Thursday, February 26, 2009
This week in mid-majordom is in danger of being crushed by a dwarf
Recognize the gentleman above? You should. Well, I mean, you should in the sense that you definitely would if you'd watched This is Spinal Tap a dozen times, and I think it goes without saying you should have seen Spinal Tap a dozen times, right? On the off-chance you haven't, though, that's Ian "Not a Big College Town" Faith, Tap's manager, as played by screenwrite and comedianTony Hendra.
So, what on earth does Ian have to do with mid-majordom? Well, I'm hanging out with a couple of friends at a bar last night, and we've got our booth's little mini-TV tuned to Navy-American (because you know, it's me we're talking about), and one of my friends says "Hey,that's that guy from Spinal Tap," and I look over, and a moment later he's back on camera AND HOLY HELL IT'S THE MANAGER FROM SPINAL TAP! Turns out his son is Nick Hendra, a backup sophomore guard for American. You'll never guess how many points Hendra scored in the win last night that sealed American's Patriot championship. Go on, guess. Give up? 11. Duh.
This whole thing of course means nothing at all to you, I'm sure, if you're not a Tap fan. (It's also possible you're aware of the connection already and I'm just rehashing common knowledge.) But for the uncontrollably geeky of us who run around saying things like "How much more black could the MAC's nonconference performance be? None. None more black," this was just about the awesomest thing ever. Not that I don't love all my mid-major friends equally, but maybe I'm going to have to start loving American just a little more equally.
(Oh, as for the game: I wasn't particularly impressed by American. They couldn't finish at the rim (36 percent on 2's? Ugh), didn't play particularly smothering D, and could very well have lost at home with a chance to win the league title if not for an awful, ticky-tack block call on Navy with the Midshipmen up one in the final minute. However: leading scorer Carrison Garr had an off-game, the Eagles shot the ball well from outside, and they've got enough size and experience on paper that they could prove nettlesome for a power-conference team ... much as they did last year against Tennessee. I was unimpressed when I saw American last year, too, so I'm thinking I may have just caught them on the wrong night.)
Bad luck. Most mid-major followers know that it's been forever and a day since the Valley regular season league champion failed to qualify for the NCAAs (1998, I think, was the last time), a possibility that most mid-major followers have likewise resigned themselves to if runaway leader Northern Iowa got picked off at Arch Madness.
At least, that was the case until Creighton reeled off nine straight wins to pull themselves up to 24-6 overall, 13-4 in Valley play, and generate some genuine at-large buzz. If the Bluejays grabbed the Valley crown and played their way to the tourney final, their wins over Dayton, St. Joe's, and New Mexico along with the championship of the RPI No. 9 conference might just do it.
But the league title is a big part of that equation, and it looks like the Bluejays are going to have to settle for being co-champions after Northern Iowa squeaked out a massive 69-67 road win over Illinois St. Tuesday night in double-overtime. The Panthers have only one game remaining, a home tilt against erratic (if rapidly improving) Evansville. Win that, and the best Creighton can do is equal UNI at 14-4. The Purple Aces will probably give it a good shot, but the odds are that the ISU game was Creighton's last best shot at cinching the Valley title.
If the Bluejays do indeed run the table up through the Arch Madness final, lose, and get the back of the Committee's hand, it'll be a shame--but worse, CU fans will also likely have to wonder if things would have been different had Illinois St. gotten just one more basket, just one more point in regulation or the first overtime.
Chaos. Delicious, delicious chaos. Conference tournaments start this Tuesday, if you can believe it, as the Ohio Valley and Big South get their underway. Two in particular that ought to offer more competitive bang for the buck:
Colonial: Four teams within two games of each other at the top of the standings, and the fifth team--Drexel--just got done losing to two of the threee co-favorites (Northeastern and George Mason) by a point apiece. Kyle's been screaming "George Mason! George Mason! George Mason!" all season, but all-seeing, all-knowing CAA scribe Michael Litos doesn't seem to have a favorite and Mason spent last night getting pushed to the edge by hapless UNC-Wilmington. I can't think of a league in the country whose semifinals are going to be as hard-fought as the Colonial's. Unless it's the ...
Southland: After a brief hiccup sent them to second (or even third) in their respective divisions, league cream Sam Houston St. and Stephen F. Austin have risen back to the top. But Nicholls St. and Texas A&M-CC have to reckoned with with their twin 9-4 records and lurking at 8-5 is UT-Arlington, who has far, far more Pomeroy juice than anyone in the league besides the two division leaders. A Sam Houston-SFA final would be phenomenal, but it just doesn't seem all that likely the brackets in this league are going to stay so neat.