Tag:East Tennessee State
Posted on: March 16, 2010 11:37 pm
When the NCAA Tournament kicks off Thursday in New Orleans, the feel will certainly be festive. And by festive, I mean hungover, because for reasons that only the brilliant minds behind the proposed NCAA Tournament expansion to 96 could likely understand, the first round is taking place in New Orleans the night after St Patricks Day. So in a city where public drunkedness is not only accepted, it is actively encouraged and at times, mandatory, the NCAA is going to place basketball games after the nation's drunkest collective holiday. Its for the kids ladies and gentlemen.
When the games do actually get started however, there will be a lot to see in James Carville's hometown. One of the top two teams in the country, an #8 seed that was ranked #1 overall this season, a certain NIT team that played its way into a #6 seed and quite possibly the most athletic team in America are all setting up shop in New Orleans as they hope to advance on in the South and West regions. Each game has some intrigue, some wackiness and a whole lot of Harangody. An overview:
NOTRE DAME vs OLD DOMINION 12:25
Most people would claim that the iconic figure in college basketball this year was John Wall, the uber-talented UK point guard who dazzled the country with athleticism, wild dunks and game-winning shots. They are wrong. The real icon of college basketball is the man with the worst hair and body in sports, Luke Harangody. If Harangody were a car, he would be a Kia Rondo, tall and boxy, prone to slow, awkward movements and proportionated in such a way as to seem to make success impossible. But like the Kia Rondo, Harangody finds a way to get the job done. When you watch this game today, take a few possessions and simply follow the 'Gody. Like the fat guy who sweats a lot but still finds a way to get garbage buckets in your church league game, the 'Gody will win no beauty points as he looks to the naked eye as the most unathletic basketball players since the cast of "Hang Time" left the court (still Reggie Theus's best coaching job). But he will score, rebound and even defend, all without seemingly being able to make one impressive movement. He is the basketball equivalent to an episode of "Friends," unlikely to leave you feeling the least bit impressed, but garnering solid ratings.
The 'Gody is playing against Old Dominion, a team I actually saw on our Road Trip across America and one that can cause some problems. ODU is as athletic a small school as you will see in the Tournament. They are long at every position and their goal is to get every rebound and outwork you, while playing a brand of basketball that can best be labeled as "boring." Their coach will try to counter the 'Gody's boxcut with his own moustache, a full feathered beauty that is both dark and bushy, a veritable forest under his lip. With his facial hair mesmerizing, it is easy to forget just how talented this team is and it isnt an exaggeration to say that they will be the more athletic team on the floor.
Notre Dame is full of Irish Catholics and the noon start on the day after St Patrick's Day will ensure a small crowd at the opening tip. ODU has the players to get out on the Irish three point shooters and Harangody will not be able to impose his will down low. However the Irish are deeper, have the best player on the floor and by the second half, Johnny O'Malley and the rest of the Irish faithful will stagger into the gym just in time to see the Irish win by 7.
BAYLOR vs SAM HOUSTON STATE 3:00
Every year the NCAA Tournament sees one team develop into a trendy pick to make noise and allows announcers on the Worldwide Leader to get on television and make proclamations that have no real substance but sound important like "I tell you who I like Digger, I like "TEAM X". The way they shoot the ball, play defense and their great Coach _____, this is a team that can really make some noise. I am not saying I will pick them over (INSERT #1 seed), but it wouldnt shock me if they get hot and cut down the nets to the Final Four. While the announcer says this, all of the other blow-dryed hairpieces on set shake their head and proclaim that they too like this team and have been on board with them all year. Inevitably this team is never as good as these paid airbags say they are and often the disappointment starts in game one.
This season that team is most certainly Baylor. You cant throw a stick without running into someone who has Baylor as their "sleeper team into the Final Four." The Bears are coached by Scott Drew and have found a way to turn around a basketball program that was long thought to be dead. However considering the fact tha tmost fans couldn't name one player on the Bears' roster, annoitment as a Final Four team seems a bit premature. As for Sam Houston State, they are fun to watch. They bring it up and down quickly, like to shoot a lot of three pointers and try to win by managing the game pace. Earlier this season they gave Kentucky a run for its money in Rupp Arena and since then, have put up great shooting performances week after week. Baylor isnt the greatest draw for Sam Houston, because they can match the athleticism that Sam Houston uses to dominate its opponents. But if they hit threes, then who knows what can happen.
Did you like how I got you excited right there....made you think that I was going to pick the upset upstarts? Not going to happen. Had SHS gotten a slow, methodical team, I might pull the shocker. As is, Baylor moves on and makes pundits shake their head and nod that they are the team to watch in the games ahead.
KENTUCKY VS EAST TENNESSEE STATE 7:00 PM
You know all about Kentucky, Calipari, Wall, Cousins, etc. They are really good and no group of players since Shane Battier was smiling and going to class every day at Duke have received the consistent national publicity of this group of Kentucky players. They have been visited by Lebron, Magic, Ashley Judd, Drake, Ben Roethlisberger (pre-college town romp), Mike Tomlin, Charles Barkley and even the biggest star of them all, World Wide Wes. They have raised over a million bucks for Haiti, talked to the President over the phone and even got to rub on Seth Davis's rosy cheeks. It has been such a strange, magical journey. But now it gets real and the games mean more. All the goodwill of the 32-2 campaign that has won the hearts of Kentuckians is at stake in one three-week period where anything can happen.
Well almost anything. What can't happen is losing to ETSU in the first round on Thursday night. ETSU famously was once led by a player that makes the NCAA all "hey I remember that guy but I have no idea where he went to school" list, Keith "Mr." Jennings. For it was 21 years ago that Jennings took a #16 seeded ETSU team and very nearly pulled the shocker over #1 seeded Oklahoma. They hope to bring that kind of magic back to light again, but this time against a much bigger fish and a much more talented group of players. Win partor lose, they will probably take solace in the fact that they will head back to Johnson City, Tennessee after the game and be greeted by the hottest group of mountain coeds this side of a very special episode of Hee-Haw.
Kentucky wins by a lot and moves on, much to the delight of the Big Blue nation. But when ETSU's most famous alum Kenny Chesney sneaks into the building, Jay Bilas becomes so enamored with his soft, beach sounds that he takes off his announcing headset, mumbles something about Baylor being a sleeper to get to the Final Fourand goes on tour with Buffett.
TEXAS vs WAKE FOREST 9:35 PM
What do you get when the two most underperforming participants in a particular endeavor get together to see which can muster up just enough to even showcase a flash of their former brilliance? No, its not every Pacino/Deniro move of the past ten years, but rather is the Underachievement HEavyweight Championship Title Match when Texas plays Wake Forest. Over the course of this past season, no two teams have been more baffling and neither has made its fans groan and search out for signs of life from its coach than the Longhorns and Demon Deacons. Both teams have loads of talent, but both have played so terribly at times that even Mike Dunleavy has asked from afar, "dont you coaches do anything?"
The most egregious offender has been Texas, where Rick Barnes has definitely proven that he is the worst Top 12 program coach in America. While there is no doubt that Barnes has assembled talent by the boatload in Austin, his team has played as poorly in the last two months as any team in the Tournament and has produced an historically unprecedented waste of talent from one program in one season. There may be as many as six guys on the Texas roster who could play in the NBA and players one through eleven, they could be the most talented team in America. But they are stuck floundering around, getting blown out by mediocre teams and backing their way into the tournament on the back of a win against NIT contender North Carolina in December. Remember, Texas was ONCE #1. Now they are hideous and absent a miracle turnaround, will finish a season of disappointment like none other.
There are those that say March forgives all sins. If either of these teams can win this game and then upset Kentucky, a season of disappointment can quickly be forgotten. Both teams have been awful, but in Texas's case there has been the occasional show of life. Wake Forest has been tuned out for months. Texas wins a close one in a game that simply frustrates all who watch.
So there you have it, Notre Dame, Baylor, Kentucky and Texas. Chalk from this guy. But hey, its New Orleans and the fun will be on the streets anyway. Enjoy the games and watch out for Harry Connick on the street trying to sing you a song...he does it to all the tourists.
Posted on: March 14, 2010 7:13 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2010 7:22 pm
The team’s leading scorer at 14 ppg is a player who until this season, had only scored 75 points in his two-year career for the Bucs. Tommy Hubbard was a highly touted recruit for ETSU coming out of high school and arrived on campus expecting to make a huge impact from Day one and become a shining star at a smaller school. But a combination of injuries, playing time issues and collegiate adjustment caused Hubbard to struggle early and for Coach Murray Bartow to even suggest a redshirt season. Last year he began the season as a redshirt, but had it pulled with nine games to go and became a key cog in an ETSU team that won its league and played #1 seed Pittsburgh close in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Now he leads the team in scoring and has even garnered interest from NBA scouts. There may be no player in America who has improved more.
The Buccaneers are coached by Murry Bartow , now in his seventh season in Johnson City. Bartow started his coaching career by taking over for a legend, his father Gene Bartow who literally started the basketball program at UAB. His time in Blazer land was rocky, as he made the NCAA Tournament only once in six years at the school. When he was dismissed, he took the road less traveled to the hills of Eastern Tennessee and has now become one of the candidates for National Coach of the Year. There was a time that Murry Bartow looked headed to the Pat Knight school of coaches who couldn’t reach the heights of their famous fathers. But Bartow now has it rolling at ETSU land and is garnering attention for more than just his last name.
ETSU’s nickname is the “Buccaneers”, an odd decision considering that there are very few places on Earth more landlocked than East Tennessee. But a pirate theme was chosen nonetheless and visitors are to be warned that when arriving on campus, they could be held up for ransom, forced to “walk the plank” or mysteriously accosted by men wearing eye patches and funny hats. Their mascot is known as “Bucky” and was once part of a duo of mascots, “Bucky and Pepper”, but like Ryan Seacrest telling Brian Dunkleman, “Seacrest, Out”, Bucky got rid of his lesser half and got a makeover to appear more menacing. What you are left with is a pirate that looks a bit like Wario from “Mario Cart” and seems to scare little children. Be careful what you wish for.
East Tennessee State is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, which may be most famous to you as a key line in Travis Tritt’s hit “Bonnie and Clyde.” If however you are not as familiar with Travis Tritt lyrics as you should be, there are still reasons to care about Johnson City. It was founded as a railroad depot, but quickly gained prominence as one of the centers of old-time country music producing such stars as “Fiddlin Charlie Johnson” and “Blind Lemon Jefferson.” The need to give descriptive nickname to its residents helps explain the current mayor’s name “Edict Declarin’ Williams” and the locals preference to call the ETSU Coach, “Drawin Them Plays Bartow.” Johnson City is also the last city in America to still have a “Barney Fife” Ordinance on its books, which allows the town to deputize citizens in times of need…such as when Buccanneers strike.
Unless you count Timothy Busfield, who was on the 1980s television show Thirtysomething (and I don’t), the famous alumni section of the ETSU handbook begins and ends with country star Kenny Chesney. The former country crooner who has recently turned into Jimmy Buffet-lite, graduated with a degree in advertising, which he brags about when he is hanging out with Peyton Manning (what, you didn’t know they were friends?). “Beach Kenny” would like you to know that he is having a cocktail now and life is grand out here on the island. And oh yeah, go ETSU.
So there you have it, your East Tennessee State Buccaneers. This probably isn’t the team that can upset a #1 seed, but it is the team that will have a beach party and take your bounty while doing it.
Posted on: March 6, 2010 8:56 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2010 7:36 pm
The NCAA approved beverage was still flowing and the East Tennesse State Buccaneers were still celebrating their second straight Atlantic Sun championship when the NCAA’s interim president, Jim Isch, issued a statement condemning the possible expansion to 96 tournament teams and, shockingly, endorsing a retraction.
According to the statement, released only to CBS, the powerful minds at the NCAA saw the back-and-forth tussle between fifth-seeded ETSU and sixth-seeded Mercer for exactly what it was - an example how the college game can drastically differ from the NBA. And, to them, they couldn’t be more appalled.
“You know, I was sitting at home watching this game,” Irsch wrote, “and somewhere between Mercer’s bow-tied student manager stomping his feet and ETSU rushing the court in celebration, I said ‘Jim, this isn’t what college athletics is supposed to be like’. It was just too amateur.”
Under Irsch’s plan, devised during the Atlantic Sun tournament that pitted two teams with a combined 17 conference losses, the NCAA will now aim to make March Madness mirror the BCS bowl system. The top 10 teams in the country will earn a trip to the yet to be named five-game finale, with the last being a matchup between two teams determined to be the best by a group of guys who play March Madness on Xbox Live. According to Irsch, this is a fan-friendly plan that gives college basketball nuts what they want - the stars of tomorrow on their TV today.
“Every year, we sludge through this lengthy tournament full of teams that don’t have draft picks and that can‘t move jersey sales. Why? It’s just crazy. I mean, under this wacky system, East Tennessee State actually has a chance to win the national title,” Irsch said. “Are you kidding me? Those guys couldn’t cut it in the NBDL. It‘s really absurd.”
For now, though, the system remains the same, meaning East Tennessee State and coach Murray Bartow have a chance at the national title for the second straight year after winning the Atlantic Sun title. And, as they proved in Macon, anything is possible.
Posted on: March 5, 2010 12:33 am
Edited on: March 9, 2010 7:40 pm
When the Atlantic Sun tournament kicked off Wednesday at the ratings-driven time of 2:30 in the afternoon, the competition for the league's NCAA bid was as up for grabs as any in the nation , with the top four seeds all entering the tournament with the same 14-6 conference record. But, after one round, only one of those four teams (Jacksonville) remain in contention for an NCAA berth and the #5, 6 and 8 seeds are only two games away from going dancing.
The madness (think you’ll hear that word much?) started in the first game Monday when the eighth-seeded Kennesaw State Owls knocked off the top-seeded Lipscomb Bisons behind 9-11 three-point shooting from Kurtis Woods and Kevin McConnell. After sitting out of the Atlantic Sun tournament for three years as a part of their agreement to move up to Division I, it was a sweet reward for the Owls in Macon.
Wednesday’s night session offered a bit of a return to status quo as second-seeded Jacksonville and seventh-seeded North Florida squared off and made people wonder how Jacksonville can support two Atlantic Sun teams and struggle to support an NFL squad. Just four years removed from winning only one game, the Dolphins (that’s Jacksonville) benefited from the inside-outside combo of Ben Smith and Lehmon Colbert, who both went for 24 points in the beating of the Ospreys. It should be noted that this game matched the least intimidating mascots since former Kentucky player Donald Williams’ high school played anyone. Anyone.
On Thursday, the reigning Atlantic Sun tournament champions, East Tennessee State, got their (minor) upset on and knocked off another one of the 14-6 teams, Campbell, 72-64. The details of the game are foggier than Snoop Dogg’s tour bus, though, as the A-Sun site reports 32 points from junior guard Micah Williams sparked the comeback and ESPN says he didn’t play in the game. What is known, however, is that the Bucs are now virtually a lock to defend their title in the championship game. They’ve blown out Kennesaw State both times they’ve played this year. And there are no upsets in the Atlantic Sun.
If there is such a thing as a dominant force and a sure thing in the Atlantic Sun, the Belmont Bruins just might be it. The private Nashville school that plays on an anatomically correct basketball court won three straight conference tournaments before falling to ETSU in the semifinals last year and was one of those four teams tied for the top conference spot. But, just like their fellow first-place surnamed religious institutions, the Bruins’ NCAA hopes came crashing down in the first round of the Atlantic Sun tournament. Belmont, winners of 8 of 9 games, drew the home team, the Mercer Bears, and their formidable 14-16 record. And, on this night, just like in the English language, the Bears proved have more staying power than the Bruins.
So, what was considered to be a wide-open tournament to start because of the four-way tie at the top, now shapes up as a the most wildly unknown tournament thanks to some upsets. Jacksonville, based on seeding, remains as the favorite. ETSU, however, is now on a five-game winning streak that saw them beat the Dolphins (that’s Jacksonville) on the road last week. But, don’t count out the Mercer Bears and their home court advantage, who now hold my rooting interest for one reason only. Should they win, there is a possibility they could not accept the NCAA bid once the Baptist school finds out that it’s considered dancing.
Atlantic Sun basketball….I love this game!
What’s Up Next
#8 Kennesaw State vs. #5 East Tennessee State (6:30 pm)
#6 Mercer vs. #2 Jacksonville (9:00 pm)
Drama! (6:00 pm)