Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This Week in Mid-Majordom, 1/14

First, a quickie announcement: for those of you who have no interest in the mid-major stuff or you happen to be the one dude checking out the JCCW in the hopes of seeing basketball coverage rather than Auburn football, there's now a box at the top of the sidebar where you can pick which subject you want, if even my beautiful writing isn't enough to interest you in reading about the other. (*sobs*) The links go to all JCCW posts tagged as such. This means clicking one or the other immediately after loading the page might cost you the occasional post that fits neither label, so I'd recommend just good old-fashioned scrolling, but if you want it there it is. Second, TWIMM will irregularly look at a few random storylines of interest. Nothin' too special.

Reggie Chambers, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Week for Florida Gulf Coast. The school, not the geographic location.

Very upsetting. When you have 340-plus Division teams and 31 different conferences, the law of averages demands a few college hoops results here and there that make you cock your eyebrows. But there's been a couple this week that have passed that point-of-response and gone directly to "full-on double-take."

One of them came Monday evening as Florida Gulf Coast downed league-leading East Tennessee St. 64-61. ETSU came in at 5-0 in A-Sun play and toting a decent nonconference performance, with wins over multiple SoCon squads and Marshall. FGCU, meanwhile, is only its second year as a full D-I school and has spent its entire existence mired in the 270's (or worse) of the RPI. Hell, the school itself didn't even exist until 1991.

But the Eagles had already been surprisingly good this year--a four-point loss to Bradley, a win over FAU--but still, a 7-10 (3-3) transitional team isn't supposed to beat 11-4 (5-0) current league front-runner in the RPI top 130. Behind a 2-to-1 advantage at the free throw line, five fewer turnovers than the Bucs, and a defensive effort that held ETSU star Courtney Pigram to 10 points on 3-of-14, shooting, though, the Eagles managed it, and in the process stamped themselves as by far the most promising of the A-Sun's contingent of D-I newcomers.

ETSU had company in the realm of the stunningly defrocked, however, as Niagara took their 4-0 MAAC record, 13-3 mark overall, and top-80 RPI to face 6-11 (2-3) RPI 197 Marist and got absolutely housed, 86-68. The Red Foxes--seriously, why aren't more teams nicknamed after some variety of fox? Who doesn't love foxes? You could call the women's teams the Vixens, it'd be great--took a 19-point into halftime and were never even threatened. That the Purple Eagles stumpbled is one thing--to get destroyed by a team 140 spots lower in the Pomeory ratings is a bad, bad omen. And with that, still-perfect preseason favorite Siena looks ready to cruise home to the regular season-crown.

Maybe the bullseye isn't so heavy after all. One of the more interesting developments to watch in mid-majordom over the conference season is going to be how Davidson fares in SoCon play. After all, after playing on national TV half a dozen times and being universally expected to sleepwalk their way through the SoCon slate, the Wildcats could be forgiven--even expected--to lose focus at times over the January and February slog, right? Combine that with an entire conference full of teams who know their seasons would be made with an upset of mid-majordom's current glory boys and their hotshot Lebron-approved NBA stud, and the recipe's there for an upset or two, right?

Hasn't happened yet. Since escaping Bobby Cremins' College of Charleston (almost certainly Davidson's only halfway-serious challenger for the auto-bid) home upset bid with a four-point win Dec. 29, the Wildcats have won their next three SoCon match-ups by an average of 18 points, including this week's 70-52 cruise past a competent Appalachian St. team on the road. In other words: the gap looks to be as wide as ever.

Jack London would approve. Even for someone who follows mid-majors as (relatively) fanatically as I do, some teams still manage to sort of slip through the mental cracks. This is achieved by being consistently terrible, but never so terrible the program gains that awful brand of Savannah St./NJIT level of winless notoriety. Which is how a team like the Stony Brook Seawolves--who have been a member of America East since 2000-2001 and have never even come close to qualifying for the NCAAs or making any sort of real noise in the league--have never made a dent in a consciousness as open to mid-major-sized dents as mine. (Or ... something.) How anonymous have the Seawolves been? Even Kyle's never really had anything to say about them, at least that wasn't related to their being a potential victim for poor NJIT or mascot antics.

Now, the Seawolves' eight-point win over an atrocious Dartmouth team this week isn't going to do a lot on its own to change that. Stony Brook beat the Big Green last year, and they're even worse in '08-'09. And the Seawolves are still 211th in the RPI, still 218th to Pomeroy, still 1-2 in conference with an ugly 10-point loss to a Maine team not much better than Dartmouth. But it was Stony Brook's ninth win of the season, meaning they've already matched the most wins of any season in coach Steve Pikiell's four-season tenure. It did keep the Seawolves up over .500 overall at 9-7, a huge accomplishment for a team that hasn't had a winning season since a 17-11 year as an independent in 2000-2001. It does mean that maybe they'll snag just enough attention that certain basketball-obsessed losers will be able to remember they're in the America East rather than the NEC.

So, yeah, it's not much. But it's something.

No comments: