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MMBOW #12: Ryan Toolson, Utah Valley

Posted by Ralph Bowman on

The picture on the left does not depict the hot club dance move or the new way the kids these days are expressing their excitement, it’s just a snapshot of the most pure and perfect shooting mechanics in Division I right now. (And as you can see             in the background, it’s making the girly-girls go craz-ay!) Ryan Toolson of Utah Valley University is our twelfth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week of the 2008-09 season.

Not that it wasn’t an obvious choice or anything, Mr. Toolson did only produce the highest point total in the NCAA’s top flight so far this century. In a 123-121 win at Chicago State last Thursday night, the 6-4 senior converted 18 of his 31 field goal tries, including seven of 11 from 3, and added 20 free throws to score 63 points, which is the 10th most in a Division I game all-time. And he grabbed 12 rebounds as well. Sure, it was a quadruple-overtime game and all, but this was a study in pure endurance: he played all 60 minutes of the contest and earned every single one of those stats. Two nights later, as befitting the rigorous schedule of a D-I independent, UVU popped up on the left coast at Cal State Bakersfield. Proving he had more gas in the tank, Mr. Toolson scored 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting to lead his team, although the Wolverines lost 69-60. Put it all together, and that’s an 85-point week.

The Wolverines’ star, who hails from Gilbert, Arizona, is money whenever he shoots the ball — and somebody somewhere in the world is going to give him a contract when he’s done with college. He’s consistently made half his field goal attempts, but consider this: he’s only missed 25 free throws during his entire career (429 of 454, includes D-II games as well). Perhaps the biggest shock in the 63-point game was that he missed one — its was only the sixth of 18 games he hadn’t gone perfect from the line. But we’re all shooting for perfection in our chosen fields, and Mr. Toolson is closer than a lot of us are. He’s also your Mid-Majority Baller of the Week

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Bally: Behind Enemy Lines!

Posted by Ralph Bowman on

The calendar hasn’t turned yet, which means that mid-majors are often spending time in power-conference arenas doing things they’d rather not do. Bally also prefers not to set foot in these places if at all possible, but this is just the way November and December are. Here are some of our little orange friend’s recent travels above the Red Line.

Bally began his season in the Cathedral of Eeeeeevil known as Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Bally’s no art critic, but he thinks the commissioned sculpture of the Louisville Cardinal might have been more imposing if it wasn’t so San Diego Chicken-like.

Bally has an amazing ability to be in more places than one. Thanks to last season’s Finals Week winner Tim B. for bringing him to a Florida A&M-Florida game in Gainesville.

Five more minutes at Wake Forest, and I may have had a Demon Bally. We got out of Joel Coliseum just in time.

At Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, the lower-bowl chairbacks are covered with little orange Tiger pawprints. Which, of course, gave Bally an idea for the upholstery at Mid-Majority HQ in Pawtucket.

After an exhausting trip around the Big Six, it’s great to get back to places where you’re welcomed and respected for who you are, not your poll ranking. We visited Presbyterian College last night, home of the Blue Hose. Look at how happy that little guy is. Brings tears to your eyes.

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Game! Of! The! Night! 2/3/2009: Northern Iowa at Bradley

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Northern Iowa at Bradley (Missouri Valley)
Carver Arena – Peoria, IL
8:05 PM EST

The Great Unknown is a scary thing, isn’t it? We pattern-seeking creatures require some sort of assurance that future events will mirror the results we’ve already seen. Staring into the anti-void of endless possibilities can result in a spectrum of emotions: from a slight unease to sheer fear, paranoia to all-out Panic(!!!). Some things simply fall outside the framework of basic logic, beyond the scope of best guesses and past-based prognostication. One of those is the 2008-09 Missouri Valley Conference regular season.

Ask Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson why his team is blowing open the league after a non-inspiring 6-5 nonconference record — and I did last week — and he’ll say something about improved confidence. That’s fine, I wasn’t expecting him to discuss freaky wormholes ripped in the fabric of the universe that were causing a team full of players that rarely bend their knees to go 10-1 in mid-majordom’s traditionally toughest conference. The Panthers’ halfcourt offense, which always finds the right shot, is straight out of the the playbooks our TMM header images were taken from. But just like Butler or Utah State or Davidson, ball control is UNI’s greatest weapon. That wasn’t there in losses to Iowa and Marquette and UIC, the drops that will depress any NCAA seed they might eventually earn. It’s just a team that runs its stuff, works hard, keeps a hold on the ball and wins league games. Ten in a row, in fact.

The opponent tonight is Bradley (13-9, 7-4), tied for second place in the conference with Illinois State and Creighton. The Braves were able to get out of the gate fast against UNI in their first meeting at Cedar Falls two weeks ago (a 10-0 lead, then extended to 13-2), but didn’t have enough rocket fuel to finish the job. If the Braves can get out in transition and hit a few 3’s, they’ll be in good position to win this game and make the BracketBusters selectors look like morons: BU will toil in the non-televised portion of the proceedings up in Chicago at Loyola. But victory will require a turnabout of a team weakness that’s cost it a few Bizarro Valley games, the same thing that keeps UNI on top. Bradley turns it over 21 percent of the time, well inside the bottom third nationally. It’s a smaller team on average, too, which costs them in the rebounding department. So our pick-to-click once again is Theron Wilson, the 6-5 senior battler who shoots well when the Braves win (51 percent), and has trouble hitting the side of Carver from the sidewalk (42.4) when they lose.