Friday, March 19, 2010

A Historic Day for the Mid Majors

I thought this was what a lot of Power 6 teams were saying to themselves after their games yesterday. Plus, I love "Toy Story" and now my two boys do as well.

Before I am "Back with the happy recap!" as Bob Murphy used to say, I wanted to note Jerry Beach's latest article on the Pride, er Dutchmen losing their CBI game to IUPUI (which I noted to him sounds like Eupi, the Montreal Expos mascot). Take a look at all of those CBI attendance figures Mr Beach lists. Even the defending CBI champion, Oregon State couldn't fill a third of their arena. Appropriate song for the CBI, Jerry - "Goodbye to You".

As I sat in my office or at home or at the Main Event in Plainview NY watching the games, or from all of yesterday's tweets I was following from Beach and Kyle Whelliston, who God bless him, picked the perfect regional to go to in Providence. One thing became apparently clear and this text late last night from my friend Mo Goldman in Arizona said it all.

Best opening day you can recall?
My answer "For mid majors? Absolutely!" Yes, March 18, 2010 will go down as one of the greatest days for mid major teams in the first round of NCAA Tournament in history. You had six mid major teams - Old Dominion, Murray State, St Mary's, Butler, Northern Iowa and Ohio (Oh My God, Ohio!) all win their first round games. You had a two seed, Robert Morris, come within a Mouphtaou Yarou layup and several questionable referee calls from beating Villanova in regulation. And several other teams such as Montana, Sam Houston State and Lehigh gave very respectable showings in their games.

Where to begin? Well, I think the most impressive game was Ohio's absolute annihilation of Georgetown last night. The game was never really close from when D.J. Cooper hit his three to put the Bobcats up 20-18. The lead was SEVENTEEN with thirteen minutes left in the second half. The Hoyas cut it to seven with four and a half minutes left, and they had a chance to cut it even further, but Chris Wright missed a three. And Cooper then hit another three to put the Bobcats up ten and ball game.

The only thing left to decided was whether Ohio was going to give us all free tacos by scoring 100 points (sorry old Taco Bell promotion). But 97 points put on the Hoyas by a team that was ninth in the MAC? Well you have to watch Armon Bassett in action and then you'll see why. He was terrific last night.

The game that gave me the greatest pleasure though was watching Butler put a fifty spot in the second half on UTEP, which turned a six point halftime deficit into an eighteen point romp for the Bulldogs. Shelvin Mack buried three after three in the second half for Butler. And there I was sitting alone on my couch with the windows open on a beautiful March early evening, clapping my hands, cheering every Mack three pointer. It was absolute fun for a team I have watched all season and believe is one of the best sixteen teams in the country.

And there will be a guaranteed mid major in the sweet sixteen as Butler will face Murray State, who used a Danero Thomas buzzer beater to knock off #4 seed Vandy 66-65. The Racers got their 31st win on the season, which is just flat outstanding.

Down six at the half, Blaine Taylor switched to a zone just like he did late against VCU in the CAA semifinal and the Monarchs stunned Notre Dame 51-50. Typical Monarchs score and they held Luke Harangody to four points.

Omar Samhan showed Richmond why he was the WCC player of the year as he had 29 points and 12 rebounds as the Gaels squashed the Spiders 80-71. Mickey McConnell added 23 points as he buried five three pointers.

UNI used an Ari Farokhmanesh three pointer with about five seconds left to get past UNLV 69-66. Farokmanesh who nearly singlehandedly dismantled ODU in their bracketbuster game led the Panthers with 17 points.

The only disappointment was to see Robert Morris lose their game to Villanova in overtime after being ahead for just about the entire game. The refs helped out with some at best questionable calls but the 23 Colonials turnovers didn't help either.

But other than that, it's hard to quibble with such great results. And with teams like Siena, Gonzaga, Xavier, Utah State and the Cornell vs. Temple game, we could see easily another four-five mid majors in the round of 32. Would be a wonderful thing.

"Strange Things" are certainly happening for the power conferences. And those are good things.

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