As promised, it is the premier of what will hopefully be a pretty regular weekly feature. Defend That, Digger is meant to make fun of our Big East and ACC brethren, showing them that defense is not a bad thing and that they aren't exactly the greatest teams in the country because the Worldwide Leader in Hyperbole says they are. Here is this week's exhibit A:
Pittsburgh 47, New Hampshire 32 - I thought the Big East was all about offense? Don't they have so much talent they can score 100 on anyone in the country? Pittsburgh was a #1 seed in last season's tournament (one of three from the all-powerful Big East). Now they are struggling against the Wildcats of New Hampshire. New Hampshire is one of the oldest teams in college basketball, yet they have never made an NCAA or NIT Tournament. In this game they scored just seven points in the first half, yet trailed by eight.
That's right, the halftime score was 15-7.
No, this was not football.
I know Pittsburgh is racked with injuries, but 15-7? From a former number one seed? Defend That, Digger!
Connecticut - The Huskies get called not for one game, but four. They have struggled with the NCAA powers Harvard (79-73) Hofstra (76-67), and William & Mary (75-66) this year. That is sure going to prepare them for the grueling Big East schedule. They are also currently ranked 13th, though something tells me when they play real teams that won't last long. Defend That, Digger!
William & Mary 78, Wake Forest 68 - This is the second appearance by the Tribe on here, so they might be a legitimately good team. Still, there is absolutely no excuse for Wake Forest, who was #1 at one point last season, to trail by double digits for most of a game at home against William & Mary. Wake is a legitimately good team. I have seen them in person now. But there is no defense for this. Defend That, Digger!
Illinois 76, Clemson 74 - A prime example here. Illinois used, imagine this, solid second half defense to overcome a 23 point deficit and give the Big Ten the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Oh, and they did it on the road in an imposing ACC gym. There is no excuse for ever blowing a 23 point second half lead at home. Ever. Clemson, you are a pretend ACC program. You always will be. Defend That, Digger!
UNC-Charlotte 87, Louisville 65 - The Big East's third number one seed from last season lost by 22 at home. This isn't UNC. This is UNC-Charlotte, a State-City school that while decent, should never beat a #16 team on its home floor by 22 points. Maybe Rick Pitino should watch some game film of the 49ers instead of boinking Louisville-area waitresses. At least he gets a slight discount at Applebee's. Defend That, Digger!
Notre Dame - Because playing a "National Schedule" of North Florida, St. Francis (PA), Long Beach State, Liberty, Kennesaw State, Idaho State, and Central Florida is much better than developing "tradition" and "natural rivalries." I though the Irish valued tradition. Defend That, Digger!
Enough laughing at the greatest conferences in the world. Let's see what our own non-conference opponents are doing to help our resumes.
Cal State Northridge (4-4) - The Matadors have played quite a vagabond schedule as a low-major. They have played just twice in their home gym so far, but are a respectable 4-4. Among their wins is a 95-93 win over Idaho. The Vandals responded by crushing Portland by 20 (the same Portland that made a big run in the '76 classic over UCLA and Minnesota). Northridge's most recent game was a respectable 8-point loss at Washington.
South Dakota State (3-5, 1-1 Summit) - The Jackrabbits have already begun conference play with a 1-1 record. The beat Western Illinois, but lost by 22 at conference leader IUPUI. The Western Illinois win was their first since before heading to the Virgin Islands.
St. Joseph's (3-4) - Since starting the year 3-0 and upsetting Boston College in the Paradise Jam the Hawks haven't done much. They followed up their loss to us with a loss to DePaul. They then dropped consecutive road contests to Rider and Cornell by a combined 20 points. They could do us a big favor in their next game by upsetting #3 Villanova Wednesday night.
Tennessee (6-1) - The Volunteers are maintaining their ranking, but they haven't played anyone. College of Charleston and East Tennessee State are their latest victims, but us and maybe DePaul remain their only true competition.
Central Michigan (3-5) - The Chips had a dominant 78-40 win at home against Chicago State, but lost 75-62 at Illinois State this weekend. Expect the losses to pile up. They don't play at home against until January 13th against Ball State.
Wake Forest (5-2) - I thought the losses would pile up a bit after the underwhelming performance against William & Mary, but Wake followed up their loss to us with a very nice 77-75 win at Gonzaga. Going cross-country like that is not an easy trip. Beating the Bulldogs in their house is even tougher. They have interesting non-conference games coming up against Xavier and a tough Richmond squad.
Buffalo (3-3) - We all know what happened in their last game. They get a regional rivalry this week against a tough low-major in Niagara. Sadly, that may be the best team they have left on the schedule.
Valparaiso (3-5, 0-1 Horizon) - Valparaiso may have played the toughest schedule in the country lately. We're the fourth preseason top 10 team they will play. Their only Division 1 win was over Georgia Southern, but they played North Carolina to an 11 point game. They also lost to Michigan State by 30 and Butler by 17. Watch out for Kokomo Wildkat Brandon Wood, who averages 22 per game and had 30 against North Carolina.
Alabama (6-2) - This is shaping up to be an interesting game. The Crimson Tide dropped its opener to Cornell (who also beat St. Joseph's). They also lost a neutral site game to a decent Florida State team. Their best win? 68-66 over Michigan. Stay tuned for more this week on them and Valpo with appropriate previews this week.
Ball State (2-3) - The Cardinals haven't played in a week, but have lost three straight to Butler, UC Davis, and Temple. They do have wins over common opponents Valparaiso and SIU-Edwardsville.
Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (2-6) - The Cougars have played the vagabond schedule of an independent, but they won two in a row over Drake and Texas-Arlington after an 0-6 start. This is easily the weakest team on our schedule. They opened the year with a 96-69 loss at Illinois.
West Virginia (5-0) - The Mountaineers are ranked just behind us in the AP poll. They won the '76 Classic against an impressive field (though Texas A&M was their toughest game). Like us, they open conference play with a home game (Marquette) before our New Year's Day game. A very interesting trip to a dangerous Cleveland State on December 19th could stand between them and an unbeaten record when they face us.