Posted on: March 6, 2010 8:56 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2010 7:36 pm
The NCAA approved beverage was still flowing and the East Tennesse State Buccaneers were still celebrating their second straight Atlantic Sun championship when the NCAA’s interim president, Jim Isch, issued a statement condemning the possible expansion to 96 tournament teams and, shockingly, endorsing a retraction.
According to the statement, released only to CBS, the powerful minds at the NCAA saw the back-and-forth tussle between fifth-seeded ETSU and sixth-seeded Mercer for exactly what it was - an example how the college game can drastically differ from the NBA. And, to them, they couldn’t be more appalled.
“You know, I was sitting at home watching this game,” Irsch wrote, “and somewhere between Mercer’s bow-tied student manager stomping his feet and ETSU rushing the court in celebration, I said ‘Jim, this isn’t what college athletics is supposed to be like’. It was just too amateur.”
Under Irsch’s plan, devised during the Atlantic Sun tournament that pitted two teams with a combined 17 conference losses, the NCAA will now aim to make March Madness mirror the BCS bowl system. The top 10 teams in the country will earn a trip to the yet to be named five-game finale, with the last being a matchup between two teams determined to be the best by a group of guys who play March Madness on Xbox Live. According to Irsch, this is a fan-friendly plan that gives college basketball nuts what they want - the stars of tomorrow on their TV today.
“Every year, we sludge through this lengthy tournament full of teams that don’t have draft picks and that can‘t move jersey sales. Why? It’s just crazy. I mean, under this wacky system, East Tennessee State actually has a chance to win the national title,” Irsch said. “Are you kidding me? Those guys couldn’t cut it in the NBDL. It‘s really absurd.”
For now, though, the system remains the same, meaning East Tennessee State and coach Murray Bartow have a chance at the national title for the second straight year after winning the Atlantic Sun title. And, as they proved in Macon, anything is possible.
Posted on: March 5, 2010 12:13 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 3:01 pm
BY MATT JONES
While the preliminary games have been scattered throughout the week, in all actuality today is the day that Championship Week begins with authority. Last night we saw some random scatterings of games and one great finish, but Friday is the day that we start moving towards bids actually being given and the first battles of big teams trying to punch their March tickets. A primer on what you might have missed last night and what is coming today:
Missouri Valley First Round:
The most major of the mid-major conferences kicked off last night with Missouri State beating Evansville in a snoozer and Drake providing the first "March Madness" image of the 2010 postseason, with a buzzer beater victory over Southern Illinois. The Salukis had a ten point lead with just eight minutes to go, but then scored only six points to close out the game.
Big South Semifinals
The first championship game was set last night as the Semifinals of the Big South took place in front of family and friends. Coastal Carolina took care of UNC Asheville 93-72 and confirmed itself as the heavy favorite to make the NCAA Tournament when the finals hit on Saturday. In the first major upset of the Big South Tournament, Winthrop beat higher seeded Radford, 61-46 and will not face the fight Carolinas of the Coast on Saturday for the first official NCAA bid and the right to have their faces plastered on the halftime report of CBS games all weekend.
The first conference that has actually made March "mad" is the Atlantic Sun, where all the top teams are falling and a date in the Play-in game for the champion seems all but certain. Top seed Lipscomb lost to Kennesaw State (that is a real school), East Tennessee State and Mercer beat higher seeds Campbell and Belmont and now Jacksonville has reached its greatest heights since Artis Gilmore, as it remains the top-seeded team left in the tournament. The new favorite is probably ETSU, which rides a 5 game winning streak into wackiest tournament currently on the market.
1. The Most Competitive Day of Basketball You Didnt Know About
All season it has seemed that the conference crown would come down to a Murray State vs Morehead State tournament clash. We saw those two teams play each other on the College Basketball Road Trip and now they each need one more win for a rematch. Murray State plays Eastern Illinois and Morehead has Tennessee Tech, with both games on ESPNU. If you love college basketball and have no woman on a Friday night (those two things are not mutually exclusive), then settling down for some OVC battles in Nashville might be a good option.
They arent on television and chances are if you say you are watching the "Atlantic Sun", people will think you are attempting to find yourself on a beach while growing a beard. But there have been no games more entertaining than the ones taking place in Macon, Georgia. Mercer plays Jacksonville and Kennesaw State battles East Tennessee State, with the winners likely being the biggest surprises to play for an NCAA berth. And if you are reading this and already know what state Kennesaw State is actually in, then this blog and Championship Week are just for you.
Matt Jones is the founder of the college sports blog KentuckySportsRadio .
Posted on: March 5, 2010 12:33 am
Edited on: March 9, 2010 7:40 pm
When the Atlantic Sun tournament kicked off Wednesday at the ratings-driven time of 2:30 in the afternoon, the competition for the league's NCAA bid was as up for grabs as any in the nation , with the top four seeds all entering the tournament with the same 14-6 conference record. But, after one round, only one of those four teams (Jacksonville) remain in contention for an NCAA berth and the #5, 6 and 8 seeds are only two games away from going dancing.
The madness (think you’ll hear that word much?) started in the first game Monday when the eighth-seeded Kennesaw State Owls knocked off the top-seeded Lipscomb Bisons behind 9-11 three-point shooting from Kurtis Woods and Kevin McConnell. After sitting out of the Atlantic Sun tournament for three years as a part of their agreement to move up to Division I, it was a sweet reward for the Owls in Macon.
Wednesday’s night session offered a bit of a return to status quo as second-seeded Jacksonville and seventh-seeded North Florida squared off and made people wonder how Jacksonville can support two Atlantic Sun teams and struggle to support an NFL squad. Just four years removed from winning only one game, the Dolphins (that’s Jacksonville) benefited from the inside-outside combo of Ben Smith and Lehmon Colbert, who both went for 24 points in the beating of the Ospreys. It should be noted that this game matched the least intimidating mascots since former Kentucky player Donald Williams’ high school played anyone. Anyone.
On Thursday, the reigning Atlantic Sun tournament champions, East Tennessee State, got their (minor) upset on and knocked off another one of the 14-6 teams, Campbell, 72-64. The details of the game are foggier than Snoop Dogg’s tour bus, though, as the A-Sun site reports 32 points from junior guard Micah Williams sparked the comeback and ESPN says he didn’t play in the game. What is known, however, is that the Bucs are now virtually a lock to defend their title in the championship game. They’ve blown out Kennesaw State both times they’ve played this year. And there are no upsets in the Atlantic Sun.
If there is such a thing as a dominant force and a sure thing in the Atlantic Sun, the Belmont Bruins just might be it. The private Nashville school that plays on an anatomically correct basketball court won three straight conference tournaments before falling to ETSU in the semifinals last year and was one of those four teams tied for the top conference spot. But, just like their fellow first-place surnamed religious institutions, the Bruins’ NCAA hopes came crashing down in the first round of the Atlantic Sun tournament. Belmont, winners of 8 of 9 games, drew the home team, the Mercer Bears, and their formidable 14-16 record. And, on this night, just like in the English language, the Bears proved have more staying power than the Bruins.
So, what was considered to be a wide-open tournament to start because of the four-way tie at the top, now shapes up as a the most wildly unknown tournament thanks to some upsets. Jacksonville, based on seeding, remains as the favorite. ETSU, however, is now on a five-game winning streak that saw them beat the Dolphins (that’s Jacksonville) on the road last week. But, don’t count out the Mercer Bears and their home court advantage, who now hold my rooting interest for one reason only. Should they win, there is a possibility they could not accept the NCAA bid once the Baptist school finds out that it’s considered dancing.
Atlantic Sun basketball….I love this game!
What’s Up Next
#8 Kennesaw State vs. #5 East Tennessee State (6:30 pm)
#6 Mercer vs. #2 Jacksonville (9:00 pm)
Drama! (6:00 pm)