Posted on: November 13, 2011 5:26 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 5:32 pm
By Gary Parrish
It's just a November loss to a non-league opponent.
And Festus Ezeli didn't play.
So, in the end, Vanderbilt's 71-58 loss to Cleveland State won't matter much in any tangible way. It won't keep the Commodores from winning the SEC or making the Final Four, and it probably won't even affect their seed because the selection committee will recognize it happened with their starting center in street clothes. But, that said, this still hurts -- at least in terms or reputation -- because no school's preseason ranking was more questioned than Vanderbilt's, and Sunday's embarrassing loss at Memorial Gym won't do much to change the perception that the Commodores just don't belong next to North Carolina and Duke and Louisville, regardless of what returns and what enrolls.
It's still Vandy, the skeptics screamed all preseason.
On Sunday, they all laughed and mocked and joked on Twitter.
Will Vanderbilt get the last laugh?
I mean, I still like this team -- especially when it includes Ezeli. But the last thing a school already fighting perception issues based on postseason losses to lower-seeded teams needed to do Sunday was give skeptics more reasons to be skeptical, and that's precisely what Vanderbilt did. So now the Commodores will just have to deal with it ... and a ranking outside of the top 10, too.
Posted on: May 17, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: May 17, 2011 10:47 am
Posted by Eric Angevine
It's not easy following a legend. Homer Drew is a legend. Starting in 1988, Drew spent his entire DI coaching career at Valparaiso University, taking the Crusaders to the NCAA tournament seven times in 22 seasons. In 1998, the team went to the Sweet 16. Things have been a little more difficult for Drew and his program in the new millennium, as the Butler Bulldogs have become an elite team since the formation of the Horizon League, but the Crusaders won 23 games in Homer's last season, and are a good bet to stay in the league's upper echelon in upcoming seasons.
That's because Valparaiso was able to replace Homer the legend with another legend, his son Bryce Drew. Reports out of Indianapolis say that Bryce will succeed his father as Valpo's head coach, with an announcement coming today. Bryce may not have the coaching resume his father compiled, but he has major cachet nonetheless. As a Valpo player, Bryce hit one of the most famous game-winning shots in the history of college hoops. He did it against Ole Miss in 1998; the amazing Sweet 16 season.
1998 might be ancient history to today's recruits, but that video speaks for itself. There's little doubt that an Indiana kid will know the name Bryce Drew, and that name recognition could go a long ways toward keeping Valpo from sliding much - if at all - during this historic passing of the torch. Bryce also has someone he might occasionally turn to for advice, if Dad is busy fishing or something. His older brother Scott Drew coached Valpo for one season in 2002-03 before taking over at Baylor. Apparently the year off did Homer Drew some good, as he came back the following year and kept the Drew lineage intact long enough for Bryce to gain the necessary experience to succeed him.
Keeping the Drew family line going at Valpo is good for the school, and good for the Horizon League. While Butler is clearly the league strongman, the overall profile of the conference is bouyed by a tradition of tough opponents at Cleveland State and Valparaiso. Milwaukee has been an off-and-on powerhouse as well, and won the regular-season title in 2011. Wright State is often a contender, and Detroit is playing a very quick game of catch-up with coach Ray McCallum bringing in his extremely talented son, Ray, Jr. and adding 6-foot-6 Baylor transfer Nolan Dennis (per my soon-to-be colleague Jeff Goodman).
The Horizon League has an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the WCC, where Gonzaga's success helped bring St. Mary's into the national spotlight, and made a move to the league attractive for BYU as well. Not bad for a league very few fans east of the Rocky Mountains had heard of ten years ago. Keeping Valpo strong keeps the Horizon League strong, and hiring Bryce Drew was a great way to keep positive momentum rolling at one school, and therefore in the entire conference.
Posted on: February 24, 2011 10:05 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
So, Butler's back on top of the Horizon League, though things are hardly as cut-and-dried as they have been in the past.
Milwaukee's defeat of Cleveland State tonight put both teams at 12-5 in the league standings, right alongside the Bulldogs. The Valparaiso Crusaders had a shot at making it a quartet, but fell in ignominious fashion at home, losing by 20 to Illinois-Chicago.
In head-to-head play, Milwaukee owns a season sweep of the Bulldogs and a split with Cleveland State. The Vikings, in turn, went 1-1 with Milwaukee and were swept by Butler.
With one game left in the Horizon League season, each team faces a lower-echelon foe with plenty on the line before the conference tournament begins on March 1. The league's top two finishers get a double-bye in the postseason, and the final game for the auto-bid is played on the home floor of the highest remaining seed on March 8.
Don't look now, but even in a down year, it could be Butler all over again.
Posted on: January 31, 2011 9:03 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2011 10:48 pm
Posted by Matt Jones
One of my favorite events of the college basketball season is Bracket Buster Saturday, when fans of major conference teams get a chance to watch all of the best mid-majors in a series of created matchups designed to teams a chance to improve their March resumes. On Monday, ESPN announced the pairings that would get a national television showcase:
Friday, Feb. 18
With the possible exception of Kenneth Faried and Morehead State, the nationally televised portion of Bracket Buster Saturday generally includes all the right teams and virtually all the mid-majors with a chance to make March noise will be on our television sets that weekend. For those of you who prefer to have a weekend not dominated by mid-level college basketball or feel that you will have to “spend some time with my family,” here are the four can’t-miss games in order of importance:
Utah State at Saint Mary’s
Without question, the marquee pairing of the Bracket Buster weekend takes place in the Bay area suburb of Moraga, California, where the Gaels will host Utah State for a Saturday primetime affair. For both teams, this game represents the best chance remaining to get a resume-building win for March and a victory is extremely important. Utah State is currently 20-2 and ranked No. 21 in America, but it suffers from a serious lack of impressive wins. The Aggies only two games against solid opponents resulted in its two losses (BYU and Georgetown) and the most notable victory may be over a sub .500 Utah team. As for St. Mary’s, what looked like a solid at-large resume has taken a big hit with double-digit losses to Vanderbilt and Portland in the last ten days. If the Tournament was selected today, both Utah State and St. Mary’s would likely barely find themselves in the field, even if they slipped and were upset in the conference tournament. But success in a few weeks is not assured and for the winner of this feature game of Bracket Buster weekend, the margin of error for the rest of the regular season will be a bit greater.
George Mason at Northern Iowa
The battle of the last two mid-major teams to get the nation’s collective blood racing in March (Butler has joined Gonzaga in permanent non-mid major status in my book), represents the best chance for a team to win its way into at-large status of any game in the weekend. George Mason is locked in a three-way battle in the ultra competitive Colonial League with VCU and Old Dominon and the three teams are trading losses that will hurt on Selection Sunday. Thus, Mason likely needs a road victory in Cedar Falls in order to make its best case for a trip to Dayton as part of the “First Four” in March, not only for its team, but as a sign of the overall strength of the Colonial as well. As for Northern Iowa, the Panthers played their way back into the Missouri Valley race with a road win at Missouri State last week. While they likely need to end the season with an undefeated streak to get in the at-large discussion, the schedule does set up favorably to potentially pull off a surprising second straight MVC title run.
VCU at Wichita State
Virginia Commonwealth is on pace to get a rare at-large bid out of the Colonial, thanks to an impressive start in conference and a non-conference slate that includes a victory over UCLA. The Rams sit 10-1 in the Colonial and if they keep on the same pace, a win in heart of the Missouri Valley could be enough to ensure a trip to March Madness, regardless of what happens in the conference tournament. As for Wichita State, early season victories over Virginia and LSU, combined with competitive losses to UCONN and San Diego State, mean that the Shockers would be dancing if Selection Sunday were this weekend. They still have the heart of their Missouri Valley schedule ahead, including tough road games at Northern Iowa and Missouri State, meaning it is important to hold serve at home. Both teams in this game will likely be a part of the field of 68, but assuming they stay on their same path, the winner can go ahead and set up the camera shot for the CBS special with confidence.
Cleveland State at Old Dominion
Cleveland State is currently leading the Horizon League and is situated at 20-3, right on the bubble of contention for an at-large bid. The Vikings are led by the best player that no one ever mentions, Norris Cole, who is averaging 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists from the guard spot. The problem Cleveland State faces is its lack of top-quality victories over a non-Horizon opponent. A win at Old Dominion takes care of that weakness on its resume. As for the Monarchs, they sit third in the Colonial, but probably have the best set of wins of any participant in the Bracket Buster Weekend. Old Dominion has defeated Clemson, Xavier, Richmond and Dayton, while two of their five losses were to Georgetown and Missouri. If ODU gets anywhere close to the bubble, the Selection Committee will likely give them the nod, solely because of this out of conference work, and a victory over Cleveland State would only firm up their prospects even further.Photo: AP