Happy 2009, Hoops Nation... Kyle Whelliston here to talk mid-major college basketball with you as you head into your second weekend of the week. Conference play is starting up all over the country in leagues like the CAA, HL, MVC and WAC. There's lots to discuss!
After a 30 point drubbing at Illinois State, is Evansville a team that can win enough games on the road in conference to make a run at a top half finish?
Too early to say what that game really meant, and the Aces' three losses have come to teams that are a combined 37-1. Eighty allowed points notwithstanding, the defense has improved enough that this team should finish at least .500 in the Valley. That hasn't happened in almost a decade.
Wow, lots of Valley questions today, I see the populace is pretty fired up for the beginning of conference games.
Is siu's season salvagable to where they make the postseason, or is there already no chance?
It's definitely salvageable, but time is running out. The fact is that the defense just hasn't come around yet on this young team. You wouldn't expect a SIU team to score a lot of points anyway (shooting in the 35 percent zone is kinda expected for these guys in recent years), but when they're giving up more than a point per defensive possession, things get ugly. And they are right now.
Where is the national media attention for Booker Woodfox of Creighton? Besides having an awesome name, he had been shooting well over 60% from three pt land over the last several games (prior to the most recent one). He is only playing around 27 mins. per game leaving him with a redunkulous efficiency rating. If he played 35+mins and took 27 or more shots a game like Stephen Curry, he'd have similar, if not better numbers. In a similar vein, the winner of Creighton-Illinois St game on Saturday will be the early front-runner for the conference title.
Hopefully we'll get to fix that attention thing in a very focused way by the end of the season. Me, I don't know if his name is better suited to be an extra in "Great Expectations" or a character on the Comics For Kids page. Redunkulous is right, and a reason why Creighton is so good is that he's the focal point now. Getting P'Allen Stinnett to fit snugly into the second-option role has been a huge factor this year, as any Bluejay fan knows.
After seeing the fire power of Houston Baptist the past couple of games, is there any doubt that NJIT might run the table for a second year in a row?
HBU is a very lovable team. Lots of seniors, and they are not feeling sorry for themselves the way a lot of other low-win teams do. They play hard every night, and opposing coaches I've talked to said that the Huskies put them through real battles. As for NJIT, I think they'll beat Bryant at home on Jan. 21. Their time is gonna come.
Can any team challenge Portland St. in the Big Sky?
I saw two of those teams up close yesterday here in Pocatello, Idaho (Idaho State and Northern Colorado), and neither game me that championship feeling. I think it'll be a walkover for those Gonzaga-beating Vikings, although Weber might be good enough to split with them.
Just wanted to say thanks for visiting the Spectrum last week and for the well researched article you did on the Aggies. I appreciate it when a journalist goes the extra mile to get the scoop. Just know you are always invited back to Logan, and if you want to experience the Spectrum at it's finest come to a Nevada, New Mexico State, Boise State, Utah, or BYU game. Love your work and plan on purchasing your book later this year.
I appreciate the kind words, Hipster. Everybody kept telling me not to expect much of an atmosphere with the students on break, and of course there are near-sellouts. It's a phenomenal basketball city.
So, who is the real deal? Davidson or Gonzaga? They both are playing brutal schedules and have some losses. Have they been over-hyped this year?
I wouldn't say overhyped, I'd prefer to frame it as that their weaknesses haven't been explored as much as they should be. Is that a slick enough answer? Davidson hasn't found a way to take load off Curry's shoulders, and Gonzaga has shown periods of extreme under-aggressiveness. Both have work to do.
How much better was your Spectrum experience over Lawlor last year? We already know they have the best atmosphere in the WAC(stay down Raggie fans), just want an outside opinion.
I'm going to give you the difference straight up -- Utah State fans are more organized, more ruthlessly efficient, and care less about offending people than any competitor. The Refraction is a cold-blooded wrecking machine. That's all there is to it.
I know you don't think the MWC is a mid-major (and I agree) but ESPN won't include them with the majors either (see the recent conference profiles). Where do we go for coverage? It seems like we'd be better off as a mid-major just so we can get some play.
The Mtn. network is a great resource, and BYU-TV does a great job too. Plus, you get all that women's volleyball. People may be shocked (or repulsed) to know that I've watched so much MVC VBB on television that I could do color commentary.
What do you make of Butler this year? Any predictions on the game tomorrow at valpo?
Each of the past three Butler teams have been progressively better, no matter what the final postseason result has been. The 2007 and 2008 versions relied on ball control to win, but this team can outshoot, outrebound and outclass anybody. I don't care how young they are, this is a better team than last year.
DATE1/2/2009 THIS/ISyour/OWNER/RAY/GORDON/REID WAYCROSS/GEORGIA ESPN/SPORTS/NATION/insider/TIME/WILL/BE/SOON 4.25PM HURRY
No chat is complete without an RGR question. I love this guy.
Any chance you will be in Normal on Saturday? How do you think ISU and Creighton will turn out...Should be a great game.
I'm still out here in the Mountain time zone, so I'll be streaming the game. I think Creighton will win, I think that's the tougher, deeper and better defensive team at the moment. But if Osiris Eldridge can deliver a massive performance for the Redbirds, it'll be the beginning of a serious POY resume.
What are your thoughts on the america east going into conference play tomorrow?
First of all, it's been a really undervalued league. It's put down three teams from top-10 RPI conferences in the last 10 days, and the teams have scheduled brilliantly. A .500 noncon record for a conference like this is nothing to sneeze at. There's going to be a lot of parity, but I like Albany and Vermont to fight it out for the title.
Hi Kyle, Xavier slipped up a little in recent weeks but how good do you think Xavier is. Also, how far do you think they can go in the tournament.
I've been saying this since November, but this can be a really sloppy team offensively -- turnovers, shooting, free throws, stuff like that. Those are fixable problems though, and X has been able to beat quality opponents because it has everything else. A Final Four trip isn't out of the question, but neither is an A-14 collapse.
We've seen a number of mid-majors play against "power-houses" and hold their own to a certain extent. Which mid major team do YOU think "can" make a deep run into the NCAAs?
A lot of the media is still enamoured with the Curry show, but without a Jason Richards-type of players, the road back to the Elite 8 is uphill. I'm focusing on more well-rounded teams like Saint Mary's, Butler, Utah State.
Hey Kyle, which was worse: the mini ball barrage at Gossner's or the horrible Kenny G warm up music in Holt Arena?
Hail to my tweeples! Being pelted in the head with miniballs made me scared for my life, but "Songbird" at halftime dissolved a part of my soul.
After what happened to Cleveland State and UIC on Tuesday, am I right to have this sinking feeling in my gut, that we're destined to be a one-bid league AGAIN?
I have no idea who you are, and I say that in a complete deadpan. Don't worry about this. CSU may be 1-2, but it's time for them (and Butler, UIC and Wright) to start pounding on the Wisconsins, Loyola and Youngstown. With no Detroit mercy either. If we see a four game no-man's-land of separation, two bids will come.
Kyle - We expected strong play from Tennessee-Martin this season. After starting out 0-2 in early conference play, they've ripped off five straight wins. Are the Skyhawks ready for the rest of the OVC season now?
Lester Hudson is going to get his points and rebounds, and eventually his NBA logo hat at the Draft. But this is a team that goes nowhere without Marquis Weddle. He was the spine of this team last year, and he wasn't producing early on. If he continues to have good games like the 21 against Florida Int'l, UTM will be fine in the OVC.
Creighton, Illinois State, and Evansville are all playing good basketball (well at least they were in 2008, evansville). Any chance at all for a 3-bid league this year in the Valley?
I'm sorry, but there's really no way. The Valley just didn't have the big noncon wins they had during the multibid years, and Creighton is the only team with anything resembling an NCAA resume.
Booker Woodfox is a nice name but it doesn't compete with Osiris "O" Eldridge, just like the Bluejays wont be Competing With Illinois St. on Sat. The double team that includes "O" and small foward "Champ" Oguchi will be to much too handle at Redbird Arena, not to mention the Birds have a much improved Soph. guard back in the line up Alex Rubin after he missed the non-conf with a broken foot...Kyle c'mon now the bluejays? seriously
Ain't trash talk like the Valley trash talk, 'cause the Valley trash talk don't stop.
Any advise for the NEC? Last year was a "strong" year and ended up with a PIG participant. This year is a VERY down year. How can they improve their performance like that America East has?
Schedule games your teams can win, and I'm not talking about D-II teams. More Ivy games, MEAC games, independent games. Wins against D-I opponents look good, as proven by the America East.
Kyle, Tough Loss for the Stags the other night against Siena. Do you think Fairfield has a realistic chance of winning the Maac? They need to beat Siena at home and not have any slip ups in mind to win the Maac
They need better defense too... letting teams like in the 70's is always a dangerous proposition if you have championship aspirations. Keep in mind that this is a young team and is definitely on the upswing. Breaking back into the top four would be a good result for the year.
I'm just getting into this college basketball thing. How do you pronounce "MAAC" when you are also talking about the "MAC"
I wish we called it "university basketball" like you do up there, it sounds classier. I usually refer to the MAAC as "the Metro" when speaking, since that name was abandoned by what eventually became C-USA.
Kyle- Happy new year! Saint Mary's or Gonzaga in the WCC? Can the league get 3 in the tourney again? thanks!
Happy new year to you too, Noli! As far as the NCAA goes, I'd say both. This will require actual matchups to bear out, but I believe SMC is the better team right now and capable of a Zag sweep. But with the struggles San Diego has had, two bids is a realistic scenario.
When do you think the Roo's will have a chance to win Summit
Give it at least two years, UMKC is currently sorting through sophomores to find out who's able to hang at this level. And the Badlands Conference is getting stronger, with IUPUI and North Dakota State putting together some serious program architecture. It's not simply the Oral Bob show anymore.
How impressed have you been with Jeremiah Dominguez thus far this season?
A lot of people don't know that he had his massive night against Gonzaga just a month after hyperextending a finger on his shooting hand. The guy's an absolute warrior who doesn't let anything stand in his way. And he's 5-6!
Kyle, Had the MAC vs. MAAC discussion wiht my family just the other day. The key is to add a syllable to the MAAC. So the Mid America is pronounced Mack. The Metro Atlantic is the Ma Ack. Easy Enough. PS - Will my Crusaders ever get healthy?
From talking to some folks at the league office, they don't like that because it makes you sound like you're imitating a sheep. P.S. - when they do, they'll be good. Take care of Bally!
Kyle, is there any mid major player besides Curry that has a chance to play at the next level?
You were named well, my friend. I sat next to an NBA scout once at a Saint Mary's game who said, and I'm editing here, "I can't ***** believe nobody knows about this guy." Not Patty Mills, Diamon Simpson. He'll get a look.
Is Bally going to visit or has Bally already visited the Hart Center?
Bally has been to the Hart Center (there's a picture over on the Mid-Majority site), but the folks at Holy Cross have their own Bally.
So as long as we are talking about how great Utah State is, I want to know where the Spectrum ranks in your top places to watch a game. Top 10? Top 5?
Easily top 5, I can remove Boylan Gym at Monmouth because it's closing. I'll be back for a league game next year, if I'm still gainfully employed.
BK - Bally in 'Sader Nation is a web site that is slowly progressing!
I lost that address, I need it so I can post it!
OK, one more and then it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows.
Since their poor showing at the Old Spice Classic, Siena has won seven of their last eight games, losing only to #3 Pitt. Are the Saints still the favorites to come out of the MAAC, or is Niagra going to spoil the party in Loudonville?
Niagara did have a defensive meltdown against Chattanooga, but you can't read too much into a holiday-break game. Gotta look at the trends. And Siena is definitely rebounding well again, something that requires skill and smarts against bigger teams. Siena and Niagara should battle for the MAAC.
Or in Billy Joel terms, they'll battle for the MAAC-AC-AC-AC-AC-AC... you oughta know by now. (You oughta know by now...)
OK, I'm movin' out. Thanks to all who came by, a special shout-out to the lurkers and I love all the great, well-thought-out questions. As always, I'll do better to type fast and answer more next time. Have a great first weekend of 2009!