Saturday, November 25, 2006

Feast Week: No Feast, all Famine for Major’s

As a pure basketball fan, you’ve got to appreciate the current state of college basketball where the assumed “mid-majors” are equally enjoying center stage with the traditional major programs. We are only a few weeks into the season and it’s too early to make outright predictions, however aside from Florida steamrolling over sub-par foe (we’ll see what happens in Saturday nights Florida/Kansas showdown in Vegas), the landscape of college basketball is completely wide open and I love it! Some may call me hypocritical because I root for Duke (the Yankees, Fighting Irish, and Cowboys of college hoops) but in all honesty, this is great for the continued success of all programs, big and small, throughout the country.

Just last Saturday I provided a list of significant upsets against top flight division one teams within the first week or so of basketball. Sports writers throughout the country insisted that the general public should not “over hype the early upsets” – see Jay Bilas’ blog from November 17th on ESPN ( – but is it over hyping or just facing reality? Instead of downplaying the losses of the Goliath programs, we should celebrate the victories of the David’s of the world. Below are some of the impact mid-major victories that have happened throughout Feast Week:

- Picked to finish sixth in the Horizon League, the Butler Bulldogs remain unbeaten by upsetting Gonzaga in the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden – They leave NYC with wins over Indiana, Notre Dame and Tennessee

- Blake Ahearn, the man who held off J.J. Redick to a close second in free-throw shooting for the past three years, lead Missouri State with 25 points while defeating 7th ranked Wisconsin

- Not a good week for the Big East as they offer five of the weeks top seven upsets:
Old Dominion took down Georgetown (albeit Georgetown is in much better hands as the year progresses), Cincinnati fell to woeful Wofford, Jackson State upended Rutgers, Brown got the better of Providence (at Providence) and Seton Hall lost to FDU at home (FDU’s last defeat of SHU was in 1968!) – let’s hope these early losses are indicative of things to come for the Big East

- Marist beat Minnesota in the Old Spice Classic – lead by the best point guard you never heard of Jarrod Jordan (lead the nation in assists last year AND put up 21pts/8asst/8bds in a close loss to Arkansas)

- And without diminishing Butlers early victories, the biggest “Shocker” of them all is Wichita State’s victory over the 6th rank LSU Tigers lead by combo-guard/forward P.J. Couisinard’s 11pts/7bds (despite Big Baby’s outstanding individual effort; 17pts/14bds). This coming after the Shockers edged last year’s darling, George Mason, last Saturday at GM during the Final Four banner-raising ceremony

If this trend continues throughout the course of the year, multiple mid major teams and conferences may end up with similar RPI ratings as those of the majors. Conferences who have historically received one automatic bid may receive additional at-large bids due to significant out of conference wins, leaving the big conference, “on-the-bubble” teams out of the tournament. Surely this will lead to continued debate as to whether or not the field of 65 (play-in game) needs to be expanded. Funny how this is even becoming an issue because a few major programs and conferences are complaining when for years the mid-majors have been at the beckoning call of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee for years.


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