Monday, March 10, 2008

Here's Why I Love College Basketball, Part II

Elon 52, Furman 37
Elon 60, Chattanooga 57
Elon 75, College of Charleston 61

We go to Charleston, South Carolina for the Southern Conference tournament and my school Elon University, the tournaments 7th seed is playing for an NCAA Division I tournament bid tonight against Davidson (ESPN2, 9:00 PM). This is Elon's first tournament title game appearance since joining the Southern Conference in 2003. Elon finished the regular season 11-18. Not too impressive obviously but some of their losses came against (all on the road) Virginia Tech, Georgia, Virginia Commonwealth and Virginia. In the past, Elon has also gone against Georgetown, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Stanford. They're trying to build a decent NCAA Division I program and while these losses to bigger schools may hurt the overall record, they go a long way to prepare the team for conference and tournament play. Plus games like these are excellent for recruiting.

Years...ok make that two and a half decades (!) ago when I was at Elon, me and my amigos used to watch the NCAA tournament selection show over a few beers and wonder out loud how cool would it be to see Elon's name picked one day. We all laughed of course because back then Elon was a member of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and was a doormat in the South Atlantic Conference. Over the years since I was there, the school has gotten bigger and made the jump to NCAA play (The Elon football team is currently NCAA Division I-AA). Should Elon make it in, I've got a few phone numbers of my friends and will call these guys to be sure to remind them to catch the selection show.

So the reward for winning three games in three days, Elon gets the #25 ranked team in the nation in Davidson. Beat them and they are in the NCAA tournament. It obviously won't be easy as Davidson owns the NCAA's (Division I) longest winning streak at 21 and has won their last 35 Southern Conference games. Elon played them tough this season though, losing 59-57 at home January 9 and 74-64 at Davidson on February 6. Both times Davidson was a heavy favorite. Ask any basketball coach and they will say one of the toughest things to do is beat a team three times in one year.

Elon-College of Charleston recap

Before the Elon-Davidson game, ESPN is showing the Colonial Athletic Association final. Weena's school, George Mason goes against William & Mary. William & Mary has also won three CAA tournament games in a row and is trying to do what Elon is trying to do. Win four conference tournament games and go to the NCAA tournament. This is what I love about conference tournament basketball, everyone has a chance. "Just survive and advance" is what the late N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano used to say.

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