Last night, Central Arkansas upset potential NCAA Tournament team Bucknell by the final score of 50-48. The Bears (that's Central Arkansas) are a first-time D1 squad that has only beaten one other D1 team this year (Bowling Green.) Central isn't actually an independent because they're playing a full Southland Conference schedule.. but in honor of their win I thought I'd take a look at how the independents and recent ones are doing this year.
Like Central Arkansas, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is playing a full Southland schedule for the first time. The Islanders have been one of the best independent teams over the last couple years, and are considered to be a Southland contender in just their first season. Things have gone well for TAMU-CC, with a 7-4 record overall (5-4 against D1 teams). Their best two wins are at Detroit and South Florida. Like most independents or low-majors, TAMU-CC still has to play most non-conference games on the road.. but they have a rare 3-game home streak coming up, including a big game against Kent State. TAMU-CC is one of the most experienced teams in the country.. with 7 seniors that play at least 15 minutes per game, and all of whom scored 5+ ppg. This experience should put them right in the thick of the Southland title race along with SELU, Sam Houston St, and NW State..
Replacing TAMU-CC as the best independent is clearly North Dakota State, who has an impressive 8-4 record. Unlike the Islanders, the NDSU Bison are extremely young with just one player on their roster whose not a freshman or sophomore. Last year, NDSU got headlines for beating Wisconsin.. and they did it again this year with a big win at a ranked Marquette team. Perhaps more impressive than their 8 wins is the nature of their losses. They have an 85-81 loss at Big 12 Texas Tech, an 83-81 loss against Big 12 Kansas State, and a 82-80 loss at 9-2 Colorado State. The Bison have another chance at the Big 12 as they head to Iowa State on Sunday(this is a definite upset alert game).. and then head to Eastern Michigan before finishing the season against all the other independents. With 16 games left, NDSU has a great chance at making a run at the 20-win mark.
South Dakota State hasn't done quite as good of a job representing the Dakotas, though the Jackrabbits do have 4 wins against D1 teams and one of the best mascots in the country. Another young team (just 2 seniors on the roster), the Jackrabbits have won 2 straight including a road win at UMKC.
Both SDSU and NDSU will be joining UMKC in the Mid-Contintent conference in 2007 along with IPFW. IPFW (ie, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne) is just 4-9 and two of those wins were against non-D1ers. The key for the Mid-Con in getting IPFW is their mascot, the Mastadons. It appears the Mid-Con is stockpiling good nicknames like the Mastadons, Jackrabbits, Kangaroos (UMKC), Leathernecks (Western Illinois), and the Gentlemen of Centenary.
Unlike the above schools that are joining the Mid-Con, Chicago State is playing an independent schedule after leaving that conference. The Cougars have just a 5-11 record, but thats understandable considering they've played 14 of 16 games on the road. Their biggest win was easily at 7-6 UTEP.. in which Chicago State's little backcourt combined for 44 points. Royce Parran and David Holston are just 5-8 and 5-9 respectively and are generally listed at weighing 160 pounds. Its safe to say Chicago State would dominate the biddy basketball circuit..
The indy team with the 2nd best record is 8-5 Texas-Pan American. UTPA is led by a JUCO transfer, Brian Burrell averaging almost 18 a game. The Broncs have won 3 straight, including most recently at James Madison of the CAA.
Some other independent notes that stick out.. Utah Valley State is 7-5 and most recently beat a Southern Utah team that is 9-5. The Wolverines almost had a huge win against Utah State, falling by just 4 against a team that has an outside chance of making the Big Dance.
Savannah State is this year's feel good story with a 6-11 record. Two years ago, the Tigers went 0-28 and last year they won just 1 game against a D1 team. Savannah shocked the world by starting 5-0 this year (though 3 were against non-D1 teams).. though they've come back to Earth having lost 11 of 12. The most recent win was at Bethune-Cookman.. an actual D1 team.. though one of, if not, the worst one in America. Bethune has yet to beat a D1 squad this year. Still, 6 wins is still 6 wins for this program.
This year's Savannah State is Winston-Salem, off to a dismal 1-16 start.. including 0-16 against D1 teams. The Rams are a provisional team and have the unfortunate burden of playing 22 road games this year.. almost all of which will end up as losses. In fact, the Rams have only come within 10 points once all season against a D1 team, losing by 7 at Georgia State. Perhaps their only a chance for a win is on January 27th when they head to Bethune-Cookman.
Of course there's also UC-Davis who has yet to beat a D1 team.. and NJIT who shocked the Northeast by beating Manhattan and Rider to start the season before losing 10 straight. Also there's 5-10 Longwood, who most recently beat Kennesaw State last night (making the jump to the A-Sun from the indy ranks) and who hosts American later today.
- Don't forget to Dribble in the New Year -