this post was plucked from the archives over at Cracked Sidewalks. I like it 1,000 times more than a picture of a bear.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

OU goes as Jones and Kangas go. Jones has been phenomenal lately at really limiting his turnovers and finding kangas at the right times and really going into the post with Benson and Hudson to a degree. After that there's not a lot of help offensively. Maynard (fr) is going to be a fine player but right now all he can do is knock down perimeter shots and opposing team's players who are taking charges.

Should be a great tourney, especially if some darkhorse like Centenary can reel off a couple of wins.