Former Summit League member Oral Roberts, which was one of the league’s basketball powers before leaving for the Southland in 2012, is coming back home to the Summit, starting next season.
This is excellent news for Denver hoops. The (re-)addition of Oral Roberts gives the Summit League another traditionally respectable member with mid-major street cred, something that its current lineup is, I’m sorry to say, sorely lacking at the moment, outside of new member Denver and a Dakota State or two. So adding the Golden Eagles is very much an instant upgrade.
ORU won the league’s regular season title, or a share of it, in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2012, and achieved automatic NCAA bids in 2006, 2007 and 2008, earning #16 (by the numbers, the best #16 seed ever at the time), #14 and #13 seeds. The Golden Eagles are typically an RPI Top 150 team, if not Top 100; their average season-ending RPI over the last nine years is #109, and they’ve been as high as #51 and #53.
Moreover, for years, Summit League (née Mid-Continent Conference) basketball was defined in significant part by the rivalry between Oakland and Oral Roberts. By the time Denver joined the Summit this season, though, both of those teams had left (as had fellow power Valparaiso, several years earlier, of course). Now ORU is coming back, and if DU ends up staying in the Summit for the long haul, it’s not hard to imagine the Pioneers and Golden Eagles becoming the league’s new dynamic duo, like the Grizzlies and Golden Eagles once were.
One key thing DU and ORU have in common is that they don’t play football. Indeed, concern that the Southland was “becoming a football league” is what drove ORU back into the Summit’s arms, according to North Dakota sports journalist Dom Izzo. It strikes me that the schools’ non-football-playing commonality makes a Denver-Oral Roberts pairing as Summit powers more stable (potentially) than a DU rivalry with, say, North Dakota State — a top FCS football school whose future is inevitably tied to that sport, and to what the Missouri Valley Football Conference does.
More broadly, this is good news because the Summit League — and Denver — are, for once, winners in the realignment musical-chairs game. When Denver bailed out of the imploding WAC, the Summit League was happy to be DU’s landing spot because the Summit itself has been bleeding members — not just Oakland and ORU, but also Southern Utah and, most recently, UMKC (to the WAC, of all places). Now, the Summit is adding a member, and not a bottom-feeder but a top-tier competitor. That’s a really good sign for the conference’s stability.
Having said that, I confess I still hope the Pioneers will eventually end up someplace better, like the WCC or MVC (perhaps after winning an NCAA autobid or 3 during their Summit stint). But if Denver is gonna be in the Summit, at least for a while, it’ll be a much more comfortable home with Oral Roberts in it, basketball-wise at least.
So… anyone up for a road trip? :)
I didn’t update this blog during Thanksgiving Week because I was busy with family (although I did tweet occasionally). But the college basketball season never sleeps, and there were some major developments over the holiday period. I’ll cover Northern Colorado and the other area teams in subsequent posts, but I want to focus on Denver right now.
Unfortunately, the developments during Thanksgiving Week weren’t particularly positive ones for Denver. Indeed, DU’s trip to the Great Alaska Shootout was, from a results perspective, pretty much a disaster.
But more on that momentarily. The trip began with mild disappointment, not disaster, against Denver’s third straight brainiac opponent: prohibitive Ivy League favorite Harvard.
@MileHighMids DU at the Great AK Shootout pic.twitter.com/MUGo7RuIrW— Sam Wasson (@samuelwasson)
Late on Thanksgiving night, after most Americans had long since passed into tryptophan comas, the Pioneers tipped off against the Crimson at 10pm Mountain Time (midnight Eastern) in front of a sparse crowd (see above) at the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
Based on preseason expectations, this was to be a marquee matchup of mid-major titans — teams ranked #2 and #5 nationally in NBC’s preseason mid-major power rankings. Granted, Denver’s 0-2 start (albeit against tough Pac-12 competition) and Harvard’s loss at Colorado the prior Sunday (which may have prevented the Crimson from being ranked in the Top 25 heading into the Alaska tourney) had perhaps taken a little bit of the shine off the showdown…but not too much. It seemed fair to assume that the winner of this game would be favored to win the Great Alaska Shootout, especially in light of Indiana State’s loss to Tulsa the previous night.
Denver jumped out to a 7-2 lead, which was a big relief given the Pioneers’ bad habit of slow starts away from Magness Arena. But then Harvard went on a 12-0 run to take a 14-7 lead, and for the rest of the game, the Crimson managed to keep the Pios at arm’s length. Denver would mount a run to make it close, but then Harvard would push the lead back to 8 or 10 or 12.
@MileHighMids DU warming up for the second half. pic.twitter.com/ae18WNR3Dd— Sam Wasson (@samuelwasson)
The Pios battled to the end, but it’s very difficult for a team whose offense depends on the ability to alternate between perimeter shooting one possession, then Princeton-style backdoor cuts and such the next, to succeed when they’re shooting 4-of-18 from three-point land, as Denver did against Harvard. Being outrebounded 38-23 (with Denver getting just 6 offensive rebounds to Harvard’s 14 — the latter almost as many as Denver’s 17 defensive rebounds) didn’t help. Nor did Chris Udofia’s struggles — just 6 points to go with 4 assists and 3 blocks — or Cam Griffin’s foul trouble. (DU seemed to be mounting its strongest comeback attempt of the game when Griffin picked up his 4th foul around halfway through the second half and had to be benched. He eventually fouled out.) In the end, Denver lost, 68-60.
Welp, that’ll do it. @DU_MHoops falls to 0-3 on the season. Ugh. #GoPios pic.twitter.com/LOR1oQcTee— Mile High Mids (@MileHighMids)
As I said, the outcome was disappointing, but not disastrous. Even before the season began, I had anticipated an 0-3 start as a distinct possibility, noting: “Cal, Stanford and Harvard are the first three games of the season. Man, that’s a rough opening stretch for DU. Starting 1-2 would qualify as ‘reasonably successful,’ it seems to me.”
What I did not anticipate was what would occur the next day, Friday, in the tournament’s second round. Looking at the Great Alaska Shootout bracket, the natural assumption was that Denver’s first opponent, Harvard, would present the greatest challenge; its second opponent, either Green Bay or Pepperdine, should be a relatively easy win; and its third opponent, if it happened to be Indiana State, might present a nice opportunity for an RPI Top 100 win. With the Sycamores falling into the loser’s bracket by losing to Tulsa, that chance loomed large when Friday dawned: if DU could just beat Pepperdine, then assuming Indiana State beat Division II host school Alaska-Anchorage, the Pioneers would have a very nice game against a top-tier Missouri Valley opponent to wrap things up in Alaska. The fact that such a matchup would be the Shootout’s fifth-place game is beside the point; it would a good resumé win, if DU could nab it.
Instead, Denver absolutely laid an egg against Pepperdine, a team ranked #217 in KenPom and #238 in the RPI heading into the game. It wasn’t nearly as close as the 68-56 final score: the Pioneers trailed the red-hot Waves (71.4% field goal percentage) by 23 points at halftime, 38-15, and only narrowed the margin late, when the outcome was not in doubt. “We had a quick turnaround from last night to today, and obviously Pepperdine did a much better job of being prepared for that,” said head coach Joe Scott. (That’s not exactly a comforting thought, given that a Summit League team with NCAA dreams will almost certainly need to win games in a quick-turnaround conference tournament setting, which Denver has struggled to do.) Scott added: “Going forward, hopefully we can learn from both halves and get back to playing Denver Basketball.”
A selection of my tweets during the Pepperdine game:
#disaster RT @DU_MHoops: Pepperdine 54, Denver 30 with 9:10 remaining #DUGameDay @GreatAKShootout— Mile High Mids (@MileHighMids)
Losses to Cal, Stanford & Harvard are all forgivable, albeit disappointing they couldn’t pull out at least 1. Getting routed by Pepperdine?!— Mile High Mids (@MileHighMids)
Pepperdine is #217 in KenPom and #238 in the RPI. @DU_MHoops getting crushed by the Waves is inexcusable, and cause for major #PANIC.— Mile High Mids (@MileHighMids)
Unless & until evidence to contrary arrives, it’s time to call into very serious question the assumption that Denver will be good this year.— Mile High Mids (@MileHighMids)
With this disaster of a loss, @DU_MHoops loses chance to play likely RPI Top 100 @IndianaStateMBB; gets D-2 Alaska-Anchorage instead. #UGH— Mile High Mids (@MileHighMids)
Denver did win Saturday in the Great Alaska Shootout’s seventh-place game, 78-71 over Division II Alaska-Anchorage (the tournament’s host school), for the Pios’ first win of the season. “It’s always good to get the first win,” Scott said. True enough, and it’s certainly better than the alternative of losing to a D-II school. Still, for purposes of a tournament resumé (if it even makes sense to think about that right now), Denver remains 0-4, because the NCAA only “counts” games against Division I opponents.
The Pios’ first post-Pepperdine chance for a Division I win comes tonight at 7pm, at home, against Southern U. (2-5, KenPom #241, RPI #261). But before that game tips off, let’s ponder the question I posed in the title of this blog post, and in one of my #PANIC tweets during the Pepperdine game: Is Denver actually good this year? Is it an overreaction to think the Pioneers are in serious trouble? Is this just a temporary slump, or is there something more serious going on? Has Chris Udofia lost his mojo? What happened to Brett Olson’s shooting touch? Has the loss of team leader/glue guy Chase Hallam (to graduation) and rising star Royce O’Neale (to Baylor) hurt the Pios more deeply than expected? What’s going on? And what are reasonable expectations going forward?
I don’t have any definite answers, but I can point to a few obvious trends. The primary issue seems to be on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, Denver ranks 138th out of 351 Division I teams (i.e., in the top 40 percent) in terms of efficiency, which isn’t stellar, but also isn’t horrible, especially given the caliber of the first three opponents. In terms of offensive efficiency, though, the Pios — who were in the top 60 nationally each of the last two seasons — rank a dismal 215th. But why?
One reason is poor three-point shooting. Denver traditionally excels from #superhoop land, with its three-point percentage over the past four seasons, 2009-10 through 2012-13, earning a national rank of 14th (39.5%), 6th (40.1%), 9th (39.9%) and 32nd (37.5%), respectively, out of ~345 Division I teams. This year? So far, against Division I opponents, DU’s three-point shooting ranks 242nd nationally at 31.3%. For a team whose offense really requires solid perimeter shooting, that’s an enormous problem. Given the personnel, one assumes that this is just a slump, and the law of averages will kick in eventually and sort things out, but only time will tell.
Secondly and relatedly, two-point shooting is way off too. Three-point shooting percentage is the sexier stat, but Denver has actually excelled at two-point shooting percentage to an even more extreme degree in 3 of the last 4 years, finishing either 2nd or 3rd in the entire nation in 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2012-13. (They were 97th in 2010-11 — still easily in the top third.) This year, they are an abysmal 310th in the country, shooting just 43.1%.
Thirdly, Chris Udofia, the team’s senior superstar, is struggling to contribute as much offensively as Joe Scott surely envisioned heading into this season. Udofia did score 20 points in the Stanford loss, but in Denver’s other three games against Division I opponents, he had just 8, 6 and 8 points. (For comparison, he averaged 16 and 13 points per game in the last two seasons.) More shockingly, Ken Pomeroy’s statistical analysis of Denver has Udofia as a mere “Role Player” right now, listed below four “Significant Contributors” led by sophomore Jalen Love and junior Cam Griffin. According to KenPom’s formula, Denver doesn’t have any “Go-To Guys” or “Major Contributors” at the moment — those being the roles filled by Udofia in each of the last three years. Obviously, that needs to change.
Junior sharpshooter Brett Olson, who sits just below Udofia right now on the KenPom player contributors list, also needs to be more productive offensively. He is just 5-of-17 (29%) from three-point land against Division I opponents, and is averaging 9.5 points, down from 11.4 last year. Of course, both Udofia and Olson probably have lower early averages in part because of the caliber of Denver’s first three opponents — but the Pepperdine loss makes that a less convincing explanation.
A final issue worth mentioning involves Love and Griffin, who have played well, but have also been consistently getting into foul trouble. Griffin fouled out against Stanford and Harvard, and had 4 fouls against Cal; Love fouled out against Cal, Stanford and Pepperdine, and had 4 fouls against Harvard. That, too, needs to improve.
Can Denver sort all this out, and become the team we expected them to be? Perhaps. The Pios have certainly recovered from slow starts before — as recently as last year, when they started 1-5, but finished the regular season 21-8 and earned an NIT berth. The 2-9 start in 2010-11, followed by an 8-0 run that made them look briefly like serious Sun Belt contenders, also comes to mind (although it had a less happy ending, as the Pios lost 8 of their final 11 and finished 13-17).
That said, when comparing this year’s start to last year’s in particular, there is reason to worry that the current slump may be more serious. Denver’s five early losses in 2012-13 were all to teams ranked in the KenPom top 100, and four of them were to the top 66. (Indeed, those Pioneers didn’t suffer a single truly “bad loss” all season until the very end, when they could least afford it, in the WAC tournament against Texas State.) Also, none of those losses were blowouts; the largest margin of defeat was 13 points. As a consequence, Denver’s KenPom ranking only dropped from #82 to #112 during that six-game stretch, and it was right back up to #83 two wins later. (The ranking would peak at #28 by mid-March.)
This year, by contrast, Denver opened up with an absolute faceplant at Berkeley, a lopsided 77-50 loss to Cal that single-handedly dropped Denver’s KenPom ranking from #63 to #95. The relatively close Stanford and Harvard losses were more like 2012-13’s early defeats, but then came the blowout loss to lowly Pepperdine — arguably the Pioneers’ worst regular-season loss since South Alabama in February 2011. That was followed by an uncomfortably close win over Division II UAA. After all of that, Denver’s KenPom rating has fallen all the way to #172, and its RPI is way down at #236.
So, what can we expect from the remainder of the Pioneers’ non-conference schedule? Using both KenPom numbers and common sense, I am inclined to break the games down into three groups. (The numbers for each opponent are KenPom rankings; the percentages are KenPom odds of Denver winning the game.)
Games in which Denver will be a heavy underdog
at #105 Mercer, Dec. 7 (22%)
at #92 Colorado State, Dec. 11 (20%)
at #89 UTEP, Dec. 29 (20%)
at #77 St. Joseph’s, Jan. 4 (17%)
Games in which Denver will be a heavy favorite
home vs. #241 Southern, tonight (78%)
neutral vs. #341 Alcorn State, Dec. 28 (89%)
home vs. #343 St. Francis (PA), Dec. 31 (94%)
home vs. #99 Wyoming, Dec. 15 (50%)
home vs. #74 Belmont, Dec. 17 (42%)
home vs. #114 UC-Irvine, Dec. 21 (53%)
If Denver wins where it’s favored, loses where it’s an underdog, and sweeps the “tossup” games, the Pios would be 6-8 vs. Division I opponents (7-8 including the UAA win) heading into the Summit League conference season. Put another way, that’ll be their record if they win all of their upcoming home and neutral-site games, but lose all the road games. If they want to crack .500 heading into league play, they’ll need to pull at least one road upset.
So, is Denver good? Can they recover from this early slump? I don’t know, but I suspect yes — although the recovery might come too late to help their RPI much, given the dearth of quality opponents in the Summit League. (Incidentally, KenPom now projects Denver to finish 8-6 in the league, behind 10-4 North Dakota State and tied with IPFW and Nebraska-Omaha. Yikes!) But regardless, they definitely need to win tonight against Southern. If they don’t, it will really be time to #PANIC.
UNC — no, not the “other UNC” in Chapel Hill; the one that’s undefeated, silly — faces its second major road test tonight in Las Cruces, NM, against New Mexico State and the INCREDIBLY LARGE MAN.
Northern Colorado passed with flying colors in its first road test, of course. But the Bears are still a 12.5-point underdog tonight, and are given only a 22% chance by Ken Pomeroy’s robots.
The game can be seen on ESPN3. Tip-off is at 7:00 PM Mountain Time. Bally will be watching.
In other news:
Playing in front of a good-sized and enthusiastic basketball crowd at Magness Arena on Sunday, the Denver Pioneers looked far more competitive than they had against Cal five days earlier — but dropped their home opener anyway, 66-57 to Stanford.
The loss dropped Denver to 0-2 on the season. While that record has a lot to do with the caliber of the Pioneers’ first two opponents, they have underperformed the expectations of Ken Pomeroy's robots, sliding from #63 before the Cal game to #95 before the Stanford game to #118 now. With a strong, almost-ranked Harvard team up next in Alaska next Thursday, the Pios now face a significant risk of an 0-3 start.
Here’s what I wrote two months ago about this early part of the schedule:
Cal, Stanford and Harvard are the first three games of the season. Man, that’s a rough opening stretch for DU. Starting 1-2 would qualify as “reasonably successful,” it seems to me. Starting 2-1 would be exceptionally good.
Obviously, 2-1 is off the table now. But hopefully the Pios — who have final exams between now and the Harvard game — will be able to pull out a big win in Anchorage on Thanksgiving night, and get to 1-2. (FWIW, KenPom gives them just a 30% chance against the Crimson at the moment.)
DU head coach Joe Scott praised his team’s physicality Sunday against the much larger Trees — who are KenPom’s #36-ranked team nationally, and were picked to finish 6th in the Pac-12. Scott also cited clear improvement from the Pioneers’ lopsided season-opening loss in Berkeley. But he said their poor free-throw shooting (15-for-25, or 60%) and 18 turnovers doomed them.
I attended the game with my three young daughters, as a spectator instead of as a credentialed member of the press, so my photography and live-tweeting were both limited. But below are a few more photos, followed by my game tweets.
Game tweets after the jump.
This tweet by yours truly is getting retweeted heavily among Northern Colorado tweeps this morning:
Fun fact: the UNC Tar Heels, who lost to Belmont, are 2-1. The @UNC_Bears, who won at Kansas State, are 2-0. #TheBestUNCisinGreeley #TMMX— Mile High Mids (@MileHighMids) November 18, 2013
UNC — the undefeated one — travels to Las Cruces, NM on Wednesday for another non-conference road test, this time against New Mexico State and the INCREDIBLY LARGE MAN. Tipoff is at 7pm MST. Not sure if it will be live-streamed anywhere, but if so, I hope to watch at least part of it.
Other news regarding teams that this blog covers:
Heh. I couldn’t resist making the above Lord of the Rings-themed graphic. After all, it’s a big ol’ Tree-hating weekend for me personally, what with my undergrad alma mater, USC, hosting Stanford’s #4-ranked football team on Saturday (with the GameDay crew on site), followed by Sunday’s big Denver-Stanford basketball game, which I’ll be attending.
(I confess I also rather like the idea of Ruckus calling Boone “my lord.” I suspect the folks at LetsGoDU will agree. Teehee.)
On a related note, I love this video by Boone — DU’s controversial-for-some-reason, unofficial, once-and-future(?) non-mascot mascot — promoting Sunday’s game:
The Pioneers host Stanford at Magness Arena (into which one does not simply walk) on Sunday at noon Mountain Time. The noon tipoff means the game will be finished long before the flexed-to-6:30 PM showdown at Mile High between the Broncos and the Chiefs. The DU athletic department has taken pains to point out this non-conflict. (“Now you can make both big games on Sunday,” a promotional e-mail from the DU ticket office pointed out.)
Plus, it won’t cost you a wedding ring to attend the Denver-Stanford game. In fact, half-price tickets are available — $7.50, instead of the usual $15, for the best seats in the house — if you click here and enter the promo code “DUnk.”
This is arguably the best chance in Joe Scott’s tenure for the Pioneers — who, incidentally, signed two recruits yesterday — to earn a win over a BCS-conference opponent. Well, okay: in retrospect, their best chance was at Maryland in the NIT back in March, when the Pios had the Terps on the ropes, only to maddeningly let the win slip away. However, from a pregame perspective, home against Stanford seems like a better bet than on the road against Maryland. (Ken Pomeroy gives Denver a 47% chance of winning, vs. 43% going into the Maryland game.)
Go Pios! Chop the Trees!
Other recent and upcoming games involving the Front Range mid-major teams that this blog covers:
I’ll talk about my personal “pilgrimage” to the Unnamed Major Program From the Northwest (as the Mid-Majority used to refer to Gonzaga) in a moment… but let’s start with some basketball talk, as it relates to the Front Range mid-major teams that are the ostensible focus of this here blog.
Colorado State and Denver suffered similar fates Monday and Tuesday in their first games against Division I opponents — both on the road, both on the West Coast, both ending in lopsided losses.
I’ll begin at the end, with Denver, whose date with Cal in Berkeley on Tuesday was its very first game of the season. The Pioneers looked very much like a team that could have used a home “tune-up game” against a lesser opponent Friday or Saturday — which the school apparently tried, but failed, to schedule — as they fell behind 14-2, then 24-5, then 35-13 on ice-cold shooting, and never recovered en route to a 77-50 defeat by the merry band of hippies that’s expected to finish 5th in the Pac-12.
A road win over a quality BCS opponent might have been asking too much of Denver, particularly as the Pios adjust to the loss of graduated glue-guy Chase Hallam and Baylor transfer Royce O’Neale. That said, a competitive game would have been nice. Being on the losing end of a Moraga Massacre-like rout was an inauspicious start for a team with Big Dance dreams, but a long-standing history of struggling with slow starts, especially on the road — not to mention a schedule with limited opportunities for RPI-enhancing wins.
On the bright side, it can only get better from here… right? It will have to get better in a hurry, if Denver is to have a chance in its big home opener Sunday against another brainy Pac-12 foe, the Drunken Trees of Leland Stanford Junior University.
Anyway, junior Cam Griffin was a bright spot Tuesday for the Pios, leading the team with a career-high 15 points. Sophomore Marcus Byrd added 10 points, and senior star Chris Udofia had 5 blocks (but just 8 points). Here are the game articles from the Denver SID, from the Cal SID, from Cal’s student paper, from a Cal blog, from another Cal blog, from the San Jose Mercury News, and from the AP. Oh, and here are some video highlights. More here.
Then there’s Colorado State, which visited Gonzaga the day before DU’s opener, for a game Monday night at the front end of ESPN’s 24-hour hoops tip-off marathon. I was there, attending my first-ever game at Gonzaga after being a fan of the Zags since high school. (I’m 32, if you’re keeping score at home.)
Unlike the Pioneers, the Rams did play a “tune-up game” — a 99-70 win over Division II University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on Friday — but it didn’t help them much against the mighty Zags, who rolled to a 93-61 win over CSU behind 8-of-13 shooting from three-point land by Gary Bell, Jr. (Bell was 8-of-10 — inspiring a "Gary! Gary! Gary" chant — before he missed his last three in garbage time.) Here’s video of the first of Bell’s 5 second-half treys, a mere 14 seconds after halftime:
Gerard Coleman came off the bench for Gonzaga to pitch in 16 points, while Kevin Pangos had 13 and David Stockton had 10.
On the Colorado State side, junior Jon Octeus led all scorers with 27 points — nearly half of CSU’s total — but nobody else cracked double digits. The Rams never led, falling behind 3-0 on (appropriately enough) a Gary Bell Jr. #superhoop 11 seconds into the game, but they hung around within single digits for the first “quarter” of the game. However, between the 9:00 mark and the under-8 timeout with 5:30 left, Gonzaga went on a 12-2 run to expand a 23-15 lead to 35-17, and the Zags never looked back.
To be honest, though, I wasn’t at McCarthey Athletic Center on Monday to think about Xs and Os or engage in extended basketball #analysis. This, as I said, was a “pilgrimage” of sorts. I’ve been a Gonzaga fan since, depending on how you want to do the math, either 1995 or 1999, but I had never been to a game in Spokane. I did see the Zags in person at the NCAA Tournament in Denver in 2011, but ever since 2006 — when Becky and I briefly considered an epic detour to Spokane to watch Adam Morrison’s Zags host the WCC tournament (a tourney which ended up being hugely memorable), but rejected that impulsive “detour” idea in a totally correct practical decision that I’ve regretted ever since — I’ve wanted to see a Gonzaga home game.
Well, conveniently enough, my good friend and Twitter BFF Zach Bloxham started law school at Gonzaga in fall 2011. But, for various reasons, I didn’t make it up there in his 1L or 2L years. That made this season my last chance, and I wasn’t going to squander it. So we decided several months ago on the CSU game, and I booked my plane ticket for a whirlwind Monday-Tuesday trip lasting a bit less than 36 hours. Yeah, those are weekdays, but this was important. :)
Anyway, the game-watching experience was very fun. Below are some of my favorite photos and videos — including, yes, Bally in the cockpit of my flight to Spokane. (Here’s the full photo gallery.) Then, after the jump, I’ve posted my Storify archive of tweets from my whirlwind trip to Gonzaga.
Spokane, here we come!
The circumstances of how this Bally-in-the-cockpit photo came about are explained here. Man, that stuffed basketball gets around.
Time-lapse video of taxi, takeoff, and part of my flight from Denver to Spokane, set to music that seemed appropriate both for the event (flying) and for the day (Veterans Day).
Tickets for Gonzaga home games are very hard to get. Zach and I paid dearly for ours, but it was worth it. (And we didn’t even have to trade any guns for them. Although, yes, that is the guy we got them from. No joke.)
Gonzaga’s student section, a.k.a. the “Kennel Club,” shows up early and cheers loudly.
The pregame ceremony is pretty cool, including a “tunnel” of ordinary students who run out from the Kennel Club to greet and high-five the starting lineup.
"WHOA-OH-OH-OH-OH! WHOA-OH-OH-OH-OH-OH-OH-OH! OH-OH! OH-OH!" I love this so much. (Stick with it to the end.)
The Kennel Club cheers and chants just before tipoff.
"Spike" and a cheerleader whip the Kennel Club up into a frenzy.
The ball is tipped!
Kevin Pangos flies in for a layup.
David Stockton drives down the baseline.
Gonzaga’s second-most famous alum, John Stockton, watches his son play for the Zags. (What Gonzaga alum is more famous than John Stockton, you ask? Keep scrolling.)
CSU’s Jon Octeus puts up a floater for 2 of his game-high, career-high 27 points.
Mark Few urges his players to put their hands up on defense, while a red-headed fan gives an amusingly skeptical look, and two other female fans apparently whisper about something.
These nuns got a big cheer from the crowd when they appeared on the arena’s “SmileCam.”
The Kennel Club erupts after a three-pointer by Kyle Dranginis — the Zags’ fourteenth and final #superhoop of the game — put Gonzaga ahead by 41 points, 79-38, with 10:19 left. That was the Zags’ largest advantage all night. (They won by 32.)
Video of Dranginis’s shot.
Me, Bally and Zach at the game.
A panorama of the “shining Kennel on a hill,” as I put it in a tweet — Gonzaga’s “MAC,” a.k.a. the “New Kennel.”
Bally in front of the MAC.
"Bing and Boing": Bally with the statue of Gonzaga’s most famous alum, Bing Crosby. (For more Crosby-related photos, click here and scroll down.)
Brother Bally and Brother Bloxham. (“Hello. My name is Elder Bally. And I would like to share with you the most amazing book.”)
Heading home after fulfilling #TMMX’s mission to “GO.”
[Storify archive coming soon.]
I’m en route to Spokane for my Gonzaga-CSU adventure. I’ll be live-tweeting, of course, at @brendanloy and @MileHighMids.
If all goes well, my tweets (and replies/mentions directed at me) should appear in the CoverItLive window below:
I’m not gonna lie: when I first looked at Northern Colorado’s schedule, and saw that the Bears were opening with a road game at defending Big 12 co-champion Kansas State, I immediately thought, “Well, that’ll be a slaughter.”
Boy, was I wrong.
On the opening night of college basketball’s 2013-14 season, Northern Colorado captured the nation’s attention by pulling off the first big David-over-Goliath upset of the young college hoops season, 60-58 over K-State in Manhattan, Kansas. Incredible.
Some Twitter reactions:
Wow, huge win for the guys from Greeley. NoCo goes to Bramlage and grabs a check and a W. Awesome.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner)
Congrats to Northern Colorado, who just knocked off Kansas State.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster)
We got ourselves a #RedLineUpset already - congrats to the Northern Colorado Bears, slayer of Kansas State! #TMMX— Travis Mason-Bushman (@polarscribe)
Are you kidding me? Northern Colorado upsets Kansas State 60-58!! #WestSide— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi)
First upset of the season: Kansas State goes down to Northern Colorado. At home.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello)
WHAT?!?!?! OMG!!!!! GO @UNC_BEARS!!!! SEASON-OPENING #REDLINEUPSET ON THE ROAD!!!! pic.twitter.com/39xAl9mLJP— Mile High Mids (@MileHighMids)
Kansas State may or may not do much this year… but to go on the road & beat a Big 12 team to start the year is pretty excellent #bigskymbb— Jonathan Reed (@bigskybball)
Here’s Jonathan Reed’s take at Big Sky Basketball. Here’s the article from Mid-Major Madness. And here’s the official UNC Bears article.
Way to go, Bears!
(Photos by Doug Howard, a.k.a. @IowaRoyal.)
Back in April, in the Epilogue to Mid-Majority Season 9, Kyle Whelliston announced that in 2013-14 — which happens to be the final season of the Mid-Majority, a.k.a. #TMMX — there won’t be
a Shire, Pippin an official “Red Line" anymore, formally differentiating mid-majors from non-mids.
"We’re doing away with the Red Line after this season, because it’s both an outdated concept and an endless source of meaningless debate," Kyle wrote. "So we’re leaving the line-drawing to each of you next season, and we kindly invite each of you to draw your own line and please kindly then STFU about it. Please? (Really, seriously, please?)"
At the risk of violating the “STFU” part of that invitation, I thought I should post a link today to my April blog post announcing my personal Red Line for 2013-14. To be clear, my scheme carries absolutely no official imprimatur; after all, Kyle runs TMM, not me. I’m just a member of the community. Also, I’m not looking to start any “meaningless debates” or stupid arguments here, so please take that elsewhere. :) I’m just offering this in case anyone is looking for a suggested list of “who’s a mid-major” that’s based on finances rather than success or failure, and that holds up reasonably well in this “realigned” world of stupid football-based conferences (in which, as Kyle noted, the old rule that “your conference is your home” no longer works well for Red Line purposes). If you are such a person, looking for a such a list, feel free to use mine. If not, feel free to ignore it. :)
Anyway, here are my list’s rules:
• If a “straddler” school’s men’s basketball budget is under $4,000,000, it’s a mid-major.
• If a “straddler” school’s men’s basketball budget is $4,000,000 or greater, it’s not a mid-major.
Got all that? :) I know it sounds a bit complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple and straightforward when put into practice — and the results are mostly “intuitively right,” I think, with just a few odd quirks. Here’s the Google Doc spreadsheet that shows where everybody ends up. To summarize:
ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC: No mid-majors. (Duh.)
American Athletic Conference: Xavier, Houston and UCF are mid-majors. Louisville, UConn, Rutgers, Memphis, SMU, Cincinnati and Temple are not.
Big East: Butler, Creighton, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul are mid-majors. Marquette, Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s and South Florida are not.
Conference USA: All members are mid-majors except Tulsa.
Mountain West: Wyoming, Fresno State, Boise State, Colorado State, San Jose State, Utah State and Nevada are mid-majors. UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico are not.
WCC: All members are mid-majors except BYU. (Yes, Gonzaga’s a mid. Their overall athletic budget is just $21.5 million. BYU’s is $48.3 million.)
All other leagues, including the A-10, CAA and MVC: All members are mid-majors.
Remember, I’m not making any “judgment calls” here (beyond picking the arbitrary—but round—numbers of $40M, $25M and $4M). If you don’t like Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul as mids, or Tulsa and SMU as majors, well, I understand. In fact, I sort of agree. But I think those are tolerable oddball cases, worth it to have a well-defined, justifiable list based upon financial data.
Anyway, that’s my list. Again, use it if you like it; ignore it if you don’t. (If you like your Red Line, you can keep your Red Line!) Just please don’t start any arguments about it, or Kyle may kill me. :)