Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th Haunts the Mid Major Bubble Teams

So why am I doing this article at 1:00 am in the morning. Well after a night that this mid major fan had, how can I sleep. I might as well write. I find it ironic that we have already had two months this year with a Friday the 13th (last month, February also had a Friday the 13th).

So Midmajor teams St Mary's and Creighton had potentially lots to fear today. But the day that Triskaidekaphobiacs fear the most started off peaceful enough if you were the St Mary's Gaels, the Creighton Bluejays or a fellow fan of the mid-majors as several fellow bubble teams lost.

A lot of what you needed from yesterday's posting occurred.

1) Minnesota loses - Check. The Gophers lose 64-56 to the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan State. At least puts them in the bubble discussion.
2) Kentucky loses - Check. The Wildcats lose to LSU by nine 67-58. Should be squarely NIT bound.
3) Virginia Tech loses - Check. The Hokies do their best to put up a fight and lead for a good part of the game, but in the end fall to North Carolina 79-76. Hokies with a below .500 conference record are NIT fodder.
4) Ohio State defeats Wisconsin - Check. The Badgers are now another team that's part of the bubble discussion with a 10-8 conference record and under 20 wins.
5) Mississippi State soundly defeats South Carolina 82-68. Getting clocked by 14 points in the SEC quarterfinals is not good news for the bubblicious Gamecocks.

Then just like all horror stories and movies, day turned into evening. The vampires and zombies might have well come out. And there might as well have been Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" playing. Because we were reminded that yes, today indeed was Friday the 13th....

Don't go around tonight,
Well, its bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.

Yes, if you were either a top ranked team/top seeded team in your tournament or St Mary's or Creighton, Friday evening was definitely a horror movie in the making. You might as well had Freddy Krueger anchoring Sportscenter using his claws to work the telestrator.

It first started out ok as Illinois was crushing Michigan by twenty in the second half 54-34 with seven minutes remaining in their Big Ten Quarterfinal matchup. It looked like the Wolverines were certainly playing themselves out of the NCAA tournament. Then the moon must have rose, cause the Wolverines went on a 11-0 run over the next two and half minutes to cut the lead to nine with plenty of time left. Thankfully the Wolverines wouldn't get any closer and lost 60-50 to the Illini in a somewhat more respectable score. So the Wolverines are now definitely part of the bubble discussion, but it could have been a lot worse for the Wolverines had they lost by twenty.

Unfortunately for mid-major fans, the worst was about to come as Freddy sharpens the claws and starts up the highlights...

First, the A10 reared its ugly head. My friend Mal predicted this and it came true. Christmas Time in Atlantic City. Temple's Dionte Christmas was hitting the jackpots. And Xavier rolled snake eyes the entire night. Temple 55 Xavier 53. Give the Owls credit as the held the Musketeers to their lowest point total of the season and their lowest shooting percentage of the season (34.5%). Getting only nine foul shots and hitting only five though if you're a Xavier fan (or a Xavier fan for an evening), certainly not good. And it was "Black Christmas" time (if you remember the movie) for mid major fans as Dionte poured in 20 points and left the Musketeers to fatally fall on their own swords.

That was just part one of the Friday the 13th Atlantic City A10 Massacre. Part two was yet to come.

Meanwhile, in the ACC. Wake Forest should have renamed itself Wake the Hell Up Forest after the debacle I watched this evening. The #9 team in the nation looked more the #1 team most likely to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Maryland outplayed them the entire game as the Terps rocked the Demon Deacons 74-62.

Wake shot an absolutely horrid 29 percent from the field. And watching this unfold on ESPN2, it was quite apparent that the shots they were putting up were just ridiculous. Their big man, James Johnson who did have 20 points, took four ill advised three point attempts and bricked all four. They rushed down the court often and took off balance shots. It was just bad. Jeff Teague should have been benched for his shoddy point guard play. However, give Maryland's Greivis Vasquez a lot of credit. Kid can play. He had 22 points on the night.

So now the Terps have life and are now part of the bubble discussion. A team that went 7-9 in conference is now getting support for being an at large. Great.

The bad moon continued as another bubble team, San Diego State, got life from the Bad Moon. The Aztecs, who if my history serves me correctly performed sacrificial rituals (how fitting for Friday the 13th), were only seventh in the Mountain West this season in free throw shooting at 69 percent. Yet tonight, the Aztecs shot 19 of 22 from the foul line. Meanwhile the team that was fourth in the Mountain West in free throw shooting at 73.2 percent, the Cougars, only shot 15 of 23 from the foul line. The result, San Diego upset the #1 seed in the Mountain West, BYU 64-62. San Diego State seems to have cemented an at large bid by making the MWC finals. Great.

By the way, is anybody kind of now freaked out that a school named their mascot after people who used to perform human sacrifices? Didn't really think about that till now. Thanks March Madness!

Anyway, we continue on with "Night of the Living Bubble". What's Friday the 13th without a really good scare?! Well, if you were a Bluejays or Gaels fan and you were following the Utah State - New Mexico State game, you got a dandy of a fright. In the seemingly annual battle of the Aggies in the WAC Tournament, Utah State got out to an early ten point lead, 19-9. It was just like those movies, where the young teenagers are playing in the lake, all happy, all having fun, having romantic interludes and the stuff. :-)

Then it happens, the serial killer rises from the lake and starts causing havoc. Or in this case, New Mexico State started making, sorry for the pun, a killer run on the #1 seed in the WAC. As in a 38-15 bloodbath of a run. New Mexico State takes a 13 point lead into the half and mid major fans everywhere are going "NOOOOOOOOOOO!".

Then the second half begins and Utah State starts mounting a comeback. But try as they might, Gary Wilkinson and company seem to be fighting insurmountable odds. With a little over four minutes left, Utah State is still down eight, 68-60. Then just when it looks like Voorhees has them in for the final kill, our heroes Wilkinson, Tai Wesley and Pooh Williams turn the tide on the evil New Mexico Voorhees and go on an 11-2 final run as Tyler Newbold hits a jumper with four seconds left to put Utah State up one 71-70. But just like Jason, New Mexico State leaps back up and attempts a three but misses at the buzzer. The Gaels and Bluejays fans leave the movie theater relieved but with their hearts in their throats. Utah State survives and we don't have to yet worry about the possibility of an at large Aggie team in the mix.

But, meanwhile in the Big 12 we are getting treated to the basketball version of Prom Night, with the Baylor Bears playing the part of the killer slasher. First it was eighth seed Nebraska by 16. Then the big kill, as the Bears knocked off the Prom Queen, #1 seeded defending national champion Kansas in the second round. Then the Friday Night Lights special as Baylor came back late to knock off #4 seed Texas 76-70. You know its Friday the 13th when Baylor finally beats Texas after TWENTY FOUR STRAIGHT LOSSES over TWENTY ONE YEARS. Baylor now only needs to knock off Missouri to get the automatic bid for the Big 12. Still, there is a little calm because Missouri can win tomorrow and make all right for mid major bubble teams.

However, the second half of the Friday the 13th A10 Massacre begins as Dayton, the other A10 at large lock team, takes on Ron Everhart and friends, otherwise known as Duquesne. This one was not going to have a happy ending. Duquesne took the lead for good 16-14 with eight minutes left in the first half. In the second half, the carnage truly took place as "Them Dukes" took it out on the Hazzard County Flyer Police. Duquesne went on a 12-2 run and went up by eighteen 61-43 with 6:45 left. As the fans headed out then to play poker in the Tropicana, them Dukes were on their way to a 77-66 win over the Flyers.

So what Creighton and St Mary's fans feared the most, an A10 final without either Xavier or Dayton. Thus the likelihood of three A10 teams in the tournament - Xavier, Dayton and the winner of the championship game looms large. One less spot.

The news at the end of the night got a little better. Florida lost to Auburn. And Penn State probably played itself off the bubble by getting buried by Purdue 79-65. The game was never close, as the Boilermakers were often up by twenty plus in the second half. Not a good impression to leave in your quarterfinal matchup.

But still after Friday the 13th had ended, the carnage was done. Most likely two guaranteed bubble spots were taken; one by sacrifice practicing Aztecs, the other by Atlantic City gambling A10 uprisers Duquesne or Temple. And a third spot may have been taken by Twerps, I mean Terps. And a fourth spot could be taken up by the Prom Night Baylor Bears.

Wow, what a horrorfest Friday the 13th was. Maybe now I can go to bed. Maybe.

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