So I put up my most recent Mid Majors Baker's Dozen yesterday. Well, leave it to me, "Kiss of Death Gary", to jinx two teams in that countdown, Wichita State and VCU.
First, Wichita State basically killed ANY hope for an at large by losing to Valley cellar dweller Evansville yesterday 65-62. The Shockers led by one, 20-19 with 4:36 left before the Purple Aces ended the half on an 11-0 run. The Shockers were down by as many as twelve in the second half and by ten points, 59-49 with 3:59 left before they went on a 13-4 run to cut the lead to one with seven seconds left on three Clevin Hannah free throws after he was fouled attempting a three pointer. But Evansville's Colt Ryan sealed Wichita State's fate with two free throws for the upset win.
That was Evansville's first win in conference all season. Ugh. The loss to the Aces rendered the Shockers' Bracketbuster game vs. Utah State useless. You can't lose to a team with an Insider RPI of 262, especially when it's their first win in conference all season and expect an at large bid. Wichita State now has to win Arch Madness to get to the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile on ESPNU in Fairfax, Virginia, VCU managed to blow a fifteen point second half lead and lose to George Mason 82-77 in overtime. I went to visit a friend in Astoria last night, so I recorded the game but have yet to watch it (I will sometime today). But I was curious to see how VCU lost, and since AP recaps don't give you the whole story, I reviewed the play by play.
When you review the play by play, three things stood out. The first thing was the nearly six and half minutes between the 18:54 mark when the Rams went up by 15, 43-28 and the 12:22 mark, when the Patriots cut the lead to four, 49-45. During that time, VCU missed two free throws and committed four turnovers while Mason shot 7 of 12 from the field. That obviously got Mason back into the game and hang around to tie at the end of regulation.
Another key play was when Larry Sanders picked up his third personal foul with 5:45 left in the game. He then bumped the Patriots Luke Hancock after committing the foul and drew a technical foul, which also results in being his fourth personal foul. That will come in huge at the end of regulation.
The third thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was with twelve seconds left with VCU up two the Rams T.J. Gwynn missed the second of two free throws. That meant Mason only needed a two pointer or in Cam Long's case, two free throws with four seconds left to tie. If Gwynn had hit the second free throw, the Patriots would either have needed a three to tie, or get a two pointer and then commit another foul to get the ball back. Gwynn missing the second free throw also resulted in Long drawing the fifth personal foul on Sanders. Without their leading scorer in overtime, the Rams were doomed to lose.
Not only did I jinx VCU, I also jinxed Larry Sanders too. Yesterday I noted that "Larry Sanders is making a serious push for CAA Player of the year." So not only did Sanders foul out yesterday, the first time he did that all season, he also only had four rebounds and one block, well below his season averages in both categories (he did have 13 points, 2 under his season average). So I must be a walking SI cover.
The loss really hurt VCU in the standings. The Rams are now two games behind Mason and ODU in the loss column for second, three behind Northeastern for first place. And with wins by Drexel and William and Mary tonight, VCU will be one game behind Drexel for the all important fourth and final first round bye spot in the CAA tournament and tied for fifth with the Tribe.
But if the aforementioned scenario plays out and if the season ends with Drexel fourth and VCU/W&M tied for fifth, it gets even worse for the Rams. Due to CAA tiebreaker procedures, based on their records vs Drexel, VCU would technically be sixth in the CAA standings since W&M swept Drexel during the regular season while VCU already has one loss to Drexel (the Rams host the Dragons on February 16).
So I am able to write today's column due to the "February Fury" blizzard that is impacting the Northeast, specifically the Long Island area that is the home base of the College Hardwood. Right now, at 11:30 (when this will be published), it has snowed only a few inches. It's supposed to pick up in intensity as the late morning/afternoon progresses. However, the "blizzard" did result in most, if not all schools and universities to close ahead of time, including Hofstra University. Thus I am home, watching my two sons as I type this.
However, tonight's game at the Mack Center between Drexel and Hofstra is still on. If the blizzard lives up to its billing, and right now that's a big if, having a game tonight would be very dicey. Jerry Beach covers this so aptly in his latest Defiantly Dutch column.
There may be several reasons why Drexel and Hofstra are playing this game tonight despite the inclement forecast. Drexel is probably already in town staying at the Hempstead Marriott and based on their travel schedules, it may be very difficult to postpone the game to tomorrow night.
However it is my intention, as I told my wife this morning, whether it's a blizzard or not, to be at the game tonight. First, I figure there won't be too many knuckleheads like Beach and me on the road. And having lived here my entire life, I know how to travel in the snow. Low and slow baby ( a little "Cars" quote for you all).
Second, if the game is played, there is a good chance that there won't be too many people at the game. If that's the case, these are the games where you can hear EVERYTHING. And that could have the makings of a really good column. And I can't pass that up. So if all goes well, I will have live updates tonight from the Mack. Drexel is looking to be in sole possession of fourth in the CAA while Hofstra is looking for its first win vs a top six team in the CAA. Plus, you can't pass up the chance to spend an evening with Bruiser Flint.