Monday, February 25, 2008

A Knoxville First, and Another in Newark

The Memphis Tigers didn’t have to travel as far as the New England Patriots to feel the pain of imperfection, because it came sooner than later. Not that it numbs the pain to finally lose before you reach the postseason, and to do it on your home floor. But In this case, the throbbing could be more severe, because you not only gave an instate rival bragging rights and the honor of ending your perfect season, but you also allowed them to replace you at the top.

For the first time in history, Tennessee Men’s basketball is the No. 1 team in the nation. And the volunteers didn’t just creep to the top spot, they actually did it in style. The top poll position had several occupants over the course of the year, but how many of those mountain climbers achieved the position by defeating the No. 1 team in the nation? To get to that unfamiliar place, the Vols didn’t quietly wait for the Tigers to lose to someone else, they put in the work themselves.

A conference cast in a dim light by voters now has a team on top. Surprised? I’m not. The SEC’s Florida Gators have finished atop the college basketball world for the past two seasons, but we all know how the media suffers with short term memory.

And the state of Tennessee isn’t done with the dramatics, because just one day after receiving the No. 1 crown, the Vols get another instate rivalry road game, against a Vanderbilt squad that has won 6 straight, and have yet to lose in their own house this season.

AP Top 25
1. Tennessee (69) 25-2
2. Memphis 26-1
3. North Carolina (2) 26-2
4. UCLA (1) 24-3
5. Texas 23-4
6. Kansas 24-3
7. Duke 23-3
8. Stanford 22-4
9. Xavier 24-4
10. Wisconsin 23-4
11. Georgetown 22-4
12. Indiana 23-4
13. Louisville 22-6
14. Butler 25-3
15. Connecticut 21-6
16. Purdue 21-6
17. Notre Dame 21-5
18. Vanderbilt 23-4
19. Michigan State 22-5
20. Drake 24-3
21. Marquette 20-6
22. Washington State 21-6
23. Kent State 23-5
24. Gonzaga 21-6
25. Saint Mary's 23-4


In the Northeast, another team was achieving a first that was far less glamourous. On Saturday, the New Jersey Institute of technology set a new NCAA record, by finishing their season with a record of 0-29. Their overall losing streak now stands at 33, and with a loss in next year’s season opener, they can tie the NCAA mark of 34. Hell, they’ve come this far, it would be a shame to actually see them win that game and deprive America of another record setting performance.

The Highlanders reached this mark of futility by accounting for more season turnovers than field goals. But with all said, I can't help but think, if NJIT played in the Big East next year, and posted the exact same record, they would still make the Big East Conference tournament. The Big E will invite all members to participate in next year's postseason.

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