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Mid-Continent Notebook

December 2, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Mid-Continent Conference Notebook

by Cory J. Danner

When the conference season begins in a month or so, we will finally begin to see what the true structure of the Mid-Con will be. For now though, the mystery continues. The beginning of the season is a chance for all the coaches to try different schemes and see what the best combination of players will be. It is tough to do that when many of the teams are playing Top 25 competition night in and night out. This has been the situation for the conference for years, but it’s just that this year the teams are pushing the high level competition to the brink. No huge upsets to speak of yet, but Oakland almost had one this week against No. 6 Missouri. A game that went down to the final seconds shows just how strong this conference is and what a shame it is the NCAA tournament only brings in one team.

Western Illinois

The Leathernecks (0-5) keep the atrocity of the season going with a couple more losses to UNLV and Wisconsin-Green Bay. Bobby Carter was the team’s standout in the UNLV game by putting up 19 points and connecting on all four of his three-point attempts. Carter is one of those inside-outside players that could start on a Top 25 team and hold his own. His inconsistency is his downfall though. This shone evident in the game against W-GB, where Carter only dropped in five points. WIU kept it close for the first 20 minutes and even took a halftime lead into the locker room, 21-20. Wisconsin-Green Bay’s reputation as an offensive juggernaut was held in check. Only for a half though as W-GB hit for 50 points in the second half to blow out the Leathernecks, 70-55. If WIU wants to get back on track, it better happen quickly. Games at Minnesota and Detroit will not soften a preseason schedule that could see the team at 1-9 going into conference play.

Valparaiso

Another heartbreaker for the Crusaders (1-2), as Coach Homer Drew saw his team lose by two to South Florida, 64-62. Center Joaquin Gomez is really going to have to step up if the team expects to hit another gear. Gomez went 3 for 11 in the game against South Florida. Losing to Marquette by five last week and then by two this week has to get inside their heads that they can’t win a close game. Team defense has been good though; keeping teams to around 65 points a game. Cincinnati remains as the lone tough game left on the schedule, as the Crusaders should pick up steam for the conference competition.

Southern Utah

Rebounding quickly from the drubbing it took by BYU, the Thunderbirds (2-1) picked up a couple easy wins against Lewis and Clark and Washington State. SUU held both teams under 50 and had a balanced offensive attack. There isn’t one superstar on this team like there is on Oakland and UMKC. It will be rare to see a 20-point night from anyone on this team. Balance can be a good thing when teams don’t really know whom to focus on and you can score with three or more players. I still think this will be a rough season for the Thunderbirds. With teams like Montana Tech and Denver in the future, the team will probably have an inflated record at the end of December.

Oral Roberts

The Golden Eagles (2-2) split a pair of games like they did last week. They lost to Chattanooga by two in the closing seconds and then took out their frustrations on Oklahoma Wesleyan. Rebounding is still an issue for ORU, losing the glass battle against Chattanooga, 29-17, and 10-4 on the offensive side. You can’t give teams that many second chances and expect to come out with a win. The next game against OW proved to be a joke. They handed OW the red wig and said prepare for your beating. The final score was118-53 and it could have been worse. Every player played at least 11 minutes and no one more than 26. The trainer got in, some cheerleaders, and I think the mascot was even in at one point. The team better get serious in a hurry though, they take off for Arkansas this week for a showdown with the Razorbacks.

Oakland

That’s what you get for scheduling a tough Oakland club. A 2-4 record and a big dose of hurt pride. That is exactly what this team needs though. The coach recognized the talent level, and was not going to be satisfied with a schedule full of Michigan Tech A&M State’s. A five-point loss to No. 6 Missouri looked like it was going to be the Mid-Con upset of the season. You can always count on one, it just hasn’t happened yet. A three-pointer that rimmed out in the waning seconds proved to be the difference. Four losses in a row to Xavier, Michigan, Cincinnati, and Missouri have to take a toll on your psyche and make you wonder if you are a good team or not. Rest assured Golden Grizzlies, you are. The team gets a break in December to lick their wounds and rest up for the conference. A tough game against Detroit this week and then the team hits a little bit of a break.

UMKC

It’s been a quiet November for the Kangaroos (1-1). While other teams have played five or six games, UMKC has played two. A tough loss to Minnesota in the Preseason NIT last week was forgotten when the team blasted Norfolk State. You would think if you only played nine non-conference games, then you should schedule tough. Bucking the Mid-Con trend though, UMKC has an easier schedule than Paris Hilton. Kansas State at the end of the month will prove to be the only true test.

IUPUI

IUPUI is 3-0 for the first time in school history and I don’t think they are done yet. Whooping up on Tri-State and Wisconsin-Green Bay, IUPUI is really showing off its talent. Odell Bradley has stepped up and taken over the leadership role and is abusing opposing defenses. The surprise for the team though, is freshman guard Brandon Cole. Cole contributed 15 points, five rebounds and two assists in the win over W-GB. Cole was expected to take a secondary role and look for a starting spot in a year or two, but Coach Ron Hunter has been so impressed with his play, he made Cole a starter. At Vanderbilt on December 3 will be a test for this young Jaguars squad. Vandy just beat Indiana in that same gym two weeks ago. If the Jaguars can pull the upset, and I think they will, IUPUI might lift themselves to a whole new level.

Centenary

Well, I said if the Gents (1-2) put on a good show against Mississippi I would shut my mouth. Losing by 12 while playing at Mississippi is a strong showing, and I was pleased to see Andrew Wisniewski pull out 21 points from his bag of tricks. He really has shown he is the leader of a group I believed to be full of minor stars. The Gents retracted and lost by 35 to Texas though. I didn’t expect them to win, but 35? And the winner for weirdest schedule I’ve ever seen is Centenary. In the non-conference schedule, the Gents play McNeese State twice, Stephen F. Austin twice, and a conference game in December against Chicago State. And then smack in the middle of the conference season, they play Houston. Fun times ahead.

Chicago State

My obsession has become a habit and might turn ugly. The Cougars (1-3) put one in the win column and it makes me question my whole perception of reality. Up is down, black is white, CSU can win a game. It is all so foreign. Granted, CSU did put up three wins last season (all by under five points). This one was different though. Not since the days of Phi-Slama-Jama have we seen such an offensive power. A 94-63 win over North Central (Ill.) moves CSU into eighth place in the conference. There should be a party or a parade because the team will be visiting the ninth place cellar the rest of the season.

IUPUI showed off its skills and Oakland pushed a Top 10 team to the brink of defeat. It was a good week for the top teams in the Mid-Con. If there is such a thing as moral victories, then the teams of the Mid-Con are racking them up at record pace. Close losses to premiere schools are better than getting trounced I suppose. We will see if the tough roads help or hurt in the end come conference time. Just a month or so more of this drudgery they call non-conference. Bring it on.

     

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