Said in the infamous words of Dick Vitale. For those who care enough about college basketball know this is the best time of the year. Nothing beats March Madness. Although the N.I.T has been regulated to the "Not Important Tournament" in recent years, back in the hayday, the N.I.T. was more important than the NCAA's. And some (like myself) may argue that the competition in the N.I.T. is tougher game after game because teams of even keel are playing each other, rather than having the #1 team play the #150 ranked team. That being said, maybe I'm bitter that Marist wasn't in the NCAA's and had to basically settle for the N.I.T. But I said all along that they had a better shot in the N.I.T. due to the playing field being very even. This year's N.I.T. teams include snubbed from the tournament Syracuse, Airforce, Drexel, West Virginia, Michigan, Florida St, etc. You can view the complete N.I.T. bracket here.
Anyway, Marist got a tough draw in the N.I.T. having to face Oklahoma St. in the first round. Those who follow college hoops know OSU is known for their gritty defense and physical play. Also they have an outstanding home record against non-conference play. In fact they were 137-2 in non-conference home games coming into last night's game. 137 wins and 2 losses. That's crazy. And given that Marist is more of a finesse team, that will shoot the 3 until the lights go out, I figured they would have little to no shot of winning. In fact I was willing to bet our wussy center would be crying in the first 5 minutes after getting knocked around by the bigger OSU team.
But much to my (and everyone else who follows Marist for that matter) shock, they pretty much blew the doors off OSU with a barrage of three's, and a tough zone defense that forced OSU to settle for long jumpers. With OSU Big-12 stud Mario Boggan averaging 7.6 rebounds per game you figured they'd absolutely crush Marist on the glass. But not so. Marist got to every loose ball and rebound, holding Boggans to only 6 rebounds on the night. Marist outrebounded OSU 39-27. It was obviously OSU didn't watch any game film because they let Marist shoot the 3 at will. At one point Marist had a 17 point lead and OSU's coach and crowd were shocked. Even the announcers (who I didn't hear cause of music at the bar) were in shock.
OSU should have beaten Marist in their sleep...but watching the game Marist clearly wanted the win more than they did. Here's the recap from the announce team:
After the game, OSU coach Sean Sutton (son of former and legendary OSU coach Eddie Sutton) pretty much attacked his team's will:
"[This] was a great example of one team that wanted to play, that cared about being in this tournament, and one team that had a few guys that would rather be on spring break," Sutton said.
"Marist deserved to win. They played with passion. They were having fun. They passed the ball around. They executed and they out-hustled us to rebounds. How do you out-rebound Texas A&M and Texas then get beat (on the boards) by 15? Effort. Anybody that saw us play in the Ford Center saw us hold Nebraska to 19 points in the first half, Texas A&M to 28, and Texas to 31. This team comes in and has 37 in the first half. They deserved to win. They played better and this game seemed a lot more important to their guys."
Ouch. Especially considering OSU was probably ticked off about being left out of the tourney...but still no excuse to come out and sleepwalk through a game. Especially at home. And especially when you've only lost twice in 139 tries at home vs. non-conference opponents! To equate this to the NCAA Tournament, this win would be the equivalent of a #13 seed knocking off a #4 seed. Pretty big on the upset scale.
Article recapping the game
Believe it or not, this was the first postseason win ever (EVER) for the Marist Red Foxes. They had been to the NCAA Tournament in 86 and 87 with the Dunking Dutchman himself Rik Smits (but lost to Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech in those games). In 1996 they got hosed by the refs in the NEC conference tournament and settled for the N.I.T., only to narrowly lose to a URI (Rhode Island) team that had future NBA'ers Cuttino Mobley and Lamar Odom. So odds weren't in their favor. But they pulled it off. Next up is the N.C. State Wolfpack, who nearly pulled off a big upset of their own in the ACC tournament, losing to UNC in the final. Another somewhat impossible game, but it's a 6 seed vs a 7 seed so you never know. The game is 9:30pm on ESPN U on Friday night for anyone who's interested. Of course that goes against the NCAA Tournament and Women's games...so good luck trying to get the bar owners to switch the game! Go MARIST!
Wednesday, March 14, 2007