Hellooooo Basketeers and Hoopettes, it's Kyle Whelliston with our 72nd edition of the Mid-Major Power Hour (with Shazzam). A quick housekeeping note: we're moving to Mondays at 4 starting next week, so you don't have to submit your question at 3:55 and run home for the weekend anymore.
If you're not psyched about conference play, you're probably off watching football. See you in March! For everyone else, let's talk some MAC, WAC and SWAC!
Big game this weekend in the MAAC. #2 Fairfield (5-2) hosts undefeated #1 Siena (7-0) at home. Will a Fairfield win validate the stags as a serious MAAC championship contender?
First of all, remember what happened when they played in Albany on New Year's Day, the fact that the Stags were outplayed is a big reason they're not being taken seriously. A win would be huge, but huger still would be if they used this opportunity to forge an identity. I've seen two Stags games, and I don't have them figured out.
Kyle, Butler is starting to get more games broadcast, locally, and there is a thought that this might just expand to all the games eventually. What is your opinion on this? Do you think this will hurt attendance or help it in the long run?
I saw that the highlights from last night's game were produced by Lakeshore Public TV or somesuch, and it was a reminder that the Horizon is still very much a UHF conference. But they've put their faith in internet broadcasts, and local teams will have to go local with TV.
But the attendance they should worry about is national eyeballs. I firmly believe this is going to be a 2- or 3-bid league every year soon, and it needs more exposure. I don't agree with the approach, but I don't run the conference.
With wins already over the two pre-season MAC favorites Kent State (at home) and Miami (on the road), has John Groce positioned the Ohio Bobcats as MAC favorites? What if they can win at Buffalo Saturday?
I don't think there is a MAC favorite anymore. With Kent's chemistry struggles and Miami's injury bug, this is a pure toss-up. I'd say that Ohio is one of about five teams that can win this. The tourney in March is going to spectacular and bloody, and I can't wait.
If I wasn't reeled in before this week, your USU Aggie love and Steely Dan hooks sealed the deal. Thanks for all your good work, and God bless your Missus... Here's my Q: do you see value in a challenge series between the WAC and another conference (I'd like to see the WCC) similar to the established ACC/Big 10 and next year's MWC/MVC challenges? What would be the downsides? Would the WCC be amenable? Would it be worth it if Gonzaga and its ambitious national schedule opted out?
Thanks, Mont, great to have you on board. I'm a big fan of un-Classic Rock. On a basketball level, a WAC-WCC challenge would be incredible. But it's not really a matter of who would accept or not, getting the thing on TV would make or break it, and NMSU Aggievision isn't going to cut it. The CAA and MVC tried this for years, but nobody would put it on the tube.
Everybody claims their team has improved since the beginning of the year. Which mids do you think have actually improved the most since the beginning of the year?
Well, not evvvverybody. Ask any UNC Wilmington fan who's already traded their season tickets for a candy bar. Butler is miles ahead of where anyone thought they'd be, they've matured quickly. I'd also say Saint Mary's, which struggled early but now looks unstoppable in the WCC.
Nevada downed Boise last night, despite still not being able to shoot. It looks like it will Utah St and Nevada for the WAC, but from what I hear Nevada is getting 3 studs and losing only 1 senior in 2009. I know this is speculative, but do you see the WAC as a two bid league again next season?
Absolutely. Last year was a perfect storm of lost players and overscheduling, and this season was a different kind of perfect storm -- no returnees and underscheduling. This is a great league with solid programs, and you can't keep it down forever. New Mexico State will be back in 2010, Boise and USU will be tough, and Nevada's roster looks formidable.
With all of the injury situations in the MAC West (Medlock at EMU; Kellerman, Spica at CMU; Newell at BSU; Johnson at Toledo; Lawson at WMU), which team do you project to win that side of the conference and maybe challenge one of the MAC East teams?
The West being the weaker side is nothing new, but it's a real ER this year. If I were to guess, I'd pick Ball State to overcome Newell's loss and win with a .500 record, they have the defense and ball control. But don't expect any West teams in the final four (again).
Who are the best 1-2 mid-major combinations? I am biased, but I say Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt. They will make some serious noise in dance the next few years.
For now, I'd say Mills-Simpson at Saint Mary's, Wilkinson-Quayle is coming on at Utah State. By the end of the year, we might be able to put Davidson's Curry-Lovedale in the same class if the twin-turbine consistency improves.
K-Dub! Is Robert Morris for real in the NEC? I think they got luck playing the Mount while they were struggling and CCSU without their PG Shemik Thompson. What say you, my silver sneakered friend?
The reason they're for real is that they're just pounding teams on the glass. Killing 'em. Plus, they're on a mission after coming up short last year. I'm excited I get to see the Mount and CCSU next week, so I can get back into the NEC flo.
I know you have a secret crush on George Mason right now, but come conference tourney time in the CAA who do you see as a dark horse to win it all?
I think any one of three teams could win in March: George Mason, Northeastern or VCU. Northeastern is getting better every game. I think VCU, who we were all talking about as a walkover champ in October, is the dark horse now. Their defense has been wretched, teams are just nailing 3's over them.
Kyle, Holy Cross vs. Bucknell tomorrow. Not the marquee match-up of 2005 - 2007 in the PL. American is doing as expected, Navy & Lehigh piled up gaudy records against relatively weak OOC schedules. Do either of them match-up against AU on the marquee this year or someone else?
I think the cyclical nature of leagues like this scares people off: fans have to think too much in order to follow them. I've said this plenty of times, but give Bucknell a pass for this year. This will have never happened. But Holy Cross has the chance to sneak up as the season goes on. They're better than the bad teams enough to rack up some wins and get a good tourney seed. HC is definitely shooting the ball better.
I've always been curious about this, Kyle: with all the games you attend in person, and all the travel associated with that, how often do you get to watch other games on tv?
This was a problem before Slingbox. I don't sleep much, so I do hour-long runthroughs of a couple games in the early mornings. Saw Boise-Nevada and Northeastern-Delaware today.
with no undefeated teams left in the ae, which team's start has been the biggest surprise?
Binghamton, easily. I expected nothing from that team, I thought the Bearcats would be the nation's biggest chemistry failure. But D.J. Rivera has worked out really well.
I watched Cleveland St. dominate UIC the other night, and they are one of the most talented teams I've seen in the Horizon in five years. Conference play typically kills Horizon teams, but I am still shocked that the Vikings are 4-3. What happened? Also, with CSU and Butler putting up some big wins in December and the conference sitting at 11th in the RPI (right behind C-USA), could the Horizon get 2 bids this year?
With all logical metrics, it should. But after what happened last night -- Cle-State getting hammered at Green Bay with a tough Milwaukee roadie on the way -- that boat's taking on a lot of water. Increasingly, the road to two bids looks like CSU beating Butler in the title game.
Doesn't look like USU can improve it's SOS much in conference play, will they have to run the table in regular season to get an at large bid??
Absolutely, but I think they're good enough that they can absorb a loss or two (at Boise and at Nevada, most likely), and still easily take care of business in March.
Is Xavier getting lucky with all these close wins or do they have what it takes to get back to the elite 8?
I've visited that town. Not really lucky, it's just that the weaknesses (sloppy play and turnovers) are barely being overshadowed by their otherwise complete profile. This team can run the floor, shoot, rebound, play defense and make balloon animals for kids. But they turned the ball over 11 more times than URI, and Baron wouldn't have been in position to win the game with a shot if they had a better handle.
Love your work Kyle. Have you ever considered writing a book about your experiences on the road and the players/coaches you meet throughout the year? The Last Amateurs is one of my favorite books, and I'm sure you could out-do that Feinstein guy!
I'm a shoestring-budget pyramid scheme compared to Feinstein Inc.. But I am working on a book this year, following three teams trying to make it back to the NCAA's. It's sorta on life support, because all three teams are getting kicked around at the moment.
How about Northeastern in the CAA? Is that Shazzam the superhero or the expletive that Gomer Pyle used on Andy Griffith?
The consistent improvement as the year's gone on has been impressive. There was a show in the 80's that nobody but me remembered called "The Kids' Super Power Hour with Shazzam" that my sister and I watched all the time. There was a house band with a guy who had a mohawk and barette-style sunglasses. I was that guy for Halloween one year.
Do you know what Boubacar Coly is up to these days?
I wish I knew, I've been scouring sites and databases for any mention of him. If anybody has information on where this early-exit Morgan State star and Mid-Majority legend went, please let me know.
What's it going to take for the CAA to get back to multi-bid status?
Big non-conference wins. It's probably because I've become cynical, but December headlines have been the greatest leading indicator of March selections in recent years.
Do you think Mark Few is one of the best coaches in the country?
Nobody has done more with a smaller budget, on a more consistent basis. I think one of his most underrated characteristics is how much of an outspoken ambassador he's been for his own program. A lot of coaches might consider following that lead.
Kyle, just how good is Josh Akognon? We get the rare opportunity to watch him tomorrow night on ESPN2 at 11pm, so what can we expect to see?
I love to watch him, he's my player of the week over on my site. He might go absolutely nuts and shoot 16-for-20, or he might spend the evening shooting his way out a slump, like he did during the UC Davis game last night. Streaky, but when he's on he's on.
OK, that's it for me. A reminder that I'm back Monday at 4 pm, so if I missed your question this time, come on back and I'll try to do a better job answering it then. Enjoy the hoops this weekend!