Now the season has arrived. The 2016-17 college basketball season has its first real splash moment of the season in its biggest signature upset of the year so far.
Indiana coach Tom Crean did what most would call him insane to do, scheduling a game this year on the home court of Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne (that’s the real name of the school, contrary to what some are trying to tell you this morning). The game was done with some risk, as the Mastodons are a defending Summit League co-champion, won 25 games just three years ago and 24 a year ago, and have been on the uptick ever since former Hoosier Dane Fife coached there from 2005-11.
It still seemed unlikely that IU would lose to its in-state foe, especially when the Hoosiers were undefeated and ranked third in the country this week while IPFW lost less than a week ago by 18 points at Illinois State. We saw once again just how critical homecourt advantage is in college basketball, though, as the Mastodons seized the moment and knocked off No. 3 Indiana 71-68 in overtime for what is undoubtedly the biggest win in school history.
Bryson Scott totaled 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead IPFW and John Konchar-an up-and-coming player who is only a sophomore-added 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. For the Mastodons-a program that made its first-ever trip to the NIT last year and is still looking for its first NCAA Tournament appearance-this is undoubtedly an opportunity to build a program. For that reason alone, this game is fantastic for Fort Wayne and for college basketball. And, as we noted last night, contrary to the myth that says the schools with the most money should not play games like this, Crean is not going to lose his job for losing this game. What he does over an entire Big Ten schedule and in the NCAA tourney will always impact job security more than an occasional loss like this. Crean deserves every bit of credit for playing this game, as Mastodons coach Jon Coffman was very clear in noting afterwards.
Of note: this was technically a home game for Indiana, IU had more fans at the game and the Hoosiers’ pregame video introduction was played on the video board before the game. Still, IPFW was playing on a familiar court; Indiana was not. If this doesn’t influence the NCAA men’s basketball committee to get serious about recognizing the importance of where games are played-whether opponents are ranked No. 1 or No. 200-then nothing will. And our guess is: it still won’t.
Among upsets so far this season, though, this one is tops. IPFW defeating a state school and one of the biggest names in the history of the sport will resonate the rest of this year and for years to come. Much like NJIT winning at Michigan, this is the ultimate unknown school defeating a behemoth state research university, which is a big part of what makes college basketball so much fun.
Also: about IPFW’s preference to be “branded” as Fort Wayne: the school name is what it is, and it is not Fort Wayne University, the University of Fort Wayne or even the College of Fort Wayne. Nothing a marketer might have suggested has changed that yet..
I may want my wife to call me Bear Bryant, but it doesn’t change the fact that my name isn’t Bear Bryant, it’s a funny name with Polish origins that isn’t easy to spell or pronounce. But it is mine, and for all who held the name before me, I wear it proudly.
If you want to be Chad Ochocinco, go through the proper channels and get the name officially changed (that’s what the colorful former NFL receiver did, before getting it changed back to Chad Johnson; it’s also what Memphis State and SW Missouri State did, among others, eventually becoming the schools today known as Memphis and Missouri State). Until then, the school on first reference is Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne, or IPFW. Own it. Be proud of it. Besides, considering the general public’s ever-increasing feelings that colleges and universities’ athletic departments are not connected enough with their academic pursuits, the last thing schools like IPFW, Arkansas-Little Rock, UNC Charlotte or anyone else should be doing is attempting to promote their athletic programs by a name that suggests they are not connected with the university that is funding them.
- The Maui Invitational title game is set. Wisconsin powered past Georgetown in the second half for a 73-57 win behind 19 points and 15 boards for Ethan Happ. The Badgers face a tall task in the final against North Carolina, which ran away from Oklahoma State 107-75 in another impressive showing.
- Yante Maten scored more than half of Georgia’s points, but Kansas shut down the other half of the Bulldogs’ dynamic duo in a 65-54 win to clinch the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. Maten scored 30 and added 13 rebounds, but J.J. Frazier was held to just two, and with that UGA had little chance.
- Notre Dame held off determined Northwestern 70-66 to win the Legends Classic, improving to 4-0 in Brooklyn this calendar year as the Barclays Center also is where the Irish defeated Michigan and Stephen F. Austin in the NCAA Tournament in March. The Wildcats are now 3-2 but could easily be 5-0; they held late leads at Butler and in this one, ahead 66-65 until Matt Farrell’s layup put ND up for good with 14 seconds left.
- The Gulf Coast Classic semifinals saw Vermont post a surprisingly convincing 87-73 win over Hofstra and Houston pull away from South Dakota 85-58, handing the Coyotes their first loss.
- Pittsburgh held off Yale 75-70 to move to 4-1, with Michael Young filling the stat sheet with 24 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
- Cross off Central Michigan and UNC Charlotte from the ranks of the undefeated. The Chippewas could get their three-point game going (6-for-28) and were drilled by St. Bonaventure 102-71. Charlotte was surprised at home by USC Upstate 108-103 in overtime.
- Kansas State stopped Robert Morris, but we have a single-double alert-RMU’s Aaron Tate finished with two points but grabbed 11 rebounds.
- Keep an eye on Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are now 5-0 after a surprisingly easy 85-71 win over Arkansas. The Hogs committed 21 turnovers and Minnesota had six score in double figures. Amir Coffey is one of the best freshmen few are talking about so far, and he led the Gophers with 19 points.
- A big news item from the day came from Morehead State, where coach Sean Woods has been suspended without pay effective immediately while an investigation is underway regarding complaints received about him. Assistant coach Preston Spradlin will serve as interim coach while the investigation is conducted. Woods is well-known as a fiery coach who has had controversy before, as he was suspended in 2012 for one game after appearing to shove a player. Morehead State knows exactly what it has in Woods, who also is known for coaching physical teams that won’t back down to anyone. Unless the investigation reveals physical abuse, there should be few surprises here, the question is whether the school is willing to stand up for a coach it just gave a contract extension, or if it will bow to outer pressures the way George Washington recently did when it terminated Mike Lonergan.
- The Maui Invite wraps up with the Wisconsin/North Carolina title game plus interesting games for third place (Georgetown/Oklahoma State) and fifth (Oregon/Connecticut).
- The Gulf Coast Showcase finishes with Houston taking on Vermont in the championship game.
- We incorrectly wrote yesterday that the MGM Grand Main Event final between BYU and Valparaiso was to be played yesterday; indeed, that game actually takes place tonight, as the teams received a day off after their semifinal games. It’s Mormons vs. Lutherans for the title in a matchup of two schools with strong affiliations to their respective churches. Watching Alec Peters against BYU’s talented core should be fun.
- The Battle 4 Atlantis opens, and all four quarterfinal game are noteworthy. Wichita State has looked terrific early this year; the Shockers take on LSU. VCU/Baylor, Michigan State/St. John’s and Louisville against Old Dominion wrap up the first day, with the Johnnies getting a shot at the young Spartans and Louisville looking to outrun a plodding ODU team that also rebounds very well.
- If there weren’t so many tournaments going on, Michigan’s trip to South Carolina would be worthy of top billing on this night. As it is, this is a terrific matchup with the hot Wolverines going against Frank Martin’s intense Gamecocks.
- Finally, the good ol’ Great Alaska Shootout tips off its 39th annual event with a pair of quarterfinals, with Buffalo taking on the host Alaska-Anchorage and Oakland meeting Nevada in a good matchup.
Have a terrific Wednesday.