Every day there are three things, none worth devoting an individual post to, but each worth at least mentioning.
1) Who are the Musketeers? To you and I, they are the woefully shorthanded team playing without its best player that struggles to maintain possession of the basketball, has few reliable ballhandlers, and wears down at the end of games.
Last night against the Marquette Golden Eagles, who are taking their turn as the team no one wants to play in March, Xavier was the woefully shorthanded team playing without its best player that struggles to maintain possession of the basketball, has few reliable ballhandlers, and wears down at the end of games, that also played no defense, and got little of substance from its best remaining player, who is physically compromised.
But what are the Musketeers to the selection committee? What's the fairer representation of their tournament-worthiness? Is it way they barreled their way to a 13-2 start, losing only to a very good, battle-tested Baylor team and an okay Colorado team, both on the road? The team that was sitting at 15-5 in the moments after Edmond Sumner's injury against St. John's? The team that responded to Edmond's absence by winning against pesky Seton Hall and at still-good-without-Mo-Watson Creighton?
Or is it the team that has won six games in two months? The one that's sitting on a six-game losing streak? The one that's seemed completely gassed while losing those six games by an average of more than a dozen points? The one that's lost four times in two weeks against teams also residing within the bubble's vicinity?
The one that without Sumner, with a hobbling Trevon Bluiett, and without much depth and almost no margin for error is no sure bet to beat the worst team in the league in a must-win game this weekend?
Right now, I'm guessing they're the latter. Jerry Palm, the CBS bracket geek, said on our show last week that to not have their name pop up on the screen on Selection Sunday, the Muskies would have to avoid losing eight straight to end their season. Maybe he's right, and with their next two games against a nine-win DePaul team, including one next Wednesday in the Big East Tournament, I still have a hard time believing that XU will finish off their NCAA body or work by losing eight in a row.
That said, two victories against DePaul will only serve to stop the downward spiral, with neither doing much on their own to really impress the committee. The Musketeers need wins, but they also need quality wins, something that's unattainable until the Big East quarterfinals, and given the lack of quality bodies available to Chris Mack, I don't feel good about their ability to beat a rested Butler team in New York, if they got that far.
Meanwhile, a few bubble teams are making a move. Georgia, Northwestern, Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Illinois, Kansas State, and the Marquette team that did what it wanted offensively at the Cintas Center each picked up crucial wins last night.
Xavier is clearly on the bubble. They're playing worse. They looked exhausted. They're sitting on the program's longest losing streak in three and a half decades. They look nothing like an NCAA Tournament team right now. The fear is that the people who will draw up the bracket are seeing the same things you and I are.
2) Who are the Flyers? They're outright A-10 champs, after avenging an earlier loss to VCU by beating the Rams at UD Arena last night. Dayton jumped out in front, went into clock-killing mode way too early, made things a little too uncomfortable, and held on for a satisfying title-clinching victory, sending off an exceptional senior class with a win, and erasing any doubts as to the NCAA Tournament qualifications.
The Flyers will also get their turn as a team no one wants to play in March, and for good reason. They have experience, they're finally healthy, and while they may not excel at any one thing, they were the best defensive team in the A-10, they're ranked in the top 40 nationally in a number of offensive metrics, and aside from offensive rebounding, they don't have a damming weakness (Although their free throw shooting isn't as good as I'd like for it to be) They aren't as balanced offensively as some pundits will make them out to be, but they do have a number of players who can score, and Archie Miller is a damn fine coach.
They're not likely to get a great seed, mainly because their resume lacks signature wins that really stand out, but where the committee puts them shouldn't diminish how good they've been this season, how they rallied in the face of injury and tragedy (I couldn't help but think of Steve McElvene and his family as the Flyers celebrated last night), and turned in the most enjoyable Flyers regular season since I enrolled at UD, thus making them my second-favorite college basketball team 22 years ago.
3) Who are student-athletes? They are just like regular students, right? At least, that's what the NCAA tells us, which is why they can't have. Any. Extra. Benefits. Dammit!
Two of the University of Richmond’s best baseball players are among five who have begun this season suspended for NCAA rules violations related to fantasy football involvement.
NCAA rules state:
“You are not eligible to compete if you knowingly participate in any sports wagering activity that involves intercollegiate, amateur or professional athletics, through a bookmaker, a parlay card or any other method employed by organized gambling. Examples of sports wagering include, but are not limited to, the use of a bookmaker or parlay card; Internet sports wagering; auctions in which bids are placed on teams, individuals or contests; and pools or fantasy leagues in which an entry fee is required.”
First, I'll just leave this here...
Second, aside from the general lack of pure common sense and over-reaching authority that this represents, I just want this to put an end to the notion that student-athletes are just like regular students.
Regular students play fantasy football.
Radio Show: ESPN college basketball writer Eamonn Brennan joins us at 3:20. We have the latest from places like Indy and Goodyear, and maybe we'll hear from you too. Join us at 3:05 on ESPN1530.
(Photo: Getty Images)