The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


NCAA Bracket Busters and beyond

The Red Zone
 NCAA Bracket Busters and beyond
NCAA Bracket Busters and beyond

NCAA Bracket Busters and beyond

College basketball, much like your Playstation 2, has a reset button. Every conference in America, save the intelligent folks up in the Ivy League, have decided to award their conference’s automatic NCAA tournament bid to the team that wins the conference tournament rather then the regular season championship.

In terms of basketball sense, this doesn’t make any, as it basically renders 14 to 18 games (depending on the league) moot while putting all the emphasis on three days in March.

It really doesn’t matter in the power conferences where multiple teams will get at large invites into the tourney, but in the lower half of America’s 31 Division I conferences this makes for huge heartbreaks. A team may go undefeated in its conference (like Davidson in the Southern Conference this year), but unless it wins the tourney the dream of playing in the Big Dance won’t be there.

What it creates is great TV which ESPN obviously banks on as it shows every championship game in the nation. The setup gives hope to every team that they can be this year’s Cinderella. The Red Zone’s problem is that the regular season tests the best team overall, not who is the hottest.

Obviously other sports have playoffs, but it is relegated to division winners and the very best other teams, while the NCAA makes it one big free-for-all.

The NCAA tournament is the best sporting event in the nation if you ask me, but wouldn’t it be even greater if there were even more upsets because a 24-7 Wisconsin-Milwaukee team is the No. 14 seed rather then the 14-17 Wright St. team that got hot to win the Horizon tournament?

It’s not over ‘til its over

Saturday featured two of the biggest comebacks in NCAA history as UNLV came from 10 down with 28.5 seconds to go to force overtime and then eventually win at San Diego St., 93-91. Pacific came from eight down with 27 seconds to go to beat Utah St., 64-63, in regulation.

First, let’s start with the Rebels, and I can personally say the Red Zone got a kick out of watching Chris Walton try to shoot with both hands around his neck as he air-balled the potential game tying free throws with 1.4 second left in overtime. But that’s just because his dad (NBA announcer Bill) is obnoxious. Seriously though, the Rebels managed to drill three three-pointers including the buzzer beater, that was a Hakeem Olajuwon-esque dream fade from about 25 feet by Curtis Terry.

Keeping Trimaine Davis on the floor was a huge coaching blunder by Steve Fischer as the 44 percent free throw shooter missed three of four to aid the Rebel run and eventual overtime victory.

Anybody who watched Sportscenter saw the Rebels comeback, as it was the lead highlight for most of the night, but Pacific’s was probably the more important of the two, but because it happened well after midnight in the eastern time zone no one saw it.

Does anyone else get bothered by the fact that if it doesn’t occur on the east coast it might as well not have happened?

The Tigers, then ranked No. 24 in the nation traveled to meet their nemesis Utah St., who had beaten Pacific 31 out of the last 32 times they played on the Aggies home floor in beautiful Logan, Utah.

It looked like the streak would continue as Pacific saw itself down eight with 27.5 seconds, but three free throws, a steal, a pair of deep threes by Mike Webb and two missed free throws by Utah State’s David Pak gave the Tigers the ball with a chance to win with 11 seconds left.

Pacific found Christian Maraker at the top of the key for the winning shot that extended Pacific’s winning streak to 16 games, second best in the nation behind a pretty good team from Illinois. Some might remember the then No. 12 seed Tigers spanking the No. 5 seed Providence Friars and playing the Kansas Jayhawks tough before finally losing in last year’s NCAA tournament.

Bracket Busters?

The annual event that gives some of the mid-majors of Division I a chance to get on ESPN and get a quality win to improve their NCAA chances has a couple of interesting games (and we won’t even mention the SMU Mustangs battling the Toledo Rockets).

The featured games involve the WAC’s two best, Nevada and UTEP. Nevada, coming off tits biggest win of the season in El Paso, stays at home to play the Vermont Catamounts. Some of the uneducated are laughing that Nevada-Vermont can be a huge match-up but check the RPI’s.

As I tell my friends that AP and USA Today rankings mean very little in college basketball, the RPI is what matters (somehow college football has missed the fact that polls are bad, playoffs with consensus national champions are good).

The RPI is a computer formula that has the 18-4 Catamounts as the 14th-best team in the country and the Wolf Pack from Nevada as the 30th.

A win by either team will be the type of quality win that the NCAA committee looks at in determining at-large selections if either should falter in their conference tournament.

The big match-up pits a pair of spectacular big men, in Vermont’s Taylor Coppenrath and Nevada’s Nick Fazekas. Coppenrath is the defending America East Player of the Year who should have been named to the All-Pac-10 team as well as he tore up UCLA in Pauley Pavilion for 37 last season.

All Fazekas does is score 21 points a night and grab nine rebounds all while looking only slightly less goofy then Shaun Bradley, although the big difference is the fact that Fazekas actually can play. The Red Zone will take Nevada if only because it’s in Reno, and because Vermont’s road trip getting there is absolutely horrendous.

UTEP travels to the aforementioned Pacific to try to snap the nation’s second-longest winning streak. There are people reading this right now going, where the hell is this guy from talking about some team from Stockton, Calif. all the time?

Admittedly, Pacific is about 30 minutes from where I graduated high school, and yes, I know how good they are because I have seen them play. Add in the fact that when UTEP’s running they are one of the most exciting teams in the nation, and we are presented with the best match-up that the Bracket Buster has to offer.

The No. 19 Tigers find themselves facing a serious match-up problem in UTEP’s Omar Thomas. The power forward is only 6-foot-5-inches, but he attacks the basket with abandon and scores 19.4 points a night. He will be matching up with the two-headed monster of Gullaume Yango and Christian Maraker.

The two forwards average 12.9 and 14.1 points respectively on the season and combine for nearly 14 rebounds a night, but they don’t have the quickness to stay with Thomas. The key for UTEP is whether do-it-all point guard Filliberto Rivera can consistently push the pace, and get small forward Jason Williams involved in the flow of the game.

If a finger can be pointed at one person for why UTEP has been slightly disappointing this year it has been the play of the electric Williams. He is averaging 12.5 points on the season, but has been nonexistent in the games that the Miners have lost (under nine a game in the Miners’ six losses).

If Pacific’s David Doubley can control the pace of the game from his guard spot and keep the score in the 60s, the Tigers will be victorious. The game means more to the Miners though (lost three of five) in terms of trying to get a tourney bid, and Williams will come up big as the Miners pull the upset in California.

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