By Marc Daley
Boredom causes people to do funny things. Without boredom, Jackass might have never been spawned, Bonnie and Clyde probably wouldn't have gone on a crime spree and several homes in greater suburbia would have survived the aftermath of childhood mischief. Rarely does it cause a college basketball coach to get ejected from a game on purpose but that's what happened Saturday night when Kentucky was winning comfortably over Mississippi Valley State. Even though the Wildcats were getting awarded charity shots at nearly a three-to-one advantage over the Delta Devils John Calipari took umbrage with the way a call was made, received a technical for his outburst then got his second one in short order before making his way to the locker room.
Mississippi Valley State is a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (aka the SWAC) and their fellow members are usually kissed off once the NCAA Tournament starts. This season has been a typical struggle for them as they have only won eight of their 87 matchups against fellow Division I opponents for an embarrassing win percentage of .092. No team has been awarded a seed higher than 16 this millennium. No team has won an NCAA Tournament game (excluding a play-in game) since 1993 when Southern knocked off Georgia Tech.
It's not for lack of effort on their parts. A typical SWAC program's athletic budget is less than that of some high schools. A big reason they play the role of the Washington Generals is their "road warrior" mentality. MVSU hasn't played a home game this season and can't even practice on campus. In order to generate money for "little things" such as travel, uniforms, food and scholarships conference members have to embark on a traveling road show. Top 100 recruits don't even sniff at their recruiting efforts – not that these schools could afford to shell out big bucks to make a decent run at them anyway.
Simply put, the SWAC schools just don't have the resources to compete in Division I.
Not competing isn't an option, but I strongly suggest that the powers that be consider moving down to Division II. Instead of consistently getting their best team in the play-in game year after year and worrying about how their players are going to eat after another humiliating road loss they can play at a level where their budget is more in line with their competitors. Their tournament representative can go in sporting a more robust record than one that is just above the Mendoza line of .500 (for the record, the conference is a solid 9-1 against non-Division I opponents this season).
Unless things change from the foul line and Jacob Pullen gets a more consistent option as a no. 2 guy Kansas State isn't going to the Final Four. The Wildcats are shooting an abysmal .545 from the charity stripe and Pullen scored nearly half of his team's points in their loss to Florida. A potential bigger issue could be their fearsome leader. Frank Martin can make men feel six inches tall with his glass-shattering stares and invective as long as his charges keep winning but keep in mind that Billy Gillispie was able to do the same thing at Texas A&M and Kentucky until he started losing and his act got more outdated than MySpace. Martin has started to make Kansas State nationally relevant on an annual basis for the first time since the early 1980s but is also the same guy that decided to bench starter Curtis Kelly for the first three games as a mind game and also called his team's 34-point victory against Alcorn State pathetic.
This weekend do yourself a favor and enjoy time with your family and friends. But before we sit down for enormous amounts of food while noisemaking toys drive us to the brink of insanity let's take a look at the some of the upcoming action for the week:
Kansas State-UNLV (Tuesday, 9PM EST) The Runnin' Rebels managed to right the ship against Southern Utah following two straight losses to Louisville (not a big surprise) and Cal-Santa Barbara(not as big a surprise as you would think). Outside of San Diego State the Mountain West elite had a week to forget as Brigham Young dropped to UCLA this weekend. It's very possible that the Rebs could lose three of their last four if they drop this contest – concentrating on everyone else and letting Pullen get his might not be a bad strategy.
Missouri-Illinois (Wednesday, 9PM EST) When Missouri's forty minutes of hell is clicking it's heaven to watch. The Tigers haven't scored below 70 points in a game since the opening win over Western Illinois and just lit the pinball machine for 116 against Central Arkansas. Illinois took the opposite approach and built several houses with their bricks in their loss to Illinois-Chicago. Don't expect the Illini to repeat that performance. This should be the most entertaining game of the holiday week.
Georgetown-Memphis (Thursday, 8PM EST) If you're at the relatives, commandeer the TV. If you're staying home, commandeer the TV. Do you really want to watch another holiday special featuring the talents of Nicki Minaj, the Gossip Girl cast and Martha Raye, denture wearer? Tune in to what could be a great individual battle of gladiators gladiating it out with Austin Freeman v. Will Barton.
San Diego State made a big jump in this week's polls while Tennessee took a nosedive following back-to-back losses to noted powerhouses Charlotte and Oakland.
- Ohio State
- Kansas State
- Michigan State
- San Diego State
- Texas A&M
- Brigham Young