College Basketball Nation: Richmond

Xavier's Mack takes to the Internet

February, 27, 2010
2/27/10
2:40
PM ET
Xavier coach Chris Mack isn't messing around.

See, Xavier's students are away on spring break right now, which is untimely for the basketball program. The Musketeers are tied for first place in the A-10 at 11-2, alongside Temple and Richmond, the latter comes to Xavier Sunday afternoon. It's a big game, and the students won't be there to create the sort of atmosphere requisite of the event.

That hasn't deterred Mack, though. Instead of lamenting the lost students, Mack took to Xavier message forum MusketeerMadness.com and enlisted Xavier's general population fans in the cause of making tomorrow's game "the loudest in the history of the Cintas Center." This is undeniably cool:
for the LOUDEST game ever in the history of the Cintas Center. You say NO students. I say NO excuse. We need our fans to be a TRUE 6th man this Sunday at 1pm. Our team needs you early. Our team needs you loud. If you're just going to come to the game to watch, give your tickets up. Heck, you can WATCH from home. I want our arena rocking!! Calling all PARTICIPANTS. This isn't a marketing ploy. This is your head coach, sitting at his home computer asking for the best fans in the country to come alive for 40 game minutes on Sunday LIKE NEVER BEFORE.

Xavier fans have responded in kind, leaving message after message in response to Mack's post -- the thread spans six pages and 58 posts as of this writing -- almost uniformly pledging their vocal chords to Mack's request.

Xavier fans, you officially have an excuse to act like college kids at a basketball game. These opportunities don't come along often. Enjoy it.
Saddle Up is our daily look at the hoops your TV wants you to watch tonight. Here's Wednesday night's rundown. Special programming note: I'll be flying to Indianapolis tomorrow to participate in the NCAA's mock selection committee, so my blogging may be a little light these next couple of days. I'm sure you'll find a way to persevere.

No. 7 Duke at North Carolina, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Given the average college basketball fan's general fatigue with Duke-North Carolina -- everyone likes to complain about the attention these two teams always receive, and not without reason -- you might be struggling to find a reason to care about tonight's game. After all, if North Carolina (13-10, 2-6 in the ACC) is this bad, what's the point? Won't Duke just roll?

Maybe. Maybe not. Duke is certainly a more complete and more polished team than the Tar Heels. Veterans Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler and the rest of Duke's formidable lineup constitute a major advantage over UNC's talented but inexperienced bunch. But it's not that cut and dry. Duke has major flaws, and one of them is that it's just not very good on the road. Let's not forget the Devils' trouncing at Georgetown two weeks ago. Nor should we ignore Duke's loss at NC State two weeks before that. Duke played very few nonconference road games, and it's been punished for it since, going 2-4 on the road in six tries overall. For a team with national title aspirations, Coach K's bunch has a way of looking decidedly average away from Cameron Indoor.

Meanwhile, North Carolina is in a horrific tailspin. What better way to turn the season around after losing six of your last seven than by getting a win at home over your hated rival? What better way to build confidence in your young players than by them proving to themselves they can play with an elite group like Duke? Or maybe the inverse happens: Duke dominates UNC at home in front of a disgusted crowd, and Roy Williams has to figure out how to get his team to recover from its latest disaster -- and how to talk to the media without sounding depressed and apoplectic after the game. The outcome will be high drama, in its own marginal way.

This might not be vintage UNC-Duke. You won't confuse tonight's lineups with anything you'll see on ESPN Classic. But sleep on it at your own peril. For reasons different than the past, this rivalry might surprise you yet.

Connecticut at No. 3 Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Speaking of intrigue, or a lack thereof ... ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present UConn-Cuse 2010! These two teams have taken opposite trajectories to end up where they are today. Syracuse was seen as a marginal Top 25 team at the beginning of the season; the Orange has morphed into one of the few viable challengers to Kansas' putative crown. UConn was a top 15 team to begin the year, and has morphed into a Jim Calhoun-less shell of its former self -- dominant shot-blockers on the defensive end (where the Huskies are No. 1 in the country for the ninth year in a row) and barely average at almost everything else. Jim Calhoun is being mentioned for coach of the year awards. Jim Calhoun is still on a leave of absence with no return date imminent.

It's hard to spin those conditions into something positive, even for me, and I'm positive (to a fault, admittedly) about any and all college basketball on my television. It's college hoops! It's awesome in and of itself! We get to watch basketball! Hooray for basketball! But it's hard not to feel the same sinking feeling many will have about Duke-UNC, and that many had about Kansas-Texas -- this game should be so much better. It's up to UConn to prove us wrong. (In the Carrier Dome. Against a dominant 2-3 zone. With a team that can't shoot. Um, good luck, I guess?)

No. 19 New Mexico at No. 25 UNLV, 11 p.m. ET: It would be criminal to focus on the above games and not give what could be tonight's best, most important matchup some love. New Mexico at UNLV is tonight's only game featuring two top 25 teams, and that's not the only reason to watch. Whoever wins tonight takes over first place in the Mountain West, where three teams (these two, plus BYU) are vying for NCAA tournament bids. Plus it features a matchup between the conference's two best wing players, New Mexico's Darington Hobson and UNLV's Tre'Von Willis. New Mexico rarely turns the ball over; UNLV thrives on forcing steals. New Mexico loves to get to the free throw line; UNLV never allows its opponents that luxury. Stay up past your bedtime, East Coasters. You don't want to miss the game of the night.

Everywhere else: Ohio State will visit Bloomington, where the Hoosiers have been a tough out all year. But tough enough to keep Evan Turner Line Watch from showing up in the morning? Doubtful. ... Northern Iowa will go on the road to play a pesky Drake squad, which wants this win forever, man (sorry). ... Georgia Tech has lost its last two games on the road and will try to avoid a third at Miami. ... Florida goes to Columbia, where a banged-up Devan Downey should be in the lineup. ... Northwestern's game at Iowa is a must-win for the Wildcats' tournament chances. ... and a pair of important A-10 battles -- Charlotte at Dayton; Richmond at Rhode Island ... will go down.
  • First, a few leftover Texas-Kansas notes: Mike DeCourcy writes that Kansas is making Big 12 dominance look easy. That causes Rush The Court to make a pretty trenchant observation: "Often you hear the media say that it’s a “wide-open field” as we’re heading up to the Tournament, only to say afterwards that Team X (as in UNC’s case last year) was “clearly the best team” after they win it all in April. I have a feeling that we’re going to by hearing the same contrasting platitudes this year, except that Kansas will be this year’s UNC." North Carolina occasionally stumbled during the regular season in 2009-10, only to roll through the tournament with nary a challenger. Kansas looks primed to do the exact same thing, only the Jayhawks already look dominant enough (and relatively stumble-free, at least so far) to win at all.
  • Yes, Bill Self has Twitter, and yes, he's using it to poke fun at Brady Morningstar: "Just got back to lawrence. Guys feel pretty good abt themselves. Different guys stepping up. Fun nite.how abt bradys ft. Never seen that."
  • In case you needed another look at that Texas-themed design on the back of the Longhorns' new Nike HyperElite uniforms, here you go. There's a star and some rays of light and a building, I think. It's actually kind of Art Deco, and I have a major soft spot for all things Art Deco. (Including Bioshock 2, which, yay, comes out today.) All it needs is an old-school train rolling through an idealized city and we'd be right there.
  • DeMarcus Cousins is an Alabaman, but that doesn't mean he has any love for his homestate school. Quite the contrary, in fact -- in this video by the Lexington Herald-Leader's John Clay, Cousins says he didn't attend Alabama because it was a "bad situation." When asked to elaborate on his coy response, the big man says he "doesn't really want to talk about it." Mobile Press-Register reporter Gentry Estes, who has an awesome name, says Cousins is probably referring to some hurt feelings over former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried's -- and then new coach Anthony Grant's -- decisions not to recruit Cousins due to concerns about his attitude. Whether Cousins would have attended Alabama seems unlikely anyway (why go to a transitional program when you can play for John Calipari at Memphis ne Kentucky?) but athletes still like to know they're wanted in their own backyard. Apparently, Cousins wasn't. So, yeah. If I were Alabama, I'd start devising ways to keep Cousins off the glass. A doubly motivated DeMarcus -- who has morphed into the most important and productive player in Calipari's lineup these last few weeks -- will be fearsome to behold.
  • You know what's confusing? Why Pierre Henderson-Niles would leave Memphis at this point in the season. Is the frustration with Josh Pastner -- or maybe it's the other way around -- so great that the two can't stick it out a while longer for the good of Memphis' tournament chances? Apparently so.
  • "The A-10 currently has six teams -- Rhode Island, Temple, Xavier, Charlotte, Richmond and Dayton -- in the top 43 of the RPI. That means when those teams start facing each other, which they will five times in the next 10 days alone, those games will be RPI helpers. Much like the Missouri Valley Conference in 2006, if results break the right way, all of these teams are going to have very strong computer profiles at season's end, with a series of league wins that should be very valuable in at-large consideration. This year, the A-10, literally and figuratively, could get a major at-large haul." That's SI's Andy Glockner on the A-10, which has a plethora of teams worthy of tournament consideration in 2009-10. It probably helps that the Missouri Valley isn't as good as it usually is, and of course it doesn't hurt that the Pac-10 is a one-bid league. Is this the year of the A-10? It's certainly looking that way.
  • Here's the story: Purdue blog Hammer And Rails runs a semi-joking post saying Syracuse is overrated because of the Orange's exhibition loss to LeMoyne. After Syracuse fans raid his house and threaten his family -- just kidding; they actually wrote very reasonable, well-received responses in defense of their club-- BoilerT does something people who spend their time arguing on the Internet never do: apologizes. It's a small victory, but this is what John Lennon was talking about, guys.
  • Athens Banner-Herald columnist David Ching makes the case for Georgia's Mark Fox as SEC coach of the year. It's no secret Fox has done a fantastic job in his first year in Athens; it's also no secret that coaches with his league record (2-6 in the SEC), no matter how hard their team plays, probably aren't going to win any awards.
  • Seth Davis says Georgetown learned from last year's letdown.
  • It's Tuesday, so here are your Tuesday Truths. Mr. Gasaway is especially good on why West Virginia looks better on paper than they do in person: "Take West Virginia last night. Please! (Har!) The Mountaineers have a really nice EM because they've been able to pummel teams like Rutgers, South Florida, St. John's, DePaul, and, yes, Pitt. Pummeling teams, even non-NCAA tournament teams, is a good marker of quality and I don't minimize that. Still, it's also true that Bob Huggins' team has seen its two main rivals, Syracuse and Villanova, come to Morgantown, and in those games the Mountaineers are 0-2, having been outscored by 0.06 points per trip. Looking ahead, West Virginia closes the season by hosting Georgetown and then going to Villanova. If they're smart they'll seize the opportunity to show what they can do against top-quality opponents."
  • Mike Brey isn't taking his foot off the pedal as Notre Dame hits the stretch run of the Big East. Brey wants to make the tournament. To ensure his players' complicity, he's started running two-a-day practices. Maybe a big deal, maybe not, but it's easy to see how that strategy would backfire, yes? Your players get mad at you and don't play hard, or, failing that, your players play as hard as possible but don't have the energy to compete late in games. It's a risky gambit, but like I said: Brey wants to make the tournament. He's putting his chips on the table. That's one way to do it.
  • Dan Hanner smartly explains the impact of RPI and how it relates to Northwestern's tourney chances.
  • Pete Thamel writes a brief vignette on Rhode Island 17-year-old high school player Andre Drummond, who Thamel says might be U.S. basketball's next great big man prospect.
As always, follow me on Twitter to send me your links and tips. Happy Tuesday, people. Try to stay out of the snow.

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