IPFW: That’s Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne to you. The nickname is the Mastodons, how great is that? The sad fact is the Mastodons have never been good, but this season they’re 10-4 and have a four-game winning streak. It could be better too – they lost by one to Dayton, two to Illinois, by one to Texas A&M Corpus Christi. A possible 16 seed in March?
Manhattan: The Jaspers upset South Carolina 86-68 in Columbia and are now 9-2 with seven of those victories coming in true road games. Not surprisingly, that leads the nation. The Jaspers also won at LaSalle. A MAAC contender for sure.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack were 2-2 after losing at home to North Carolina Central. One game later, center Jordan Vandenberg returned from injury. He’s not the Pack’s best player, but with him they’ve won seven in a row (eight overall), including a heated one over an underrated East Carolina squad Saturday and a nice roadie at Tennessee Wednesday night.
SMU: The Mustangs are coached by the ageless Larry Brown (he’s 73), and will be a factor in Conference USA this season. They had a road victory at Wyoming Friday night for their fifth victory in a row. They’re 10-2. It will be interesting to see if Brown can work some magic when the Ponies play Louisville, UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati.
Toledo: Remember when BC lost to the Rockets and we all thought it was a bad loss? It wasn’t. Toledo continues to roll and is now 11-0, the best start for the school since 1966. It’s also the best start by a Mid-American Conference team since Ball State won its first 11 games in 1988-89.
Alabama: It was a really bad week in Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide dropped consecutive home games to Wichita State and Xavier to fall to 5-6. The Tide blew a 12-point lead in the second half against X.
Belmont: The Bruins will always have Chapel Hill, where they upset North Carolina, but things got bad on a western road trip where they lost to South Dakota State 85-72 and then were blown out by Denver 90-62 without injured point guard Reece Cunningham. Cunningham was back Saturday and the Bruins played better, but still lost to Kentucky 93-80. They’ll still be a tough out in the NCAA tournament for someone since I expect them to win the Ohio Valley Conference.
Penn: Not sure Jerome Allen can ever solve things at Penn. The Quakers lost at Marist Sunday, a low point in a 2-7 season.
South Carolina: Hate to imagine how angry Frank Martin is after the week his Gamecocks had, two bad home losses to Manhattan and USC Upstate. The damage of the loss to Upstate is immense; the big state university can’t lose to the satellite campus. Think of UMass losing to Lowell. Now it’s on to Hawaii and there will no fun in the sun in Honolulu until the Gamecocks win a game.
Southern Illinois: The once-proud Salukis lost to Murray State and are now 3-8. It made coach Barry Hinson goes a little nuts and he called his team “uncoachable’’ and a “bunch of mama’s boys,’’ among other things. For those who haven’t see it, here’s the link. The Salukis responded by beating Ball State at home Saturday, so maybe they listened.
This week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Wichita State. The Shockers are 12-0 and threatening to run the table. What coach Greg Marshall would really like is a game vs. Kansas. He’s not getting it.
This week’s Final Four: Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville, Oklahoma State
This week’s national champion: Michigan State
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell