Outside of the six power conferences that exist in college basketball, there is a traditionally strong mid-major conference filled with much smaller schools that may actually be able to compete against the big boys.
Despite the West Coast Conference producing a No. 1 seeded Gonzaga team and also sending Saint Mary’s to the NCAA tournament, both teams had rather disappointing losses early on. The Atlantic 10 generated three teams in the tourney, but the Saint Louis Bilikins lost to a 12 seeded Oregon team, and the conference hasn’t had many teams who have had success in past NCAA tournaments.
The Missouri Valley conference is by no means a household name, but it is probably the best conference that most people have never heard of.
The reigning repeat MVC champion, Creighton, beat a higher seeded Cinnicinati team (a former member of the MVC). The Jays have been one the more consistent teams in college basketball all year. CU finished first in shooting percentage in the country as they shot over 50 percent on the year. The Jays also finished fifth in total assist per game and produced an All-American in Doug McDermott. Although Creighton was defeated soundly by the Duke Blue Devils, their season as a whole was impressive. I’m sure the rest of the Valley will miss what has become a flagship program once CU leaves for the newly formed American 12 conference.
As if having a program like Creighton isn’t enough, The MVC also houses a 2013 Final Four team in the Wichita State Shockers. Statistically, the Wheat Shockers weren’t very impressive. In the team’s biggest area of strength, rebounding, WSU was only the 25th best rebounding team. In points per game and shooting percentage, the Shockers ranked 117th and 115th respectively. It wasn’t the numbers that propelled WSU to success, but their unity as a team. Everyone on the team had a role to play and every one perfomed that role effectively under head coach Gregg Marshall. The Shockers amazing tourney run was highlighted by wins over No. 1 seeded Gonzaga and highly touted Ohio State before being defeated by Louisville after the WSU had led most of the game.
Despite Creighton leaving the conference and Wichita State loosing key seniors, the MVC looks strong moving forward. It’s small programs like Evansville and Northern Iowa are grabbing higher ranked and local recruits. The competition between the conference teams is getting better and WSU’s success in the tourney will draw much more attention to the small conference. Nationally, college basketball fans are noticing not to take these mid-major programs lightly.
Every generation has its share of great athletes and this will hold true until sporting competitions cease to exist. Most athletes in sports today have yet to dominate thier respective areas of play the way Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice and Wayne Gretzky have, but they are leaving their own legacies: great and not so great.
LeBron James is the most explosive athlete the game of basketball has ever seen. The 6-foot-8 forward moves more swiftly at 250 pounds than most lithe point guards can. At his size, he can do things spectators of the sport have never witnessed before; from highlight dunks to amazing no-look behind-the-back passes. The one knock on the Akron, OH., native is that he isn’t a clutch perfomer. After winning the 2012 NBA championship, LeBron now has three gold medals, nine All-Star game apperances, rookie of the year honors, three MVP titles, and an NBA scoring title. Not only has he quelled his would be detractors who believed he couldn’t win the big game, but he already has one of the most storied careers in NBA history.
While Bron Bron is the most proflific athlete in the game, Carmelo Anthony is probably one the best visual scorers the league has ever seen. Melo dazzles with his amazing ability to put the ball in the rim from almost anywhere on the court it. He is the player that the average fan wants to be because his style of play is so attractive. But it is also decieving.
Being a great scorer doesn’t make you a great basketball player, there are many other facets to the game that Melo appears not to really care about. There is no doubt he is talented but fans often consider him one of the top five players in the game when he usually affects the game in one area.
Melo’s defensive ability is pourous and mediocre at best, but not for a lack of ability. Carmelo could be a good defensive player as we have seen from time to time in his contest against LBJ, but he doesn’t put in a concerted effort on a nightly basis. Despite his 6-foot-8 frame, he has never averaged over 1.0 blocks per game and has never averaged over four apg in any of his NBA seasons. Not to mention he has only been out of the first round of the playoffs once.
Although racing is not considered a “true sport” to some, Jimmie Johnson is perhaps the greatest athlete mainstream America doesn’t really recognize. Johnson is one of the few modern athletes to utterly dominate his sport. He has won five consecutive Sprint Cup Championships and was voted the AP male athlete of the year in 2009. The AP award usually go to athletes in major sports because of the thier exposure in the media. The most amazing thing about Johnson is that it appears that his best years may still be ahead of him and he already has a legacy comparable to the greatest of NASCAR drivers.