by Ken Pomeroy on Wednesday, December 15, 2004
I can't begin any post today without announcing how disappointing it is to hear that Rick Majerus will coach USC next season. It's a great move for USC, but a blow to humanity, as Majerus will likely never appear as a analyst on a college basketball game again. Fortunately one of his rare TV gigs was captured for posterity in a game diary I did on the Michigan/Georgia Tech game a couple of weeks ago. Had I been able to see the future, I would have devoted more words in that post to the magnificent job he did that night, and less on game action. Rick, you will be missed. May your oh-fense be filled with dunks and lay-ups.
Siena beat Youngstown State 79-78 in four overtimes last night. Quadruple overtime is something that happens roughly once in every 3000 games. The last time was on January 8, 2003 when Akron fell to Ohio 112 to 104. Ohio played in an astounding seven OT games that season (one short of the single-season record) with a total of 12 overtime periods (two short of that record).
Since its birth for the 2000 season, the Mountain West Conference has enjoyed the perks of an unofficial automatic bid for its regular season champion. Along the way, champs with RPI ranks of 50, 64, and 70 have received at-large bids. This season may be the first where the conference tournament is the only way to get a bid. It's so bad for the MWC that UNLV's win at Auburn on Saturday was, without question, the premier victory for any conference member so far. And we are almost two-thirds of the way through the non-conference schedule.
No other MWC team has a win over a team that will be considered for an at-large berth, and it's doubtful even that Auburn will. The only realistic at-large chance within the conference is New Mexico. But they'll need wins over both Tennessee and Wake Forest to make up for a dreadful non-conference schedule.
So where are the MWC's usual second bid and occasional third bid going? From history, we know that the extra bids are likely to end up in the hands of the major conferences. But there's a chance a bid could go the MAC or WCC. And it's pretty obvious now that the Missouri Valley is a multi-bid league, barring some unbelievable parity within the conference.
An MVC team with as many as four conference losses will almost surely get a bid, and I expect any five-loss teams to get serious consideration. Even teams that aren't expected to compete for the conference crown got impressive wins over the weekend - Evansville winning at Western Kentucky [correction: game was at Evansville], and Illinois State coasted over Marshall. There's still time for all the good to be undone over the next three weeks of non-conference play, but based on the season-to-date, that's not something you should expect.
The one conference that could use a little more publicity is the Sun Belt. The conference sits tenth in the RPI due to member schools upgrading their schedules across the board, with respectable results to go with it. But an at-large from there is a longshot. Now if Louisiana Lafayette could knock off NC State tonight...